“Clear out,” said he curtly; “I’m busy.”
Grant plumped himself into a chair. “Josh,” cried he desperately, “you must marry that girl. She’s just the one for you. I love her, and her happiness is dear to me.”
Craig gave him an amused look. “However did she persuade you to come here and say that?” he inquired.
“She didn’t persuade me. She didn’t mention it. All she said was that she had wiped me off the slate even as a friend.”
Craig laughed uproariously. “That was how she did it—eh? She’s a deep one.”
“Josh,” said Arkwright, “you need a wife, and she’s it.”
“Right you are,” exclaimed Craig heartily. “I’m one of those surplus-steam persons—have to make an ass of myself constantly, indulging in the futility of blowing off steam. Oughtn’t to do it publicly—creates false impression. Got to have a wife—no one else but a wife always available and bound to be discreet. Out with you. I’m too busy to talk—even about myself.”
“You will marry her?”
“Like to see anybody try to stop me!”
He pulled Arkwright from the chair, thrust him into the hall, slammed the door. And Arkwright, in a more hopeful frame of mind, went home. “I’ll do my best to get back her respect—and my own,” said he. “I’ve been a dog, and she’s giving me the whipping I deserve.”
A FIGHT AND A FINISH
In his shrewd guess at Margaret’s reason for dealing so summarily with Arkwright, Craig was mistaken, as the acutest of us usually are in attributing motives. He had slowly awakened to the fact that she was not a mere surface, but had also the third dimension —depth, which distinguishes persons from people. Whenever he tried to get at what she meant by studying what she did, he fell into the common error of judging her by himself, and of making no allowance for the sweeter and brighter side of human nature, which was so strong in her that, in happier circumstances, the other side would have been mere rudiment.
Her real reason for breaking with Grant was a desire to be wholly honorable with Craig. She resolved to burn her bridges toward Arkwright, to put him entirely out of her mind—as she had not done theretofore; for whenever she had grown weary of Craig’s harping on her being the aggressor in the engagement and not himself, or whenever she had become irritated against him through his rasping mannerisms she had straightway begun to revolve Arkwright as a possible alternative. Craig’s personality had such a strong effect on her, caused so many moods and reactions, that she was absolutely unable to tell what she really thought of him. Also, when she was so harassed by doubt as to whether the engagement would end in marriage or in a humiliation of jilting, when her whole mind was busy with the problem of angling him within the swoop of the matrimonial net, how was she to find leisure to examine her heart? Whether she wanted him or simply wanted a husband she could not have said.