Edward Payson Roe.

A Young Girl's Wooing online

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devotional rhapsodies."

"Oh, ye gods! Here, waiter, bring me my dessert, and let me escape,"
cried Graydon.

"Did you say I was to be ready at five?" she asked, sweetly.

"Yes, and bring down articles of a truce, and we'll sign them in red
ink."

An hour later she heard the gallop of a horse, and saw him riding
away. "She shan't mount the animal," he had thought, "till I learn
more about him and give him all the running he wants to-day. She has
a heavy enough score against me as it is, and I'll not employ another
brute to make things worse."

He learned more fully what he had discovered before, that she would
have her hands full in managing the horse, and he gave him a run that
covered him with foam and tested his breathing. At four he galloped
back to the station to see if the saddle had arrived, but found that
even his skill and strength were not sufficient to make the animal
approach the engine. Shouting to the baggage-man to bring the expected
articles to the stable, he was soon there and made another experiment.
A hostler brought him a blanket, which he strapped around his waist,
and mounted again in a lady's style. It was at once evident that the
horse had never been ridden by a woman. He reared, kicked, and plunged
around frightfully, and Graydon had to clutch the mane often to keep
his seat. Madge had speedily joined him, and looked with absorbed
interest, at times laughing, and again imploring Graydon to dismount.
This he at last he did, the perspiration pouring from his face.
Resigning the trembling and wearied horse to a stable-boy, he came
toward the young girl, mopping his brow and exclaiming: "It will never
do at all. He is ugly as sin. No woman should ride him, not even a
squaw."

"Bah, Graydon! he did not throw you, although he had you at every
disadvantage. I'm not in the least afraid. Has the saddle come?"

"Yes; but I protest, Madge. Here, Dr. Sommers" (who was approaching),
"lay your commands on this rash girl."

"If Dr. Sommers says I'm rash he doesn't understand my case, and I
refuse to employ him," cried Madge. Then she added, sweetly: "If
I break any bones, doctor, I'll be your very humble and obedient
servant. It's half-past four, and I'll be ready as soon as you are,
Graydon. No backing out. You might as well warn me against the peril
of a rocking-chair;" and she went to put on her habit.

"Heaven help us!" said Graydon to the doctor. "We're in a scrape.
She's so resolute that I believe she would go alone. What would you
do? Hang it all! the people of the house have got an inkling of what's
up; some are gathering near, and the windows are full of heads."

"Put the saddle on one of the quiet livery horses, and you ride this
brute," said the doctor.

"You don't know her. She wouldn't stand that at all."

"Then give her her head. After yesterday I believe she can do what
she undertakes. You have tired the horse out pretty thoroughly, and I
guess she'll manage him."

Leaving orders to have Madge's horse sponged off and dried, and the
best animal in the stable prepared for himself, he said, "Well then,
doctor, be on hand to repair damages," and went to his room to change
his dress.

The doctor did more. He saw that Madge's horse was saddled carefully,
meanwhile admiring the beautiful equipment that Graydon had ordered.
He also insured that Graydon had a good mount.

When at last the young man tapped at Madge's door she came out looking
most beautiful in her close-fitting habit and low beaver, with its
drooping feather. Mary followed her, protesting and half crying, and
Mr. Muir looked very grave.

"Madge," said Graydon, earnestly, "I should never forgive myself if
any harm came to you. That horse is not fit for you to ride."

"Good people, see here," said Madge, turning upon them; "I am not a
reckless child, nor am I making a rash experiment. Even if I did not
fear broken bones, do you think I would give you needless anxiety?
Graydon has kindly obtained for me a fine horse, and I must make a
beginning to show you and him that I can ride. If Mr. and Mrs. Wayland
were here they would laugh at you. Don't come out to see me off, Mary.
Others would follow, and I don't want to be conspicuous. I do wish
people would mind their own business."

"No danger of my coming out. I don't want to see you break your neck,"
cried Mary, re-entering her room.

"You must let me go, Madge," said Mr. Muir, firmly. "I may have to
interpose my authority."

"Yes, do come, for Heaven's sake!" said Graydon.

"Very well," laughed Madge. "If I once get on, you and the horse may
both find it hard to get me off. Where are the horses?" she asked,
upon reaching the door.

"You must yield one point and mount near the stable," said Graydon,
resolutely.

