“What a wise little woman we have become!” said Mr. Muir. “Here you are giving your guardian sound advice—you who, I imagined once, would take no more thought for the morrow than a lily of the field, and a very pale one at that. This is a greater change than any that Mary exclaims about.”
“Perhaps you think me very presuming,” answered Madge, coloring.
“No, I do not. I think you very sensible, and I think myself very fortunate in having such women in my household as you and Mary. I was blue when I came home to-night, but it inspirits a man to talk to such a girl. You have a power of good common-sense, Madge.”
“Well, I have—I had—need of it.”
“The majority would say you could afford to be silly. You have a snug fortune of your own, of which not a penny can be lost unless the bottom falls out of everything.”
“I don’t think any woman can afford to be silly. I know that’s a sweeping word with you, and covers all feminine folly. What I meant is this: Money and every good thing in life was a mockery. I couldn’t enjoy anything, and wasn’t anything but a burden. I saw it all, and that I should have to throw nonsense overboard if I wished to be different. You will find that I have plenty left, however, before the summer’s over. Now, let me read to you Irving’s legend of poor old Rip. What if you have read it often? A little infusion of the champion sleeper’s spirit is just what you need;” and with simple purity of tone and naturalness of accent she made the old story new to him.
“Madge,” he said, as he kissed her good-night, “that is even better than your singing. I feel so freshened and heartened up that I’m another man, and in good trim for the fight to-morrow; for that is just what business has become—a regular defensive fight. You didn’t think two years ago that you would send me down to Wall Street with a clearer head and better courage.”
“No, indeed, I didn’t dream of it, and I can scarcely believe it’s true now. You used to seem to me like gravitation, that would always be the same to the end of time.”
“Bah! A man is only a man, and he finds it out sooner or later. There’s Jack crying again, and Mary hasn’t had a chance to come down. I’ll take the child, for his teeth make him so nervous that he won’t stay with the nurse.”
“I’ll try my hand at him to-morrow,” said the young girl, and was absorbed in her reading again.
The days passed quickly, and Madge filled them full, as before at Santa Barbara. As the time approached for Graydon’s return, she felt a quiet rising excitement akin to that which inspires a soldier when a campaign is about to open; but to her brother-in-law and sister she gave only the impression of decision of character and youthful, healthful buoyancy. She was good-cheer itself in the household, and helpful in every little domestic emergency. The servants and the children welcomed her like sunshine, and she made the evenings all too short by music and reading aloud. She blossomed out in her summer costumes like a flower, so becoming to her style had been her choice of fabrics and the taste with which they had been fashioned. June was passing. In a day or two more Graydon would arrive, and the fruition or failure of her patient endeavor begin.