Mr. Arnault was equally satisfied that he also took but slight risk. The loan, however, was made from his own means, and was not wholly a business affair. He had made up his mind to win Stella Wildmere, and would not swerve from the purpose unless she engaged herself to another. Then, even though she might be willing to break the tie through stress of circumstances, he would stand aloof. There was only one thing greater than his persistency—his pride. She was the belle who, in his set, had been admired most generally, and his god was success—success in everything on which he placed his heart, or, rather, mind. For her to become engaged to Graydon, and then, because of his poverty, to be willing to renounce him for a more fortunate man, would not answer at all. He must appear to the world to have won her in fair competition with all others, and the girl had an instinctive knowledge of this fact. The events of the previous day, with her father’s note, therefore confirmed her purpose to keep both men in abeyance until the scale should turn.
MISS WILDMERE’S STRATEGY
As we have seen, Madge could not resume her old relations with Graydon Muir. Indeed, the turning-point in her life had been the impulse and decision to escape them by going away. She was also right in thinking that this inability would rather help than hinder her cause. If he had come back and realized his expectations, he would have bestowed unstintedly the placid affection of a brother, given her his confidence, his aid, anything she wished, except his thoughts. While she lost much else, she retained these in a way that puzzled and even provoked him, in view of his devotion to Miss Wildmere. The very fact that he resented the way in which he had been treated by Madge made him think of her, although admitting to himself that it might all turn out for the best. He would have soon accepted changes in externals, and her added accomplishments, but there were other and more subtle changes which he could not grasp. It began to pique him that he had already been forced to abandon more than one impression in regard to her character. It was somewhat humiliating that he, who had seen the world, especially in its social aspects, should be perplexed by a young girl scarcely twenty, and that this girl of all others should be little Madge. He had intimated that she had become imbued with sentimentality and aspirations after ideals, and was hoping to meet a male embodiment of these traits, which he regarded as prominently lackadaisical. Her merry and half ironical laugh was not the natural response of a woman of the intense and aesthetic type.