“Nor have you said they were not. He evidently enjoys them, and little wonder. You can make any fellow have a good time without trying. I don’t pretend to understand the necessity of your being so friendly, or tolerant, or what you will, with him; neither do I pry or question. My regard for you makes trust imperative. I do trust you as readily as you should trust me. What else can we do till times are better?”
“What do you mean by saying, ‘till times are better?’” she asked, in gentle solicitude. “Are you having a hard time in town, like poor papa?”
“Oh, bless you! no. I don’t suppose Henry is making much. He’s the kind of man to take in sail in times like these. I’m not in the firm yet, you know, but shall be soon. My foreign department of the business is all right. I left it snug and safe. Of course, I don’t know much about things on this side of the water yet. Mr. Muir is not the kind of man to speak to any one about his affairs unless it is essential, but if anything were amiss he would have told me. I know the times are dismal, and I am better off on my assured salary than if in the firm now. No one but ‘bears’ are making anything.”
“I hope your brother isn’t in anxiety, like papa,” she said, warmly.
His quick commercial instinct took alarm, and he asked, “What, have you heard anything?”
“Oh, no indeed. Papa says that Mr. Muir is one of the most conservative of men; but he also says that there is scarcely a chance now for any honest man, and that investments which once seemed as solid as these mountains are sinking out of sight. If it wasn’t so we shouldn’t be so worried. He wouldn’t like it if he knew I was talking to you in this way; but then I know it will go no further, and naturally my mind dwells on the subject of his anxieties. What wouldn’t I do to help him!” she concluded, with a fine enthusiasm.
“I think you are doing a great deal to help him, Stella,” he said, gravely and gently; “and, believe me, it involves no little sacrifice on my part also.”
“But you have promised to be patient, Graydon.”
“I have, but you cannot think that I like it or approve of the diplomacy you are compelled to practice, even though your motive be unselfish and filial. I don’t think you ought to be placed in such a position, and would that it were in my power to relieve you from it!”
Tears of self-commiseration came into her eyes, and they appeared to him exceedingly pathetic. She made as if she would speak but could not, then retreated hastily to her room. Once in seclusion she dashed the drops away, her eyes glittered with anger, and she stamped her foot on the floor and muttered: “It is indeed an abominable position. I might accept Graydon any day, any hour, now, and dare not. Yet if he gets an inkling of my real attitude he’ll be off forever. He is as proud as Lucifer about some things, and would be quick as a flash if his suspicions were aroused. Even the