“He’s not engaged to her yet; he said so positively.”
“Oh, well,” Madge replied, with well-assumed indifference, although her heart bounded at the tidings, “it’s only a question of time. There, we’ve talked enough about her. Of course I remember Graydon’s old kindness, and all that; and if he would treat me with frank and sensible friendliness, I should enjoy his society. Why not?”
“I thought he regarded you as his sister.”
“Sister, indeed! I’m Henry’s sister, not his. I’m only an object of criticism, of perplexity, a sphinx, and all that kind of nonsense. He was bent on seeing a ‘little ghost,’ as he used to call me. I’m not a bit of a ghost, and have as much proud blood in my veins as he has.”
“Well, Madge, I’m glad you feel that you are Henry’s sister. He likes and admires you so much that I’m half jealous.”
“Henry and I understand each other. He thinks I’m sensible, and I certainly think he is. Good-night, now, dear. It’s after twelve, and I wish you a merry Fourth of July; I mean to have one.”
Graydon had not found himself in a sleeping mood until the shadows of night were almost ready to depart, and so came down very late. Mrs. Wildmere, who was on the piazza with her child, informed him, with a deprecatory smile, that Stella had gone to drive with Mr. Arnault. He bit his lip, and went to make a leisurely breakfast. By the time he had finished, Madge came in with a party of young people who had been on a ramble. Her greeting was friendly, but nothing more, and having received a long letter from Mrs. Wayland, she took it to a small summer-house. Graydon soon strayed after her in a listless way, and in no very amiable humor. The greater anxiety had swallowed up the less, and his perturbed thoughts about Madge were now following a light carriage on some wild mountain road. His generous glow of feeling of the night before had passed somewhat, and he was inclined to think that Miss Wildmere’s relations to Arnault, whatever they were, placed him, a committed lover, in a rather anomalous position. Since she was absent, however, he would while away an hour with Madge, and try to solve the riddle she had become.
She greeted him with a slight smile, and went on with her letter. He watched her curiously and with contracting brow.
“Will you ever finish?” he soon asked.
“I can read it some other time,” she said, laying it down.
“Oh, that is asking far too much!”
“Confound it, Madge! Why is it that we are drifting further and further apart every day?”
“I am not drifting,” she said, quietly, “nor do you give that impression. I am just where you found me on your return. Since we are so far apart you must be doing the journeying.”
“Well, Heaven knows I found you distant enough!”
“I beg your pardon; Heaven knows nothing of the kind! It’s not my fault that you value friendship so lightly.”