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Title: Ethelyn's Mistake
Author: Holmes, Mary Jane, 1825-1907
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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ETHELYN'S

MISTAKE


BY

MRS. MARY J. HOLMES

AUTHOR OF "MILDRED; OR, THE CHILD OF ADOPTION," "MISS
MC'DONALD," "TEMPEST AND SUNSHINE," "ENGLISH
ORPHANS," "EDITH LYLE'S SECRET," "THE
LEIGHTON HOMESTEAD," "MILLBANK;
OR, ROGER IRVING'S WARD," ETC.



MARY J. HOLMES SERIES


UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME
By MARY J. HOLMES


Aikenside.
Bad Hugh.
Cousin Maude.
Darkness and Daylight.
Dora Deane.
Edith Lyle's Secret.
English Orphans, The.
Ethelyn's Mistake.
Family Pride.
Homestead on the Hillside, The.
Hugh Worthington.
Leighton Homestead, The.
Lena Rivers.
Maggie Miller.
Marion Grey.
Meadow Brook.
Mildred; or, The Child of Adoption.
Millbank; or, Roger
Irving's Ward.
Miss McDonald.
Rector of St. Marks, The.
Rosamond.
Rose Mather.
Tempest and Sunshine.


_Price, postpaid, 50c. each, or any three
books for $1.25_



CONTENTS

CHAPTER

      I. ETHELYN.
     II. THE VAN BUREN SET.
    III. RICHARD MARKHAM.
     IV. THE BRIDAL.
      V. THE HONEYMOON.
     VI. MRS. MARKHAM'S WAYS.
    VII. GETTING HOME.
   VIII. ANDY.
     IX. DINNER, AND AFTER IT.
      X. FIRST DAYS IN OLNEY.
     XI. CALLS AND VISITING.
    XII. SOCIETY.
   XIII. GOING TO WASHINGTON.
    XIV. THE FIRST DAY OF RICHARD'S ABSENCE.
     XV. ANDY TRIES TO FIND THE ROOT OF THE MATTER.
    XVI. WASHINGTON.
   XVII. RICHARD'S HEIR.
  XVIII. DAYS OF CONVALESCENCE.
    XIX. COMING TO A CRISIS.
     XX. THE CRISIS.
    XXI. THE RESULT.
   XXII. ETHIE'S LETTERS.
  XXIII. THE DESERTED HUSBAND.
   XXIV. THE INVESTIGATION.
    XXV. IN CHICOPEE.
   XXVI. WATCHING AND WAITING.
  XXVII. AFFAIRS AT OLNEY.
 XXVIII. THE GOVERNOR.
   XXIX. AFTER YEARS OF WAITING.
    XXX. ETHIE'S SIC.
   XXXI. MRS. DR. VAN BUREN.
  XXXII. CLIFTON.
 XXXIII. THE OCCUPANT OF NO. 102.
  XXXIV. IN RICHARD'S ROOM.
   XXXV. MRS. PETER PRY TAKES A PACK.
  XXXVI. IN DAVENPORT.
 XXXVII. AT HOME.
XXXVIII. RICHARD AND ETHELYN.
  XXXIX. RECONCILIATION.



ETHELYN'S MISTAKE

CHAPTER I

ETHELYN

There was a sweet odor of clover blossoms in the early morning air, and
the dew stood in great drops upon the summer flowers, and dropped from
the foliage of the elm trees which skirted the village common. There was
a cloud of mist upon the meadows, and the windings of the river could be
distinctly traced by the white fog which curled above it. But the fog
and the mists were rolling away as the warm June sun came over the
eastern hills, and here and there signs of life were visible in the
little New England town of Chicopee, where our story opens. The
mechanics who worked in the large shoe-shop halfway down Cottage Row had
been up an hour or more, while the hissing of the steam which carried
the huge manufactory had been heard since the first robin peeped from
its nest in the alders down by the running brook; but higher up, on
Bellevue Street, where the old inhabitants lived, everything was quiet,
and the loamy road, moist and damp with the dews of the previous night,
was as yet unbroken by the foot of man or rut of passing wheel.

The people who lived there, the Mumfords, and the Beechers, and the
Grangers, and the Thorns, did not strictly belong to the working class.
They held stocks in railroads, and mortgages on farms, and so could
afford to sleep after the shrill whistle from the manufactory had
wakened the echoes of the distant hills and sounded across the waters
of Pordunk Pond. Only one dwelling here showed signs of life, and that
the large square building, shaded in front with elms and ornamented at
the side with a luxuriant queen of the prairie, whose blossoms were
turning their blushing faces to the rising sun. This was the Bigelow
house, the joint property of Mrs. Dr. Van Buren, née Sophia Bigelow, who
lived in Boston, and her sister, Miss Barbara Bigelow, the quaintest and
kindest-hearted woman who ever bore the sobriquet of an old maid, and
was aunt to everybody. She was awake long before the whistle sounded
across the river and along the meadow lands, where some of the workmen
lived, and just as the robin, whose nest for four summers had been under
the eaves where neither boy nor cat could reach it, brought the first
worm to its clamorous young, she pushed the fringed curtain from her
open window, and with her broad frilled cap still on her head, stood for
a moment looking out upon the morning as it crept up the eastern sky.
"She will have a nice day for her wedding. May her future life be as
fair," Aunt Barbara whispered softly, then kneeling before the window
with her head bowed upon the sill, she prayed earnestly for God's
blessing on the bridal to take place that night beneath her roof, and
upon the young girl who had been both a care and a comfort since the
Christmas morning eighteen years before, when her half-sister Julia had
come home to die, bringing with her the little Ethelyn, then but two
years old.

Aunt Barbara's prayers were always to the point. She said what she had
to say in the fewest possible words, wasting no time in repetition, and
on this occasion she was briefer than usual, for the good woman had many
things upon her mind this morning. First, there was Betty to rouse and
get into a state of locomotion, a good half hour's work, as Aunt Barbara
knew from a three years' experience. There was the "sponge" put to rise
the previous night. She must see if that had risen, and with her own
hands mold the snowy breakfast rolls which Ethelyn liked so much. There
were the chambers to be inspected a second time, to ascertain if
everything was in its place, and dinner to be prepared for the "Van
Buren set" expected up from Boston, while last, though far from least,
there was Ethelyn herself to waken when the clock should chime the hour
of six, and this was a pleasure which good Aunt Barbara would not for
the world have foregone. Every morning for the last sixteen years, when
Ethelyn was at home, she had gone to the pleasant, airy chamber where
her darling slept, and bending over her had kissed her fair, glowing
cheek, and so called her back from the dreamless slumber which otherwise
might have been prolonged to an indefinite time, for Ethelyn did not
believe in the maxim, "Early to bed and early to rise," and always
begged for a little more indulgence, even after the brown eyes unclosed
and flashed forth a responsive greeting to the motherly face bending
above them.

This morning, however, it was not needful that Aunt Barbara should waken
her, for long before the robin sang, or the white-fringed curtain had
been pushed aside from Aunt Barbara's window, she was awake, and the
brown eyes, which had in them a strange expression for a bride's eyes to
wear, had scanned the eastern horizon wistfully, aye, drearily it may
be, to see if it were morning, and when the clock in the kitchen struck
four, the quivering lip had whispered, oh, so sadly, "Sixteen hours
more, only sixteen," and with a little shiver the bed-clothes had been
drawn more closely around the plump shoulders, and the troubled face had
nestled down among the pillows to smother the sigh which never ought to
have come from a maiden's lips upon her wedding day. The chamber of the
bride-elect was a pleasant one, large and airy and high, with windows
looking out upon the Chicopee hills, and from which Ethelyn had many a
time watched the fading of the purplish twilight as, girl-like, she
speculated upon the future and wondered what it might have in store for
her. One leaf of the great book had been turned and lay open to her
view, but she shrank away from what was written there, and wished so
much that the record were otherwise. Upon the walls of Ethelyn's chamber
many pictures were hung, some in water colors, which she had done
herself in the happy schooldays which now seemed so far away, and some
in oil, mementos also of those days. Pictures, too, there were of
people, one of dear Aunt Barbara, whose kindly face was the first to
smile on Ethelyn when she woke, and whose patient, watchful eyes seemed
to keep guard over her while she slept. Besides Aunt Barbara's picture
there was another one, a fair, boyish face, with a look not wholly
unlike Ethelyn, herself, save that it lacked the firmness and decision
which were so apparent in the proud curve of her lip and the flash of
her brown eyes. Fair-haired and blue-eyed, with something feminine in
every feature, it seemed preposterous that the original could ever make
a young girl's heart ache as Ethelyn Grant's was aching that June
morning, when, taking the small oval frame from the wall, she kissed it
passionately, and then thrust it away into the bureau drawer, which held
other relics than the oval frame. It was, in fact, the grave of
Ethelyn's buried hopes--the tomb she had sworn never to unlock again;
but now, as her fingers lingered a moment amid the mementos of the years
when, in her girlish ignorance, she had been so happy, she felt her
resolution giving way, and sitting down upon the floor, with her long
hair unfastened and falling loosely about her, she bowed her head over
buried treasures, and dropped into their grave the bitterest tears she
had ever shed. Then, as there swept over her some better impulse,
whispering of the wrong she was doing to her promised husband, she said:

"I will not leave them here to madden me again some other day. I will
burn them, every one."

There were matches within her reach, while the little fireplace was not
far away, and, sitting just where she was, Ethelyn Grant burned one
after another, letters and notes, some directed in schoolboy style, and
others showing a manlier hand, as the dates grew more recent and the
envelopes bore a more modern and fashionable look. Over one, the
freshest and the last, Ethelyn lingered a moment, her eyes growing dark
with passion, and her lips twitching nervously as she read:

"BOSTON, April--

"Dear Ethie: I reckon mother is right, after all. She generally is, you
know, so we may as well be resigned, and believe it wicked for cousins
to marry each other. Of course I can never like Nettie as I have liked
you, and I feel a twinge every time I remember the dear old times. But
what must be must, and there's no use fretting. Do you remember old
Colonel Markham's nephew from out West--the one who wore the short pants
and the rusty crape on his hat when he visited his uncle, in Chicopee,
some years ago? I mean the chap who helped you over the fence the time
you stole the colonel's apples. He has become a member of Congress, and
quite a big gun for the West, at least, mother thinks. He called on her
to-day with a message from Mrs. Woodhull, but I did not see him. He goes
up to Chicopee to-morrow, I believe. He is looking for a wife, they say,
and mother thinks it would be a good match for you, as you could go to
Washington next winter and queen it over them all. But don't, Ethie,
don't for thunder's sake! It fairly makes me faint to think of you
belonging to another, even though you may never belong to me. Yours
always, Frank."

There was a dark, defiant look in Ethelyn's face as she applied the
match to this letter, and then watched it blacken and crisp upon the
hearth. How well she remembered the day when she received it--the dark,
dismal April day, when the rain which dropped so fast from the leaden
clouds, seemed weeping for her, who could not weep then, so complete was
her humiliation, so utter her desolation. That was not quite three
months ago, and so much had happened since then as the result of that
M.C.'s visit to Chicopee. He was there again, this morning, an inmate of
the great yellow house, with the large, old-fashioned brass knocker,
and, by just putting aside her curtain, Ethelyn could see the very
window of the chamber where he slept. But Ethelyn had other matters in
hand, and if she thought at all of that window whose shutters were
rarely opened except when Colonel Markham had, as now, an honored
guest, it was with a faint shudder of terror, and she went on destroying
mementos which were only a mockery of the past. One little note, the
first ever received from Frank, after a, memorable morning in the
huckleberry hills, she could not burn. It was only a line, and, if read
by a stranger, would convey no particular meaning; so she laid it aside
with the lock of light, soft hair, which clung to her fingers with a
kind of caressing touch, and brought to her hot eyelids a mist which
cooled their feverish heat. And now nothing remained of the treasures
but a tiny tortoise-shell box, where, in its bed of pink cotton, lay a
little ring, with "Ethie" marked upon it. It was too small for the
finger it once encircled, for Ethel was but a child when first she wore
it. Her hands were larger; plumper, now, and it would not pass the
second joint of her finger, though she exerted all her strength to push
it on, taking a kind of savage delight in the pain it caused her, and
feeling that she was thus revenging herself on someone, she hardly knew
or cared whom. At last, however, with a quick, jerking motion she drew
it off, and covering her face with her hands, moaned bitterly:

"It hurts! it hurts! just as the bonds hurt which are closing around my
heart. Oh! Frank, Frank, it was cruel to serve me so."

There was a step in the hall below. Aunt Barbara was coming to waken
Ethelyn, and, with a spring, the young girl bounded to her feet, swept
her hands twice across her face, and, shedding back from her forehead
her wealth of bright brown hair, laughingly confronted the good woman,
who, in the same breath, expressed her surprise that her niece was once
up without being called, and her wonder at the peculiar odor pervading
the apartment.

"Smells if all the old newspapers in the barrel up garret had been burnt
at once," she said; but the fireplace, which lay in shadow, told no
tales, and Aunt Barbara never suspected the pain tugging at the heart of
the girl, whose cheeks glowed with an unnatural red as she dashed hot
water over neck, and arms, and face, playfully plashing a few large
drops upon her aunt's white apron, and asking if there was not an old
adage, "Blessed is the bride the sun shines on." "If so, I must be
greatly blessed," she said, pushing open the eastern shutter, and
letting in a flood of yellow sunlight.

"The day bids fair to be a scorcher. I hope it will grow cool this
evening. A crowded party is so terrible when one feels hot and
uncomfortable, and the millers and horn-bugs come in so thickly, and I
always get so red in the face. Please, auntie, you twist up my hair in a
flat knot--no matter how. I don't seem to have any strength in my arms
this morning, and my head is all in a whirl. It must be the weather,"
and, with a long, panting breath, Ethelyn sank, half fainting, into a
chair, while her frightened aunt ran for water, and camphor, and
cologne, hoping Ethelyn was not coming down with fever, or any other
dire complaint, on this her wedding day.

"It is the weather, most likely, and the awful amount of sewing you've
done these last few weeks," said Aunt Barbara; and Ethelyn suffered her
to think so, though she herself had a far different theory with regard
to that almost fainting fit, which served as an excuse for her unusual
pallor, for her listless apathy, and her want of appetite, even for the
flaky rolls, and the delicious strawberries, and thick, yellow cream
which Aunt Barbara put before her.

She was not hungry, she said, as she turned over the berries with her
spoon, and pecked at the snowy rolls. By and by she might want
something, perhaps, and then Betty would make her a slice of toast to
stay her stomach till the late dinner they were to have on Aunt Van
Buren's account--that lady always professing to be greatly shocked at
the early dinners in Chicopee, and generally managing, during her visits
home, to change entirely the ways and customs of Aunt Barbara Bigelow's
well-ordered household.

"I wish she was not coming, or anybody else. Getting married is a bore!"
Ethelyn exclaimed, while Aunt Barbara looked curiously enough at her,
wondering, for the first time, if the girl's heart were really in this
marriage, which for weeks had been agitating the feminine portion of
Chicopee, and for which so great preparations had been made.

Wholly honest and truthful and sincere herself, Aunt Barbara seldom
suspected wrong in others, and so when Ethelyn, one April night, after a
drive around the road which encircles Pordunk Pond, came to her and
said, "Congratulate me, auntie, I am to be Mrs. Judge Markham," she had
believed all was well, and that as sister Sophia Van Buren, of Boston,
had so often averred, there was not, nor ever had been, anything serious
between dandyish Frank, Mrs. Van Buren's only son, who parted his curly
hair in the middle, and the high-spirited, impulsive Ethelyn, whose eyes
shone like stars as she told of her engagement, and whose hand was icy
cold as she held it up to the lamp-light to show the large diamond which
flashed from the fourth finger as proof of what she said. The stone
itself was of the first water, but the setting was old, so old that a
connoisseur in such matters might wonder why Judge Markham had chosen
such a ring as the seal of his betrothal. Ethelyn knew why, and the
softest, kindliest feeling she had experienced for her promised husband
was awakened when he told her of the fair young sister whose name was
Daisy, and who for many years had slept on the Western prairie beneath
the blossoms whose name she bore. This young girl, loving God with all
her soul, loved too all the beautiful things he had made, and rejoiced
in them as so much given her to enjoy. Brought up in the far West, where
the tastes of the people were simpler than those of our Eastern
neighbors, it was strange, he said, how strong a passion she possessed
for gems and precious stones, especially the diamond. To have for her
own a ring like one she once saw upon a grand Chicago lady was her great
ambition, and knowing this the brother hoarded carefully his own
earnings, until enough was saved to buy the coveted ring, which he
brought to his young sister on her fourteenth birthday. But death even
then had cast its shadow around her, and the slender fingers soon grew
too small for the ring, which she nevertheless kept constantly by her,
admiring its brilliancy, and flashing it in the sunlight for the sake of
the rainbow hues it gave. And when, at last, she lay dying in her
brother's arms, with her golden head upon his breast, she had given back
the ring, and said, "I am going, Richard, where there are far more
beautiful things than this: 'for eye hath not seen, neither hath it
entered into the heart of man, the things prepared for those who love
Him,' and I do love Him, brother, oh! so much, and feel His arms around
me now as sensibly as I feel yours. His will stay after yours are
removed, and I am done with earth; but keep the ring, Brother Dick, and
when in after years you love some pure young girl as well as you love
me, only different--some girl who will prize such things, and is worthy
of it--give it to her, and tell her it was Daisy's; tell her for me, and
that I bade her love you, as you deserve to be loved."

All this Richard Markham had said to Ethelyn as they stood for a few
minutes upon the beach of the pond, with its waters breaking softly upon
the sands at their feet, and the young spring moon shining down upon
them like Daisy's eyes, as the brother described them when they last
looked on him. There was a picture of Daisy in their best room at home,
an oil painting made by a traveling artist, Richard said, and some day
Ethelyn would see it, for she had promised to be his wife, and the
engagement ring--Daisy's ring--was on her finger, sparkling in the
moonbeam, just as it used to sparkle when the dead girl held it in the
light. It was a superb diamond--even Frank, with all his fastidiousness,
would admit that, Ethelyn thought, her mind more, alas! on Frank and his
opinion than on what her lover was saying to her, of his believing that
she was pure and good as Daisy could have desired, that Daisy would
approve his choice, if she only knew, as perhaps she did; he could not
help feeling that she was there with them, looking into their
hearts--that the silvery light resting so calmly on the silent water was
the halo of her invisible presence blessing their betrothal. This was a
good deal for Richard Markham to say, for he was not given to poetry, or
sentiment, or imagery, but Ethelyn's face and Ethelyn's eyes had played
strange antics with the staid, matter-of-fact man of Western Iowa, and
stirred his blood as it had never been stirred before. He did fancy his
angel-sister was there; but when he said so to Ethelyn she started with
a shiver, and asked to be driven home, for she did not care to have even
dead eyes looking into her heart, where the fires of passion were
surging and swelling, like some hidden volcano, struggling to be free.
She knew she was doing wrong--knew she was not the pure maiden whom
Daisy would have chosen--was not worthy to be the bride of Daisy's
brother; but she must do something or die, and as she did not care to
die, she pledged her hand with no heart in it, and hushing the voice of
conscience clamoring so loudly against what she was doing, walked back
across the yellow sand, beneath the spring moonlight, to where the
carriage waited, and, in comparative silence, was driven to Aunt
Barbara's gate.

This was the history of the ring, and here, as well as elsewhere, we may
tell Ethelyn's history up to the time when, on her bridal day, she sat
with Aunt Barbara at the breakfast table, idly playing with her spoon
and occasionally sipping the fragrant coffee. The child of Aunt
Barbara's half-sister, she inherited none of the so-called Bigelow
estate which had come to the two daughters, Aunt Barbara and Aunt
Sophia, from their mother's family. But the Bigelow blood of which Aunt
Sophy Van Buren was so proud was in her veins, and so to this aunt she
was an object of interest, and even value, though not enough so to
warrant that lady in taking her for her own when, eighteen years before
our story opens, her mother, Mrs. Julia Bigelow Grant, had died. This
task devolved on Aunt Barbara, whose great motherly heart opened at once
to the little orphan who had never felt a mother's loss, so faithful and
true had Aunt Barbara been to her trust. Partly because she did not wish
to seem more selfish than her sister, and partly because she really
liked the bright, handsome child who made Aunt Barbara's home so cheery,
Mrs. Dr. Van Buren of Boston, insisted upon superintending the little
Ethelyn's education, and so, when only twelve years of age, Ethelyn was
taken from the old brick house under the elms, which Mrs. Dr. Van Buren
of Boston despised as the "district school where Tom, Dick, and Harry
congregated," and transplanted to the highly select and very expensive
school taught by Madame--, in plain sight of Beacon Street and Boston
Common. And so, as Ethelyn increased in stature, she grew also in wisdom
and knowledge, both of books and manners, and the style of the great
world around her. Mrs. Dr. Van Buren's house was the resort both of the
fashionable and literary people, with a sprinkling of the religious, for
the great lady affected everything which could effect her interest.
Naturally generous, her name was conspicuous on all subscription lists
and charitable associations, while the lady herself owned a pew in----
Church, where she was a regular attendant, together with her only son,
Frank, who was taught to kneel and respond in the right places and bow
in the creed, and then, after church, required to give a synopsis of the
sermon, by way of proving that his mind had not been running off after
the dancing school he attended during the week, under his mother's
watchful supervision. Mrs. Van Buren meant to be a model mother, and
bring up her boy as a model man, and so she gave him every possible
advantage of books and teachers, while far in the future floated the
possibility that she might some day reign at the White House, not as the
President's wife--this could not be, she knew, for the man who had made
her Mrs. Dr. Van Buren of Boston slept in the shadow of a very tall
monument out at Mount Auburn, and the turf was growing fresh and green
over his head. So if she went to Washington, as she fondly hoped she
might, it would be as the President's mother; but when examination after
examination found Frank at the foot of his class, and teacher after
teacher said he could not learn, she gave up the presidential chair, and
contenting herself with a seat in Congress, asked that great pains
should be taken to bring out the talent for debate and speech-making
which she was sure Frank possessed; but when even this failed, and
nineteen times out of twenty Frank could get no farther than "My name
is Norval, on the Grampian Hills," she yielded the M.C. too, and set
herself to make him a gentleman, polished, refined, and cultivated--one,
in short, who was au fait with all that fashionable society required;
and here she succeeded better. Frank was perfectly at home on the
dancing floor or in the saloons of gaiety, or the establishment of a
fashionable tailor, so that when Ethelyn, at twelve, went down to
Boston, she found her tall, slender, light-haired cousin of sixteen a
perfect dandy, with a capability and a disposition to criticise and
laugh at whatever there was of gaucherie in her country manners and
country dress. In some things the two were of mutual benefit to each
other. Ethelyn, who could conquer any lesson however difficult, helped
thick-headed, indolent Frank in his studies, translating his hard
passages in Virgil, working out his problems in mathematics, and even
writing, or at least revising and correcting, his compositions, while he
in return gave her lessons in etiquette as practiced by the Boston
girls, teaching her how to polka a waltz gracefully, so he would not be
ashamed to introduce her as his cousin, he said, at the children's
parties which they attended together. It was not strange that Frank Van
Buren should admire a girl as bright and piquant and pretty as his
cousin Ethelyn, but it was strange that she should idolize him, bearing
patiently with all his criticisms, trying hard to please him, and
feeling more than repaid for her exertions by a word of praise or
commendation from her exacting teacher, who, viewing her at first as a
poor relation, was inclined to be exacting, if not overbearing, in his
demands. But as time passed on all this was changed, and the
well-developed girl of fifteen, whom so many noticed and admired, would
no longer be patronized by the young man Frank, who, finding himself in
danger of being snubbed, as he termed Ethelyn's grand way of putting him
down, suddenly awoke to the fact that he loved his high-spirited cousin,
and he told her so one hazy day, when they were in Chicopee, and had
wandered up to a ledge of rocks in the huckleberry hills which
overlooked the town.

"They might as well make a sure thing of it," he said, in his off-hand
way. "If she liked him and he liked her, they would clinch the bargain
at once, even if they were so young." And so, when they went down the
hill back to the shadow of the elm trees, where Mrs. Dr. Van Buren sat
cooling herself and reading "Vanity Fair," there was a tiny ring on
Ethelyn's finger, and she had pledged herself to be Frank's wife some
day in the future.

Frank had promised to tell his mother, for Ethelyn would have no
concealment; and so, holding up her hand and pointing to the ring, he
said, more in jest than earnest:

"Look, mother, Ethie and I are engaged. If you have any objections,
state them now, or ever after hold your peace."

He did not think proper to explain either to his mother or Ethie that
this was his second serious entanglement, and that the ring had been
bought before for a pretty milliner girl, at least six years his senior,
whose acquaintance he had made at Nahant the summer previous, and whom
he had forgotten when he learned that to her taste his mother was
indebted for the stylish bonnet she sported every season. Frank
generally had some love affair in hand--it was a part of his nature; and
as he was not always careful in his choice, the mother had occasionally
felt a twinge of fear lest, after all her care, some terrible
mésalliance should be thrust upon her by her susceptible son. So she
listened graciously to the news of his betrothal--nay, she was pleased
with it, as for the time being it would divert his mind and keep him out
of mischief. That he would eventually marry Ethelyn was impossible, for
his bride must be rich; but Ethelyn answered the purpose now, and could
easily be disposed of when other and better game appeared. So the
scheming woman smiled, and said "it was not well for cousins to marry
and even if it were, they were both too young to know their minds, and
would do well to keep their engagement a secret for a time," and then
returned to Becky Sharp, while Frank went to sleep upon the lounge, and
Ethelyn stole off upstairs to dream over her happiness, which was as
real to her as such a thing could well be to an impulsive, womanly girl
of fifteen summers. She, at least, was in earnest, and as time passed on
Frank seemed to be in earnest, too, devoting himself wholly to his
cousin, whose influence over him was so great that he was fast becoming
what Aunt Barbara called a man, while his mother began again to have
visions of a seat in Congress, and brilliant speeches, which would find
their way to Boston and be read and admired in the circles in which
she moved.

And so the days and years wore on until Frank was a man of
twenty-four--a third-rate practitioner, too, whose sign, "Frank Van
Buren, Attorney-at-law," etc., looked very fresh and respectable in
front of the office on Washington Street, and Frank himself began to
have thoughts of claiming Ethelyn's promise and having a home of his
own. He would not live with his mother, he said; it was more independent
to be alone; and then, from some things he had discovered in his
bride-elect, he had an uneasy feeling that possibly the brown of
Ethelyn's eyes might not wholly harmonize with the gray of his mother's,
"for Ethie was spunky as the old Nick," he argued with himself, while
"for perversity and self-conceit his mother could not be beaten." It was
better they should keep up two households, his mother seeing to both,
and if need be, supplying the wants of both. To do Frank justice, he had
some very correct notions with regard to domestic happiness, and had he
been poor and dependent upon his own exertions he might have been an
average husband; at least he would have gotten on well with Ethelyn,
whose stronger nature would have upheld his and been like a supporting
prop to a feeble timber. As it was, he drew many pleasing pictures of
the home which was to be his and Ethie's. Now it was in the city, near
to his mother's and Mrs. General Tophevie, his mother's intimate friend,
whose house was the open sesame to the crême de la crême of Boston
society; but oftener it was a rose-embowered cottage, of easy access to
the city, where he could have Ethie all to himself when his day's labor
was over, and where the skies would not be brighter than Ethie's eyes
as she welcomed him home at night, leaning over the gate in the pale
buff muslin he liked so much, with rosebuds in her hair.

He had seen her thus so often in fancy, that the picture had become a
reality, and refused to be erased at once from the mental canvas, when,
in January, Miss Nettie Hudson, niece to Mrs. General Tophevie, came
from Philadelphia, and at once took prestige of everything on the
strength of the one hundred thousand dollars of which she was sole
heiress. The Hudson blood was a mixture of blacksmith's and shoemaker's,
and peddler's too, it was said; but that was far back in the past. The
Hudsons of the present day scarcely knew whether peddler were spelled
with two d's or one. They bought their shoes at the most fashionable
shops, and could, if they chose, have their horses shod with gold, and
so the handsome Nettie reigned supreme as belle. The moment Mrs. Dr. Van
Buren saw her, she recognized her daughter-in-law, the future Mrs.
Frank, and Ethie's fate was sealed. There had been times when Mrs. Dr.
Van Buren thought it possible that Ethelyn might, after all, be the most
favored of women, the wife of her son. These times were at Saratoga, and
Newport, and Nahant, where Ethelyn Grant was more sought after than any
young lady there, and where the proud woman herself took pride in
talking of "my niece," hinting once, when Ethelyn's star was at its
height, of a childish affaire du coeur between the young lady and her
son, and insinuating that it might yet amount to something. She changed
her mind when Nettie came with her one hundred thousand dollars, and
showed a willingness to be admired by Frank. That childish affaire du
coeur was a very childish affair, indeed; she never gave it a moment's
thought herself--she greatly doubted if Frank had ever been in earnest,
and if Ethelyn had led him into an entanglement, she would not, of
course, hold him to his promise if he wished to be released. He must
have a rich wife to support him in his refined tastes and luxurious
habits, for her own fortune was not so great as many supposed. She might
need it all herself, as she was far from being old, and then again it
was wicked for cousins to marry each other. It did not matter if the
mothers were only half-sisters; there was the same blood in the veins of
each, and it would not do at all, even if Ethelyn's affections were
enlisted, which Mrs. Van Buren greatly doubted.

This was what Mrs. Dr. Van Buren said to Ethelyn, after a stormy
interview with Frank, who had at first sworn roundly that he would not
give Ethie up, then had thanked his mother not to meddle with his
business, then bidden her "go to thunder," and finally, between a cry
and a blubber, said he should always like Ethie best if he married a
hundred Netties. This was in the morning, and the afternoon train had
carried Mrs. Dr. Van Buren to Chicopee, where Ethelyn's glowing face
flashed a bright welcome when she came, but was white and pallid as the
face of a corpse when the voluminous skirts of Mrs. Van Buren's poplin
dress passed through the gate next day and disappeared in the direction
of the depot. Aunt Barbara was not at home--she had gone to visit a
friend in Albany; and so Ethelyn met and fought with her pain alone,
stifling it as best she could, and succeeding so well that Aunt Barbara,
on her return, never suspected the fierce storm which Ethelyn had passed
through during her absence, or dreamed how anxiously the young girl
watched and waited for some word from Frank which should say that he was
ready to defy his mother, and abide by his first promise. But no such
letter came, and at last, when she could bear the suspense no longer,
Ethelyn wrote herself to her recreant lover, asking if it were really so
that hereafter their lives lay apart from each other. If such was his
wish, she was content, she said, and Frank Van Buren, who could not
detect the air of superb scorn which breathed in every line of that
letter, felt somehow aggrieved that "Ethie should take it so easy," and
relieved too, that with her he should have no trouble, as he had
anticipated. He was getting used to Nettie, and getting to like her,
too, for her manner toward him was far more agreeable than Ethie's
brusque way of manifesting her impatience at his lack of manliness. It
was inexplicable how Ethie could care for one so greatly her inferior,
both mentally and physically, but it would seem that she loved him all
the more for the very weakness which made her nature a necessity of his,
and the bitterest pang she had ever felt came with the answer which
Frank sent back to her letter, and which the reader has seen.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was all over now, settled, finished, and two days after she hunted up
Aunt Barbara's spectacles for her, and then sat very quiet while the old
lady read Aunt Sophia's letter, announcing Frank's engagement with Miss
Nettie Hudson, of Philadelphia. Aunt Barbara knew of Ethelyn's
engagement with Frank, but like her sister at the time of its
occurrence, she had esteemed it mere child's play. Later, however, as
she saw how they clung to each other, she had thought it possible that
something might come of it, but as Ethelyn was wholly reticent on that
subject, it had never been mentioned between them. When, however, the
news of Frank's second engagement came, Aunt Barbara looked over her
spectacles straight at the girl, who, for any sign she gave, might have
been a block of marble, so rigid was every muscle of her face, and even
the tone of her voice as she said:

"I am glad Aunt Sophia is suited. Frank will be pleased with anything."

"She does not care for him and I am glad, for he is not half smart
enough for her," was Aunt Barbara's mental comment, as she laid the
letter by for a second reading, and then told her niece, as the last
item of news, that old Captain Markham's nephew had come, and they were
making a great ado over him now that he was a member of Congress, and a
Judge, too. They had asked the Howells and Grangers and the Carters
there to tea for the next day, she said, adding that she and Ethelyn
were also invited. "They want to be polite to him," old Mrs. Markham
said. Aunt Barbara continued, "but for my part, if I were he, I should
not care much for politeness that comes so late. I remember when he was
here ten years ago, on such a matter, and they fairly acted as if they
were ashamed of him then; but titles make a difference. He's an
Honorable now, and the old Captain is mighty proud of him."

What Aunt Barbara had said was strictly true, for there had been a time
when proud old Captain Markham ignored his brother's family living on
the far prairies of the West; but when the eldest son, Richard, called
for him, had become a growing man, as boys out West are apt to do,
rising from justice of the peace to a member of the State Legislature,
then to a judgeship, and finally to a seat in Congress, and all before
he was quite thirty-two, the Captain's tactics changed, and a most
cordial letter, addressed to "My dear nephew," and signed "Your
affectionate uncle," was sent to Washington, urging a visit from the
young man ere he returned to Iowa.

And that was how Richard Markham, M.C., came to be in Chicopee at the
precise time when Ethelyn's heart was bleeding at every pore, and ready
to seize upon any new excitement which would divert it from its pain.
She remembered well the time he had once before visited Chicopee. She
was a little girl of ten, fleeing across the meadow-land from a maddened
cow, when a tall, athletic young man had come to her rescue, standing
between her and danger, helping her over the fence, picking up the apron
full of apples which she had been purloining from the Captain's orchard,
and even pinning together a huge rent made in her dress by catching it
upon a protruding splint as she sprang to the ground. She was too much
frightened to know whether he had been wholly graceful in his endeavors
to serve her, and too thankful for her escape to think that possibly her
torn dress was the result of his rather awkward handling. She remembered
only the dark, handsome face which bent so near to hers, the brown,
curly head actually bumping against her own, as he stooped to gather the
stolen apples. She remembered, too, the kindly voice which asked if "her
aunt would scold," while the large, red hands pinned together the
unsightly seam, and she liked the Westerner, as the people of Chicopee
called the stranger who had recently come among them. Frank was in
Chicopee then, fishing on the river, when her mishaps occurred; and once
after that, when walking with him, she had met Richard Markham, who
bowed modestly and passed on, never taking his hands from his pockets
where they were planted so firmly, and never touching his hat as Frank
said a gentleman would have done.

"Isn't he handsome?" Ethelyn had asked, and Frank had answered, "Looks
well enough, though anybody with half an eye would know he was a codger
from the West. His pants are a great deal too short; and look at his
coat--at least three years behind the fashion; and such a hat, with that
rusty old band of crape around it. Wonder if he is in mourning for his
grandmother. Oh, my! we boys would hoot him in Boston. He's what I
call a gawky."

That settled it with Ethelyn. If fourteen-year-old Frank Van Buren,
whose pants and coats and neckties and hats were always the latest make,
said that Richard Markham was a gawky, he was one, and henceforth during
his stay in Chicopee, the Western young man was regarded by Ethelyn with
a feeling akin to pity for his benighted condition. Aunt Barbara's pew
was very near to Captain Markham's, and Richard, who was not much of a
churchman, and as often as any way lounged upon the faded damask
curtains, instead of standing up, often met Ethelyn's brown eyes fixed
curiously upon him, but never dreamed that she regarded him as a species
of heathen, whom it would be a pious act to Christianize. Richard rarely
thought of himself at all, or if he did, it was with a feeling that he
"was well enough "; that if his mother and "the neighbors" were
satisfied with him, as he knew they were, he ought to be satisfied with
himself. So he had no suspicion of the severe criticism passed upon him
by the little girl who read the service so womanly, he thought, eating
caraway and lozenges between times, and whose face he carried in memory
back to his prairie home, associating her always with the graceful
dark-brown heifer bearing so strong a resemblance to the cow which had
so frightened Ethelyn on the day of his first introduction to her.

But he forgot her in the excitement which followed, when he began to
grow rapidly, as only Western men can grow, and we doubt if she had been
in his mind for years until her name was mentioned by Mrs. Dr. Van
Buren, who saw in him a most eligible match for her niece. He was well
connected--own nephew to Captain Markham, and first cousin to Mrs.
Senator Woodhull, of New York, who kept a suite of servants for herself
and husband, and had the finest turn-out in the Park. Yes, he would do
nicely for Ethelyn and by way of quieting her conscience, which kept
whispering that she had not been altogether just to her niece, Mrs. Dr.
Van Buren packed her trunk and took the train for Chicopee the very day
of Mrs. Captain Markham's tea party.

Ethelyn was going, and she looked very pretty in her dark-green silk,
with the bit of soft, rich lace at the throat and the scarlet ribbon in
her hair. She was not dressed for effect. She cared very little, in
fact, what impression she made upon the Western Judge, though she did
wonder if, as a Judge, he was much improved from the raw young man whom
Frank had called a "gawky." He was standing with his elbow upon the
mantel talking to Susie Granger, when Ethelyn entered Mrs. Markham's
parlor; one foot was carelessly crossed over the other, so that only the
toe of the boot touched the carpet, while his hand grasped his large
handkerchief rather awkwardly. He was not at ease with the ladies; he
had never been very much accustomed to their society. He did not know
what to say to them, and Susie's saucy black eyes and sprightly manner
evidently embarrassed and abashed him. That vocabulary of small talk so
prevalent in society, and a limited knowledge of which is rather
necessary to one's getting on well with everybody, were unknown to him,
and he was casting about for some way to escape from his companion, when
Ethelyn was introduced, and his mind went back to the stolen apples and
the torn dress which he had pinned together.

Judge Markham was a tall, finely formed man, with deep hazel eyes, which
could be very stern or very soft in their expression, just as his mood
happened to be. But the chief attraction of his face was his smile,
which changed his entire expression, making him very handsome, as
Ethelyn thought, when he stood for a moment holding her hand between
both his broad palms and chatting familiarly with her as with an old
acquaintance. He could talk to her better than to Susie Granger, for
Ethie, though neither very deep nor learned, was fond of books and
tolerably well versed in the current literature of the day. Besides
that, she had a faculty of seeming to know more than she really did and
so the impression left upon the Judge's mind, when the little party was
over and he had returned from escorting Ethelyn to her door, was that
Miss Grant was far superior to any girl he had ever met since Daisy
died, and like the Judge in Whittier's "Maud Muller," he whistled
snatches of an old love tune he had not whistled in years, as he went
slowly back to his uncle's, and thought strange thoughts for him, the
grave old bachelor who had said he should never marry. He was not
looking for a wife, as rumor intimated, but he dreamed of Ethelyn Grant
that night, and called upon her the next day, and the next, until the
village began to gossip, and Mrs. Dr. Van Buren was in an ecstasy of
delight, talking openly of the delightful time her niece would have in
Washington the next winter, and predicting for her a brilliant career as
reigning belle, and even hinting the possibility of her taking a house
so as to entertain her Boston friends.

And Ethelyn herself had many and varied feelings on the subject, the
strangest of which was a perverse desire to let Frank know that she did
not care--that her heart was not broken by his desertion, and that there
were those who prized her even if he did not. She had criticised Judge
Markham very severely. She had weighed him in the balance with Frank,
and found him sadly, wanting in all those little points which she
considered as marks of culture and good breeding. He was not a ladies'
man; he was even worse than that, for he was sometimes positively rude
and ungentlemanly, as she thought, when he would open a gate or a door
and pass through it first himself instead of holding it deferentially
for her, as Frank would have done. He did not know how to swing his
cane, or touch his hat, or even bow as Frank Van Buren did; while the
cut of his coat, if not six, was at least two years behind the times,
and he did not seem to know it either. All these things Ethelyn wrote
against him; but the account was more than balanced by the seat in
Congress, the anticipated winter in Washington, the great wealth he was
said to possess, the high estimation in which she knew he was held, and
the keen pang of disappointment from which she was suffering. This last
really did the most to turn the scale in Richard's favor, for, like many
a poor, deluded girl, she fancied that marrying another was the surest
way to forget a past which it was not pleasant to remember. She
respected Judge Markham highly, and knew that in everything pertaining
to a noble manhood he was worth a dozen Franks, even if he never had
been to dancing school, and did not obsequiously pick up the
handkerchief which she purposely dropped to see what he would do. And
so, when Aunt Sophia had gone back to the city, and Judge Markham was in
a few days to return to his Western home, she rode with him around the
Pond, and when she came back the dead Daisy's ring was upon her finger
and she was a promised wife. A dozen times since then she had been
tempted to write to Richard Markham, asking to be released from her
engagement; for, bad as she has thus far appeared to the reader, there
were many noble traits in her character, and she shrank from wronging
the man of whom she knew she was not worthy.

But the deference paid her as Mrs. Judge Markham-elect, the delight of
Aunt Sophia, the approbation of Aunt Barbara, the letter of
congratulation sent her by Mrs. Senator Woodhull, Richard's cousin, and
more than all, Frank's discomfiture, as evinced by the complaining note
he sent her, prevailed to keep her to her promise, and the bridegroom,
when he came in June to claim her hand, little guessed how heavy was the
heart which lay in the bosom of the young girl so passively suffering
his caresses, but whose lips never moved in response to the kiss he
pressed upon them.

She was very shy, he thought--more so, even, than when he saw her last;
but he loved her just as well, and never suspected that, when on the
first evening of his arrival he sat with his arm around her, wondering a
little what made her so silent, she was burning with mortification
because the coat he wore was the very same she had criticised last
spring, hoping in her heart of hearts that long before he came to her
again it might find its proper place, either in the sewing society or
with some Jewish vender of old clothes. Yet here it was again, and her
head was resting against it, while her heart beat almost audibly, and
her voice was even petulant in its tone as she answered her lover's
questions. Ethelyn was making a terrible mistake, and she knew it,
hating herself for her duplicity, and vaguely hoping that something
would happen to save her from the fate she so much dreaded. But nothing
did happen, and it was now too late to retract herself. The bridal
trousseau was prepared under Mrs. Van Buren's supervision, the bridal
guests were bidden, the bridal tour was planned, the bridegroom had
arrived, and she would keep her word if she died in the attempt.

And so we find her on her bridal morning wishing nobody was coming, and
denouncing getting married "a bore," while Aunt Barbara looked at her in
surprise, wondering if everything were right. In spite of her ill humor,
she was very handsome that morning in her white cambric wrapper, with
just a little color in her cheeks and her heavy hair pushed back in
behind her ears and twisted under the silk net. Ethelyn cared little for
her looks--at least not then; by and by she might, when it was time for
Mrs. Dr. Van Buren to arrive with Frank and Nettie Hudson, whom she had
never seen. She should want to look her very best then, but now it did
not matter, even if her bridegroom was distant not an eighth of a mile,
and would in all probability be coming in ere long. She wished he would
stay away--she would rather not see him till night; and she experienced
a feeling of relief when, about nine o'clock, Mrs. Markham's maid
brought her a little note which read as follows:

"DARLING ETHIE:

"You must not think it strange if I do not come to you this morning, for
I am suffering from one of my blinding headaches, and can scarcely see
to write you this. I shall be better by night. Yours lovingly,

"RICHARD MARKHAM."

Ethelyn was sitting upon the piazza steps, arranging a bouquet, when the
note was brought to her; and as it was some trouble to put all the roses
from her lap, she sent the girl for a pencil, and on the back of the
note wrote hastily:

"It does not matter, as you would only be in the way, and I have
something of a headache, too.

"E. GRANT."

"Take this back to Judge Markham," she said to the girl, and then
resumed her bouquet-making, wondering if every bride-elect were as
wretched as herself, or if to any other maiden of twenty the world had
ever looked so desolate and dreary, as it did to her this morning.



CHAPTER II

THE VAN BUREN SET

Captain Markham's carryall, which Jake, the hired man, had brushed up
wonderfully for the occasion, had gone over to West Chicopee after the
party from Boston--Mrs. Dr. Van Buren, with Frank, and his betrothed,
Miss Nettie Hudson, from Philadelphia. Others had been invited from the
city, but one after another their regrets had come to Ethelyn, who would
gladly have excused the entire set, Aunt Van Buren, Frank and all,
though she confessed to herself a great deal of curiosity with regard to
Miss Nettie, whom she had never seen; neither had she met Frank since
the dissolution of their engagement, for though she had been in Boston,
where most of her dresses were made, Mrs. Dr. Van Buren had wisely
arranged that Frank should be absent from home. She was herself not
willing to risk a meeting between him and Ethelyn until matters were too
well adjusted to admit of a change, for Frank had more than once shown
signs of rebellion. He was in a more quiescent state now, having made up
his mind that what could not be cured must be endured, and as he had
sensibility enough to feel very keenly the awkwardness of meeting
Ethelyn under present circumstances, and as Miss Nettie was really very
fond of him, and he, after a fashion, was fond of her, he was in the
best of spirits when he stepped from the train at West Chicopee and
handed his mother and Nettie into the spacious carryall of which he had
made fun as a country ark, while they rode slowly toward Aunt Barbara
Bigelow's. Everything was in readiness for them. The large north chamber
was aired and swept and dusted, and only little bars of light came
through the closed shutters, and the room looked very cool and nice,
with its fresh muslin curtains looped back with blue, its carpet of the
same cool shade, its pretty chestnut furniture, its snowbank of a bed,
and the tasteful bouquets which Ethelyn had arranged--Ethelyn, who
lingered longer in this room than the other one across the hall, the
bridal chamber, where the ribbons which held the curtains were white,
and the polished marble of the bureau and washstand, sent a shiver
through her veins whenever she looked in there. She was in her own cozy
chamber now, and the silken hair, which in the early morning had been
twisted under her net, was bound in heavy braids about her head, while a
pearl comb held it in its place, and a half-opened rose was fastened
just behind her ear. She had hesitated some time in her choice of a
dress, vacillating between a pale buff, which Frank had always admired,
and a delicate blue muslin, in which Judge Markham had once said she
looked so pretty. The blue had won the day, for Ethelyn felt that she
owed some concession to the man whose kind note she had treated so
cavalierly that morning, and so she wore the blue for him, feeling glad
of the faint, sick feeling which kept the blood from rushing too hotly
to her face, and made her fairer and paler than her wont. She knew that
she was very handsome when her toilet was made, and that was one secret
of the assurance with which she went forward to meet Nettie Hudson when
at last the carryall stopped before the gate.

Mrs. Dr. Van Buren was tired, and hot, and dusty, and as she was always
a little cross when in this condition, she merely kissed Ethelyn once,
and shaking hands with Aunt Barbara, went directly to the north chamber,
asking that a cup of tea might be made for her dinner instead of the
coffee whose fragrant odor met her olfactories as she stepped into the
house. First, however, she introduced Nettie, who after glancing at
Ethelyn, turned her eyes wonderingly upon Frank, thinking his greeting
of his cousin rather more demonstrative than was exactly becoming even
if they were cousins, and had been, as Mrs. Dr. Van Buren affirmed, just
like brother and sister. That was no reason why Frank should have wound
his arm around her waist, and kept it there, while he kissed her twice,
and brought such a bright color to her cheeks. Miss Nettie cared just
enough for Frank Van Buren to be jealous of him. She wanted all his
attentions herself, and so the little blonde was in something of a pet
as she followed on into the house, and twisted her hat strings into a
hard knot, which Frank had to disentangle for her, just as he had to
kiss away the wrinkle which had gathered on her forehead. She was a
beautiful little creature, scarcely larger than a child of twelve, with
a pleading, helpless look in her large, blue eyes which seemed to be
saying: "Look at me; speak to me, won't you?--notice me a little."

She was just the one to be made a tool of; and Ethelyn readily saw that
she had been as clay in Mrs. Van Buren's skillful hands.

"Pretty, very pretty, but decidedly a nonentity and a baby," was
Ethelyn's mental comment, and she felt something like contempt for
Frank, who, after loving and leaning on her, could so easily turn to
weak little Nettie Hudson.

At the sight of Frank and the sound of his voice, she had felt all the
olden feeling rushing back to her heart; but when, after Nettie had
followed Mrs. Van Buren to her chamber, and she stood for a moment alone
with him, he felt constrained to say something, and stammered out, "It's
deuced mean, Ethie, to serve you so, and mother ought to be indicted. I
hope you don't care much," all her pride and womanliness was roused and
she answered promptly: "Of course, I don't care; do you think I would
wish to marry Judge Markham if I were not all over that childish affair?
You have not seen him yet. He is a splendid man."

Ethelyn felt better after paying this tribute to Richard Markham, and
she liked him better, too, now that she had spoken for him, but Frank's
reply, "Yes, mother told me so, but said there was a good deal of your
Westernism about him yet," jarred on her feelings as she plucked the
roses growing at the end of the piazza and crushed them, thorns and all,
in her hands, feeling the smart less than the dull, heavy throbbing at
her heart. Frank did not seem to her just as he used to be; he was the
same polished dandy as of old, and just as careful to perform every
little act of gallantry, but the something lacking which she had always
felt to a certain extent was more perceptible now, and to herself she
accused him of having degenerated since he had passed from her
influence. She never dreamed of charging it to her interviews with Judge
Markham, whose topics of conversation were so widely different from
Frank's. She was not generous enough to concede anything in his favor,
though she felt glad that Frank was not quite the same he had been--it
would make the evening bridal before her easier to bear; and Ethelyn's
eyes were brighter and her smiles more frequent as she sat down to
dinner and answered Mrs. Van Buren's question: "Where is the Judge that
he does not dine with us?"

"Sick, is he?" Mrs. Van Buren said, when told of his headache, while
Frank remarked, "Sick of his bargain, maybe," laughing loudly at his own
joke, while the others laughed in unison; and so the dinner passed off
without that stiffness which Ethelyn had so much dreaded.

After it was over, Mrs. Dr. Van Buren felt better, and began to talk of
the "Judge," and to ask if Ethelyn knew whether they would board or keep
house in Washington the coming winter. Ethelyn did not know. She had
never mentioned Washington to Richard Markham, and he had never guessed
how much that prospective season at the capital had to do with her
decision. That it would be hers to enjoy she had no shadow of doubt, but
as she felt then she did not particularly care to keep up a household
for the sake of entertaining her aunt, and possibly Frank and his wife,
so she replied that she presumed "they should board, as it would be the
short session--if he was re-elected they might consider the house."

"There may be a still higher honor in store for him than a re-election,"
Mrs. Van Buren said, and then proceeded to speak of a letter which she
had received from a lady in Camden, who had once lived in Boston, and
who had written congratulating her old friend upon her niece's good
fortune. "There was no young man more popular in that section of the
country than Judge Markham," she said, "and there had been serious talk
of nominating him for governor. Some, however, thought him too young,
and so they were waiting for a few years when he would undoubtedly be
elected to the highest office in the State."

This piece of intelligence had greatly increased Mrs. Van Buren's
respect for the lady-elect of Iowa's future governor, and she gave the
item of news with a great deal of satisfaction, but did not tell that
her correspondent had added, "It is a pity, though, that he does not
know more of the usages of good society. Ethelyn is so refined and
sensitive that she will be often shocked, no doubt, with the manners of
the husband and his family."

This clause had troubled Mrs. Dr. Van Buren. She really liked Ethelyn,
and now that she was out of Frank's way she liked her very much, and
would do a good deal to serve her. She did not wish her to be unhappy,
as she feared she might be from the sundry rumors which had reached her
concerning that home out West, whither she was going. So, when, after
dinner, they were alone for a few moments, she endeavored to impress
upon her niece the importance of having an establishment of her own as
soon as possible.

"It is not well for sons' wives to live with the mother," she said. "She
did not mean that Nettie should live with her; and Ethelyn should at
once insist upon a separate home; then, if she should see any little
thing in her husband's manners which needed correcting, she could do it
so much better away from his mother. I do not say that there is anything
wrong in his manners," she continued, as she saw how painfully red
Ethelyn was getting, "but it is quite natural there should be, living
West as he does. You cannot expect prairie people to be as refined as
Bostonians are; but you must polish him, dear. You know how; you have
had Frank for a model so long; and even if he does not improve, people
overlook a great deal in a member of Congress, and will overlook more in
a governor, so don't feel badly, darling," and Mrs. Van Buren kissed
tenderly the poor girl, before whom all the dreary loneliness of the
future had arisen like a mountain, and whose heart even at that late
hour would fain have drawn back if possible.

But when, by the way of soothing her, Mrs. Van Buren talked of the
winter in Washington, and the honors which would always be accorded to
her as the wife of an M.C., and then dwelt upon the possibility of her
one day writing herself governor's lady, Ethelyn's girlish ambition was
roused, and her vanity flattered, so that the chances were that even
Frank would have been put aside for the future greatness, had he been
offered to her.

It was five o'clock now, in the afternoon, nearly time for the bridal
toilet to commence, and Mrs. Van Buren began to wonder "why the Judge
had not appeared." He was better of his headache and up and around, the
maid had reported, when at four she brought over the remainder of Mrs.
Captain Markham's silver, which had not been sent in the morning, and
then went back for extra napkins. There was no need to tell Ethelyn that
"he was up and around," for she had known it ever since a certain
shutter had been opened, and a man in his shirt-sleeves had appeared
before the window and thrown water from the wash bowl upon the lilac
bushes below. Ethelyn knew very well that old Mrs. Markham's servants
were spoiled, that her domestic arrangements were not of the best kind,
and that probably there was no receptacle for the dirty water except the
ground; but she did not consider this, or reflect that aside from all
other considerations the act was wholly like a man; she only thought it
like him, Judge Markham, and feelings of shame and mortification, such
as no woman likes to entertain with regard to her husband, began to rise
and swell in her heart. In the excitement of her toilet, however, she
forgot everything, even the ceremony for which she was dressing, and
which came to her with a shiver when a bridesmaid announced that Captain
Markham's carriage had just left his yard with a gentleman in it.

Judge Markham was on his way to his bridal.



