A glimmering perception that her manner was not calculated to inspire a lover at last dawned on Miss Wildmere, and with it came a faltering purpose to decide in favor of Graydon at once; but as she turned toward him, to speak with what was meant to be a bewildering smile of joy, a messenger from the office said, “A telegram, miss.”
Graydon frowned, and then laughed outright. She stopped in the very act of tearing open the envelope, and looked at him inquiringly.
“Oh, nothing,” he said, lightly. “The opportuneness of that fellow’s coming was phenomenal. How much longer am I to wait for your decision, Stella? Were the world in our secret, I should be known as St. Graydon the patient.”
She flushed, but adopted his apparently light mood as the least embarrassing. “My memory is good, and I shall know how to reward you,” she smilingly replied. “Please let me satisfy my mind about papa, for I’m sure it’s from him.”
“Oh, satisfy your mind fully about everything, Miss Wildmere.”
She tore open the envelope with a strong gesture of impatience, and read, with a suddenly paling cheek, “Unless you choose the immediate certainty of absolute loss, wait till I see you. Will come soon. Wildmere.”
She crushed the telegram in her hand, and turned away with a half-tragic air which at the moment struck Graydon as a little “stagy,” and then he condemned himself for the thought. As she did not speak for a moment, he said, sympathetically, “Your tidings are bad?”
She tried to think, but was confused, and felt that she was in a cruel dilemma. Could Graydon be deceiving her? or was he as ignorant as he seemed of his brother’s peril? Was her father in league with Arnault after all? and were they uniting to separate her from Graydon? She could not tell. She must gain more time. She would see her father, charge him with duplicity, and wring the truth from him.
When she turned to Graydon her eyes were full of tears again, and she faltered: “You may despise me if you will, but my father has made an appeal to me, and is coming to see me. I must hear what he has to say. I must tell him that I can’t endure—that I can’t go on this way any longer. I would gladly help him, save him, but after what you have said it’s impossible to—Oh, was ever a girl placed in such wretched straits! Graydon, can you be patient a little longer?”
“There is nothing else for me to do, Stella. I only stipulate that your decision be made speedily, and that Arnault be given to understand what my rights are. I shall have no difficulty in enforcing them.”
“I shall decide speedily. It is not right that I should be placed in such a torturing, humiliating position.”
“Now I agree with you perfectly. When does your father come?”
“He says ‘soon.’”
“Very well; I will return on Saturday.”
“I wish you wouldn’t go away now,” she entreated.