Instead of Graydon there came a letter saying that he would be detained abroad another week. The heat was oppressive, and the family physician said that little Jack should be taken to the country at once. Therefore they packed in haste, and started for a hotel in the Catskills at which rooms had been engaged. Graydon was to join them there as soon after his return as possible.
Madge looked wistfully at the mountains, as with shadowy grandeur they loomed in the distance. There is ever a solemnity about mountain scenery, and she felt it as she passed under the lofty brows of wooded heights. To her spirit it was grateful and appropriate, for, while she would lead among them apparently the existence of a young girl bent only on enjoyment, she believed she would leave them, either a happy woman, or else facing the tragedy of a thwarted life. Their deepest shadows might, even when her laugh was gayest, typify the despondency she would hide from all.
It was Saturday, and Mr. Muir accompanied his family. He and his wife looked worn and weary, for at this time circumstances were bringing an excess of care to both. Mrs. Muir was a devoted mother, and little Jack had taxed her patience and strength to the utmost. A defensive warfare is ever the severest test of manhood, and Mr. Muir had found the past week a trying one. He had been lured into an enterprise that at the time had seemed certain of success, even to his conservative mind, but unforeseen elements had entered into the problem, and it now required all his nerve, all his resources, to meet the strain. Neither Madge nor his wife knew anything of this. Indeed, it was not his habit to speak of his affairs to any one, unless the exigencies of the case required explanation. In this emergency he was obliged to maintain among his associates an air of absolute confidence. Now that he was out of the arena he gave evidence of the strain.
Madge saw this, and resolved that her large reserve of vitality should be drawn upon. The tired mother should be relieved and the perplexed and wearied man beguiled into forgetfulness of the sources of anxiety. Jack would have indulged in a perpetual howl during the journey had not his attention been diverted by Madge’s unexpected expedients, which often suspended an outcry with comical abruptness, while her remarks and questions made it impossible for Mr. Muir to toil on mentally in Wall Street. By reason of the heat the majority of the passengers dozed or fretted. She heroically kept up the spirits of her little band, oblivious of the admiring eyes that often turned toward her flushed, animated face.