“You know that you have my consent and more, Mr. Arnault.”
“It’s the lady’s consent that I must obtain,” was the reply. “Muir is a fine fellow, and I cannot wonder that she hesitates—that is, if she does hesitate. I may be wasting my time here and adding to the bitterness of my disappointment, for of course it must become greater if I see Miss Wildmere every day and still fail.”
There was a covert question in this remark, and after a moment or two Mr. Wildmere said, hesitatingly: “I do not think you are wasting your time. I think Stella is in honest doubt as to her choice. At least, that is my impression. You know that young ladies in our free land do not take much counsel of parents, and Stella has ever been very independent in her views. When once she makes up her mind you will find her very decided and loyal. Of course I have my strong preference in this case, and have a right also to make it known to her, as I shall. I should be very sorry to see her engaged to a man whose fortunes are dependent on a brother in such financial straits as Mr. Muir is undoubtedly in.”
“Do you think Henry Muir is in very great danger?”
“I do indeed.”
“Hum!” ejaculated Arnault, looking serious.
“What! would he involve you?”
“Oh, no, a mere trifle; but then—Well, please make some inquiries to-morrow, and I’ll see you during the week.”
“I’ll do anything I can to oblige you, Mr. Arnault. I wouldn’t like my questions, however, to hurt Muir’s credit, you understand.”
“Of course not, nor would I wish this; but as one of our brokers you can pick up some information, like enough. I knew, as did others, that Muir was having a rather hard time of it, but if there is pressing danger I may have to take some action.”
“In that case of course you can command me.”
“I only wish to do what is fair and considerate among business men. We’ll lunch together when I come to town, and perhaps the case will be clearer then.”
During his drive with Miss Wildmere, Graydon simply adhered to the tactics which he had adopted, and she saw that he was waiting until the Arnault phase of the problem should be eliminated. When, however, she took occasion to bewail the dismal prospects of her “poor papa,” and to open the way for him to speak naturally of his own and his brother’s affairs, he was gravely silent. She didn’t like this, for it tended to confirm her father’s belief that they were in trouble, or else it looked like suspicion of her motive. The trait of reticence which Graydon at times shared with his brother was not agreeable, for it suggested hidden processes of thought which might develop into very decisive action. She came back satisfied that Graydon was still thoroughly “in hand,” and that she must obtain information in some other way, if possible.
There was sacred music in the parlor during the evening, but neither Miss Wildmere nor Madge would sing in solo. Graydon good-naturedly tried to arrange a duet between the two girls. The former declined instantly, yet took off the edge of her refusal by saying, “I would gladly sing for you if I could, but do not care to permit all these strangers to institute comparisons.”