There are few stronger tests than unflagging good-humor during a disagreeable journey with cross children. At last the ordeal came to an end, and in the late afternoon shadows they alighted at the wide piazza of the Under-Cliff House, and were shown to airy rooms, which proved that the guests were not kept in pigeon-holes for the sole benefit of the proprietor. Our heroine employed the best magic the world has known—thoughtful helpfulness. Mr. Muir was banished. “You would be as useful as a whale,” she said to him, when he offered to aid his wife in unpacking and getting settled. “Go down to the piazza and smoke in peace. I shall be worth a dozen of you as soon as I take off my travelling-dress.”
She verified her words, and before they were aware of it Mrs. Muir, who was prone to fall into hopeless confusion at such times, and the nurse were acting under her direction. The elder little boy and girl were coaxed, restrained, managed, and soon sent down to their father, redressed and serene. Jack was lulled to sleep in Madge’s room. The trunks instead of disgorging chaos, were compelled to part with their contents in an orderly way. In little more than an hour the two rooms allotted to Mr. and Mrs. Muir, and the nurse with the children, took on a cosey, inhabitable aspect, and by supper-time the ladies, in evening costume and with unruffled brows, joined Mr. Muir.
“The idea of my ever permitting Madge to go back to Santa Barbara!” exclaimed Mrs. Muir. “This day alone has proved that I can never get on without her. Just go and look at your room, sir. One would think we had been settled here a week. You ought to pay Madge’s bills, and give her a handsome surplus.”
“If time is money,” said Madge, “Henry will have to pay me well. He must stay and help me explore these mountains in every direction. But now let us eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we shall go to church.”
“I’ve half a mind to take you down to Wall Street with me next week,” said Mr. Muir. “Perhaps you can straighten out things there.”
“No, sir. I’m a woman’s-rights girl, and one of her rights is to get things out of the way as soon as possible, so that people can have a good time. Thank heaven our affairs can be shut up in drawers and hung up in closets, and there we can leave them—in this case for a good supper first, and a long quiet rest on this piazza afterward. Don’t you think you could find a drawer somewhere in which to tuck away your Wall Street matters, Henry? You won’t need them till some time next week, for you must certainly spend two or three days with us.”
Mr. Muir laughed. “I’ve heard of managing women before, but you beat them all. You have won, to-day, the right to manage for a while. I’ll join you soon; then supper; and, as you suggest, I’ll put the Wall Street matters somewhere and lock them up.”
Thus their mountain sojourn began auspiciously. The supper was excellent, and they were in a mood to enjoy it; they found the piazza deliciously cool after the long hot day; and the faint initial pipings of autumn insects only emphasized the peace and quiet of the evening. The mountains brooded around them like great shadows, their outlines gemmed with stars, and the very genius of repose seemed to settle down upon the weary man and woman who were in the thick of their life’s battle.