“I understand,” Harriet said, quietly, in the silence.
“You will remember, Richard,” Madame Carter said, in the accents of Lady Macbeth, “that this is exactly what I always expected! I told you so, twenty years ago. You brought it on yourself, my dear. A Morrison—who ever heard of the Morrisons?—their mother— Mrs. Banks tells me—was a school teacher! I have always felt—!”
Harriet heard the man’s patient murmur as she slipped away. She crossed the hall, and for the first time in four years entered Isabelle’s suite unannounced. It was in exquisite order; streams of late afternoon light were falling on the gay walls and the bright chintzes. The novels Isabelle had been skimming, the gold service of her dressing table, the great four-poster with its deeps of transparent white embroideries over white, all spoke of the beautiful woman who had spent so many hours here. On the dressing table, with its splendid length doubled in the mirror, was the great fan that her hand had idly wielded, only a few days ago, in an hour of domestic felicity and happiness. And the inanimate plumes, that Harriet picked up and idly unfurled, had played their little part in the drama that had ended that bright scene once and for all.
What to tell Nina?—Harriet wondered, going downstairs. But Nina proved pleasantly indifferent to the maternal absence when she and Amy came up from the tennis court for tea. To the guest or two who came calling Harriet, installed quite naturally now behind the cups and saucers, explained that Mrs. Carter was visiting with friends—having a beautiful time, too, apparently. To an accidentally direct remark from Amy she answered that she believed they were taking a motor trip just at the moment, but she would forward a note, if Amy liked. Madame Carter did not come out for tea; they were very quiet on the terrace. But Richard was there, and Amy and Nina were developing their youthful conversational arts upon him, when a maid came to stand respectfully beside Harriet. “If you please, Miss Field, Mr. Bottomley would like to know if you are to have your dinner downstairs to-night, please,” said Pauline, incidentally feeling as if she was in a dream of bliss. Her last position had been in a well-to-do stationer’s family in Newark, and consesequently she might have entered into the feelings of Miss Field far more intelligently than either imagined.
Harriet hesitated, glanced at Richard, wondering if he had heard. More rested on this decision than there was any estimating. She dared not decide.