There were seven sheets to the letter; each one heavily engraved with the name of the camp, “Sans Souci,” and the telephone, post-office, telegraph, and rail directions charmingly represented by tiny emblems at the top of the letter-head. Harriet smiled over the dashing sentences; it was an honest letter. She felt a thrill of genuine affection for the writer; he would never grow up to her, but she would make him an ideal wife none-the-less. She went about his father’s home, in these days, with a secret happiness swelling in her heart. It would not be long now before the secretary and companion must take a changed position here. It was not the least of her satisfactions that Ward wrote her that Royal was at the camp, planning a trip to the Orient. But before he went he talked of giving a studio tea for Nina. “I think he is slightly mashed on the kid,” wrote Ward, simply.
With Royal in China, Nina safely recovering from her June fever, and Harriet affianced to Ward, the summer promised serenely enough. Harriet answered the letter in her happiest vein. Her reply was but two conservative pages; but she said more in the double sheet of fine English handwriting than Ward had said in three times as much space. A charming letter is one of the fruits of loneliness and reading; Harriet was sure of her touch. His father, his mother, and Nina each had an epigrammatic line or two, and for his grandmother Harriet dared a little wit, and smiled to imagine his shout of appreciative laughter.
She dined as usual alone, that evening, and was surprised, at about eight o’clock, to receive the demure notification from Rosa that Mrs. Carter would like to see her. Harriet glanced at a mirror; her brassy hair was as smoothly moulded as its tendency to curve and ring ever permitted, and she wore a thin old transparent white gown that looked at least comparatively cool on this insufferably hot evening. With hardly an instant’s delay she went downstairs.
On the terrace outside the drawing-room windows they were at a card table: Richard, looking tired and hot in rumpled white, Isabelle exquisite in silver lace, and young Anthony Pope. Near by, Madame Carter majestically fingered some illustrated magazines.
It appeared that they wanted bridge; it was too hot to eat, too hot to dance at the club, too hot—said Isabelle pathetically—to live! Harriet had supposed her dining alone with her infatuated admirer, but it appeared that Richard had driven his mother out from the city in time to join them for salad and coffee, and that this angle of the terrace, where the river breeze occasionally stirred, was the only spot in the world that was approximately comfortable.
Obligingly, Harriet took her place, cut for the deal. But her eyes had not fallen upon the group before she sensed that something was wrong, and she had a moment’s flutter of the heart for fear that someone suspected her, that she was under surveillance. Had Royal--had Ward—