It was said in just the comradely, half-amused voice with which she had addressed Ward a hundred times in the past year, but perhaps the boy had changed. At all events, it was with something like pain and impatience in his tone that he said gruffly:
“Yes, you do! You like me about as much as you like Nina, or Granny!”
“I like you—sh! just a little better than I do Granny!” Harriet confided. “Don’t spoil your dinner with olives, Ward! Don’t muss that—there’s a dear! Dinner’s announced, by the way. It’s quarter past eight.”
“I’m going!” he grumbled, discontentedly.
“At any rate, I love the orchid!” Harriet said, soothingly. He was laughing too, as he disappeared, but something in his face was vaguely troubling to her none-the-less, and she remembered it now and then with a little compunction during her quiet evening of reading. She was tired to-night, excited from the talk with Blondin that afternoon, and by the general confusion and noise of the household. Ward—Nina—Royal—their names flitted through her thoughts even when she tried to read; at such a time as this she felt as if the life at Crownlands was like the current of a river that moved too swiftly, or more appropriately perhaps, like some powerful motor-car whose smooth, swift passage gave its occupants small chance to investigate the country through which they fled. Well, she would see Linda on Saturday, and have Sunday with her and the children, and that meant always a complete change and a shifted viewpoint, even when, as frequently happened, Linda took the older-sisterly privilege of scolding.
Linda, who had been Mrs. Frederick Davenport for some seventeen years, had lived for the last ten in a quiet New Jersey village. The house for which she and her husband paid the staggering rent of forty dollars a month had proved to be in a region toward which the expected tide of fashion did not turn, but it remained a quiet and eminently respectable neighbourhood, remained almost unchanged, in fact, and Linda was satisfied.
When Harriet had chaperoned Nina and Amy to the Friday afternoon matinee, and had duly deposited Amy afterward in the Hawkes mansion, and had escorted Nina to her grandmother’s apartment, she was free to direct Hansen to drive her to the Jersey tube, and to spend a hot, uncomfortable hour in a stream of homegoing commuters, on the way to Linda’s house. She was unexpected, but that made no difference; the Davenports had little company, and they were always ready to welcome the beloved sister and aunt.