Her face beaming with satisfaction, Linda assembled her brood. There were cocoa and coffee and muffins and omelette and Fred’s little bottle of cream, and his paper, and there was, as always, Linda’s spontaneous grace before meat: “I wonder if we’re thankful enough, when we think of those poor people in Poland and Belgium!”
Immediately after breakfast the two small girls attacked their Saturday morning’s work with a philosophic vigour that rather touched their aunt. This morning Linda would leave the whole lower floor to their ministrations while she thoroughly cleaned the floor above. Josephine must bake cake or cookies, all the dishwashing and dusting and sweeping must be done before Mother came down at twelve to put finishing touches on the lunch. Fred had hurried away after his hasty meal; the boys were turned out into the backyard, which Pip was expected to rake while he watched his small brother.
Harriet’s heart ached deeply for them all as she watched the Jersey marshes from the car window a few hours later. The poor little pretty girls, gallantly soaking their small hands in dishwater and lye, eager over the church production of “Robin Hood” and a picnic with Uncle David at Asbury! Josephine was to be a stenographer when she finished High School, and little Julia had expressed an angelic ambition to teach a kindergarten class some day. Nina, at their ages, had had her pony, her finishing school, her little silk stockings, and her monogrammed ivory toilet set, her trip to England and France and Italy with her mother and brother and grandmother.
Suppose that she, Harriet, was right in suspecting that Ward’s feeling was more than the passing gallantry of a light-hearted boy? She bit her lip, narrowed her idle gaze on the meadows that flew by the car window. It would be a nine-days’ wonder, his marriage at twenty-two with his mother’s secretary, more than four years his senior. But after that? After that there would be nothing to say or do. Young Mr. and Mrs. Ward Carter would establish themselves comfortably, and the elder Carters would visit them; Isabelle absorbed as usual in her own mysterious thoughts, and Richard Carter—
Harriet’s thoughts, none too comfortable up to this point, stopped here, and she flushed. It was impossible to see Richard Carter, as she saw him every day, in the role of husband, father, son, and employer, without holding him in hearty respect. She liked him thoroughly; she knew him to be the simplest, the most genuine and honest, of them all. He had none of his wife’s airy selfishness, none of his mother’s cold pride. Nina was far more of a snob than her father, and Ward—well, Ward was only a sweet, spoiled, generous boy, at twenty-two. But Harriet always saw behind Richard Carter, the years that had made him, the patient, straightforward, hard-working clerk who had been sober, and true, and intelligent enough to lift himself out of the common rut long before the golden secret that lay at the heart of the Carter Asbestos Company had flashed upon him. Money had not spoiled Richard; he still held wealth in respect, while Ward ordered his racing car, and Nina yawned over twelve-dollar school shoes.