“Now that” thought Richard, still paternally busy with matrimonial plans for her, “that wouldn’t do at all. I hope she isn’t wasting any time on that fellow. He’s clever, he has a good manner, but by George, that girl could marry any man, and make him a magnificent wife, too! I rather thought we’d disposed of this Blondin, anyway! But they seem friendly enough—”
For they had parted with a nod unmistakably familiar.
Blondin had been waiting for her at the church door. Harriet, coming out, had indicated without a word that he might walk beside her. The service had been ill-attended, and the few women who drifted away from it did not walk in their direction, so they found themselves alone. Harriet had been realizing ever since his arrival that Blondin had lost none of his unique and baffling charm. His handsome person, his unusual voice, his fashion of dreamily contributing to the conversation some viewpoint entirely unexpected and fresh, his utter indifference to general opinion— these made him a distinct entity in any group, and would account for Nina’s immediately renewed alliance, and for the general disposition on the part of the household to accept him on his own terms.
Harriet opened the conversation this morning with a frank yet reluctant confession.
“I’m so sorry, Roy! But it is only fair to you to say that I’ve changed. You will have to do what you think fit about it, of course. But I can’t pretend that I’m—I’m playing your game any longer.”
“What game?” Blondin, falling into graceful step beside her, asked pleasantly.
“I mean any possible—idea you might have of Nina!” Harriet said, bravely.
“Oh, Nina!” he shrugged his shoulders lightly. “Don’t take me too seriously, my dear Harriet,” he said. “Why, whenever we are alone together, should you promptly begin to cross-question me about that little person? Look about you—isn’t this a divine morning? I always rather fancy September, somehow. It’s dry, panting, finished—and yet there’s something about the mornings and the evenings—”
Harriet made a faint, impatient ejaculation.
“Well, anyway, you know where I stand!” she said.
“And you know where I do,” he answered, after a pause. “I can see Carter has no particular enthusiasm for me—I suppose that’s your work.”
“I’ve said nothing definite,” she answered, in a troubled voice.
“Then I shall!” Royal said, with sudden feeling. “I’m sick of this shilly-shallying, and weighing words! If he will accept me as I am, well and good—if not, I’m done! But he has a high opinion of you, Harriet; what you say really counts!”
“You know where I stand,” she could only repeat. They had reached the garden now, and were at the foot of the steps.
“I don’t quite see how you can take that tone,” Blondin hinted. “Do you expect to marry the boy?”