It had never lost its charm for her, her castle of dreams; she had longed to be part of just such a household all her life! Now she actually was part of it, and—if what Mary Putnam had hinted was true, if her own fleeting suspicion only a few evenings ago was true; then she might some day really belong to Crownlands, in good earnest!
After all, Nina was bound for some sort of indiscretion; nobody could save her that! Even if there was any probability that Royal could carry out his plan.
Harriet made her choice.
“Very well,” she said, briefly. “I understand you. I turn in here. Good-night!”
“Just a second!” he said, detaining her. “You won’t hurt me with any of them, Ward or the girl, or the father?”
The girl’s lips curled with distaste.
“No,” she said, tonelessly.
“The look implies that you despise me!” Royal said, smiling.
“Oh, not you!” she said, in a tone of self-contempt. And in another second she was gone. He saw the slender figure, in its green gown, disappear at a turning of the ivied wall. She paused for no backward glance of farewell. But Royal Blondin was satisfied.
Again Harriet fled through the quiet house as if pursued by furies, and again reached her room with white cheeks and a fast-beating heart. Nina was not there. She crossed to the window, and stood there with her hands clasped on her chest, and her breath coming and going stormily.
“Oh, he’s clever!” she whispered, half aloud. “He’s clever! He never made a threat. He never made a threat of any kind! He knew that he had me—he knew that he had me just where he wanted me!” And looking down toward the lane, invisible now behind the trees and stables, in the gathering dusk, she added scornfully, “You’re clever, Roy. I wonder if there’s anything you wouldn’t do, if it made for your own comfort or brought you in money!
“But, at all events,” summarized Harriet, quieting a little under the soothing influence of solitude and safety, “I’m out of it! He won’t touch me. And what he does here, in making his way with this family, doesn’t concern me! Nina is old enough to decide for herself—I had my own living to make at her age, and no father to write me checks for my birthdays, and no Uncle Edward to die and leave me a hundred and fifty thousand dollars!”