She put her hand against his shoulder, and gave him a small but vehement push.
He stood up again immediately, but he did not look hurt, and the expression of loyalty in his eyes never wavered.
There was a short pause before Daisy spoke again.
“Well,” she said, with a brief sigh, “I suppose it’s no good crying over spilt milk, but I wish you had chosen any girl in the world but Muriel, Blake; I do indeed. You will have to write to Sir Reginald Bassett. He is her guardian, subject to his wife’s management. Perhaps she will approve of you. She hated Nick for some reason.”
“I don’t see how they can object,” Grange said, in the moody tone he always used when perplexed.
“No,” said Daisy. “Nor did Nick. But Lady Bassett managed to put a spoke in his wheel notwithstanding. Still, if Muriel wants to marry you—or thinks she does—she will probably take her own way. And possibly regret it afterwards.”
“You think I shall not make her happy?” said Grange.
Daisy hesitated a little. “I think,” she said slowly, “that you are not the man for her. However,”—she rose with another shrug—“I may be wrong. In any case you have gone too far for me to meddle. I can’t help either of you now. You must just do what you think best.” She held out her hand. “I must go up now. Baby is restless to-night, and may want me. Good-night.”
Blake stooped, and carried her hand softly and suddenly to his lips. He seemed for an instant on the verge of saying something, but no words came. There was a faint, half-mocking smile on Daisy’s face as she turned away. But she was silent also. It seemed that they understood each other.
THE SLEEP CALLED DEATH
It was an unspeakable relief to Muriel that, in congratulating her upon her engagement, Daisy made no reference to Nick. She did not know that this forbearance had been dictated long before by Nick himself.
The days that followed her engagement had in them a sort of rapture that she had never known before. She felt as a young wild creature suddenly escaped from the iron jaws of a trap in which it had long languished, and she rioted in the sense of liberty that was hers. Her youth was coming back to her in leaps and bounds with the advancing spring.
She missed nothing in Blake’s courtship. His gentleness had always attracted her, and the intimacy that had been growing up between them made their intercourse always easy and pleasant. They never spoke of Nick. But ever in Muriel’s heart there lay the soothing knowledge that she had nothing more to fear. Her terrible, single-handed contests against overwhelming odds were over, and she was safe. She was convinced that, whatever happened, Blake would take care of her. Was he not the protector she would have chosen from the beginning, could she but have had her way?