“Brava, Madge!” cried Henry Muir.
“You were born a knight,” added Graydon, “and have already made more and better conquests than many celebrated in prose and poetry.”
“Oh, no,” cried Madge, lifting her eyebrows in comic distress. “I was born a woman to my finger-tips, and never could conquer even myself. I have an awful temper. Graydon, you have already found that out.”
“I have found that I had better accept just what you please to be, and fully admit your right to be just what you please,” he answered, ruefully.
“What a lovely and reasonable frame of mind!” Mrs. Muir remarked. “Truly, Miss Wildmere is to be congratulated. You have only to stick to such a disposition, and peace will last longer than the moon.”
“Oh, Miss Wildmere will prove a rose without a thorn,” Madge added, laughing, while under Mr. Muir’s eye her face paled perceptibly. “There will never be anything problematical in her single-minded devotion. She has been well and discreetly brought up, and finished by the best society, while poor me!—I had to fly in the face of fate like a virago, and scramble up the best I could in Western wilds. Oh, well, Graydon, don’t be alarmed. I’ll be a good fellow if you’ll take me out riding occasionally.”
He began to laugh, and she continued: “I saw you frown when I began my wicked speech. We’ll tick off tabooed subjects, and make an index expurgatorius, and then we’ll get on famously.”
“No need of that,” he said. “As far as I am concerned, please consider me fair game.”
“Consider you fair game?” she said, with her head archly on one side. “That would be arrant poaching. Don’t fear, Graydon, I shall never regard any man as game, not even if I should become a fat dowager with a bevy of plain daughters and a dull market.”
Grave and silent Mr. Muir leaned back in his chair and laughed so heartily that he attracted attention at the Wildmere table across the room.
“That man doesn’t act as if on the brink of failure,” thought Miss Wildmere. “It’s all a conspiracy of Arnault with papa.”
“You are making game of me in one sense very successfully,” Graydon admitted, laughing a little uneasily.
“Oh, in that sense, all men are legitimate game, and I shall chaff as many as possible, out of spite that I was not a man.”
“You would make a good one—you are so devoid of sentiment and so independent.”
“And yet within a week I think a certain gentleman was inclined to think me sentimental, aesthetic, intense, a victim of ideals and devotional rhapsodies.”
“Oh, ye gods! Here, waiter, bring me my dessert, and let me escape,” cried Graydon.
“Did you say I was to be ready at five?” she asked, sweetly.
“Yes, and bring down articles of a truce, and we’ll sign them in red ink.”
An hour later she heard the gallop of a horse, and saw him riding away. “She shan’t mount the animal,” he had thought, “till I learn more about him and give him all the running he wants to-day. She has a heavy enough score against me as it is, and I’ll not employ another brute to make things worse.”