While Graydon and Madge were returning next morning from the lonely farmhouse Arnault was breakfasting at the hotel. He appeared in excellent spirits. Miss Wildmere’s alert observation could not detect from his manner his knowledge of the fact that she had been on the point of yielding to Graydon the evening before. He was full of gallant courtesy toward her, and every glance and word expressed admiration. This was always the breath of life to her, and while it had ceased to give positive pleasure, its absence was like uncomfortable weather.
After the meal was over he led her to the same summer-house in which Graydon had almost spoken words endowed with a lover’s warmth and eagerness.
“Stella,” he said, “I shall go to town on the ten-o’clock train.”
“I supposed you had concluded to remain all the week,” she replied.
“No; very important interests call me to the city, much to my regret. You only bowed when I requested that I should receive a final answer before the close of this week. I shall return Saturday. Will you end my suspense within this time?”
She was silent.
“Will you make me another promise, then? Will you remain free this week? If you will not bind yourself to me, will you promise that no one else shall have a claim upon you until the time specified expires?”
After some hesitation she said, “Yes, I will promise that.”
“Please do so, and you will not regret it,” was his quiet response.
“I am not so eager to be bound that I cannot promise so much.”
“Very well then, I am content for the present;” and he changed the subject.
They soon returned to the piazza, and Arnault employed his utmost effort to be agreeable during the brief time remaining.
Earlier in the week he had written Mr. Wildmere a letter, in consequence of which the momentous telegram had restrained the daughter at the critical moment already mentioned.
When Madge came down to a late dinner she saw that Arnault had disappeared from the Wildmere table, and that the belle was already a victim of ennui in the absence of both gentlemen. During the afternoon Mrs. Muir was eager to gossip a little over the aspect of affairs, but soon found that Madge would do scarcely more than listen.