It was said as if to himself, as if he thought aloud. But Nina answered it.
“I often think,” she said, mirthfully, “that if people knew what I was thinking, they’d go crazy! ’Oh, isn’t the floor lovely—isn’t the music divine! Are you going to the club to-morrow? What are you going to wear?’”
It was not a very brilliant imitation of a society girl’s tone and manner, but Royal Blondin seemed deeply impressed by it.
“Look here!” he said. “You’re a little actress!”
“No. I’m not!” Nina laughed. “But I can always imitate anything or anybody,” she admitted. “It makes the girls perfectly wild sometimes! But Ward’s different,” she resumed, going back to the more serious topic. “I envy Ward! He is just as different from me as black and white. Now Ward likes everyone—and everyone likes him. He just drifts along, perfectly content to be popular, and to have a good time, and to do the regular thing, and of course he knows nothing of moods—!”
“Bless the lad!” Blondin said, paternally.
“Oh, I manage to keep the appearance of doing exactly what the others do,” Nina hastened to say, “and I laugh and flirt just as if that was the only thing in life! If people want to think I am a butterfly, why, let them think so! My friend Miss Hawkes says that I have two natures—but I don’t know about that!”
She looked up at him to find his eyes fixed steadily upon her, and flushed happily, with a fast-beating heart.
“With one of those natures I have nothing to do,” Royal said. “But the other I claim as my friend. Come, how about it? Are we going to be friends? I am old enough to be your father, you know; you may tell Mother that it is perfectly safe. When the right young man comes to claim you, why, I’ll resign my little friend with all the good will in the world. But meanwhile, am I going to pick you out some books, am I going to have some talks as wonderful as this one now and then? No—not as wonderful, for of course this sort of thing doesn’t come twice in a lifetime! Will you give me your hand on it—and your eyes? Good girl! And now I’ll take you back to be scolded for running away from your own friends for so long. I’m dining with Mother to-morrow. Shall I see you?”
“Oh, yes—if Mother lets me come down!” fluttered Nina. “But, no— we’re to be at Granny’s!” she remembered.
“Soon, then!” He left her in the circling group, but all the world saw him kiss her hand. Nina wandered about in a daze of pleasure and satisfaction for another half-hour, paying attentions to Mother’s poky friends with a sparkle and charm that amazed them. Presently Ward and the demure Amy Hawkes found her; the car was waiting. Miss Field, Ward said, was no longer at the tea table; she had left a message to the effect that she was walking home and would be there as soon as they were.
He asked Amy and Nina, whose irrepressible gossip and giggling met with only silence and scowls from his superior altitude, if they knew why Miss Harriet had decided to walk. They stared at each other innocently, on the brink of fresh laughter. No; they hadn’t the least idea.