Thus, from widely differing motives, two girls were sighing for time; and Graydon Muir, strong, confident, proud of his knowledge of society and ability to take care of himself, was walking blindly on, the victim of one woman’s guile, the object of another woman’s pure, unselfish love, and liable at any hour to be blasted for life by the fulfilment of his hope and the consummation of his happiness.
Sweet Madge Alden, hiding your infinite treasure, deceiving all and yet so true, may you have time!
Miss Wildmere had promised to drive with Graydon on the following morning, but Madge felt as if heaven had interfered in her behalf, for the skies were clouded, and the rain fell unceasingly. People were at a loss to beguile the hours. Graydon, Miss Wildmere, and Mr. Arnault played pool together, while Mr. Muir, his wife, and Madge bowled for an hour, the last winning most of the games. Mr. Arnault had a certain rude sense of fair play, and it appeared to him that Graydon’s course had become all that he could ask—more than he could naturally expect. The lady was apparently left wholly free to make her choice between them, and all protest, even by manner, against her companionship with him had ceased. He could drive, walk, or dance with her at his will; then Graydon would quietly put in an appearance and make the most of his opportunity. Arnault was not deceived, however. He knew that his present rival was the most dangerous one that he had ever encountered—that Stella might accept him at any time and was much inclined to do so speedily. Indeed, he was about driven to the belief that she would do so at once but for the fear that the Muirs were in financial peril. He hoped that this fear and the pressure of her father’s need might lead her to decide in his favor, without the necessity of his being the immediate and active agent in breaking down the Muirs. As a business man, he shrunk from this course, and all the more because Graydon was acting so fairly. Nevertheless, he would play his principal card if he must. It was his nature to win in every game of life, and it had become a passion with him to secure the beautiful girl that he had sought so long and vainly. If it could appear to the world that he had fairly won her, he would not scruple at anything in the accomplishment of his purpose, and would feel that he had scored the most brilliant success in his life. If he could do this without ruining them, he would be glad, and his good-will was enhanced by Graydon’s course this morning. The former had sauntered into the billiard-room, but, seeing Graydon with Miss Wildmere, had been about to depart, when Muir had said, cordially, “Come, Arnault, take a cue with us,” and had quite disarmed him by frank courtesy.
At last the sound of music and laughter lured them to the main hall, and there they found Madge surrounded by children and young people, little Nellie Wilder clinging to her side the most closely, with Mr. and Mrs. Wilder looking at the young girl with a world of grateful good-will in their eyes.