“It’s awful for you to talk to me in this way!” she whined, wincing and crying under his arraignment.
“It’s awful that I have to speak to you in this way, either to make you realize what deformities your beauty hides, so that you may apply the remedy, or else, if you will not, to promote your union with a man content to take for a wife a belle, and not a woman.
“I suppose I am chiefly to blame, though, or you would be different,” he added, with a dark, introspective look. “I was proud of you as a beautiful child, and tried to win your love by indulgence. Heaven knows, I would like to be a different man, but it’s all a breathless hurry after bubbles that vanish when grasped! Well, what do you propose to do? You see that you can’t hesitate much longer.”
“I will decide soon,” she answered, sullenly. Although her conscience echoed his words, and she felt their justice, her pride prevailed, and she permitted him to depart without another word.
“I’LL SEE HOW YOU BEHAVE”
The dawn of the following sacred day was bright, beautiful, and serene, bringing to the world a new wealth of opportunity. Miss Wildmere began its hours depressed and undecided. Her conscience and better angel were pleading; she felt vaguely that her life and its motives were wrong, and was uncomfortable over the consciousness. Her phase of character, however, was one of the most hopeless. It was true that her vanity had grown to the proportions of a disease, but even this might be overcome. Her father’s stern words had wounded it terribly, and she had experienced twinges of self-disgust. But another trait had become inwrought, by long habit, with every fibre of her soul—selfishness. It was almost impossible to give up her own way and wishes. Graydon Muir pleased her fancy, and she was bent on marrying him. Her father’s assurance that she would bring him disappointment, not happiness, weighed little. Too many men had told her that she was essential to their happiness to permit qualms on this score. Her conscience did shrink, to some extent, from a loveless, business-like marriage, and her preference for Graydon made such a union all the more repugnant; but she was incapable of feeling that she would do him a wrong by giving him the pretty jewelled hand for which so many had asked. Indeed, the question now was, Could she be so self-sacrificing as to think of it under the circumstances? If that stock would only rise, if in some way she could be assured that the Muirs would be sustained, and so pass on to the wealth sure to flow in upon them in prosperous times, she would decide the question at once, whether they would do anything for her father or not. He could scramble on in some way, as he had done in the past. What she desired most was the assurance that there should be no long and doubtful interregnum of poverty and privation—that she might continue to be a queen in society during the period of youth and beauty.