CHAPTER III

RICHARD MARKHAM

He preferred to be called Richard by his friends and Mr. Markham by
strangers--not that he was insensible to the prestige which the title of
Judge or Honorable gave him, but he was a plain, matter-of-fact man, who
had not been lifted off his balance, or grown dizzy by the rapidity with
which he had risen in public favor. At home he was simply Dick to his
three burly brothers, who were at once so proud and fond of him, while
his practical, unpretending mother called him Richard, feeling, however,
that it was very proper for the neighbors to give him the title of
Judge. Of Mrs. Markham we shall have occasion to speak hereafter, so now
we will only say that she saw no fault in her gifted son, and she was
ready to do battle with anyone who should suggest the existence of a
fault. Richard's wishes had never been thwarted, but rather deferred to
by the entire family, and, as a natural consequence, he had come to
believe that his habits and opinions were as nearly correct as they well
could be. He had never mingled much in society--he was not fond of it;
and the "quilting bees" and "sugar pulls" and "apple parings" which had
prevailed in his neighborhood were not at all to his taste. He greatly
preferred his books to the gayest of frolics, and thus he early earned
for himself the sobriquet of "the old bachelor who hated girls"; all but
Abigail Jones, the shoemaker's daughter, whose black eyes and bright red
cheeks had proved too much for the grave, sober Richard. His first act
of gallantry was performed for her, and even after he grew to be Judge
his former companions never wearied of telling how, on the occasion of
his first going home with the fair Abigail Jones from spelling school,
he had kept at a respectful distance from her, and when the lights from
her father's window became visible he remarked that "he guessed she
would not be afraid to go the rest of the way alone," and abruptly
bidding her good-night, ran back as fast as he could run. Whether this
story were true or not, he was very shy of the girls, though the
dark-eyed Abigail exerted over him so strong an influence that, at the
early age of twenty he had asked her to be his wife, and she had
answered yes, while his mother sanctioned the match, for she had known
the Joneses in Vermont, and knew them for honest, thrifty people, whose
daughter would make a faithful, economical wife for any man. But death
came in to separate the lovers, and Abigail's cheeks grew redder still,
and her eyes were strangely bright as the fever burned in her veins,
until at last when the Indian-summer sun was shining down upon the
prairies, they buried her one day beneath the late summer flowers, and
the almost boy-widower wore upon his hat the band of crape which Ethelyn
remembered as looking so rusty when, the year following, he came to
Chicopee. Richard Markham believed that he had loved Abigail truly when
she died, but he knew now that she was not the one he would have chosen
in his mature manhood. She was suitable for him, perhaps, as he was when
he lost her, but not as he was now, and it was long since he had ceased
to visit her grave, or think of her with the feelings of sad regret
which used to come over him when, at night, he lay awake listening to
the moaning of the wind as it swept over the prairies, or watching the
glittering stars, and wondering if she had found a home beyond them with
Daisy, his only sister. There was nothing false about Richard Markham,
and when he stood with Ethelyn upon the shore of Pordunk Pond, and asked
her to be his wife, he told her of Abigail Jones, who had been two years
older than himself, and to whom he was once engaged.

"But I did not give her Daisy's ring," he said; and he spoke very
reverently as he continued, "Abigail was a good, sensible girl, and even
if she hears what I am saying she will pardon me when I tell you that it
did not seem to me that diamonds were befitting such as she; Daisy, I am
sure, had a different kind of person in view when she made me keep the
ring for the maiden who would prize such things, and who was worthy of
it. Abigail was worthy, but there was not a fitness in giving it to her,
neither would she have prized it; so I kept it in its little box with a
curl of Daisy's hair. Had she become my wife, I might eventually have
given it to her, but she died, and it was well. She would not have
satisfied me now, and I should--"

He was going to add "should not have been what I am," but that would
have savored too much of pride, and possibly of disrespect for the dead;
so he checked himself, and while his rare, pleasant smile broke all over
his beaming face, and his hazel eyes grew soft and tender in their
expression, he said: "You, Ethelyn, seem to me the one Daisy would have
chosen for a sister. You are quiet, and gentle, and pure like her, and I
am so glad of the Providence which led me to Chicopee. They said I was
looking for a wife, but I had no such idea. I never thought to marry
until I met you that afternoon when you wore the pretty delaine, with
the red ribbon in your hair. Do you remember it, Ethelyn?"

Ethelyn did not answer him at once. She was looking far off upon the
water, where the moonlight lay sleeping, and revolving in her mind the
expediency of being equally truthful with her future husband, and saying
to him, "I, too, have loved, and been promised to another." She knew
she ought to tell him this and she would, perhaps, have done so, for
Ethie meant to be honest, and her heart was touched and softened by
Richard's tender love for his sister; but when he was so unfortunate as
to call the green silk which Madame--, in Boston, had made, a pretty
delaine, and her scarlet velvet band a "red ribbon," her heart hardened,
and her secret remained untold, while her proud lip half curled in scorn
at the thought of Abigail Jones, who once stood, perhaps, as she was
standing, with her hand on Richard Markham's and the kiss of betrothal
wet upon her forehead. Ah, Ethie, there was this difference: Abigail had
kissed her lover back, and her great black eyes had looked straight into
his with an eager, blissful joy, as she promised to be his wife, and
when he wound his arm around her, she had leaned up to the bashful
youth, encouraging his caresses, while you--gave back no answering
caress, and shook lightly off the arm laid across your neck. Possibly
Richard thought of the difference, but if he did he imputed Ethelyn's
cold impassiveness to her modest, retiring nature, so different from
Abigail's. It was hardly fair to compare the two girls, they were so
wholly unlike, for Abigail had been a plain, simple-hearted, buxom
country girl of the West, whose world was all contained within the
limits of the neighborhood where she lived, while Ethie was a
high-spirited, petted, impulsive creature, knowing but little of such
people as Abigail Jones, and wholly unfitted to cope with any world
outside that to which she had been accustomed. But love is blind, and so
was Richard; for with his whole heart he did love Ethelyn Grant; and,
notwithstanding his habits of thirty years, she could then have molded
him to her will, had she tried, by the simple process of love. But,
alas! there was no answering throb in her heart when she felt the touch
of his hand or his breath upon her cheek. She was only conscious of a
desire to avoid his caress, if possible, while, as the days went by, she
felt a growing disgust for "Abigail Jones," whose family, she gathered
from her lover, lived near to, and were quite familiar with, his mother.

In happy ignorance of her real feelings, so well did she dissemble
them, and so proper and ladylike was her deportment, Richard bade her
good-by early in May, and went back to his Western home, writing to her
often, but not such letters, it must be confessed, as were calculated to
win a maiden's heart, or keep it after it was won. If he was awkward at
love-making, and only allowed himself to be occasionally surprised into
flashes of tenderness, he was still more awkward in letter-writing; and
Ethelyn always indulged in a headache, or a fit of blues, after
receiving one of his short, practical letters, which gave but little
sign of the strong, deep affection he cherished for her. Those were hard
days for Ethelyn--the days which intervened between her lover's bidding
her adieu and his return to claim her hand--and only her deeply wounded
pride, and her great desire for a change of scene and a winter in
Washington, kept her from asking a release from the engagement she knew
never ought to have been. Aside, however, from all this, there was some
gratification in knowing that she was an object of envy to Susie Graham,
and Anna Thorn, and Carrie Bell, either of whom would gladly have taken
her place as bride-elect of an M.C., while proud old Captain Markham's
frequent mention of "my nephew in Congress, ahem!" and Mrs. Dr. Van
Buren's constant exultation over the "splendid match," helped to keep up
the glamour of excitement, so that her promise had never been revoked,
and now he was there to claim it. He had not gone at once to Miss
Bigelow's on his arrival in Chicopee, for the day was hot and sultry,
and he was very tired with his forty-eight hours' constant travel, and
so he had rested a while in his chamber, which looked toward Ethelyn's,
and then sat upon the piazza with his uncle till the heat of the day was
past, and the round red moon was showing itself above the eastern hills
as the sun disappeared in the west. Then, in his new linen coat, cut and
made by Mrs. Jones, mother to Abigail, deceased, he had started for the
dwelling of his betrothed. Ethelyn had seen him as he came from the
depot in Captain Markham's carriage, and her cheek had crimsoned, and
then grown pale at sight of the ancient-looking hair trunk swinging
behind the carriage, all unconscious of the indignation it was exciting,
or of the vast difference between itself and the two huge Saratoga
trunks standing in Aunt Barbara Bigelow's upper hall, and looking so
clean and nice in their fresh coverings. Poor Ethelyn! That hair trunk,
which had done its owner such good service in his journeys to and from
Washington, and which the mother had packed with so much care, never
dreaming how very, very far it was behind the times, brought the hot
blood in torrents to her face, and made the white hands clasp each other
spasmodically, as she thought "Had I known of that hair trunk, I would
certainly have told him no."

Even Abigail Jones, the shoemaker's daughter, faded into insignificance
before this indignity, and it was long before Ethelyn could recover her
composure or her pulse resume its regular beat. She was in no haste to
see him; but such is the inconsistency of perverse girlhood that,
because he delayed his coming, she felt annoyed and piqued, and was half
tempted to have a headache and go to bed, and so not see him at all. But
he was coming at last, linen coat and all; and Susie Graham, who had
stopped for a moment by the gate to speak with Ethelyn, pronounced him
"a magnificent-looking fellow," and said to Ethelyn, "I should think you
would feel so proud."

Susie did not observe the linen coat, or if she had, she most likely
thought it a very sensible arrangement for a day when the thermometer
stood no degrees in the shade; but Susie was not Boston finished. She
had been educated at Mount Holyoke, which made a difference, Ethelyn
thought. Still, Susie's comment did much towards reconciling her to the
linen coat; and, as Richard Markham came up the street, she did feel a
thrill of pride and even pleasure, for he had a splendid figure and
carried himself like a prince, while his fine face beamed all over with
that joyous, happy expression which comes only from a kind, true heart,
as he drew near the house and his eye caught the flutter of a white robe
through the open door. Ethelyn was very pretty in her cool, cambric
dress, with a bunch of sweet English violets in her hair; and at sight
of her the man usually so grave and quiet, and undemonstrative with
those of the opposite sex, felt all his reserve give way, and there was
a world of tenderness in his voice and a misty look in his eye, as he
bent over her, giving her the second kiss he had ever given to her, and
asking, "How is my darling to-night?"

She did not take his arm from her neck this time--he had a right to keep
it there--and she suffered the caress, feeling no greater inconvenience
than that his big hand was very warm and pressed a little too hard
sometimes upon her shoulders. He spoke to her of the errand on which he
had come, and the great, warm hand pressed more heavily as he said, "It
seems to me all a dream that in a few days you will be my own Ethie, my
wife, from whom I need not be parted"; and then he spoke of his mother
and his three brothers, James, and John, and Anderson, or Andy, as he
was called. Each of these had sent kindly messages to Richard's
bride--the mother saying she should be glad to have a daughter in her
home, and the three brothers promising to love their new sister so much
as to make "old Dick" jealous, if possible.

These messages "old Dick" delivered, but wisely refrained from telling
how his mother feared he had not chosen wisely, that a young lady with
Boston notions was not the wife to make a Western man very happy.
Neither did he tell her of an interview he had with Mrs. Jones, who had
always evinced a motherly care over him since her daughter's death, and
to whom he had dutifully communicated the news of his intended marriage.
It was not what Mrs. Jones had expected. She had watched Richard's
upward progress with all the pride of a mother-in-law, lamenting often
to Mrs. Markham that poor Abigail could not have lived to share his
greatness, and during the term of his judgeship, when he stayed mostly
in Camden, the county seat, she had, on the occasion of her going to
town with butter and eggs, and chickens, taken a mournful pleasure in
perambulating the streets, and selecting the house where Abigail might,
perhaps, have resided, and where she could have had her cup of young
hyson after the fatigue of the day, instead of eating her dry lunch of
cheese and fried cakes in the rather comfortless depot, while waiting
for the train. Richard's long-continued bachelorhood had given her
peculiar pleasure, inasmuch as it betokened a continual remembrance of
her daughter; and as her youngest child, the blooming Melinda, who was
as like the departed Abigail as sisters ever are to each other ripened
into womanhood, and the grave Richard spoke oftener to her than to the
other maidens of the prairie village, she began to speculate upon what
might possibly be, and refused the loan of her brass kettle to the
neighbor whose husband did not vote for Richard when he ran for member
of Congress. Melinda, too, had her little ambitions, her silent hopes
and aspirations, and even her vague longings for a winter in Washington,
As the Markham house and the Jones house were distant from each other
only half a mile, she was a frequent visitor of Richard's mother, always
assisting when there was more work than usual on hand and on the
occasion of Richard's first going to Washington ironing his shirts and
packing them herself in the square hair trunk which had called forth
Ethelyn's ire. Though she did not remember much about "Abby," she knew
that, had she lived, Richard would have been her brother; and somehow he
seemed to her just like one now, she said to Mrs. Markham, as she hemmed
his pocket handkerchiefs, working his initials in the corner with pink
floss, and upon the last and best, the one which had cost sixty-two and
a half cents, venturing to weave her own hair, which was long, and
glossy, and black, as Abigail's had been. Several times a week during
Richard's absence, she visited Mrs. Markham, inquiring always after "the
Judge," and making herself so agreeable and useful, too, in
clear-starching and doing up Mrs. Markham's caps, and in giving receipts
for sundry new and economical dishes, that the good woman herself
frequently doubted if Richard could do better than take the black-eyed
Melinda; and when he told her of Ethelyn Grant, she experienced a
feeling of disappointment and regret, doubting much if a Boston girl,
with Boston notions, would make her as happy as the plainer Melinda, who
knew all her ways. Something of this she said to her son, omitting, of
course, that part of her thoughts which referred to Melinda. With Mrs.
Jones, however, it was different. In her surprise and disappointment she
let fall some remarks which opened Richard's eyes a little, and made him
look at her half amused and half sorry, as, suspending her employment of
paring apples for the dinner pie she put the corner of her apron to her
eyes, and "hoped the new bride would not have many airs, and would put
up with his mother's ways.

"You," and here the apron and hand with the knife in it came down from
her eyes--"you'll excuse me, Richard, for speaking so plain, but you
seem like my own boy, and I can't help it. Your mother is the best and
cleverest woman in the world, but she has some peculiarities which a
Boston girl may not put up with, not being used to them as Melin--I
mean, as poor Abigail was."

It was the first time it had ever occurred to Richard that his mother
had peculiarities, and even now he did not know what they were. Taking
her all in all, she was as nearly perfect, he thought, as a woman well
could be, and on his way home from his interview with Mrs. Jones he
pondered in his mind what she could mean, and then wondered if for the
asking he could have taken Melinda Jones to the fireside where he was
going to install Ethelyn Grant. There was a comical smile about his
mouth as he thought how little either Melinda or Abigail would suit him
now; and then, by way of making amends for what seemed disrespect to the
dead, he went round to the sunken grave where Abigail had slept for so
many years, and stood again just where he had stood that day when he
fancied the light from his heart had gone out forever. But he could not
bring back the olden feeling, or wish that Abigail had lived.

"She is happy now--happier than I could have made her. It is better as
it is," he said, as he walked away to Daisy's grave, where his tears
dropped just as they always did when he stood by the sod which covered
the fairest, brightest, purest being he had ever known, except
his Ethie.

She was just as pure and gentle and good as blue-eyed Daisy had been,
and on the manly face turned so wistfully to the eastward there was a
world of love and tenderness for the Ethie who, alas, did not deserve it
then, and to whom a few weeks later he gave his mother's kindly message.
Then, remembering what Mrs. Jones had said, he felt in duty bound
to add:

"Mother has some peculiarities, I believe most old people have; but I
trust to your good sense to humor them as much as possible. She has had
her own way a long time, and though you will virtually be mistress of
the house, inasmuch as it belongs to me, it will be better for mother to
take the lead, as heretofore."

There was a curl on Ethelyn's lip as she received her first lesson with
regard to her behavior as daughter-in-law; but she made no reply, not
even to ask what the peculiarities were which she was to humor. She
really did not care what they were, as she fully intended having an
establishment of her own in the thriving prairie village, just half a
mile from her husband's home. She should probably spend a few weeks with
Mrs. Markham, senior, whom she fancied a tall, stately woman, wearing
heavy black silk dresses and thread lace caps on great occasions, and
having always on hand some fine lamb's-wool knitting work when she sat
in the parlor where Daisy's picture hung. Ethelyn could not tell why it
was that she always saw Richard's mother thus, unless it were what Mrs.
Captain Markham once said with regard to her Western sister-in-law,
sending to Boston for a black silk which cost three dollars per yard--a
great price for those days--and for two yards of handsome thread lace,
which she, the Mrs. Captain, had run all over the city to get, "John's
wife was so particular to have it just the pattern and width she
described in her letter."

This was Richard's mother as Ethelyn saw her, while the house on the
prairie, which she knew had been built within a few years, presented a
very respectable appearance to her mind's eye, being large, and
fashioned something after the new house across the Common, which had a
bay window at the side, and a kind of cupola on the roof. It would be
quite possible to spend a few weeks comfortably there, especially as she
would have the Washington gayeties in prospect, but in the spring, when,
after a winter of dissipation she returned to the prairies, she should
go to her own home, either in Olney or Camden; the latter, perhaps, as
Richard could as well live there as elsewhere. This was Ethelyn's plan,
but she kept it to herself, and changing the conversation from Richard's
mother and her peculiarities, she talked instead of the places they were
to visit--Quebec and Montreal, the seaside and the mountains, and lastly
that great Babel of fashion, Saratoga, for which place several of her
dresses had been expressly made.

Ethelyn had planned this trip herself, and Richard, though knowing how
awfully he should be bored before the summer was over, had assented to
all that she proposed, secretly hoping the while that the last days of
August would find him safe at home in Olney among his books, his horses,
and his farming pursuits. He was very tired that night, and he did not
tarry longer than ten, though a word from Ethelyn would have kept him
for hours at her side, so intoxicated was he with her beauty, and so
quiet and happy he felt with her; but the word was not spoken, and he
left her standing on the piazza, where he could see the gleaming of her
white robes when he looked back, as he more than once did ere reaching
his uncle's door.

The next three days passed rapidly, bringing at last the eventful one
for which all others were made, it seemed to him, as he looked out upon
the early, dewy morning, thinking how pleasant it was there in that
quiet New England town, and trying to fight back the unwelcome headache
which finally drove him back to his bed, from which he wrote the little
note to Ethelyn, who might think strange at his non-appearance when he
had been accustomed to go to her immediately after breakfast. He never
dreamed of the relief it was to her not to have him come, as he lay
flushed and heated upon his pillow, the veins upon his forehead
swelling with their pressure of hot blood, and his ear strained to catch
the first sound of the servant's returning step. Ethelyn would either
come herself to see him, or send some cheerful message, he was sure.
How, then, was he disappointed to find his own note returned, with the
assurance that "it did not matter, as he would only be in the way."

Several times he read it over, trying to extract some comfort from it,
and finding it at last in the fact that Ethelyn had a headache, too.
This was the reason for her seeming indifference; and in wishing himself
able to go to her, Richard forgot in part his own pain, and fell into a
quiet sleep, which did him untold good. It was three o'clock when at
last he rose, knowing pretty well all that had been doing during the
hours of his seclusion in the darkened room. The "Van Buren set" had
come, and he overheard Mrs. Markham's Esther saying to Aunt Barbara's
Betsy, when she came for the silver cake-basket, that "Mr. Frank seemed
in mighty fine spirits, considering all the flirtations he used to have
with Miss Ethelyn."

This was the first intimation Richard had received of a flirtation, and
even now it did not strike him unpleasantly. They were cousins, he
reflected, and as such had undoubtedly been very familiar with each
other. It was natural, and nothing for which he need care. He did not
care, either, as he deliberately began to make his wedding toilet,
thinking himself, when it was completed, that he was looking unusually
well in the entire new suit which his cousin, Mrs. Woodhull, had
insisted upon his getting in New York, when on his way home in April he
had gone that way and told her of his approaching marriage. It was a
splendid suit, made after the most approved style, and costing a sum
which he had kept secret from his mother, who, nevertheless, guessed
somewhere near the truth, and thought the Olney tailor would have suited
him quite as well at a quarter the price, or even Mrs. Jones, who,
having been a tailoress when a young girl in Vermont, still kept up her
profession to a limited extent, retaining her "press-board" and "goose,"
and the mammoth shears which had cut Richard's linen coat after a
Chicago pattern of not the most recent date Richard thought very little
about his personal appearance--too little, in fact--but he felt a glow
of satisfaction now as he contemplated himself in the glass, feeling
only that Ethelyn would be pleased to see him thus.

And Ethelyn was pleased. She had half expected the old coat of she did
not know how many years' make, and there was a fierce pang of pain in
her heart as she imagined Frank's cool criticisms, and saw, in fancy,
the contrast between the two men. So when Judge Markham alighted at the
gate, and from her window she took in at a glance his tout ensemble, the
revulsion of feeling was so great that the glad tears sprang to her
eyes, and a brighter, happier look broke over her face than had been
there for many weeks. She was not present when Frank was introduced to
him; but when next she met her cousin, he said to her, in his usual
off-hand way, "I say, Ethie, he is pretty well got up for a Westerner.
But for his eyes and teeth I should never have known him for the chap
who wore short pants and stove-pipe hat with the butternut-colored
crape. Who was he in mourning for anyway?"

It was too bad to be reminded of Abigail Jones, just as she was
beginning to feel more comfortable; but Ethelyn bore it very well, and
laughingly answered, "For his sweetheart, I dare say," her cheeks
flushing very red as Frank whispered slyly, "You are even, then, on
that score."

No man of any delicacy of feeling or true refinement would have made
this allusion to the past, with his first love within a few hours of her
bridal, and his own betrothed standing near. But Frank had neither
delicacy of feeling nor genuine refinement, and he even felt a secret
gratification in seeing the blood mount to Ethelyn's cheeks as he thus
referred to the past.



CHAPTER IV

THE BRIDAL

There was a great deal of sincere and tender interest in Richard's
manner when, in reply to his inquiries for Ethelyn's headache, Aunt
Barbara told him of the almost fainting fit in the morning and her
belief that Ethelyn was not as strong this summer as she used to be.

"The mountain air will do her good, I trust," casting wistful glances up
the stairs and toward the door of the chamber, where girlish voices were
heard, Nettie Hudson and Susie Granger chatting gayly and uttering
exclamations of delight as they arranged and adjusted Ethelyn's
bridal robes.

Once during the period of his judgeship Richard had attended a large and
fashionable bridal party, but when, on his return to Olney, Melinda
Jones questioned him with regard to the dresses of the bride and the
guests, he found himself utterly unable to give either fabric, fashion,
or even color, so little attention had he given to the subject. He never
noticed such things, he said, but he believed some of the dresses were
made of something flimsy, for he could see through them, and he knew
they were very long, for he had stepped on some half dozen. And this was
all the information the inquisitive Melinda could obtain. Dress was of
little consequence, he thought, so it was clean and whole.

This was his theory; but when, as the twilight deepened on the Chicopee
hills, and the lamps were lighted in Aunt Barbara's parlors, and old
Captain Markham began to wonder "why the plague the folks did not come,"
as he stalked up and down the piazza in all the pride and pomposity of
one who felt himself to all intents and purposes the village aristocrat,
and when the mysterious door of Ethie's room, which had been closed so
long, was opened, and the bridegroom told that he might go in, he
started in surprise at the beautiful tableau presented to his view as he
stepped across the threshold. As was natural, he fancied that never
before had he seen three young girls so perfectly beautiful as the three
before him--Ethie, and Susie, and Nettie.

As a matter of course, he gave the preference to Ethelyn, who was very,
very lovely in her bridal robes, with the orange wreath resting like a
coronet upon her marble brow. There were pearls upon her fair neck and
pearls upon her arms, the gift of Mrs. Dr. Van Buren, who had waited
till the very last, hoping the Judge would have forethought enough to
buy them himself. But the Judge had not. He knew something of diamonds,
for they had been Daisy's favorites; but pearls were novelties to him,
and Ethelyn's pale cheeks would have burned crimson had she known that
he was thinking "how becoming those white beads were to her."

Poor, ignorant Richard! He will know more by and by of what constitutes
a fashionable lady's toilet; but now he is in blissful ignorance of
minutiae, and sees only the tout ensemble, which he pronounces perfect.
He was half afraid of her, though, she seemed so cold, so passive, so
silent, and when in the same breath Susie Granger asks if he ever saw
anyone so lovely as Ethelyn and bids him kiss her quick, he starts and
hesitates, and finally kisses Susie instead. He might, perhaps, have
done the same with Ethelyn if she had not stepped backward to avoid it,
her long train sweeping across the hearth where that morning she had
knelt in such utter desolation, and where now was lying a bit of
blackened paper, which the housemaid's broom had not found when, early
in the day, the room was swept and dusted. So Ethelyn's white satin
brushed against the gossamer thing, which floated upward for a moment,
and then settled back upon the heavy, shining folds. It was Richard who
saw it first, and Richard's hand which brushed away the skeleton of
Frank's letter from the skirts of his bride, leaving a soiled, yellowish
stain, which Susie Granger loudly deplored, while Ethelyn only drew her
drapery around her, saying coldly, that "it did not matter in the least.
She would as soon have it there as not."

It was meet, she thought, that the purity of her bridal garments should
be tarnished; for was not her heart all stained, and black, and crisp
with cruel deception? That little incident, however, affected her
strangely, bringing back so vividly the scene on the ledge of rocks
beneath the New England laurels, where Frank had sat beside her and
poured words of boyish passion into her ear. There was for a moment a
pitiful look of anguish in her eyes as they went out into the summer
night toward the huckleberry hills, where lay that ledge of massy rock,
and then come back to the realities about her. Frank saw the look of
pain, and it awoke in his own breast an answering throb as he wondered
if, after all, Ethie would not have preferred that he were standing by
her instead of the grave Judge, fitting on his gloves with an
awkwardness which said that such articles were comparative strangers to
his large, red hands.

It was time now to go down. The guests had all arrived, the clergyman
was waiting, and Captain Markham had grown very red in the face with his
impatience, which his wife tried in vain to quiet. If at this last
moment there arose in Ethelyn's bosom any wild impulse to break away
from the dreadful scene, and rush out into the darkness which lay so
softly upon the hills, she put it aside, with the thought, "too late
now--forever too late"; and taking the arm which Richard offered her,
she went mechanically down the staircase into the large parlor where the
wedding guests were assembled. Surely, surely, she did not know what she
was doing, or realize the solemn words: "I charge and require you both,
as ye shall answer at the great day, when the secrets of all hearts
shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment why ye may
not be lawfully joined together in matrimony, ye do now confess it, for
be ye well assured," and so forth. She did not even hear them; for the
numb, dead feeling which crept over her, chilling her blood, and making
her hand, which Richard took in his while he fitted the wedding ring, so
cold and clammy to the touch, that Richard felt tempted to hold and
chafe it in his own warm, broad palms; but that was not in accordance
with the ceremony, and so he let it fall, wondering that Ethelyn could
be so cold when the sweat was standing in great drops upon his own face,
and moistening his wavy hair, which clustered in short, thick curls
around his brow, making him look so handsome, as more than one maiden
thought, envying Ethelyn her good fortune, and marveling at the pallor
of her lips and the rigidity of her form.

The ceremony was ended, and Ethelyn Grant was Mrs. Richard Markham; but
the new name brought no blushes to her cheek, nor yet the kiss her
husband gave her, nor the congratulations of the guests, nor Aunt
Barbara's tears, which dropped upon the forehead of her darling as the
good woman bent over her and thought how she had lost her; but when
Frank Van Buren stooped down to touch her lips the sluggish blood
quickened and a thrill went through and through her veins, sending the
bright color to her cheeks, which burned as with a hectic flush. Frank
saw the power he held, but to his credit he did not then exult; he only
felt that it was finished, that Ethie was gone past his recall; and for
the first time in his life he experienced a genuine pang of desolation,
such as he had never felt before, and he fought hard to master his
emotions while he watched the bride receiving the bridal guests. Another
than Frank was watching her, too--Mrs. Dr. Van Buren--who at one time
feared lest Ethelyn should faint, and who, as soon as an opportunity
offered, whispered to her niece, "Do, Ethie, put some animation in your
manner or people will think you an unwilling bride."

For a moment a gleam of anger flashed from the eyes which looked
unflinchingly into Mrs. Van Buren's, and the pale lips quivered with
passion. But Ethelyn had too much pride to admit of her letting the
people know what she was suffering, and so with great effort she rallied
her fainting spirits, and twice ere the evening was at a close her merry
laugh was heard even above Susie Granger's, as a knot of her gay
companions gathered round her with their merry jokes and gay repartees.

Susie Granger was in her happiest mood, and her lively spirits seemed to
pervade the whole party. Now that he knew her better, Richard was more
at ease with her, and returned her playful sallies until even Ethelyn
wondered to see him so funny. He never once forgot her, however, as was
evinced by the loving glances he bent upon her, and by his hovering
constantly at her side, as if afraid to lose her.

Once, when they were standing together and Frank was near to them,
Richard laid his hand upon Ethelyn's shoulder which the cut of the
wedding dress left bare. It was a very beautiful neck--white, and plump,
and soft--and Richard's hand pressed somewhat heavily; but with a shiver
Ethelyn drew herself away, and Frank, who was watching her, fancied he
saw the flesh creep backward from the touch. Perhaps it was a feeling of
pity, and perhaps it was a mean desire to test his own influence over
her, which prompted him carelessly to take her hand to inspect the
wedding-ring. It was only her hand, but as Frank held it in his own, he
felt it growing warm and flushed, while the color deepened on Ethelyn's
cheeks, and then died suddenly away at Frank's characteristic remark,
spoken for her ear alone, "You feel like thunder, Ethie, and so do I."

The speech did Ethelyn good. No matter how she felt, it was not Frank's
place to speak to her thus. She was now a wife, and she meant to be true
to her marriage vow, both in look and deed; so, with an impatient
gesture, she flung aside Frank's hand, repelling him fiercely with the
reply, "You are mistaken, sir--at least, so far as I am concerned."

After that she stayed more with Richard, and once, of her own accord,
she put her arm in his and stood half leaning against him with both
hands clasped together, while he held the bouquet which Mrs. Senator
Woodhull had sent by express from New York. It is true that Richard
smelled and breathed upon the flowers oftener than was desirable; and
once Ethelyn saw him extracting leaves from the very choicest blossoms;
but on the whole he did very well, considering that it was the first
time he had ever held a lady's bouquet in such an expensive holder.

As Ethelyn had predicted, the evening was hot and sultry; but the bugs
and beetles and millers she had dreaded did not come in to annoy her,
and when, as the clock struck twelve, the company dispersed, they were
sincere in their assertions of having passed a delightful evening, and
many were the good wishes expressed for Mrs. Judge Markham's happiness
as the guests took their way to their respective homes.

An hour later and the lights had disappeared from Miss Barbara Bigelow's
windows, and the summer stars looked down upon the quiet house where
that strange bridal had been.



CHAPTER V

THE HONEYMOON

From Mrs. Senator Woodhull's elegant house--where Mrs. Judge Markham had
been petted, and flattered, and caressed, and Mr. Judge Markham had been
adroitly tutored and trained without the least effect--the newly wedded
pair went on to Quebec and Montreal, and thence to the White Mountains,
where Ethelyn's handsome traveling dress was ruined and Richard's linen
coat, so obnoxious to his bride, was torn past repair and laid away in
one of Ethelyn's trunks, with the remark that "Mother could mend it for
Andy, who always took his brother's cast-off clothes." The hair trunk
had been left in Chicopee, and so Ethelyn had not that to vex her.

Noticed everywhere, and admired by all whom she met, the first part of
her wedding trip was not as irksome as she had feared it might be.
Pleased, as a boy, with his young bride, Richard was all attention, and
Ethelyn had only to express a wish to have it gratified, so that casual
lookers-on would have pronounced her supremely happy. And Ethelyn's
heart did not ache one-half so hard as on that terrible day of her
bridal. In the railway car, on the crowded steamboat, or at the large
hotels, where all were entire strangers, she forgot to watch and
criticise her husband, and if any dereliction from etiquette did occur,
he yielded so readily to her suggestion that to him seemed an easy task.
The habits of years, however, are not so easily broken, and by the time
Saratoga was reached, Richard's patience began to give way beneath
Ethelyn's multifarious exactions and the ennui consequent upon his
traveling about so long. Still he did pretty well for him, growing very
red in the face with his efforts to draw on gloves a size too small, and
feeling excessively hot and uncomfortable in his coat, which he wore
even in the retirement of his own room, where he desired so much to
indulge in the cool luxury of shirt-sleeves--a suggestion which Ethelyn
heard with horror, openly exclaiming against the glaring vulgarity, and
asking, a little contemptuously, if that were the way he had been
accustomed to do at home.

"Why, yes," he answered. "Out West upon the prairies we go in for
comfort, and don't mind so small a matter as shirt-sleeves on a
sweltering August day."

"Please do not use such expressions as sweltering and go in--they do not
sound well," Ethelyn rejoined. "And now I think of it, I wish you would
talk more to the ladies in the parlor. You hardly spoke to Mrs. Cameron
last evening, and she directed most of her conversation to you, too. I
was afraid she would either think that you were rude, or else that you
did not know what to say."

"She hit it right, if she came to the latter conclusion," Richard said,
good-humoredly, "for the fact is, Ethie, I don't know what to say to
such women as she. I am not a ladies' man, and it's no use trying to
make me over. You can't teach old dogs new tricks."

Ethie fairly groaned as she clasped her bracelets upon her arms and
shook down the folds of her blue silk; then after a moment she
continued: "You can talk to me, and why not to others?"

"You are my wife, Ethie, and I love you, which makes a heap of
difference," Richard said, and winding his arms around Ethie's waist he
drew her face toward his own and kissed it affectionately.

They had been three days at Saratoga when this little scene occurred
and their room was one of those miserable little apartments in the
Ainsworth block which look out upon nothing but a patch of weeds and the
rear of a church. Ethelyn did not like it at all, and liked it the less
because she felt that to some extent her husband was to blame. He ought
to have written and engaged rooms beforehand--Aunt Van Buren always did,
and Mrs. Col. Tophevie, and everybody who understood the ins and outs of
fashionable life. But Richard did not understand them. He believed in
taking what was offered to him without making a fuss, he said. He had
never been to Saratoga before, and he secretly hoped he should never
come again, for he did not enjoy those close, hot rooms and worm-eaten
furniture any better than Ethelyn did, but he accepted it with a better
grace, saying, when he first entered it, that "he could put up with
'most anything, though to be sure it was hotter than an oven."

His mode of expressing himself had never suited Ethelyn. Particular, and
even elegant in her choice of language, it grated upon her sensitive
ear, and forgetting that she had all her life heard similar expressions
in Chicopee, she charged it to the West, and Iowa was blamed for the
faults of her son more than she deserved. At Saratoga, where they met
many of her acquaintances, all of whom were anxious to see the
fastidious Ethelyn's husband, it seemed to her that he was more remiss
than ever in those little things which make up the finished gentleman,
while his peculiar expressions sometimes made every nerve quiver with
pain. The consequence of this was that Ethelyn became a very little
cross, as Richard thought, though she had never so openly attacked him
as on that day, the third after their arrival, when to her horror he
took off his coat, preparatory to a little comfort, while she was
dressing for dinner. At Ethelyn's request, however, he put it on again,
saying as he did so, that he was "sweating like a butcher," which remark
called out his wife's contemptuous inquiries concerning his habits at
home. Richard was still too much in love with his young wife to feel
very greatly irritated. In word and deed she had done her duty toward
him thus far, and he had nothing to complain of. It is true she was very
quiet and passive, and undemonstrative, never giving him back any caress
as he had seen wives do. But then he was not very demonstrative himself,
and so he excused it the more readily in her, and loved her all the
same. It amused him that a girl of twenty should presume to criticise
him, a man of thirty-two, a Judge, and a member of Congress, to whom the
Olney people paid such deference, and he bore with her at first just as
a mother would bear with the little child which assumed a
superiority over her.

This afternoon, however, when she said so much to him, he was conscious
of a very little irritation, for he was naturally high-spirited. But he
put the feeling down, and gayly kissed his six-weeks bride, who, touched
with his forbearance, kissed him back again, and suffered him to hold
her cool face a moment between his hot, moist hands, while he bent
over her.

She did respect him in spite of his vulgarism; nor was she unconscious
of the position which, as his wife, she held. It was very pleasant to
hear people say of her when she passed by:

"That is Mrs. Judge Markham, of Iowa--her husband is a member of
Congress."

Very pleasant, too, to meet with his friends, other M. C.'s, who paid
her deference on his account. Had they stayed away from Saratoga all
might have been well; but alas, they were there, and so was all of
Ethelyn's world--the Tophevies, the Hales, the Hungerfords and Van
Burens, with Nettie Hudson, opening her great blue eyes at Richard's
mistakes and asking Frank in Ethelyn's hearing, "if that Judge Markham's
manners were not a little outré."

They certainly were outré, there was no denying it, and Ethelyn's blood
tingled to her finger tips as she wondered if it would always be so. It
is a pitiable thing for a wife to blush for her husband, to watch
constantly lest he depart from those little points of etiquette which
women catch intuitively, but which some of our most learned men fail to
learn in a lifetime. And here they greatly err, for no man, however well
versed he may be in science and literature, is well educated, or well
balanced, or excusable, if he neglects the little things which good
breeding and common politeness require of him, and Richard was somewhat
to be blamed. It did not follow because his faults had never been
pointed out to him that they did not exist, or that others did not
observe them besides his wife. Ethelyn, to be sure, was more deeply
interested than anyone else, and felt his mistakes more keenly, while at
the same time she was over-fastidious, and had not the happiest faculty
for correcting him. She did not love him well enough to be very careful
of wounding him, but the patience and good humor with which he received
her reprimand that hot August afternoon, when the thermometer was one
hundred in the shade, and any man would have been excusable for
retorting upon his wife who lectured him, awoke a throb of something
nearer akin to love than anything she had felt since the night when she
stood upon the sandy beach and heard the story of Daisy.

Richard was going to do better. He would wear his coat all the time,
both day and night, if Ethelyn said so, He would not lean his elbow on
the table while waiting for dessert, as he had more than once been
guilty of doing; he would not help himself to a dish before passing it
to the ladies near him; he would talk to Mrs. Cameron in the evening,
and would try not to be so absorbed in his own thoughts as to pay no
attention when Mrs. Tophevie was addressing herself directly to him; he
would laugh in the right place, and, when spoken to, would answer in
something besides monosyllables; he would try to keep his hands out of
his pockets and his handkerchief out of his hand, or at least he would
not "snap it," as Ethie said he had done on the first evening of his
arrival at Saratoga. In short, he promised a complete reformation, even
saying that if Ethelyn would select some person who was an fait in those
matters in which he was so remiss, he would watch and copy that man to
the letter. Would she name someone? And Ethelyn named her cousin Frank,
while Richard felt a flush of something like resentment that he should
be required to imitate a person whom in his secret heart he despised as
dandyish, and weak, and silly, and "namby-pamby," as he would probably
have expressed it if he had not forsworn slang phrases of every kind.
But Richard had pledged his word, and meant to keep it; and so it was to
all appearances a very happy and loving couple which, when the dinner
gong sounded, walked into the dining room with Mrs. Dr. Van Buren's set,
Ethelyn's handsome blue silk sweeping far behind her, and her white bare
arm just touching the coat-sleeve of her husband, who was not insensible
to the impression made by the beautiful woman at his side.

There were no lectures that night, for Richard had done his best,
talking at least twenty times with both Mrs. Cameron and Mrs. Colonel
Tophevie, whom he found more agreeable than he had supposed. Then he had
held Ethelyn's white cloak upon his arm, and stood patiently against the
wall, while up at the United States she danced set after set--first, the
Lancers, with young Lieutenant Gray, then a polka with John Tophevie,
and lastly, a waltz with Frank Van Buren, who whirled his fair partner
about the room with a velocity which made Richard dizzy and awoke sundry
thoughts not wholly complimentary to that doubtful dance, the waltz.
Richard did not dance himself, at least not latterly. In his younger
days, when he and Abigail Jones attended the quilting-frolics together
and the "paring bees," he had with other young men, tried his feet at
Scotch reels, French fours, "The Cheat," and the "Twin Sisters," with
occasionally a cotillion, but he was not accomplished in the art. Even
the Olney girls called him awkward, preferring almost anyone else for a
partner, and so he abandoned the floor and cultivated his head rather
than his heels. He liked to see dancing, and at first it was rather
pleasant watching Ethelyn's lithe figure gliding gracefully through the
intricate movements of the Lancers; but when it came to the waltz, he
was not so sure about it, and he wondered if it were necessary for Frank
Van Buren to clasp her as tightly about the waist as he did, or for her
to lean so languidly upon his shoulder.

Richard was not naturally jealous--certainly not of Frank Van Buren; but
he would rather his wife should not waltz with him or any other man, and
so he said to her, asking this concession on her part in return for all
he had promised to attempt; and to Ethelyn's credit we record that she
yielded to her husband's wishes, and, greatly to Frank's surprise,
declined the waltz which he had proposed the following evening. But she
made amends in other dances, keeping poor Richard waiting for her night
after night, until he actually fell asleep and dreamed of the log cabin
on the prairie, where he had once danced a quadrille with Abigail Jones
to the tune of Money-musk, as played by the Plympton brothers--the one
on a cracked violin, and the other on an accordion.

A tap of Mrs. Tophevie's fan brought him back to consciousness, and he
was almost guilty of a sigh as the log cabin faded from his vision, with
the Plymptons and Abigail Jones, leaving instead that heated ballroom,
with its trained orchestra, its bevy of fair young girls, its score of
white-kidded dandies with wasp-like waists and perfumed locks, and Ethie
smiling in their midst.

Saratoga did not agree with Richard. He grew sick first of the water;
then of the fare; then of the daily routine of fashionable follies; then
of the people; and then, oh! so sick of the petty lectures which Ethelyn
gradually resumed as he failed in his attempts to imitate Frank Van
Buren and appear perfectly at ease in everybody's presence. Saratoga was
a "confounded bore," he said, and though he called himself a brute, and
a savage, and a heathen, he was only very glad when toward the last of
August Ethelyn became so seriously indisposed as to make a longer stay
in Saratoga impossible. Newport, of course, was given up, and Ethelyn's
desire was to go back to Chicopee and lie down again in the dear old
room which had been hers from childhood. Aunt Barbara's toast, Aunt
Barbara's tea, and Aunt Barbara's nursing, would soon bring her all
right again, she said; but in this she was mistaken, for although the
toast, and the tea, and the nursing each came in its turn, the September
flowers had faded, and the trees on the Chicopee hills were beginning to
flaunt their bright October robes ere she recovered from the low,
nervous fever, induced by the mental and bodily excitement through which
she had passed during the last three or four months.

Although he knew it was necessary that he should be at home if he would
transact any business before the opening of his next session in
Washington, Richard put aside all thoughts of self, and nursed his wife
with a devotedness which awakened her liveliest gratitude.

Richard was not awkward in the sick-room. It seemed to be his special
providence, and as he had once nursed and cared for Daisy and the baby
brother who died, so he now cared for Ethelyn, until she began to miss
him when he left her side, and to listen for his returning step when he
went out for an hour or so to smoke and talk politics with his uncle,
Captain Markham. With Mrs. Dr. Van Buren and Frank and the fashionable
world all away, Richard's faults were not so perceptible, and Ethelyn
even began to look forward with considerable interest to the time when
she should be able to start for her Western home, about which she had
built many delusive castles. Her piano had already been sent on in
advance, she saying to Susie Granger, who came in while it was being
boxed, that as they were not to keep house till spring she should not
take furniture now. Possibly they could find what they needed in
Chicago; if not, they could order from Boston.

Richard, who overheard this remark, wondered what it meant, for he had
not the most remote idea of separating himself from his mother. She was
very essential to his happiness; and he was hardly willing to confess to
himself how much during the last summer he had missed her. She had a way
of petting him and deferring to his judgment and making him feel that
Richard Markham was a very nice kind of man, far different from
Ethelyn's criticisms, which had sometimes led him seriously to inquire
whether he were a fool or not. No, he could not live apart from his
mother--he was firm upon that point; but there was time enough to say so
when the subject should be broached to him. So he went on nailing down
the cover to the pine box, and thinking as he nailed what a nice kitchen
cupboard the box would make when once it was safely landed at his home
in the prairie, and wondering, too, how his mother--who was not very
fond of music--would bear the sound of the piano and if Ethie would be
willing for Melinda Jones to practice upon it. He knew Melinda had taken
lessons at Camden, where she had been to school, and he had heard her
express a wish that someone nearer than the village had an instrument,
as she should soon forget all she had learned. Somehow Melinda was a
good deal in Richard's mind, and when a button was missing from his
shirts, or his toes came through his socks--as was often the case at
Saratoga--he found himself thinking of the way Melinda had of helping
"fix his things" when he was going from home, and of hearing his mother
say what a handy girl she was, and what a thrifty, careful wife she
would make. He meant nothing derogatory to Ethelyn in these
reminiscences; he would not have exchanged her for a thousand Melindas,
even if he had to pin his shirt bosoms together and go barefoot all his
life. But Melinda kept recurring to his mind much as if she had been his
sister, and he thought it would be but a simple act of gratitude for all
she had done for him to give her the use of the piano for at least one
hour each day.

In blissful ignorance of all that was meditated against her, Ethelyn saw
her piano taken away from the sitting room, where it would never stand
again, and saw the tears which rolled down Aunt Barbara's faded cheeks
as she, too, watched its going, and tried to fill up the vacancy it left
by moving a chair and a table and a footstool into the gap. Those were
hard days for Aunt Barbara, harder than for Ethelyn, who liked the
excitement of traveling, and was almost glad when the crisp October
morning came on which she was to say good-by to the home which was hers
no longer. Her two huge trunks stood in the hall, together with the
square hair trunk which held Richard's wardrobe, and the three tin cans
of peaches Mrs. Captain Markham was sending to her sister-in-law, with
the injunction to be sure and get that particular patent for cans if she
wished her fruit to keep. In addition to these, an immense box had been
forwarded by express, containing, besides Ethelyn's wearing apparel,
many little ornaments and pictures and brackets, which, during the
winter, might perhaps adorn the walls of the parlor where Daisy's
picture hung, and where, Richard had said, was also an oil-painting of
Niagara, omitting to add that it was the handiwork of Melinda Jones,
that young lady having dabbled in paints as well as music during her two
terms schooling at Camden. Tucked away in various parts of the box were
also sundry presents, which, at Mrs. Dr. Van Buren's suggestion, Ethelyn
had bought for her husband's family. For James, who, she had heard
Richard say, was an inveterate smoker, there was a handsome velvet
smoking-cap which, having been bought at Saratoga, had cost an enormous
sum; for John, an expensive pair of elaborately wrought slippers had
been selected; but when it came to Anderson, as Ethelyn persisted in
calling the brother whom Richard always spoke of as Andy, she felt a
little perplexed as to what would be appropriate. Richard had talked
very little of him--so little, in fact, that she knew nothing whatever
of his tastes, except from the scrap of conversation she once
accidentally overheard when the old captain was talking to Richard of
his brothers.

"Does Andy like busts as well as ever?" the captain had asked, but
Richard's reply was lost as Ethelyn walked on.

Still, she had heard enough to give her some inkling with regard to the
mysterious Andy. Probably he was more refined than either James or
John--at all events, he was evidently fond of statuary, and his tastes
should be gratified. Accordingly, Boston was ransacked by Mrs. Dr. Van
Buren for an exquisite head of Schiller, done in marble, and costing
thirty dollars. Richard did not see it. The presents were a secret from
him, all except the handsome point-lace coiffure which Aunt Barbara
sent to Mrs. Markham, together with a letter which she had sat up till
midnight to write, and in which she had touchingly commended her darling
to the new mother's care and consideration.

"You will find my Ethie in some respects a spoiled child--[she wrote]
but it is more my fault than hers. I have loved her so much, and petted
her so much, that I have doubt if she knows what a harsh word or cross
look means. She has been carefully and delicately brought up, but has
repaid me well for all my pains by her tender love. Please, dear Mrs.
Markham, be very, very kind to her, and you will greatly oblige, your
most obedient servant,

"BARBARA BIGELOW.

"P.S. I dare say your ways out West are not exactly like our ways at the
East, and Ethie may not fall in with them at once, perhaps never with
some of them, but I am sure she will do what is right, as she is a
sensible girl. Again, yours with regret, B.B."

The writing of this letter was not perhaps the wisest thing Aunt Barbara
could have done, but she was incited to it by what her sister Sophia
told her of the rumors concerning Mrs. Markham, and her own fears lest
Ethelyn should not be as comfortable with the new mother-in-law as was
wholly desirable. To Richard himself she had said that she presumed that
his mother's ways were not like Ethie's--old people were different from
young ones--the world had improved since their day, and instead of
trying to bring young folks altogether to their modes of thinking, it
was well for both to yield something. That was the third time Richard
had heard his mother's ways alluded to; first by Mrs. Jones, who called
them queer; second, by Mrs. Dr. Van Buren, who, for Ethie's sake had
also dropped a word of caution, hinting that his mother's ways might
possibly be a little peculiar; and lastly by good Aunt Barbara, who
signalized them as different from Ethelyn's.

What did it mean, and why had he never discovered anything amiss in his
mother? He trusted that Mrs. Jones, and Mrs. Van Buren, and Aunt Barbara
were mistaken. On the whole, he knew they were; and even if they were
not his mother could not do wrong to Ethie, while Ethie would, of
course, be willing to conform to any request made by a person so much
older than herself as his mother was. So Richard dismissed that subject
from his mind, and Ethelyn--having never heard it agitated, except that
time when, with Mrs. Jones on his mind, Richard had thought proper to
suggest the propriety of her humoring his mother--felt no fears of Mrs.
Markham, senior, whom she still associated in her mind with heavy black
silk, gold-bowed spectacles, handsome lace and fleecy crochet-work.

The October morning was clear and crisp and frosty, and the sun had not
yet shown itself above the eastern hills, when Captain Markham's
carryall drove to Aunt Barbara's gate, followed by the long
democratic-wagon which was to take the baggage. Ethelyn's spoiled
traveling dress had been replaced by a handsome poplin, which was made
in the extreme of fashion, and fitted her admirably, as did every
portion of her dress, from her jaunty hat and dotted lace veil to the
Alexandre kids and fancy little gaiters which encased her feet and
hands. She was prettier even than on her bridal day, Richard thought, as
he kissed away the tears which dropped so fast even after the last
good-by had been said to poor Aunt Barbara, who watched the flutter of
Ethie's veil and ribbons as far as they could be seen, and then in the
secrecy of her own room knelt and prayed that God would bless and keep
her darling, and make her happy in the new home to which she was going.

It was very quiet and lonely in the Bigelow house that day, Aunt Barbara
walking softly and speaking slowly, as if the form of someone dead had
been borne from her side, while on the bed, which the housemaid Betty
had made so plump and round there was a cavity made by Aunt Barbara's
head, which hid itself there many times as the good woman went
repeatedly to God with the pain gnawing so at her heart. But in the
evening, when a cheerful wood fire was kindled on the hearth of her
pleasant sitting room, while Mrs. Captain Markham came in with her
knitting work, to sit until the Captain called for her on his return
from the meeting where he was to oppose with all his might the building
of a new schoolhouse, to pay for which he would be heavily taxed, she
felt better, and could talk composedly of the travelers, who by that
time were nearing Rochester, where they would spend the night.

Although very anxious to reach home, Richard had promised that Ethelyn
should only travel through the day, as she was not as strong as before
her illness. And to this promise he adhered, so that it was near the
middle of the afternoon of the fifth day that the last change was made,
and they took the train that would in two hours' time deposit them at
Olney. At Camden, the county seat, they waited for a few moments. There
was always a crowd of people here going out to different parts of the
country, and as one after another came into the car Richard seemed to
know them all, while the cordial and rather noisy greeting which they
gave "the Judge" struck Ethelyn a little oddly--it was so different from
the quiet, undemonstrative manner to which she had been accustomed. With
at least a dozen men in shaggy overcoats and slouched hats she shook
hands with a tolerably good grace, but when there appeared a tall, lank,
bearded young giant of a fellow, with a dare-devil expression in his
black eyes and a stain of tobacco about his mouth, she drew back, and to
his hearty "How are ye, Miss Markham? Considerable tuckered out, I
reckon?" she merely responded with a cool bow and a haughty stare,
intended to put down the young man, whom Richard introduced as "Tim
Jones," and who, taking a seat directly in front of her, poured forth a
volley of conversation, calling Richard sometimes "Dick," sometimes
"Markham," but oftener "Squire," as he had learned to do when Richard
was justice of the peace in Olney. Melinda, too, or "Melind," was
mentioned as having been over to the "Squire's house helping the old
lady to fix up a little," and then Ethelyn knew that the "savage" was
no other than brother to Abigail Jones, deceased. The discovery was not
a pleasant one, and did not tend to smooth her ruffled spirits or lessen
the feeling of contempt for Western people in general, and Richard's
friends in particular, which had been growing in her heart ever since
the Eastern world was left behind and she had been fairly launched upon
the great prairies of the Mississippi Valley. Richard was a prince
compared with the specimens she had seen, though she did wonder that he
should be so familiar with them, calling them by their first names, and
even bandying jokes with the terrible Tim Jones spitting his tobacco
juice all over the car floor and laughing so loudly at all the "Squire"
said. It was almost too dreadful to endure, and Ethelyn's head was
beginning to ache frightfully when the long train came to a pause, and
the conductor, who also knew Judge Markham, and called him "Dick,"
screamed through the open door "O-l-ney!"

Ethelyn was at home at last.



CHAPTER VI

MRS. MARKHAM'S WAYS

They were very peculiar, and no one knew this better than Mrs. Jones and
her daughter Melinda, sister and mother to the deceased Abigail and the
redoubtable Tim. Naturally bright and quick-witted, Melinda caught
readily at any new improvement, and the consequence was that the Jones
house bore unmistakable signs of having in it a grown-up daughter whose
new ideas of things kept the old ideas from rusting. After Melinda came
home from boarding-school the Joneses did not set the table in the
kitchen close to the hissing cook stove, but in the pleasant dining
room, where there gradually came to be crocheted tidies on the backs of
the rocking-chairs, and crayon sketches on the wall, and a pot of
geraniums in the window, with a canary bird singing in his cage near by.
At first, Mrs. Markham, who felt a greater interest in the Joneses than
in any other family--Mrs. Jones being the only woman in the circle of
her acquaintance to whom she would lend her copper boiler--looked a
little askance at these "new-fangled notions," wondering how "Miss Jones
expected to keep the flies out of her house if she had all the doors
a-flyin' three times a day," and fearing lest Melinda was getting
"stuck-up notions in her head, which would make her fit for nothing."

