Thus far he had soliloquised, when something Grace was saying caught his ear and chained his attention at once.
“Oh, Edith,” she began, “you don’t know what you lost by being over squeamish. Such a perfect jewel-box of a room, with the tiniest single bed of solid mahogany! Isn’t it queer that Arthur should have locked it up, and isn’t it fortunate for us that Mrs. Johnson found that rusty old key which must have originally belonged to the door of the Den, as she says he calls it?”
Anxiously the young man awaited Edith’s answer, his face aglow with indignation and his eyes flashing with anger.
“Fortunate for you, perhaps,” returned Edith, tying on her riding-hat, “but I wouldn’t have gone in for anything.”
“Why not?” asked Grace, walking into the hall.
“Because,” said Edith, “Mr. St. Claire evidently did not wish any one to go in, and I think Mrs. Johnson was wrong in opening the door.”
“What a little Puritan it is!” returned Grace, playfully caressing the rosy cheeks of Edith, who had now joined her in the hall. “Arthur never will know, for I certainly shall not tell either him or any one, and I gave Mrs. Johnson some very wholesome advice upon that subject. There she is now in the back-yard. If you like, we’ll go round and give her a double charge.”
The young man saw them as they turned the corner of the building, and gliding from his post, he hurried up the stairs and entering the Den, locked the door, and throwing himself upon the sofa, groaned aloud, while the drops of perspiration oozed out upon his forehead, and stood thickly about his lips. Then his mood changed, and pacing the floor he uttered invectives against the meddlesome Mrs. Johnson, who, by this one act, had proved that she could not be trusted. Consequently she must not remain longer at Grassy Spring, and while in the yard below Mrs. Johnson was promising Grace “to be as still as the dead,” Arthur St. Claire was planning her dismissal. This done, and his future course decided upon, the indignant young man felt better, and began again to think of Edith Hastings, whom he admired for her honorable conduct in refusing to enter a place where she had reason to think she was not wanted.
“Noble, high-principled girl,” he said. “I’m glad I told Mr. Harrington what I did before seeing her. Otherwise he might have suspected that her beauty had something to do with my offer, and so be jealous lest I had designs upon his singing-bird, as he called her. But alas, neither beauty, nor grace, nor purity can now avail with me, miserable wretch that I am,” and again that piteous moan, as of a soul punished before its time, was heard in the silent room.