“You have taught me to lean on you once more, Henry, and that is worth more than all your other liens.”
Mr. Arnault now appeared, and came affably forward, saying, “I am glad my enforced action did not incommode you to-day.”
“Thank you. I trust you are not in trouble, Mr. Arnault;” and there was a world of quiet satire in the remark.
“Oh, no—only a temporary need, I assure you,” was the hasty reply.
“So I supposed;” and as Arnault turned away, the speaker gave Madge a humorous glance, which made her look of demure innocence difficult to maintain.
* * * * *
Graydon had enjoyed fair success in fishing, and yet had not been supremely happy. He found, with the venerated Izaak Walton, that the “gentle art” was conducive to contemplation; but there were certain phases in his situation that were not agreeable to contemplate. As he followed the trout-stream amid the solitudes of nature, the artificial and conventional in life grew less attractive. In spite of his efforts to the contrary, Miss Wildmere seemed to represent just these phases. He recalled critically and dispassionately all the details of their past acquaintance, and found, with something like dismay, that she had exhibited only the traits of a society belle—that he could recall no new ideas or inspiring thoughts received from her. The apparent self-sacrifice for her father, which he had so unequivocally condemned, was, after all, about the best thing he knew of her. The glamour of her beauty had been upon his eyes, and he had credited her with corresponding graces of heart and mind. What evidence had he of their existence?
The more he thought of it, the more his pride, also, rebelled at the ignominious position in the background that he was compelled to take while the Wall Street diplomacy was prolonged. At last, in anger and disgust, he resolved that, if he found Arnault in his old position by Stella’s side, he would withdraw at once and forever.
After all, although he was as yet unconscious of it, the secret of his clarified vision was the influence of Madge upon his mind. She seemed in harmony with every beautiful aspect of nature—true and satisfying, while ever changing. Madge was right: the mountains, streams, rocks, and trees became her allies, suggesting her and not Miss Wildmere. He would have returned, for the pleasure of her society, but for his purpose not to appear again until Arnault should have time to arrive from the city and resume his attentions. If they were received as in the past, he would write to Miss Wildmere his withdrawal of further claims upon her thoughts.
It was with something like bitter cynicism that he saw his illusions in regard to Miss Wildmere fade, and when he drove up to the hotel after nightfall on Saturday, he was not sure that he cared much what her answer might be, so apathetic had he become. The force of his old regard was not wholly spent; but in his thoughts of her, much that was repugnant to his feelings and ideals had presented itself to his mind, and he felt that the giving up of his dream of lifelong companionship with her would almost bring a sense of relief. Without pausing to analyze the reason of his eagerness to see Madge and hear of her welfare, he ran up at once to Mrs. Muir’s room.