But when she found there were no more flies buzzing in Farmer Jones'
kitchen than in her own, and that Melinda worked as much as ever, and
was just as willing to lend a helping hand when there was need of haste
at the Markham house, her anxiety subsided, and the Joneses were welcome
to eat wherever they chose, or even to have to wait upon the table, when
there was company, the little black boy Pete, whom Tim had bought at a
slave auction in New Orleans, whither he had gone on a flatboat
expedition two or three years before. But she never thought of
introducing any of Melinda's notions into her own household. She "could
not fuss" to keep so many rooms clean. If in winter time she kept a fire
in the front room, where in one corner her own bed was curtained off,
and if in summer she always sat there when her work was done, it was all
that could be required of her, and was just as they used to do at her
father's, in Vermont, thirty years ago. Her kitchen was larger than Mrs.
Jones', which was rather uncomfortable on a hot day when there was
washing to be done; the odor of the soap-suds was a little sickening
then, she admitted, but in her kitchen it was different; she had had an
eye to comfort when they were building, and had seen that the kitchen
was the largest, airiest, lightest room in the house, with four windows,
two outside doors, and a fireplace, where, although they had a stove,
she dearly loved to cook just as her mother had done in Vermont, and
where hung an old-fashioned crane, with iron hooks suspended from it.
Here she washed, and ironed, and ate, and performed her ablutions in the
bright tin basin which stood in the sink near to the pail, with the
gourd swinging in the top, and wiped her face on the rolling towel and
combed her hair before the clock, which served the double purpose of
looking-glass and timepiece. When company came--and Mrs. Markham was not
inhospitable--the east room, where the bed stood, was opened; and if the
company, as was sometimes the case, chanced to be Richard's friends, she
used the west room across the hall, where the chocolate-colored paper
and Daisy's picture hung, and where, upon the high mantel, there was a
plaster image of little Samuel, and two plaster vases filled with
colored fruit. The carpet was a very pretty Brussels, but it did not
quite cover the floor on either side. It was a small pattern, and on
this account had been offered a shilling cheaper a yard, and so the
economical Mrs. Markham had bought it, intending to eke out the
deficiency with drugget of a corresponding shade; but the merchant did
not bring the drugget, and the carpet was put down, and time went on,
and the strips of painted board were still uncovered, save by the
straight row of haircloth chairs, which stood upon one side, and the
old-fashioned sofa, which had cost fifty dollars, and ought to last at
least as many years. There was a Boston rocker, and a center table, with
the family Bible on it, and a volume of Scott's Commentaries, and
frosted candlesticks on the mantel and two sperm candles in them, with
colored paper, pink and green, all fancifully notched and put around
them, and a bureau in the corner, which held the boys' Sunday shirts and
Mrs. Markham's black silk dress, with Daisy's clothes in the bottom
drawer, and the silver plate taken from her coffin. There was a
gilt-framed looking-glass on the wall, and blue paper curtains at the
windows, which were further ornamented with muslin drapery. This was the
great room--the parlor--where Daisy had died, and which, on that
account, was a kind of sacred place to those who held the memory of that
sweet, little prairie blossom as the dearest memory of their lives. Had
she lived, with her naturally refined tastes, and her nicety of
perceptions, there was no guessing what that farmhouse might have been,
for a young girl makes a deal of difference in any family. But she died,
and so the house, which when she died, was not quite finished, remained
much as it was--a large, square building, minus blinds, with a wide
hall in the center opening in front upon a broad piazza, and opening
back upon a stoop, the side entrance to the kitchen. There was a picket
fence in front; but the yard was bare of ornament, if we except the
lilac bushes under the parlor windows, the red peony in the corner, and
the clumps of violets and daisies, which grew in what was intended for
borders to the walk, from the front gate to the door. Sometimes the
summer showed here a growth of marigolds, with sweet peas and china
asters, for Andy was fond of flowers, and when he had leisure he did a
little floral gardening; but this year, owing to Richard's absence,
there had been more to do on the farm, consequently the ornamental had
been neglected, and the late autumn flowers which, in honor of Ethelyn's
arrival, were standing in vases on the center table and the mantel, were
contributed by Melinda Jones, who had been very busy in other portions
of the house working for the bride.

She could do this now without a single pang of jealousy, for she was a
sensible girl, and after a night and a day of heaviness, and a vague
sense of disappointment, she had sung as merrily as ever, and no one was
more interested in the arrival of Richard's bride than she, from the
time when Richard started eastward for her. Between herself and her
mother there had been a long, confidential conversation, touching Mrs.
Markham's ways and the best means of circumventing them, so that the new
wife might not be utterly crushed with homesickness and surprise when
she first arrived. No one could manage Mrs. Markham as well as Melinda,
and it was owing to her influence wholly that the large, pleasant
chamber, which had been Richard's ever since he became a growing man,
was renovated and improved until it presented a very inviting
appearance. The rag carpet which for years had done duty, and bore many
traces of Richard's muddy boots, had been exchanged for a new
ingrain--not very pretty in design, or very stylish either, but
possessing the merit of being fresh and clean. To get the carpet Melinda
had labored assiduously, and had enlisted all three of the brothers,
James, and John, and Andy in the cause before the economical mother
consented to the purchase. The rag carpet, if cleaned and mended, was as
good as ever, she insisted; and even if it were not, she could put on
one that had not seen so much actual service. It was Andy who finally
decided her to indulge in the extravagance urged by Melinda Jones. There
were reasons why Andy was very near to his mother's heart, and when he
offered to sell his brown pony, which he loved as he did his eyes, his
mother yielded the point, and taking with her both Mrs. Jones and
Melinda, went to Camden, and sat two mortal hours upon rolls of
carpeting while she decided which to take.

Mrs. Markham was not stingy with regard to her table; that was always
loaded with the choicest of everything, while many a poor family blessed
her as an angel. But the articles she ate were mostly the products of
their large, well-cultivated farm; they did not cost money directly out
of her hand, and it was the money she disliked parting with, so she
talked and dickered, and beat the Camden merchant down five cents on a
yard, and made him cut it a little short, to save a waste, and made him
throw in the thread and binding and swear when she was gone, wondering
who "the stingy old woman was." And yet the very day after her return
from Camden "the stingy old woman" had sent to her minister a loaf of
bread and a pail of butter, and to a poor sick woman, who lived in a
leaky cabin off in the prairie, a nice, warm blanket for her bed, with a
basket of delicacies to tempt her capricious appetite.

In due time the carpet had been made, Melinda Jones sewing up three of
the seams, while Andy, who knew how to use the needle almost as well as
a girl, claimed the privilege of sewing at least half a seam on the new
sister's carpet. Adjoining Richard's chamber was a little room where
Mrs. Markham's flour and meal and corn were kept, but which, with a
little fitting up, would answer nicely for a bedroom, and after an
amount of engineering, which would have done credit to the general of an
army, Melinda succeeded in coaxing Mrs. Markham to move her barrels and
bags, and give up the room for Ethelyn's bed, which looked very nice and
inviting, notwithstanding that the pillows were small, and the bedstead
a high poster, which had been in use for twenty years. Mrs. Markham knew
all about the boxes, as she called them. There was one in Mrs. Jones'
front chamber, but she had never bought one, for what then would she do
with her old ones--"with them laced cords," so greatly preferable to the
hard slats, which nearly broke her back the night she slept on some at a
friend's house in Olney.

Richard was fond of books, and had collected from time to time a
well-selected library, which was the only ornament in his room when
Melinda first took it in hand; but when she had finished her work--when
the carpet was down, and the neat, white shades were up at the windows;
when the books which used to be on the floor and table, and chairs, and
mantel, and window sills, and anywhere, were neatly arranged in the very
respectable shelves which Andy made and James had painted; when the
little sewing chair designed for Ethelyn was put before one window, and
Richard's arm-chair before the other, and the drab lounge was drawn a
little into the room, and the bureau stood corner-ways, with a bottle of
cologne upon it, which John had bought, and a pot of pomade Andy had
made, and two little pink and white mats Melinda had crocheted, the room
was very presentable. Great, womanish Andy was sure Ethelyn would be
pleased, and rubbed his hands jubilantly over the result of his labors,
while Melinda was certainly pardonable for feeling that in return for
what she had done for Richard's wife she might venture to suggest that
the huge box, marked piano, which for ten days had been standing on the
front piazza, be opened and the piano set up, so that she could try its
tone. This box had cost Andy a world of trouble, keeping him awake
nights, and taking him from his bed more than once, as he fancied he
heard a mysterious sound, and feared someone might be stealing the
ponderous thing, which it took four men to lift. With the utmost
alacrity he helped in the unpacking, nearly bursting a blood-vessel as
he tugged at the heaviest end, and then running to the village with all
his speed, to borrow Mrs. Crandall's piano key, which, fortunately,
fitted Ethelyn's, so that Melinda Jones was soon seated in state, and
running her fingers over the superb five-hundred dollar instrument,
Ethelyn's gift from Aunt Barbara on her nineteenth birthday.

Melinda's fingers were strained and cut with carpet thread, and pricked
with carpet tacks, and red with washing dishes, but they moved nimbly
over the keys, striking out with a will the few tunes she had learned
during her two quarters' instruction. She had acquired a great deal of
knowledge in a short time, for she was passionately fond of music, and
every spare moment had been devoted to it, so that she had mastered the
scales with innumerable exercises, besides learning several pieces, of
which Money-musk was one. This she now played with a sprightliness and
energy which brought Andy to his feet, while the cowhides moved to the
stirring music in a fashion which would have utterly confounded poor
Ethelyn could she have seen them. But Ethelyn was miles and miles away.
She was not coming for a week or more, and in that time Andy tried his
hand at Yankee Doodle, playing with one finger, and succeeding far
beyond his most sanguine expectations. Andy was delighted with the
piano, and so was Eunice, the hired girl, who left her ironing and her
dishes, standing with wiping towel or flatiron in hand, humming an
accompaniment to Andy's playing, and sometimes helping to find the
proper key to touch next.

Eunice was not an Irish girl, nor a German, nor a Scotch, but a
full-blooded American, and "just as good as her employers," with whom
she always ate and sat. It was not Mrs. Markham's custom to keep a girl
the year round, but when she did it was Eunice Plympton, the daughter of
the drunken fiddler who earned his livelihood by playing for the dances
the young people of Olney sometimes got up. He was anticipating quite a
windfall from the infair it was confidently expected would be given by
Mrs. Markham in honor of her son's marriage; and Eunice herself had
washed and starched and ironed the white waist she intended to wear on
the same occasion. Of course she knew she would have to wait and tend
and do the running, she said to Melinda, to whom she confided her
thoughts, but after the supper was over she surely might have one little
dance, if with nobody but Andy.

This was Eunice, and she had been with Mrs. Markham during the past
summer; but her time was drawing to a close. All the heavy work was
over, the harvests were gathered in, the soap was made, the cleaning
done, the house made ready for Richard's wife, and it was the
understanding that when that lady came and was somewhat domesticated,
Miss Eunice was to leave. There was not much to do in the winter, Mrs.
Markham said, and with Richard's wife's help she should get along. Alas!
how little Ethelyn was prepared for the home which awaited her, and for
the really good woman, who, on the afternoon of her son's arrival, saw
into the oven the young turkey which Andy had been feeding for so very
long with a view to this very day, and then helped Eunice set the table
for the expected guests.

It did occur to Mrs. Markham that there might be a great propriety in
Eunice's waiting for once, inasmuch as there were plates to change, and
custard pie and minced, and pudding, to be brought upon the table, for
they were having a great dinner, but the good woman did not dare hint at
such a thing, so the seven plates were put upon the table, and the china
cups brought from the little cupboard at the side of the chimney, and
the silver teapot, which was a family heirloom, and had been given Mrs.
Markham by her mother, was brought also and rubbed up with what Eunice
called a "shammy," and the pickles, and preserves, and honey, and cheese
and jellies, and the white raised biscuits and fresh brown bread, and
shredded cabbage and cranberry sauce, with golden butter, and pitchers
of cream, were all arranged according to Eunice's ideas. The turkey was
browning nicely, the vegetables were cooking upon the stove, the odor of
silver-skinned onions pervading the entire house. Eunice was grinding
the coffee, and the clock said it wanted but half an hour of car-time,
when Mrs. Markham finally left the kitchen and proceeded to make
her toilet.

Eunice's had been made some time ago, and the large-sized hoop she wore
had already upset a pail and dragged a griddle from the stove hearth,
greatly to the discomfiture of Mrs. Markham, who did not fancy hoops,
though she wore a small one this afternoon under her clean and
stiffly-starched dress of purple calico. St. Paul would have made her an
exception in his restrictions with regard to women's apparel, for
neither gold nor silver ornaments, nor braided hair, found any tolerance
in her. She followed St. Paul strictly, except at such times as the good
people in the Methodist church at the east end of the village held a
protracted meeting, when she deviated so far from his injunction as to
speak her mind and tell her experience.

She was a good and conscientious woman, practicing what she preached,
and believing more in the inner than the outer adorning; but she looked
very neat this afternoon in her purple calico, with a motherly white
apron tied around her waist, and her soft, silvery hair combed smoothly
back from her forehead and twisted in a knot behind, about the size of a
half dollar. This knot however, was hidden by the headdress which
Melinda had made from bits of black lace and purple ribbon, and which,
though not at all like Aunt Barbara's Boston caps, was still very
respectable, and even tasteful-looking. Almost too tasteful, Mrs.
Markham thought, as she glanced at the tiny artificial flower tucked in
among the bows of ribbon. But Mrs. Markham did not remove the flower,
for it was a daisy, and it made her think of the Daisy who died fourteen
years ago, and who, had she lived till now, would have been
twenty-eight.

"A married woman, most likely, and I might have been grandmother," Mrs.
Markham sighed, and then, as she heard in fancy the patter of little
feet at her side, and saw before her little faces with a look like Daisy
in them, her thoughts went softly out to Richard's bride, through whom
this coveted blessing might come to her quiet household, and her heart
throbbed with a quick sudden yearning for the young daughter-in-law,
now just alighting at the Olney station, for the Eastern train had come,
and James was there with the democrat-wagon to meet it.



CHAPTER VII

GETTING HOME

Olney was a thriving, busy little town, numbering five hundred
inhabitants or thereabouts. It had its groceries, its dry goods stores,
and its two houses for public worship--the Methodist and
Presbyterian--while every other Sunday a little band of Episcopalians
met for their own service in what was called the Village Hall, where,
during week days, a small, select school was frequently taught by some
Yankee schoolmistress. It had its post office, too; and there was also
talk of a bank after the railroad came that way, and roused the people
to a state of still greater activity. On the whole, it was a pretty
town, though different from Chicopee, where the houses slept so
aristocratically under the shadow of the old elms, which had been
growing there since the day when our national independence was declared.

At home Ethelyn's pride had all been centered in Boston, and she had
sometimes thought a little contemptuously of Chicopee and its
surroundings; but the farther she traveled west the higher Chicopee rose
in her estimation, until she found herself comparing every prairie
village with that rural town among the hills, which seemed to give it
dignity, and made it so greatly superior to the dead levels of which she
was getting so weary. She had admired the rolling prairies at first,
but, tired and jaded with her long journey, nothing looked well to her
now--nothing was like Chicopee--certainly not Olney, where the dwellings
looked so new and the streets were minus sidewalks.

Ethelyn had a good view of it as the train approached it and even caught
a passing glimpse of the white house in the distance which Richard
pointed out as home, his face lighting up with all the pleasure of a
schoolboy as he saw the old familiar waymarks and felt that he was
home at last.

Dropping her veil over her face Ethelyn arose to follow her husband, who
in his eagerness to grasp the hand of the tall, burly young man he had
seen from the window, forgot to carry her shawl and her satchel, which
last being upon the car-rack, she tugged at it with all her strength,
and was about crying with vexation at Richard's thoughtlessness, when
Tim Jones, who while rolling his quid of tobacco in his great mouth, had
watched her furtively, wondering how she and Melind would get along,
gallantly came to her aid, and taking the satchel down kept it upon
his arm.

"Take care of that air step. Better let me help you out. Dick is so
tickled to see Jim that he even forgets his wife, I swan!" Tim said,
offering to assist her from the train; but with a feeling of disgust too
deep to be expressed, Ethelyn declined the offer and turned away from
him to meet the curious gaze of the young man whom Richard presented as
brother James.

He was younger than his brother by half a dozen years, but he looked
quite as old, if not older. His face and hands were sunburnt and brown,
his clothes were coarse, his pants were tucked into his tall, muddy
boots, and he held in his hands the whip with which he had driven the
shining bays, pricking up their ears behind the depot and eyeing askance
the train just beginning to move away. The Markhams were all
good-looking, and James was not an exception. The Olney girls called him
very handsome, when on Sunday he came to church in his best clothes and
led the Methodist choir; but Ethelyn only thought him rough, and coarse,
and vulgar, and when he bent down to kiss her she drew back haughtily.

"Ethelyn!" Richard said, in the low, peculiar tone, which she had almost
unconsciously learned to fear, just as she did the dark expression which
his hazel eyes assumed as he said the single word "Ethelyn!"

She was afraid of Richard when he looked and spoke that way, and putting
up her lip, she permitted the kiss which the warm-hearted James gave to
her. He was naturally more demonstrative than his brother, and more
susceptible, too; a pretty face would always set his heart to beating
and call out all the gallantry of his nature. Wholly unsophisticated, he
never dreamed of the gulf there was between him and the new sister, whom
he thought so beautiful--loving her at once, because she was so pretty,
and because she was the wife of Dick, their household idol. He was more
of a ladies' man than Richard, and when on their way to the
democratic-wagon they came to a patch of mud, through which Ethelyn's
skirts were trailing, he playfully lifted her in his strong arms, and
set her down upon the wagon-box, saying, as he adjusted her skirts: "We
can't have that pretty dress spoiled, the very first day, with
Iowa mud."

All this time Tim Jones had been dutifully holding the satchel, which he
now deposited at Ethelyn's feet, and then, at James' invitation, he
sprang into the hinder part of the wagon-box, and sitting down, let his
long limbs dangle over the backboard, while James sat partly in
Richard's lap and partly in Ethelyn's. It had been decided that the
democrat must come down again for the baggage; and so, three on a seat,
with Tim Jones holding on behind, Ethelyn was driven through the town,
while face after face looked at her from the windows of the different
dwellings, and comment after comment was made upon her pretty little
round hat, with its jaunty feather, which style had not then penetrated
so far west as Olney. Rumors there were of the Eastern ladies wearing
hats which made them look at least ten years younger than their actual
age; but Ethelyn was the first to carry the fashion to Olney, and she
was pronounced very stylish, and very girlish, too, by those who watched
her curiously from behind their curtains and blinds.

It was the close of a chill October day, and a bank of angry clouds hung
darkly in the western sky, while the autumn wind blew across the
prairie; but colder, blacker, chillier far than prairie winds, or
threatening clouds, or autumnal day was the shadow resting on Ethelyn's
heart, and making her almost cry out with loneliness and homesickness,
as they drew near the house where the blue paper curtains were hanging
before the windows and Eunice Plympton's face was pressed against the
pane. The daisies and violets and summer grass were withered and dead,
and the naked branches of the lilac bush brushed against the house with
a mournful, rasping sound, which reminded her of the tall sign-post in
Chicopee, which used to creak so in the winter wind, and keep her Aunt
Barbara awake. To the right of the house, and a little in the rear, were
several large, square corn-cribs, and behind these an inclosure in which
numerous cattle, and horses, and pigs were industriously feeding, while
the cobs, stripped, and soiled, and muddy, were scattered everywhere.
Ethelyn took it all in at a glance, exclaiming, in a smothered voice, as
the wagon turned into the lane which led to the side door, "Not here,
Richard; surely, not here!"

But Richard, if he heard her, did not heed her. He could not comprehend
her utter desolation and crushing disappointment. Her imaginings of his
home had never been anything like this reality, and for a moment she
felt as if in a kind of horrible nightmare, from which she struggled
to awake.

"Oh! if it were only a dream," she thought; but it was no dream, though
as Richard himself lifted her carefully from the wagon, and deposited
her upon the side stoop, there came a mist before her eyes, and for an
instant sense and feeling forsook her; but only for an instant, for the
hall door was thrown open, and Richard's mother came out to greet her
son and welcome her new daughter.

But alas for Ethelyn's visions of heavy silk and costly lace! How they
vanished before this woman in purple calico, with ruffles of the same
standing up about the throat, and the cotton lace coiffure upon her
head! She was very glad to see her boy and wound both her arms around
his neck, but she was afraid of Ethelyn. She, too, had had her ideal,
but it was not like this proud-looking beauty, dressed so stylishly,
and, as it seemed to her so extravagantly, with her long, full skirt of
handsome poplin trailing so far behind her, and her basque fitting her
graceful figure so admirably. Neither did the hat, rolled so jauntily on
the sides, and giving her a coquettish appearance, escape her notice,
nor the fact that the dotted veil was not removed from the white face,
even after Richard had put the little, plump hand in hers, and said:

"This, mother, is Ethie, my wife. I hope you will love each other for my
sake."

In her joy at seeing her pet boy again, Mrs. Markham would have done a
great deal for his sake, but she could not "kiss a veil," as she
afterwards said to Melinda Jones, when she reached the point where she
talked straight out about her daughter-in-law. No, she could not kiss a
veil, and so she only held and pressed Ethelyn's hand, and leading her
into the house, told her she was very welcome, and bade her come to the
fire and take off her things, and asked if she was not tired, and cold
and hungry.

And Ethelyn tried to answer, but the great lumps were swelling in her
throat, and so keen a pain was tugging at her heart that when at last,
astonished at her silence, Richard said, "What is the matter, Ethie--why
don't you answer mother?" she burst out in a pitiful cry:

"Oh, Richard, I can't, I can't; please take me back to Aunt Barbara."

This was the crisis, the concentration of all she had been suffering for
the last hour, and it touched Mrs. Markham's heart, for she remembered
just how wretched she had been when she first landed at the rude log
cabin which was so long her Western home, and turning to Richard, she
said, in an aside:

"She is homesick, poor child, as it's natural she should be at first.
She'll be better by and by, so don't think strange of it. She seems
very young."

In referring to her youth, Mrs. Markham meant nothing derogatory to her
daughter-in-law, though Ethelyn did strike her as very young, in her
pretty hat with her heavy hair low in her neck. She was finding an
excuse for her crying, and did not mean that Ethelyn should hear. But
she did hear, and the hot tears were dashed aside at once. She was too
proud to be petted or patronized by Mrs. Markham, or apologized for by
her, so she dried her eyes, and lifting her head, said proudly:

"I am tired to-night, and my head is aching so hard that I lost my
self-control. I beg you will excuse me. Richard knows me too well to
need an excuse."

A born duchess could not have assumed a loftier air, and in some
perplexity Mrs. Markham glanced from her to Richard, as if asking what
to do next. Fortunately for all parties, Andy just then came in with his
brother John, who approached his new sister with some little hesitation.
He had heard Tim Jones' verdict, "Stuck up as the old Nick," while even
cautious James had admitted his fears that Dick had made a mistake, and
taken a wife who would never fit their ways. And this was why John had
been so late with his welcome. He had crept up the back stairs, and
donned his best necktie, and changed his heavy boots for a pair of
shoes, which left exposed to view a portion of his blue yarn socks. He
had before changed his coat and vest, and tied on a handkerchief, but it
was not his best; not the satin cravat, with the pretty bow Melinda
Jones had made, and in which was stuck a rather fanciful pin he wore on
great occasions. He was all right now, and he shook hands with his new
sister, and asked if she were pretty well, and told her she was welcome,
and then stepped back for Andy, who had been making his toilet when the
bride arrived, and so was late with his congratulations.



CHAPTER VIII

ANDY

Andy was a character in his way. A fall from his horse upon the ground
had injured his head when he was a boy, and since that time he had been
what his mother called a little queer, while the neighbors spoke of him
as simple Andy, or Mrs. Markham's half-wit, who did the work of a girl
and knit all his own socks. He was next to Richard in point of age, but
he looked younger than either of his brothers, for his face was round
and fair, and smooth as any girl's. It is true that every Sunday of his
life he made a great parade with lather and shaving-cup, standing before
the glass in his shirt-sleeves, just as the other boys did, and
flourishing his razor around his white throat and beardless face, to the
amusement of anyone who chanced to see him for the first time.

In his younger days, when the tavern at the Cross Roads was just opened,
Andy had been a sore trial to both mother and brothers, and many a
night, when the rain and sleet were driving across the prairies, Richard
had left the warm fireside and gone out in the storm after the erring
Andy, who had more than once been found by the roadside, with his hat
jammed into every conceivable shape, his face scratched, and a tell-tale
smell about his breath which contradicted his assertion "that somebody
had knocked him down."

Andy had been intemperate, and greatly given to what the old Captain in
Chicopee had designated as "busts"; but since the time when the church
missionary, young Mr. Townsend, had come to Olney, and held his first
service in the log schoolhouse, Andy had ceased to frequent the Cross
Roads tavern, and Richard went no more in the autumnal storms to look
for his wayward brother. There was something in the beautiful simplicity
of the church service which went straight to Andy's heart, and more than
all, there was something in Mr. Townsend's voice, and manner, and face,
which touched a responsive chord in the breast of the boyish Andy, and
when at last the bishop came to that section of Iowa, his hands were
first laid in blessing on the bowed head of Andy, who knelt to receive
the rite of confirmation in the presence of a large concourse of people,
to most of whom the service and ceremony were entirely new.

While rejoicing and thanking God for the change, which she felt was
wholly sincere, Mrs. Markham had deeply deplored the pertinacity with
which Andy had clung to his resolve to join "Mr. Townsend's church or
none." She did not doubt Mr. Townsend's piety or Andy's either, but she
doubted the Episcopalians generally because they did not require more
than God himself requires, and it hurt her sore that Andy should go with
them rather than to her church across the brook, where Father Aberdeen
preached every Sunday against the pride, and pomp, and worldliness
generally of his Episcopal brethren. Andy believed in Mr. Townsend, and
in time he came to believe heart and soul in the church doctrines as
taught by him, and the beautiful consistency of his daily life was to
his mother like a constant and powerful argument in favor of the church
to which he belonged, while to his brothers it was a powerful argument
in favor of the religion he professed.

That Andy Markham was a Christian no one doubted. It showed itself in
every act of his life; it shone in his beaming, good-natured face, and
made itself heard in the touching pathos of his voice, when he repeated
aloud in his room the prayers of his church, saying to his mother, when
she objected that his prayers were made up beforehand: "And for the
land's sake, ain't the sams and hims, which are nothing but prayers set
to music, made up beforehand? A pretty muss you'd have of it if
everybody should strike out for himself, a singin' his own words just as
they popped into his head."

Mrs. Markham was not convinced, but she let Andy alone after that,
simply remarking that "the prayer-book would not always answer the
purpose; there would come a time when just what he wanted was
not there."

Andy was willing to wait till that time came, trusting to Mr. Townsend
to find for him some way of escape; and so the matter dropped, and he
was free to read his prayers as much as he pleased. He had heard from
Richard that his new sister was of his way of thinking--that though not
a member of the church except by baptism, she was an Episcopalian, and
would be married by that form.

It was strange how Andy's great, warm heart went out toward Ethelyn
after that. He was sure to like her; and on the evening of the bridal,
when the clock struck nine, he had taken his tallow candle to his room,
and opening his prayer-book at the marriage ceremony, had read it
carefully through, even to the saying: "I, Richard, take thee, Ethelyn,"
etc., kneeling at the proper time, and after he was through even
venturing to improvise a prayer of his own, in which he asked, not that
Ethelyn might be happy with his brother--there was no doubt on that
point, for Richard was perfect in his estimation--but that "old Dick"
might be happy with her--that he, Andy, might do his whole duty by her,
and that, if it was right to ask it, she might bring him something from
that famous Boston, which seemed to him like a kind of paradise, and
also that she need not at once discover that he did not know as much as
"old Dick."

This was Andy's prayer, which he had confessed to Mr. Townsend; and now,
all shaven and shorn, with his best Sunday coat and a large bandanna in
his hand, he came in to greet his sister. It needed but a glance for
Ethelyn to know the truth, for Andy's face told what he was; but there
was something so kind in his expression and so winning in his voice, as
he called her "Sister Ethie," that she unbent to him as she had unbent
to no one else; and when he stooped to kiss her, she did not draw back
as she had from James and John, but promptly put up her lips, and only
winced a very little at the second loud, hearty smack which Andy gave
her, his great mouth leaving a wet spot on her cheek, which she wiped
away with her handkerchief.

Richard had dreaded the meeting between his polished wife and his simple
brother more than anything else, and several times he had tried to
prepare Ethelyn for it, but he could not bring himself to say, "Andy is
foolish"; for when he tried to do it Andy's pleading face came up before
him just as it looked on the morning of his departure from home in June,
when Andy had said to him: "Don't tell her what a shaller critter I am.
Let her find it out by her learning."

So Richard had said nothing particular of Andy, and now he watched him
anxiously, to see the impression he was making, and, as he saw Ethelyn's
manner, marveling greatly at this new phase in her disposition. She did
not feel half so desolate after seeing Andy, and she let him hold her
hand, which he stroked softly, admiring its whiteness, and evidently
comparing it with his own. All the Markhams had large hands and feet,
just as they were all good-looking. Even Andy had his points of beauty,
for his soft brown hair was handsomer, if possible, than Richard's, and
more luxuriant, while many a city dandy might have coveted his white,
even teeth, and his dark eyes were very placid and gentle in their
expression.

"Little sister" he called Ethelyn, who though not very short in stature,
seemed to him so much younger than he had expected Dick's wife to be
that he applied the term "little" as he would to anything which he
wished to pet.

Ethelyn's hat was laid aside by this time, and the basquine, too, which
Andy thought the prettiest coat he had ever seen, and which Eunice, who
was bidden to carry Ethelyn's things away, tried on before the glass in
Ethelyn's chamber, as she did also the hat, deciding that Melinda Jones
could make her something like them out of a gray skirt she had at home
and one of Tim's palm-leaf hats.



CHAPTER IX

DINNER, AND AFTER IT

Eunice had not fully seen the stranger, and so, when dinner was
announced and Richard led her out, with Andy hovering at her side, she
stood ready to be introduced, with the little speech she had been
rehearsing about "I hope to see you well," etc., trembling on the tip of
her tongue. But her plans were seriously disarranged. Six months before
Richard would have presented her himself, as a matter of course; but he
had learned some things since then, and he tried not to see his mother's
meaning as she glanced from him to Eunice and then to Ethelyn, whose
proud, dignified bearing awed and abashed even her. Eunice, however, had
been made quite too much of to be wholly ignored now, and Mrs. Markham
felt compelled to say, "Ethelyn, this--ah, this is--Eunice--Eunice
Plympton."

That Eunice Plympton was the hired girl Ethelyn did not for a moment
dream; but that she was coarse and vulgar, like the rest of Richard's
family, she at once decided, and if she bowed at all it was not
perceptible to Eunice, who mentally resolved "to go home in the morning
if such a proud minx was to live there."

Mrs. Markham saw the gathering storm, and Richard knew by the drop of
her chin that Ethelyn had not made a good impression. How could she with
that proud cold look, which never for an instant left her face, but
rather deepened in its expression as the dinner proceeded, and one after
the other Mrs. Markham and Eunice left the table in quest of something
that was missing, while Andy himself, being nearest the kitchen, went to
bring a pitcher of hot water for Ethelyn's coffee, lifting the kettle
with the skirt of his coat, and snapping his fingers, which were
slightly burned with the scalding steam. From the position she occupied
at the table Ethelyn saw the whole performance, and had it been in any
other house she would have smiled at Andy's grotesque appearance as he
converted his coat skirts into a holder; but now it only sent a colder
chill to her heart as she reflected that these were Richard's people and
this was Richard's home. Sadly and vividly there arose before her
visions of dear Aunt Barbara's household, where Betty served so quietly
and where, except that they were upon a smaller scale, everything was as
well and properly managed as in Mrs. Dr. Van Buren's family. It was
several hours since she had tasted food, but she could scarcely swallow
a morsel for the terrible homesick feeling swelling in her throat. She
knew the viands before her were as nicely cooked as even Aunt Barbara or
Betty could have cooked them--so much she conceded to Mrs. Markham and
Eunice; but had her life depended upon it she could not have eaten them
and the plate which James had filled so plentifully scarcely diminished
at all. She did pick a little with her fork at the white, tender turkey,
and tried to drink her coffee, but the pain in her head and the pain at
her heart were both too great to allow of her doing more, and Mrs.
Markham and Eunice both felt a growing contempt for a dainty thing who
could not eat the dinner they had been at so much pains to prepare.

Ethelyn knew their opinion of her as well as if it had been expressed in
words; but they were so very far beneath her that whatsoever they might
think was not of the slightest consequence. They were a vulgar, ignorant
set, the whole of them, she mentally decided, as she watched their
manners at table, noticing how James and John poured their coffee into
their saucers, blowing it until it was cool, while Richard, feeling more
freedom now that he was again under his mother's wing, used his knife
altogether, even to eating jelly with it. Ethelyn was disgusted, and
once, as Richard's well-filled knife was moving toward his mouth, she
gently touched his foot with her own; but if he understood her he did
not heed her, and went quietly on with his dinner. Indeed, it might be
truly said of him that "Richard was himself again," for his whole manner
was that of a petted child, which, having returned to the mother who
spoiled it, had cast off the restraint under which for a time it had
been laboring. Richard was hungry, and would have enjoyed his dinner
hugely but for the cold, silent woman beside him, who, he knew, was
watching and criticising all he did; but somehow at home he did not care
so much for her criticisms as when alone with her at fashionable hotels
or with fashionable people. Here he was supreme, and none had ever
disputed his will. Perhaps if Ethelyn had known all that was in his
heart she might have changed her tactics and tried to have been more
conciliatory on that first evening of her arrival at his home. But
Ethelyn did not know--she only felt that she was homesick and
wretched--and pleading a headache, from which she was really suffering,
she asked to go to her room as soon as dinner was over.

It was very pleasant up there, for a cheerful wood fire was blazing on
the hearth, and a rocking-chair drawn up before it, with a footstool
which Andy had made and Melinda covered, while the bed in the little
room adjoining looked so fresh, and clean, and inviting, that with a
great sigh of relief, as the door closed between her and the "dreadful
people below," Ethelyn threw herself upon it, and burying her face in
the soft pillows, tried to smother the sobs which, nevertheless, smote
heavily upon Richard's ear when he came in, and drove from him all
thoughts of the little lecture he had been intending to give Ethelyn
touching her deportment toward his folks. It would only be a fair
return, he reflected, for all the Caudles he had listened to so
patiently, and duly strengthened for his task by his mother's remark to
James, accidentally overheard, "Altogether too fine a lady for us. I
wonder what Richard was thinking of," he mounted the stairs resolved at
least to talk with Ethie and ask her to do better.

Richard could be very stern when he tried, and the hazel of his eye was
darker than usual, and the wrinkle between his eyebrows was deeper as he
thus meditated harm against his offending wife. But the sight of the
crushed form lying so helplessly upon the bed and crying in such a
grieved, heart-sick way, drove all thoughts of discipline from his mind.
He could not add one iota to her misery. She might be cold, and proud,
and even rude to his family, as she unquestionably had been, but she was
still Ethie, his young wife, whom he loved so dearly; and bending over
her, he smoothed the silken bands of her beautiful hair and said to her
softly, "What is it, darling? Anything worse than homesickness? Has
anyone injured you?"

No one had injured her. On the contrary, all had met, or tried to meet
her with kindness, which she had thrust back upon them. Ethelyn knew
this as well as anyone, and Mrs. Markham, washing her dishes below
stairs, and occasionally wiping her eyes with the corner of the check
apron as she thought how all her trouble had been thrown away upon a
proud, ungrateful girl, could not think less of Ethie than Ethie thought
of herself, upstairs sobbing among the pillows. The family were ignorant
and ill bred, as she counted ignorance and ill breeding; but they did
mean to be kind to her, and she hated herself for her ingratitude in not
at least seeming pleased with their endeavors to please her. Added to
this was a vague remembrance of a certain look seen in Richard's eye--a
look which made her uneasy as she thought, "What if he should hate
me, too?"

Richard was all Ethelyn had to cling to now. She respected, if she did
not love him, and when she heard his step upon the stairs, her heart,
for an instant, throbbed with dread lest he was coming to chide her as
she deserved. When, then, he bent so kindly over her, and spoke to her
so tenderly, all her better nature went out toward him in a sudden gush
of something akin to love, and lifting her head, she laid it upon his
bosom, and drawing his arm around her neck, held it there with a sense
of protection, while she said: "No one has injured me; but, oh, I am so
homesick, and they are all so different, and my head aches so hard."

He knew she was homesick and it was natural that she should be; and he
knew, too, that, as she said, they were "so different," and though on
this point he could not fully appreciate her feelings he was sorry for
her, and he soothed her aching head, and kissed her forehead, and told
her she was tired; she would feel better by and by, and get accustomed
to their ways, and when, as he said this, he felt the shiver with which
she repelled the assertion, he repressed his inclination to tell her
that she could at least conceal her aversion to whatever was
disagreeable, and kissing her again, bade her lie down and try to sleep,
as that would help her sooner than anything else, unless it were a cup
of sage tea, such as his mother used to make for him when his head was
aching. Should he send Eunice up with a cup?

"No; oh, no," and Ethelyn's voice expressed the disgust she felt for the
young lady with red streamers in her hair, who had stared so at her and
called her husband Richard.

Ethelyn had not yet defined Eunice's position in the family--whether it
was that of cousin, or niece, or companion--and now that Richard had
suggested her, she said to him:

"Who is this Eunice that seems so familiar?"

Richard hesitated a little and then replied:

"She is the girl who works for mother when we need help."

"Not a hired girl--surely not a hired girl!" and Ethelyn opened her
brown eyes wide with surprise and indignation, wondering aloud what Aunt
Sophia or Aunt Barbara would say if they knew she had eaten with and
been introduced to a hired girl.

Richard did not say, "Aunt Sophia or Aunt Barbara be hanged, or
be--anything," but he thought it, just as he thought Ethelyn's ideas
particular and over-nice. Eunice Plympton was a respectable, trusty
girl, and he believed in doing well for those who did well for him; but
that was no time to argue the point, and so he sat still and listened to
Ethelyn's complaint that Eunice had called him Richard, and would
undoubtedly on the morrow address her as Ethelyn. Richard thought not,
but changed his mind when, fifteen minutes later, he descended to the
kitchen and heard Eunice asking Andy if he did not think "Ethelyn looked
like the Methodist minister's new wife."

This was an offense which even Richard could not suffer to pass
unrebuked, and sending Andy out on some pretext or other, he said that
to Eunice Plympton which made her more careful as to what she called his
wife, but he did it so kindly that she could not be offended with him,
though she was strengthened in her opinion that "Miss Ethelyn was a
stuck-up, an upstart, and a hateful. Supposin' she had been waited on
all her life, and brought up delicately, as Richard said, that was no
reason why she need feel so big, and above speaking to a poor girl when
she was introduced." She guessed that "Eunice Plympton was fully as
respectable and quite as much thought on by the neighbors, if she didn't
wear a frock coat and a man's hat with a green feather stuck in it."

This was the substance of Eunice's soliloquy, as she cleaned the
potatoes for the morrow's breakfast, and laid the kindlings by the
stove, ready for the morning fire. Still Eunice was not a bad-hearted
girl, and when Andy, who heard her mutterings, put in a plea for
Ethelyn, who he said "had never been so far away from home before, and
whose head was aching enough to split," she began to relent, and
proposed, of her own accord, to take up to the great lady a foot-bath
together with hot water for her head.

It was so long since Richard had been at home, and there was so much to
hear of what had happened during his absence that instead of going back
to Ethelyn he yielded to his mother's wish that he should stay with her,
and sitting down in his arm-chair by the blazing fire, he found it so
pleasant to be flattered and caressed and deferred to again, that he was
in some danger of forgetting the young wife who was thus left to the
tender mercies of Andy and Eunice Plympton. Andy had caught eagerly at
Eunice's suggestion of the foot-bath, and offered to carry it up
himself, while Eunice followed with her towels and basin of hot water.
It never occurred to either of them to knock for admittance, and Ethelyn
was obliged to endure their presence, which she did at first with a
shadow on her brow; but when Andy asked so pleadingly that she try the
hot water, and Eunice joined her entreaties with his, Ethelyn consented,
and lay very quiet while Eunice Plympton bathed the aching head and
smoothed the long, bright hair, which both she and Andy admired so much,
for Andy, when he found that Ethelyn declined the foot-bath, concluded
to remain a while, and sitting down before the fire, he scrutinized the
form and features of his new sister, and made remarks upon the luxuriant
tresses which Eunice combed so carefully.

It was something to have the homage of even such subjects as these, and
Ethelyn's heart grew softer as the pain gradually subsided beneath
Eunice's mesmeric touch, so that she answered graciously the questions
propounded by her as to whether that sack, or great-coat, or whatever it
was called, which she wore around her, was the very last style, how much
it took to cut it, and if Miss Markham had the pattern. On being told
that "Miss Markham" had not the pattern, Eunice presumed Melinda Jones
could cut one, and then, while the cooled water was heating on the coals
which Andy raked out upon the hearth, Eunice asked if she might just try
on the "vasquine" and let Miss Markham see how she looked in it.

For a moment Ethelyn hesitated, but Eunice had been so kind, and
proffered her request so timidly, that she could not well refuse, and
gave a faint assent. But she was spared the trial of seeing her basquine
strained over Eunice's buxom figure by the entrance of Richard, who came
to say that Melinda Jones was in the parlor below. In spite of all Tim
had said about madam's airs, and his advice that "Melinda should keep
away," that young lady had ventured upon a call, thinking her intimacy
with the family would excuse any unseemly haste, and thinking, too, it
may be, that possibly Mrs. Richard Markham would be glad to know there
was someone in Olney more like the people to whom she had been
accustomed than Mrs. Markham, senior, and her handmaid, Eunice Plympton.
Melinda's toilet had been made with direct reference to what Mrs.
Ethelyn would think of it, and she was looking very well indeed in her
gray dress and sack, with plain straw hat and green ribbons, which
harmonized well with her high-colored cheeks. But Melinda's pains had
been for naught, just as Richard feared, when she asked if "Mrs.
Markham" was too tired to see her.

Richard was glad to see Melinda, and Melinda was glad to see Richard--so
glad that she gave him a hearty kiss, prefacing the act with the remark,
"I can kiss you, now you are a married man."

Richard liked the kiss, and liked Melinda's frank, open manner, which
had in it nothing Van Burenish, as he secretly termed the studied
elegance of Mrs. Richard Markham's style. Melinda was natural, and he
promptly kissed her back, feeling that in doing so he was guilty of
nothing wrong, for he would have done the same had Ethelyn been present.
She had a terrible headache, he said, in answer to Melinda's inquiry,
and perhaps she did not feel able to come down. He would see.

The hot water and Eunice's bathing had done Ethelyn good, and, with the
exception that she was very pale, she looked bright and handsome, as she
lay upon the pillows, with her loose hair forming a dark, glossy frame
about her face.

"You are better, Ethie," Richard said, bending over her, and playfully
lifting her heavy hair. "Eunice has done you good. She's not so bad,
after all."

"Eunice is well enough in her place," was Ethelyn's reply; and then
there was a pause, while Richard wondered how he should introduce
Melinda Jones.

Perhaps it was vain in him, but he really fancied that the name of Jones
was distasteful to Ethelyn, just as the Van Buren name would have been
more distasteful to him than it already was had he known of Frank's love
affair. And to a certain extent he was right. Ethelyn did dislike to
hear of the Joneses, whom she heartily despised, and her brow grew
cloudy at once when Richard said, bunglingly, and as if it were not at
all what he had come up to say: "Oh, don't you remember hearing me speak
of Melinda Jones, whom I hoped you would like? She is very kind to
mother--we all think a great deal of her; and though she knows it is
rather soon to call, she has come in for a few minutes, and would like
to see you. I should be so glad if you would go down, for it will
gratify her, I know, and I really think we owe her something--she has
always been so kind."

But Ethelyn was too tired, and her head ached too hard to see visitors,
she said; and besides that, "Miss Jones ought to have known that it was
not proper to call so soon. None but a very intimate friend could
presume upon such a thing."

"And Melinda is an intimate friend," Richard answered, a little warmly,
as he left his wife, and went back to Melinda with the message, that
"some time she should be happy to make Miss Jones' acquaintance, but
to-night she really must be excused, as she was too tired to come down."

All this time Andy had been standing with his back to the fire, his
coat-skirts taken up in his arms, his light, soft hat on his head, and
his ears taking in all that was transpiring. Andy regarded his stylish
sister-in-law as a very choice gem, which was not to be handled too
roughly, but he was not afraid of her; he was seldom afraid of anybody,
and when Richard was gone, he walked boldly up to Ethelyn and said:

"I don't want to be meddlesome, but 'pears to me if you'd spoke out your
feelings to Dick, you'd said, 'Tell Melinda Jones I don't want to see
her, neither to-night nor any time.' Mebby I'm mistaken, but honest, do
you want to see Melinda?"

There was something so straightforward in his manner that, without being
the least offended, Ethelyn replied:

"No, I do not. I am sure I should not like her if she at all resembles
her brother^ that terrible Timothy."

Andy did not know that there was anything so very terrible about Tim. He
liked him, because he gave him such nice chews of tobacco, and was
always so ready to lend a helping hand in hog-killing time, or when a
horse was sick; neither had he ever heard him called Timothy before, and
the name sounded oddly, but he classed it with the fine ways of his new
sister, who called him Anderson, though he so much wished she wouldn't.
It sounded as if she did not like him; but he said nothing on that
subject now--he merely adhered to the Jones question, and without
defending Tim, replied:

"Gals are never much like their brothers, I reckon. They are softer, and
finer, and neater; leastways our Daisy was as different from us as
different could be, and Melinda is different from Tim. She's been to
Camden high-school, and has got a book that she talks French out of; and
didn't you ever see that piece she wrote about Mr. Baldwin's boy, who
fell from the top of the church when it was building, and was crushed to
death? It was printed, all in rhyme, in the Camden _Sentinel_, and Jim
has a copy of it in his wallet, 'long with a lock of Melinda's hair. I
tell you she's a team."

Andy was warming up with his subject, and finding Ethelyn a good
listener, he continued:

"I want you to like her, and I b'lieve you orter, for if it hadn't been
for her this room wouldn't of been fixed up as 'tis. Melinda coaxed
mother to buy the carpet, and the curtings, and to put your bed in
there. Why, that was the meal room, where you be, and we used to keep
beans there, too; but Melinda stuck to it till mother moved the chest
and the bags, and then we got some paint, and me and the boys and
Melinda painted, and worked, hopin' all the time that you'd be pleased,
as I guess you be. We wanted to have you like us."

And simple-hearted Andy drew near to Ethelyn, who was softened more by
what he said than she could have been by her husband's most urgent
appeal. The thought of the people to whom she had been so cold, and even
rude, working and planning for her comfort, touched a very tender chord,
and had Richard then proffered his request for her to go down, it is
very possible she might have done so; but it was too late now, and after
Andy left her she lay pondering what he had said and listening to the
sound of voices which came up to her from the parlor directly beneath
her room where James, and John, and Andy, and the mother, with Melinda,
and Eunice, were talking to Richard, who was conscious of a greater
feeling of content, sitting there in their midst again, than he had
known in many a day. Melinda had been more than disappointed at Mrs.
Richard's non-appearance, for aside from a curiosity to see the great
lady, there was a desire to be able to report that she seen her to other
females equally curious, whom she would next day meet at church. It
would have added somewhat to her self-complacency as well as importance
in their eyes, could she have quoted Mrs. Richard's sayings, and,
described Mrs. Richard's dress, the very first day after her arrival. It
would look as if the intimacy, which many predicted would end with Mrs.
Ethelyn's coming, was only cemented the stronger; but no such honor was
in store for her. Ethelyn declined coming down, and with a good-humored
smile Melinda said she was quite excusable; and then, untying her
bonnet, she laid it aside, just as she did the indescribable air of
stiffness she had worn while expecting Mrs. Richard.

How merrily they all laughed and chatted together! and how handsome
James' eyes grew as they rested admiringly upon the sprightly girl, who
perfectly conscious of his gaze, never looked at him, but confined her
attention wholly to Richard, until Andy asked "if they could not have a
bit of a tune."

Then, for the first time, Richard discovered that Ethelyn's piano had
been unpacked, and was now standing between the south windows, directly
under Daisy's picture. It was open, too, and the sheet of music upon the
rack told that it had been used. Richard did not care for himself, but
he was afraid of what Ethelyn might say, and wondered greatly why she
had not spoken of the liberty they had taken.

Ethelyn had not observed the piano; or if she did she had paid no
attention to it. Accustomed as she had always been to seeing one in the
room, she would have missed its absence more than she noticed its
presence. But when, as she lay half dozing and thinking of Aunt Barbara,
the old familiar air of "Money-musk," played with a most energetic hand,
came to her ear, she started, for she knew the tone of her own
instrument--knew, too, that Melinda Jones' hands were sweeping the
keys--and all that Melinda Jones had done for her comfort was forgotten
in the deep resentment which heated her blood and flushed her cheek as
she listened to "Old Zip Coon," which followed "Money-musk," a shuffling
sound of feet telling that somebody's boots were keeping time after a
very unorthodox fashion. Next came a song--"Old Folks at Home"--and in
spite of her resentment Ethelyn found herself listening intently as
James' rich, deep bass, and John's clear tenor, and Andy's alto joined
in the chorus with Melinda's full soprano. The Markham boys were noted
for their fine voices; and even Richard had once assisted at a public
concert; but to-night he did not sing--his thoughts were too intent upon
the wife upstairs and what she might be thinking of the performance, and
he was glad when the piano was closed and Melinda Jones had gone.

It was later than he supposed, and the clock pointed to almost eleven
when he at last said good-night to his mother and went, with a
half-guilty feeling, to his room. But there were no chidings in store
for him; for, wearied with her journey and soothed by the music, Ethelyn
had forgotten all her cares and lay quietly sleeping, with one hand
beneath her cheek and the other resting outside the white counterpane.
Ethie was very pretty in her sleep, and the proud, restless look about
her mouth was gone, leaving an expression more like a child's than like
a girl of twenty. And Richard, looking at her, felt supremely happy that
she was his, forgetting all of the past which had been unpleasant, and
thinking only that he was blessed above his fellow mortals that he could
call the beautiful girl before him his Ethelyn--his wife.



CHAPTER X

FIRST DAYS IN OLNEY

There were a great many vacant seats in the Methodist church the morning
following Ethelyn's arrival, while Mr. Townsend was surprised at the
size of his congregation. It was generally known that Mrs. Judge Markham
was an Episcopalian, and as she would of course patronize the Village
Hall, the young people of Olney were there en masse, eager to see the
new bride. But their curiosity was not gratified. Ethelyn was too tired
to go out, Andy said, when questioned on the subject, while Eunice
Plympton, who was also of Andy's faith, and an attendant of the Village
Hall, added the very valuable piece of information that "Miss Markham's
breakfast had been taken to her, and that when she [Eunice] came away
she was still in bed, or at all events had not yet made her appearance
below." This, together with Eunice's assertion that she was handsome,
and Tim Jones' testimony that she was "mighty stuck-up, but awful neat,"
was all the disappointed Olneyites knew of Mrs. Richard Markham, who, as
Eunice reported, had breakfasted in bed, and was still lying there when
the one bell in Olney rang out its summons for church. She did not
pretend to be sick--only tired and languid, and indisposed for any
exertion; and then it was much nicer taking her breakfast from the
little tray covered with the snowy towel which Richard brought her, than
it was to go down stairs and encounter "all those dreadful people," as
she mentally styled Richard's family; so she begged for indulgence this
once, and Richard could not refuse her request, and so excused her to
his mother, who said nothing, but whose face wore an expression which
Richard did not like.

Always strong and healthy herself, Mrs. Markham had but little charity
for nervous, delicate people, and she devoutly hoped that Richard's wife
would not prove to be one of that sort. When the dishes were washed, and
the floor swept, and the broom hung up in its place, and the sleeves of
the brown, dotted calico rolled down, she went herself to see Ethelyn,
her quick eye noticing the elaborate night-gown, with its dainty tucks
and expensive embroidery, and her thoughts at once leaping forward to
ironing day, with the wonder who was to do up such finery. "Of course,
though, she'll see to such things herself," was her mental conclusion,
and then she proceeded to question Ethelyn as to what was the matter,
and where she felt the worst. A person who did not come down to
breakfast must either be sick or very babyish and notional, and as
Ethelyn did not pretend to much indisposition, the good woman naturally
concluded that she was "hypoey," and pitied her boy accordingly.

Ethelyn readily guessed the opinion her mother-in-law was forming of
her, and could hardly steady her voice sufficiently to answer her
questions or repress her tears, which gushed forth the moment Mrs.
Markham had left the room, and she was alone with Richard. Poor Richard!
it was a novel position in which he found himself--that of mediator
between his mother and his wife; but he succeeded very well, soothing
and caressing the latter, until when, at three o'clock in the afternoon,
the bountiful dinner was ready, he had the pleasure of taking her
downstairs, looking very beautiful in her handsome black silk, and the
pink coral ornaments Aunt Barbara had given her. There was nothing gaudy
about her dress; it was in perfect taste, and very plain too, as she
thought, even if it was trimmed with lace and bugles. But she could not
help feeling it was out of keeping when James, and John, and Eunice
stared so at her, and Mrs. Markham asked her if she hadn't better tie on
an apron for fear she might get grease or something on her. With ready
alacrity Eunice, who fancied her young mistress looked like a queen,
forgetting in her admiration that she had ever thought her proud, ran
for her own clean, white apron, which she offered to the lady.

But Ethelyn declined it, saying, "My napkin is all that I shall
require."

Mrs. Markham, and Eunice, and Andy glanced at each other. Napkins were a
luxury in which Mrs. Markham had never indulged. She knew they were
common in almost every family of her acquaintance; but she did not see
of what use they were, except to make more washing, and as her standard
of things was the standard of thirty years back she was not easily
convinced; and even Melinda Jones had failed on the napkin question.
Ethelyn had been too much excited to observe their absence the previous
night, and she now spoke in all sincerity, never dreaming that there was
not such an article in the house. But there was a small square towel of
the finest linen, and sacred to the memory of Daisy, who had hemmed it
herself and worked her name in the corner. It was lying in the drawer,
now, with her white cambric dress, and, at a whispered word from her
mistress, Eunice brought it out and laid it in Ethelyn's lap, while
Richard's face grew crimson as he began to think that possibly his
mother might be a very little behind the times in her household
arrangements.

Ethelyn's appetite had improved since the previous night, and she did
ample justice to the well-cooked dinner; but her spirits were ruffled
again when, on returning to her room an hour or so after dinner, she
found it in the same disorderly condition in which she had left it.
Ethelyn had never taken charge of her own room, for at Aunt Barbara's
Betty had esteemed it a privilege to wait upon her young mistress, while
Aunt Van Buren would have been horror-stricken at the idea of any one of
her guests making their own bed. Mrs. Markham, on the contrary, could
hardly conceive of a lady too fine to do that service herself, and
Eunice was not the least to blame for omitting to do what she had never
been told was her duty to do. A few words from Richard, however, and the
promise of an extra quarter per week made that matter all right, and
neither Betty nor Mrs. Dr. Van Buren's trained chambermaid, Mag, had
ever entered into the clearing-up process with greater zeal than did
Eunice when once she knew that Richard expected it of her. She was
naturally kind-hearted, and though Ethelyn's lofty ways annoyed her
somewhat, her admiration for the beautiful woman and her elegant
wardrobe was unbounded, and she felt a pride in waiting upon her which
she would once have thought impossible to feel in anything pertaining to
her duties as a servant.

The following morning brought with it the opening of the box where the
family presents were; but Ethelyn did not feel as much interest in them
now as when they were purchased. She knew how out of place they were,
and fully appreciated the puzzled expression on James' face when he saw
the blue velvet smoking cap. It did not harmonize with the common clay
pipe he always smoked on Sunday, and much less with the coarse cob thing
she saw him take from the kitchen mantel that morning just after he left
the breakfast table and had donned the blue frock he wore upon the farm.
He did not know what the fanciful-tasseled thing was for; but he
reflected that Melinda, who had been to boarding school, could enlighten
him, and he thanked his pretty sister with a good deal of gentlemanly
grace. He was naturally more observing than Richard, and with the same
advantages would have polished sooner. Though a little afraid of
Ethelyn, there was something in her refined, cultivated manners very
pleasing to him, and his soft eyes looked down upon her kindly as he
took the cap and carried it to his room, laying it carefully away in the
drawer where his Sunday shirts, and collars, and "dancing pumps," and
fishing tackle, and paper of chewing tobacco were.

Meanwhile, John, who was even more shy of Ethelyn than James, had been
made the recipient of the elegantly embroidered slippers, which
presented so marked a contrast to his heavy cowhides, and were three
sizes too small for his mammoth feet. Ethelyn saw the discrepancy at
once, and the effort it was for John to keep from laughing outright, as
he took the dainty things into which he could but little more than
thrust his toes.

