“I know you are! It’s—” Richard passed his hand over his forehead—“it’s utter madness, of course. But, please God, we can keep it all hushed up. She has Germaine with her; Hansen I can trust. We’re off now, Miss Field. I’ll keep you informed if I can.”
Harriet went back to the drawing room with her heart big with pride. He had mentioned Hansen and Germaine, but he knew that he could trust her! The event was sensational enough, was horrifying enough. But back of the excitement lay the joy of being needed and being trusted.
“Mr. Carter going away again?” said Madame Carter.
“Mr. Williams came up from the city to consult him about something,” Harriet explained, smoothly. “They may have to go back.”
“To-night!” ejaculated the old lady. And immediately she added, suspiciously, “What’d he want Hansen for?”
“Doctor and Mrs. Houghton,” Bottomley announced, in his soothing undertone. Harriet could have embraced the uninteresting elderly couple who entered smilingly. They beamed that it was so hot—they were going up to the club; couldn’t the Carters join them?
“Mrs. Carter went to visit a friend in Great Barrington,” Madame Carter explained, “and my son has one of his clerks here, and may have to return to the office to-night. Too bad!”
“But how about another lesson in bridge, Doctor Houghton?” Harriet ventured. The old wife was instantly enthusiastic.
“Yes, now, Doctor! This is a splendid chance, for I know Madame Carter isn’t too good a player to be patient.”
“I don’t want to bore this pretty girl to death!” protested the old man, gallantly. But Harriet had already signalled the attentive Bottomley, and when Richard Carter came to say good-night a few minutes later they were on the terrace, and hilarious over the beginner’s mistakes. Even Madame Carter enjoyed this; she was a poor player, but she shone beside the Houghtons, and Harriet took care to consult her respectfully, and agree seriously as to bids and leads.
“Good-night, Mother!” said Richard, touching with his lips the cool old forehead, next to the white hair. “Wish I could play with you fellers and girls!”
“You!” said old Mrs. Houghton, archly. “You’d scare us to death!”
Richard went smiling to the car, hearing Harriet murmur as he went: “I think he has a two heart bid, don’t you Madame Carter? You bid two hearts, Doctor ...”
That Isabelle’s madness would run its full gamut did not occur to Harriet until the next day. Then, as the serene hours moved by, and there was no word and no sign from Richard, the possibilities began to suggest themselves. It seemed to her incredible that any woman would risk all that Isabelle had, for the sake of a fiery boy’s first love, and yet, on the other hand, there was the memory of Isabelle’s suffering two nights ago, and here were the amazing facts to prove it.