“Indeed?” she exclaimed. “And what of Mr. Wallace?”
“I believe Mr. Wallace is in love with Miss Lawrence.”
“What a delightful state of affairs!” she laughed. “Nothing then remains but to set the date, celebrate the event and live happily ever afterward.”
“I do not say she will marry him,” I ventured to qualify. “It probably started as a harmless flirtation on her part, but I really think she cares more for him than she would be willing to admit.”
“If she liked him well enough to encourage his attentions, which is a fairly good definition of a harmless flirtation,” she said, quite seriously, “and later discovers that she loves him and that he loves her, why should they not marry?”
I think my tactics at this point were rather clever. I saw a chance to obtain her views on a question most vital to me, and I proceeded to do so, but I hope I did not lower myself in her estimation. As I have said before, I think Wallace is good enough for any woman.
“Consider the difference in their stations in life,” I interposed. “She has wealth, family, and a high position in society. Of Wallace we know nothing except that he comports himself like a gentleman in reduced circumstances.”
“I should imagine that would be the most difficult time to play such a role,” Miss Harding said. “We know those who cannot be gentlemen even under the most encouraging circumstances. The greatest happiness which can come to a good woman is to marry the man she loves, and if she allows wealth, position or any other selfish consideration to stand in the way she does not deserve happiness.”
“Right you are!” I declared with an enthusiasm which may have betrayed me. “I agree with every word you have said.”
“See those perfect yellows against that bar of vivid red,” she said, pointing to the west, where the sky quivered with a naming sunset. “See how the light flashes from the windows of the club house! One would think it filled with molten metal. How sharp the old church belfry shows against that mass of golden cloud to the northwest!”
We watched this glorious scene in silence until the upper rim of the sun sank beneath the rounded crest of “Old Baldy.” Then I helped her down and we walked slowly back to the club house.
Have I not the right to assume that Miss Harding “likes me well enough to encourage my attentions,” which is her definition of a flirtation? I believe I have. I know that other young gentlemen belonging to the club have attempted in vain to compete with me for the favour of her society. All have failed—Carter alone excepted. But recently I have been with her more than has Carter. In fact I fear him less at the present moment than I have at any time. I shall soon know my fate.
For the first time the strain of my stock operations is telling on me. I have now purchased 35,000 shares of N.O. & G., and the market for it closed to-night at 60. If I were forced to settle at this figure I would be about $345,000 loser. If the stock is valueless, as some of the experts are now declaring, I am liable for nearly $2,000,000 more.