"You did not know what a Goliath I was, nor what stogies I wore; but I
thank you all the same," John said, and with burning blushes Ethelyn
turned next to her beautiful Schiller--the exquisite little bust--which
Andy, in his simplicity mistook for a big doll, feeling a little
affronted that Ethelyn should suppose him childish enough to care for
such toys.

But when Richard, who stood looking on, explained to his weak brother
what it was, saying that people of cultivation prized such things as
these, and that some time he would read to him of the great German poet,
Andy felt better, and accepted his big doll with a very good grace.

The coiffure came next, Mrs. Markham saying she was much obliged, and
Eunice asking if it was a half-handkerchief, to be worn about the neck.

Taken individually and collectively, the presents were a failure--all
but the pretty collar and ribbon-bow, which, as an afterthought, Ethelyn
gave to Eunice, whose delight knew no bounds. This was something she
could appreciate, while Ethelyn's gifts to the others had been far
beyond them, and but for the good feeling they manifested might as well
have been withheld. Ethelyn felt this heavily, and it did not tend to
lessen the bitter disappointment which had been gnawing in her heart
ever since she had reached her Western home. Everything was different
from what she had pictured it in her mind--everything but Daisy's face,
which, from its black-walnut frame above her piano, seemed to look so
lovingly down upon her. It was a sweet, refined face, and the soft eyes
of blue were more beautiful than anything Ethelyn had ever seen. She
did not wonder that every member of that family looked upon their lost
Daisy as the household angel, lowering their voices when they spoke of
her, and even retarding their footsteps when they passed near her
picture. She did wonder, however, that they were not more like what
Daisy would have been, judging from the expression of her face and all
Richard had said of her.

Between Mrs. Markham and Ethelyn there was from the first a mutual
feeling of antagonism, and it was in no degree lessened by Aunt
Barbara's letter, which Mrs. Markham read three times on Sunday, and
then on Monday very foolishly talked it up with Eunice, whom she treated
with a degree of familiarity wholly unaccountable to Ethelyn.

"What did that Miss Bigelow take her for that she must ask her to be
kind to Ethelyn? Of course she should do her duty, and she guessed her
ways were not so very different from other people's, either," and the
good woman gave an extra twist to the tablecloth she was wringing, and
shaking it out rather fiercely, tossed it into the huge clothes-basket
standing near.

The wash was unusually large that day and as the unpacking of the box
had taken up some time, the clock was striking two just as the last
clothespin was fastened in its place, and the last brown towel hung upon
the currant bushes. It was Mrs. Markham's weakness that her wash should
be fluttering in the wind before that of Mrs. Jones, which could be
plainly seen from her kitchen window. But to-day Mrs. Jones was ahead,
and Melinda's pink sun-bonnet was visible in the little back-yard as
early as eleven, at which time the Markham garments had just commenced
to boil. The bride had brought with her a great deal of extra work, and
what with waiting breakfast for her until the coffee was cold and the
baked potatoes "all soggy," and then cleaning up the litter of "that
box," Mrs. Markham was dreadfully behind with her Monday's work. And it
did not tend to improve her temper to know that the cause of all her
discomposure was "playing lady" in a handsome cashmere morning gown,
with heavy tassels knotted at her side, while she was bending over the
washtub in a faded calico pinned about her waist, and disclosing the
quilt patched with many colors, and the black yarn stockings footed with
coarse white. Not that Mrs. Markham cared especially for the difference
between her dress and Ethelyn's--neither did she expect Ethelyn to
"help" that day--but she might at least have offered to wipe the dinner
dishes, she thought. It would have shown her good will at all events.
But instead of that she had returned to her room the moment dinner was
over, and Eunice, who went to hunt for a missing sock of Richard's,
reported that she was lying on the lounge with a story book in her hand.

"Shiffless," was the word Mrs. Markham wanted to use, but she repressed
it, for she would not talk openly against Richard's wife so soon after
her arrival, though she did make some invidious remarks concerning the
handsome underclothes, wondering "what folks were thinking of to put so
much work where it was never seen. Puffs, and embroidery, and lace, and,
I vum, if the ruffles ain't tucked too," she continued, in a despairing
voice, hoping Ethelyn knew "how to iron such filagree herself, for the
mercy knew she didn't."

Now these same puffs, and embroidery, and ruffles, and tucks had excited
Eunice's liveliest admiration, and her fingers fairly itched to see how
they would look hanging on the clothes bars after passing through her
hands. That Ethelyn could touch them she never once dreamed. Her
instincts were truer than Mrs. Markham's and it struck her as perfectly
proper that one like Ethelyn should sit still while others served, and
to her mistress' remarks as to the ironing, she hastened to reply: "I'd
a heap sight rather do them up than to iron the boys' coarse shirts and
pantaloons. Don't you mind the summer I was at Camden working for Miss
Avery, who lived next door to Miss Judge Miller, from New York? She had
just such things as these, and I used to go in sometimes and watch Katy
iron 'em, so I b'lieve I can do it myself. Anyways, I want to try."

Fears that Eunice might rebel had been uppermost in Mrs. Markham's mind
when she saw the pile of elegant clothes, for she had a suspicion that
Mrs. Ethelyn would keep as much aloof from the ironing-board as she did
from the dish-washing; but if Eunice was willing and even glad of the
opportunity, why, that made a difference, and the good woman began to
feel so much better that by the time the last article was on the line,
the kitchen floor cleared up, and the basin of water heating on the
stove for her own ablutions, she was quite amiably disposed toward her
grand daughter-in-law, who had not made her appearance since dinner.
Ethelyn liked staying in her chamber better than anywhere else, and it
was especially pleasant there to-day, for Eunice had taken great pains
to make it so, sweeping, and dusting and putting to rights, and patting
the pillows and cushions just as she remembered seeing Melinda do, and
then, after the collar and ribbon had been given to her, going down on
her hands and knees before the fire to wash the hearth with milk, which
gave to the red bricks a polished, shining appearance, and added much to
the cheerfulness of the room. Ethelyn had commended her pleasantly, and,
in the seventh heaven of delight, Eunice had returned to her washing,
taking greater pains than ever with the dainty puffs and frills, and
putting in a stitch where one was needed.

It was very evident that Eunice admired Ethelyn, and Ethelyn in return
began to appreciate Eunice; and when, after dinner, she went to her
room, and, wearied with her unpacking, lay down upon the lounge, she
felt happier than she had since her first sight of Olney. It was
pleasant up there, and the room looked very pretty with the brackets and
ornaments, and pictures she had hung there instead of in the parlor, and
she decided within herself that though disappointed in every respect,
she could be quite comfortable for the few weeks which must intervene
before she went to Washington. She should spend most of the time in the
retirement of her room, mingling as little as possible with the family,
and keeping at a respectful distance from her mother-in-law, whom she
liked less than any of Richard's relations.

"I trust the Olney people will not think it their duty to call," she
thought. "I suppose I shall have to endure the Joneses for Abigail's
sake. Melinda certainly has some taste; possibly I may like her," and
while cogitating upon Melinda Jones and the expected gayeties in
Washington, she fell asleep; nor did Richard's step arouse her, when,
about three o'clock, he came in from the village in quest of some law
documents he wished to see.

Frank Van Buren would probably have kissed her as she lay there sleeping
so quietly; but Richard was in a great hurry. He had plunged at once
into business. Once there were forty men waiting to see and consult "the
Squire," whose reputation for honesty and ability was very great, and
whose simple assertion carried more weight than the roundest oath of
some lawyers, sworn upon the biggest Bible in Olney. Waylaid at every
corner, and plied with numberless questions, he had hardly found an
opportunity to come home to dinner, and now he had no time to waste in
love-making. He saw Ethelyn, however, and felt that his room had never
been as pleasant as it was with her there in it, albeit her coming was
the cause of his books and papers being disturbed and tossed about and
moved where he had much trouble to find them. He felt glad, too, that
she was out of his mother's way, and feeling that all was well, he found
his papers and hurried off to the village again, while Ethelyn slept on
till Eunice Plympton came up to say that "Miss Jones and Melinda were
both in the parlor and wanted her to come down."



CHAPTER XI

CALLS AND VISITING

Mrs. Jones had risen earlier than usual that Monday morning, and felt
not a little elated when she saw her long line of snowy linen swinging
in the wind before that of her neighbor, whom she excused on the score
of Richard's wife. But when twelve o'clock, and even one o'clock struck,
and still the back yard gave no sign, she began to wonder "if any of
'em could be sick"; and never was flag of truce watched for more
anxiously than she watched for something which should tell that it was
all well at Sister Markham's.

The sign appeared at last, and with her fears quieted, Mrs. Jones
pursued the even tenor of her way until everything was done and her
little kitchen was as shining as soap and sand and scrubbing brush could
make it. Perhaps it was washing the patchwork quilt which Abigail had
pieced that brought the deceased so strongly to Mrs. Jones' mind, and
made her so curious to see Abigail's successor. Whatever it was, Mrs.
Jones was very anxious for a sight of Ethelyn; and when her work was
done she donned her alpaca dress, and tying on her black silk apron,
announced her intention of "running into Mrs. Markham's just a minute.
Would Melinda like to go along?"

Melinda had been once to no purpose, and she had inwardly resolved to
wait a while before calling again; but she felt that she would rather be
with her mother at her first interview with Ethelyn, for she knew she
could cover up some defects by her glibber and more correct manner of
conversing. So she signified her assent, but did not wear her best
bonnet as she had on Saturday night. This was only a run in, she said,
never dreaming that, "for fear of what might happen if she was urged to
stay to tea," her mother had deposited in her capacious pocket the
shirt-sleeve of unbleached cotton she was making for Tim.

And so about four o'clock the twain started for the house of Mrs.
Markham, who saw them coming and welcomed them warmly. She was always
glad to see Mrs. Jones, and she was doubly glad to-day, for it seemed to
her that some trouble had come upon her which made neighborly sympathy
and neighborly intercourse more desirable than ever. Added to this,
there was in her heart an unconfessed pride in Ethelyn and a desire to
show her off. "Miss Jones was not going to stir home a step till after
supper," she said, as that lady demurred at laying off her bonnet. "She
had got to stay and see Richard; besides that, they were going to have
waffles and honey, with warm gingerbread."

Nobody who had once tested them, could withstand Mrs. Markham's waffles
and gingerbread. Mrs. Jones certainly could not; and when Eunice went up
for Ethelyn, that worthy woman was rocking back and forth in a low
rocking-chair, her brass thimble on her finger and Tim's shirt-sleeve in
progress of making; while Melinda, in her pretty brown merino and white
collar, with her black hair shining like satin, sat in another
rocking-chair, working at the bit of tatting she chanced to have in her
pocket. Ethelyn did not care to go down; it was like stepping into
another sphere leaving her own society for that of the Joneses; but
there was no alternative, and with a yawn she started up and began
smoothing her hair.

"This wrapper is well enough," she said, more to herself, than Eunice,
who was still standing by the door looking at her.

Eunice did not think the wrapper well enough. It was pretty, she knew,
but not as pretty as the dresses she had seen hanging in Ethelyn's
closet when she arranged the room that morning; so she said,
hesitatingly: "I wish you wouldn't wear that down. You were so handsome
yesterday in the black gown, with them red earrings and pin, and your
hair brushed up, so."

Ethelyn liked to look well, even here in Olney, and so the wrapper was
laid aside, the beautiful brown hair was wound in heavy coils about the
back of the head, and brushed back from her white forehead after a
fashion which made her look still younger and more girlish than she was.
A pretty plaid silk, with trimmings of blue, was chosen for to-day,
Eunice going nearly wild over the short jaunty basque, laced at the
sides and the back. Eunice had offered to stay and assist at her young
mistress' toilet, and as Ethelyn was not unaccustomed to the office of
waiting-maid, she accepted Eunice's offer, finding, to her surprise,
that the coarse red fingers, which that day had washed and starched her
linen, were not unhandy even among the paraphernalia of a Boston
lady's toilet.

"You do look beautiful," Eunice said, standing back to admire Ethelyn,
when at last she was dressed. "I have thought Melinda Jones handsome,
but she can't hold a candle to you, nor nobody else I ever seen, except
Miss Judge Miller, in Camden. She do act some like you, with her gown
dragglin' behind her half a yard."

Thus flattered and complimented, Ethelyn shook out her skirts, which
"draggled half a yard behind," and went downstairs to where Mrs. Jones
sat working on Timothy's shirt, and Melinda was crocheting, while Mrs.
Markham, senior, clean and neat, and stiff in her starched, purple
calico, sat putting a patch on a fearfully large hole in the knee of
Andy's pants. As Ethelyn swept into the room there fell a hush upon the
inmates, and Mrs. Jones was almost guilty of an exclamation of surprise.
She had expected something fine, she said--something different from the
Olney quality--but she was not prepared for anything as grand and
queenly as Ethelyn, when she sailed into the room, with her embroidered
handkerchief held so gracefully in her hands, and in response to Mrs.
Markham's introduction, bowed so very low, and slowly, too, her lips
scarcely moving at all, and her eyes bent on the ground. Mrs. Jones
actually ran the needle she was sewing with under her thumb in her
sudden start, while Melinda's crocheting dropped into her lap. She, too,
was surprised, though not as much as her mother. She, like Eunice, had
seen Mrs. Judge Miller, from New York, whose bridal trousseau was
imported from Paris, and whose wardrobe was the wonder of Camden. And
Ethelyn was very much like her, only younger and prettier.

"Very pretty," Melinda thought, while Mrs. Jones fell to comparing her,
mentally, with the deceased Abigail; wondering how Richard, if he had
ever loved the one, could have fancied the other, they were so unlike.

Of course, the mother's heart gave to Abigail the preference for all
that was good and womanly, and worthy of Richard Markham; but Ethelyn
bore off the palm for style, and beauty, too.

"Handsome as a doll, but awfully proud," Mrs. Jones decided, during the
interval in which she squeezed her wounded thumb, and got the needle
again in motion upon Timothy's shirt-sleeve.

Ethelyn was not greatly disappointed in Mrs. Jones and her daughter; the
mother especially was much like what she had imagined her to be, while
Melinda was rather prettier--rather more like the Chicopee girls than
she expected. There was a look on her face like Susie Granger, and the
kindly expression of her black eyes made Ethelyn excuse her for wearing
a magenta bow, while her cheeks were something the same hue. They were
very stiff at first, Mrs. Jones saying nothing at all, and Melinda only
venturing upon common-place inquiries--as to how Ethelyn bore her
journey, if she was ever in that part of the country before, and how she
thought she should like the West. This last question Ethelyn could not
answer directly.

"It was very different from New England," she said, "but she was
prepared for that, and hoped she should not get very homesick during the
few weeks which would elapse before she went to Washington."

At this point Mrs. Markham stopped her patching and looked inquiringly
at Ethelyn. It was the first she had heard about Ethelyn's going to
Washington; indeed, she had understood that Richard's wife was to keep
her company during the winter, a prospect which since Ethelyn's arrival
had not looked so pleasing to her as it did before. How in the world
they should get on together without Richard, she did not know, and if
she consulted merely her own comfort she would have bidden Ethelyn go.
But there were other things to be considered--there was the great
expense it would be for Richard to have his wife with him. Heretofore he
had saved a good share of his salary, but with Ethelyn it would be money
out of his pocket all the time; besides that, there were reasons why it
was not proper for Ethelyn to go; her best place was at home.

Thus reasoned Mrs. Markham, and when next her needle resumed its work on
Andy's patch, Ethelyn's fate with regard to Washington was decided, for
as thought the mother on that point, so eventually would think the son,
who deferred so much to her judgment. He came in after a little, looking
so well and handsome that Ethelyn felt proud of him, and had he then
laid his hand upon her shoulder, or put his arm around her waist, as he
sometimes did when they were alone, she would not have shaken it off, as
was her usual custom. Indeed, such is the perversity of human nature,
and so many contradictions are there in it, that Ethelyn rather wished
he would pay her some little attention. She could not forget Abigail,
with Abigail's mother and sister sitting there before her, and she
wanted them to see how fond her husband was of her, hoping thus to prove
how impossible it was that Abigail could ever have been to him what she
was. But Richard was shy in the presence of others, and would sooner
have put his arm around Melinda than around his wife, for fear he should
be thought silly. He was very proud of her, though, and felt a thrill of
satisfaction in seeing how superior, both in look and manner, she was to
Melinda Jones, whose buxom, healthy face grew almost coarse and homely
from comparison with Ethelyn's.

As Ethelyn's toilet had occupied some time, it was five when she made
her appearance in the parlor, consequently she had not long to wait ere
the announcement of supper broke up the tediousness she endured from
that first call, or visit. The waffles and the gingerbread were all they
had promised to be, and the supper passed off quietly, with the
exception of a mishap of poor, awkward Andy, who tipped his plate of hot
cakes and honey into his lap, and then in his sudden spring backward,
threw a part of the plate's contents upon Ethelyn's shining silk. This
was the direst calamity of all, and sent poor Andy from the table so
heart-broken and disconsolate that he did not return again, and Eunice
found him sitting on the wood-house steps, wiping away with his
coat-sleeve the great tears which rolled down his womanish face.

"Ethelyn never would like him again," he said, calling himself "a great
blundering fool, who never ought to eat at the same table with
civilized folks."

But when Ethelyn, who heard from Eunice of Andy's distress, went out to
see him, assuring him that but little damage had been done, that soft
water and magnesia would make the dress all right again, he brightened
up, and was ready to hold Mr. Harrington's horse when, after dark, that
gentleman drove over from Olney with his wife and sister to call on Mrs.
Richard. It would almost seem that Ethelyn held a reception that
evening, for more than the Harringtons knocked at the front door, and
were admitted by the smiling Eunice. It was rather early to call, the
Olneyites knew, but there on the prairie they were not hampered with
many of Mrs. Grundy's rules, and so curious to see the "Boston lady,"
several of the young people had agreed together between the Sunday
services to call at Mrs. Markham's the following night. They were
well-meaning, kind-hearted people, and would any one of them gone far
out of their way to serve either Richard or his young wife; but they
were not Eastern bred, and feeling somewhat awed by Ethelyn's cold,
frigid manner, they appeared shy and awkward--all except Will Parsons,
the young M.D. of Olney, who joked, and talked and laughed so loudly,
that even Richard wondered he had never before observed how noisy Dr.
Parsons was, while Andy, who was learning to read Ethelyn's face, tried
once or twice, by pulling the doctor's coat-skirts and giving him a
warning glance, to quiet him down a little. But the doctor took no
hints, and kept on with his fun, finding a splendid coadjutor in the
"terrible Tim Jones," who himself came over to call on Dick and
his woman.

Tim was rigged out in his best, with a bright red cravat tied around his
neck, and instead of his muddy boots with his pants tucked in the tops,
he wore coarse shoes tied with strings and flirted his yellow silk
handkerchief for the entire evening. It was dreadful to Ethelyn, for she
could see nothing agreeable in Richard's friends; indeed, their presence
was scarcely bearable, and the proud look on her face was so apparent
that the guests felt more or less ill at ease, while Richard was nearer
being angry with Ethelyn than he had ever been. Will Parsons and Tim
Jones seemed exceptions to the rest of the company, especially the
latter, who, if he noticed Ethelyn's evident contempt, was determined
to ignore it, and make himself excessively familiar.

As yet, the open piano had been untouched, no one having the courage to
ask Ethelyn to play; but Tim was fond of music, and unhesitatingly
seating himself upon the stool, thrust one hand in his pocket, and with
the other struck the keys at random, trying to make out a few bars of
"Hail, Columbia!" Then turning to Ethelyn he said, with a good-humored
nod, "Come, old lady, give us something good."

Ethelyn's eyes flashed fire, while others of the guests looked their
astonishment at Tim, who knew he had done something, but could not for
the life of him tell what.

"Old lady" was a favorite title with him. He called his mother so, and
Melinda, and Eunice Plympton, and Maria Moorehouse, whose eyes he
thought so bright, and whom he always saw home from meeting on Sunday
nights; and so it never occurred to him that this was his offense. But
Melinda knew, and her red cheeks burned scarlet as she tried to cover
her brother's blunder by modestly urging Ethelyn to favor them with
some music.

Of all the Western people whom she had seen, Ethelyn liked Melinda the
best. She had thought her rather familiar, and after the Olneyites came
in and put her more at her ease, she fancied her a little flippant and
forward; but, in all she did or said, there was so much genuine
sincerity and frankness, that Ethelyn could not dislike her as she had
thought she should dislike a sister of Abigail Jones and the terrible
Tim. She had not touched her piano since her arrival, for fear of the
homesickness which its familiar tones might awaken, and when she saw
Tim's big red hands fingering the keys, in her resentment at the
desecration she said to herself that she never would touch it again; but
when in a low aside Melinda added to her entreaties: "Please, Mrs.
Markham, don't mind Tim--he means well enough, and would not be rude for
the world, if he knew it," she began to give way, and it scarcely needed
Richard's imperative, "Ethelyn," to bring her to her feet. No one
offered to conduct her to the piano--not even Richard, who sat just
where he was; while Tim, in his haste to vacate the music stool,
precipitated it to the floor, and got his leather shoes entangled in
Ethelyn's skirts.

Tim, and Will Parsons, and Andy all hastened to pick up the stool,
knocking their heads together, and raising a laugh in which Ethelyn
could not join. Thoroughly disgusted and sick at heart, she felt much as
the Jewish maidens must have felt when required to give a song. Her harp
was indeed upon the willows hung, and her heart was turning sadly toward
her far-off Jerusalem as she sat down and tried to think what she should
play to suit her audience. Suddenly it occurred to her to suit herself
rather than her hearers, and her snowy fingers--from which flashed
Daisy's diamond and a superb emerald--swept the keys with a masterly
grace and skill. Ethelyn was perfectly at home at the piano, and dashing
off into a brilliant and difficult overture, she held her hearers for a
few minutes astonished both at her execution and the sounds she made. To
the most of them, however, the sounds were meaningless; their tastes had
not yet been cultivated up to Ethelyn's style. They wanted something
familiar--something they had heard before; and when the fine performance
was ended terrible Tim electrified her with the characteristic
exclamation: "That was mighty fine, no doubt, for them that understand
such; but, now, for land's sake, give us a tune."

Ethelyn was horror-stricken. She had cast her pearls before swine; and
with a haughty stare at the offending Timothy, she left the stool, and
walking back to her former seat, said:

"I leave the tunes to your sister, who, I believe, plays sometimes."

Somewhat crestfallen, but by no means browbeaten, Tim insisted that
Melinda should give them a jig; and, so, crimsoning with shame and
confusion, Melinda took the vacant stool and played her brother a
tune--a rollicking, galloping tune, which everybody knew, and which set
the feet to keeping time, and finally brought Tim and Andy to the floor
for a dance. But Melinda declined playing for a cotillion which her
brother proposed, and so the dancing arrangement came to naught,
greatly to the delight of Ethelyn, who could only keep back her tears by
looking up at the sweet face of Daisy smiling down upon her from the
wall. That was the only redeeming point in that whole assembly, she
thought. She would not even except Richard then, so intense was her
disappointment and so bitter her regret for the mistake she made when
she promised to go where her heart could never be.

It was nine o'clock when the company dispersed. Each of the ladies
cordially invited Ethelyn to call as soon as convenient, and Mrs.
Harrington, a lady of some cultivation, whose husband was the village
merchant, saying encouragingly to her, as she held her hand a moment,
"Our Western manners seem strange to you, I dare say; but we are a
well-meaning people, and you will get accustomed to us by and by."

She never should--no, never, thought Ethelyn, as she went up to her
room, tired and homesick, and disheartened with this, her first
introduction to the Olney people. It was a very cross wife that slept at
Richard's side that night, and the opinion expressed of the Olneyites
was anything but complimentary to the taste of one who had known them
all his life and liked them so well. But Richard was getting accustomed
to such things. Lectures did not move him now as they had at first, and
overcome with fatigue from his day's work and the evening's excitement,
he fell asleep, while Ethelyn was enlarging upon the merits of the
terrible Tim, who had addressed her as "old lady" and asked her to
"play a tune."



CHAPTER XII

SOCIETY

In the course of two weeks all the people in Olney called upon Ethelyn,
who would gladly have refused herself to them all. But after the morning
when Andy stood outside the door of her room, wringing his hands in
great distress at the tone of Richard's voice, and Ethelyn stayed in bed
all day with the headache, and was nursed by Eunice and Melinda, Ethelyn
did better, and was at least polite to those who called. She had said
she would not see them, and Richard had said she should; and as he
usually made people do as he liked, Ethelyn was forced to submit, but
cried herself sick. It was very desolate and lonely upstairs that day,
for Richard was busy in town, and the wind swept against the windows
with a mournful, moaning sound, which made Ethelyn think of dear old
Chicopee, and the lofty elms through whose swaying branches the same
October wind was probably sighing on this autumnal day. But, oh! how
vast the difference, she thought; for what would have been music if
heard at home among the New England hills, was agony here upon the
Western prairie.

Ethelyn was very wretched and hailed with delight the presence of
Melinda Jones, who came in the afternoon, bringing a basket of delicious
apples and a lemon tart she had made herself. Melinda was very sorry for
Ethelyn, and her face said as much as she stood by her side and laid her
hand softly upon the throbbing temples, pitying her so much, for she
guessed just how homesick she was there with Mrs. Markham, whose ways
had never seemed so peculiar, even to her, as since Ethelyn's arrival.
"And still," she thought, "I do not see how she can be so very unhappy,
in any circumstances, with a husband like Richard." But here Melinda
made a mistake; for though Ethelyn respected her husband, and had
learned to miss him when he was gone, and the day whose close was not to
bring him back would have been very long, she did not love him as a
husband should be loved; and so there was nothing to fall back upon when
other props gave way.

Wholly unsuspicious, Melinda sat down beside her, offering to brush her
hair, and while she brushed and combed, and braided, and admired the
glossy brown locks, she talked on the subject she thought most
acceptable to the young wife's ear--of Richard, and the great popularity
he had achieved, not only in his own county, but in neighboring ones,
where he stood head and shoulders above his fellows. There was talk once
of making him governor, she said, but some thought him too young.
Lately, however, she had heard that the subject was again agitated,
adding that her father and Tim both thought it more than probable that
the next election would take him to the gubernatorial mansion.

"Tim would work like a hero for Richard," she said. "He almost idolizes
him, and when he was up for Judge Tim's exertions alone procured for him
a hundred extra votes. Tim is a rough, half-savage fellow, but he has
the kindest of hearts, and is very popular with a certain class of men
who could not be reached by one more polished and cultivated."

So much Melinda said, by way of excusing Tim's vulgarities; and then,
with the utmost tact, she led the conversation back to Richard and the
governorship, hinting that Ethelyn could do much toward securing that
office for her husband. A little attention, which cost nothing, would go
a great ways, she said; and it was sometimes worth one's while to make
an effort, even if they did not feel like it. More than one rumor had
reached Melinda's ear touching the pride of Dick Markham's wife--a pride
which the Olney people felt keenly, and it the more keenly knowing that
they had helped to give her husband a name; they had made him Judge, and
sent him to Congress, and would like to make him governor, knowing well
that that no office, however high, would change him from the plain,
unpretending man, who, even in the Senate Chamber, would shake drunken
Ike Plympton's hand, and slap Tim Jones on the back if need be. They
liked their Dick, who had been a boy among them, and they thought it
only fair that his wife should unbend a little, and not freeze them so
with her lofty ways.

"She'll kick the whole thing over if she goes on so," Tim had said to
his father, in Melinda's hearing, and so, like a true friend to Richard,
Melinda determined to try and prevent the proud little feet from doing
so much mischief.

Nor was she unsuccessful. Ethelyn saw the drift of the conversation, and
though for an instant her cheek crimsoned with resentment that she
should be talked at by Melinda Jones, she was the better for the
talking, and the Olney people, when next they come in contact with her,
changed their minds with regard to her being so very proud. She was
homesick at first, and that was the cause of her coldness, they said,
excusing her in their kind hearts, and admiring her as something far
superior to themselves. Even Tim Jones got now and then a pleasant word,
for Ethelyn had not forgotten the hundred extra votes. She would have
repelled the insinuation that she was courting favor or that hopes of
the future governorship for Richard had anything to do with her changed
demeanor. She despised such things in others; but Ethelyn was human, and
it is just possible that had there been nothing in expectancy she would
not have submitted with so good a grace to the familiarities with which
she so constantly came in contact. At home she was cold and proud as
ever, for between her mother-in-law and herself there was no affinity,
and they kept as far apart as possible, Ethelyn staying mostly in her
room, and Mrs. Markham, senior, staying in the kitchen, where Eunice
Plympton still remained.

Mrs. Markham had fully expected that Eunice would go home within a few
days after Ethelyn's arrival; but when the days passed on, Ethelyn
showed no inclination for a nearer acquaintance with the kitchen--"never
even offering to wipe the teacups on washing days," as Mrs. Markham
complained to James, and John, and Andy--the good woman began to
manifest some anxiety on the subject, and finally went to Richard to
know if "he expected to keep a hired girl all winter or was Ethelyn
going to do some light chores."

Richard really did not know; but after a visit to his room, where Ethie
sat reading in her handsome crimson wrapper, with the velvet trimmings,
he decided that she could "not do chores," and Eunice must remain. It
was on this occasion that Washington was broached, Mrs. Markham
repeating what she heard Ethelyn saying to Melinda, and asking Richard
if he contemplated such a piece of extravagance as taking his wife to
Washington would be. In Richard's estimation there were other and
weightier reasons why Ethelyn should remain quietly at home that winter.
He did not especially mind the expense she might be to him, and he owned
to a weak desire to see her queen it over all the reigning belles, as he
was certain she would. Unbiased by his mother, and urged by Ethelyn, he
would probably have yielded in her favor; but the mother was first in
the field, and so she won the day, and Ethie's disappointment was a
settled thing. But Ethie did not know it, as Richard wisely refrained
from being the first to speak of the matter. That she was going to
Washington Ethelyn had no doubt, and this made her intercourse with the
Olneyites far more endurable. Some of them she found pleasant,
cultivated people--especially Mr. Townsend, the clergyman, who, after
the Sunday on which she appeared at the Village Hall in her blue silk
and elegant basquine, came to see her, and seemed so much like an old
friend when she found that he had met at Clifton, in New York, some of
her acquaintances. It was easy to be polite to him, and to the people
from Camden, who hearing much of Judge Markham's pretty bride, came to
call upon her--Judge Miller and his wife, with Marcia Fenton and Miss
Ella Backus, both belles and blondes, and both some-bodies, according to
Ethelyn's definition of that word. She liked these people, and Richard
found no trouble in getting her to return their calls. She would gladly
have stayed in Camden altogether, and once laughingly pointed out to
Richard a large, vacant lot, adjoining Mr. Fenton's, where she would
like to have her new house built.

There was a decided improvement in Ethelyn; nor did her old perversity
of temper manifest itself very strongly until one morning, three weeks
after her arrival in Olney, when Richard suggested to her the propriety
of his mother's giving them a party, or infair, as he called it. The
people expected it, he said; they would be disappointed without it, and,
indeed, he felt it was something he owed them for all their kindness to
him. Then Ethelyn rebelled--stoutly, stubbornly rebelled--but Richard
carried the point, and two days after the farmhouse was in a state of
dire confusion, wholly unlike the quiet which reigned there usually.
Melinda Jones was there all the time, while Mrs. Jones was back and
forth, and a few of the Olney ladies dropped in with suggestions and
offers of assistance. It was to be a grand affair--so far, at least, as
numbers were concerned--for everybody was invited, from Mr. Townsend and
the other clergy, down to Cecy Doane, who did dressmaking and tailoring
from house to house. The Markhams were very democratic in their
feelings, and it showed itself in the guests bidden to the party. They
were invited from Camden as well--Mr. and Mrs. Miller, with Marcia
Fenton and Ella Backus; and after the two young ladies had come over to
ascertain how large an affair it was to be, so as to know what to wear,
Ethelyn began to take some little interest in it herself and to give the
benefit of her own experience in such matters. But having a party in
Mrs. Dr. Van Buren's handsome house, where the servants were all so well
trained, and everything necessary was so easy of access, or even having
a party at Aunt Barbara's, was a very different thing from having one
here under the supervision of Mrs. Markham, whose ideas were so many
years back, and who objected to nearly everything which Ethelyn
suggested. But by dint of perseverance on Melinda's part her scruples
were finally overcome; so that when the night of the party arrived the
house presented a very respectable appearance, with its lamps of
kerosene, and the sperm candles flaming on the mantels in the parlor,
and the tallow candles smoking in the kitchen.

Mrs. Markham's bed had been removed from the sitting room, and the
carpet taken from the floor, for they were going to dance, and Eunice's
mother had been working hard all day to keep her liege lord away from
the Cross Roads tavern so that he might be presentable at night, and
capable of performing his part, together with his eldest son, who played
the flute. She was out in the kitchen now, very large and important with
the office of head waiter, her hoops in everybody's way, and her face
radiant with satisfaction, as she talked to Mrs. Markham about what we
better do. The table was laid in the kitchen and loaded with all the
substantials, besides many delicacies which Melinda and Ethelyn had
concocted; for the latter had even put her hands to the work, and
manufactured two large dishes of Charlotte Russe, with pretty molds of
blanc-mange, which Eunice persisted in calling "corn-starch puddin',
with the yallers of eggs left out," There were trifles, and tarts, and
jellies, and sweetmeats, with raised biscuits by the hundred, and loaves
on loaves of frosted cake; while out in the woodshed, wedged in a tub of
ice, was a huge tin pail, over which James, and John, and Andy, and even
Richard had sat, by turns, stirring the freezing mass. Mrs. Jones'
little colored boy, who knew better how to wait on company than any
person there, came over in his clean jacket, and out on the doorstep was
eating chestnuts and whistling Dixie, as he looked down the road to see
if anybody was coming. Melinda Jones had gone home to dress, feeling
more like going to bed than making merry at a party, as she looped up
her black braids of hair and donned her white muslin dress with the
scarlet ribbons. Melinda was very tired, for a good share of the work
had fallen upon her--or rather she had assumed it--and her cheeks and
hands were redder than usual when, about seven o'clock, Tim drove her
over to Mrs. Markham's, and then went to the village after the dozen or
more of girls whom he had promised "to see to the doin's."

But Melinda looked very pretty--at least James Markham thought so--when
she stood up on tiptoe to tie his cravat in a better-looking bow than
he had done. Since the night when Richard first told her of Ethelyn, it
had more than once occurred to Melinda that possibly she might yet bear
the name of Markham, for her woman nature was quick to see that James,
at least, paid her the homage which Richard had withheld. But Melinda's
mind was not yet made up, and as she was too honest to encourage hopes
which might never be fulfilled, she would not even look up into the
handsome eyes resting so admiringly upon her as she tied the bow of the
cravat and felt James' breath upon her burning cheeks. She did, however,
promise to dance the first set with him, and then she ran upstairs to
see if Ethelyn needed her. But Eunice had been before her, and Ethelyn's
toilet was made.

Had this party been at Mrs. Dr. Van Buren's, in Boston, Ethelyn would
have worn her beautiful white satin with the fleecy lace; but here it
would be out of place, she thought, and so she left it pinned up in
towels at the bottom of her trunk, and chose a delicate lavender,
trimmed with white appliqué. Lavender was not the most becoming color
Ethelyn could wear, but she looked very handsome in it, with the soft
pearls upon her neck and arms. Richard thought her dress too low, while
modest Andy averted his eyes, lest he should do wrong in looking upon
the beautiful round neck and shoulders which so greatly shocked his
mother. "It was ridiculous and disgraceful for respectable wimmen folks
to dress like that," she said to Melinda Jones, who spoke up for
Ethelyn, saying the dress was like that of all fashionable ladies, and
in fact was not as low as Mrs. Judge Miller wore to a reception when
Melinda was at school in Camden.

Mrs. Markham "did not care for Miss Miller, nor forty more like her.
Ethelyn looked ridickerlous, showing her shoulderblades, with that sharp
point running down her back, and her skirts moppin' the floor for half a
yard behind."

Any superfluity of length in Ethelyn's skirts was more than
counterbalanced by Mrs. Markham's, who this night wore the heavy black
silk which her sister-in-law had matched in Boston ten years before. Of
course it was too narrow and too short, and too flat in front, Andy
said, admiring Ethelyn far more than he did his mother, even though the
latter wore the coiffure which Aunt Barbara had sent her, and a big
collar made from the thread lace which Mrs. Captain Markham, of
Chicopee, had also matched in Boston. Ethelyn was perfect, Andy thought,
and he hovered constantly near her, noticing how she carried her hands,
and her handkerchief, and her fan, and thinking Richard must be
perfectly happy in the possession of such a gem.

But Richard was not happy--at least not that night--for, with Mrs.
Miller, and Marcia Fenton, and Ella Backus before her mind, Ethelyn had
lectured him again on etiquette, and Richard did not bear lecturing here
as well as at Saratoga. There it was comparatively easy to make him
believe he did not know anything which he ought to know; but at home,
where the old meed of praise and deference was awarded to him, where his
word was law and gospel, and he was Judge Markham, the potentate of the
town, Ethelyn's criticisms were not palatable, and he hinted that he was
old enough to take care of himself without quite so much dictation.
Then, when he saw a tear on Ethelyn's eyelashes, he would have put his
arm around her and kissed it away, if she had not kept him back, telling
him he would muss her dress. Still he was not insensible to her pretty
looks, and felt very proud of her, as she stood at his side and shook
the hands of the arriving guests.

By eight o'clock the Olneyites had assembled in full force; but it was
not until the train came in and brought the élite from Camden that the
party was fairly commenced. There was a hush when the three ladies with
veils on their heads went up the stairs, and a greater hush when they
came down again--Mrs. Judge Miller, splendid in green moire-antique,
with diamonds in her ears, while Marcia Fenton and Ella Backus figured
in white tarletan, one with trimmings of blue, the other with trimmings
of pink, and both with waists so much lower than Ethelyn's that Mrs.
Markham thought the latter very decent by comparison.

It took the ladies a few minutes to inspect the cut of Mrs. Miller's
dress, and the style of hair worn by Marcia and Ella, whose heads had
been under a hairdresser's hands, and were curiosities to some of the
Olneyites. But all stiffness vanished with the sound of Jerry Plympton's
fiddle, and the girls on the west side of the room began to look at the
boys on the opposite side, who were straightening their collars and
glancing at their "pumps."

Ethelyn did not intend to dance, but when Judge Miller politely offered
to lead her to the floor, saying, as he guessed her thoughts, "Remember
the old adage, 'among the Romans, and so forth,'" she involuntarily
assented, and even found herself leading the first cotillion to the
sound of Jerry Plympton's fiddle. Mrs. Miller was dancing, too, as were
both Marcia and Ella, and that in a measure reconciled her to what she
was doing. They knew something of the lancers there on the prairie, and
terrible Tim Jones offered to call off "if Miss Markham would dance with
him and kind of keep him goin' straight."

Tim had laid a wager with a companion as rough as himself, that he would
dance with the proud beauty, and this was the way he took to win the
bet. The ruse succeeded, too, Richard's eyes and low-toned "Ethelyn!"
availing more than aught else to drive Ethelyn to the floor with the
dreadful Tim, who interlarded his directions with little asides of his
own, such as "Go it, Jim," "Cut her down there, Tom," "Hurry up
your cakes."

Ethelyn could have screamed out with disgust, and the moment the set was
over she said to Richard, "I shall not dance again to-night."

And she kept her word, until toward the close of the party when poor
Andy, who had been so unfortunate as to find everybody engaged or too
tired, came up to her as she was playing an accompaniment to Jerry's
"Money-musk," and with a most doleful expression, said to her, timidly:

"Please, sister Ethie, dance just once with me; none of the girls wants
to, and I hain't been in a figger to-night."

Ethelyn could not resist Andy, whose face was perfectly radiant as he
led her to the floor, and bumped his head against hers in bowing to her.
Eunice was in the same set--her partner the terrible Tim--who cracked
jokes and threw his feet about in the most astounding fashion. And
Ethelyn bore it all, feeling that by being there with such people she
had fallen from the pedestal on which Ethelyn Grant once stood. Her
lavender dress was stepped upon, and her point appliqué caught and torn
by the big pin Andy had upon his coat cuff. Taken as a whole, that party
was the most dreadful of anything Ethelyn had endured and she could have
cried for joy when the last guest had said good-night, and she was at
liberty to lay her aching head upon her pillow.

Four days after there was a large and fashionable party at Mrs. Judge
Miller's, in Camden, and Ethelyn went over in the cars, taking Eunice
with her as dressing-maid, and stopping at the Stafford House. That
night she wore her bridal robes, receiving so much attention that her
head was nearly turned with flattery. She could dance with the young men
of Camden, and flirt with them, too--especially with Harry Clifford,
who, she found, had been in college with Frank Van Buren. Harry Clifford
was a fast young man, but pleasant to talk with for a while and Ethelyn
found him very agreeable, saving that his mention of Frank made her
heart throb unpleasantly; for she fancied he might know something of
that page of her past life which she had concealed from Richard. Nor
were her fears without foundation, for once when they were standing
together near her husband, Harry said:

"It seems so strange that you are the Ethie about whom Frank used to
talk so much, and a lock of whose hair he kept so sacred. I remember I
tried to buy a part of it from him, but could not succeed until once,
when his funds from home failed to come, and he was so hard up, as we
used to say, that he actually sold, or rather pawned, half of the
shining tress for the sum of five dollars. As the pawn was never
redeemed, I have the hair now, but never expected to meet with its fair
owner, who needs not to be told that the tress is tenfold more valuable
since I have met her, and know her to be the wife of our esteemed
Member," and young Clifford bowed toward Richard, whose face wore a
perplexed, dissatisfied expression.

He did not fancy Harry Clifford much, and he certainly did not care to
hear that he had in his possession a lock of Ethelyn's hair, while the
allusions to Frank Van Buren were anything but agreeable to him. Neither
did he like Ethelyn's painful blushes, and her evident desire for Harry
to stop. It looked as if the hair business meant more than he would like
to suppose. Naturally bright and quick, young Clifford detected
Richard's thoughts, and directly began to wonder if there were not
something somewhere which Judge Markham did not understand.

"I mean to find out," he thought, and watching an opportunity, when
Ethelyn was comparatively alone, he crossed to her side and said in a
low tone, "Excuse me, Mrs. Markham. If in my illusions to Frank Van
Buren I touched a subject which has never been discussed between
yourself and your husband, I meant no harm, I assure you."

Instead of rebuking the impertinent young man, Ethelyn turned very red,
and stammered out something about its being of no consequence; and so
Harry Clifford held the secret which she had kept so carefully from
Richard, and that party in Camden was made the stepping-stone to much of
the wretchedness that afterward came to our heroine.



CHAPTER XIII

GOING TO WASHINGTON

Richard's trunk was ready for Washington. His twelve shirts, which
Eunice had ironed so nicely, were packed away with his collars and new
yarn socks, and his wedding suit, which he was carrying as a mere matter
of form, for he knew he should not need it during his three months'
absence. He should not go into society, he thought, or even attend
levees, with his heart as sore and heavy as it was on this, his last day
at home. Ethelyn was not going with him. She knew it now, and never did
the face of a six-months wife look harder or stonier than hers as she
stayed all day in her room, paying no heed whatever to Richard, and
leaving entirely to Eunice and her mother-in-law those little things
which most wives would have been delighted to do for their husbands'
comfort. Ethelyn was very unhappy, very angry, and very bitterly
disappointed. The fact that she was not going to Washington had fallen
upon her like a thunderbolt, paralyzing her, as it were, so that after
the first great shock was over she seemed like some benumbed creature
bereft of care, or feeling, or interest in anything.

She had remained in Camden the most of the day following Mrs. Judge
Miller's party, and had done a little shopping with Marcia Fenton and
Ella Backus, to whom she spoke of her winter in Washington as a matter
of course, saying what she had to say in Richard's presence, and never
dreaming that he was only waiting for a fitting opportunity to demolish
her castles entirely. Perhaps if Ethelyn had talked Washington openly to
her husband when she was first married, and before his mother had gained
his ear, her chances for a winter at the capital would have been far
greater than they were now. But she had only taken it for granted that
she was going, and supposed that Richard understood it just as she did.
She had asked him several times where he intended to board and why he
did not secure rooms at Willard's, but Richard's non-committal replies
had given her no cue to her impending fate. On the night of her return
from Camden, as she stood by her dressing bureau, folding away her
point-lace handkerchief, she had casually remarked, "I shall not use
that again till I use it in Washington. Will it be very gay there
this winter?"

Richard was leaning his elbow upon the mantel, looking thoughtfully into
the fire, and for a moment he did not answer. He hated to demolish
Ethie's castles, but it could not be helped. Once it had seemed very
possible that she would go with him to Washington, but that was before
his mother had talked to him upon the subject. Since then the fiat had
gone forth, and thinking this the time to declare it, Richard said at
last, "Put down your finery, Ethelyn, and come stand by me while I say
something to you."

His voice and manner startled Ethelyn, but did not prepare her for what
followed after she had "dropped her finery" and was standing by
her husband.

"Ethelyn," he began, and his eyes did not move from the blazing fire,
"it is time we came to an understanding about Washington. I have talked
with mother, whose age certainly entitles her opinion to some
consideration, and she thinks that for you to go to Washington this
winter would not only be improper, but also endanger your life;
consequently, I hope you will readily see the propriety of remaining
quietly at home where mother can care for you, and see that you are not
at all imprudent. It would break my heart if anything happened to my
darling wife, or--" he finished the sentence in a whisper, for he was
not yet accustomed to speaking of the great hope he had in expectancy.

He was looking at Ethelyn now, and the expression of her face startled
and terrified him, it was so strange and terrible.

"Not go to Washington!" and her livid lips quivered with passion, while
her eyes burned like coals of fire. "I stay here all this long, dreary
winter with your mother! Never, Richard, never! I'll die before I'll do
that. It is all--" she did not finish the sentence, for she would not
say, "It is all I married you for"; she was too much afraid of Richard
for that, and so she hesitated, but looked at him intently to see if he
was in earnest.

She knew he was at last--knew that neither tears, nor reproaches, nor
bitter scorn could avail to carry her point, for she tried them all,
even to violent hysterics, which brought Mrs. Markham, senior, into the
field and made the matter ten times worse. Had she stayed away Richard
might have yielded, for he was frightened at the storm he had invoked;
but Richard was passive in his mother's hands, and listened complacently
while in stronger, plainer language than he had used she repeated in
substance all he had said about the impropriety of Ethelyn's mingling
with the gay throng at Washington. Immodesty, Mrs. Markham called it,
with sundry reflections upon the time when she was young, and what young
married women did then. And while she talked poor Ethelyn lay upon the
lounge writhing with pain and passion, wishing that she could die, and
feeling in her heart that she hated the entire Markham race, from
Richard down to the innocent Andy, who heard of the quarrel going on
between his mother and Ethelyn, and crept cautiously to the door of
their room, wishing so much that he could mediate between them.

But this was a matter beyond Andy's ken. He could not even find a
petition in his prayer-book suited to that occasion. Mr. Townsend had
assured him that it would meet every emergency; but for once Mr.
Townsend was at fault, for with the sound of Ethelyn's angry voice
ringing in his ears, Andy lighted his tallow candle and creeping up to
his chamber knelt down by his wooden chair and sought among the general
prayers for one suited "to a man and his wife quarreling." There was a
prayer for the President, a prayer for the clergy, a prayer for
Congress, a prayer for rain, a prayer for the sick, a prayer for people
going to sea and people going to be hanged, but there was nothing for
the point at issue, unless he took the prayer to be used in time of war
and tumults, and that he thought would never answer, inasmuch as he did
not really know who was the enemy from which he would be delivered. It
was hard to decide against Ethelyn and still harder to decide against
"Dick," and so with his brains all in a muddle Andy concluded to take
the prayer "for all sorts and conditions of men," speaking very low and
earnestly when he asked that all "who were distressed in mind, body, or
estate, might be comforted and relieved according to their several
necessities." This surely covered the ground to a very considerable
extent; or if it did not, the fervent "Good Lord, deliver us," with
which Andy finished his devotions, did, and the simple-hearted, trusting
man arose from his knees comforted and relieved, even if Richard and
Ethelyn were not.

With them the trouble continued, for Ethelyn kept her bed next day,
refusing to see anyone and only answering Richard in monosyllables when
he addressed himself directly to her. Once he bent over her and said,
"Ethelyn, tell me truly--is it your desire to be with me, your dread of
separation from me, which makes you so averse to be left behind?"

There was that in his voice which said that if this were the case he
might be induced to reconsider. But though sorely tempted to do it,
Ethelyn would not tell a falsehood for the sake of Washington; so she
made no reply, and Richard drew from her silence any inference he
pleased. He was very wretched those last days, for he could not forget
the look of Ethelyn's eye or the sound of her voice when, as she finally
gave up the contest, she said to him with quivering nostrils and steady
tones, "You may leave me here, Richard, but remember this: not one word
or line will I write to you while you are gone. I mean what I say. I
shall abide by my decision."

It would be dreadful not to hear a word from Ethie during all the dreary
winter, and Richard hoped she would recall her words; but Ethelyn was
too sorely wounded to do that. She must reach Richard somehow, and this
was the way to do it. She did not come downstairs again after it was
settled. She was sick, she said, and kept her room, seeing no one but
Richard and Eunice, who three times a day brought up her nicely cooked
meals and looked curiously at her as she deposited her tray upon the
stand and quietly left the room. Mrs. Markham did not go up at all, for
Ethelyn charged her disappointment directly to her mother-in-law, and
had asked that she be kept away; and so, 'mid passion and tears and
bitterness, the week went by and brought the day when Richard was
to leave.



CHAPTER XIV

THE FIRST DAY OF RICHARD'S ABSENCE

The gray light of a November morning was breaking over the prairies when
Richard stooped down to kiss his wife, who did not think it worth her
while to rise so early even to see him off. She felt that she had been
unjustly dealt with, and up to the very last maintained the same cold,
icy manner so painful to Richard, who would fain have won from her one
smile to cheer him in his absence. But the smile was not given, though
the lips which Richard touched did move a little, and he tried to
believe it was a kiss they meant to give. Only the day before Ethie had
heard from Aunt Van Buren that Frank was to be married at Christmas,
when they would all go on to Washington, where they confidently expected
to meet Ethelyn. With a kind of grim satisfaction Ethelyn showed this to
her husband, hoping to awaken in him some remorse for his cruelty to
her, if, indeed, he was capable of remorse, which she doubted. She did
not know him, for if possible he suffered more than she did, though in a
different way. It hurt him to leave her there alone feeling as she did.
He hated to go without her, carrying only in his mind the memory of the
white, rigid face which had not smiled on him for so long. He wanted her
to seem interested in something, for her cold apathy of manner puzzled
and alarmed him; so remembering her aunt's letter on the morning of his
departure, he spoke of it to her and said, "What shall I tell Mrs. Van
Buren for you? I shall probably see more or less of them."

"Tell nothing; prisoners send no messages," was Ethelyn's reply; and in
the dim gray of the morning the two faces looked a moment at each other
with such thoughts and passions written upon them as were pitiable
to behold.

But when Richard was fairly gone, when the tones of his voice bidding
his family good-by had ceased, and Ethelyn sat leaning on her elbow and
listening to the sound of the wheels which carried him away, such a
feeling of utter desolation and loneliness swept over her that, burying
her face in the pillows, she wept bitterer tears of remorse and regret
than she had ever wept before.

That day was a long and dreary one to all the members of the prairie
farmhouse. It was lonely there the first day of Richard's absence, but
now it was drearier than ever; and with a harsh, forbidding look upon
her face, Mrs. Markham went about her work, leaving Ethelyn entirely
alone. She did not believe her daughter-in-law was any sicker than
herself. "It was only airs," she thought, when at noon Ethelyn declined
the boiled beef and cabbage, saying just the odor of it made her sick.
"Nothing but airs and ugliness," she persisted in saying to herself, as
she prepared a slice of nice cream toast with a soft-boiled egg and cup
of fragrant black tea. Ethie did not refuse this, and was even gracious
enough to thank her mother-in-law for her extra trouble, but she did it
in such a queenly as well as injured kind of way, that Mrs. Markham felt
more aggrieved than ever, and, for a good woman, who sometimes spoke in
meeting, slammed the door considerably hard as she left the room and
went back to her kitchen, where the table had been laid ever since
Ethelyn took to eating upstairs. So long as she ate with the family Mrs.
Markham felt rather obliged to take her meals in the front room, but it
made a deal more work, and she was glad to return to her olden ways once
more. Eunice was gone off on an errand, and so she felt at liberty to
speak her mind freely to her boys as they gathered around the table.

"It is sheer ugliness," she said, "which keeps her cooped up there to be
waited on. She is no more sick than the dog; but law, I couldn't make
Richard b'lieve it."

"Mother, you surely did not go to Richard with complaints of his wife,"
and James looked reproachfully across the table at his mother, who
replied: "I told him what I thought, for I wa'n't going to have him
miserable all the time thinking how sick she was, but I might as well
have talked to the wind, for any good it did. He even seemed
putcherky, too."

"I should be more than putcherky if you were to talk to me against my
wife if I had one," James retorted, thinking of Melinda and the way she
sang that solo in the choir the day before.

It was a little strange that James and John and Andy all took Ethelyn's
part against their mother, and even against Richard, who they thought
might have taken her with him.

"It would not have hurt her any more than fretting herself to death at
home. No, nor half so much; and she must feel like a cat in a strange
garret there alone with them."

It was John who said this--quiet John, who talked so little, and annoyed
Ethelyn so much by coming to the table in his blue frock, with his pants
tucked in his boots and his curly hair standing every way. Though very
much afraid of his grand sister-in-law, he admired her beyond
everything, and kept the slippers she brought him safely put away with a
lock of Daisy's hair and a letter written him by the young girl whose
grave was close beside Daisy's in the Olney cemetery. John had had his
romance and buried it with his heroine, since which time he had said but
little to womankind, though never was there a truer heart than that
which beat beneath the homespun frock Ethelyn so despised. Richard had
bidden him to be kind to Ethie, and John had said he would; and after
that promise was given had the farmhouse been on fire the sturdy fellow
would have periled life and limb to save her for Dick. To James, too,
Richard had spoken a word for Ethie, and to Andy also; so that there
were left to her four champions in his absence--for Eunice had had her
charge, with promises of a new dress if faithful to her trust; and thus
there was no one against poor Ethelyn saving the mother-in-law, who made
that first dinner after Richard's absence so uncomfortable that John
left the table without touching the boiled Indian pudding, of which he
was so fond, while James rather curtly asked what there was to be gained
by spitting out so about Ethelyn, and Andy listened in silence, thinking
how, by and by, when all the chores were done, he would take a basket of
kindlings up for Ethie's fire, and if she asked him to sit down, he
would do so and try and come to the root of the matter, and see if he
could not do something to make things a little better.



