“Nina will come into line,” her father said, thoughtfully, “she doesn’t know what she wants. I wish—I wish he loved her!” he added, with a faint frown. “I’ll see him about it again. We’ll take her to Rio. She’ll get over it.”
“And—” Harriet stopped, and began again: “And do you want things to go on just as they are?” she asked.
For answer Richard smiled at her in silence.
“No,” he said, finally. “I can’t say that I do. I want you to worry less, and to buy yourself some new gowns, and to begin to enjoy life! Shakespeare had you down fine when he talked about conscience making cowards of us all. What did you do it for? A young, capable, good-looking girl scared by a lot of old women! Now, we’ll take up this Nina question, later on. You’d better go up and get yourself some coffee, and go to bed for awhile. Better plan to be in town for a day or two, for you’ll both need clothes for the steamer—”
“You’re very kind,” the girl said, eyes averted, voice almost inaudible. They were both standing now, Harriet’s head turned aside, so that he could not see her face, but her soft fingers resting in his.
“I’m not kind at all!” Richard said, with a rather confused laugh. He patted her hand encouragingly. “The sea trip will shake both you and Nina up, and do you a world of good!” he said.
“You think—” Harriet raised the soft, dark lashes, and her splendid, weary eyes met his, “You really aren’t worried about Nina?”
And she tried by a very faint stirring of her fingers to free them, and finding them held, dropped her eyes again.
“I think I have Blondin’s number,” Richard said, with more force than eloquence. Then with a little laugh that was partly amused and partly embarrassed, he let her go.
He watched the young, slender figure and the shining, bare head until they disappeared among the great trees about the house.
The summer Sunday ran its usual course. Ward and his sister went to luncheon at the club; Madame Carter drove majestically to a late service in the pretty, vine-covered village church. Harriet, at last able to relax in soul and body, slept hour after glorious hour. Richard, returning from golf for a late luncheon, asked for her. Mrs. Carter was still asleep, Bottomley assured him, and received orders not to disturb her. But when Mr. Blondin called, Richard told the butler he was to be shown to the terrace at once.
At three o’clock, therefore, Royal Blondin followed his guide out to the basket chairs that were set under the trees, and here he found Richard, comfortably smoking, and alone. The host rose to greet him, but they did not shake hands, and measured each other like wrestlers as they sat down.
“I had your message,” Royal said, as an opening.
“You’ve not seen Nina to-day?” Nina’s father asked.