“You cannot make me take it, Madge.”
“I can and will. I shall go to the city with you by the earliest train, and when Arnault asks for his money you shall quietly give it to him, and no one but ourselves shall know anything about the matter. If you pay this money promptly, will it not help your credit at once?”
“Certainly, Madge, but—”
“Oh, Henry,” she cried, “why will you cloud all our lives by scruples that are now not only absurd but almost criminal? Think of the loss you will inflict on Graydon, your children, and your wife, by such senseless refusal. Have you not said that a little time will insure safety and fortune? And there is my money lying idle, when with to-morrow’s sun it could buy me more happiness than could millions at another time. I trust to your business judgment fully. Suppose the money was lost—suppose my whole fortune was lost—do you think I would care a jot compared with being denied at this critical moment? I should hate the money you saved for me in this way, and I should never forgive you for saving it.” She stood aloof and faced him proudly, as she continued: “Do you imagine I fear poverty? Believe me, Henry Muir, I have brain and muscle to take care of myself and others too if need be.” Then, in swift alternation of mood, she clasped her hands caressingly upon his arm, and added: “But I have a woman’s heart, and there are troubles worse than poverty. To see you lose the results of your lifework, and to see Graydon’s prospects blighted, would be more than I could bear. You can give me all the security you wish, if that will satisfy you better; but if you deny me now, I shall lose confidence in you, and feel that you have failed me in the most desperate emergency of my life.”
“The most desperate emergency of your life, Madge?”
“Yes; of my life,” she replied, her voice choking with sobs, for the strain was growing too great for her nerve-force to resist. “You give way to senseless anger; you inveigh against Graydon, when he has only acted honorably, and has been deceived; you refuse to do the one simple, rational thing that will avert this trouble and bring safety to us all.”
“Why, Madge, if I fail, this speculator will drop Graydon at once. Scott! this fact alone would be large compensation.”
“If you were cool—if you were yourself—you could save Graydon in every way. I want to see him go on in life, prosperous and happy, not thwarted and disheartened almost at its beginning. Oh, why won’t you? Why won’t you?” and she wrung her hands in distress.
“Is Graydon so very much to you, Madge?” he asked, in a wondering tone.
“Hush!” she said, imperiously; “there are things which no man or woman shall know or appear to know unless I reveal them. It’s enough that I am trying to save you all, and my own peace of mind. Henry Muir, I will not be denied. There are moments when a woman feels and knows what is right, while a man, with his narrow, cast-iron rules, would ruin everything. You must carry out my wish, and Graydon must know nothing about it. Oh, God! that I were a man!”