CHAPTER XV

ANDY TRIES TO FIND THE ROOT OF THE MATTER

Ethelyn was very sick with a nervous headache, and so Andy did not go in
with his kindlings that night, but put the basket near the door, where
Eunice would find it in the morning. It was a part of Richard's bargain
with Eunice that Ethie should always have a bright, warm fire to dress
by, and the first thing Ethelyn heard as she unclosed her eyes was the
sound of Eunice blowing the coals and kindlings into a blaze as she
knelt upon the hearth, with her cheeks and eyes extended to their utmost
capacity. It was a very dreary awakening, and Ethelyn sighed as she
looked from her window out upon the far-stretching prairie, where the
first snows of the season were falling. There were but few objects to
break up the monotonous level, and the mottled November sky frowned
gloomily and coldly down upon her. Down in the back-yard James and John
were feeding the cattle; the bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the
cows came to her ear as she turned with a shiver from the window. How
could she stay there all that long, dreary winter--there where there
was not an individual who had a thought or taste in common with her own?
She could not stay, she decided, and then as the question arose, "Where
will you go?" the utter hopelessness and helplessness of her position
rushed over her with so much force that she sank down upon the lounge
which Eunice had drawn to the fire, and when the latter came up with
breakfast she found her young mistress crying in a heart-broken,
despairing kind of way, which touched her heart at once.

Eunice knew but little of the trouble with regard to Washington. Mrs.
Markham had been discreet enough to keep that from her; and so she
naturally ascribed Ethie's tears to grief at parting with her husband,
and tried in her homely way to comfort her. Three months were not very
long; and they would pass 'most before you thought, she said, adding
that she heard Jim say the night before that as soon as he got his gray
colts broken he was going to take his sister all over the country and
cheer her up a little.

Ethie's heart was too full to permit her to reply, and Eunice soon left
her alone, reporting downstairs how white and sick she was looking. To
Mrs. Markham's credit we record that with a view to please her
daughter-in-law, a fire was that afternoon made in the parlor, and
Ethelyn solicited to come down, Mrs. Markham, who carried the
invitation, urging that a change would do her good, as it was not always
good to stay in one place. But Ethelyn preferred the solitude of her own
chamber, and though she thanked her mother-in-law for her
thoughtfulness, she declined going down, and Mrs. Markham had made her
fire for nothing. Not even Melinda came to enjoy it, for she was in
Camden, visiting a schoolmate; and so the day passed drearily enough
with all, and the autumnal night shut down again darker, gloomier than
ever, as it seemed to Ethelyn. She had seen no one but Mrs. Markham and
Eunice since Richard went away, and she was wondering what had become of
Andy, when she heard his shuffling tread upon the stairs, and a moment
after, his round shining face appeared, asking if he might come in.
Andy wore his best clothes on this occasion, for an idea had somehow
been lodged in his brain that Ethelyn liked a person well dressed, and
he was much pleased with himself in his short coat and shorter pants,
and the buff and white cotton cravat tied in a hard knot around his
sharp, standing collar, which almost cut the bottom of his ears.

"I wished to see you," he said, taking a chair directly in front of
Ethelyn and tipping back against the wall. "I wanted to come before, but
was afraid you didn't care to have me. I've got something for you now,
though--somethin' good for sore eyes. Guess what 'tis?"

And Andy began fumbling in his pocket for the something which was to
cheer Ethelyn, as he hoped.

"Look a-here. A letter from old Dick, writ the very first day. That's
what I call real courtin' like," and Andy gave to Ethelyn the letter
which John had brought from the office and which the detention of a
train at Stafford for four hours had afforded Richard an opportunity
to write.

It was only a few lines, meant for her alone, but Ethelyn's cheek didn't
redden as she read them, or her eyes brighten one whit. Richard was
well, she said, explaining to Andy the reason for his writing, and then
she put the letter away, while Andy sat looking at her, wondering what
he should say next. He had come up to comfort her, but found it hard to
begin. Ethie was looking very pale, and there were dark rings around her
eyes, showing that she suffered, even if Mrs. Markham did assert there
was nothing ailed her but spleen.

At last Andy blurted out: "I am sorry for you, Ethelyn, for I know it
must be bad to have your man go off and leave you all alone, when you
wanted to go with him. Jim and John and me talked it up to-day when we
was out to work, and we think you orto have gone with Dick. It must be
lonesome staying here, and you only six months married. I wish, and the
boys wishes, we could do something to chirk you up."

With the exception of what Eunice had said, these were the first words
of sympathy Ethelyn had heard, and her tears flowed at once, while her
slight form shook with such a tempest of sobs that Andy was alarmed,
and getting down on his knees beside her, begged of her to tell him what
was the matter. Had he hurt her feelings? he was such a blunderin'
critter, he never knew the right thing to say, and if she liked he'd go
straight off downstairs.

"No, Anderson," Ethelyn said, "you have not hurt my feelings, and I do
not wish you to go, but, oh, I am so wretched and so disappointed, too!"

"About goin' to Washington, you mean?" Andy asked, resuming his chair,
and his attitude of earnest inquiry, while Ethelyn, forgetting all her
reserve, replied: "Yes, I mean that and everything else. It has been
nothing but disappointment ever since I left Chicopee, and I sometimes
wish I had died before I promised to go away from dear Aunt Barbara's,
where I was so happy."

"What made you promise, then? I suppose, though, it was because you
loved Dick so much," simple-minded Andy said, trying to remember if
there was not a passage somewhere which read, "For this cause shall a
man leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and they twain
shall be one flesh."

Ethelyn would not wound Andy by telling him how little love had had to
do with her unhappy marriage, and she remained silent for a moment,
while Andy continued, "Be you disappointed here--with us, I mean, and
the fixins?"

"Yes, Anderson, terribly disappointed. Nothing is as I supposed. Richard
never told me what I was to expect," Ethelyn replied, without stopping
to consider what she was saying.

For a moment Andy looked intently at her, as if trying to make out her
meaning. Then, as it in part dawned upon him, he said sorrowfully:
"Sister Ethie, if it's me you mean, I was more to blame than Dick, for I
asked him not to tell you I was--a--a--wall, I once heard Miss Captain
Simmons say I was Widder Markham's fool," and Andy's chin quivered as he
went on: "I ain't a fool exactly, for I don't drool or slobber like Tom
Brown the idiot, but I have a soft spot in my head, and I didn't want
you to know it, for fear you wouldn't like me. Daisy did, though, and
Daisy knew what I was and called me 'dear Andy,' and kissed me when
she died."

Andy was crying softly now, and Ethelyn was crying with him. The hard
feeling at her heart was giving way, and she could have put her arms
around this childish man, who after a moment continued: "Dick said he
wouldn't tell you, so you must forgive him for that. You've found me
out, I s'pose. You know I ain't like Jim, nor John, and I can't hold a
candle to old Dick, but sometimes I've hope you liked me a little, even
if you do keep calling me Anderson. I wish you wouldn't; seems as if
folks think more of me when they say 'Andy' to me."

"Oh, Andy, dear Andy," Ethelyn exclaimed: "I do like you so much--like
you best of all. I did not mean you when I said I was disappointed."

"Who, then?" Andy asked, in his straightforward way. "Is it mother? She
is odd, I guess, though I never thought on't till you came here. Yes,
mother is some queer, but she is good; and onct when I had the typhoid
and lay like a log, I heard her pray for 'her poor dear boy Andy';
that's what she called me, as lovin' like as if I wasn't a fool, or
somethin' nigh it."

Ethelyn did not wish to leave upon his mind the impression that his
mother had everything to do with her wretchedness, and so cautiously as
she could she tried to explain to him the difference between the habits
and customs of Chicopee and Olney. Warming up with her theme as she
progressed, she said more than she intended, and succeeded in driving
into Andy's brain a vague idea that his family were not up to her
standard, but were in fact a long way behind the times. Andy was in a
dilemma; he wanted to help Ethelyn and did not know how. Suddenly,
however, his face brightened, and he asked, "Do you belong to
the church?"

"Yes," was Ethelyn's reply.

"You do!" Andy repeated in some surprise, and Ethelyn replied, "Not the
way you mean, perhaps; but when I was a baby I was baptized in the
church and thus became a member."

"So you never had the Bishop's hands upon your head, and done what the
Saviour told us to do to remember him by?"

Ethelyn shook her head, and Andy went on: "Oh, what a pity, when he is
such a good Saviour, and would know just how to help you, now you are so
sorry-like and homesick, and disappointed. If you had him you could tell
him all about it and he would comfort you. He helped me, you don't know
how much, and I was dreadful bad once. I used to get drunk,
Ethie--drunker'n a fool, and come hiccuppin' home with my clothes all
tore and my hat smashed into nothin'."

Andy's face was scarlet as he confessed to his past misdeeds, but
without the least hesitation he went on: "Mr. Townsend found me one day
in the ditch, and helped me up and got me into his room and prayed over
me and talked to me, and never let me off from that time till the
Saviour took me up, and now it's better than three years since I tasted
a drop. I don't taste it even at the sacrament, for fear what the taste
might do, and I used to hold my nose to keep shut of the smell. Mr.
Townsend knows I don't touch it, and God knows, too, and thinks I'm
right, I'm sure, and gives me to drink of his precious blood just the
same, for I feel light as air when I come from the altar. If religion
could make me, a fool and a drunkard, happy, it would do sights for you
who know so much. Try it, Ethie, won't you?"

Andy was getting in earnest now, and Ethelyn could not meet the glance
of his honest, pleading eyes.

"I can't be good, Andy," she replied; "I shouldn't know how to begin or
what to do."

"Seems to me I could tell you a few things," Andy said. "God didn't want
you to go to Washington for some wise purpose or other, and so he put it
into Dick's heart to leave you at home. Now, instead of crying about
that I'd make the best of it and be as happy as I could be here. I know
we ain't starched up folks like them in Boston, but we like you, all of
us--leastwise Jim and John and me do--and I don't mean to come to the
table in my shirt-sleeves any more, if that will suit you, and I won't
blow my tea in my sasser, nor sop my bread in the platter; though if
you are all done and there's a lot of nice gravy left, you won't mind
it, will you, Ethelyn?--for I do love gravy."

Ethelyn had been more particular than she meant to be with her reasons
for her disappointment, and in enumerating the bad habits to which she
said Western people were addicted, she had included the points upon
which Andy had seized so readily. He had never been told before that his
manners were entirely what they ought not to be; he could hardly see it
so now, but if it would please Ethie he would try to refrain, he said,
asking that when she saw him doing anything very outlandish, she would
remind him of it and tell him what was right.

"I think folks is always happier," he continued, "when they forgit to
please themselves and try to suit others, even if they can't see any
sense in it."

Andy did not exactly mean this as a rebuke, but it had the effect of one
and set Ethelyn thinking. Such genuine simplicity and frankness could
not be lost upon her, and long after Andy had left her and gone to his
room, where he sought in his prayer-book for something just suited to
her case, she sat pondering all he had said, and upon the faith which
could make even simple Andy so lovable and good.

"He has improved his one talent far more than I have my five or ten,"
she said, while regrets for her own past misdeeds began to fill her
bosom, with a wish that she might in some degree atone for them.

Perhaps it was the resolution formed that night, and perhaps it was the
answer to Andy's prayer that God would have mercy upon Ethie and incline
her and his mother to pull together better, which sent Ethelyn down to
breakfast the next morning and kept her below stairs a good portion of
the day, and made her accept James' invitation to ride with him in the
afternoon. Then when it was night again, and she saw Eunice carrying
through the hall a smoking firebrand, which she knew was designed for
the parlor fire, she changed her mind about staying alone upstairs with
the books she had commenced to read, but brought instead the white,
fleecy cloud she was knitting, and sat with the family, who had never
seen her more gracious or amiable, and wondered what had happened. Andy
thought he knew; he had prayed for Ethie, not only the previous night,
but that morning before he left his room, and also during the day--once
in the barn upon a rick of hay and once behind the smoke-house.

Andy always looked for direct answers to his prayers, and believing he
had received one his face was radiant with content and satisfaction,
when after supper he brushed and wet his hair and plastered it down upon
his forehead, and changed his boots for a lighter pair of Richard's, and
then sat down before the parlor fire with the yarn sock he was knitting
for himself. Ethelyn had never seen him engaged in this feminine
employment before, and she felt a strong disposition to laugh, but
fearing to wound him, repressed her smiles and seemed not to look at him
as he worked industriously on the heel, turning and shaping it better
than she could have done. It was not often that Ethelyn had favored the
family with music, but she did so that night, playing and singing pieces
which she knew were familiar to them, and only feeling a momentary pang
of resentment when, at the close of "Yankee Doodle," with variations,
quiet John remarked that Melinda herself could not go ahead of that!
Melinda's style of music was evidently preferable to her own, but she
swallowed the insult and sang "Lily Dale," at the request of Andy, who,
thinking the while of dear little Daisy, wiped his eyes with the leg of
his sock, while a tear trickled down his mother's cheek and dropped
into her lap.

"I thought Melinda Jones wanted to practice on the pianner," Eunice
said, after Ethelyn was done playing; "I heard her saying so one day and
wondering if Miss Markham would be willin'."

Ethelyn was in a mood then to assent to most anything, and she expressed
her entire approbation, saying even that she would gladly give Melinda
any assistance in her power. Ethelyn had been hard and cold and proud so
long that she scarcely knew herself in this new phase of character, and
the family did not know her, either. But they appreciated it fully, and
James' eyes were very bright and sparkling when, in imitation of Andy,
he bade his sister good-night, thinking, as she left the room how
beautiful she was and how pleased Melinda would be, and hoping she would
find it convenient to practice there evenings, as that would render an
escort home absolutely necessary, unless "Terrible Tim" came for her.

Ethelyn had not changed her mind when Melinda came home next day, and as
a matter of course called at the Markhams' in the evening. But Ethelyn's
offer had come a little too late--Melinda was going to Washington to
spend the winter! A bachelor brother of her mother's, living among the
mountains of Vermont, had been elected Member of Congress in the place
of the regular member, who had resigned, and as the uncle was wealthy
and generous, and had certain pleasant reminiscences of a visit to Iowa
when a little black-eyed girl had been so agreeable to him, he had
written for her to join him in Washington, promising to defray all
expenses and sending on a draft for two hundred dollars, with which she
was to procure whatever she deemed necessary for her winter's outfit.
Melinda's star was in the ascendant, and Ethelyn felt a pang of
something like envy as she thought how differently Melinda's winter
would pass from her own, while James trembled for the effect Washington
might have upon the girl who walked so slowly with him along the beaten
path between his house and her father's, and whose eyes, as she bade him
good-night, were little less bright than the stars shining down upon
her. Would she come back like Ethelyn? He hoped not, for there would
then be an end to all fond dreams he had been dreaming. She would
despise his homely ways and look for somebody higher than plain Jim
Markham in his cowhide boots. James was sorry to have Melinda go, and
Ethelyn was sorry, too. It seemed as if she was to be left alone, for
two days after Melinda's return, Marcia Fenton and Ella Backus came out
from Camden to call, and communicated the news that they, too, were
going on to Washington, together with Mrs. Judge Miller, whose father
was a United States Senator. It was terrible to be thus left behind,
and Ethelyn's heart grew harder against her husband for dooming her to
such a fate. Every week James, or John, or Andy brought from the post a
letter in Richard's handwriting, directed to Mrs. Richard Markham, and
once in two weeks Andy carried a letter to the post directed in
Ethelyn's handwriting to "Richard Markham, M.C.," but Andy never
suspected that the dainty little envelope, with a Boston mark upon it,
inclosed only a blank sheet of paper! Ethelyn had affirmed so solemnly
that she would not write to her husband that she half feared to break
her vow; and, besides that, she could not forgive him for having left
her behind, while Marcia, Ella, and Melinda were enjoying themselves so
much. She knew she was doing wrong, and not a night of her life did she
go to her lonely bed that there did not creep over her a sensation of
fear as she thought, "What if I should die while I am so bad?"

At home, in Chicopee, she used always to go through with a form of
prayer, but she could not do that now for the something which rose up
between her and Heaven, smothering the words upon her lips, and so in
this dreadful condition she lived on day after day, growing more, and
more desolately and lonely, and wondering sadly if life would always be
as dreary and aimless as it was now. And while she pondered thus, Andy
prayed on and practiced his lessons in good manners, provoking the mirth
of the whole family by his ludicrous attempts to be polite, and feeling
sometimes tempted to give the matter up. Andy was everything to Ethelyn,
and once when her conscience was smiting her more than usual with regard
to the blanks, she said to him abruptly: "if you had made a wicked vow,
which would you do--keep it or break it, and so tell a falsehood?"

Andy was not much of a lawyer, he said, but "he thought he knew some
scripter right to the pint," and taking his well-worn Bible he found and
read the parable of the two sons commanded to work in their
father's vineyard.

"If the Saviour commended the one who said he wouldn't and then went and
did it, I think there can be no harm in your breaking a wicked vow:
leastways I should do it."

This was Andy's advice, and that night, long after the family were in
bed, a light was shining in Ethelyn's chamber, where she sat writing to
her husband, and as if Andy's spirit were pervading hers, she softened,
as she wrote and asked forgiveness for all the past which she had made
so wretched. She was going to do better, she said, and when her husband
came home she would try to make him happy.

"But, oh, Richard," she wrote, "please take me away from here to Camden,
or Olney, or anywhere--so I can begin anew to be the wife I ought to be.
I was never worthy of you, Richard. I deceived you from the first, and
if I could summon the courage I would tell you about it."

This letter which would have done so much good, was never finished, for
when the morning came there were troubled faces at the prairie
farmhouse--Mrs. Markham looking very anxious and Eunice very scared,
James going for the doctor and Andy for Mrs. Jones, while up in Ethie's
room, where the curtains were drawn so closely before the windows, life
and death were struggling for the mastery, and each in a measure coming
off triumphant.



CHAPTER XVI

WASHINGTON

Richard had not been very happy in Washington. He led too quiet and
secluded a life, his companions said, advising him to go out more, and
jocosely telling him that he was pining for his young wife and growing
quite an old man. When Melinda Jones came, Richard brightened a little,
for there was always a sense of comfort and rest in Melinda's presence,
and Richard spent much of his leisure in her society, accompanying her
to concerts and occasionally to a levee, and taking pains to show her
whatever he thought would interest her. It was pleasant to have a lady
with him sometimes, and he wished so much it had been practicable for
Ethelyn to have come. "Poor Ethie," he called her to himself, pitying
her because, vain man that he was, he thought her so lonely without him.
This was at first, and before he had received in reply to his letter
that dreadful blank, which sent such a chill to his heart, making him
cold, and faint, and sick, as he began to realize what it was in a
woman's power to do. He had occasionally thought of Ethelyn's threat,
not to write him a line, and felt very uncomfortable as he recalled the
expression of her eyes when she made it. But he did not believe she was
in earnest. She surely could not hold out against the letter he wrote,
telling how he missed her every moment, and how, if it had been at all
advisable, he would have taken her with him. He did not know Ethelyn,
and so was not prepared for the bitter disappointment in store for him
when the dainty little envelope was put into his hand. It was her
handwriting--so much he knew; and there lingered about the missive faint
traces of the sweet perfume he remembered as pervading everything she
wore or used. Ethelyn had not kept her vow; and with a throb of joy
Richard tore open the envelope and removed the delicate tinted sheet
inside. But the hand of the strong man shook and his heart grew heavy as
lead when he turned the sheet thrice over, seeking in vain for some line
or word, or syllable or sign. But there was none. Ethelyn had kept her
vow, and Richard felt for a moment as if all the world were as
completely a blank as that bit of gilt-edged paper he crumpled so
helplessly in his hand. Anon, however, hope whispered that she would
write next time; she could not hold out thus all winter; and so Richard
wrote again with the same success, until at last he expected nothing,
and people said of him that he was growing old, while even Melinda
noticed his altered appearance, and how fast his brown hair was turning
gray. Melinda was in one sense his good angel. She brought him news from
home and Ethelyn, telling for one thing of Ethie's offer to teach her
music during the winter; and for another, of Ethie's long drives upon
the prairie, sometimes with James, sometimes with John, but oftenest
with Andy, to whom she seemed to cling as to a very dear brother.

This news did Richard good, showing a better side of Ethie's character
than the one presented to him. She was not cold and proud to the family
at home; even his mother, who wrote to him once or twice, spoke kindly
of her, while James warmly applauded her, and Andy wrote a letter,
wonderful in composition, and full of nothing but Ethelyn, who made
their home so pleasant with her music, and songs, and pretty face. There
was some comfort in this^ and so Richard bore his burden in silence, and
no one ever dreamed that the letters he received with tolerable
regularity were only blank, fulfillments of a hasty vow.

With Christmas came the Van Buren set from Boston--Aunt Sophia, with
Frank, and his girlish bride, who soon became a belle, flirting with
every man who offered his attentions, while Frank was in no way behind
in his flirtations with the other sex. Plain, matter-of-fact Melinda
Jones was among the first to claim his notice after he learned that she
was niece of the man who drove such splendid blacks and kept so handsome
a suite of rooms at Willard's; but Melinda was more than his match, and
snubbed him so unmercifully that he gave her up, and sneered at her as
"that old-maidish girl from the West." Mrs. Dr. Van Buren had been
profuse in her inquiries after Ethelyn, and loud in her regrets at her
absence. She had also tried to patronize both Richard and Melinda,
taking the latter with her to the theater and to a reception, and trying
to cultivate her for the sake of poor Ethie, who was obliged to
associate with her and people like her. Melinda, however, did not need
Mrs. Van Buren's patronage. Her uncle was a man of wealth and mark, who
stood high in Washington, where he had been before. His niece could not
lack attention, and ere the season was over the two rival belles at
Washington were Mrs. Frank Van Buren, from Boston, and Miss Melinda
Jones, from Iowa.

But prosperity did not spoil Melinda, and James Markham's chances were
quite as good when, dressed in pink silk, with camelias in her hair, she
entertained some half-dozen judges and M.C.'s as when in brown delaine
and magenta ribbons she danced a quadrille at some "quilting bee out
West." She saw the difference, however, between men of cultivation and
those who had none, and began to understand the cause of Ethelyn's cold,
proud looks when surrounded by Richard's family. She began also silently
to watch and criticise Richard, comparing him with other men of equal
brain, and thinking how, if she were his wife, she would go to work to
correct his manners. Possibly, too, thoughts of James, in his blue frock
and cowhide boots, occasionally intruded themselves upon her mind; but
if so, they did not greatly disturb her equanimity, for, let what might
happen, Melinda felt herself equal to the emergency--whether it were to
put down Frank Van Buren and the whole race of impudent puppies like
him, or polish rough James Markham if need be. How she hated Frank Van
Buren when she saw his neglect of his young wife, whose money was all he
seemed to care for; and how utterly she loathed and despised him after
the night, when, at a party given by one of Washington's magnates, he
stood beside her for half an hour and talked confidently to her of
Ethelyn, whom, he hinted, he could have married if he would.

"Why didn't you, then?" and Melinda turned sharply upon him, with a look
in her black eyes which made him wince as he replied: "Family
interference--must have money, you know! But, zounds! don't I pity
her!--tied to that clown, whom--"

Frank did not finish the sentence, for Melinda's eyes fairly blazed with
anger as she cut him short with "Excuse me, Mr. Van Buren; I can't
listen to such abuse of one whom I esteem as highly as I do Judge
Markham. Why, sir, he is head and shoulders above you, in sense and
intellect and everything which makes a man," and with a haughty bow,
Melinda swept away, leaving the shamefaced Frank alone in his
discomfiture.

"I'd like to kick myself if I could, though I told nothing but the
truth. Ethie did want me confoundedly, and I would have married her if
she hadn't been poor as a church mouse," Frank muttered to himself,
standing in the deep recess of the window, and all unconscious that just
outside upon the balcony was a silent, motionless form, which had heard
every word of his conversation with Melinda, and his soliloquy
afterward.

Richard Markham had come to this party just to please Melinda, but he
did not enjoy it. If Ethie had been there he might; but he could not
forget the blank that day received, or the letter from James, which said
that Ethelyn was not looking as well as usual, and had the morning
previously asked him to turn back before they had ridden more than two
miles. He could not be happy with that upon his mind, and so he stole
from the gay scene out upon the balcony, where he stood watching the
quiet stars and thinking of Ethelyn, when his ear had caught by the
mention of her name.

He had not thought before who the couple were standing so near to him,
but he knew now it was Melinda and Frank Van Buren, and became an
involuntary listener to the conversation which ensued. There was a
clenching of his fist, a shutting together of his teeth, and an impulse
to knock the boasting Frank Van Buren down; and then, as the past
flashed before him, with the thought that possibly Frank spoke the truth
and Ethelyn had loved him, there swept over him such a sense of anguish
and desolation that he forgot all else in his own wretchedness. It had
never occurred to him that Ethelyn married him while all the time she
loved another--that perhaps she loved that other still--and the very
possibility of it drove him nearly wild.

He was missed from the party, but no one could tell when he left, for no
one saw him as he sprang down into the garden, and taking refuge in the
paths where the shades were the deepest, escaped unobserved into the
street, and so back to his own room, where he went over all the past
and recalled every little act of affection on Ethelyn's part, weighed it
in the balance with proofs that she did not care for him and never had.
So much did Richard love his wife and so anxious was he to find her
guiltless that he magnified every virtue and excused every error until
the verdict rendered was in her favor, and Frank alone was the
delinquent--Frank, the vain, conceited coxcomb, who thought because a
woman was civil to him that she must needs wish to marry him; Frank, the
wretch who had presumed to pity his cousin, and called her husband a
clown! How Richard's fingers tingled with a desire to thrash the
insulting rascal; and how, in spite of the verdict, his heart ached with
a dull, heavy fear lest it might be true in part, that Ethie had once
felt for Frank something deeper than what girls usually feel for their
first cousins.

"And supposing she has?" Richard's generous nature asked. "Supposing she
did love this Frank once on a time well enough to marry him? She surely
was all over that love before she promised to be my wife, else she had
not promised; and so the only point where she is at fault was in
concealing from me the fact that she had loved another first. I was
honest with her. I told her of Abigail, and it was very hard to do it,
for I felt that the proud girl's spirit rebelled against such as Abigail
was years ago. It would have been so easy, then, for Ethelyn to have
confessed to me, if she had a confession to make; though how she could
ever care for such a jackanapes as that baboon of a Frank is more than I
can tell."

Richard was waxing warm against Frank Van Buren, whom he despised so
heartily that he put upon his shoulders all the blame concerning
Ethelyn, if blame there were. He would so like to think her innocent,
and he tried so hard to do it, that he succeeded in part, though
frequently as the days passed on, and he sat at his post in the House,
listening to some tiresome speech, or took his solitary walk toward
Arlington Heights, a pang of something like jealousy and dread that all
had not been open and fair between himself and his wife cut like a
knife through his heart, and almost stopped his breath. The short
session was wearing to a close, and he was glad of it, for he longed to
be home again with Ethelyn, even if he were doomed to meet the same
coldness which those terrible blanks had brought him. Anything was
preferable to the life he led, and though he grew pale as ashes and his
limbs quivered like a reed when, toward the latter part of February, he
received a telegram to come home at once, as Ethelyn was very sick, he
hailed the news as a message of deliverance, whereby he could escape
from hated Washington a few days sooner. He hardly knew when or how the
idea occurred to him that Aunt Barbara's presence would be more
acceptable in that house, where he guessed what had happened; but occur
to him it did; and Aunt Barbara, sitting by her winter fire and thinking
of Ethelyn, was startled terribly by the missive which bade her join
Richard Markham at Albany, on the morrow, and go with him to Iowa, where
Ethie lay so ill. A pilgrimage to Mecca would scarcely have looked more
formidable to the good woman than this sudden trip to Iowa; but where
her duty was concerned she did not hesitate, and when at noon of the
next day the New York train came up the river, the first thing Richard
saw as he walked rapidly toward the Central Depot at Albany was Aunt
Barbara's bonnet protruding from the car window and Aunt Barbara's hand
making frantic passes and gestures to attract his notice.



CHAPTER XVII

RICHARD'S HEIR

For one whole week the windows of Ethelyn's room were darkened as dark
as Mrs. Markham's heavy shawl and a patchwork quilt could make them. The
doctor rode to and from the farmhouse, looking more and more concerned
each time he came from the sick-room. Mrs. Jones was over almost every
hour, or if she did not come Tim was sent to inquire, his voice very low
and subdued as he asked, "How is she now?" while James' voice was lower
and sadder still as he answered, "There is no change." Up and down the
stairs Mrs. Markham trod softly, wishing that she had never harbored an
unkind thought against the pale-faced girl lying so unconscious of all
they were doing for her. In the kitchen below, with a scared look upon
her face, Eunice washed and wiped her dishes, and wondered if Richard
would get home in time for the funeral, and if he would order from
Camden a metallic coffin such as Minnie Dayton had been buried in; and
Eunice's tears fell like rain as she thought how terrible it was to die
so young, and unprepared, too, as she heard Mrs. Markham say to the
Methodist clergyman when he came over to offer consolation.

Yes, Ethelyn was unprepared for the fearful change which seemed so near,
and of all the household none felt this more keenly than Andy, whose
tears soaked through and through the leaf of the prayer-book, where was
printed the petition for the sick, and who improvised many a touching
prayer himself, kneeling by the wooden chair where God had so often met
and blessed him.

"Don't let Ethie die, Good Father, don't let her die; at least not till
she is ready, and Dick is here to see her--poor old Dick, who loves her
so much. Please spare her for him, and take me in her place. I'm good
for nothing, only I do hope I'm ready, and Ethie ain't; so spare her and
take me in her place."

This was one of Andy's prayers--generous, unselfish Andy--who would have
died for Ethelyn, and who had been in such exquisite distress since the
night when Eunice first found Ethelyn moaning in her room, with her
letter to Richard lying unfinished before her. No one had read that
letter--the Markhams were too honorable for that--and it had been put
away in the portfolio, while undivided attention was given to Ethelyn.
She had been unconscious nearly all the time, saying once when Mrs.
Markham asked, "Shall we send for Richard?" "Send for Aunt Barbara;
please send for Aunt Barbara."

This was the third day of Ethelyn's danger, and on the sixth there came
a change. The shawl was pinned back from the window, admitting light
enough for the watchers by the bedside to see if the sufferer still
breathed. Life was not extinct, and Mrs. Markham's lips moved with a
prayer of thanksgiving when Mrs. Jones pointed to a tiny drop of
moisture beneath the tangled hair. Ethelyn would live, the doctor said,
but down in the parlor on the sofa where Daisy had lain was a little
lifeless form with a troubled look upon its face, showing that it had
fought for its life. Prone upon the floor beside it sat Andy, whispering
to the little one and weeping for "poor old Dick, who would mourn for
his lost boy."

Andy was very sorry, and to one who saw him that day, and, ignorant of
the circumstances, asked what was the matter that he looked so solemn,
he answered sadly, "I have just lost my little uncle that I wanted to
stand sponsor for. He only lived a day," and Andy's tears flowed afresh
as he thought of all he had lost with the child whose life numbered
scarcely twenty-four hours in all. But that was enough to warrant its
being now among the spirits of the Redeemed, and heaven seemed fairer,
more desirable to Andy than it had done before. His father was there
with Daisy and his baby uncle, as he persisted in calling Ethelyn's dead
boy until James told him better, and pointed out the ludicrousness of
the mistake. To Ethelyn Andy was tender as a mother, when at last they
let him see her, and his lips left marks upon her forehead and cheek.
She was perfectly conscious now, and when told they had sent for
Richard, manifested a good deal of interest, and asked when he would
probably be there. They were expecting him every train; but ere he came
the fever, which seemed for a time to have abated, returned with double
force and Ethelyn knew nothing of the kisses Richard pressed upon her
lips, or the tears Aunt Barbara shed over her poor darling.

There were anxious hearts and troubled faces in the farmhouse that day,
for Death was brooding there again, and they who watched his shadow
darkening around them spoke only in whispers, as they obeyed the
physician's orders. When Richard first came in Mrs. Markham wound her
arm around his neck, and said, "I am so sorry for you, my poor boy,"
while the three sons, one after another, had grasped their brother's
hand in token of sympathy, and that was all that had passed between them
of greeting. For the rest of the day, Richard had sat constantly by
Ethelyn, watching the changes of her face, and listening to her as she
raved in snatches, now of himself, and the time he saved her from the
maddened cow, and now of Frank and the huckleberries, which she said
were ripening on the Chicopee hills. When she talked of this Richard
held his breath, and once, as he leaned forward so as not to lose a
word, he caught Aunt Barbara regarding him intently, her wrinkled cheek
flushing as she met his eye and guessed what was in his mind. If Richard
had needed any confirmation of his suspicions, that look on transparent
Aunt Barbara's face would have confirmed them. There had been something
between Ethelyn and Frank Van Buren more than a cousinly liking, and
Richard's heart throbbed powerfully as he sat by the tossing, restless
Ethelyn, moaning on about the huckleberry hills, and the ledge of rocks
where the wild laurels grew. This pain he did not try to analyze; he
only said to himself that he felt no bitterness toward Ethelyn. She was
too near to death's dark tide for that. She was Ethie--his darling--the
mother of the child that had been buried from sight before he came.
Perhaps she did not love him, and never would; but he had loved her, oh!
so much, and if he lost her he would be wretched indeed. And so,
forgiving all the past of which he knew, and trying to forgive all he
did not know, he sat by her till the sun went down, and his mother came
for the twentieth time, urging him to eat. He had not tasted food that
day, and faint for the want of it he followed her to where the table had
been set, and supper prepared with a direct reference to his
particular taste.

He felt better and stronger when supper was over, and listened eagerly
while Andy and Eunice, who had been the last with Ethelyn before her
sudden illness, recounted every incident as minutely and reverently as
if speaking of the dead. Especially did he hang on what Andy said with
reference to her questioning him about the breaking of a wicked vow, and
when Eunice added her mite to the effect that, getting up for some
camphor for an aching tooth, she had heard a groan from Ethelyn's room,
and had found her mistress bending over a half-finished letter, which
she "reckoned" was to him, and had laid away in the portfolio, he waited
for no more, but hurried upstairs to the little bookcase where Eunice
had put the treasure--for it was a countless treasure, that unfinished
letter, which he read with the great tears rolling down his cheeks, and
his heart growing tenfold softer and warmer toward the writer, who
confessed to having wronged him, and wished so much that she dare tell
him all. What was it she had to tell? Would he ever know? he asked
himself, as he put the letter back where he found it. Yes, she would
surely tell him, if she lived, as live she must. She was dearer to him
now than she had ever been, and the lips unused to prayer, save as a
form, prayed most earnestly that Ethie might be spared. Then, as there
flashed upon him a sense of the inconsistency there was in keeping aloof
from God all his life, and going to him only when danger threatened, he
bowed his head in very shame, and the prayer died on his lips. But Andy
always prayed--at least he had for many years; and so the wise strong
brother sought the simple weaker one, and asked him to do what he had
not power to do.

Andy's swollen eyes and haggard face bore testimony to his sorrow, and
his voice was very low and earnest, as he replied: "Brother Dick, I'm
prayin' all the time. I've said that prayer for the sick until I've worn
it threadbare, and now every breath I draw has in it the petition, 'We
beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord.' There's nothing in that about
Ethie, it's true; but God knows I mean her, and will hear me all
the same."

There was a touching simplicity in Andy's faith, which went to the heart
of Richard, making him feel of how little avail was knowledge or wisdom
or position if there was lacking the one thing needful, which Andy so
surely possessed. That night was a long, wearisome one at the farmhouse;
but when the morning broke hope and joy came with it, for Ethelyn was
better, and in the brown eyes, which unclosed so languidly, there was a
look of consciousness, which deepened into a look of surprise and joyful
recognition as they rested upon Aunt Barbara.

"Is this Chicopee? Am I home? Oh, Aunt Barbara, I am so glad! you can't
guess how glad, or know how tired and sorry your poor Ethie has been,"
came brokenly from the pale lips, as Ethelyn moved nearer to Aunt
Barbara and laid her head upon the motherly bosom, where it had so often
lain in the dear old Chicopee days.

She did not notice Richard, or seem to know that she was elsewhere than
in Chicopee, back in the old home, and Richard's pulse throbbed quickly
as he saw the flush come over Ethie's face, and the look of pain creep
into her eyes, when a voice broke the illusion and told her she was
still in Olney, with him and the mother-in-law leaning over the bed-rail
saying, "Speak to her, Richard."

"Ethie, don't you know me, too?--I came with Aunt Barbara."

That was what he said, as he bent over her, seeking to take in his own
one of the feverish little hands locked so fast in those of Aunt
Barbara. She did know then, and remember, and her lip quivered in a
grieved, disappointed way as she said, "Yes, Richard, I know now. I am
not at home, I'm here;" and the intonation of the voice as it uttered
the word "here," spoke volumes, and told Aunt Barbara just how homesick
and weary and wretched her darling had been here. She must not talk
much, the physician said, and so with one hand in Richard's and one in
Aunt Barbara's she fell away to sleep again, while the family stole out
to their usual avocations, Mrs. Markham and Eunice to their baking,
James and John to their work upon the farm, and Andy to his Bethel in
the wood-house chamber, where he repeated: "Blessed be the Lord God of
Israel who has visited and redeemed his people," and added at the
conclusion the Gloria Patri, which he thought suitable for the occasion.



CHAPTER XVIII

DAYS OF CONVALESCENCE

They were very pleasant to Ethelyn, for with Aunt Barbara anticipating
every want, and talking of Chicopee; she could not be very weary. It was
pleasant, too, having Richard home again, and Ethie was very soft and
kind and amiable toward him; but she did not tell him of the letter she
had commenced, or hint at the confession he longed to hear. It would
have been comparatively easy to write it, but with him there where she
could look into his face and watch the dark expression which was sure to
come into his eyes, it was hard to tell him that Frank Van Buren had
held the first place in her affections, if indeed he did not hold it
now. She was not certain yet, though she hoped and tried to believe that
Frank was nothing more than cousin now. He surely ought not to be, with
Nettie calling him her husband, while she too was a wife. But so subtle
was the poison which that unfortunate attachment had infused into her
veins that she could not tell whether her nature was cleared of it or
not, and so, though she asked forgiveness for having so literally kept
her vow, and said that she did commence a letter to him, she kept back
the most important part of all. It was better to wait, she thought,
until she could truly say, "I loved Frank Van Buren once, but now I love
you far better than ever I did him."

Had she guessed how much Richard knew, and how the knowledge was
rankling in his bosom, she might have done differently. But she took the
course she thought the best, and the perfect understanding Richard had
so ardently hoped for was not then arrived at. For a time, however,
there seemed to be perfect peace between them, and could Richard have
forgotten Frank Van Buren's words or even those of Ethie herself when
her fever was on, he would have been supremely happy. But to forget was
impossible, and he often found himself wondering how much of Frank's
assertion was true, and if Ethelyn would ever be as open and honest
with him as he had tried to be with her. She did not get well very fast,
and the color came slowly back into her lips and cheeks. She was far
happier than she had been before since she first came to Olney. She
could not say that she loved her husband as a true wife ought to love a
man like Richard Markham, but she found a pleasure in his society which
she had never experienced before, while Aunt Barbara's presence was a
constant source of joy. That good woman had prolonged her stay far
beyond what she had thought it possible when she left Chicopee. She
could not tear herself away, when Ethie pleaded so earnestly for her to
remain a little longer, and so, wholly impervious to the hints which
Mrs. Markham occasionally threw out, that her services were no longer
needed as nurse to Ethelyn, she stayed on week after week, seeing far
more than she seemed to see, and making up her mind pretty accurately
with regard to the prospect of Ethie's happiness, if she remained an
inmate of her husband's family.

Aunt Barbara and Mrs. Markham did not harmonize at all. At first, when
Ethie was so sick, everything had been merged in the one absorbing
thought of her danger, and even the knowledge accidentally obtained that
Richard had paid Miss Bigelow's fare out there and would pay it back,
had failed to produce more than a passing pang in the bosom of the
close, calculating, economical Mrs. Markham; but when the danger was
past, it kept recurring again and again, with very unpleasant
distinctness, that Aunt Barbara was an expense they could well do
without. Nobody could quarrel with Aunt Barbara--she was so mild, and
gentle, and peaceable--and Mrs. Markham did not quarrel with her, but
she thought about her all the time, and fretted over her, and remembered
the letter she had written about her ways and her being good to Ethie,
and wondered what she was there for, and why she did not go home, and
asked her what time they generally cleaned house in Chicopee, and if she
dared trust her cleaning with Betty. Aunt Barbara was a great annoyance,
and she complained to Eunice and Mrs. Jones, and Melinda, who had
returned from Washington, that she was spoiling Ethelyn, babying her
so, and making her think herself so much weaker than she was.

"Mercy knew," she said, that in her day, when she was young and having
children, she did not hug the bed forever. She had something else to do,
and was up and around in a fortnight at the most. Her table wasn't
loaded down with oranges and figs, and the things they called banannys,
which fairly made her sick at her stomach. Nobody was carryin' her up
glasses of milk-punch, and lemonade, and cups of tea, at all hours of
the day. She was glad of anything, and got well the faster for it.
Needn't tell her!--it would do Ethelyn good to stir around and take the
air, instead of staying cooped up in her room, complaining that it is
hot and close there in the bedroom. "It's airy enough out doors," and
with a most aggrieved look on her face, Mrs. Markham put into the oven
the pan of soda biscuit she had been making, and then proceeded to lay
the cloth for tea.

Eunice had been home for a day or two with a felon on her thumb, and
thus a greater proportion of the work had fallen upon Mrs. Markham,
which to some degree accounted for her ill-humor. Mrs. Jones and Melinda
were spending the afternoon with her, but the latter was up in Ethie's
room. Melinda had always a good many ideas of her own, and she had
brought with her several new ones from Washington and New York, where
she had stayed for four weeks at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. But Melinda,
though greatly improved in appearance, was not one whit spoiled. In
manner, and the fit of her dress, she was more like Ethelyn and Mrs.
Judge Miller, of Camden, than she once had been, and at first James was
a little afraid of her, she puffed her hair so high, and wore her gowns
so long, while his mother, looking at the stylish hat and fashionable
sack which she brought back from Gotham, said her head was turned, and
she was altogether too fine for Olney. But when, on the next rainy
Sunday, she rode to church in her father's lumber wagon, holding the
blue cotton umbrella over her last year's straw and waterproof--and when
arrived at the church she suffered James to help her to alight, jumping
over the muddy wheel, and then going straight to her accustomed seat in
the choir, which had missed her strong voice so much--the son changed
his mind, and said she was the same as ever; while after the day when
she found Mrs. Markham making soap out behind the corn-house, and
good-humoredly offered to watch it and stir it while that lady went into
the house to see to the corn pudding, which Eunice was sure to spoil if
left to her own ingenuity, the mother, too, changed her mind, and wished
Richard had been so lucky as to have fixed his choice on Melinda. But
James was far from wishing a thing which would so seriously have
interfered with his hopes and wishes. He was very glad that Richard's
preference had fallen where it did, and his cheery whistle was heard
almost constantly, and after Tim Jones told, in his blunt way, how
"Melind was tryin' to train him, and make him more like them dandies at
the big tavern in New York," he, too, began to amend, and taking Richard
for his pattern, imitated him, until he found that simple, loving Andy,
in his anxiety to please Ethelyn, had seized upon more points of
etiquette than Richard ever knew existed, and then he copied Andy,
having this in his favor: that whatever he did himself was done with a
certain grace inherent in his nature, whereas Andy's attempts were
awkward in the extreme.

Melinda saw the visible improvement in James, and imputing it rather to
Ethelyn's influence than her own, was thus saved from any embarrassment
she might have experienced had she known to a certainty how large a
share of James Markham's thoughts and affections she possessed. She was
frequently at the farmhouse; but had not made what her mother called a
visit until the afternoon when Mrs. Markham gave her opinion so freely
of Aunt Barbara's petting and its effect on Ethelyn.

From the first introduction Aunt Barbara had liked the practical,
straightforward Melinda, in whom she found a powerful ally whenever any
new idea was suggested with regard to Ethelyn. To her Aunt Barbara had
confided her belief that it was not well for Ethelyn to stay there any
longer--that she and Richard both would be better by themselves; an
opinion which Melinda heartily indorsed, and straightway set herself at
work to form some plan whereby Aunt Barbara's idea might be carried out.

Melinda was not a meddlesome girl, but she did like to help manage other
people's business, doing it so well, and evincing so little selfishness
in her consideration for others, that when once she had taken charge of
a person's affairs she was pretty sure to have the privilege again. When
Richard ran for justice of the peace, and she was a little girl, she had
refused to speak to three other little girls who flaunted the colors of
the opposition candidate; and when he was nominated first for Judge and
then as member for the district, she had worked for him quite as
zealously as Tim himself, and through her more than one vote, which
otherwise might have been lost, was cast in his favor. As she had worked
for him, so she now worked for Ethelyn, approaching Richard very
adroitly and managing so skillfully that when at last, on the occasion
of her visit to his mother's, Aunt Barbara asked him, in her presence
and Ethelyn's, if he had never thought it would be well both for himself
and wife to live somewhere else than there at home, he never dreamed
that he was echoing the very ideas Melinda had instilled into his mind
by promptly replying that "he had recently thought seriously of a
change," and then asked Ethie where she would like to live--in Olney or
in Camden.

"Not Olney--no, not Olney!" Ethelyn gasped, thinking how near that was
to her mother-in-law, and shrinking from the espionage to which she
would surely be subjected.

Her preference was Davenport, but to this Richard would not listen.
Indeed, he began to feel sorry that he had admitted a willingness to
change at all, for the old home was very dear to him, and he thought he
would never leave it. But he stood committed now, and Melinda followed
him up so dexterously, that in less than half an hour it was arranged
that early in June Ethelyn should have a home in Camden--either a house
of her own, or a suite of rooms at the Stafford House, just which she
preferred. She chose the latter, and, womanlike, began at once in fancy
to furnish and arrange the handsome apartments which looked out upon
Camden Park, and which Melinda said were at present unoccupied. Melinda
knew, for only two days before she had been to Camden with her brother
Tim and dined at the Stafford House, and heard her neighbor on her right
inquire of his vis-à-vis how long since General Martin left the second
floor of the new wing, and who occupied it now. This was a mere happen
so, but Melinda was one of those to whom the right thing was always
happening, the desired information always coming; and if she did
contrive to ascertain the price charged for the rooms, it was only
because she understood that one of the Markham peculiarities was being a
little close, and wished to be armed at every point.

Richard had no idea that Melinda was managing him, or that anyone was
managing him. He thought himself that Camden might be a pleasant place
to live; as an ex-Judge and M.C. he could get business anywhere; and
though he preferred Olney, inasmuch as it was home, he would, if Ethelyn
liked, try Camden for a while. It is true the price of the rooms, which
Melinda casually named, was enormous, but, then, Ethelyn's health and
happiness were above any moneyed consideration; and so, while Mrs.
Markham below made and molded the soda biscuit, and talked about
dreading the hot weather if "Ethelyn was going to be weakly," Aunt
Barbara, and Melinda, and Richard settled a matter which made her eyes
open wide with astonishment when, after the exit of the Joneses and the
doing up of her work, it was revealed to her. Of course, she charged it
all to Aunt Barbara, wishing that good woman as many miles away as
intervened between Olney and Chicopee. Had the young people been going
to keep house, she would have been more reconciled, for in that case
much of what they consumed would have been the product of the farm; but
to board, to take rooms at the Stafford House where Ethelyn would have
nothing in the world to do but to dress and gossip, was abominable. Then
when she heard of the price she opposed the plan with so much energy
that, but for Aunt Barbara and Melinda Jones, Richard might have
succumbed; but the majority ruled, and Ethelyn's eyes grew brighter, and
her thin cheeks rounder, with the sure hope of leaving a place where she
had been so unhappy. She should miss Melinda Jones; and though she would
be near Mrs. Miller, and Marcia Fenton, and Ella Backus, they could not
be to her all Melinda had been, while Andy--Ethelyn felt the lumps
rising in her throat whenever she thought of him and the burst of tears
with which he had heard that she was going away.

"I can't help thinkin' it's for the wuss," he said, wiping his smooth
face with the cuff of his coat-sleeve. "Something will happen as the
result of your goin' there. I feel it in my bones."

Were Andy's words prophetic? Would something happen, if they went to
Camden, which would not have happened had they remained in Olney?
Ethelyn did not ask herself the question. She was too supremely happy,
and if she thought at all, it was of how she could best accelerate her
departure from the lonely farmhouse.

When Mrs. Markham found that they were really going, that nothing she
could say would be of any avail, she gave up the contest, and,
mother-like, set herself at work planning for their comfort, or rather
for Richard's comfort. It was for him that the best and newest
featherbed, weighing thirty pounds and a half to a feather, was aired
and sunned three days upon the kitchen roof, the good woman little
dreaming that if the thirty-pounder was used at all, it would do duty
under the hair mattress Ethelyn meant to have. They were to furnish
their own rooms, and whatever expense Mrs. Markham could save her boy
she meant to do. There was the carpet in their chamber--they could have
that; for after they were gone it was not likely the room would be used,
and the old rag one would answer. They could have the curtains, too, if
they liked, with the table and the chairs. Left to himself and his
mother's guidance, Richard would undoubtedly have taken to Camden such a
promiscuous outfit as would have made even a truckman smile; but there
were three women leagued against him, and so draft after draft was drawn
from his funds in the Camden bank until the rooms were furnished; and
one bright morning in early June, a week after Aunt Barbara started for
Chicopee, Ethie bid her husband's family good-by, and turning her back
upon Olney, turned also the first leaf of her life's history in
the West.



CHAPTER XIX

COMING TO A CRISIS

Richard was not happy in his new home; it did not fit him like the old.
He missed his mother's petting; he missed the society of his plain,
outspoken brothers; he missed his freedom from restraint, and he missed
the deference so universally paid to him in Olney, where he was the only
lion. In Camden there were many to divide the honors with him; and
though he was perhaps unconscious of it, he had been first so long that
to be one of many firsts was not altogether agreeable. With the new home
and new associates more like those to which she had been accustomed,
Ethelyn had resumed her training process, which was not now borne as
patiently as in the halcyon days of the honeymoon, when most things wore
the couleur de rose and were right because they came from the pretty
young bride. Richard chafed under the criticisms to which he was so
frequently subjected, and if he improved on them in the least it was not
perceptible to Ethlyn, who had just cause to blush for the careless
habits of her husband--habits which even Melinda observed, when in
August she spent a week with Ethelyn, and then formed one of a party
which went for a pleasure trip to St. Paul and Minnehaha. From this
excursion, which lasted for two weeks, Richard returned to Camden in
anything but an amiable frame of mind. Ethelyn had not pleased him at
all, notwithstanding that she had been unquestionably the reigning belle
of the party--the one whose hand was claimed in every dance, and whose
company was sought in every ride and picnic. Marcia Fenton and Ella
Backus faded into nothingness when she was near, and they laughingly
complained to Richard that his wife had stolen all their beaux away, and
they wished he would make her do better.

"I wish I could," was his reply, spoken not playfully, but moodily, just
as he felt at the time.

He was not an adept in concealing his feelings, which generally showed
themselves upon his face, or were betrayed in the tones of his voice,
and when he spoke as he did of his wife the two young girls glanced
curiously at each other, wondering if it where possible that the grave
Judge was jealous. If charged with jealousy Richard would have denied
it, though he did not care to have Ethelyn so much in Harry Clifford's
society. Richard knew nothing definite against Harry, except that he
would occasionally drink more than was wholly in accordance with a
steady and safe locomotion of his body; and once since they had been at
the Stafford House, where he also boarded, the young lawyer had been
invisible for three entire days. "Sick with a cold" was his excuse when
he appeared again at the table, with haggard face and bloodshot eyes;
but in the parlor, and halls, and private rooms, there where whispers of
soiled clothes and jammed hats, and the servants bribed to keep the
secret that young lawyer Clifford's boots were carried dangling up to
No. 94 at a very late hour of the night on which he professed to have
taken his cold. After this, pretty Marcia Fenton, who, before Ethelyn
came to town, had ridden oftenest after the black horses owned by Harry,
tossed her curls when he came near, and arched her eyebrows in a manner
rather distasteful to the young man; while Ella Backus turned her back
upon him, and in his hearing gave frequent lectures on intemperance and
its loathsomeness. Ethelyn, on the contrary, made no difference in her
demeanor toward him. She cared nothing for him either way, except that
his polite attentions and delicate deference to her tastes and opinions
were complimentary and flattering, and so she saw no reason why she
should shun him because he had fallen once. It might make him worse, and
she should stand by him as an act of philanthropy, she said to Richard
when he asked her what she saw to admire in that drunken Clifford.

Richard had no idea that Ethelyn cared in the least for Harry Clifford;
he knew she did not, though she sometimes singled him out as one whose
manners in society her husband would do well to imitate. Of the two
young men, Harry Clifford and Frank Van Buren, who had been suggested to
him as copies, Richard preferred the former, and wished he could feel as
easy with regard to Frank as he was with regard to Harry. He had never
forgotten that fragment of conversation overheard in Washington, and as
time went on it haunted him more and more. He had given up expecting any
confession from Ethelyn, though at first he was constantly expecting it,
and laying little snares by way of hints and reminders; but Ethelyn had
evidently changed her mind, and if there was a past which Richard ought
to have known, he would now probably remain in ignorance of it, unless
some chance revealed it. It would have been far better if Richard had
tried to banish all thoughts of Frank Van Buren from his mind and taken
Ethelyn as he found her; but Richard was a man, and so, manlike, he
hugged the skeleton which he in part had dragged into his home, and
petted it, and kept it constantly in sight, instead of thrusting it out
from the chamber of his heart, and barring the door against it. Frank's
name was never mentioned between them, but Richard fancied that always
after the receipt of Mrs. Dr. Van Buren's letters Ethelyn was a little
sad, and more disposed to find fault with him, and he sometimes wished
Mrs. Dr. Van Buren might never write to them again. There was one of her
letters awaiting Ethelyn after her return from Minnesota, and she read
it standing under the chandelier, with Richard lying upon the couch near
by, watching her curiously. There was something in the letter which
disturbed her evidently, for her face flushed, and her lips shut firmly
together, as they usually did when she was agitated. Richard already
read Aunt Barbara's letters, and heretofore he had been welcome to Mrs.
Van Buren's, a privilege of which he seldom availed himself, for he
found nothing interesting in her talk of parties, and operas and
fashions, and the last new color of dress goods, and style of
wearing the hair.

"It was too much twaddle for him," he had said in reply to Ethelyn's
questions as to whether he would like to see what Aunt Van Buren
had written.

Now, however, she did not offer to show him the letter, but crumpled it
nervously in her pocket, and going to her piano, began to play
dashingly, rapidly, as was her custom when excited. She did not know
that Richard was listening to her, much less watching her, as he lay in
the shadow, wondering what that letter contained, and wishing so much
that he knew. Ethelyn was tired that night, and after the first heat of
her excitement had been thrown off in a spirited schottische, she closed
her piano, and coming to the couch where Richard was lying, sat down by
his side, and after waiting a moment in silence, asked "of what he was
thinking."

There was something peculiar in the tone of her voice--something almost
beseeching, as if she either wanted sympathy, or encouragement for the
performance of some good act. But Richard did not so understand her. He
was, to tell the truth, a very little cross, as men, and women, too, are
apt to be when tired with sight-seeing and dissipation. He had been away
from his business three whole weeks, traveling with a party for not one
member of which, with the exception of his wife, Melinda, Marcia, and
Ella, did he care a straw.

