“Well, he has enough to eat now! Ward told me that he gets three hundred dollars for his drawing-room talks—his ’interpretive musings’, he called them. And he has a book of poetry out, and he reviews poetry for some magazine—”
“Well, that—” Mrs. Davenport was still dazed with astonishment and indignation. “That really—” she began, and stopped, shaking her head. “Tell me everything you said!” she commanded.
“I will!” Harriet’s voice fell flatly. “I came home to talk it over with you.” But it was fully five minutes later that she began the inevitable confidences. “We talked—Roy and I—” she said, briefly. “He doesn’t belong in my life, now, any more than I do in his! We simply agreed to a sort of mutual minding of our own business—”
“Thank God!” Mrs. Davenport said, fervently. “He—he doesn’t want to—he doesn’t still feel—he won’t worry you, then?” she asked somewhat diffidently. Harriet’s laugh had an unpleasant edge.
“He is after bigger game than I am, now!” she said.
“The brute!” her sister commented in a whisper. “It—it is all right, then?” she asked, a little timidly.
“All right!” Harriet echoed, bitterly. “I haven’t drawn a happy breath since I saw him! All that time came up again, as fresh as if it were yesterday—except that I have climbed a little way, Linda; I was happy—I was busy and useful—and I had—I had my self-respect!”
And suddenly the bright head was in Linda’s lap, and she was sobbing bitterly. Linda, with a great ache in her heart, circled her arms, mother-fashion, as she had circled them a hundred times, about her little sister.
Harriet slept in the room with Julia and Josephine that night, or rather tossed and lay wakeful there. The light of a street lamp came squarely in on the white ceiling, and although the hall door was open, there was no breath of air moving anywhere. The children slept in attitudes of youthful abandonment; Harriet heard Fred and Linda murmuring steadily, and could imagine of what they spoke; little Nammy awakened, and there was an interval of maternal comforting, and then silence.
At about two o’clock the wind streamed mercifully in, hot and thick, but prophetic of rain, and Harriet, wandering about to make windows fast, encountered Linda, on the same errand. When the worst of the crackling and flashing was over, the girl glanced at her watch again. Three o’clock, but she could sleep now. She sank deeply into dreams, not to stir until Linda’s alarm clock, hastily smothered, thrilled at seven, and the small girls rose with cheerful noise, to let streams of hot sunshine upon her face.
Her head ached; she brushed Julia’s hair as a sort of bribe for turning the small girl out of the bathroom, and was in the tub when Pip hammered on the door for his turn. Linda was in a whirl of blue smoke in the kitchen; Fred shouted a request for a little more hot water; Josephine set the table with languid grace, entertaining her aunt with a description of “Robin Hood.”