“Madge went to New York!” he echoed, in surprise at Mrs. Muir’s information.
“Yes; why not? She went to do some shopping for herself and me. Miss Wildmere’s here, and, for a wonder, Mr. Arnault is not. What more could you ask?”
“Hang Mr. Arnault—” He had come near mentioning both in his irritation.
“When will Madge and Henry arrive?”
“Soon now—on the nine-o’clock train. Oh, by the way, Henry left a note for you!”
“Very well. I’ll go to my room, dress, and meet them.”
“He is asking after Madge rather often, it seems to me. She doesn’t compare so very unfavorably with the speculator, after all, even in his eyes.”
On reaching his room he threw himself wearily into a chair, and carelessly tore open his brother’s note. Instantly he bounded to his feet, approached the light more closely, and saw in his brother’s unmistakable hand the following significant words:
“Read this letter carefully and thoughtfully; then destroy it. Show your knowledge of its contents by neither word nor sign. Be on your guard, and permit no one to suspect financial anxieties. Arnault and Wildmere have struck me a heavy blow. The former has lent me money. I must raise a large sum in town, but think I can do it, even in the brief time permitted. If I cannot we lose everything. If I don’t have to suspend to-morrow Miss Wildmere will accept you in the evening. She has been waiting till those two precious confederates, her father and Arnault, did their worst, so that she could go over to the winning side. You are of course your own master, but permit me, as your brother, affectionately and solemnly to warn you. Stella Wildmere will never bring you a day’s happiness or peace. She loves herself infinitely more than you, her father, or any one else. Be true to me, and you shall share my fortunes. If you follow some insane notion of being true to her, you will soon find you have been false to yourself. Again I warn you. Speak to no one of all this, and give no sign of your knowledge. HENRY.”
Graydon read this twice, then crushed the paper in his hand as he muttered, “Fool, dupe, idiot! Now at last I understand her game and allusions. She was made to fear that Henry was about to fail, and she would not accept me until satisfied on this point. Great God! my infatuation for her has been inciting Arnault in these critical times to break my brother down, and her father has been aiding and abetting, in order that I might be removed out of the way. She was so false herself that she suspected her own father, also Arnault, of deceiving her, and so kept putting me off, that she might learn the truth of their predictions or the result of their efforts. How clear it all becomes, now that I have the key! Well, I should be worse than a heathen if I did not thank God for such an escape.”