“I have no chance,” she sighed. “He loves her, and that ends all. He is loyal to her, and will be loyal, even though she breaks his heart eventually, as I fear. It’s his nature.”
Under a renewed impulse of loyalty Graydon intercepted Miss Wildmere as she was going to her room, and said: “The clouds in the west are all breaking away—they ever do, you know, if one has patience. We can still have our drive and enjoy it all the more from hope deferred.”
“I’m so sorry,” she began, in some embarrassment. “Of course I couldn’t know last night that it would rain in the morning, and so promised Mr. Arnault this afternoon.”
“It seems as if it would ever be hope deferred to me, Miss Wildmere,” he said, gravely.
“But, Graydon, you must see how it is—”
“No, I don’t see, but I yield, as usual.”
“I promise you Sunday afternoon or the first clear day,” she exclaimed, eagerly.
“Very well,” he replied, brightening. “Remember I shall be a Shylock with this bond.” But he was irritated, nevertheless, and went out on the piazza to try the soothing influence of a cigar.
The skies cleared rapidly. So did his brow; and before long he muttered: “I’ll console myself by another gallop with Madge. There goes my inamorata, smiling upon another fellow. How long is this going to last? Not all summer, by Jupiter! Her father must not insist on her playing that game too long, even though she does play it so well.”
Madge was sitting in her room in dreary apathy and spiritless reaction from the strain of the morning, when she was aroused by a knock on her door. “Madge,” called a voice that sent the blood to her face, “what say you to another ride? I know the roads are muddy, but—”
“But I’ll go with you,” she cried. “Why use adversatives in the same breath with ‘ride’? The mud’s nothing. What won’t rub off can stay on. How soon shall I be ready?”
“That’s a good live girl. In half an hour.”
When they were a mile or two away Madge asked, as if with sudden compunction, “Graydon, are you sure you were disengaged?”
He laughed outright. “That question comes much too late,” he said.
She braced herself as if to receive a deadly blow, and was pale and rigid with the effort as she asked, with an air of curiosity merely, “Are you truly engaged to Miss Wildmere, Graydon?”
“In one sense I am, Madge,” he replied, gravely. “I have given her my loyalty, and, to a certain extent, my word; but I have not bound her. Since you have proved so true and generous a friend to me I do not hesitate to let you know the truth. I am sorry you do not like her altogether, and that you have some cause for your feeling; but you are both right at heart. She spoke most enthusiastically of your rescue of the child. You ladies amuse me with your emphasis of little piques; but when it comes to anything large or fine you do justice to one another. Henry had no right to say what he did at dinner, for Stella applauded you as you had her; but Henry’s prejudices are inveterate. Why should I not be loyal to her, Madge? I believe she remained free for my sake during the years of my absence.”