Madge sighed. “I’d love to go with you,” she sighed, “but I can’t. You see, Nellie and I have to go back to ‘Forest House,’ to spend the rest of our holiday with Uncle and Aunt. They would be dreadfully hurt if I suggested making a visit to you, instead of coming home to them.”
“Then I wonder if your uncle and aunt would allow me to make them a short visit?” questioned Mrs. Curtis gravely.
Madge opened her blue eyes. Why in the world should Mrs. Curtis wish to go to “Forest House”? But she answered her friend promptly. “Of course Uncle and Aunt would be most happy to have you, and Nellie and I would be perfectly delighted.”
“Why do you think I am anxious to come, Madge?”
Madge smiled in her sauciest fashion. “To see me, of course,” she replied. “Doesn’t that sound conceited?”
But Mrs. Curtis was not smiling. She was looking at Madge so seriously that the young girl’s merry face sobered.
“I am not coming merely to see you, dear. I am coming to ask if I may take you away with me for always. Haven’t you guessed, that I want you to come to live with me, to be my daughter? Tom and I are lonely. My husband is dead, and I have no other child now, except Tom. I can’t tell you how much I want a daughter. I have plenty of money, dear—more than I know what to do with. So we could have wonderful times together, and do anything we chose to do. Only I would wish you with me all the time. I couldn’t let you wander off with the girls or go to boarding school. Tom has to be away so much. You haven’t any own father and mother, and you told me that you were poor and would have to earn your living some day. So I thought perhaps your uncle and aunt would give you up to me. But, first, I wish to know whether my plan pleases you.”
[Illustration: “I wish you to come and live with me, Madge.”]
Mrs. Curtis stopped talking to gaze earnestly at Madge. The girl had turned so white that her friend was startled. She did not realize what a surprise her suggestion had been to the little captain. She believed that Madge must have partly guessed her intention. Miss Jenny Ann and Phil had understood that some day Mrs. Curtis might make just this proposal to Madge Morton. But to Madge it was a complete surprise. She had never for an instant dreamed of such a thing.
In a moment all the young girl’s familiar world fell broken at her feet—the old childhood home in the country, her happy friendships at school. She saw a new world, like a vision in a fairy tale. It was a wonderful world, that contained all the marvels of which she had dreamed—wealth, position, admiration. Yet it was a homesick world, for it was peopled with few of the friends whom Madge loved, with none of the familiar places. In spite of the girl’s fancies, the actual every-day life of poverty and hope was too dear to be laid lightly aside.