Part II
Chapter XVI
 

Miss Trumbull left that afternoon, and although Betty half expected the woman, who had possessed some of the attributes of the villain in the play, to reappear at intervals in the interest of her role, the grave might have closed over her for all the sign she gave. But Miss Trumbull had done enough, and the Fates do not always linger to complete their work. The housekeeper, with all her self-satisfaction, never would have thought of calling herself a Fate; but motives are not always commensurate with results. She was only a common fool, and there were thousands like her, but her capacity for harm-doing was as far-reaching as had she had the brain of a genius and the soul of a devil.

As Emory positively refused to go to Europe until money of his own came in, although Betty offered to lend him what he needed, and as he was really well only when in the Adirondacks, and an abrupt move to one of the hotels would have animated the gossips, it was decided finally that he and his wife should remain where they were until it was time to sail. Harriet offered to take charge of the servants until another housekeeper could be found; and as she seemed anxious to do all she could to make amends for deceiving her benefactress, Betty let her assume what would have been to herself an onerous responsibility. After a day or two of constraint and awkwardness, the little household settled down to its altered conditions; and in a week everybody looked and acted much as usual, so soon does novelty wear off and do mortals readjust themselves. Jack and Harriet seemed happy; but the former, at least, was too fastidious to vaunt his affections in even the little public of his lifelong friends. He spent hours swinging in a hammock, reading philosophy and smoking; occasionally he read aloud to his aunt and Harriet, and in the afternoon he usually took his wife for a walk.

Harriet at this period was a curious mixture of humility and pride. She could not demonstrate sufficiently her gratitude to Betty, but the very dilation of her nostril indicated gratified ambition. She had held her head high ever since her marriage; since her acknowledgment by the world as a wife, her carriage had been regal. Betty gave a luncheon one day to some acquaintances at the hotel, and when she introduced Harriet as Mrs. Emory, she saw her quiver like a blooded horse who has won a doubtful race.

As for Mrs. Madison, she finished by regarding the whole affair in the light of a novel, and argued with Betty the possible and probable results. Her interest in the plot became so lively that she took to discussing it with Harriet; and although the heroine was grateful at first for her interest, there came a time when she looked apprehensive and careworn. Finally she begged Mrs. Madison, tearfully, not to allude to the subject again, and Mrs. Madison, who was the kindest of women, looked surprised and hurt, but replied that of course she would avoid the subject if Harriet wished.

"It's just this," said Mrs. Emory, bluntly; "the subject is so much on your mind that I'm in constant terror you'll begin talking of it before Jack."

"My dear girl, I never would tell him; for his sake as well as your own, you can rely on me."

"I know you would never do it intentionally, ma'am, but I'm scared you'll do it without thinking; you talk of it so much, more than anything. The other night when you began to talk of the crime of miscegenation, I thought I should die."

"That was very inconsiderate of me. Poor girl, I'll be more careful." But in her secluded impersonal life few romantic interests entered, and although she was too courteous to harp upon a painful subject, it was evident that she avoided it with an effort, and that it dwelt in the forefront of her mind. One evening after Betty had been playing some of the old Southern melodies, she caught Jack's hand in hers, and assured him brokenly that no people on earth were bound together as Southerners were, and that he must think of her always as his mother and come to her in the dark and dreadful hours of his life. He pressed her hand, and continued smoking his cigarette; he never had doubted that his aunt loved him as a mother. Harriet rose abruptly and left the room. She returned before long, however, and after that night she never left her husband alone with Mrs. Madison for a moment.