"Oh, certainly, I'll yield everything except my ride."

Madge's horse stood pawing the ground, showing how obdurate and
untamable was his spirit. She exclaimed at the beauty of the saddle
and its housings, and said, "Thank you, Graydon," so charmingly that
he anathematized himself for giving her a brute instead of a horse. "I
should have satisfied myself better about him," he thought, "and have
looked further."

In a moment she had the animal by the head, and was patting his neck,
while he turned an eye of fire down upon her, and showed no relenting
in his chafed and excited mood. Graydon meanwhile examined everything
carefully, and saw that the bridle had a powerful curb.

"Well," said he, ruefully, "if you will, you will."

"Yes; in no other way can I satisfy you," was her quiet reply.

"Let us get away, then; spectators are gathering. You should be able
to hold him with this rein. Come."

She put her foot in his hand, and was mounted in a second, the reins
well in hand. The horse reared, but a sharp downward pull to the right
brought him to his feet again. Then he plunged and kicked, but she sat
as if a part of him, meanwhile speaking to him in firm, gentle tones.
His next unexpected freak was to run backward in a way that sent the
neighboring group flying. Instantly Madge gave him a stinging blow
over the hind quarters, and he fairly sprang into the air.

"Get off, Madge," cried Mr. Muir, authoritatively, but the horse was
speeding down the road toward the house, and Graydon, who had looked
on breathlessly, followed. Before they reached the hotel she had
brought him up with the powerful curb, and prancing, curvetting,
straining side-wise first in one direction, then in the other,
meanwhile trembling half with anger, half with terror, the mastered
brute passed the piazza with its admiring groups. Graydon was at her
side. He did not see Miss Wildmere frowning with vexation and envy,
or Arnault's complacent observance. With sternly compressed lips and
steady eye he watched Madge, that, whatever emergency occurred, he
might do all that was possible. The young girl herself was a presence
not soon to be forgotten. Her lips were slightly parted, her eye
glowing with a joyous sense of power, and her pose, flexible to the
eccentric motions of the horse, grace itself. They passed on down the
winding carriage-drive, out upon the main street, and then she turned,
waved her handkerchief to Mr. Muir, and with her companion galloped
away.

Several of Mr. Muir's acquaintances came forward, offering
congratulations, which he accepted with his quiet smile, and then went
up to reassure his wife, who, in spite of her words to the contrary,
had kept her eyes fastened upon Madge as long as she was in sight.

"Well," she exclaimed, "did you ever see anything equal to that?"

"No," said her husband, "but I have seen nothing wonderful or
unnatural; she did not do a thing that she had not been trained and
taught to do, and all her acts were familiar by much usage."

"I think she's a prodigy," exclaimed Mrs. Muir.

"Nothing of the kind. She is a handsome girl, with good abilities,
who has had the sense to make the most and best of herself instead of
dawdling."

After an easy gallop of a mile, in which Madge showed complete power
to keep her horse from breaking into a mad run, she drew rein and
looked at Graydon with a smile. He took off his hat and bowed,
laughingly.

"Oh, Graydon," she said, "it was nice of you to let me have my own
way!"

"I didn't do it very graciously. I have seldom been more worried in my
life."

"I'm glad you were a little worried," she said. "It recalls your look
and tone at the time of our parting, when you said, 'Oh, Madge, do get
well and strong!' Haven't I complied with your wish?"

"Had my wish anything to do with your compliance?"

"Why not?"

"What an idiot I've been! I fear I have been misjudging you absurdly.
I've had no end of ridiculous thoughts and theories about you."

"Indeed! Apparently I had slight place in your thoughts at all, but I
made great allowances for a man in your condition."

"That was kind, but you were mistaken. Why, Madge, we were almost
brought up together, and I couldn't reconcile the past and the
present. The years you spent in the far West, and their result, are
more wonderful than a fairytale. I wish you would tell me about them."

"I will. Friends should be reasonably frank. What's more, I wish to
show you how natural and probable the result, as you call it, has
been. Your wondering perplexity vexes me. You know what I was when we
parted."

"No, I don't believe I do, or you couldn't be what you are now."

