“I—no, I hardly think so,” Richard answered, confusedly. Their eyes met, and he smiled vaguely. Then Harriet slowly crossed the hall to the door of the guest room where she was spending the night, and gave him an only half-audible good-night. Richard stood watching the door for a moment or two after it had closed upon the slender, dimly seen figure. Then he went to his own rooms, and began briskly enough to move about between the mirrors and dressing room, windows and bed. But two or three times he stopped short, and found himself staring vacantly into space, all movement arrested, even thought arrested for whole long minutes at a time.
Harriet, entering her room, closed the door noiselessly, and remained for a long time standing with her hands resting against it behind her, her eyes alert, her breath coming as if she had been running. There was only a night light in the bedroom; the covers were still tumbled back from her sudden flight toward the rioting youngsters in the hall. She got back into her bed, and opened her book. But for a long time she neither slept nor read; her eyes widened at the faintest sound of the summer night; her heart thumped madly when the curtains whispered at the window, or the wicker chairs gave the faintest creak. It had not been only for Richard that the midnight hour of responsibility and informality shared had had its thrill.
One o’clock. Harriet closed her book and snapped off her light. But first she went to the window, and leaned out into the sweet darkness. There was shadow unbroken everywhere; no light in all the big house was burning as late as her own.
After that life took on a mysterious fragrance and beauty that made every hour of it an intoxication to the master and mistress of Crownlands. The fact that their secret was all their own was all the more enchanting. To the domestic staff, to the children, to the outside world, life went upon its usual smooth way. Mr. Carter would be in town to-night, Mr. Carter was detained at the office, Mrs. Carter was chaperoning the young people, there were flowers for Mrs. Carter. That was all Bottomley and Pilgrim and Ward and Nina saw.
But to Harriet and Richard the delicious, secret game of hide-and-go-seek made everything else in the world insignificant. Harriet opened the boxes of flowers he sent her with a heart suffocating with joy. Richard consented to be absent from the dinner table over which she presided with an agony of renunciation that almost made him feel ill. When he chanced one day to meet her with Nina, in a breezy, awninged summer restaurant, the sight of the slender figure thrilled him as he had never been thrilled by any woman he had ever known. He was to speak to her, to hear her voice! One day he bought her shoes; in the shop she looked at him for approval. He thought the shoes, low shoes with buckles, that showed the silk-clad ankle, very suitable and pretty. He was thrown into sudden confusion when the shoe clerk turned to him with a murmured mention of the price.