Hotel life at St. Paul he regarded as a bore, second only to life at
Saratoga. The falls of Minnehaha "was a very pretty little stream," he
thought, but what people could see about it go into such ecstasies as
Ethelyn, and even Melinda did, he could not tell. Perhaps if Harry
Clifford had not formed a part of every scene where Ethelyn was the
prominent figure, he might have judged differently. But Harry had been
greatly in his way, and Richard did not like it any more than he liked
Ethelyn's flirting so much with him, and leaving him, her husband, to
look about for himself. He had shown, too, that he did not like it to
Marcia Fenton and Ella Backus who probably thought him a bear, as
perhaps he was. On the whole, Richard was very uncomfortable in his
mind, and Aunt Van Buren's letter did not tend in the least to improve
his temper; so when Ethelyn asked him of what he was thinking, and
accompanied her question with a stroke of her hand upon his hair, he
answered her, "Nothing much, except that I am tired and sleepy."

The touch upon his hair he had felt to his finger tips, for Ethelyn
seldom caressed him even as much as this; but he was in too moody a
frame of mind to respond as he would once have done. His manner was not
very encouraging, but, as if she had nerved herself to some painful
duty, Ethelyn persisted, and said to him next: "You have not seen Aunt
Van Buren's letter. Shall I read you what she says?"

Every nerve in Richard's body had been quivering with curiosity to see
that letter, but now, when the coveted privilege was within his reach,
he refused it; and, little dreaming of all he was throwing aside,
answered indifferently: "No, I don't know that I care to hear it. I
hardly think it will pay. Where are they now?"

"At Saratoga," Ethelyn replied; but her voice was not the same which had
addressed Richard first; there was a coldness, a constraint in it now,
as if her good resolution had been thrown back upon her and frozen up
the impulse prompting her to the right.

Richard had had his chance with Ethelyn and lost it. But he did not know
it, or guess how sorry and disappointed she was when at last she left
him and retired to her sleeping-room. There was a window open in the
parlor, and as the wind was rising with a sound of rain, Richard went to
close it ere following his wife. The window was near to the piano and as
he shut it something rattled at his feet. It was the crumpled letter,
which Ethelyn had accidentally drawn from her dress pocket with the
handkerchief she held in her hand when she sat down by Richard. He knew
it was that letter, and his first thought was to carry it to Ethelyn;
then, as he remembered her offer to read it to him, he said, "Surely
there can be no harm in reading it for myself. A man has a right to know
what is in a letter to his wife."

Thus reasoning, he sat down by the side light as far away from the
bedroom door as possible and commenced Mrs. Dr. Van Buren's letter. They
were stopping at the United States, and there was nothing particular at
first, except her usual remarks of the people and what they wore; but on
the third page Richard's eye caught Frank's name, and skipping all else,
leaped eagerly forward to what the writer was saying of her son. His
conduct evidently did not please his mother; neither did the conduct of
Nettie, who was too insipid for anything, the lady wrote, adding that
she was not half so bright and pretty as when she was first married, but
had the headache and kept her own room most of the time, and was looking
so faded and worn that Frank was really ashamed of her.

"You know how he likes brilliant, sparkling girls," she wrote, "and of
course he has no patience with Nettie's fancied ailments. I can't say
that I altogether sympathize with her myself; and, dear Ethie, I must
acknowledge that it has more than once occurred to me that I did very
wrong to meddle with Frank's first love affair. He would be far happier
now if it had been suffered to go on, for I suspect he has never
entirely gotten over it; but it is too late now for regrets. Nettie is
his wife, and he must make the best of it."

Then followed what seemed the secret of the Van Buren discomfort. The
bank in which most of Nettie's fortune was deposited had failed, leaving
her with only the scanty income of five hundred dollars a year, a sum
not sufficient to buy clothes, Mrs. Van Buren said. But Richard did not
notice this--his mind was only intent upon Frank's first love affair,
which ought to have gone on. He did not ask himself whether, in case it
had gone on, Ethelyn would have been there, so near to him that her soft
breathing came distinctly to his ear. He knew she would not; there had
been something between her and Frank Van Buren, he was convinced beyond
a doubt, and the fiercest pang he had ever known was that which came to
him when he sat with Mrs. Dr. Van Buren's letter in his hand, wondering
why Ethie had withheld the knowledge of it from him, and if she had
outlived the love which her aunt regretted as having come to naught.
Then, as the more generous part of his nature began to seek excuses for
her, he asked himself why she offered to read the letter if she had
really been concerned in Frank's first love affair, and hope whispered
that possibly she was not the heroine of that romance. There was comfort
in that thought: and Richard would have been comforted if jealousy had
not suggested how easy it was for her to skip the part relating to
Nettie and Frank, and thus leave him as much in the dark as ever. Yes,
that was undoubtedly her intention. While seeming to be so open and
honest, she would have deceived him all the more. This was what Richard
decided, and his heart grew very hard against the young wife, who looked
so innocent and pretty in her quiet sleep, when at last he sought his
pillow and lay down by her side.

He was very moody and silent for days after that, and even his clients
detected an irritability in his manner which they had never seen before.
"There was nothing ailed him," he said to Ethelyn, when she asked what
was the matter, and accused him of being positively cross. She was very
gay; Camden society suited her; and as the season advanced, and the
festivities grew more and more frequent, she was seldom at home more
than one or two evenings in the week, while the day was given either to
the arrangement of dress or taking of necessary rest, so that her
husband saw comparatively little of her, except for the moment when she
always came to him with hood and white cloak in hand to ask him how she
looked, before going to the carriage waiting at the door. Never in her
girlish days had she been so beautiful as she was now, but Richard
seldom told her so, though he felt the magic influence of her brilliant
beauty, and did not wonder that she was the reigning belle. He seldom
accompanied her himself. Parties, and receptions, and concerts, were
bores, he said; and at first he had raised objections to her going
without him. But after motherly Mrs. Harris, who boarded in the next
block, and was never happier than when chaperoning someone, offered to
see to her and take her under the same wing which had sheltered six
fine and now well-married daughters, Richard made no further objections.
He did not wish to be thought a domestic tyrant; he did not wish to seem
jealous, and so he would wrap Ethie's cloak around her, and taking her
himself to Mrs. Harris' carriage, would give that lady sundry charges
concerning her, bidding her see that she did not dance till wholly
wearied out, and asking her to bring her home earlier than the previous
night. Then, returning to his solitary rooms, he would sit nursing the
demon which might so easily have been thrust aside. Ethie was not
insensible to his kindness in allowing her to follow the bent of her own
inclinations, even when it was so contrary to his own, and for his sake
she did many things she might not otherwise have done. She snubbed Harry
Clifford and the whole set of dandies like him, so that, though they
danced, and talked, and laughed with her, they never crossed a certain
line of propriety which she had drawn between them. She was very
circumspect; she tried at first in various ways to atone to Richard for
her long absence from him, telling him whatever she thought would
interest him, and sometimes, when she found him waiting for her, and
looking so tired and sleepy, playfully chiding him for sitting up for
her, and telling him that though it was kind in him to do so, she
preferred that he should not. This was early in the season; but after
the day when Mrs. Markham, senior, came over from Olney to spend the
day, and "blow Richard's wife up," as she expressed it, everything was
changed, and Ethelyn stayed out as late as she liked without any
concessions to Richard. Mrs. Markham, senior, had heard strange stories
of Ethelyn's proceedings--"going to parties night after night, with her
dress shamefully low, and going to plays and concerts bareheaded, with
flowers and streamers in her hair, besides wearing a mask, and
pretending she was Queen Hortense."

"A pretty critter to be," Mrs. Markham had said to the kind neighbor who
had returned from Camden and was giving her the particulars in full of
Ethelyn's misdoings. "Yes, a pretty critter to be! If I was goin' to
turn myself into somebody else I'd take a decent woman. I wonder at
Richard's lettin' her; but, law! he is so blind and she so headstrong!"

And the good woman groaned over this proof of depravity as she
questioned her visitor further with regard to Ethie's departures
from duty.

"And he don't go with her much, you say," she continued, feeling more
aggrieved than ever when she heard that on the occasion of Ethie's
personating Hortense, Richard had also appeared as a knight of the
sixteenth century, and borne his part so well that Ethelyn herself did
not recognize him until the mask was removed.

Mrs. Markham could not suffer such high-handed wickedness to go
unrebuked, and taking as a peace offering, in case matters assumed a
serious aspect, a pot of gooseberry jam and a ball of head cheese, she
started for Camden the very next day.

Ethelyn did not expect her, but she received her kindly, and knowing how
she hated a public table, had dinner served in her own room, and then,
without showing the least impatience, waited a full hour for Richard to
come in from the court-house, where an important suit was pending. Mrs.
Markham was to return to Olney that night, and as there was no time to
lose, she brought the conversation round to the "stories" she had heard,
and little by little laid on the lash till Ethelyn's temper was roused,
and she asked her mother-in-law to say out what she had to say at once,
and not skirt round it so long. Then came the whole list of misdemeanors
which Mrs. Markham thought "perfectly ridiculous," asking her son how he
"could put up with such work."

Richard wisely forbore taking either side; nor was it necessary that he
should speak for Ethie. She was fully competent to fight her own battle,
and she fought it with a will, telling her mother-in-law that she should
attend as many parties as she pleased and wear as many masks. She did
not give up her liberty of action when she married. She was young yet,
and should enjoy herself if she chose, and in her own way.

This was all the satisfaction Mrs. Markham could get, and supremely
pitying "her poor boy," whom she mentally decided was "henpecked," she
took the cars back to Olney, saying to Richard, who accompanied her to
the train, "I am sorry for you from the bottom of my heart. It would be
better if you had stayed with me."

Richard liked his mother's good opinion, but as he walked back to the
hotel he could not help feeling that a mother's interference between man
and wife was never very discreet, and he wished the good woman had
stayed at home. If he had said so to Ethelyn, when on his return to his
rooms he found her weeping passionately, there might have come a better
understanding between them, and she probably would have stayed with him
that evening instead of attending the whist party given by Mrs. Miller.
But he had fully determined to keep silent, and when Ethelyn asked if
she was often to be subjected to such insults, he did not reply. He went
with her, however, to Mrs. Miller's, and knowing nothing of cards,
almost fell asleep while waiting for her, and playing backgammon with
another fellow-sufferer, who had married a young wife and was there
on duty.

Mrs. Markham, senior, did not go to Camden again, and when Christmas
came, and with it an invitation for Richard and his wife to dine at the
farmhouse on the turkey Andy had fattened for the occasion, Ethelyn
peremptorily declined; and as Richard would not go without her, Mrs.
Jones and Melinda had their seats at table, and Mrs. Markham wished for
the hundredth time that Richard's preference had fallen on the latter
young lady instead of "that headstrong piece who would be his ruin."



CHAPTER XX

THE CRISIS

It was the Tuesday before Lent. The gay season was drawing to a close,
for Mrs. Howard and Mrs. Miller, who led the fashionable world of Camden
before Ethelyn's introduction to it, were the highest kind of
church-women, and while neglecting the weightier matters of the law
were strict to bring their tithes of mint, and anise, and cummin. They
were going to wear sackcloth and ashes for forty days and stay at home,
unless, as Mrs. Miller said to Ethelyn, they met occasionally in each
other's house for a quiet game of whist or euchre. There could be no
harm in that, particularly if they abstained on Fridays, as of course
they should. Mr. Bartow himself could not find fault with so simple a
recreation, even if he did try so hard to show what his views were with
regard to keeping the Lenten fast. Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Howard intended
to be very regular at the morning service, hoping that the odor of
sanctity with which they would thus be permeated would in some way atone
for the absence of genuine heart-religion and last them for the
remainder of the year. First, however, and as a means of helping her in
her intended seclusion from the world, Mrs. Howard was to give the
largest party of the season--a sort of carnival, from which the revelers
were expected to retire the moment the silvery-voiced clock on her
mantel struck the hour of twelve and ushered in the dawn of Lent. It was
to be a masquerade, for the Camdenites had almost gone mad on that
fashion which Ethelyn had the credit of introducing into their midst;
that is, she was the first to propose a masquerade early in the season,
telling what she had seen and giving the benefit of her larger
experience in such matters.

It was a fashion which took wonderfully with the people, for the
curiosity and interest attaching to the characters was just suited to
the restless, eager temperament of the Camdenites, and they entered into
it with heart and soul, ransacking boxes and barrels and worm-eaten
chests, scouring the country far and near and even sending as far as
Davenport and Rock Island for the necessary costumes. Andy himself had
been asked by Harry Clifford to lend his Sunday suit, that young scamp
intending to personate some raw New England Yankee; and that was how
Mrs. Markham, senior, first came to hear of the proceedings which, to
one of her rigid views, savored strongly of the pit, especially after
she heard one of the parties described by an eye-witness, who mentioned
among other characters his Satanic Majesty, as enacted by Harry
Clifford, who would fain have appeared next in Andy's clothes! No wonder
the good woman was enraged and took the next train for Camden, giving
her son and daughter a piece of her mind and winding up her discourse
with: "And they say you have the very de'il himself, with hoofs and
horns. I think you might have left him alone, for I reckon he was there
fast enough if you could not see him."

Ethelyn had not approved of Harry Clifford's choice, and with others had
denounced his taste as bad; but she enjoyed the masquerades generally,
and for this last and most elaborate of all she had made great
preparations. Richard had not opposed her joining it, but he did wince a
little when he found she was to personate Mary, Queen of Scots, wishing
that she would not always select persons of questionable character, like
Hortense and Scotland's ill-fated queen. But Ethie had decided upon her
role without consulting him, and so he walked over piles of
ancient-looking finery and got his boots tangled in the golden wig which
Ethie had hunted up, and told her he should be glad when it was over,
and wished mentally that it might be Lent the year around, and was
persuaded into saying he would go to the party himself, not as a masker,
but in his own proper person as Richard Markham, the grave and dignified
Judge whom the people respected so highly. Ethie was glad he was going.
She would always rather have him with her, if possible; and the genuine
satisfaction she evinced when he said he would accompany her did much
toward reconciling him to the affair about which so much was being said
in Camden. When, however, he came in to supper on Tuesday night
complaining of a severe headache, and saying he wished he could remain
quietly at home, inasmuch as he was to start early the next morning for
St. Louis, where he had business to transact, Ethelyn said to him: "If
you are sick, of course I will not compel you to go. Mr. and Mrs. Miller
will look after me."

She meant this kindly, for she saw that he was looking pale and
haggard, and Richard took it so then; but afterward her words became so
many scorpions stinging him into fury. It would seem as if every box,
and drawer, and bag, had been overturned, and the contents brought to
light, for ribbons, and flowers, and laces were scattered about in wild
confusion, while on the carpet, near the drawer where Ethie's little
mother-of-pearl box was kept, lay a tiny note, which had inadvertently
been dropped from its hiding-place when Ethie opened the box in quest of
something which was wanted for Queen Mary's outfit. Richard saw the note
just as he saw the other litter, but paid no attention to it then, and
after supper was over went out as usual for his evening paper.

Gathered about the door of the office was a group of young men, all his
acquaintances, and all talking together upon some theme which seemed to
excite them greatly.

"Too bad to make such a fool of himself," one said, while another added,
"He ought to have known better than to order champagne, when he knows
what a beast a few drops will make of him, and he had a first-class
character for to-night, too."

Richard was never greatly interested in gossip of any kind, but
something impelled him now to ask of whom they were talking.

"Of Hal Clifford," was the reply. "A friend of his came last night to
Moore's Hotel, where Hal boards, and wishing to do the generous host Hal
ordered champagne and claret for supper, in his room, and got drunker
than a fool. It always lasts him a day or two, so he is gone up for
to-night."

Richard had no time to waste in words upon Harry Clifford, and after
hearing the story started for his boarding-place. His route lay past the
Moore House and as he reached it the door opened and Harry came reeling
down the steps. He was just drunk enough to be sociable, and spying
Richard by the light of the lamppost he hurried to his side, and taking
his arm in the confidential manner he always assumed when intoxicated,
he began talking in a half-foolish, half-rational way, very disgusting
to Richard, who tried vainly to shake him off. Harry was not to be
baffled, and with a stammer and a hiccough he began: "I say--a--now, old
chap, don't be so fast to get rid of a cove. Wife waiting for you, I
suppose. Deuced fine woman. Envy you; I do, 'pon honor, and so does
somebody else. D'ye know her old beau that she used to be engaged to,
is here?"

"Who? What do you mean?" Richard asked, turning sharply upon his
companion, who continued:

"Why, Frank Van Buren. Cousin, you know; was chum with me in college, so
I know all about it. Don't you remember my putting it to her that first
time I met her at Mrs. Miller's? Mistrusted by her blushing there was
more than I supposed; and so there was. He told me all about it
last night."

Richard did not try now to shake off his comrade. There seemed to be a
spell upon him, and although he longed to thrash the impudent young man,
saying such things of Ethelyn, he held his peace, with the exception of
the single question:

"Frank Van Buren in town? Where is he stopping?"

"Up at Moore's. Came last night; and between you and me, Judge, I took a
little too much. Makes my head feel like a tub. Sorry for Frank. He and
his wife ain't congenial, besides she's lost her money that Frank
married her for. Serves him right for being so mean to Mrs. Markham, and
I told him so when he opened his heart clear to the breast-bone and told
me all about it; how his mother broke it up about the time you were down
there; and, Markham, you don't mind my telling you, as an old friend,
how he said she went to the altar with a heavier heart than she would
have carried to her coffin. Quite a hifalutin speech for Frank, who used
to be at the foot of his class."

Richard grew faint and cold as death, feeling one moment an impulse to
knock young Clifford down, and the next a burning desire to hear the
worst, if, indeed, he had not already heard it. He would not question
Harry; but he would listen to all he had to say, and so kept quiet,
waiting for the rest. Harry was just enough beside himself to take a
malicious kind of satisfaction in inflicting pain upon Richard, as he
was sure he was doing. He knew Judge Markham despised him, and though,
when sober, he would have shrunk from so mean a revenge, he could say
anything now, and so went on:

"She has not seen him yet, but will to-night, for he is going. I got him
invited as my friend. She knows he is here. He sent her a note this
morning. Pity I can't go, too; but I can't, for you see, I know how
drunk I am. Here we part, do we?" and Harry loosed his hold of Richard's
arm as they reached the corner of the street.

Wholly stunned by what he had heard, Richard kept on his way, but not
toward the Stafford House. He could not face Ethelyn yet. He was not
determined what course to pursue, and so he wandered on in the darkness,
through street after street, while the wintry wind blew cold and chill
about him; but he did not heed it, or feel the keen, cutting blast. His
blood was at a boiling heat, and the great drops of sweat were rolling
down his face, as, with head and shoulders bent like an aged man, he
walked rapidly on, revolving all he had heard, and occasionally
whispering to himself, "She carried a heavier heart to the altar than
she would have taken to her coffin."

"Yes, I believe it now. I remember how white she was, and how her hand
trembled when I took it in mine. Oh! Ethie, Ethie, I did not deserve
this from you."

Resentment--hard, unrelenting resentment--was beginning to take the
place of the deep pain he had at first experienced, and it needed but
the sight of Mrs. Miller's windows, blazing with light, to change the
usually quiet, undemonstrative man into a demon.

"She is to meet him here to-night, it seems, and perhaps talk over her
blighted life. Never, no, never, so long as bolts and bars have the
power to hold her. She shall not disgrace herself, for with all her
faults she is my wife, and I have loved her so much. Oh, Ethie, I love
you still," and the wretched man leaned against a post as he sent forth
this despairing cry for the Ethie who he felt was lost forever.

Every little incident which could tend to prove that what Harry had said
was true came to his mind; the conversation overheard in Washington
between Frank and Melinda, Ethelyn's unfinished letter, to which she had
never referred, and the clause in Aunt Van Buren's letter relating to
Frank's first love affair. He could not any longer put the truth aside
with specious arguments, for it stood out in all its naked deformity,
making him cower and shrink before it. It was a very different man who
went up the stairs of the Stafford House to room No--from the man who
two hours before had gone down them, and Ethelyn would hardly have known
him for her husband had she been there to meet him. Wondering much at
his long absence, she had at last gone on with her dressing, and then,
as he still did not appear, she had stepped for a moment to the room of
a friend, who was sick, and had asked to see her when she was ready.
Richard saw that she was out, and sinking into the first chair, his eyes
fell upon the note lying near the bureau drawer. The room had partially
been put to rights, but this had escaped Ethie's notice, and Richard
picked it up, glowering with rage, and almost foaming at the mouth when,
in the single word, "Ethie," on the back, he recognized Frank Van
Buren's writing!

He had it then--the note which his rival had sent, apprising his wife of
his presence in town, and he would read it, too. He had no scruples
about that, and his fingers tingled to his elbows as he opened the note,
never observing how yellow and worn it looked, or that it was not dated.
He had no doubt of its identity, and his face grew purple with passion
as he read:

"MY OWN DARLING ETHIE: Don't fail to be there to-night, and, if
possible, leave the 'old maid' at home, and come alone. We shall have so
much better time. Your devoted,

"FRANK."

Words could not express Richard's emotions as he held that note in his
shaking hand, and gazed at the words, "My own darling Ethie." Quiet men
like Richard Markham are terrible when roused; and Richard was terrible
in his anger, as he sat like a block of stone, contemplating the proof
of his wife's unfaithfulness. He called it by that hard name, grating
his teeth together as he thought of her going by appointment to meet
Frank Van Buren, who had called him an "old maid," and planned to have
him left behind if possible. Then, as he recalled what Ethelyn had said
about his remaining at home if he were ill, he leaped to his feet, and
an oath quivered on his lips at her duplicity.

"False in every respect," he muttered, "and I trusted her so much."

It never occurred to him that the note was a strange one for what he
imagined it to portend, Frank merely charging Ethelyn to be present at
the party, without even announcing his arrival or giving any explanation
for his sudden appearance in Camden. Richard was too much excited to
reason upon anything, and stood leaning upon the piano, with his livid
face turned toward the door, when Ethie made her appearance, looking
very pretty and piquant in her Mary Stuart guise. She held her mask in
her hand, but when she caught a glimpse of him she hastily adjusted it,
and springing forward, "Where were you so long? I began to think you
were never coming. We shall be among the very last. How do I look as
Mary? Am I pretty enough to make an old maid like Elizabeth jealous
of me?"

Had anything been wanting to perfect Richard's wrath, that allusion to
an "old maid" would have done it. It was the drop in the brimming
bucket, and Richard exploded at once, hurling such language at Ethelyn's
head that, white and scared, and panting for breath, she put up both her
hands to ward off the storm, and asked what it all meant. Richard had
locked the door, the only entrance to their room, and stooping over
Ethelyn he hissed into her ear his meaning, telling her all he had heard
from Harry Clifford, and asking if it were true. Ere Ethelyn could reply
there was a knock at the door, and a servant's voice called out,
"Carriage waiting for Mrs. Markham."

It was the carriage sent by Mrs. Miller for Ethelyn, and quick as
thought Richard stepped to the door, and unlocking it, said hastily,
"Give Mrs. Miller Mrs. Markham's compliments, and say she cannot be
present to-night. Tell her she regrets it exceedingly"; and Richard's
voice was very bitter and sarcastic in its tone as he closed the door
upon the astonished waiter; and relocking it, he returned again to
Ethelyn, who had risen to her feet, and with a different expression upon
her face from the white, scared look it had worn at first, stood
confronting him fearlessly now, and even defiantly, for this bold step
had roused her from her apathy; and in a fierce whisper, which,
nevertheless, was as clear and distinct as the loudest tones could have
been; she asked, "Am I to understand that I am a prisoner here in my own
room? It is your intention to keep me from the party?"

"It is," and with his back against the door, as if doubly to bar her
egress, Richard regarded her gloomily, while he charged her with the
special reason why she wished to go. "It was to meet Frank Van Buren,
your former lover," he said, asking if she could deny it.

For a moment Ethelyn stood irresolute, mentally going over all that
would be said if she stayed from Mrs. Miller's, where she was to be the
prominent one, and calculating her strength to stem the tide of wonder
and conjecture as to her absence which was sure to follow. She could not
meet it, she decided; she must go, at all hazards, even if, to achieve
her purpose, she made some concessions to the man who had denounced her
so harshly, and used such language as is not easily forgotten.

"Richard," she began, and her eyes had a strange glittering light in
them, "with regard to the past I shall say nothing now, but that Frank
was here in Camden I had not the slightest knowledge till I heard it
from you. Believe me, Richard, and let me go. My absence will seem very
strange, and cause a great deal of remark. Another time I may explain
what would best have been explained before."

The light in her eyes was softer now, and her voice full of entreaty;
for Ethie felt almost as if pleading for her life. But she might as well
have talked to the wall for any good results it produced. Richard was
moved from his lofty height of wrath and vindictiveness, but he did not
believe her. How could he, with the fatal note in his hand, and the
memory of the degrading epithet it contained, and which Ethie, too, had
used against him, still ringing in his ears? The virgin queen of England
was never more stony and inexorable with regard to the unfortunate Mary
than was Richard toward his wife, and the expression of his face froze
all the better emotions rising in Ethie's heart, as she felt that in a
measure she was reaping a just retribution for her long deception.

"I do not believe you, madam," Richard said; "and if I were inclined to
do so, this note, which Harry said was sent to you, and which I found
upon the floor, would tell me better," and tossing into her lap the
soiled bit of paper, accomplishing so much harm, he continued: "There is
my proof; that in conjunction with the name of opprobrium, which you
remember you insinuatingly used, asking if you were pretty enough to
make the old maid, Elizabeth, jealous. You are pretty enough, madam; but
it is an accursed beauty which would attract to itself men of Frank Van
Buren's stamp."

Richard could not get over that epithet. He would have forgiven the
other sin almost as soon as this, and his face was very dark and stern
as he watched Ethelyn reading the little note. She knew in a moment what
it was, and the suddenness of its appearance before her turned her white
and faint. It brought back so vividly the day when she received it--six
or seven years ago, the lazy September day, when the Chicopee hills wore
the purplish light of early autumn, and the air was full of golden
sunshine. It was a few weeks after the childish betrothal among the
huckleberry hills, and Frank had come up to spend a week with a boy
friend of his, who lived across the river. There was to be an exhibition
in the white schoolhouse, in the river district, and Frank had written,
urging her to come, and asking that Aunt Barbara should be left
behind--"the old maid," he sometimes called her to his cousin, thinking
it sounded smart and manlike. Aunt Barbara had stayed at home from
choice, sending her niece in charge of Susie Granger's mother; but the
long walk home, after the exercises were over, the lingering, loitering
walk across the causeway, where the fog was riding so damply, the
stopping on the bridge, and looking down into the deep, dark water,
where the stars were reflected so brightly, the slow climbing of the
depot hill, and the long talk by the gate beneath the elms, whose long
arms began to drop great drops of dew on Ethie's head ere the interview
was ended--all this had been experienced with Frank, whose arm was
around the young girl's waist, and whose hand was clasping hers, as with
boyish pride and a laughable effort to seem manly, he talked of "our
engagement," and even leaped forward in fancy to the time "when we
are married."

All this came back to Ethelyn, and she seemed to feel again the breath
of the September night, and see through the clustering branches the
flashing light waiting for her in the dear old room in Chicopee. She
forgot for a moment the stern, dark face watching her so jealously, and
so hardening toward her as he saw how pale she grew, and heard her
exclamation of surprise when she first recognized the note, and
remembered that in turning over the contents of the ebony box she must
have dropped it upon the floor.

"Do you still deny all knowledge of Frank's presence in town?" Richard
asked, and his voice recalled Ethelyn from the long ago back to the
present time.

He was waiting for her answer; but Ethie had none to give. Her hot,
imperious temper was in the ascendant now. She was a prisoner for the
night; her own husband was the jailer, who she felt was unjust to her,
and she would make no explanations, at least not then. He might think
what he liked or draw any inference he pleased from her silence. And so
she made him no reply, except to crush into her pocket the paper which
she should have burned on that morning when, crouching on the
hearthstone at home, she destroyed all other traces of a past which
ought never to have been. He could not make her speak, and his words of
reproach might as well have been given to the winds as to that cold,
statue-like woman, who mechanically laid aside the fanciful costume in
which she was arrayed, doing everything with a deliberation and
coolness more exasperating to Richard than open defiance would have
been. A second knock at the door, and another servant appeared, saying,
apologetically, that the note he held in his hand had been left at the
office for Mrs. Markham early in the morning, but forgotten till now.

"Give it to me, if you please. It is mine," Ethelyn said, and something
in her voice and manner kept Richard quiet while she took the offered
note and went back to the chandelier where, with a compressed lip and
burning cheek, she read the genuine note sent by Frank.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Dear cousin," he wrote, "business for a Boston firm has brought me to
Camden, where they have had debt standing out. Through the influence of
Harry Clifford, who was a college chum of mine, I have an invitation to
Mrs. Miller's, where I hope to meet yourself and husband. I should call
to-day, but I know just how busy you must be with your costume, which I
suppose you wish to keep incog., even from me. I shall know you, though,
at once. See if I do not. Wishing to be remembered to the Judge, I am,
yours truly,

"FRANK VAN BUREN."

       *       *       *       *       *

This is what Ethelyn read, knowing, as she read, that it would make
matters right between herself and husband--at least so far as an
appointment was concerned; but she would not show it to him then. She
was too angry, too much aggrieved, to admit of any attempts on her part
for a reconciliation; so she put that note with the other, and then went
quietly on arranging her things in their proper places. Then, when this
was done, she sat down by the window and peering out into the wintry
darkness watched the many lights and moving figures in Mrs. Miller's
house, which could be distinctly seen from the hotel. Richard still
intended to take the early train for St. Louis, and so he retired at
last, but Ethelyn sat where she was until the carriages taking the
revelers home had passed, and the lights were out in Mrs. Miller's
windows, and the bell of St. John's had ushered in the second hour of
the fast. Not then did she join her husband, but lay down upon the
sofa, where he found her when at six o'clock he came from his broken,
feverish sleep, to say his parting words. He had contemplated the
propriety of giving up his trip and remaining at home while Frank Van
Buren was in town, but this he could not very well do.

"I will leave her to herself," he thought, "trusting that what has
passed will deter her from any further improprieties."

Something like this he said to her when, in the gray dawn, he stood
before her, equipped for his journey; but Ethelyn did not respond, and
with her cold, dead silence weighing more upon him than bitter
reproaches would have done, Richard left her and took his way through
the chill, snowy morning to the depot, little dreaming as he went of
when and how he and Ethelyn would meet again.



CHAPTER XXI

THE RESULT

The bell in the tower of St. John's pealed forth its summons to the
house of prayer, and one by one, singly or in groups, the worshipers
went up to keep this first solemn day of Lent--true, sincere worshipers,
many of them, who came to weep, and pray, and acknowledge their past
misdeeds; while others came from habit, and because it was the fashion,
their pale, haggard faces and heavy eyes telling plainly of the last
night's dissipation, which had continued till the first hour of the
morning. Mrs. Howard was there, and Mrs. Miller, too, both glancing
inquiringly at Judge Markham's pew and then wonderingly at each other.
Ethelyn was not there. She had breakfast in her room after Richard left,
and when that was over had gone mechanically to her closet and drawers
and commenced sorting her clothes--hanging away the gayest, most
expensive dresses, and laying across chairs and upon the bed the more
serviceable ones, such as might properly be worn on ordinary occasions.
Why she did this she had not yet clearly defined, and when, after her
wardrobe was divided, and she brought out the heavy traveling trunk,
made for her in Boston, she was not quite certain what she meant to do.
She had been sorely wounded, and, as she thought, without just cause.
She knew she was to blame for not having told Richard of Frank before
she became his wife, but of the things with which he had so severely
charged her she was guiltless, and every nerve quivered and throbbed
with passion and resentment as she recalled the scene of the previous
night, going over again with the cruel words Richard had uttered in his
jealous anger, and then burning with shame and indignation as she
thought of being locked in her room, and kept from attending the
masquerade, where her absence must have excited so much wonder.

"What did they say, and what can I tell them when we meet?" she thought,
just as Mrs. Howard's voice was heard in the upper hall.

Church was out, and several of the more intimate of Ethie's friends had
stopped at the Stafford House to inquire into so strange a proceeding.

"Come to see if you were sick, or what, that you disappointed me so. I
was vexed enough, I assure you," Mrs. Miller said, looking curiously
enough at Ethelyn, whose face was white as ashes, save where a crimson
spot burned on her cheeks, and whose lips were firmly pressed together.

She did not know what to say, and when pressed to give a reason
stammered out:

"Judge Markham wished me to stay with him, and as an obedient wife I
stayed."

With ready tact the ladies saw that something was wrong, and kindly
forbore further remarks, except to tell what a grand affair it was, and
how much she was missed. But Ethie detected in their manner an unspoken
sympathy or pity, which exasperated and humiliated her more than open
words would have done. Heretofore she had been the envy of the entire
set, and it wounded her deeply to fall from that pedestal to the level
of ordinary people. She was no longer the young wife, whose husband
petted and humored her so much, but the wife whose husband was jealous
and tyrannical, and even abusive, where language was concerned, and she
could not rid herself of the suspicion that her lady friends knew more
than they professed to know, and was heartily glad when they took their
departure and left her again alone.

There was another knock at her door, and a servant handed in a card
bearing Frank Van Buren's name. He was in the office, the waiter said.
Should he show the gentleman up?

Ethie hesitated a moment, and then taking her pencil wrote upon the back
of the card, "I am too busy to see you to-day."

The servant left the room, and Ethelyn went back to where her clothes
were scattered about and the great trunk was standing open. She did not
care to see Frank Van Buren now. He was the direct cause of every sorrow
she had known, and bitter feelings were swelling in her heart in place
of the softer emotions she had once experienced toward him. He was
nothing to her now. Slowly but gradually the flame had been dying out,
until Richard had nothing to dread from him, and he was never nearer to
winning his wife's entire devotion than on that fatal night when, by his
jealousy and rashness, he built so broad a gulf between them.

"It is impossible that we should ever live together again, after all
that has transpired," Ethelyn said, as she stood beside her trunk and
involuntarily folded up a garment and laid it on the bottom.

She had reached a decision, and her face grew whiter, stonier, as she
made haste to act upon it. Every article which Richard had bought was
laid aside and put away in the drawers and bureaus she would never see
again. These were not numerous, for her bridal trousseau had been so
extensive that but few demands had been made upon her husband's purse
for dress, and Ethelyn felt glad that it was so. It did not take long to
put them away, or very long to pack the trunk, and then Ethie sat down
to think "what next?"

Only a few days before a Mr. Bailey, who boarded in the house, and
whose daughter was taking music lessons, had tried to purchase her
piano, telling her that so fine a player as herself ought to have one
with a longer keyboard. Ethie had thought so herself, wishing sometimes
that she had a larger instrument, which was better adapted to the
present style of music, but she could not bring herself to part with
Aunt Barbara's present. Now, however, the case was different. Money she
must have, and as she scorned to take it from the bank, where her check
was always honored, she would sell her piano. It was hers to do with as
she liked, and when Mr. Bailey passed her door at dinner time he was
asked to step in and reconsider the matter. She had changed her mind,
she said. She was willing to sell it now; there was such a superb affair
down at Shumway's Music Room. Had Mr. Bailey seen it?

Ethie's voice was not quite steady, for she was not accustomed to
deception of this kind, and the first step was hard. But Mr. Bailey was
not at all suspicious, and concluded the bargain at once; and two hours
later Ethie's piano was standing between the south windows of Mrs.
Bailey's apartment, and Ethie, in her own room, was counting a roll of
three hundred dollars, and deciding how far it would go.

"There's my pearls," she said, "if worst comes to worst I can sell them
and my diamond ring."

She did not mean Daisy's ring. She would not barter that, or take it
with her, either. Daisy never intended it for a runaway wife, and
Ethelyn must leave it where Richard would find it when he came back and
found her gone. And then as Ethie in her anger exulted over Richard's
surprise and possible sorrow when he found himself deserted, some demon
from the pit whispered in her ear, "Give him back the wedding ring.
Leave that for him, too, and so remove every tie which once bound you
to him."

It was hard to put off Daisy's ring, and Ethelyn paused and reflected as
the clear stone seemed to reflect the fair, innocent face hanging on the
walls at Olney. But Ethie argued that she had no right to it, and so the
dead girl's ring was laid aside, and then the trembling fingers
fluttered about the plain gold band bearing the date of her marriage.
But when she essayed to remove that, too, blood-red circles danced
before her eyes, and such a terror seized her that her hands dropped
powerless into her lap and the ring remained in its place.

It was four o'clock in the afternoon, and the cars for Olney left at
seven. She was going that way as far as Milford, where she could take
another route to the East. She would thus throw Richard off the track if
he tried to follow her, and also avoid immediate remark in the hotel.
They would think it quite natural that in her husband's absence she
should go for a few days to Olney, she reasoned; and they did think so
in the office when at six she asked that her trunk be taken to the
station. Her rooms were all in order. She had made them so herself,
sweeping and dusting, and even leaving Richard's dressing-gown and
slippers by the chair where he usually sat the evenings he was at home.
The vacancy left by the piano would strike him at once, she knew, and so
she moved a tall bookcase up there, and put a sofa where the bookcase
had been, and a large chair where the sofa had been, and pushed the
center table into the large chair's place; and then her work was
done--the last she would ever do in that room, or for Richard either.
The last of everything is sad, and Ethie felt a thrill of pain as she
whispered to herself, "It is the last, last time," and then thought of
the outer world which lay all unknown before her. She would not allow
herself to think, lest her courage should give way, and tried, by
dwelling continually upon Richard's cruel words, to steel her heart
against the good impulses which were beginning to suggest that what she
was doing might not, after all, be the wisest course. What would the
world say?--and dear Aunt Barbara, too? How it would wring her heart
when she heard the end to which her darling had come! And Andy--simple,
conscientious, praying Andy--Ethie's heart came up in her throat when
she thought of him and his grief at her desertion.

"I will write to Andy," she said. "I will tell him how thoughts of him
almost deterred me from my purpose," and opening her little writing
desk, which Richard gave her at Christmas, she took up her pen and held
it poised a moment, while something said: "Write to Richard, too. Surely
you can do so much for him. You can tell him the truth at last, and let
him know how he misjudged you."

And so the name which Ethie first wrote down upon the paper was not
"Dear Brother Andy," but simply that of "Richard."



CHAPTER XXII

ETHIE'S LETTERS

"Stafford House, Feb.--,

"Five o'clock in the afternoon.

"RICHARD: I am going away from you forever, and When you recall the
words you spoke to me last night, and the deep humiliation you put upon
me, you will readily understand that I go because we cannot live
together any longer as man and wife. You said things to me, Richard,
which women find hard to forgive, and which they never can forget. I did
not deserve that you should treat me so, for, bad as I may have been in
other respects, I am innocent of the worst thing you alleged against me,
and which seemed to excite you so much. Until I heard it from you, I did
not know Frank Van Buren was within a thousand miles of Camden. The note
from him which I leave with this letter, and which you will remember was
brought to the door by a servant, who said it had been mislaid and
forgotten, will prove that I tell you truly. The other note which you
found, and which must have fallen from the box where I kept it, was
written years ago, when I was almost a little girl, with no thought that
I ever could be the humbled, wretched creature I am now.

"Let me tell you all about it, Richard--how I happened to be engaged to
Frank, and how wounded and sore and sorry I was when you came the second
time to Chicopee, and asked me to be your wife."

Then followed the whole story of Ethelyn's first love. Nothing was
concealed, nothing kept back. Even the dreariness of the day when Aunt
Van Buren came up from Boston and broke poor Ethie's heart, was
described and dwelt upon with that particularity which shows how the
lights, and shadows, and sunshine, and storms which mark certain events
in one's history will impress themselves upon one's mind, as parts of
the great joy or sorrow which can never be forgotten. Then she spoke of
meeting Richard, and the train of circumstances which finally led to
their betrothal.

"I wanted to tell you about Frank that night, on the shore of the pond,
when you told me of Abigail, and twice I made up my mind to do so, but
something rose up to prevent it, and after that it was very hard to
do so."

She did not tell him how she at first shrank away from his caresses with
a loathing which made her flesh creep, but she confessed that she did
not love him, even when taking the marriage vow.

"But I meant to be true to you, Richard. I meant to be a good wife, and
never let you know how I felt. You were different from Frank; different
from most men whom I had met, and you did annoy me so at times. You will
tell me I was foolish to lay so much stress on little things, and so,
perhaps, I was; but little things, rather than big, make up the sum of
human happiness, and, besides, I was too young to fully understand how
any amount of talent and brain could atone for absence of culture of
manner. Then, too, I was so disappointed in your home and family. You
know how unlike they are to my own, but you can never know how terrible
it was to me who had formed so different an estimate of them. I suppose
you will say I did not try to assimilate, and perhaps I did not. How
could I, when to be like them was the thing I dreaded most of all? I do
believe they tried to be kind, especially your brothers, and I shall
ever be grateful to them for their attempt to please and interest me
during that dreadful winter I spent alone, with you in Washington. You
did wrong, Richard, not to take me with you, when I wanted so much to
go. I know that, after what happened, you and your mother think you were
fully justified in what you did; but, Richard, you are mistaken. The
very means you took to avert a catastrophe hastened it instead. The
cruel disappointment and terrible homesickness which I endured hastened
our baby's birth, and cost its little life. Had it lived, Richard, I
should have been a better woman from what I am now. It would have been
something for me to love, and oh, my heart did ache so for an object on
which to fasten. I did not love you when I became your wife, but I was
learning to do so. When you came home from Washington I was so glad to
see you, and I used to listen for your step when you went to Olney and
it was time for you to return. Just in proportion as I was drawn toward
you, Frank fell in my estimation, and I wanted to tell you all about it,
and begin anew. I was going to do so in that letter commenced the night
I was taken so ill, and two or three times afterwards I thought I would
do it. Do you remember that night of our return from St. Paul? I found a
letter from Aunt Van Buren, and asked if you would like to hear it. You
seemed so indifferent and amost cross about it, that the good angel left
me, and your chance was lost again. There was something in that letter
about Frank and me--something which would have called forth questions
from you, and I meant to explain if you would let me. Think, Richard.
You will remember the night. You lay upon the sofa, and I sat down
beside you, and smoothed your hair. I was nearer to loving you then than
I ever was before; but you put me off, and the impulse did not come
again--that is, the impulse of confession. A little more consideration
on your part for what you call my airs and high notions would have won
me to you, for I am not insensible to your many sterling virtues, and I
do believe that you did love me once. But all that is over now. I made a
great mistake when I came to you, and perhaps I am making a greater one
in going from you. But I think not. We are better apart, especially
after the indignities of last night. Where I am going it does not
matter to you. Pursuit will be useless, inasmuch as I shall have the
start of a week. Neither do I think you will search for me much. You
will he happier without me, and it is better that I should go. You will
give the accompanying note to Andy. Dear Andy, my heart aches to its
very core when I think of him, and know that his grief for me will be
genuine. I leave you Daisy's ring. I am not worthy to keep that, so I
give it back. I wish I could make you free from me entirely, if that
should be your wish. Perhaps some time you will be, and then when I am
nothing to you save a sad memory, you will think better of me than
you do now.

"Good-by, Richard. We shall probably never meet again. Good-by.

"ETHIE."

She did not stop to read what she had written. There was not time for
that, and taking a fresh sheet, she wrote:

"DEAR, DARLING ANDY: If all the world were as good, and kind, and true
as you, I should not be writing this letter, with my arrangements made
for flight. Richard will tell you why I go. It would take me too long. I
have been very unhappy here, though none of my wretchedness has been
caused by you. Dear Andy, if I could tell you how much I love you, and
how sorry I am to fall in your opinion, as I surely shall when you hear
what has happened. Do not hate me, Andy, and sometimes when you pray,
remember Ethie, won't you? She needs your prayers so much, for she
cannot pray herself. I do not want to be wholly bad--do not want to be
lost forever; and I have faith that God will hear you. The beautiful
consistency of your everyday life and simple trust, have been powerful
sermons to me, convincing me that there is a reality in the religion you
profess. Go on, Andy, as you have begun, and may the God whom I am not
worthy to name, bless you, and keep you, and give you every possible
good. In fancy I wind my arms around your neck, and kiss your dear, kind
face, as, with scalding tears, I write you good-by.

"Farewell, Andy, darling Andy, farewell."

Ethelyn had not wept before, but now, as Andy rose up before her with
the thought that she should see him no more, her tears poured like rain,
and blotted the sheet on which she had written to him. It hurt her more,
if possible, to lose his respect than that of any other person, and for
a half-instant she wavered in the decision. But it was too late now. The
piano was sold and delivered, and if she tarried she had no special
excuse to offer for its sale. She must carry out her plan, even though
it proved the greatest mistake of her life. So the letters were directed
and put, with Daisy's ring, in the little drawer of the bureau, where
Richard would be sure to find them when he came back. Perhaps, as Ethie
put them there, she thought how they might be the means of a
reconciliation; that Richard, after reading her note, would move heaven
and earth to find her, and having done so, would thenceforth be her
willing slave; possibly, too, remembering the harsh things he had so
recently said to her, she exulted a little as she saw him coming back to
his deserted home, and finding his domestic altar laid low in the dust.
But if this was so she gave no sign, and though her face was deathly
pale, her nerves were steady and her voice calm, as she gave orders
concerning her baggage, and then when it was time, turned the key upon
her room, and left it with the clerk, to whom she said:

"I shall not be back until my husband returns."

She was going to Olney, of course--going to see his folks, the landlady
said, when she heard Mrs. Markham had gone; and so no wonder was created
among the female boarders, except that Ethelyn had not said good-by to a
single one of them. She was not equal to that. Her great desire was to
escape unseen, and with a veil drawn closely over her face, she sat in
the darkest corner of the ladies' room, waiting impatiently for the
arrival of the train, and glancing furtively at the people around her.
Groups of men were walking up and down upon the platform without, and
among them Frank Van Buren. On his way to the cars he had called again
at the Stafford House, and learned that Mrs. Markham was out.

"I'll see her when I return," he thought, and so went his way to the
train, which would take him to his next point of destination.

Never once dreaming how near he was to her, Ethie drew her veil and furs
more closely around her, and turning her face to the frosty window,
gazed drearily out into the wintry darkness as they sped swiftly on. She
hardly knew where she was going or what she could do when she was there.
She was conscious only of the fact that she was breaking away from
scenes and associations which had been so distasteful to her--that she
was leaving a husband who had been abusive to her, and she verily
believed she had just cause for going. The world might not see it so,
perhaps, but she did not care for the world. She was striking out a path
of her own, and with her heart as sore and full of anger as it then was,
she felt able to cope with any difficulty, so that her freedom was
achieved. They were skirting across the prairie now; and the lights of
Olney were in sight. Perhaps she could see the farmhouse, and rubbing,
with her warm palm, the moisture from the window-pane, she looked
wistfully out in the direction of Richard's home. Yes, there it was, and
a light shining from the sitting-room window, as if they expected her.
But Ethie was not going there, and with something like a sigh as she
thought of Andy so near, yet separated so widely from her, she turned
from the window and rested her tired head upon her hands while they
stayed at Olney. It was only a moment they stopped, but to Ethie it
seemed an age, and her heart almost stopped its beating when she heard
the voice of Terrible Tim just outside the car. He was not coming in, as
she found after a moment of breathless waiting; he was only speaking to
an acquaintance, who stepped inside and took a seat by the stove, just
as the train plunged again into the darkness, leaving behind a fiery
track to mark its progress across the level prairie.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE DESERTED HUSBAND

Richard had been very successful in St. Louis. The business which took
him there had been more than satisfactorily arranged. He had collected a
thousand-dollar debt he never expected to get, and had been everywhere
treated with the utmost deference and consideration, as a man whose
worth was known and appreciated. But Richard was ill at ease, and his
face wore a sad, gloomy expression, which many remarked, wondering what
could be the nature of the care so evidently preying upon him. Do what
he might, he could not forget the white, stony face which had looked at
him so strangely in the gray morning, nor shut out the icy tones in
which Ethie had last spoken to him. Besides this, Richard was thinking
of all he had said to her in the heat of passion, and wishing he could
recall it in part at least. He was very indignant, very angry still, for
he believed her guilty of planning to meet Frank Van Buren at the party
and leave him at home, while his heart beat with keen throbs of pain
when he remembered that Ethie's first love was not given to him--that
she would have gone to her grave more willingly than she went with him
to the altar; but he need not have been so harsh with her--that was no
way to make her love him. Kindness must win her back should she ever be
won, and impatient to be reconciled, if reconciliation were now
possible, Richard chafed at the necessary delays which kept him a day
longer in St. Louis than he had at first intended.

Ethie had been gone just a week when he at last found himself in the
train which would take him back to Camden. First, however, he must stop
at Olney; the case was imperative--and so he stepped from the train one
snowy afternoon when the February light shone cold and blue upon the
little town and the farmhouse beyond. His brothers were feeding their
flocks and herds in the rear yard to the east; but they came at once to
greet him, and ask after his welfare. The light snow which had fallen
that day was lying upon the front door-steps undisturbed by any track,
so Richard entered at the side. Mrs. Markham was dipping candles, and
the faint, sickly odor of the hot melted tallow, which filled Richard's
olfactories as he came in, was never forgotten, but remembered as part
and parcel of that terrible day which would have a place in his memory
so long as being lasted. Every little thing was impressed upon his mind,
and came up afterward with vivid distinctness whenever he thought of
that wretched time. There was a bit of oilcloth on the floor near to the
dripping candles, and he saw the spots of tallow which had dropped and
dried upon it--saw, too, his mother's short red gown and blue woolen
stockings, as she got up to meet him, and smelled the cabbage cooking on
the stove, for they were having a late dinner that day--the boys'
favorite, and what Mrs. Markham designated as a "dish of biled vittles."

Richard had seen his mother dip candles before--nay, had sometimes
assisted at the dipping. He had seen her short striped gown and blue
woolen stockings, and smelled the cooking cabbage, but they never struck
him with so great a sense of discomfort as they did to-day when he
stood, hat in hand, wondering why home seemed so cheerless. It was as if
the shadow of the great shock awaiting him had already fallen upon him,
oppressing him with a weight he could not well shake off. He had no
thought that any harm had come to Ethie, and yet his first question was
for her. Had his mother heard from her while he was away, or did she
know if she was well?

Mrs. Markham's under jaw dropped, in the way peculiar to her when at all
irritated, but she did not answer at once; she waited a moment, while
she held the rod poised over the iron kettle, and with her forefinger
deliberately separated any of the eight candles which showed a
disposition to stick together; then depositing them upon the frame and
taking up another rod, she said:

"Miss Plympton was down to Camden three or four days ago, and she said
Ann Merrills, the chambermaid at the Stafford House, told her Ethelyn
had come to Olney to stay with us while you was away; but she must have
gone somewhere else, as we have not seen her here. Gone to visit that
Miss Amsden, most likely, that lives over the creek."

"What makes you think she has gone there?" Richard asked, with a sudden
spasm of fear, for which he could not account, and which was not in any
wise diminished by his mother's reply: "Ann said she took the six
o'clock train for Olney, and as Miss Amsden lives beyond us, it's likely
she went there, and is home by this time."

Richard accepted this supposition, but it was far from reassuring him.
The load he had felt when he first came into the kitchen was pressing
more and more heavily, and he wished that he had gone straight on
instead of stopping at Olney. But now there was nothing to do but to
wait with what patience he could command until the next train came and
carried him to Camden.

It was nine o'clock when he reached there, and a stiff northeaster was
blowing down the streets with gusts of sleet and rain, but he did not
think of it as he hurried on toward the Stafford House, with that
undefined dread growing stronger and stronger as he drew near. He did
not know what he feared, nor why he feared it. He should find Ethie
there, he said. She surely had returned from her visit by this time; he
should see the lights from the windows shining out upon the park, just
as he had seen them many other nights when hastening back to Ethie. He
would take the shortest route down that dark, narrow alley, and so gain
a moment of time. The alley was traversed at last, also the square, and
he turned the corner of the street where stood the Stafford House.
Halting for an instant, he strained his eyes to see if he were mistaken,
or was there no light in the window, no sign that Ethie was there. There
were lights below, and lights above, but the second floor was dark, the
shutters closed, and all about them a look of silence and desertion,
which quickened Richard's footsteps to a run. Up the private staircase
he went, and through the narrow hall, till he reached his door and found
it locked. Ethie was surely gone. She had not expected him so soon.
Mrs. Amsden had urged her to stay, and she had stayed. This was what
Richard said, as he went down to the office for the key, which the clerk
handed him, with the remark: "Mrs. Markham went to Olney the very day
you left. I thought perhaps you would stop there and bring her home."

Richard did not reply, but hurried back to the darkened room, where
everything was in order; even Ethie's work-box was in its usual place
upon the little table, and Ethie's chair was standing near; but
something was missing--something besides Ethie--and its absence made the
room look bare and strange as the gas-light fell upon it. The piano was
gone or moved. It must be the latter, and Richard looked for it in every
corner, even searching in the bedroom and opening the closet door, as if
so ponderous a thing could have been hidden there! It was gone, and so
was Ethie's trunk, and some of Ethie's clothes, for he looked to see,
and then mechanically went out into the hall, just as Mr. Bailey came
upstairs and saw him.

"Ho, Judge! is that you? Glad to see you back. Have been lonesome with
you and your wife both away. Do you know of the trade we made--she and
I--the very day you left? She offered me her piano for three hundred
dollars, and I took her up at once. A fine instrument, that, but a
little too small for her. Answers very well for Angeline. It's all
right, isn't it?" the talkative man continued, as he saw the blank
expression on Richard's face and construed it into disapprobation of
the bargain.

"Yes, all right, of course. It was her piano, not mine," Richard said
huskily. Then feeling the necessity of a little duplicity, he said,
"Mrs. Markham went the same day I did, I believe?"

"Really, now, I don't know whether 'twas that day or the next," Mr.
Bailey replied, showing that what was so important to Richard had as yet
made but little impression upon him. "No, I can't say which day it was;
but here's Hal Clifford--he'll know," and Mr. Bailey stepped aside as
Harry came up the hall.

He had been to call upon a friend who occupied the floor above, and
seeing Richard came forward to speak to him, the look of shame upon his
face showing that he had not forgotten the circumstances under which
they had last met. As Harry came in Mr. Bailey disappeared, and so the
two men were alone when Richard asked, "Do you know what day Mrs.
Markham left Camden?"

Richard tried to be natural. But Harry was not deceived. There was
something afloat--something which had some connection with his foolish,
drunken talk and Ethie's non-appearance at the masquerade. Blaming
himself for what he remembered to have said, he would not now willingly
annoy Richard, and he answered, indifferently: "She went the same day
you did; that is, she left here on the six o'clock train. I know, for I
called in the evening and found her gone."

"Was she going to Olney?"

Richard's lips asked this rather than his will, and Harry replied, "I
suppose so. Isn't she there?"

It was an impudent question, but prompted purely by curiosity, and
Richard involuntarily answered, "She has not been there at all."

For several seconds the two men regarded each other intently, one
longing so much to ask a certain question, and the other reading that
question in the wistful, anxious eyes bent so earnestly upon him.

"He left in that same train, and took the same route, too."

Harry said this, and Richard staggered forward, till he leaned upon the
door-post while his face was ashy pale. Harry had disliked Richard
Markham, whom he knew so strongly disapproved of his conduct; but he
pitied him now and tried to comfort him.

"It cannot be they went together. I saw no indications of such an
intention on the part of Frank. I hardly think he saw her, either. He
was going to--, he said, and should be back in a few days. Maybe she is
somewhere."

