“Now, Ward—look here,” she said, sternly. “What sort of honour do you call this! Half an hour ago I thought all this nonsense was stopped. Shame on you! Those girls promised me—”
She saw Richard, and laughed, the colour flooding her face.
“Aren’t they simply shameless!” she said. “I had them all settled down, once! Nina, where’s Francesca? You see,” Harriet said, in rapid explanation to Richard, “I gave the girls my room to-night, so that they could all be together, and this is my reward!”
The girls, entirely unalarmed by her severity, had deserted Richard now, and were clinging to her with weak laughter and feeble explanations.
“Francesca unlocked that door, and rushed into Mr. Carter’s room!” Amy explained, wiping her eyes. “And then the boys locked her in there!”
The composed reappearance of Francesca at this point, however, added to the general hilarity.
“You did not lock me in, Smarties!” Francesca drawled, childishly. “They climbed to the balcony, and we were—well, we were undressing,” she said to Richard, “and here they were hammering and yelling like—like Siwashes! We grabbed our wrappers, we wanted to—–”
“We wanted to lock them out there!” Amy explained, laughing uncontrollably. “But—”
“And I snapped off the light—” Nina interposed, with deep satisfaction.
“And, mind you—”
“And the wonder was that we didn’t die of fright—”
“Now, look here,” Harriet said, in the babel, “I’ll give you all exactly two minutes to quiet down. Never in the course of my life--”
Richard thought her maternal indulgence delightful; he thought the young people who clung about her charming in their apologetic and laughing promises. Ward and Bruce Hopper mounted to their own region; Richard went with the girls and Harriet to the rooms that had been attacked. Pilgrim, the tireless, was already there, replacing pillows, straightening beds, untwisting curtains. The girls, with reminiscent bubbles of laughter, began to help her.
After the last good-nights, Richard and Harriet had no choice but to cross the hall again, and they stood there for a moment, laughing at the recent excitement.
“After twelve,” Harriet said, with a smiling shake of her head. “Aren’t they young demons! However,” she added in an undertone, “it’s the best thing in the world for Nina! This sort of nonsense will blow cobwebs away!”
Richard was only conscious of a desire to prolong this intimate little moment of parental consultation.
“She doesn’t speak of Blondin?” he asked.
“Not at all. The birthday came and went placidly enough,” Harriet answered, suddenly intent after her laughing. And as he did not speak for a second, she looked up at him, innocently. “You don’t think she’s hiding anything?” she asked, anxiously.