Daisy laughed and caught her face between her hands. “Except save his girl from destruction,” she said. “Doesn’t that count? Oh, Muriel, I know exactly what made him want you. No, you needn’t be afraid. I’m not going to tell you. Wild horses sha’n’t drag it from me. But he’s the luckiest man in India, and I think he knows it. What lovely hair you have! I’ll come round early on your wedding-day and do it for you. And what will you wear? It mustn’t be a black wedding whatever etiquette may decree. You look too pathetic in black, and it’s a barbarous custom anyway. I have warned my husband fairly that if he goes into mourning for me, I’ll never speak to him hereafter again. He is coming up to see us next week, and to discuss our fate with the doctor. Have you ever met Will?”
“Once,” said Muriel. “It was at a dance at Poonah early last summer.”
“Ah! When I was at Mahableshwar. He is a good dancer, isn’t he? He does most things well, I think.”
Daisy smiled tolerantly as she indicated the photograph of a boy upon the mantelpiece. “He isn’t sixteen,” she said; “he is nearly twenty-eight. Now come and see his son and the light of my eyes.” She linked her arm in Muriel’s, and, still smiling, led her from the room.
THE POISON OF ADDERS
The week that followed that first visit of hers was a gradual renewal of life to Muriel. She had come through the darkest part of her trouble, and, thick though the shadows might still lie about her, she had at last begun to see light ahead. She went again and yet again to see Daisy, and each visit added to her tranquillity of mind. Daisy was wonderfully brisk for an invalid, and her baby was an endless source of interest. Even Lady Bassett could not cavil when her charge spoke of going to nursery tea at Mrs. Musgrave’s. She made no attempt to check the ripening friendship, though Muriel was subtly aware that she did not approve of it.
She also went every morning for a headlong gallop with Nick who, in fact, would take no refusal in the matter. He came not at all to the house except for these early visits, and she had a good many hours to herself. But her health was steadily improving, and her loneliness oppressed her less than formerly. She spent long mornings lying in the hammock under the pines with only an occasional monkey far above her to keep her company. It was her favourite haunt, and she grew to look upon it as exclusively her own. There was a tiny rustic summer-house near it, which no one ever occupied, so far as she knew. Moreover, the hammock had been decorously slung behind it, so that even though a visitor might conceivably penetrate as far as the arbour, it was extremely unlikely that the hammock would come into the range of discovery.
Even Lady Bassett had never sought her here, her time being generally quite fully occupied with her countless social engagements. Muriel often wondered that that garden on the mountainside in which she revelled seemed to hold so slight an attraction for its owner. But then of course Lady Bassett was so much in demand that she had little leisure to admire the beauties that surrounded her.