"Well, I can tell you: I had weak lungs, a weak body, and a weak,
uncultured mind. I was weak in all respects, but I discovered that I
had a will, and I had sense enough, as Henry says, to know that if I
was ever going to be more than a ghost it was time I set about it. I
knew of Mrs. Wayland's restoration to health in the climate of Santa
Barbara, and I determined to try it myself. I couldn't have had better
friends or advantages than the place afforded. But oh, Graydon, I was
so weak and used up when I reached there that I could scarcely do more
than breathe. But I had made up my mind either to get well or to die.
I rested for days, until I could make a beginning, and then, one step
at a time, as it were, I went forward. Take two things that you have
seen me do, for example. One can bathe in the sea at Santa Barbara
almost throughout the year. At first I was as timid as a child,
and scarcely dared to wet my feet; but Mr. Wayland was a sensible
instructor, and led me step by step. The water was usually still, and
I gradually acquired the absolute confidence of one who can swim, and
swims almost every day. So with a horse. I could hardly sit on one
that was standing still, I was so weak and frightened; but with muscle
and health came stronger nerves and higher courage. After a few months
I thought nothing of a ten-mile gallop on the beach or out to the
cañons. I took up music in the same way, and had a thoroughly good
teacher. He did the best he could for me, which wasn't so very much. I
never could become a scientist in anything, but I was determined to be
no sham within my limitations. I have tried to do some things as well
as I could and let the rest go. Now you see how easily I can explain
myself, and I only seem wonderful because of contrast with what I
was."

"But where do I come in?" he asked, eagerly.

"Did you not say, 'Please get well and strong?' I thought it would
gratify you and Mary and Henry. You used to call me a ghost, and I
did not want to be a ghost any longer. I saw that you enjoyed your
vigorous life fully, and felt that I might enjoy life also; and as I
grew strong I did enjoy everything more and more. Two things besides,
and I can say, 'All present or accounted for.' Mr. Wayland is a
student, and has a splendid library. He coached me - that was your old
college jargon - on books, and Mrs. Wayland coached me on society. So
here I am, weighing a hundred and twenty pounds, more or less, and
ready for another gallop;" and away she went, the embodiment of
beautiful life.

"One more question, Madge," he said, as they slackened pace again.
"Why wouldn't you write to me oftener?"

"I don't like to write letters. Mine to Mary were scarcely more than
notes. Ask her. Are you satisfied now? Am I a sphinx - a conundrum - any
longer?"

"No; and at last I am more than content that you are not little
Madge."

"Why, this is famous, as Dr. Sommers says. When was a man ever known
to change his mind before?"

"I've changed mine so often of late that I'm fairly dizzy. You are
setting me straight at last."

Madge laughed outright, and after a moment said, "Now account for
yourself. What places did you visit abroad?"

He began to tell her, and she to ask questions that surprised him,
showing that she had some idea of even the topography and color of
the region, and a better knowledge of the history and antiquities
than himself. At last he expressed his wonder. "What nonsense!" she
exclaimed. "You don't remember the little I did write you. As I said
before, did you not at my request - very kindly and liberally, too,
Graydon - send me books about the places you expected to see? A child
could have read them and so have gained the information that surprises
you."

They talked on, one thing leading to another, until he had a conscious
glow of mental excitement. She knew so much that he knew, only in
a different way, and her thoughts came rippling forth in piquant,
musical words. Her eyes were so often full of laughter that he saw
that she was happy, and he remembered after their return that she had
not said an ill-natured word about any one. It was another of their
old-time, breezy talks, only larger, fuller, complete with her rich
womanhood. He found himself alive in every fibre of his body and
faculty of his mind.

As they turned homeward the evening shadows were gathering, and at
last the dusky twilight passed into a soft radiance under the rays of
the full-orbed moon.

"Oh, don't let us hasten home," pleaded poor Madge, who felt that this
might be her only chance to throw about him the gossamer threads which
would draw the cord and cable that could bind him to her. "What is
supper to the witchery of such a night as this?"

"What would anything be to the witchery of such a girl as this, if
one were not fortified?" he thought. "This is not the comradeship of
a good fellow, as she promised. It is the society of a charming woman,
who is feminine in even her thoughts and modes of expression - who is
often strangely, bewilderingly beautiful in this changing light. When
we pass under the shadow of a tree her eyes shine like stars; when the
rays of the moon are full upon her face it is almost as pure and white
as when it was illumined by the electric flash. Did I not love another
woman, I could easily imagine myself learning to love her. Confound
it! I wish Stella had more of Madge's simple loftiness of character.
She would compel different business methods in her father. She would
work for him, suffer for him, but would not play diplomat. I like that
Arnault business to-night less than ever."