Yes, maybe she was somewhere, but so long as Richard did not know where,
it was poor comfort for him. One thing, however, he could do--he could
save her good name until the matter was further investigated; and
pulling Harry after him into his room, he sat down by the cold, dark
stove, over which he crouched shiveringly, while he said, "Ethie has
gone to visit a friend, most likely--a Mrs. Amsden, who lives in the
direction of Olney. So please, for her sake, do not say either now or
ever who went on the train with her."

"You have my word as a gentleman that I will not," Harry replied; "and
as no one but myself ever knew that they were cousins and acquaintances,
their names need not be mentioned together, even if she never returns."

"But she will--she will come back, Ethie will. She has only gone to Mrs.
Amsden's," Richard replied, his teeth chattering and his voice betraying
all the fear and anguish he tried so hard to hide.

Harry saw how cold he seemed, and with his own hands built a quick wood
fire, and then asked:

"Shall I leave you alone, or would you prefer me to stay?"

"Yes, stay. I do not like being here alone, though Ethie will come back.
She's only gone to visit Mrs. Amsden," and Richard whispered the words,
"gone to visit Mrs. Amsden."

It is pitiful to see a strong man cut down so suddenly, and every nerve
of Harry's throbbed in sympathy as he sat watching the deserted husband
walking up and down the room, now holding his cold fingers to the fire
and now saying to himself: "She has only gone to Mrs. Amsden's. She will
be back to-morrow."

At last the clock struck eleven, and then Richard roused from his
lethargy and said: "The next train for Olney passes at twelve. I am
going there, Harry--going after Ethie. You'll see her coming back
to-morrow."

Richard hardly knew why he was going back to Olney, unless it were from
a wish to be near his own kith and kin in this hour of sorrow. He knew
that Ethie had gone, and the Mrs. Amsden ruse was thrown out for the
benefit of Harry, who, frightened at the expression of Richard's face,
did not dare to leave him alone until he saw him safely on board the
train, which an hour later dropped him upon the slippery platform in
Olney, and then went speeding on in the same direction Ethie once
had gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Markham's candles were finished, and in straight even rows were
laid away in the candle-box, the good woman finding to her great
satisfaction that there were just ten dozen besides the slim little
thing she had burned during the evening, and which, with a long, crisp
snuff, like the steeple of a church, was now standing on the chair by
her bed. The hash was chopped ready for breakfast, the coffee was
prepared, and the kindlings were lying near the stove, where, too, were
hanging to dry Andy's stockings, which he had that day wet through. They
had sat up later than usual at the farmhouse that night, for Melinda and
her mother had been over there, and the boys had made molasses candy,
and "stuck up" every dish and spoon, as Mrs. Markham said. Tim had come
after his mother and sister, and as he had a good deal to say, the clock
struck eleven before the guests departed, and Andy buttoned the door of
the woodshed and put the nail over the window by the sink. Mrs. Markham
had no suspicion of the trial in store for her, but for some cause she
felt restless and nervous, and even scary, as she expressed it herself.
"Worked too hard, I guess," she thought, as she tied on her
high-crowned, broad-frilled nightcap, and then as a last chore, wound
the clock before stepping into bed.

It was nearly midnight, and for some little time she lay awake listening
to the wind as it swept past the house, or screamed through the key-hole
of the door. But she did not hear the night train when it thundered
through the town; nor the gate as it swung back upon its hinges; nor the
swift step coming up the walk; nor the tap upon her window until it was
repeated, and Richard's voice called faintly, "Mother, mother, let
me in!"

Andy, who was as good as a watch-dog, was awake by this time, and with
his window open was looking down at the supposed burglar, while his hand
felt for some missile to hurl at the trespasser's head. With a start,
Mr. Markham awoke, and, springing up, listened till the voice said
again, "Mother, mother, it's I; let me in!"

The Japan candlestick Andy had secured was dropped in a trice, and
adjusting his trousers as he descended the stairs, he reached the door
simultaneously with his mother, and pulling Richard into the hall, asked
why he was there, and what had happened. Richard did not know for
certain that anything had happened. "Ethie was most probably with Mrs.
Amsden. She would be home to-morrow," and Andy felt how his brother
leaned against him and his hand pressed upon his shoulders as he went to
the stove, and crouched down before it just as he had done in Camden.
The candle was lighted, and its dim light fell upon that strange group
gathered there at midnight, and looking into each other's faces with a
wistful questioning as to what it all portended.

"It is very cold; make more fire," Richard said, shivering, as the sleet
came driving against the window; and in an instant all the morning
kindlings were thrust into the stove, which roared and crackled, and
hissed, and diffused a sense of warmth and comfort through the
shadowy room.

"What is it, Richard? What makes you so white and queer?" his mother
asked, trying to pull on her stockings, and in her trepidation jamming
her toes into the heel, and drawing her shoe over the bungle thus made
at the bottom of her foot.

"Ethie was not there, and has not been since the night I left. She sold
her piano, and took the money, and her trunk, and her clothes, and went
to visit Mrs. Amsden."

This was Richard's explanation, which Andy thought a mighty funny reason
for his brother's coming at midnight, and frightening them so terribly.
But his mother saw things differently. She knew there was something
underlying all this--something which would require all her skill and
energy to meet--and her face was almost as white as Richard's as she
asked, "Why do you think she has gone to Mrs. Amsden's?"

"You told me so, didn't you?" and Richard looked up at her in a
bewildered, helpless way, which showed that all he knew upon the Amsden
question was what she had said herself, and that was hardly enough to
warrant a conclusion of any kind.

"Was there any reason why Ethelyn should go away?" she asked next, and
Richard's head dropped, and his eyes were cast down in shame, as
he replied:

"Yes; we--quar--. We differed, I mean, the night before I went away, and
I kept her from the masquerade, I would not let her go. I locked the
door, and now she has gone--gone to Mrs. Amsden's."

He persisted in saying that, as if he would fain make himself believe it
against his better judgment.

"What is it all about? What does it mean?" Andy asked in great
perplexity; and his mother answered for Richard:

"It means just this, as far as I can see: Ethelyn has got mad at Richard
for keepin' her in, which he or'to have done long ago, and so, with her
awful temper she has run away."

Mrs. Markham had defined it at last--had put into words the terrible
thing which had happened, the disgrace which she saw coming upon them;
and with this definition of it she, too, defined her own position with
regard to Ethelyn, and stood bristling all over with anger and
resentment, and ready to do battle for her son against the entire world.

"Mother! mother!" Andy gasped, and his face was whiter than Richard's.
"It is not true. Ethie never went and done that--never! Did she, Dick?
Tell me! Speak! Has Ethie run away?"

Andy was down on one knee now, and looking into Richard's face with a
look which would almost have brought Ethie back could she have seen it.
Andy had faith in her, and Richard clung to him rather than to the
mother in denouncing her so bitterly.

"I don't know, Andy," he said, "I hope not. I think not. She must have
gone to Mrs. Amsden's. We will wait till morning and see."

The sound of voices had aroused both James and John, who, half-dressed,
came down to inquire what had happened, and why Dick was there at that
unseemly hour of the night. James' face was very pale as he listened,
and when his mother spoke of the disgrace which would come upon them
all, his hard fists were clenched for a moment, while he thought of
Melinda, and wondered if with her it would make any difference. Both
James and John had liked Ethelyn, and as the temper about which their
mother talked so much had never been exhibited to them, they were
inclined even now to take her part, and cautious John suggested that it
might not be so bad as his mother feared. To be sure, he didn't know how
hard Dick and Ethie might have spatted it, or what had gone before; but
anyway his advice would be to wait and see if she was not really at Mrs.
Amsden's, or somewhere else. Richard let them manage it for him. He was
powerless to act then, and stunned and silent he sat shivering by the
stove, which they made red-hot with the blocks of wood they put in,
hoping thus to warm him. There was no more sleep at the farmhouse that
night, though James and John went back to bed, and Andy, too, crept up
to his lonely room; but not to sleep. His heart was too full for that,
and kneeling by his wooden chair, he prayed for Ethie--that she had not
run away, but might be at Mrs. Amsden's, where he was going for her
himself the moment the morning broke. He had claimed this privilege, and
his mother had granted it, knowing that many allowances would be made
for whatever Andy might say, and feeling that, on this account, he would
do better than either of his brothers. Richard, of course, could not go.
He scarcely had strength to move, and did not look up from his stooping
posture by the stove, when, at day-dawn, Andy drew on his butternut
overcoat, and tying a thick comforter about his neck, started for
Mrs. Amsden's.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE INVESTIGATION

Richard knew she was not there--at least all the probabilities were
against it; and still he clung to the vague hope that Andy would bring
him some good news, and his thoughts went after the brother whose every
breath was a prayer, as he galloped over the snowy ground toward Mrs.
Amsden's. They were early risers there, and notwithstanding the sun was
just coming up the eastern sky, the family were at breakfast when Andy's
horse stopped before their gate, and Andy himself knocked at their door
for admission. Andy's faith was great--so great that, in answer to his
petitions, he fully expected to see Ethie herself at the table, when the
door was opened, and he caught a view of the occupants of the dining
room; but no Ethie was there, nor had been, as they said, in answer to
his eager questionings.

"What made you think she was here? When did she go away? Was she
intending to visit me?" Mrs. Amsden asked.

But Andy, while praying that Ethie might be there, had also asked that
if she were not, "he needn't make a fool of himself, nor let the cat out
of the bag," and he didn't; he merely replied:

"She left home a few days ago. Dick was in St. Louis, and it was
lonesome stayin' alone. I'll find her, most likely, as she is
somewhere else."

Andy was in his saddle now, and his fleet steed fled swiftly along
toward home, where they waited so anxiously for him, Richard tottering
to the window so as to read his fate in Andy's tell-tale face.

"She is not there. I knew she was not. She has gone with that villain."

Richard did not mean to say that last. It dropped from him mechanically,
and in an instant his mother seized upon it, demanding what he meant,
and who was the villain referred to. Richard tried to put her off, but
she would know what he meant, and so to her and his three brothers he
told as little as he could and make any kind of a story, and as he
talked his heart hardened toward Ethie, who had done him this wrong. It
seemed a great deal worse when put into words, and the whole expression
of Richard's face was changed when he had finished speaking, while he
was conscious of feeling much as he did that night when he denounced
Ethie so terribly to her face. "Had it been a man, or half a man, or
anybody besides that contemptible puppy, it would not seem so bad; but
to forsake me for him!" Richard said, while the great ridges deepened in
his forehead, and a hard, black look crept into his eyes, and about the
corners of his mouth. He was terrible in his anger, which grew upon him
until even his mother stood appalled at the fearful expression of
his face.

"He would do nothing to call her back," he said, when James suggested
the propriety of trying in a quiet way to ascertain where she had gone.
"She had chosen her own path to ruin, and she might tread it for all of
him. He would not put forth a hand to save her and if she came back, he
never could forgive her."

Richard was walking up and down the room, white with rage, as he said
this, and Andy, cowering in a corner, was looking on and listening. He
did not speak until Richard declared his incapacity for forgiving Ethie,
when he started up, and confronting the angry man, said to him
rebukingly:

"Hold there, old Dick! You have gone a leetle too far. If God can
forgive you and me all them things we've done, which he knows about, and
other folks don't, you can, or or'to forgive sister Ethie, let her sin
be what it may. Ethie was young, Dick, and childlike, and so pretty,
too, and I 'most know you aggravated her some, if you talked to her as
you feel now; and then, too, Dick, and mother, and all of you, I don't
care who says it, or thinks it, it's a big lie! Ethie never went off
with a man--never! I know she didn't. She wasn't that kind. I'll swear
to it in the court. I won't hear anybody say that about her. I'll fight
'em, first, even if 'twas my own kin who did it!" And in his
excitement, Andy began to shove back his wrist-bands from his strong
wrists, as if challenging someone to the fight he had threatened.

Andy was splendid in his defense of Ethie, and both James and John
stepped up beside him, showing their adhesion to the cause he pleaded so
well. Ethie might have ran away, but she had surely gone alone, they
said, and their advice was that Richard should follow her as soon as
possible. But Richard would not listen to such a proposition now, and
quietly aided and abetted by his mother, he declared his intention of
"letting her alone." She had chosen her course, he said, and she must
abide by it. "If she has gone with that villain"--and Richard ground his
teeth together--"she can never again come back to me. If she has not
gone with him, and chooses to return, I do not say the door is shut
against her."

Richard seemed very determined and unrelenting, and, knowing how useless
it was to reason with him when in so stern a mood, his brothers gave up
the contest, Andy thinking within himself how many, many times a day he
should pray for Ethie that she might come back again. Richard would not
return to Camden that day, he said. He could not face his acquaintance
there until the first shock was over and they were a little accustomed
to thinking of the calamity which had fallen upon him. So he remained
with his mother, sitting near the window which looked out upon the
railroad track over which Ethie had gone. What his thoughts were none
could fathom, save as they were expressed by the dark, troubled
expression of his face, which showed how much he suffered. Perhaps he
blamed himself as he went over again the incidents of that fatal night
when he kept Ethelyn from the masquerade; but if he did, no one was the
wiser for it, and so the first long day wore on, and the night fell
again upon the inmates of the farmhouse. The darkness was terrible to
Richard, for it shut out from his view that strip of road which seemed
to him a part of Ethie. She had been there last, and possibly looked up
at the old home--her first home after her marriage; possibly, too, she
had thought of him. She surely did, if, as Andy believed, she was alone
in her flight. If not alone, he wanted no thoughts of hers, and
Richard's hands were clenched as he moved from the darkening window, and
took his seat behind the stove, where he sat the entire evening, like
some statue of despair, brooding over his ruined hopes.

The next day brought the Joneses--Melinda and Tim--the latter of whom
had heard from Mrs. Amsden's son of Andy's strange errand there. There
was something in the wind, and Melinda came to learn what it was. Always
communicative to the Jones family, Mrs. Markham told the story without
reserve, not even omitting the Van Buren part, but asking as a
precaution that Melinda would not spread a story which would bring
disgrace on them. Melinda was shocked, astonished, and confounded, but
she did not believe in Frank Van Buren. Ethie never went with
him--never. She, like Andy, would swear to that, and she said as much to
Richard, taking Ethie's side as strongly as she could, without casting
too much blame on him. And Richard felt better, hearing Ethie upheld and
spoken for, even if it were so much against himself. Melinda was still
his good angel, while Ethie, too, had just cause for thanking the kind
girl who stood by her so bravely, and even made the mother-in-law less
harsh in her expression.

There was a letter for Richard that night, from Harry Clifford, who
wrote as follows:

"I do not know whether you found your wife at Mrs. Amsden's or not, but
I take the liberty of telling you that Frank Van Buren has returned, and
solemnly affirms that if Mrs. Markham was on board the train which left
here on the 17th, he did not know it. Neither did he see her at all when
in Camden. He called on his way to the depot that night, and was told
she was out. Excuse my writing you this. If your wife has not come back,
it will remove a painful doubt, and if she has, please burn and forget
it. Yours,

"H. CLIFFORD."

"Thank Heaven for that!" was Richard's exclamation as in the first
revulsion of feeling he sprang from his chair, while every feature of
his face was irradiated with joy.

"What is it, Dick? Is Ethie found? I knew she would be. I've prayed for
it fifty times to-day, and I had faith that God would hear," Andy said,
the great tears rolling down his smooth, round face as he gave vent
to his joy.

But Andy's faith was to be put to a stronger test, and his countenance
fell a little when Richard explained the nature of the letter. Ethie was
not found; she was only proved innocent of the terrible thing Richard
had feared for her, and in being proven innocent, she was for a moment
almost wholly restored to his favor. She would come back some time. She
could not mean to leave him forever. She was only doing it for a scare,
and to punish him for what he did that night. He deserved punishment,
too, he thought, for he was pretty hard on her, and as he surely had
been punished in all he had suffered during the last forty-eight hours,
he would, when she came back, call everything even between them, and
begin anew.

This was Richard's reasoning; and that night he slept soundly, dreaming
that Ethie had returned, and on her knees was suing for his forgiveness,
while her voice was broken with tears and choking sobs. As a man and
husband who had been deserted, it was his duty to remain impassive a few
moments, while Ethie atoned fully for her misdeeds: then he would
forgive her, and so he waited an instant, and while he waited he woke to
find only Andy, with whom he was sleeping, kneeling by the bedside, with
the wintry moonlight falling on his upturned face, as he prayed for the
dear sister Ethie, whose steps had "mewandered" so far away.

"Don't let any harm come to her; don't let anybody look at her for bad,
but keep her--keep her--keep her in safety, and send her back to poor
old Dick and me, and make Dick use her better than I 'most know he has,
for he's got the Markham temper in him, and everybody knows what
that is."

This was Andy's prayer, taken from no book or printed form, but the
outpouring of his simple, honest heart, and Richard heard it, wincing a
little as Andy thus made confession for him of his own sins; but he did
not pray himself, though he was glad of Andy's prayers, and placed great
hopes upon them. God would hear Andy, and if he did not send Ethie back
at once, he would surely keep her from harm.

The next day Richard went back to Camden. Melinda Jones had suggested
that possibly Ethie left a letter, or note, which would explain her
absence, and Richard caught at it eagerly, wondering he had not thought
of it before, and feeling very impatient to be off, even though he
dreaded to meet some of his old friends, and be questioned as to the
whereabouts of his wife. He did not know that the story of his desertion
was already there--Mrs. Amsden having gone to town with her mite, which,
added to the sale of the piano, Ethie's protracted absence, Richard's
return to Olney at midnight, and Harry Clifford's serious and mysterious
manner, were enough to set the town in motion. Various opinions were
expressed, and, what was very strange, so popular were both Richard and
Ethelyn that everybody disliked blaming either, and so but few unkind
remarks had as yet been made, and those by people who had been jealous
or envious of Ethelyn's high position. No one knew a whisper of Frank
Van Buren, for Harry kept his promise well, and no worse motive was
ascribed to Ethie's desertion than want of perfect congeniality with her
husband. Thus they were not foes, but friends, who welcomed Richard back
to Camden, watching him curiously, and wishing so much to ask where Mrs.
Markham was. That she was not with him, was certain, for only Andy
came--Andy, who held his head so high, and looked round so defiantly, as
he kept close to Richard's side on the way to the hotel. It was very
dreary going up the old, familiar staircase into the quiet hall, and
along to the door of the silent room, which seemed drearier than on that
night when he first came back to it and found Ethie gone. There were
ashes now upon the stove-hearth where Hal Clifford had kindled the fire,
and the two chairs they had occupied were standing just where they had
left them. The gas had not been properly turned off, and a dead, sickly
odor filled the room, making Andy heave as he hastened to open the
window, and admit the fresh, pure air.

"Seems as it did the day Daisy died," Andy said, his eyes filling with
tears.

To Richard it was far worse than the day Daisy died, for he had then the
memory of her last loving words in his ear, and the feeling of her
clinging kiss upon his lips, while now the memories of the lost one were
only bitter and sad in the extreme.

"Melinda suggested a letter or something. Where do you suppose she would
put it if there were one?" Richard asked in a helpless, appealing way,
as he sank into a chair and looked wistfully around the room.

He had been very bold and strong in the cars and in the street; but
here, in the deserted room, where Ethie used to be, and where something
said she would never be again, he was weak as a girl, and leaned wholly
upon Andy, who seemed to feel how much was depending upon him, and so
kept up a cheery aspect while he kindled a fresh fire and cleared the
ashes from the hearth by blowing them off upon the oilcloth; then, as
the warmth began to make itself felt and the cold to diminish, he
answered Richard's query.

"In her draw, most likely; mother mostly puts her traps there." So, to
the "draw" they went--the very one where Daisy's ring was lying; and
Richard saw that first, knowing now for sure that Ethelyn had fled.

He knew so before, but this made it more certain--more dreadful, too,
for it showed a determination never to return.

"It was Daisy's, you know," he said to Andy, who, at his side, was not
looking at the ring, but beyond it, to the two letters, his own and
Richard's, both of which he seized with a low cry, for he, too, was sure
of Ethie's flight.

"See, Dick, there's one for you and one for me," he exclaimed, and his
face grew very red as he tore open his own note and began to devour the
contents, whispering the words, and breaking down entirely amid a storm
of sobs and tears as he read:

"DEAR ANDY: I wish I could tell you how much I love you, and how sorry I
am to fall in your good opinion, as I surely shall when you hear what
has happened. Do not hate me, Andy; and sometimes, when you pray,
remember Ethie, won't you?"

He could get no farther than this, and with a great cry he buried his
face in his hands and sobbed: "Yes, Ethie, I will, I will; but oh, what
is it? What made you go? Why did she, Dick?" and he turned to his
brother, who, with lightning rapidity, was reading Ethelyn's long
letter. He did not doubt a word she said, and when the letter was
finished he put it passively in Andy's hand, and then, with a bitter
groan, laid his throbbing head upon the cushion of the lounge where he
was sitting. There were no tears in his eyes--nothing but blood-red
circles floating before them; while the aching balls seemed starting
from their sockets with the pressure of pain. He had had his chance with
Ethie and lost it; and though, as yet, he saw but dimly where he had
been to blame, where he had made a mistake, he endured for the time all
he was capable of enduring, and if revenge had been her object, Ethie
had more than her desire.

Andy was stunned for a moment, and sat staring blankly at the motionless
figure of his brother; then, as the terrible calamity began to impress
itself fully upon him, intense pity for Richard became uppermost in his
mind, and stooping over the crushed man, he laid his arm across his
neck, and, tender as a sorrowing, loving mother, kissed and fondled the
damp brown hair, and dropped great tears upon it, and murmured words of
sympathy, incoherent at first, for the anguish choking his own
utterance, but gradually gathering force and sound as his quivering lips
kept trying to articulate: "Dick, poor old Dick, dear old Dick, don't
keep so still and look so white and stony. She'll come back again, Ethie
will. I feel it, I feel it, I know it, I shall pray for her every hour
until she comes. Prayer will reach her where nothing else can find her.
Poor Dick, I am so sorry. Don't look at me so; you scare me. Try to cry;
try to make a fuss; try to do anything rather than that dreadful look.
Lay your head on me, so," and lifting up the bowed head, which offered
no resistance, Andy laid it gently on his arm, and smoothing back the
hair from the pallid forehead, went on: "Now cry, old boy, cry with all
your might;" and with his hand Andy brushed away the scalding tears
which began to fall like rain from Richard's eyes.

"Better so, a great deal better than the other way. Don't hold up till
you've had it out," he kept repeating, while Richard wept, until the
fountain was dry and the tears refused to flow.

"I've been a brute, Andy," he said, when at last he could speak. "The
fault was all my own. I did not understand her in the least. I ought
never to have married her. She was not of my make at all."

Andy would hear nothing derogatory of Richard any more than of Ethelyn,
and he answered promptly: "But, Dick, Ethie was some to blame. She
didn't or'to marry you feelin' as she did. That was where the
wrong began."

This was the most and the worst Andy ever said against Ethelyn, and he
repented of that the moment the words were out of his mouth. It was mean
to speak ill of the absent, especially when the absent one was Ethie,
who had written, "In fancy I put my arms around your neck and kiss your
dear, kind face." Andy deemed himself a monster of ingratitude when he
recalled these lines and remembered that of her who penned them he had
said, "She was some to blame." He took it all back to himself, and tried
to exonerate Ethie entirely, though it was hard work to do so where he
saw how broken, and stunned, and crushed his brother was, and how little
he realized what was passing around him.

"He don't know much more than I do," was Andy's mental comment, when to
his question, "What shall we do next?" Richard replied, in a maudlin
kind of way, "Yes, that is a very proper course. I leave it entirely
to you."

Andy felt that a great deal was depending upon himself, and he tried to
meet the emergency. Seeing how Richard continued to shiver, and how cold
he was, he persuaded him to lie down upon the bed, and piling the
blankets upon him, made such a fire as he said to himself, "would roast
a common ox"; then, when Hal Clifford came to the door and knocked, he
kept him out, with that "Dick had been broke of his rest, and was tryin'
to make it up."

But this state of things could not last long. Richard was growing ill,
and talking so strangely withal, that Andy began to feel the necessity
of having somebody there beside himself; "some of the wimmen folks, who
knew what to do, for I'm no better than a settin' hen," he said.

Very naturally his thoughts turned to his mother as the proper person to
come, "though Melinda Jones was the properest of the two. There was snap
to her, and she would not go to pitchin' in to Ethie."

Accordingly, the next mail carried to Melinda Jones a note from Andy,
which was as follows:

"MISS MELINDA JONES: Dear Madam--We found the letters Ethie writ, one to
me, and one to Dick, and Dick's was too much for him. He lies like a
punk of wood, makin' a moanin' noise, and talkin' such queer things,
that I guess you or somebody or'to come and see to him a little. I send
to you because there's no nonsense about you, and you are made of the
right kind of stuff.

"Yours to command,

"ANDERSON MARKHAM, ESQ."

This note Melinda carried straight to Mrs. Markham, and as the result,
four hours later both the mother and Melinda were on the road to Camden,
where Melinda's services were needed to stem the tide of wonder and
gossip, which had set in when it began to be known that Ethelyn was
gone, and Richard was lying sick in his room, tended only by Andy, who
would admit no one, not even the doctor, who, when urged by Harry
Clifford, came to offer his services.

"He wasn't goin' to let in a lot of curious critters to hear what Dick
was talkin'," he said to his mother and Melinda, his haggard face
showing how much he had endured in keeping them at bay, and answering
through the key-hole their numerous inquiries.

Richard did not have a fever, as was feared at first; but for several
days he kept his bed, and during that time his mother and Melinda stayed
by him, nursing him most assiduously, but never once speaking to each
other of Ethelyn. Both had read her letter, for Mrs. Markham never
thought of withholding it from Melinda, who, knowing that she ought not
to have seen it, wisely resolved to keep to herself the knowledge of its
contents. So, when she was asked, as she was repeatedly, "Why Mrs.
Markham had gone away," she answered evasively, or not at all, and
finding that nothing could be obtained from her, the people at last left
her in quiet and turned to their own resources, which furnished various
reasons for the desertion. They knew it was a desertion now, and hearing
how sick and broken Richard was, popular opinion was in his favor
mostly, though many a kind and wistful thought went after the fair young
wife, who had been a belle in their midst, and a general favorite, too.
Where was she now, and what was she doing, these many days, while the
winter crept on into spring, and the March winds blew raw and chill
against the windows of the chamber where Richard battled with the
sickness which he finally overcame, so that by the third week of Ethie's
absence he was up again and able to go in quest of her, if so be she
might be found and won to the love she never returned.



CHAPTER XXV

IN CHICOPEE

They were having a late dinner at Aunt Barbara's, a four o'clock dinner
of roast fowls with onions and tomatoes, and the little round table was
nicely arranged with the silver and china and damask for two, while in
the grate the fire was blazing brightly and on the hearth, the tabby cat
was purring out her appreciation of the comfort and good cheer. But Aunt
Barbara's heart was far too sorry and sad to care for her surroundings,
or think how pleasant and cozy that little dining room looked to one who
did not know of the grim skeleton which had walked in there that very
day along with Mrs. Dr. Van Buren, of Boston. That lady had come up on
the morning train and in her rustling black silk with velvet trimmings,
and lace barb hanging from her head, she sat before the fire with a look
of deep dejection and thoughtfulness upon her face, as if she too recked
little of the creature comforts around her. Aunt Barbara knew nothing of
her coming, and was taken by surprise when the village hack stopped at
the door, and Sister Sophia's sable furs and beaver cloak alighted. That
something was the matter she suspected from her sister's face the moment
that lady removed her veil and gave the usual dignified kiss of
greeting. Things had gone wrong again with Frank and Nettie, most
likely, she thought, for she was not ignorant, of the misunderstandings
and misery arising from that unfortunate marriage, and she had about
made up her mind to tell her sister just where the fault lay. She would
not spare Frank any longer, but would give him his just deserts. She
never dreamed that the trouble this time concerned Ethie, her own
darling, the child whom she had loved so well, and pitied, and thought
of so much since the time she left her out West with "those
Philistines," as she designated Richard's family. She had not heard from
her for some time, but, in the last letter received, Ethie had written
in a very cheerful strain, and told how gay and pleasant it was in
Camden that winter. Surely nothing had befallen her, and the good woman
stood aghast when Mrs. Dr. Van Buren abruptly asked if Ethelyn was not
there, or had been there lately, or heard from either. What did it
portend? Had harm come upon Ethie? And a shadow broke the placid surface
of the sweet old face as Aunt Barbara put these questions, first to
herself, and then to Mrs. Van Buren, who rapidly explained that Ethelyn
had left her husband, and gone, no one knew whither.

"I hoped she might be here, and came up to see," Mrs. Van Buren
concluded; while Aunt Barbara steadied herself against the great
bookcase in the corner, and wondered if she was going out of her senses,
or had she heard aright, and was it her sister Van Buren sitting there
before her, and saying such dreadful things.

She could not tell if it were real until Tabby sprang with a purring,
caressing sound, upon her shoulder, and rubbed her soft sides against
her cap. That made it real, and brought the color back to her wrinkled
face, but brought, also, a look of horror into her blue eyes, which
sought Mrs. Van Buren's with an eager, and yet terribly anxious glance.
Mrs. Dr. Van Buren understood the look. Its semblance had been on her
own face for an instant when she first heard the news, and now she
hastened to dispossess her sister's mind of any such suspicion.

"No, Barbara; Frank did not go with her, or even see her when in Camden.
He is not quite so bad as that, I hope."

The mother nature was in the ascendant, and for a moment resented the
suspicion against her son, even though that suspicion had been in her
own mind when Frank returned from Camden with the news of Ethie's
flight. That he had had something to do with it was her first fear,
until convinced to the contrary; and now she blamed Aunt Barbara for
harboring the same thought. As soon as possible she told all she had
heard from Frank, and then went on with her invectives against the
Markhams generally, and Richard in particular, and her endless surmises
as to where Ethelyn had gone, and what was the final cause of her going.

For a time Aunt Barbara turned a deaf ear to what she was saying,
thinking only of Ethie, gone; Ethie, driven to such strait, that she
must either run away or die; Ethie, the little brown-eyed, rosy-cheeked,
willful, imperious girl, whom she loved so much for the very willful
imperiousness which always went hand in hand with such pretty fits of
penitence, and sorrow, and remorse for the misdeed, that not to love her
was impossible. Where was she now, and why had she not come at once to
the dear old home, where she would have been so welcome until such time
as matters could be adjusted on a more amicable basis?

For Aunt Barbara, though in taking Ethie's side altogether, had no
thought that the separation should be final. She had chosen a life of
celibacy because she preferred it, and found it a very smooth and
pleasant one, especially after Ethie came and brought the sunshine of
joyous childhood to her quiet home; but "those whom God had joined
together" were bound to continue so, she firmly believed; and had Ethie
come to her with her tale of sorrow, she would have listened kindly to
it, poured in the balm of sympathy and love, and then, if possible,
restored her to her husband. Of all this she thought during the few
minutes Mrs. Dr. Van Buren talked, and she sat passive in her chair,
where she had dropped, with her dumpy little hands lying so helplessly
in her lap, and her cap all awry, as Tabby had made it when purring and
rubbing against it.

"Then, you have not seen her, or heard a word?" Mrs. Van Buren asked;
and in a kind of uncertain way, as if she wondered what they were
talking about, Aunt Barbara replied:

"No, I have not seen her, and I don't know, I am sure, what made the
child go off without letting us know."

"She was driven to it by the pack of heathens around her," Mrs. Dr. Van
Buren retorted, feeling a good deal guilty herself for having been
instrumental in bringing about this unhappy match, and in proportion as
she felt guilty, seizing with avidity any other offered cause for
Ethie's wretchedness. "I've heard even more about them than you told
me," she went on to say. "There was Mrs. Ellis, whose cousin lives in
Olney--she says the mother is the most peculiar and old-fashioned woman
imaginable; actually wears blue yarn stockings, footed with black, makes
her own candles, and sleeps in the kitchen."

With regard to the candles Aunt Barbara did not know; the sleeping in
the kitchen she denied, and the footed stockings she admitted; saying,
however, those she saw were black, rather than blue. Black or blue, it
was all the same to Mrs. Dr. Van Buren, whose feet seldom came in
contact with anything heavier than silk or the softest of lamb's wool;
and, had there been wanting other evidence of Mrs. Markham's vulgarity,
the stocking question would have settled the matter with her.

"Poor Ethie!" she sighed, as she drew her seat to the fire, and asked
what they ought to do.

Aunt Barbara did not know. She was too much bewildered to think of
anything just then, and after ordering the four o'clock dinner, which,
she knew, would suit her sister's habits better than an earlier one,
she, too, sat quietly down by the fire with her knitting lying idly in
her lap, and her eyes looking dreamily through the frosty panes off upon
the snowy hills where Ethelyn used to play. Occasionally, in reply to
some question of her sister's, she would tell what she herself saw in
that prairie home, and then look up amazed at the exasperating effect it
seemed to have upon Mrs. Dr. Van Buren. That lady was terrible incensed
against the whole Markham race, for through them she had been touched on
a tender point. Ethie's desertion of her husband would not be wholly
excused by the world; there was odium attaching to such a step, however
great the provocation, and the disgrace was what Mrs. Van Buren would
feel most keenly. That a Bigelow should do so was very humiliating; and,
by way of fortifying herself with reasons for the step, she slandered
and abused the Markhams until they would hardly have recognized the
remotest relationship between themselves and the "terrible creatures"
whom the great lady from Boston dissected so mercilessly that afternoon
in Chicopee.

It was nearly four o'clock now, and the dinner was almost ready. Aunt
Barbara had dropped her knitting upon the floor, where the ball was at
once claimed as the lawful prey of Tabby, who rolled, and kicked, and
tangled the yarn in a perfect abandon of feline delight. Mrs. Van Buren
having exhausted herself, if not her topic, sat rocking quietly, and
occasionally giving little sniffs of inquiry as to whether the tomatoes
were really burned or not. If they were, there were still the
silver-skinned onions left; and, as Mrs. Van Buren was one who thought a
great deal of what she ate, she was anticipating her dinner with a keen
relish, and wishing Barbara and Betty would hurry, when a buggy stopped
before the door, and, with a start of disagreeable surprise, she
recognized Richard Markham coming through the gate, and up the walk to
the front door. He was looking very pale and worn, for to the effects of
his recent illness were added traces of his rapid, fatiguing journey,
and he almost staggered as he came into the room. It was not in kind
Aunt Barbara's nature to feel resentment toward him then, and she went
to him at once, as she would have gone to Ethie, and, taking his hand in
hers, said softly:

"My poor boy! We have heard of your trouble. Have you found her yet? Do
you know where she is?"

There was a look of anguish and disappointment in Richard's eyes as he
replied:

"I thought--I hoped I might find her here."

"And that is the reason of your waiting so long before coming?" Mrs. Dr.
Van Buren put in sharply.

It was three weeks now since Ethie's flight, and her husband had shown
himself in no hurry to seek her, she reasoned; but Richard's reply, "I
was away a week before I knew it, and I have been very sick since then,"
mollified her somewhat, though she sat back in her chair very stiff and
very straight, eyeing him askance, and longing to pounce upon him and
tell him what she thought. First, however, she must have her dinner. The
tea would be spoiled if they waited longer; and when Aunt Barbara began
to question Richard, she suggested that they wait till after dinner,
when they would all be fresher and stronger. So dinner was brought in,
and Richard, as he took his seat at the nicely-laid table, where
everything was served with so much care, did think of the difference
between Ethie's early surroundings and those to which he had introduced
her when he took her to his mother's house. He was beginning to think of
those things now; Ethie's letter had opened his eyes somewhat, and Mrs.
Dr. Van Buren would open them more before she let him go. She was
greatly refreshed with her dinner. The tomatoes had not been burned; the
fowls were roasted to a most delicate brown; the currant jelly was just
the right consistency; the pickled peaches were delicious, and the tea
could not have been better. On the whole, Mrs. Van Buren was satisfied,
and able to cope with a dozen men as crushed, and sore, and despondent
as Richard seemed. She had scanned him very closely, deciding that so
far as dress was concerned, he had improved since she saw him last. It
is true, his collar was not all the style, and his necktie was too wide,
and his coat sleeves too small, and his boots too rusty, and his vest
too much soiled; but she made allowance for the circumstances, and his
hasty journey, and so excused his tout ensemble. She had resumed her
seat by the fire, sitting where she could look the culprit directly in
the face; while good Aunt Barbara occupied the middle position, and,
with her fat, soft hands shaking terribly, tried to pick up the stitches
Tabby had pulled out. That personage, too, had had her chicken wing out
in the woodshed, and, knowing nothing of Ethie's grievances, had mounted
into Richard's lap, where she lay, slowly blinking and occasionally
purring a little, as Richard now and then passed his hand over her
soft fur.

"Now tell us: Why did Ethelyn go away?--that is, what reason did she
give?"

It was Mrs. Dr. Van Buren who asked this question, her voice betokening
that nothing which Richard could offer as an excuse would be received.
They must have Ethie's reason or none. Richard would far rather Mrs.
Dr. Van Buren had been in Boston, or Paris, or Guinea, than there in
Chicopee, staring so coolly at him; but as her being there was something
he could not help, he accepted it as a part of the train of calamities
closing so fast about him, and answered, respectfully:

"It was no one thing which made her go, but the culmination of many.
There was a mistake on my part. I thought her guilty when she was not,
and charged her with it in a passion, saying things I would give much to
recall. This was one night, and she went the next, before her temper had
time to cool. You know she was a little hasty herself at times."

"Perhaps so, though her temper never troubled me any. On the whole, I
think her temper amiable and mild in disposition as people generally
are," Mrs. Van Buren replied, forgetting, or choosing to forget, the
many occasions on which even she had shrunk from the fire which blazed
in Ethie's eyes when that young lady was fully roused.

But Aunt Barbara had either more conscience or a better memory, and in a
manner half apologetic for her interference, she said: "Yes, Sophia,
Richard is right. Ethie had a temper--at least she was very decided.
Don't you remember when she broke the cut glass fruit dish, because she
could not have any more pineapple?"

"Barbara!" Mrs. Dr. Van Buren exclaimed, her voice indicating her
surprise that her sister should so far forget herself as to reveal any
secrets of the family, and especially any which could be brought to bear
upon Ethelyn.

Aunt Barbara felt the implied rebuke, and while her sweet, old face
crimsoned with mortification, she said: "Truth is truth, Sophia. Ethie
is as dear to me as to you, but she was high-tempered, and did break the
big fruit bowl, and then denied herself sweetmeats of all kinds, and
even went without sugar in her coffee and butter on her bread until she
had saved enough to buy another in its place. Ethie was generous and
noble after it was all over, if she was a little hot at times. That's
what I was going to say when you stopped me so sudden."

Aunt Barbara looked a little aggrieved at being caught up so quickly by
her sister, who continued: "She was a Bigelow, and everybody knows what
kind of blood that is. She was too sensitive, and had too nice a
perception of what was proper to be thrown among"--heathen, she was
going to add, but something in Aunt Barbara's blue eyes kept her in
check, and so she abruptly turned to Richard and asked, "Did she leave
no message, no reason why she went?"

Richard could have boasted his Markham blood had he chosen, and the
white heats to which that was capable of being roused; but he was too
utterly broken to feel more than a passing flash of resentment for
anything which had yet been said, and after a moment's thought, during
which he was considering the propriety of showing Mrs. Van Buren what
Ethie had written of Frank, he held the letter to her, saying, "She left
this. Read it if you like. It's a part of my punishment, I suppose, that
her friends should know all."

With a stately bow Mrs. Van Buren took the letter and hastily read it
through, her lip quivering a little and her eyelids growing moist as
Ethie described the dreariness of that dreadful day when "Aunt Van Buren
came up from Boston and broke her heart." And as she read how much poor
Ethie had loved Frank, the cold, proud woman would have given all she
had if the past could be undone and Ethie restored to her just as she
was that summer nine years ago, when she came from the huckleberry hills
and stood beneath the maples. With a strange obtuseness peculiar to some
people who have seen their dearest plans come to naught, she failed to
ascribe the trouble to herself, but charged it all to Richard. He was
the one in fault; and by the time the letter was finished the Bigelow
blood was at a boiling pitch, and for a polished lady, Mrs. Dr. Van
Buren, of Boston, raised her voice pretty high as she asked: "Did you
presume, sir, to think that my son--mine--a married man--would make an
appointment with Ethie, a married woman? You must have a strange
misconception of the manner in which he was brought up! But it is all of
a piece with the rest of your abominable treatment of Ethelyn. I wonder
the poor girl stayed with you as long as she did. Think of it, Barbara!
Accused her of going to meet Frank by appointment, and then locked her
up to keep her at home, and she a Bigelow!"

This was the first inkling Aunt Barbara had of what was in the letter.
She was, however, certain that Frank was in some way involved in the
matter, and anxious to know the worst, she said, beseechingly:

"Tell me something, do. I can't read it, for my eyes are dim-like
to-night."

They were full of unshed tears--the kind old eyes, which did not grow
one whit sterner or colder as Mrs. Van Buren explained, to some extent,
what was in the letter; reading a little, telling a little, and skipping
a little where Frank was especially concerned, until Aunt Barbara had a
pretty correct idea of the whole. Matters had been worse than she
supposed, Ethie more unhappy, and knowing her as she did, she was not
surprised that at the last she ran away; but she did not say so--she
merely sat grieved and helpless, while her sister took up the cudgels in
Ethelyn's defense, and, attacking Richard at every point, left him no
quarter at all. She did not pretend that Ethie was faultless or perfect,
she said, but surely, if mortal ever had just provocation for leaving
her husband, she had.

"Her marriage was a great mistake," she said; "and I must say, Mr.
Markham, that you did very wrong to take her where you did without a
word of preparation. You ought to have told her what she was to expect;
then, if she chose to go, very well. But neither she nor I had any idea
of the reality; and the change must have been terrible to her. For my
part, I can conceive of nothing worse than to be obliged to live with
people whom even sister Barbara called 'Hottentots,' when she came home
from Iowa."

"Not Hottentots," mildly interposed Aunt Barbara. "Philistines was what
I called them, Sophia; and in doing so; I did not mean all of them,
you know."

"Well, Philistines, then, if that's a better word than Hottentots,
which I doubt," Mrs. Van Buren retorted sharply.

Aunt Barbara's evident wish to smooth matters irritated her to say more
than she might otherwise have done, and she went on:

"I know you made exceptions, but if my memory serves me right, your
opinion of Ethie's mother-in-law was not very complimentary to that
lady. A man has no business to take his wife to live with his mother
when he knows how different they are."

"But I did not know," Richard said; "that is, I had never thought much
of the things which tried Ethie. Mother was always a good mother to me,
and I did not suppose she was so very different from other women."

"You certainly must be very obtuse, then," Mrs. Van Buren replied: "for,
if all accounts which I hear are true, your mother is not the person to
make a daughter-in-law happy. Neither, it seems, did you do what you
could to please her. You annoyed her terribly with your codger-like
ways, if I may be allowed that term. You made but little effort to
improve, thinking, no doubt, that it was all nonsense and foolishness;
that it was just as well to wear your hat in church, and sit with your
boots on top of the stove, as any other way."

"I never wore my hat in church!" Richard exclaimed, with more warmth
than he had before evinced.

"I don't suppose you did do that particular thing, but you were guilty
of other low-bred habits which grated just as harshly as that. You
thought because you were a judge and an M.C., and had the reputation of
possessing brains, that it did not matter how you demeaned yourself; and
there you were mistaken. The manners of a gentleman would sit ten times
more gracefully upon you because you had brains. No one likes a boor,
and no man of your ability has any business to be a clown. Even if you
were not taught it at home, you could learn from observation, and it was
your duty to do so. Instead of that, you took it for granted you were
right because no one had ever suggested that you were wrong, while your
mother had petted you to death. I have not the honor of her
acquaintance, but I must say I consider her a very remarkable person,
even for a Western woman."

"My mother was born East," Richard suggested, and Mrs. Van Buren
continued:

"Certainly; but that does not help the matter. It rather makes it worse,
for of all disagreeable people, a Western Yankee is, I think, the most
disagreeable. Such an one never improves, but adheres strictly to the
customs of their native place, no matter how many years have passed
since they lived there, or how great the march of improvement may have
been. In these days of railroads and telegraphs there is no reason why
your mother should not be up to the times. Her neighbors are, it seems,
and I have met quite as cultivated people from beyond the Rocky
Mountains as I have even seen in Boston."

This was a great admission for Mrs. Van Buren, who verily believed there
was nothing worth her consideration out of Boston unless it were a few
families in the immediate vicinity of Fifth Avenue and Madison Square.
She was bent upon making Richard uncomfortable, and could at the moment
think of no better way of doing it than contrasting his mother's "way"
with those of her neighbors. Occasionally Aunt Barbara put her feeble
oar into the surging tide, hoping to check, even if she could not subdue
the angry waters; but she might as well have kept silent save that
Richard understood and appreciated her efforts to spare him as much as
possible. Mrs. Van Buren was not to be stopped, and at last, when she
had pretty fully set before Richard his own and his mother's
delinquencies, she turned fiercely on her sister, demanding if she had
not said "so and so" with regard to Ethie's home in the West. Thus
straitened, Aunt Barbara replied:

"Things did strike me a little odd at Ethie's, and I don't well see how
she could be very happy there. Mrs. Markham is queer--the queerest
woman, if I must say it, that I ever saw, though I guess there's a good
many like her up in Vermont, where she was raised, and if the truth was
known, right here in Chicopee, too; and I wouldn't wonder if there were
some queer ones in Boston. The place don't make the difference; it's the
way the folks act."

This she said in defense of the West generally. There were quite as nice
people there as anywhere, and she believed Mrs. Markham meant to be kind
to Ethie; surely Richard did, only he did not understand her. It was
very wrong to lock her up, and then it was wrong in Ethie to marry him,
feeling as she did. "It was all wrong every way, but the heaviest
punishment for the wrong had fallen on poor Ethie, gone, nobody
knew where."

It was not in nature for Aunt Barbara to say so much without crying, and
her tears were dropping fast into her motherly lap, where Tabby was now
lying. Mrs. Van Buren was greatly irritated that her sister did not
render her more assistance, and as a failure in that quarter called for
greater exertions on her own part, she returned again to the charge, and
wound up with sweeping denunciations against the whole Markham family.

"The idea of taking a young girl there, and trying to bend her to your
ways of thinking--to debar her from all the refinements to which she had
been accustomed, and give her for associates an ignorant mother-in-law
and a half-witted brother."

Richard had borne a great deal from Mrs. Van Buren, and borne it
patiently, too, as something which he deserved. He had seen himself torn
to atoms, until he would never have recognized any one of the dissected
members as parts of the Honorable Judge he once thought himself to be.
He had heard his mother and her "ways" denounced as utterly repugnant to
any person of decency, while James and John, under the head of "other
vulgar appendages to the husband," had had a share in the general
sifting down, and through it all he had kept quiet, with only an
occasional demur or explanation; but when it came to Andy, the great,
honest, true-hearted Andy, he could bear it no longer, and the Bigelow
blood succumbed to the fiery gleam in Richard's eyes as he started to
his feet, exclaiming:

"Mrs. Van Buren, you must stop, for were you a hundred times a woman, I
would not listen to one word of abuse against my brother Andy. So long
as it was myself and my mother, I did not mind; but every hair of Andy's
head is sacred to us who know him, and I would take his part against the
world, were it only for the sake of Ethie, who loved him so much, and
whom he idolized. He would die for Ethie this very night, if need
be--aye, die for you too, perhaps, if you were suffering and his life
could bring relief. You don't know Andy, or you would know why we held
him as dear as we do the memory of our darling Daisy; and when you taunt
me with my half-witted brother, you hurt me as much as you would to tear
my dead sister from her grave, and expose her dear face to the gaze of
brutal men. No, Mrs. Van Buren, say what you like of me, but never again
sneer at my brother Andy."

Richard paused, panting for breath, while Mrs. Van Buren looked at him
with entirely new sensations from what she had before experienced. There
was some delicacy of feeling in his nature, after all--something which
recoiled from her unwomanly attack upon his weak-minded brother--and she
respected him at that moment, if she had never done so before. Something
like shame, too, she felt for her cruel taunt, which had both roused and
wounded him, and she would gladly have recalled all she said of Andy if
she could, for she remembered now what Aunt Barbara had told her of his
kindness and the strong attachment there was between the simple man and
Ethie. Mrs. Van Buren could be generous if she tried; and as this seemed
a time for the trial, she did attempt to apologize, saying her zeal for
Ethie had carried her too far; that she hoped Richard would excuse what
she had said of Andy--she had no intention of wounding him on
that point.

And Richard accepted the apology, but his face did not again assume the
cowed, broken expression it had worn at first. There was a compression
about the mouth, a firm shutting together of the teeth, and a dark look
in the bloodshot eyes, which warned Mrs. Van Buren not to repeat much of
what she had said. It would not now be received as it was at first.
Richard would do much to bring Ethie back--he would submit to any
humiliation, and bear anything for himself, but he would never again
listen quietly while his mother and family were so thoroughly abused.
Mrs. Van Buren felt this intuitively, and knowing that what she said had
made an impression, and would after a time be acted upon, perhaps, she
changed her tactics, and became quite as conciliating as Aunt Barbara
herself, talking and consulting with Richard as to the best course to be
pursued with regard to finding Ethie, and succeeding, in part, in
removing from his face the expression it had put on when Andy was the
subject of her maledictions.

Richard had a great dread of meeting his uncle, the old colonel, in his
present trouble, and he was not quite sure whether he should go there or
not. At least, he should not to-night; and when the clock struck eleven,
he arose to retire.

"The room at the head of the stairs. I had a fire made for you in
there," Aunt Barbara said, as she handed him the lamp.

Richard hesitated a moment, and then asked, "Does anyone occupy Ethie's
old room? Seems to me I would rather go there. It would be somehow bring
her nearer to me."

So to Ethie's old room he went, Aunt Barbara lamenting that he would
find it so cold and comfortless, but feeling an increased kindliness
toward him for this proof of love for her darling.

"There's a great deal of good about that man, after all," she said to
her sister, when, after he was gone to his room, they sat together
around their hearth and talked the matter over afresh; and then, as she
took off and carefully smoothed her little round puffs of false hair,
and adjusted her nightcap in its place, she said, timidly, "You were
rather hard on him, Sophia, at times."

It needed but this for Mrs. Van Buren to explode again and charge her
sister with saying too little rather than too much. "One would think you
blamed Ethie entirely, or at least that you were indifferent to her
happiness," she said, removing her lace barb, and unfastening the heavy
switch bound about her head. "I was surprised at you, Barbara, I must
say. After all your pretended affection for Ethelyn, I did expect you
would be willing to do as much as to speak for her, at least."

This was too much for poor Aunt Barbara, and without any attempt at
justification, except that her sister in her attack upon Richard had
left her nothing to say, she cried quietly and sorrowfully, as she
folded up her white apron and made other necessary preparations for the
night. That she should be accused of not caring for Ethie, of not
speaking for her, wounded her in a tender point; and long after Mrs. Van
Buren had gone to the front chamber, where she always slept, Aunt
Barbara was on her knees by the rocking chair, praying earnestly for
Ethie, and then still kneeling there, with her face on the cushion,
sobbing softly, "God knows how much I love her. There's nothing of
personal comfort I would not sacrifice to bring her back; but when a man
was feeling as bad as he could, what was the use of making him
feel worse?"



CHAPTER XXVI

WATCHING AND WAITING

The pink and white blossoms of the apple trees by the pump in Aunt
Barbara's back yard were dropping their snowy petals upon the clean,
bright grass, and the frogs in the meadows were croaking their sad
music, when Richard Markham came again to Chicopee. He had started for
home the morning after his memorable interview with Mrs. Dr. Van Buren,
and to Aunt Barbara had fallen the task of telling her troubles to the
colonel's family, asking that the affair be kept as quiet as possible,
inasmuch as Ethie might soon be found, and matters between her and
Richard be made right. Every day, after the mail came from the West, the
colonel rang at Aunt Barbara's door and asked solemnly, "if there was
any news"--good news, he meant--and Aunt Barbara always shook her head,
while her face grew thinner, and her round, straight figure began to get
a stoop and a look of greater age than the family Bible would warrant.

Ethelyn had not been heard from, and search as he would, Richard could
find no trace of her whatever. She had effectually covered her tracks,
so that not even a clew to her whereabouts was found. No one had seen
her, or any person like her, and the suspense and anxiety of those
three--Richard, Aunt Barbara, and Andy--who loved her so well, was
getting to be terrible, when there came to Andy a letter--a letter in
the dear, familiar handwriting. A few lines only, and they read:

"NEW YORK, May--.

"MY DARLING ANDY: I know you have not forgotten me, and I am
superstitious enough to fancy that you are with me in spirit constantly.
I do not know why I am writing this to you, but something impels me to
do it, and tell you that I am well. I cannot say happy yet, for the
sundering of every earthly relation made too deep a wound for me not to
feel the pain for months and may be for years. I have employment,
though--constant employment--that helps me to bear, and keeps me from
dwelling too much upon the past.

"Andy, I want you to tell Richard that in thinking over my married life
I see many places where I did very wrong and tried him terribly. I am
sorry for that, and hope he will forgive me. I wish I had never crossed
his path and left so dark a shadow on his life.

"Tell your mother that I know now I did not try to make her like me.
Perhaps I could not if I had; but I might at least have tried. I am
sorry I troubled her so much.

"Tell Melinda Jones, and James and John, that I remember all their
kindness, and thank them so much. And Eunice, too. She was good to me,
always. And oh! Andy, please get word somehow to dear Aunt Barbara that
her lost Ethie is well, and so sorry to give her pain, as I know I do. I
would write to her myself, but I am afraid she blames me for going away
and bringing a kind of disgrace upon her and Aunt Van Buren. I cannot
say yet I am sorry for the step I took, and, until I am sorry I cannot
write to Aunt Barbara. But you must tell her for me how much I love her,
and how every night of my life I dream I am back in the dear old home
under the maples, and see upon the hills the swelling buds and leaves of
spring. Tell her not to forget me, and be sure that wherever I am or
whatever may befall me, she will be remembered as the dearest, most
precious memory of my life. Next to her Andy, you come; my darling Andy,
who was always so kind to me when my heart was aching so hard.

"Good-by, Andy, good-by."

This was the letter which Andy read with streaming eyes, while around
him, on tiptoe, to look over his and each other's shoulders, stood the
entire family, all anxious and eager to know what the runaway had
written. It was a very conciliatory letter, and it left a sadly pleasant
impression on those who read it, making even the mother wipe her eyes
with the corner of her apron as she washed her supper dishes in the sink
and whispered to herself, "She didn't trouble me so very much more than
I did her. I might have done different, too."

Richard made no comment whatever, but, like Andy, he conned the letter
over and over until he knew it by heart, especially the part referring
to himself. She had cast a shadow upon his life, but she was very dear
to him for all that, and he would gladly have taken back the substance,
had that been possible. This letter Richard carried to Aunt Barbara,
whom he found sitting in her pleasant porch, with the May moonlight
falling upon her face, and her eyes wearing the look of one who is
constantly expecting something which never comes. And Aunt Barbara was
expecting Ethie. It could not be that a young girl like her would stay
away for long. She might return at any time, and every morning the good
woman said to herself, "She will be here to-day;" every night, "She will
come home to-morrow." The letter, however, did not warrant such a
conclusion There was no talk of coming back, but the postmark, "New
York," told where she was, and that was something gained. They could
surely find her now, Aunt Barbara said, and she and Richard talked long
together about what he was going to do, for he was on his way then to
the great city.

