He found Mr. and Mrs. Muir, with Madge and the children, ready for church, and told them, laughingly, to “remember him if they did not think him past praying for.” During his breakfast he recalled the fact that Madge was uncommonly well dressed. “She hasn’t in externals,” he thought, “the provincial air that one might expect, although her ideas are not only provincial, but prim, obtained, no doubt, from some goody-good books that she has read in the remote region wherein she has developed so remarkably. She has some stilted ideal of womanhood which she is seeking to attain, and the more unnatural the ideal, the more attractive, no doubt, it appears to her.”
It did not occur to him that he was explaining Madge on more theories than one, and that they were not exactly harmonious. Having finished his meal, he sought for Miss Wildmere, and soon found her in a shady corner, reading a light, semi-philosophical work, thus distinguishing and honoring the day in her choice of literature. He proposed to read to her, but the book was soon forgotten in animated talk on his part. She could skilfully play the role of a good listener when she chose, and could, therefore, be a delightful companion. Her color came and went under words and compliments that at times were rather ardent and pronounced. He soon observed, however, that she led the way promptly from delicate ground. This might result from maidenly reserve or from the fact that she was not quite ready for decisive words. He still believed that he had all needed encouragement—that the expression of her eyes often answered his, and he knew well what his meant. When, in response to his invitation, she promised to drive with him in the afternoon, all seemed to be going as he wished.
Graydon felt that during dinner and thereafter for a time he should be devoted to his party, to preclude criticism on his course in the late afternoon and in the evening, when he proposed to seek society which promised more than theirs. He began to discover that, except as her intelligence was larger, in one respect Madge had not changed from her old self. She responded appreciatively to his thought and fancy, and gave him back in kind with interest. She began to question him about a place in Europe with which he was familiar, and showed such unusual knowledge of the locality that he asked, “You haven’t slipped over there unknown to me, I trust?”
“You might think of an easier explanation than that. You kindly sent me books, some of which were rather realistic.”
“Did you read them all?”
“Certainly. It would have been a poor return if I had not.”
“What an inordinate sense of duty you must have had!”
“I did not read them from a sense of duty. You have perhaps forgotten that I am fond of books.”
“Not all of the books were novels.”
“Many that were not proved the most interesting.”
“Oh, indeed; another evidence of change,” he said, laughing.