Mr. and Mrs. Muir were anxiously awaiting them on the piazza as they
trotted smartly up the avenue. "It's all right," cried Graydon.
"The horse has learned to know his mistress, and will give no more
trouble."

"I wish you had as much sense," growled Muir, in his mustache; then
added, aloud, "Come to supper. Mary could not eat anything till
assured of your safety."

"Yes, Henry, I won't keep you waiting a moment, but go in with my
habit on. I suppose the rest are all through, and I'm as ravenous as a
wolf."

They were soon having the merriest little supper, full of laughing
reminiscence, and Henry rubbed his hands under the table as he
thought, "Arnault is off mooning with the speculator, and Graydon
doesn't look as if the green-eyed monster had much of a grip upon
him."

Miss Wildmere's solicitude would not permit her to prolong her walk
with Arnault, and she returned to the parlor comparatively early in
the evening. She found Graydon awaiting her, and he was as quietly
devoted as ever. She looked at him a little questioningly, but he met
her eyes with his quiet and assured look. When she danced with Arnault
and other gentlemen he sought a partner in Madge or some other lady;
and once, while they were walking on the piazza, and Miss Wildmere
said, "You must have enjoyed yourself immensely with Miss Alden to
have been out so long," he replied, "I did. I hope you passed your
time as agreeably."

She saw that her relations with Arnault gave him an advantage and a
freedom which he proposed to use - that she had no ground on which to
find fault - and that he was too proud to permit censure for a course
less open to criticism than her own.

Before she slept she thought long and deeply, at last concluding that
perhaps affairs were taking the right turn for her purpose. Graydon
was tolerating as a disagreeable necessity what he regarded as her
filial diplomacy with Arnault. He was loyally and quietly waiting
until this necessity should cease, and was so doing because he
supposed it to be her wish. If she could keep him in just this
attitude it would leave her less embarrassed, give her more time, than
if he were an ardent and jealous suitor. She was scarcely capable of
love, but she admired him more than ever each day. She saw that he was
the superior of Arnault in every way, and was so recognized by all in
the house; therefore one of her strongest traits - vanity - was enlisted
in his behalf. She saw, also, that he represented a higher type of
manhood than she had been accustomed to, and she was beginning to
stand in awe of him also, but for reasons differing widely from those
which caused her fear of Arnault. She dreaded the latter's pride, the
resolute selfishness of his scheme of life, which would lead him to
drop her should she interfere with it. She was learning to dread
even more Graydon's high-toned sense of honor, the final decisions he
reached from motives which had slight influence with her. What if she
should permit both men to slip from her grasp, while she hesitated?
She fairly turned cold with horror at the thought of this and of the
poverty which might result.

Thus, from widely differing motives, two girls were sighing for time;
and Graydon Muir, strong, confident, proud of his knowledge of society
and ability to take care of himself, was walking blindly on, the
victim of one woman's guile, the object of another woman's pure,
unselfish love, and liable at any hour to be blasted for life by the
fulfilment of his hope and the consummation of his happiness.

Sweet Madge Alden, hiding your infinite treasure, deceiving all and
yet so true, may you have time!




