Madge’s hearty laugh was a little forced as she said, “You have a delightfully cool way of taking things for granted. I’m no longer a little sick girl, but, to vary Peggotty’s exultant statement, a young lady ‘growed.’ You forgot yourself, sir, in your greeting; but that was pardonable in your paroxysm of surprise.
“What, Madge! Will you not permit me to be your brother?”
“What an absurd question!” she answered, still laughing. “You are not my brother. Can I permit water to run up hill? You were like a brother, though, when I was a sick child in the queer old times—kinder than most brothers, I think. But, Graydon, I am grown up. See, my head comes above your shoulder.”
“Well, you are changed.”
“For the better, in some respects, I hope you will find.”
“I don’t at all like the change you suggest in our relations, and am not sure I will submit to it. It seems absurd to me.”
“It will not seem so when you come to think of it,” she replied, gravely and gently. “You think of me still as little Madge; I am no longer little Madge, even to myself. A woman’s instincts are usually right, Graydon.”
“Oh, thank you! I am glad I am still ‘Graydon.’ Why do you not call me ‘Mr. Muir?’”
“Because I am perfectly rational. Because I regard you as almost the best friend I have.”
“Break up that confabulation,” cried Mr. Muir to the young people, who had paused and were confronting each other at the further end of the piazza. “If you think Madge can explain herself in a moment or a week you are mistaken. Come to supper.”
“My brother is right—you are indeed an enigma,” he said, discontentedly.
“An enigma, am I?” she responded, smiling. “Please remember that most of the world’s enigmas were slowly found out because so simple.”
As they passed from the dusky piazza to the large, brilliantly lighted supper-room, with nearly all its tables occupied, he was curious to observe how she would meet the many critical eyes turned toward her. Again he was puzzled as well as surprised. She walked at his side as though the room were empty. There was no affectation of indifference, no trace of embarrassed or of pleased self-consciousness. From the friendly glances and smiles that she received it was also apparent that she had already made acquaintances. She moved with the easy, graceful step of perfect good breeding and assured confidence, and was as self-possessed as himself. Was this the little ghost who had once been afraid of her own shadow, which was scarcely less substantial than herself?