Victor started, but had no shadow of suspicion that the young girl before him was the bride elect. His master had once been foolish enough to think of her as such he believed, but that time was passed. Richard had grown more sensible, and Edith was the future wife of Arthur St. Claire. Nina would not live long, and after she was dead there would be no further hindrance to a match every way so suitable. This was Victor’s theory, and never doubting that the same idea had a lodgment in the minds of both Arthur and Edith, he could not conceive it possible that the latter would deliberately give herself to Richard. Grace Atherton, on the contrary, would be glad to do it; she had been coaxing his master these forty years, and had succeeded in winning him at last. Victor did not fancy Grace; and when at last he spoke, it was to call both his master and Mrs. Atherton a pair of precious fools. Edith looked wonderingly at him as he raved on.
“I can’t bear her, I never could, since I heard how she abused you. Why, I’d almost rather you’d be his wife than that gay widow.”
“Suppose I marry him then in her stead,” Edith said, laughingly. “I verily believe he’d exchange.”
“Of course he would,” Victor answered, bitterly. “The older a man grows, the younger the girl he selects, and it’s a wonder he didn’t ask you first.”
“Supposing he had?” returned Edith, bending over a geranium to hide her agitation. “Supposing he had, and it was I instead of Grace to whom he is engaged.”
“Preposterous!” Victor exclaimed. “You could not do such a thing in your right senses. Why, I’d rather see you dead than married to your father. I believe I’d forbid the banns myself,” and Victor strode from the room, banging the door behind him, by way of impressing Edith still more forcibly with the nature of his opinion.
Edith was disappointed. She had expected sympathy at least from Victor, had surely thought he would he pleased to have her for his mistress, and his words, “I would rather see you dead,” hurt her cruelly. Perhaps every body would say so. It was an unnatural match, this union of autumn and spring, but she must do something. Any thing was preferable to the aimless, listless life she was leading now. She could not be any more wretched than she was, and she might perhaps be happier when the worst was over and she knew for certain that she was Richard’s wife. His wife! It made her faint and sick just to say those two words. What then would the reality be? She loved him dearly as a guardian, a brother, and she might in time love him as her husband. Such things had been. They could be again. Aye, more, they should he, and determining henceforth to keep her own counsel, and suffer Victor to believe it was Grace instead of herself, she ran into the garden, where she knew Richard was walking, and stealing to his side, caught his arm ere he was aware of her presence.