« PreviousContinue »
addition to all the rest, announced an indefinite list of accomplishments.”
“If I rernain the subject of conversation I shall complain that your remarks are personal,” said Madge, her brows contracting with a little vexation.
* That is what inakes our talk so interesting. Personals are always read first. In drawing Mary and Henry out, I am getting acquainted with you."
“It's not a good way. You like it merely because it teases me and saves trouble. If you must gossip and surmise about me, wait till I'm absent."
There, Madge, you know I'm nine tenths in fun," said he, laughing.
That leaves a small margin for kindly interest in an old acquaintance,” was her reply as they rose from the table, and he saw that her feelings were hurt.
“Confound it !” he thought, with irritation, “it's all so uncalled-for and unnatural! Nothing is as it used to be. Well, then, I'll talk about books and matters as impersonal as if we were disembodied spirits."
They had scarcely seated themselves piazza before Miss Wildmere came forward and introduced her mother. The young lady was determined to prepare the way for a family party. Graydon had a confident, opulent air, which led to the belief that her father's fears were groundless, and that before many weeks should elapse the Muirs would have to acknowledge her openly. It would savę embarrassment if this came about naturally and gradually, and she believed that she could be so charming as to make them covet the alliance. Miss Alden might not like it, and the more she disliked it the better.
Mrs. Muir's thoughts were somewhat akin. “If Graydon will marry this girl, it's wise that we should begin on good terms. This is a matter that Henry can't control, and there's no use in our yielding to prejudice.” Therefore she was talkative, courteous, and
, rapidly softened toward the people whom her husband found so distasteful. Graydon employed all his skill and tact to make the conversation general and agreeable, but the cloud did not wholly pass from Madge's brow. Froin the moment of her first cold, curious stare, years since, Miss Wildmere had antagonized every fibre of the young girl's soul and body, and she had resolved never to be more than polite to her. She did not look forward to future relationship, as was the case with Mrs. Muir, but rather to entire separation, should Graydon become Miss Wildmere's accepted suitor. Now, with the instinct of self-defence, she was more cordial to her rival than to Graydon, until, at the solicitation of the children, she stole away. Mr. Muir remarked that he was going to take a nap, and soon followed her.
Their departure was a relief to Graydon, for it rendered the carrying out of his plan less embarrassing. In his eagerness to be alone with the object of his hopes, he soon obtained a carriage, and with Miss Wildmere drove away. Mrs. Muir and Mrs,
Wildmere compared maternal and domestic notes sometime longer, and then the former went to her room quite reconciled to what now appeared inevi. table.
“I think you are prejudiced, Henry,” she remarked to her husband, who was tossing restlessly on the bed.
“Least said soonest mended," was his only response, and then he changed the subject.
Graydon came back with the hope—nay, almost the certainty-of happiness glowing in his eyes. He had spoken confidently of his business plans and prospects, and had touched upon the weariness of his exile and his longing for more satisfactory pleasures than those of general society. His companion had listened with an attention and interest that promised more than sympathy. The wild, rugged scenes through which they had passed had made her delicate beauty more exquisite from contrast. It was as if a rare tropical bird had followed the wake of summer and graced for a time a region from which it must fly with the first breath of autumn. In distinction from all they saw and met she appeared so fragile, such a charming exotic, that he felt an overpowering impulse to cherish and shelter her from every rude thing in the world. With a nice blending of reserve and complaisance she appeared to yield to his mood and yet to withhold herself. To a man of Graydon's poise and knowledge of society such skilful tactics served their purpose perfectly. They gave her an additional charm in his eyes, and furnished another proof of the fineness of her nature. She could not only feel, but manifest the nicest shades of preference. If not fully satisfied as to her own heart, what could be more refined and graceful than the slight restraint she imposed upon him ? and how fine the compliment she paid him in acting on the belief that he was too well bred and self-controlled to precipitate matters !
“She has the tact and intuition to see,” he thought, “ that she can show me all the regard she feels and yet incur no danger of premature and incoherent words. She will one day yield with all the quiet grace that she shows when rising to accept my invitation to waltz."
Therefore, as he approached the hotel he was complacency itself until he saw Mr. Arnault on the piazza, and then his face darkened with the heaviest of frowns.
“Why, what is the matter?" Miss Wildmere asked.
“ I had hoped that this perfect afternoon might be followed by a more delightful evening, but from the manner in which that gentleman is approaching you, it is evident that he expects to claim you.
Claim me? I do not think any one has that right just yet. Mr. Arnault certainly has not."
" Then I may still hope for your society this evening ?"
“Have I not permitted you to be with me nearly all day? You must be more reasonable. Goodevening, Mr. Arnault. Did you drop from the clouds ?
There are none, and were there I should forget them in this pleasure. Mr. Muir, I congratulate you.
We have both been on the road this afternoon, but you have had the advantage of me.”
“And mean to keep it, confound you !" thought Graydon. ' Ah, good-evening, Mr. Arnault. You are right; I have found rough roads preferable to smooth rails and a palace car.
“How well you are looking, Miss Stella ! but that's chronic with you. This is perfectly heavenly” (looking directly into her eyes) “after the heat of the city and my dusty journey.” “You are
a fine one to talk about things heavenly after fracturing the Sabbath-day. What would have happened to you in Connecticut a hundred years ago ?”
?"" “I should have been ridden on one rail instead of two, probably. I'm more concerned about what will happen to me to-day, and that depends not on blue laws, but blue blood. I saw your father this morning, and he intrusted me with a letter for
Mr. Arnault manifested not a particle of jealousy or apprehension, and Graydon felt himself shouldered out of the way by a courtesy to which he could take no exception. He saw that only Miss Wildmere herself could check his rival's resolute and easy assurance.
This he now felt sure she would do if it passed a certain point, and he went to his room, annoyed merely, and without solicitude. She must let the fellow down easily, I sup
I pose,” he thought ; "and after to-day I need have