“Wait,” he said. “Will you drive with me to-morrow?”
“Yes. Is there anything else your lordship would like?”
He seized her hand, and held it in both his. “This,” he said.
“Is that all?” was her laughing reply, as she withdrew it. “I wish you had more of Mr. Muir’s diffidence;” and she vanished before he could speak again.
Graydon found that Madge had retired, so that there was no chance for him to speak to her that night; but his mind was in too happy a tumult to give her much thought.
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
Mrs. Muir came into Madge’s room for a bit of the gossip that she dearly loved, but, as usual, obtained little information or surmise from the young girl. “I’m glad you came down,” she said, “if only to prove to Graydon that you were not moping upstairs.”
“Why should I mope upstairs?” Madge asked, with a keen look at her sister.
“No reason that I know of, only Graydon has been slightly spoiled by his success among ladies, and society men are always imagining that girls are languishing for them.”
“Have I given him or anyone such an impression?” Madge again inquired, indignantly.
“Oh, no, indeed! On the contrary, you seem so indifferent as not to be quite natural. Even Graydon feels it, and is perplexed and troubled. He was inquiring for you during the evening, and I told him you were kindly caring for Jack, so that I might have a little fresh air with Henry on the piazza.”
“There it is again—perplexed and troubled. I’m sick of being misunderstood so ridiculously. The scraps of time that he gives me when Miss Wildmere does not fill his eyes and thoughts are employed in criticism. Why should I perplex and trouble him? I have told him to please himself with Miss Wildmere—that I should certainly please myself in my choice of friends, and that he as a man assuredly had a right to do the same. He will soon be engaged to her, and probably is already, but he has no right to demand that I should receive this girl with open arms. She already detests me, and I do not admire her. It’s none of my business, but if I were a man I wouldn’t stand her flirtation with Mr. Arnault. Even the people in the house are observing it with significant smiles. He must get over the impression that I’m the weak, limp child in mind or body that he left. I’m an independent woman, and have as much right to my thoughts and ways as he to his. If he wants my society, let him treat me with natural friendliness. If he’s afraid to do it—if Miss Wildmere won’t let him—rest assured I won’t receive any furtive, deprecatory attentions. I am abundantly able to take care of myself in my own way.”
“Oh, Madge, you have so changed! Before you went away the sun seemed to rise and set in Graydon.”
“Well, the sun now rises in the west and sets in the east—What am I saying? Well, perhaps, it’s true for me, after all. In the West I gained the power to live a strong, resolute life of my own choosing, and he may as well recognize the truth first as last. Let him give all his thoughts to Miss Wildmere. From what I see and have heard she will keep them busy before and after marriage.”