On reaching his office Mr. Muir found that a transaction which had been greatly delayed was now consummated, and that another ten thousand in cash was available. This also was sent to the bank at once. Several business men were present when a confidential clerk from Arnault appeared, and asked for a private interview.
“Well, really you must excuse me to-day. I’m very busy, and expect to leave town in an hour or two. Please state what you have to say in few words, or else I will see you next week.”
“Mr. Arnault,” began the clerk, in a metallic tone, “says that he is compelled to call in the loan he recently made you.”
“Oh, certainly, certainly! Have you the securities I gave him as collateral?”
“No, sir, but I can get them,” said the man.
“Do so, and I will give you my check. Thank Mr. Arnault for the accommodation, and say I have thirty or forty thousand to spare should he be hard pressed. Be quick.”
The Wall Street men present looked at one another significantly, and one of them remarked, “You are forehanded for these times, Muir.”
“If this absurd lack of confidence would only pass,” was the careless reply, “I should have more money on hand than I could invest profitably;” and then he appeared absorbed in other matters.
Arnault received the message from his clerk with something like dismay, and turning on Mr. Wildmere, who was present, he said, almost savagely, “You have been misleading me.”
“Indeed I have not, sir—not intentionally. I can’t understand it.”
“Well, I can. Muir is an old fox in business. I was a fool to think that a paltry thirty thousand would trouble him. Well, there is nothing to do but to close the matter up.”
“What, in regard to my daughter?” said Mr. Wildmere, inadvertently.
“Oh, no; confound it! What has she got to do with this affair?” replied Arnault, with an irritation that he could not disguise. “I certainly have made Miss Wildmere a fair offer; some would regard it as more. I shall go up to-night and receive her answer, as I promised. I am one who never fails in a promise to man or woman, and I am ready to make good all that I have authorized you to say to your daughter, and more.”
“Let me add,” said Mr. Wildmere, with some assumption of dignity, “that as far as I have influence it is absolutely yours. I have ever prided myself on my fidelity to those who trust me.”
“Thanks,” replied Arnault, with a little menacing coldness in his tone. “I hope I shall have proof of the fact this evening. If so, all shall go swimmingly.”
Poor Wildmere bowed himself out with trepidation at heart, and Arnault followed him with a dark look, muttering, “Let them both beware.”
Mr. Muir met Madge at the depot, and was quietly jubilant. Both laughed heartily over the experiences of the day.
“You are a blessed little woman, Madge. I was never so off my balance before in my life as I was last night. When confused and upset, it is one of my impulses to stick to some principle of right, like a mule. Bless you, I think I have secured you twice over! I have given you a lien on property worth two hundred thousand in ordinary times.”