After a few moments of silence she asked, “Are you so rich in friends that you have no place for me?”
“Why, certainly, Madge,” he replied, in cordial, offhand tones, “we are friends. There’s nothing else for us to be. I don’t pretend to understand your scruples. Even if a woman refused to be my wife I should be none the less friendly, unless she had trifled with me. To my man’s reason a natural tie does not count for so much as the years we spent together. I remember what you were to me then, and what I seemed to you. I tried to keep up the old feeling by correspondence. The West is a world of wonders, and you have come from it the greatest wonder of all.”
“I hope I shall not prove to you a monstrosity, Graydon. I will try not to be one if you will give me a chance.”
“Oh, no, indeed; you promise to be one of the most charming young ladies I ever met.”
“I don’t promise anything of the kind,” she replied, with a laugh that was chiefly the expression of her intense nervous tension. It jarred upon his feelings, and confirmed him in the belief that their long separation had broken up their old relations completely, and that she, in the new career which her beauty opened before her, wished for no embarrassing relations of any kind.
“Well,” he said, with an answering laugh, “I suppose I must take you for what you are and propose to be—that is, if I ever find out.”
In a few moments more, after some light badinage, he left her with Mr. and Mrs. Muir on the piazza, and went to claim his waltz with Miss Wildmere.
“I FEAR I SHALL FAIL”
The band had been discoursing lively strains for some time, and Miss Wildmere had at last dragged her mother down for a chaperon—the only available one as yet. The anxious mother was eager to return to her fretting child, and her daughter was much inclined to resent Graydon’s prolonged absence. “If it were politic, and I had other acquaintances, I would punish him,” she thought. It was a new experience for her to sit in a corner of the parlor, apparently neglected, while others were dancing. There were plenty who looked wistfully toward her; but there was no one to introduce her, and Graydon’s absence left the ice unbroken.
She ignored the inevitable isolation of a new-comer, however, and when he appeared shook her finger at him as she said, “Here I am, constancy itself, waiting to give you my first dance, as I promised.”
“I shall try to prove worthy,” he said, earnestly. “You must remember, in extenuation, that I have not seen the ladies of our family for a long time.”
“You use the plural, and are Dot at all singular in your prolonged absence with the charming Miss Alden. You certainly cannot look upon her as an invalid any longer, however else you may regard her,” she added, with an arch look.