“I have a great deal to say,” answered her father, quietly, “but you are not ready to hear it yet.”
“More lecturing and fault-finding,” said Stella, sullenly.
“I have not lectured or found fault. I have warned you and tried to make you see the truth and to help you.”
“And with your usual success. When can we leave this house?”
“We must leave it to-morrow. I will speak in kindness and truth when you are ready to listen. I know the past; I have little left now but memory.”
He waited some moments, but there was no relenting on her part, and he passed out.
All the afternoon conscience waged war with anger, shame, pride and fear—fear for the future, fear of her father, for she had never before seen him look as he had since he had met her on the piazza the evening before. He had manifested none of his usual traits of irritability alternating with a coldness corresponding to her own. He seemed to have passed beyond these surface indications of trouble to the condition of one who sees evils that he cannot avert and who rallies sufficient manhood to meet them with a dignity that bordered on despair.
As Stella grew calmer she had a growing perception of this truth. He no longer indulged in vague, half-sincere predictions of disaster. His aspect was that of a man who was looking at fate.
A cold dread began to creep over her. What was in prospect? Was he, not Henry Muir, to lose everything? After all, he was her father, her protector, her only hope for the future. As reason found chance to be heard, she saw how senseless was her revolt at him. She could not go on ignoring him any longer. Perhaps it would be best to hear what he had to say.
This feeling was intensified by her mother, who at last came in and said, in a weak, half-desperate way, “Stella, there is no use of your going on in this style any longer. Distressed and worried as I am, I can see that we can’t help matters now by just wringing our hands. Your father says we must leave as early as possible to-morrow. I can’t do everything to get ready. I’m so unnerved I can scarcely stand now. Do come down to supper with us, or else let a good supper be brought to you, and then let us act as if we had not lost our senses utterly. Your father looks and is so strange that I scarcely know him.”
“I’ll not go down again. Nothing would tempt me to meet Graydon Muir and the curious stare of the people. I suppose they are full of surmises. If you will have a supper sent to me I will take it and do all the packing myself. Please tell papa that I wish to see him after supper.”
She then made a toilet suitable for her task, and waited impatiently. Her father soon appeared with a dainty and inviting supper. As soon as they were alone Stella began:
“Now, papa, tell me the worst—not what you fear, but just what is before us.”
“Eat your supper first.”