“I wished to surprise you. I did write that I was better.”
“This is not better; it is best Oh, Madge, you have grown so pretty you almost take away my breath—all travel-stained and weary, too, from your journey! What will not Henry say? I should scarcely have known you. Surely now you need not go back. You are the picture of health.”
“We shall see,” said Madge, quietly. “It may be best if I find that the East does not agree with me.” She was fully determined to keep open her line of retreat.
Mr. Muir, in his quiet way, enjoyed the transformation as greatly as did his wife. He had foreseen changes for the better, but had not hoped for anything like this, he declared.
“I just want to be near when Graydon first sees you!” exclaimed voluble Mrs. Muir, at the dinner-table.
The remark was unexpected, and Madge, to her dismay, found the blood rushing to her face. Quick as thought she put her handkerchief to her mouth, and sought to escape notice under the ruse of a brief strangulation. “This is not going to answer at all,” she thought. “I must acquire a better self-control.” She at once began talking about Graydon in the most simple and natural manner possible, asking many questions. Mrs. Muir’s intuition and powers of observation were not very great, and she was without the faintest suspicion of what was passing in Madge’s mind. Keen-eyed, reticent Mr. Muir was not so unheeding, however. When Graydon’s name was mentioned he happened to glance up from the dinner which usually absorbed his attention. In dealing with men he had acquired the habit of keen observation. During a business transaction his impassive face and quiet eyes gave no evidence of his searching scrutiny. He not only heard and weighed the words to which he listened, but ever sought to follow the mental processes behind them; and often men had been perplexed by the fact that the banker had apparently arrived at conclusions opposite to the tenor of their statements. When, therefore, he saw the color flying into Madge’s face at the unexpected utterance of his brother’s name, his attention was arrested and an impression made to which his mind would revert in the future. It might mean nothing; it might mean a great deal. Business and home life were everything to Mr. Muir, and Graydon’s admiration of Miss Wildmere did not promise well for either.
The power that Mr. Muir had acquired mainly by practice Madge possessed by nature. As we have seen, she was quite free from that most unwomanly phase of stupidity which is often due to the heart rather than the head. Some women know what is told them if it is told plainly; others look into the eyes of those around them and see what is sought to be concealed. The selfish woman is self-blinded. She often has great powers of discernment, but will not take the trouble to use them, unless prompted by her own interests. Selfishness is too short-sighted, however, to secure lasting benefits.