Did she love him? Harriet hoped, when she reviewed it all in the restless, tossing hours of the night, that she had thought, in that moment, that she did. It was wonderful to feel that strong eager arm about her, there was a sweet and heady intoxication in his passion, even if it did not awaken an answering passion in return. Under all her reasoning and counter-reasoning in the night there crept the knowledge that she had known that this was coming, had known that only a few days of encouraging friendliness, only a few appealing glances from uplifted blue eyes, and a few casual touches of a smooth brown hand must bring this hour upon her. And back of this hour, and of a man’s joy in winning the woman he loved, she had seen the hazy future of prosperity and beauty and ease, the gowns and cars and homes, the position of young Mrs. Ward Carter.
But she told herself that all that was forgotten in that magic five minutes of moonlight and fragrance and beauty in the rose garden; she told herself that she really did love him—who could help loving Ward?—and that she would save him far better than he could save himself, from everything that was not loving and helpful and good, in the years to come.
She had let him turn her face up, in the strengthening moonlight, and kiss her hungrily upon the lips, and she had sent him in to his dinner half-wild with the joy of knowing himself beloved. Harriet had gone in, too, shaken and half-frightened, and with his last whispered prophecy ringing in her ears:
“Wait a year—rot! I’ll go to the Bellamys’, because I promised to, but the day I come back, and that’s two weeks from to-day, we’ll tell everyone, and this time next year you will have been my wife for six months!”
A most opportune lull followed, when Harriet Field had time to collect her thoughts, and get a true perspective upon the events of the past week. On the morning after Ward’s departure for the Bellamys’ camp she had come downstairs feeling that guilt was written in her face, and that the whole household must suspect her engagement to the son and heir.
But on the contrary, nobody had time to pay her the least attention. Nina was leaving for a visit to Amy Hawkes, at the extremely dull and entirely safe Hawkes mansion, where four unmarried daughters constituted a chaperonage beyond all criticism. Isabelle Carter was giving and attending the usual luncheons and dinners, her husband absorbed in an especially important business deal that kept him alternate nights in the city. The house was quiet, the domestic machinery running smoothly, the weather hot, sulphurous, and enervating.
A letter from Ward brought Harriet’s colour suddenly to her cheeks, on the third morning, but there was no one but Rosa to notice her confusion. Ward wrote with characteristic boyishness. They were having a corking time, there was nobody there as sweet as his girl was, and he hoped that she missed him a little bit. He was thinking about her every minute, and how beautiful she was that last night on the terrace, and he couldn’t believe his luck, or understand what she saw in him.