“No; I wish to learn the absolute truth. You said you had a great deal to say to me. I’m calm now, and I suppose I’ve acted like a fool long enough.”
“I have much to say, but not many words. I must begin again, Heaven only knows how or where. I am about at the end of my resources. I shall not do anything rash or silly. I shall do my best while I have power to do anything. I do not propose to reproach you for the past. It’s gone now, and can’t be helped. My proposal to you is that you begin also. You have tried pleasing yourself and thinking of self first pretty thoroughly. You know what it is to be a belle. Now, why not try the experiment of being a true, earnest, unselfish woman, whose first effort is to do right. Believe me, Stella, there is a God in heaven who thwarts selfishness and punishes it in ways often least expected. The people with whom we associate soon recognize the self-seeking spirit, and resent it. You have had a terrible and practical illustration of what I say. Are you not a girl of too much mind to make the same blunder again? With your youth you need not spoil your life, or that of others, unless you do it wilfully.”
She leaned back in her chair, and bitter tears came into her eyes.
“Yes,” she faltered, “my lesson has been a terrible one; but perhaps I never should have become sane without it. I have been exacting and receiving all my life, and yet to-night I feel that I have nothing. Oh,” she exclaimed, with passionate utterance, “I have been such a fool. Nothing, nothing to show for all those gay, brilliant years, not even a father’s love and little claim upon it.”
He came to her side and kissed her again and again.
“You don’t know anything about a father’s love,” he said. “It survives everything and anything, and your love would save me.”
Never, even under the eyes of Graydon Muir, had she been so conscious of her heart before. Had he seen her when she departed on the earliest train in the morning he would have witnessed a new expression on her face.
MADGE ALDEN’S RIDE
Methodical Henry Muir found that the events of the last few days had resulted in a reaction and weariness which he could not readily shake off, and he had expressed an intention of sleeping late on Monday and taking the second train. When he and his family gathered at breakfast, the removal to Hotel Kaaterskill was the uppermost theme, and it was agreed that Madge and Graydon should ride thither on horseback, and return by a train, if wearied. Mr. Muir then went to the city, well prepared to establish himself on a safer footing. Graydon and Madge soon after were on their way through the mountain valleys, the latter with difficulty holding her horse down to the pace they desired to maintain.