CHAPTER XXI

SUGGESTIVE TONES


Miss Wildmere had promised to drive with Graydon on the following
morning, but Madge felt as if heaven had interfered in her behalf, for
the skies were clouded, and the rain fell unceasingly. People were at
a loss to beguile the hours. Graydon, Miss Wildmere, and Mr. Arnault
played pool together, while Mr. Muir, his wife, and Madge bowled for
an hour, the last winning most of the games. Mr. Arnault had a certain
rude sense of fair play, and it appeared to him that Graydon's course
had become all that he could ask - more than he could naturally expect.
The lady was apparently left wholly free to make her choice between
them, and all protest, even by manner, against her companionship with
him had ceased. He could drive, walk, or dance with her at his will;
then Graydon would quietly put in an appearance and make the most of
his opportunity. Arnault was not deceived, however. He knew that
his present rival was the most dangerous one that he had ever
encountered - that Stella might accept him at any time and was much
inclined to do so speedily. Indeed, he was about driven to the belief
that she would do so at once but for the fear that the Muirs were
in financial peril. He hoped that this fear and the pressure of her
father's need might lead her to decide in his favor, without the
necessity of his being the immediate and active agent in breaking down
the Muirs. As a business man, he shrunk from this course, and all the
more because Graydon was acting so fairly. Nevertheless, he would play
his principal card if he must. It was his nature to win in every game
of life, and it had become a passion with him to secure the beautiful
girl that he had sought so long and vainly. If it could appear to the
world that he had fairly won her, he would not scruple at anything in
the accomplishment of his purpose, and would feel that he had scored
the most brilliant success in his life. If he could do this without
ruining them, he would be glad, and his good-will was enhanced by
Graydon's course this morning. The former had sauntered into the
billiard-room, but, seeing Graydon with Miss Wildmere, had been about
to depart, when Muir had said, cordially, "Come, Arnault, take a cue
with us," and had quite disarmed him by frank courtesy.

At last the sound of music and laughter lured them to the main hall,
and there they found Madge surrounded by children and young people,
little Nellie Wilder clinging to her side the most closely, with Mr.
and Mrs. Wilder looking at the young girl with a world of grateful
good-will in their eyes.

"Oh, Miss Alden, sing us another song," clamored a dozen voices.

"Yes," cried Jennie Muir; "the funny one you sang for us in the
woods."

Madge smilingly complied, and the children fairly danced in their
delight at the comical strains, abrupt pauses, droll sentiment,
and interlarded words of explanation. The more elderly guests were
attracted, and the audience grew apace. Having finished her little
musical comedy, Madge arose, and Mr. Arnault, aware of Stella
Wildmere's ability to sing selections from opera, said, "Since the
children have been so well entertained, I suggest that we who have the
misfortune to be grown have our turn, and that Miss Wildmere give us
some grown-up music."

Madge flushed slightly, and Miss Wildmere, after a little charming
hesitation, seated herself at the piano, and sang almost faultlessly
a selection from an opera. It was evident that she had been well
and carefully trained, and that within her limitations, which she
thoughtfully remembered, she gave little occasion for criticism. Both
her suitors were delighted. They applauded so heartily, and urged
so earnestly with others, that she sang again and again, to the
unaffected pleasure of the throng who had now gathered. At last she
pleaded fatigue, and rose from the instrument, flushing proudly amid
vociferous encores. Graydon was about to ask Madge to sing again, when
an old gentleman who had listened to the children's ditties, and had
detected unusual sweetness and power in Madge's tones, said, promptly,
"I may be mistaken, but I have an impression that Miss Alden can give
us some grown-up music, if she will."

Instantly his suggestion was seconded by general entreaty, in which
not only Graydon joined from sincere good-will, but also Mr. Arnault,
in the hope of giving Stella a triumph, for he believed that the best
her social rival could do would be to render some ballad fairly well.

Madge's brow contracted, as though she were irresolute and troubled.

"Truly, Miss Alden," said Stella, who was standing near, "I have done
my part to beguile the dismal day; I think you might favor us, also.
There are no critics here, I hope. We should enjoy a simple song if
you cannot now recall anything else."

"Very well, then, I will give you a little German song that my old
teacher loved well;" but Graydon saw the same slight flush and a
resolute expression take the place of her hesitancy.

After a brief prelude, which, to his trained ear, revealed her perfect
touch, her voice rose with a sweet, resonant power that held those
near spellbound, and swelled in volume until people in distant parts
of the house paused and listened as if held by a viewless hand.
Connoisseurs felt that they were listening to an artist and not an
amateur; plain men and women, and the children, knew simply that
they were enjoying music that entranced them, that set their nerves
thrilling and vibrating. Madge hoped only that her voice might
penetrate the barriers between herself and one man's heart. She did
not desire to sing on the present occasion. She did not wish to annoy
him by the contrast between her song and Miss Wildmere's performance,
feeling that he would naturally take sides in his thoughts with the
woman outvied; nor had she any desire to inflict upon her rival the
disparagement that must follow; but something in Miss Wildmere's
self-satisfied and patronizing tone had touched her quick spirit, and


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Online LibraryEdward Payson RoeA Young Girl's Wooing → online text (page 14 of 27)