Santa Barbara was a winter resort, and she had the advantage of meeting many types. In Mrs. Wayland she had a useful mentor. This lady in her younger days had been familiar with the best phases of metropolitan society, and she counteracted in Madge all tendencies toward provincialism. Thus it gradually became recognized that the “shy, sickly little girl,” as she had been characterized at first, was growing into a very attractive young woman. Indeed, after an absence of only a year her own sister would scarcely have recognized her.
Mrs. Muir of course heard often from her sister, and was satisfied with the general assurance that she was better and steadily improving. Madge, however, was rather indefinite in her information. As time passed, the idea of giving her friends in the East a surprise took possession of her fancy. She instinctively felt that she needed every incentive to pursue the course she had resolved upon, since she often suffered from fits of depression hard to combat. The hope of appearing like a new being to her relatives was another innocent motive for her long-prolonged effort. Circumstances had never developed epistolary tastes in the sisters, and they were content with brief missives containing general assurances that all was well. Mrs. Muir was one of those ladies who become engrossed with the actual and the present. Had Madge been in her old room she would have been looked after with daily solicitude; being absent, she was loved none the less, but was simply crowded from thought and memory by swarms of little cares. She was doing well, and her sister was satisfied. “‘It’s a wonderful climate,’ Madge writes,” she would say, “so even and dry. Madge doesn’t take cold as she did here, and can go out nearly every day. Perhaps we ought to become reconciled to the fact that she will have to live there always, since here, with our sudden changes, she could scarcely live at all.”
With the kindliest intentions Graydon had sought to initiate a vigorous correspondence. He had learned with immense relief of Madge’s improvement through change of residence, and he felt that a series of jolly letters might bring aid and hopefulness. Her responses were not very encouraging, however, and business cares, with the novelty of foreign life, gradually absorbed his thoughts and time until correspondence languished and died.
“It’s the old story,” he thought, with a shade of irritation. “Letters cost effort, and she is not equal to effort, or thinks she is not.”
If he could have seen Madge at that moment riding like the wind on a spirited horse he would have been more astonished than by any of the wonders of the old world.