He was detained but little longer. The clock soon chimed midnight. Arnault gave her a brief, cold look, turned on his heel and went out, passing Graydon and Madge, who were at that moment ascending the steps.
“Oh, pardon me,” said Miss Wildmere, fairly trembling with dread; “I had no idea it was so late!” and she bowed her companion away instantly. At that moment she saw Graydon entering, and she went to the parlor door; but he passed her without apparent notice, and bade Madge a cordial good-night at the foot of the stairs. As he was turning away Miss Wildmere was at his side.
“Mr. Muir—Graydon,” she said, in an eager tone, “I wish to speak with you.”
He bowed very politely, and answered, in a voice that she alone could hear, “You will receive a note from me at your room within half an hour.” Then, bowing again, he walked rapidly away.
She saw from his grave face and unsympathetic eyes that she had lost him.
Half desperate, and with the instinct of self-preservation, she passed out on the piazza to bid Arnault good-night, as she tried to assure herself, with pallid lips, but ready then at last to take any terms from him. Arnault was not to be seen. After a moment her father stepped to her side and said:
“Stella, it is late. You had better retire.”
“I wish to say good-night to Mr. Arnault,” she faltered.
“Mr. Arnault has gone.”
“Gone where?” she gasped.
“I don’t know. As the clock struck twelve he came rapidly out and walked away. He passed by me, but would not answer when I spoke to him. Come, let me take you to your room.”
With a chill at heart almost like that of death she went with him, and sat down pale and speechless.
In a few moments a note was brought to Mr. Wildmere’s door, and he took it to his daughter. She could scarcely open it with her nerveless fingers, and when she read the brief words—
must permit me to renounce all claims upon
you now and forever. Memory and your own thoughts will reveal
to you the obvious reasons for my action, GRAYDON MUIR,”
she found a brief respite from the results of her diplomacy in unconsciousness.
BROKEN LIGHTS AND SHADOWS
Mr. Wildmere looked almost ten years older when he came down to what he supposed would be a solitary breakfast; but something like hope and gladness reappeared on his haggard face when he saw Arnault at his table as usual. He scarcely knew how he would be received, but Arnault was as affable and courteous as he would have been months previous, and no one in the breakfast-room would have imagined that anything had occurred to disturb the relations between the two gentlemen. He inquired politely after the ladies, expressed regret that they were indisposed, and changed the subject in a tone and manner natural to a mere acquaintance.