"Bring her to me at once. It is my privilege to have her first," Aunt
Barbara said, next morning, as she bade Richard good-by, and then began
to watch and wait for tidings which never came.

Richard could not find Ethelyn, or any trace of her, and after a
protracted search of six long weeks, he went back to his Iowa home,
sick, worn out, and discouraged. Aunt Barbara roused herself for action.
"Men were good for nothing to hunt. They could not find a thing if it
was right before their face and eyes. It took a woman; and she was going
to see what she could do," she said to Mrs. Van Buren, who was up at the
homestead for a few days, and who looked aghast at her sister's
proposition, that she should accompany her, and help her hunt up Ethie.

"Was Barbara crazy, that she thought of going to New York in this hot
weather, when the smallpox, and the dysentery, and the plague, and mercy
knew what was there? Besides that, how did Barbara intend to manage?
What was she going to do?"

Barbara hardly knew herself how she should manage, or what she should
do. "Providence would direct," she said, though to be sure she had an
idea. Ethie had written that she had found employment, and what was more
probable than to suppose that the employment was giving music lessons,
for which she was well qualified, or teaching in some gentleman's
family. Taking this as her basis, Aunt Barbara intended to inquire for
every governess and teacher in the city, besides watching every house
where such an appendage would be likely to be found. Still her great
hope was in the street and the Park. She should surely meet Ethie there
some day--at least she would try the effect of her plan; and she went
quietly on with her preparations, while Mrs. Van Buren tried to dissuade
her from a scheme which seemed so foolish and utterly impracticable.

"Suppose Ethie was a governess, the family most likely would be out of
town at that season; and what good would it do for Aunt Barbara to risk
her life and health in the crowded city?"

This view of the matter was rather dampening to Aunt Barbara's zeal; but
trusting that Providence would interfere in her behalf, she still
insisted that she should go, and again expressed a wish that Sophia
would go with her. "It would not be so lonesome, and would look better,
too," she said, "while you know more of city ways than I do, and would
not get imposed upon."

Mrs. Van Buren could go far beyond her sister in abusing Richard, but
when it came to a sacrifice of her own comfort and pleasure, she held
back. Nothing could induce her to go to New York. She preferred the cool
seaside, where she was to join a party of Boston élite. Her dresses were
made, her room engaged, and she must go, she said, urging that Nettie's
health required the change--Nettie, who had given to her husband a
sickly, puny child, which lived just long enough to warrant a grand
funeral, and then was laid to rest under the shadow of the Van Buren
monument, out in pleasant Mount Auburn.

So Mrs. Van Buren went back to Boston, while Aunt Barbara gave all
needful directions to Betty with regard to the management of the house,
and the garden, and plants, and cellar door, which must be shut nights,
and the spot on the roof which sometimes leaked when it rained, and the
burdocks and dandelions which must be dug up, and the grass which Uncle
Billy Thompson must cut once in two weeks, and the old cat, Tabby, and
the young cat, Jim, who had come to the door in a storm, and was now the
pet of the house, and the canary bird, and the yeast, and look in the
vinegar barrel to see that all was right, and be sure and scald the
milk-pans, and turn them up in the sun for an hour, and keep the doors
locked, and the silver up in the scuttle-hole; and if she heard the rat
which baffled and tormented them so long, get some poison and kill it,
but not on any account let it get in the cistern; and keep the
door-steps clean, and the stoop, and once in a while sweep the low roof
at the back of the house, and not sit up late nights, or sleep very long
in the morning; and inasmuch as there would be so little to do, she
might as well finish up all her new sewing, and make the pile of sheets
and pillow-cases which had been cut out since March. These were Aunt
Barbara's directions, which Betty, nothing appalled, promised to heed,
telling her mistress not to worry an atom, as things should be attended
to, even better than if she were at home to see to them herself.

Aunt Barbara knew she could trust old Betty, and so, after getting
herself vaccinated in both arms, as a precaution against the smallpox,
and procuring various disinfecting agents, and having underpockets put
in all her dresses, by way of eluding pickpockets, the good woman
started one hot July morning on her mission in search of Ethie. But,
alas, finding Ethie, or anyone, in New York, was like "hunting for a
needle in a hay mow," as Aunt Barbara began to think after she had been
for four weeks or more an inmate of an uptown boarding house,
recommended as first-class, but terrible to Aunt Barbara, from the
contrast it presented to her own clean, roomy home beneath the maple
trees, which came up to her so vividly, with all its delicious coolness
and fragrance, and blossoming shrubs, and newly cut grass, with the dew
sparkling like diamonds upon it.

Aunt Barbara was terribly homesick from the first, but she would not
give up; so day after day she traversed one street after another,
looking wistfully in every face she met for the one she sought,
questioning children playing in the parks and squares as to whether they
knew any teacher by the name of Markham or Grant, ringing the door-bells
of every pretentious-looking house and putting the same question to the
servants, until the bombazine dress and black Stella shawl, and brown
Neapolitan hat, and old-fashioned lace veil, and large sun umbrella
became pretty well known in various parts of New York, while the owner
thereof grew to be a suspicious character, whom servants watched from
the basement and ladies from the parlor windows, and children shunned on
the sidewalk, while even the police were cautioned with regard to the
strange woman who went up and down day after day, sometimes in stages,
sometimes in cars, but oftener on foot, staring at everyone she met,
especially if they chanced to be young or pretty, and had any children
near them. Once down near Washington Square, as she was hurrying toward
a group of children, in the center of which stood a figure much like
Ethie's, a tall man in the blue uniform accosted her, inquiring into her
reasons for wandering about so constantly.

Aunt Barbara's honest face, which she turned full toward the officer,
was a sufficient voucher for her with the simple, straightforward
explanation which she made to the effect that her niece had left home
some time ago--run away, in fact--and she was hunting for her here in
New York, where her letter was dated. "But it's wearisome work for an
old woman like me, walking all over New York, as I have," Aunt Barbara
said, and her lip began to quiver as she sat down upon one of the seats
in the square, and looked helplessly up at the policeman. She was not
afraid of him, nor of the five others of the craft who knew her by
sight, and stopped to hear what she had to say. She never dreamed that
they could suspect her of wrong, and they did not when they heard her
story, and saw the truthful, motherly face. Perhaps they could help her,
they said, and they asked the name of the runaway.

At first Aunt Barbara refused to give it, wishing to spare Ethie this
notoriety; but she finally yielded so far as to say, "She might call
herself either Markham or Grant," and that was all they could get from
her; but after that day the bombazine dress, and black Stella shawl, and
large sun umbrella were safe from the surveillance of the police, save
as each had a kindly care for the owner, and an interest in the object
of her search.

The light-fingered gentry, however, were not as chary of her. The sweet,
motherly face, and wistful, pleading, timid eyes, did not deter them in
the least. On the contrary, they saw in the bombazine and Stella shawl a
fine field for their operations; and twice, on returning to her boarding
house, the good soul was horrified to find her purse was missing,
notwithstanding that she had kept her hand upon her pocket every
instant, except once, when the man who looked like a minister had kindly
opened the car window for her, and she had gathered up her dress to make
more room for him at her side, and once when she got entangled in a
crowd, and had to hold on to her shawl to keep it on her shoulders. Ten
dollars was the entire sum purloined, so the villains did not make much
out of her, Aunt Barbara reflected with a good deal of complacency; but
when they stole her gold-bowed glasses from her pocket, and adroitly
snatched from her hand the parcel containing the dress she had bought
for Betty at Stewart's, she began to look upon herself as specially
marked by a gang of thieves for one on whom to commit their
depredations; and when at last a fire broke out in the very block where
she was boarding, and she, with others was driven from her bed at
midnight, with her bombazine only half on, and her hoops left behind,
she made up her mind that the fates were against her, and wrote to Betty
that she was coming home, following her letter in the next train so that
both reached Chicopee the same day, the very last day of summer.

It was sooner than Betty expected her, but the clean, cool house,
peeping out from the dense shadows of the maples, looked like a paradise
to the tired, dusty woman, who rode down the street in the village hack
and surprised Betty sitting in the back door cutting off corn to dry and
talking to Uncle Billy, whose scythe lay on the grass while he drank
from the gourd swimming on top of the water-pail.

Betty was glad to see her mistress, and lamented that she did not know
of her coming, so as to have a nice hot cup of tea ready, with a
delicate morsel of something. Aunt Barbara was satisfied to be home on
any terms, though her nose did go up a little, and something which
sounded like "P-shew!" dropped from her lips as she entered the dark
sitting room, where the odor was not the best in the world.

"It's the rat, ma'am, I think," Betty said, opening both blinds and
windows. "I put the pizen for him as you said, and all I could do he
would die in the wall. It ain't as bad as it has been, and I've got some
stuff here to kill it, though I think it smells worse than the rat
himself," and Betty held her nose as she pointed out to her mistress the
saucer of chloride of lime which, at Mrs. Col. Markham's suggestion, she
had put in the sitting room.

Aside from the rat in the wall, things were mostly as Aunt Barbara could
wish them to be. The vinegar had made beautifully. There was fresh
yeast, brewed the day before, in the jug. The milk-pans were bright and
sweet; the cellar door was fastened; the garden was looking its best;
the silver was all up the scuttle-hole, Betty climbing up and risking
her neck every morning to see if it were safe; the stoop and steps were
scrubbed, the roof was swept, and both the cats, Tabby and Jim, were so
fat that they could scarcely walk as they came up to greet their
mistress. Only two mishaps Betty had to relate. Jim had eaten up the
canary bird, and she had broken the kitchen tongs. She had also failed
to accomplish as much sewing as she had hoped to do, and the pile of
work was not greatly diminished.

"There is so many steps to take when a body is alone, and with you gone
I was more particular," she said, by way of apology, as she confessed to
the rat, and the canary bird, and the kitchen tongs, and the small
amount of sewing she had done.

These were all the points wherein she had been remiss, and Aunt Barbara
was content, and even happy, as she laid aside her Stella shawl and
brown Neapolitan, and out in her pleasant dining room sat down to the
hasty meal which Betty improvised, of bread and butter, Dutch cheese,
baked apples, and huckleberry pie, with a cup of delicious tea, such as
Aunt Barbara did not believe the people of New York had ever tasted.
Most certainly those who were fortunate enough to board at first-class
boarding-houses had not; and as she sipped her favorite beverage with
Tabby on her dress and the criminal Tim in her lap, his head
occasionally peering over the table, she felt comforted and rested, and
thankful for her cozy home, albeit it lay like a heavy weight upon her
that her trouble had been for nothing, and no tidings of Ethie had
been obtained.

She wrote to Richard the next day, of her unsuccessful search, and asked
what they should do next.

"We can do nothing but wait and hope," Richard wrote in reply, but Aunt
Barbara added to it, "we can pray;" and so all through the autumn, when
the soft, hazy days which Ethie had loved so well kept the lost one
forever in mind, Aunt Barbara waited and hoped, and prayed and watched
for Ethie's coming home, feeling always a sensation of expectancy when
the Western whistle sounded and the Western train went thundering
through the town; and when the hack came up from the depot and did not
stop at her door, she said to herself, "She would walk up, maybe," and
then waiting again she would watch from her window and look far up the
quiet street, where the leaves of crimson and gold were lying upon the
walk. No Ethie was to be seen. Then as the days grew shorter and the
nights fell earlier upon the Chicopee hills, and the bleak winds blew
across the meadow, and the waters of the river looked blue and dark and
cold in the November light, she said: "She will be here sure by
Christmas. She always liked that day best," and her fingers were busy
with the lamb's wool stockings she was knitting for her darling.

"It won't be much," she said to Betty, "but it will show she is not
forgotten;" and so the stocking grew, and was shaped from a half-worn
pair which Ethelyn used to wear, and on which Aunt Barbara's tears
dropped as she thought of the dear little feet, now wandered so far
away, which the stockings used to cover.

Christmas came, and Susie Granger sang of Bethlehem in the old stone
church, and other fingers than Ethie's swept the organ keys, and the
Christmas tree was set up, and the presents were hung upon the boughs,
and the names were called, and Aunt Barbara was there, but the
lamb's-wool stockings were at home in the bureau drawer; there was no
one to wear them, no one to take them from the tree, if they had been
put there; Ethie had not come.



CHAPTER XXVII

AFFAIRS AT OLNEY

Richard could not stay in Camden, where everything reminded him so much
of Ethelyn, and at his mother's earnest solicitations he went back to
Olney, taking with him all the better articles of furniture which Ethie
had herself selected, and which converted the plain farmhouse into quite
a palace, as both Andy and his mother thought. The latter did not object
to them in the least, and was even conscious of a feeling of pride and
satisfaction when her neighbors came in to admire, and some of them to
envy her the handsome surroundings. Mrs. Dr. Van Buren's lesson, though
a very bitter one, was doing Richard good, especially as it was adroitly
followed up by Melinda Jones, who, on the strength of her now being his
sister-elect, took the liberty of saying to him some pretty plain things
with regard to his former intercourse with Ethie.

James had finally nerved himself to the point of asking Melinda if she
could be happy with such a homespun fellow as himself, and Melinda had
answered that she thought she could, hinting that it was possible for
him to overcome much which was homespun about him.

"I do not expect you to leave off your heavy boots or your coarse frock
when your work requires you to wear them," she said, stealing her hand
into his in a caressing kind of way; "but a man can be a gentleman in
any dress."

James promised to do his best, and with Melinda Jones for a teacher, had
no fear of his success. And so, some time in August, when the summer
work at the Jones' was nearly done, Melinda came to the farmhouse and
was duly installed as mistress of the chamber which James and John had
occupied--the latter removing his Sunday clothes, and rifle, and fishing
lines, and tobacco, and the slippers Ethie had given him, into Andy's
room, which he shared with his brother. Mrs. Markham, senior, got on
better with Melinda than she had with Ethelyn; Melinda knew exactly how
to manage her, and, indeed, how to manage the entire household, from
Richard down to Andy, who, though extremely kind and attentive to her,
never loved her as he did Ethelyn.

"She was a nice, good girl," he said, "but couldn't hold a candle to
Ethie. She was too dark complected, and had altogether too thumpin' feet
and ankles, besides wearin' wrinkly stockings."

That was Andy's criticism, confided to his brother John, around whose
grave mouth there was a faint glimmer of a smile, as he gave a hitch to
his suspender and replied, "I guess her stockin's do wrinkle some."

A few of Melinda's ways Mrs. Markham designated as high-flown, but one
by one her prejudices gave way as Melinda gained upon her step by step,
until at last Ethelyn would hardly have recognized the well-ordered
household, so different from what she had known it.

"The boys" no longer came to the table in their shirt-sleeves, for
Melinda always had their coats in sight, just where it was handy to put
them on, and the trousers were slipped down over the boots while the
boys ate, and the soft brown Markham hair always looked smooth and
shining, and Mrs. Markham tidied herself a little before coming to the
table, no matter how heavy her work, and never but once was she guilty
of sitting down to her dinner in her pasteboard sun-bonnet, giving as an
excuse that her "hair was at sixes and sevens." She remembered seeing
her mother do this fifty years before, and she had clung to the habit as
one which must be right because they used to do so in Vermont.
Gradually, too, there came to be napkins for tea, and James' Christmas
present to his wife was a set of silver forks, while John contributed a
dozen individual salts, and Andy bought a silver bell, to call he did
not know whom, only it looked pretty on the table, and he wanted it
there every meal, ringing it himself sometimes when anything was needed,
and himself answering the call. On the whole, the Markhams were getting
to be "dreadfully stuck up," Eunice Plympton's mother said, while Eunice
doubted if she should like living there now as well as in the days of
Ethelyn. She had been a born lady, and Eunice conceded everything to
her; but, "to see the airs that Melinda Jones put on" was a little too
much for Eunice's democratic blood, and she and her mother made many
invidious remarks concerning "Mrs. Jim Markham," who wore such heavy
silk to church, and sported such handsome furs. One hundred and fifty
dollars the cape alone had cost, it was rumored, and when, to this
Richard added a dark, rich muff to match, others than Eunice looked
enviously at Mrs. James, who to all intents and purposes, was the same
frank, outspoken person that she was when she wore a plain scarf around
her neck, and rode to church in her father's lumber wagon instead of the
handsome turn-out James had bought since his marriage. Nothing could
spoil Melinda, and though she became quite the fashion in Olney, and was
frequently invited to Camden to meet the élite of the town, she was up
just as early on Monday mornings as when she lived at home, and her
young, strong arms saved Mrs. Markham more work than Eunice's had done.
She would not dip candles, she said, nor burn them, either, except as a
matter of convenience to carry around the house; and so the tallows gave
way to kerosene, and as Melinda liked a great deal of light, the house
was sometimes illuminated so brilliantly that poor Mrs. Markham had
either to shade her eyes with her hands, or turn her back to the lamp.
She never thought of opposing Melinda; that would have done no good; and
she succumbed with the rest to the will which was ruling them so
effectually and so well.

Some very plain talks Melinda had with Richard with regard to Ethelyn;
and Richard, when he saw how anxious James was to please his wife, even
in little things which he had once thought of no consequence, regretted
so much that his own course had not been different with Ethelyn. "Poor,
dear Ethie," he called her to himself, as he sat alone at night in the
room where she used to be. At first he had freely talked of her with his
family. That was when, like Aunt Barbara, they were expecting her back,
or rather expecting constantly to hear from her through Aunt Barbara.
She would go to Chicopee first, they felt assured, and then Aunt Barbara
would write, and Richard would start at once. How many castles he built
to that second bringing her home, where Melinda made everything so
pleasant, and where she could be happy for a little time, when they
would go where she liked--it did not matter where. Richard was willing
for anything, only he did want her to stay a little time at the
farmhouse, just to see how they had improved, and to learn that his
mother could be kind if she tried. She meant to be so if Ethelyn ever
came back, for she had said as much to him on the receipt of Ethie's
message, sent in Andy's letter, and her tears had fallen fast as she
confessed to not always having felt or acted right toward the young
girl. With Melinda the ruling spirit they would have made it very
pleasant for Ethelyn, and they waited for her so anxiously all through
the autumnal days till early winter snow covered the prairies, and the
frost was on the window panes, and the wind howled dismally past the
door, just as it did one year ago, when Ethelyn went away. But, alas no
Ethie came, or tidings of her either, and Richard ceased to speak of her
at last, and his face wore so sad a look whenever she was mentioned that
the family stopped talking of her; or, if they spoke her name, it was as
they spoke of Daisy, or of one that was dead.

For a time Richard kept up a correspondence with Aunt Barbara; but that,
too, gradually ceased, and as his uncle, the old colonel, died in the
spring, and the widow went to her friends in Philadelphia, he seemed to
be cut off from any connections with Chicopee, and but for the sad,
harassing memory of what had been, he was to all intents and purposes
the same grave, silent bachelor as of yore, following the bent of his
own inclinations, coming and going as he liked, sought after by those
who wished for an honest man to transact their business, and growing
gradually more and more popular with the people of his own and the
adjoining counties.



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE GOVERNOR

They were to elect a new one in Iowa, and there were rumors afloat that
Richard Markham would be the man chosen by his party. There had been
similar rumors once before, but Mrs. Markham had regarded them as
mythical, never dreaming that such an honor could be in store for her
boy. Now, however, matters began to look a little serious. Crowds of men
came frequently to the farmhouse and were closeted with Richard. Tim
Jones rode up and down the country, electioneering for "Dick." Hal
Clifford, in Camden, contributed his influence, though he belonged to
the other party. Others, too, of Harry's way of thinking, cast aside
political differences and "went in," as they said, for the best man--one
whom they knew to be honest and upright, like Judge Markham. Each in
their own way--James and John, and Andy and Melinda--worked for Richard,
who was frequently absent from home for several days, sometimes taking
the stump himself, but oftener remaining quiet while others presented
his cause. Search as they might, his opponents could find nothing
against him, except that sad affair with his wife, who, one paper said,
"had been put out of the way when she became troublesome," hinting at
every possible atrocity on the husband's part, and dilating most
pathetically upon the injured, innocent, and beautiful young wife. Then
with a face as pale as ashes, Richard made his "great speech" in Camden
court-house, asking that the whole matter be dropped at once, and saying
that he would far rather live a life of obloquy than have the name, more
dear to him than the names of our loved dead, bandied about from lip to
lip and made the subject for newspaper paragraphs. They knew Richard in
Camden, and they knew Ethelyn, too, liking both so well, that the result
of that speech was to increase Richard's popularity tenfold, and to
carry in his favor the entire town.

The day of election was a most exciting one, especially in Olney, where
Richard had lived from boyhood. It was something for a little town like
this to furnish the governor, the Olneyites thought, and though, for
party's sake, there were some opponents, the majority went for Richard,
and Tim Jones showed his zeal by drinking with so many that at night he
stopped at the farmhouse, insisting that he had reached home, and should
stay there, "for all of Melind," and hurrahing so loud for
"Richud--Mark-um--Square," that he woke up the little blue-eyed boy
which for six weeks had been the pride and pet and darling of the
household.

Andy's tactics were different. He had voted in the morning, and prayed
the rest of the day, that if it were right, "old Dick might lick the
whole of 'em," adding the petition that "he need not be stuck up if he
was governor," and that Ethie might come back to share his greatness.
Others than Andy were thinking of Ethelyn that day, for not the faintest
echo of a huzza reached Richard's ears that did not bring with it
regretful thoughts of her. And when at last success was certain, and,
flushed with triumph, he stood receiving the congratulations of his
friends, and the Olney bell was ringing in honor of the new governor,
and bonfires were lighted in the streets, the same little boys who had
screamed themselves hoarse for the other candidates, stealing barrels
and dry-goods boxes to feed the flames with quite as much alacrity as
their opponents, there was not a throb of his heart which did not go out
after the lost one, with a yearning desire to bring her back, and, by
giving her the highest position in the State, atone in part for all
which had been wrong. But Ethie was very, very far away--further than he
dreamed--and strain ear and eye as she might, she could not see the
lurid blaze which lit up the prairie till the tall grass grew red in
the ruddy glow, or hear the deafening shouts which rent the sky for the
new Governor Markham, elected by an overwhelming majority. Oh, how
lonely Richard felt even in the first moments of his success! And how he
longed to get away from all the noise and din which greeted him at every
step, and be alone again, as since Ethie went away he had chosen to be
so much of his time. Melinda guessed at his feelings in part, and when
he came home at last, looking so pale and tired, she pitied him, and
showed her pity by letting him alone; and when supper was ready, sending
his tea to his room, whither he had gone as soon as his mother had
unwound her arms from his neck, and told him how glad she was.

These were also days of triumph for Melinda, for it was soon known that
she was to be the lady of the governor's mansion, and the knowledge gave
her a fresh accession of dignity among her friends. It was human that
Melinda should feel her good fortune a little, and perhaps she did. Andy
thought so, and prayed silently against the pomps and vanities of the
world, especially after her new purple silk was sent home, with the
handsome velvet cloak and crimson morning gown. These had been made in
Camden, a thing which gave mortal offense to Miss Henry, the Olney
dressmaker, who wondered "what Melinda Jones was that she should put on
such airs, and try to imitate Mrs. Richard Markham." They had expected
such things from Ethelyn, and thought it perfectly right. She was born
to it, they said; but for Melinda, whom all remembered as wearing a red
woolen gown when a little girl, "for her to set up so steep was another
matter." But when Melinda ordered a blue merino, and a flannel wrapper,
and a blue silk, and a white cloak for baby, made at Miss Henry's, and
told that functionary just how her purple was trimmed, and even offered
to show it to her, the lady changed her mind, and quoted "Mrs. James
Markham's" wardrobe for months afterward.

Richard, and James, and Melinda, and baby, and Eunice Plympton as baby's
nurse, all went to Des Moines, and left the house so lonely that Andy
lay flat upon the floor and cried, and his mother's face wore the look
of one who had just returned from burying their dead. It was something,
however, to be the mother and brother of a governor, and a comfort to
get letters from the absent ones, to hear of Richard's immense
popularity, and the very graceful manner in which Melinda discharged her
duties. But to see their names in print, to find something about
Governor Markham in almost every paper--that was best of all, and Andy
spent half his time in cutting out and saving every little scrap
pertaining to the "governor's family," and what they did at Des Moines.
Andy was laid up with rheumatism toward spring; but Tim Jones used to
bring him the papers, rolling his quid of tobacco rapidly from side to
side as he pointed to the paragraphs so interesting to both. Tim hardly
knew whether himself, or Richard, or Melinda, was the governor. On the
whole, he gave the preference to "Melind," after the governor's levee,
at which she had appeared in "royal purple, with ostrich feathers in her
hair," and was described in the Camden _Leader_ as the "elegant and
accomplished Mrs. James Markham, who had received the guests with so
much dignity and grace."

"Ain't Melind a brick? and only to think how she used to milk the cows,
and I once chased her with a garter snake," Tim said, reading the
article aloud to Andy, who, while assenting that she was a brick, and
according all due credit to her for what she was, and what she did,
never for a moment forgot Ethelyn.

She would have done so much better, and looked so much neater,
especially her shoes! Andy could not quite forgive Melinda's big feet
and ankles, especially as his contempt for such appendages was
constantly kept in mind by the sight of the little half-worn slippers
which Ethie had left in her closet when she moved to Camden, and which,
now that she was gone, he kept as something almost as sacred as Daisy's
hair, admiring the dainty rosettes and small high heels more than he
admired the whole of Melinda's wardrobe when spread upon the bed, and
tables, and chairs, preparatory to packing it for Des Moines. Richard,
too, remembered Ethelyn, and never did Melinda stand at his side in any
gay saloon that he did not see in her place a brown-eyed, brown-haired
woman who would have moved a very queen among the people. Ethelyn was
never forgotten, whether in the capitol, or the street, or at home, or
awake, or asleep. Ethie's face and Ethie's form were everywhere, and if
earnest, longing thoughts could have availed to bring her back, she
would have come, whether across the rolling sea, or afar from the
trackless desert. But they could not reach her, Ethie did not come, and
the term of Richard's governorship glided away, and he declined a
re-election, and went back to Olney, looking ten years older than when
he left it, with an habitual expression of sadness on his face, which
even strangers noticed, wondering what was the heart trouble which was
aging him so fast, and turning his brown hair gray.

For a time the stillness and quiet of Olney were very acceptable to him,
and then he began to long for more excitement--something to divert his
mind from the harrowing fear, daily growing more and more certain, that
Ethie would never come back. It was four years since she went away, and
nothing had been heard from her since the letter sent to Andy from New
York. "Dead," he said to himself many a time, and but for the dread of
the hereafter, he, too, would gladly have lain down in the graveyard
where Daisy was sleeping so quietly. With Andy it was different. Ethie
was not dead--he knew she was not--and some time she would surely come
back, There was comfort in Andy's strong assurance, and Richard always
felt better after a talk with his hopeful brother. Perhaps she would
come back, and if so he must have a place worthy of her, he said, one
day, to Melinda, who seized the opportunity to unfold a plan she had
long been cogitating. During the two years spent in Des Moines, James
had devoted himself to the study of law, preferring it to his farming,
and now he was looking out for a good locality where to settle and
practice his profession.

"Let's go together somewhere and build a house," Melinda said. "You know
Ethie's taste. You can fashion it as you think she would like it, and
meantime we will live with you and see to you a little. You need some
looking after," and Melinda laid her hand half pityingly upon the bowed
head of her brother-in-law, who, but for her strong, upholding
influence, and Andy's cheering faith, would have sunk ere this into
hopeless despondency.

Melinda was a fine specimen of true womanhood. She had met many highly
cultivated people at Des Moines and other towns, where, as the
governor's sister-in-law, she had spent more or less of the last two
years, and as nothing ever escaped her notice, she had improved
wonderfully, until even Mrs. Van Buren, of Boston, would have been proud
of her acquaintance. She had known sorrow, too; for in the cemetery at
Des Moines she had left her little blue-eyed baby boy when only six
months old, and her mother's heart had ached to its very core, until
there came another child, a little girl, this time, whom they had
christened "Ethelyn Grant," and who, on this account, was quite as dear
to Richard as to either of its parents. Richard was happier with that
little brown-haired girl than with anyone else, and when Melinda
suggested they should go together somewhere, he assented readily,
mentioning Davenport as a place where Ethelyn had many times said she
would like to live. Now, as ever, Melinda's was the active, ruling
voice, and almost before Richard knew it, he was in Davenport and
bargaining for a vacant lot which overlooked the river and much of the
country beyond. Davenport suited them all, and by September, Melinda,
who had spent the summer with her mother, was located at a hotel and
making herself very useful to Richard with her suggestions with regard
to the palatial mansion he was building.

There was nothing in Davenport like the "governor's house," and the
people watched it curiously as it went rapidly up. There was a suite of
rooms which they called Ethelyn's, and to the arrangement and adorning
of these Richard gave his whole attention, sparing nothing which could
make them beautiful and attractive, and lavishing so much expense upon
them that strangers came to inspect and comment upon them, wondering why
he took so much pains, and guessing, as people will, that he was
contemplating a second marriage as soon as a divorce could be obtained
from his runaway wife.

The house was finished at last, and Richard took possession, installing
Melinda as housekeeper, and feeling how happy he should be if only Ethie
were there. Somehow he expected her now. Andy's prayers would certainly
be answered even if his own were not, for he, too, had begun to pray,
feeling, at times, that God was slow to hear, as weeks and weeks went by
and still Ethie did not come. "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick," and
the weary waiting told upon his bodily health, which began to fail so
rapidly that people said "Governor Markham was going into a decline,"
and the physicians urged a change of air, and Mr. Townsend, who came in
May for a day at Davenport, recommended him strongly to try what Clifton
Springs, in Western New York, could do for him--the Clifton, whose
healing waters and wonderful power to cure were famed from the shores of
the Atlantic to the Californian hills.



CHAPTER XXIX

AFTER YEARS OF WAITING

The weather in Chicopee that spring was as capricious as the smiles of
the most spoiled coquette could ever be. The first days of April were
warm, and balmy, and placid, without a cloud upon the sky or a token of
storm in the air. The crocuses and daffodils showed their heads in the
little borders by Aunt Barbara's door, and Uncle Billy Thompson sowed
the good woman a bed of lettuce, and peas, and onions, which came up
apace, and were the envy of the neighbors. Taking advantage of the
warmth and the sunshine, and Uncle Billy's being there to whip her
carpets, Aunt Barbara even began her house cleaning, commencing at the
chambers first--the rooms which since the last "reign of terror," had
only been used when a clergyman spent Sunday there, and when Mrs. Dr.
Van Buren was up for a few days from Boston, with Nettie and the new
girl baby, which, like Melinda's, bore the name of Ethelyn. Still they
must be renovated, and cleaned, and scrubbed, lest some luckless moth
were hiding there, or some fly-speck perchance had fallen upon the
glossy paint. Aunt Barbara was not an untidy house-cleaner--one who
tosses the whole house into chaos, and simultaneous with the china from
the closet, brings up a basket of bottles from the cellar to be washed
and rinsed. She took one room at a time, settling as she went along, so
that her house never was in that state of dire confusion which so many
houses present every fall and spring. Her house was not hard to clean,
and the chambers were soon done, except Ethie's own room, where Aunt
Barbara lingered longest, turning the pretty ingrain carpet the
brightest side up, rubbing the furniture with polish, putting a bit of
paint upon the window sills where it was getting worn, and once
revolving the propriety of hanging new paper upon the wall. But that,
she reasoned, would be needless expense. Since the night Richard spent
there, five years ago, no one had slept there, and no one should sleep
there, either, till Ethie came back again.

"Till Ethie comes again." Aunt Barbara rarely said that now, for with
each fleeting year the chance for Ethie's coming grew less and less,
until now she seldom spoke of it to Betty, the only person to whom she
ever talked of Ethie. Even with her she was usually very reticent,
unless something brought the wanderer to mind more vividly than usual.
Cleaning her room was such an occasion, and sitting down upon the floor,
while she darned a hole in the carpet which the turning had brought to
view, Aunt Barbara spoke of her darling, and the time when, a little
toddling thing of two years old, she first came to the homestead, and
was laid in that very room, and "on that very pillow," Aunt Barbara
said, seeing again the round hollow left by the little brown head when
the child awoke and stretched its fat arms toward her.

"Julia, her mother, died in that bed," Aunt Barbara went on, "and Ethie
always slept there after that. Well put on the sheets marked with her
name, Betty, and the ruffled pillow-cases. I want it to seem as if she
were here," and Aunt Barbara's chin quivered, and her eyes grew moist,
as her fat, creasy hands smoothed and patted the plump pillows, and
tucked in the white spread, and picked up a feather, and moved a chair,
and shut the blinds, and dropped the curtains, and then she went softly
out and shut the door behind her.

Two weeks from that day, the soft, bland air was full of sleet, and
snow, and rain, which beat down the poor daffies on the borders, and
pelted the onions, and lettuce, and peas which Uncle Billy had planted,
and dashed against the closed windows of Ethie's room, and came in under
the door of the kitchen, and through the bit of leaky roof in the dining
room, while the heavy northeaster which swept over the Chicopee hills
screamed fiercely at Betty peering curiously out to see if it was going
to be any kind of drying for the clothes she had put out early in the
day, and then, as if bent on a mischievous frolic took from the line and
carried far down the street, Aunt Barbara's short night-gown with the
patch upon the sleeve. On the whole it was a bleak, raw, stormy day, and
when the night shut down, the snow lay several inches deep upon the
half-frozen ground, making the walking execrable, and giving to the
whole village that dirty, comfortless appearance which a storm in April
always does. It was pleasant, though, in Aunt Barbara's sitting room. It
was always pleasant there, and it seemed doubly so to-night from the
contrast presented to the world without by the white-washed ceiling, the
newly whipped carpet, the clean, white curtains, and the fire blazing on
the hearth, where two huge red apples were roasting. This was a favorite
custom of Aunt Barbara's, roasting apples in the evening. She used to do
it when Ethie was at home, for Ethie enjoyed it quite as much as she
did, and when the red cheeks burst, and the white frothy pulp came
oozing out, she used, as a little girl, to clap her hands and cry, "The
apples begin to bleed, auntie! the apples begin to bleed!"

Aunt Barbara never roasted them now that she did not remember her
darling, and many times she put one down for Ethie, feeing that the
"make believe" was better than nothing at all. There was one for
to-night, and Aunt Barbara sat watching it as it simmered and sputtered,
and finally burst with the heat, "bleeding," just as her heart was
bleeding for the runaway whose feet had wandered so long. It was after
nine, and Betty had gone to bed, so that Aunt Barbara was there alone,
with the big Bible in her lap. She had been reading the parable of the
Prodigal, and though she would not liken Ethie to him, she sighed
softly, "If she would only come, we would kill the fatted calf." Then,
thoughtfully, she turned the leaves of the Good Book one by one, till
she found the "Births," and read in a low whisper, "Ethelyn Adelaide,
Born," and so forth. Then her eye moved on to where the marriage of
Ethelyn Adelaide with Richard Markham, of Iowa, had been recorded; and
then she turned to the last of "Deaths," wondering if, unseen by her,
Ethie's name had been added to the list. The last name visible to mortal
eye was that of Julia, wife of William Grant, who had died at the age of
twenty-five.

"Just as old as Ethie is, if living," Aunt Barbara whispered, and the
tears which blotted the name of Julia Grant were given to Ethie rather
than the young half-sister who had been so much of a stranger.

Suddenly, as Aunt Barbara sat there, with her Bible in her lap, there
was heard the distant rumbling of the New York express, as it came
rolling across the plains from West Chicopee. Then as the roar became
more muffled as it moved under the hill, a shrill whistle echoed on the
night air, and half the people of Chicopee who were awake said to each
other, "The train is stopping. Somebody has come from New York." It was
not often that the New York express stopped at Chicopee, and when it
did, it was made a matter of comment. To-night, however, it was too
dark, and stormy, and late for anyone to see who had come; and guessing
it was some of the Lewises, who now lived in Col. Markham's old house,
the people, one by one, went to their beds, until nearly every light in
Chicopee was extinguished save the one shining out into the darkness
from the room where Aunt Barbara sat, with thoughts of Ethie in her
heart. And up the steep hill, from the station, through the snow, a
girlish figure toiled--the white, thin face looking wistfully down the
maple-lined street when the corner by the common was turned, and the
pallid lips whispering softly, "I wonder if she will know me?"

There were flecks of snow upon the face and on the smooth brown hair and
travel-soiled dress; clogs of snow, too, upon the tired feet--the little
feet Andy had admired so much; but the traveler kept on bravely, till
the friendly light shone out beneath the maples, and then she paused,
and leaning for a moment against the fence, sobbed aloud, but not sadly
or bitterly. She was too near home for that--too near the darling Aunt
Barbara, who did not hear gate or door unclose, or the step in the dark
hall. But when the knob of the sitting room door moved, she heard it,
and, without turning her head, called out, "What is it, Betty? I thought
you in bed an hour ago."

The supposed Betty did not reply, but stood a brief instant taking in
every feature in the room, from the two apples roasting on the hearth to
the little woman sitting with her fingers on the page where possibly
Ethie's death ought to be recorded. Aunt Barbara was waiting for Betty
to answer, and she turned her head at last, just as a low, rapid step
glided across the floor, and a voice, which thrilled every vain, first
with a sudden fear, and then with a joy unspeakable, said, "Aunt
Barbara, it's I. It's Ethie, come back to you again. Is she
welcome here?"

Was she welcome? Answer, the low cry, and gasping sob, and outstretched
arms, which held the wanderer in so loving an embrace, while a rain of
tears fell upon the dear head from which the bonnet had fallen back as
Ethelyn sank upon her knees before Aunt Barbara. Neither could talk much
for a few moments. Certainly not Aunt Barbara, who sat bewildered and
stupefied while Ethelyn, more composed, removed her hat, and cloak, and
overshoes, and shook out the folds of her damp dress; and then drawing a
little covered stool to Aunt Barbara's side, sat down upon it, and
leaning her elbows on Aunt Barbara's lap, looked up in her face, with
the old, mischievous, winning smile, and said, "Auntie, have you
forgiven your Ethie for running away?"

Then it began to seem real again--began to seem as if the last six years
were blotted out, and things restored to what they were when Ethie was
wont to sit at her aunt's feet as she was sitting now. There was this
difference, however; the bright, round, rosy face, which used to look so
flushed, and eager, and radiant, and assured, was changed, and the one
confronting Aunt Barbara now was pale, and thin, and worn, and there
were lines across the brow, and the eyes were heavy and tired, and a
little uncertain and anxious in their expression as they scanned the
sweet old face above them. Aunt Barbara saw it all, and this, if nothing
else, would have brought entire pardon even had she been inclined to
withhold it, which she was not. Ethie was back again, and that was
enough for her. She would not chide or blame her ever so little, and her
warm, loving hands took the thin white face and held it while she kissed
the parted lips, the blue-veined forehead, and the hollow cheeks,
whispering: "My own darling. I am so glad to have you back. I have been
so sad without you, and mourned for you so much, fearing you were dead.
Where has my darling been that none of us could find you?"

"Did you hunt, Aunt Barbara? Did you really hunt for me?"

And something of Ethie's old self leaped into her eyes and flushed into
her cheeks as she asked the question.

"Yes, darling. All the spring and all the summer long, and on into the
fall, and then I gave it up."

"Were you alone, auntie? That is, did nobody help you hunt?" was
Ethelyn's next query; and Richard would have read much hope for him in
the eagerness of the eyes, which waited for Aunt Barbara's answer, and
which dropped so shyly upon the carpet when Aunt Barbara said, "Alone,
child? No; he did all he could--Richard did--but we could get no clew."

Ethelyn could not tell her story until she had been made easy on several
important points, and smoothing the folds of Aunt Barbara's dress, and
still looking beseechingly into her face, she said, "and Richard
hunted, too. Was he sorry, auntie? Did he care because I went away?"

"Care? Of course he did. It almost broke his heart, and wasted him to a
skeleton. You did wrong, Ethie, to go and stay so long. Richard did not
deserve it."

It was the first word of censure Aunt Barbara had uttered, and Ethelyn
felt it keenly, as was evinced by her quivering lip and trembling voice,
as she said: "Don't auntie, don't you scold me, please. I can bear it
better from anyone else. I want you to stand by me. I know I was hasty
and did very wrong. I've said so a thousand times; but I was so unhappy
and wretched at first, and at the last he made me so angry with his
unjust accusations."

"Yes; he told me all, and showed me the letter you left. I know the
whole," Aunt Barbara said, while Ethelyn continued:

"Where is he now? How long since you heard from him?"

"It is two years or more. He wrote the last letter. I'm a bad
correspondent, you know, and as I had no good news to write, I did not
think it worth while to bother him. I don't know where he is since he
quit being governor."

There was a sudden lifting of Ethie's head, a quick arching of her
eyebrows, which told that the governor part was news to her. Then she
asked, quietly, "Has he been governor?"

"Yes, Governor of Iowa; and James' wife lived with him. She was Melinda
Jones."

"Yes, yes," and Ethie's foot beat the carpet thoughtfully, while her
eyes were cast-down, and the great tears gathered slowly in the
long-fringed lids, then they fell in perfect showers, and laying her
head in Aunt Barbara's lap she sobbed piteously.

Perhaps she was thinking of all she had thrown away, and weeping that
another had taken the post she would have been so proud to fill. Aunt
Barbara did not know, and she kept smoothing the bowed head until it was
lifted up again, and the tears were dried in Ethie's eyes, where there
was not the same hopeful expression there had been at first when she
heard of Richard's hunting for her. Some doubt or fear had crossed her
mind, and her hands were folded together in a hopeless kind of way as,
at Aunt Barbara's urgent request, she began the story of her wanderings.



CHAPTER XXX

ETHIE'S STORY

"You say you read my letter, auntie; and if you did, you know nearly all
that made me go away. I do not remember now just what was in it, but I
know it was very concise, and plain, and literal; for I was angry when I
wrote it, and would not spare Richard a bit. But, oh! I had been so
tired and so wretched. You can't guess half how wretched I was at the
farmhouse first, where they were all so different, and where one of the
greatest terrors was lest I should get used to it and so be more like
them. I mean Richard's mother, auntie. I liked the others--they were
kind and good; especially Andy. Oh, Andy! dear old Andy! I have thought
of him so much during the last five years, and bad as I am I have prayed
every night that he would not forget me.

"Aunt Barbara, I did not love Richard, and that was my great mistake. I
ought not to have married him, but I was so sore and unhappy then that
any change was a relief. I do not see now how I ever could have loved
Frank; but I did, or thought I did, and was constantly contrasting
Richard with him and making myself more miserable. If I had loved
Richard things would have been so much easier to bear. I was beginning
to love him, and life was so much pleasanter, when he got so angry about
Frank and charged me with those dreadful things, driving me frantic and
making me feel as if I hated him and could do much to worry him. Don't
look so shocked. I know how wicked it was, and sometimes I fear God
never can forgive me; but I did not think of him then. I forgot
everything but myself and my trouble, and so I went away, going first to
----, so as to mislead Richard, and then turning straight back to
New York.

"Do you remember Abby Jackson, who was at school in Boston, and who once
spent a week with me here? She married, and lives in New York, and
believes in women's rights and wears the Bloomer dress. She would take
my part, I said, and I went at once to her house and told her all I had
done, and asked if I could stay until I found employment. Aunt Barbara,
this is a queer world, and there are queer people in it. I thought I was
sure of Abby, she used to protest so strongly against the tyranny of
men, and say she should like nothing better than protecting females who
were asserting their own rights. I was asserting mine, and I went to her
for sympathy. She was glad to see me at first, and petted and fondled me
just as she used to do at school. She was five years older than I, and
so I looked up to her. But when I told my story her manner changed, and
it really seemed as if she looked upon me as a suspicious person who had
done something terrible. She advocated women's rights as strongly as
ever, but could not advise me to continue in my present course. It would
bring odium upon me, sure. A woman separated from her husband was always
pointed at, no matter what cause she had for the separation. It was all
wrong, she urged, that public opinion should be thus, and ere long she
trusted there would be a change. Till then I would do well to return to
Iowa and make it up with Richard. That was what she said, and it made me
very angry, so that I was resolved to leave her the next day; but I was
sick in the morning, and sick some weeks following, so that I could not
leave her house.

"She nursed me carefully and tried to be kind, but I could see that my
being there was a great annoyance to her. Her husband had an aunt--a
rich, eccentric old lady--who came sometimes to see me, and seemed
interested in me. Forgive me, auntie, if it was wrong. I dropped the
name of Markham and took yours, asking Abby to call me simply Miss
Bigelow to her friends. Her husband knew my real name, but to all others
I was Adelaide Bigelow. Old Mrs. Plum did not know I was married, for
Abby was as anxious to keep the secret as I was myself. She was going
abroad, the rich aunt, and being a nervous invalid, she wanted some
young, handy person as traveling companion. So when I was better Abby
asked if I was still resolved not to go home, and on learning that I
was, she spoke of Mrs. Plum, and asked if I would go. I caught at it
eagerly, and in May I was sailing over the sea to France. I wrote a few
lines to Andy before I went, and I wanted to write to you, but I fancied
you must be vexed and mortified, and I would not trouble you.

"Mrs. Plum was very nervous, and capricious, and exacting, and my life
with her was not altogether an easy one. At first, before we were
accustomed to each other, it was terrible. I suppose I have a high
temper. She thought so, and yet she could not do without me, for she was
lame in her arms, and unable to help herself readily; besides that, I
spoke the French language well enough to make myself understood, and so
was necessary to her. There were many excellent traits of character
about her, and after a time I liked her very much, while she seemed to
think of me as a willful but rather 'nicish' kind of a daughter. She
took me everywhere, even into Russia and Palestine; but the last two
years of our stay abroad were spent in Southern France, where the days
were one long bright summer dream, and I should have been so happy if
the past had been forgotten."

"And did you hear nothing from us in all that time?" Aunt Barbara asked,
and Ethelyn replied: "Nothing from Richard, no; and nothing direct from
you. I requested as a favor that Mrs. Plum should order the Boston
_Traveller_ and Springfield _Republican_ to be sent to her address in
Paris, which we made our headquarters. I knew you took both these
papers, and if anything happened to you, it would appear in their
columns. I saw the death of Col. Markham, and after that I used to grow
so faint and cold, for fear I might find yours. I came across a New York
paper, too, and saw that Aunt Van Buren had arrived at the Fifth Avenue
Hotel, knowing then that she was just as gay as ever. Richard's name I
never saw; neither did Abby know anything about him.. I called at her
house yesterday. She has seven children now--five born since I went
away--and her women's rights have given place to theories with regard to
soothing syrups and baby-jumpers, and the best means of keeping one
child quiet while she dresses the other. Mrs. Plum died six weeks
ago--died in Paris; and, auntie, I was kind to her in her last sickness,
bearing everything, and finding my reward in her deep gratitude,
expressed not only in words, but in a most tangible form. She made her
will, and left me ten thousand dollars. So you see I am not poor nor
dependent. I told her my story, too--told her the whole as it was; and
she made me promise to come back, to you at least, if not to Richard.
Going to him would depend upon whether he wanted me, I said. Do you
think he has forgotten me?"

Again the eager, anxious expression crept into Ethie's eyes, which grew
very soft, and even dewy, as Aunt Barbara replied, "Forgotten you? No. I
never saw a man feel as he did when he first came here, and Sophia
talked to him so, as he sat there in that very willow chair."

Involuntarily Ethie's hand rested itself on the chair where Richard had
sat, and Ethie's face crimsoned where Aunt Barbara asked:

"Do you love Richard now?"

"I cannot tell. I only know that I have dreamed of him so many, many
times, and thought it would be such perfect rest to put my tired head in
his lap, as I never did put it. When I was on the ocean, coming home,
there was a fearful storm, and I prayed so earnestly to live till I
could hear him say that he forgave me for all the trouble I have caused
him. I might not love him if I were to see him again just as he used to
be. Sometimes I think I should not, but I would try. Write to him,
auntie, please, and tell him I am here, but nothing more. Don't say I
want to see him, or that I am changed from the willful, high-tempered
Ethie who made him so unhappy, for perhaps I am not."

A while then they talked of Aunt Van Buren, and Frank, and Nettie, and
Susie Granger, who was married to a missionary and gone to heathen
lands; and the clock was striking one before Aunt Barbara lighted her
darling up to the old room, and kissing her good-night, went back to
weep glad tears of joy in the rocking-chair by the hearth, and to thank
her Heavenly Father for sending home her long lost Ethelyn.



CHAPTER XXXI

MRS. DR. VAN BUREN

She was always tossing up just when she was not wanted, Ethie used to
say in the olden days, when she saw the great lady alighting at the gate
in time to interfere with and spoil some favorite project arranged for
the day, and she certainly felt it, if she did not say it, when, on the
morning following her arrival in Chicopee she heard Betty exclaim, "If
there ain't Miss Van Buren! I wonder what sent her here!"

Ethie wondered so, too, and drawing the blanket closer around her
shoulders (for she had taken advantage of her fatigue and languor to lie
very late in bed) she wished her aunt had stayed in Boston, for a little
time at least.

It had been very delightful, waking up in the dear old room and seeing
Betty's kind face bending over her--Betty, who had heard of her young
mistress' return with a gush of glad tears, and then at once bethought
herself as to what there was nice for the wanderer to eat. Just as she
used to do when Ethie was a young lady at home, Betty had carried her
pan of coals and kindlings into the chamber where Ethie was lying, and
kneeling on the hearth had made the cheerfulest of fires, while Ethie,
with half-closed eyes, watched her dreamily, thinking how nice it was to
be cared for again, and conscious only of a vague feeling of delicious
rest and quiet, which grew almost into positive happiness as she counted
the days it would take for Aunt Barbara's letter to go to Iowa and for
Richard to answer it in person, as he surely would if all which Aunt
Barbara had said was true.

Ethie did not quite know if she loved him. She had thought of him so
much during the last two years, and now, when he seemed so near, she
longed to see him again--to hear his voice and look into his eyes. They
were handsome eyes as she remembered them; kindly and pleasant, too--at
least they had been so to her, save on that dreadful night, the memory
of which always made her shiver and grow faint. It seemed a dream now--a
far-off, unhappy dream--which she would fain forget just as she wanted
Richard to forget her foibles and give her another chance. She had
bidden Aunt Barbara write to say she was there, and so after the
tempting breakfast, which had been served in her room, and which she had
eaten sitting up in bed, because Betty insisted that it should be
so--and she was glad to be petted and humored and made into a
comfortable invalid--Aunt Barbara brought her writing materials into the
room, and bidding Ethie lie still and rest herself, began the letter
to Richard.

But only the date and name were written, when Betty, coming in with a
few geranium leaves and a white fuchsia which she had purloined from her
mistress' house plants, announced Mrs. Van Buren's arrival, and the
pleasant morning was at an end. Mrs. Dr. Van Buren had come up from
Boston to borrow money from her sister for the liquidation of certain
debts contracted by her son, and which she had not the ready means to
meet. Aunt Barbara had accommodated her once or twice before, saying to
her as she signed the check, "That money in the bank was put there for
Ethie, but no one knows if she will ever need it, so it may as well do
somebody some good."

It had done good by relieving Mrs. Van Buren of a load of harassing
care, for money was not as plenty with her as formerly, and now she
wanted more. She was looking rather old and worn, and her cloak was last
year's fashion, but good enough for Chicopee, she reflected, as she
hurried into the house and stamped the muddy, melting snow from
her feet.

Utter amazement seemed the prevailing sensation in her mind when she
learned that Ethelyn had returned, and then her selfishness began to
suggest that possibly Barbara's funds, saved for Ethie, might not now be
as accessible for Frank. She was glad, though, to see her niece, but
professed herself shocked at her altered appearance.

"Upon my word, I would not have recognized you," she said, sitting down
upon the bed and looking Ethie fully in the face.

Aunt Barbara, thinking her sister might like to have Ethie alone for a
little, had purposely left the room, and so Mrs. Van Buren was free to
say what she pleased. She had felt a good deal of irritation toward
Ethie for some time past. In fact, ever since Richard became governor,
she had blamed her niece for running away from the honor which might
have been hers. As aunt to the governor's lady, she, too, would have
come in for a share of the éclat; and so, as she smoothed out the folds
of her stone-colored merino, she felt as if she had been sorely
aggrieved by that thin, white-faced woman, who really did not greatly
resemble the rosy, bright-faced Ethelyn to whom Frank Van Buren had once
talked love among the Chicopee hills.

"No, I don't believe I should have known you," Mrs. Van Buren continued.
"What have you been about to fade you so?"

Few women like to hear that they have faded, even if they know it to be
true, and Ethie's cheek flushed a little as she asked, with a smile, "Am
I really such a fright?"

"Why, no, not a fright! No one with the Bigelow features can ever be
that. But you are changed; and so I am sure Richard would think. He
liked beautiful girls. You know he has been governor?"

Ethie nodded, and Mrs. Van Buren continued: "You lost a great deal,
Ethelyn, when you went away; and I must say that, though, of course, you
had great provocation, you did a very foolish thing leaving your husband
as you did, and involving us all, to a certain extent, in disgrace."

It was the first direct intimation Ethie had received that her family
had suffered from mortification on her account. She had felt that they
must, and knew that she deserved some censure; but as kind Aunt Barbara
had withheld it, she was not quite willing to hear it from Mrs. Van
Buren, and for an instant her eyes flashed, and a hot reply trembled on
her lips; but she restrained herself and merely said: "I am sorry if I
disgraced you, Aunt Sophia. I was very unhappy at the time,"

"Certainly; I understand that, but the world does not; and if it did, it
forgot all when your husband became governor. He was greatly honored and
esteemed, I hear from a friend who spent a few weeks at Des Moines, and
everybody was so sorry for him."

"Did they talk of me?" Ethie asked, repenting the next minute that she
had been at all curious in the matter.

Mrs. Van Buren, bent upon annoying her, replied, "Some, yes; and knowing
the governor as they did, it is natural they should blame you more than
him. There was a rumor of his getting a divorce, but my friends did not
believe it and neither do I, though divorces are easy to get out West.
Have you written to him? Are you not 'most afraid he will think you came
back because he has been governor?"

"Aunt Sophia!" and Ethie looked very much like her former self, as she
started from her pillow and confronted her interlocutor. "He cannot
think so. I never knew he had been governor until I heard it from Aunt
Barbara last night. I came back for no honors, no object. My work was
taken from me; I had nothing more to do, and I was so tired, and sick,
and weary, and longed so much for home. Don't begrudge it to me, Aunt
Sophia, that I came to see Aunt Barbara once more. I won't stay long in
anybody's way; and if--if he likes, Richard--can--get--that--divorce--as
soon as he pleases."

The last came gaspingly, and showed the real state of Ethie's feelings.
In all the five long years of her absence the possibility that Richard
would seek to separate himself from her had never crossed her mind. She
had looked upon his love for her as something too strong to be
shaken--as the great rock in whose shadow she could rest whenever she
so desired. At first, when the tide of angry passion was raging at her
heart, she had said she never should desire it, that her strength was
sufficient to stand alone against the world; but as the weary weeks and
months crept on, and her anger had had time to cool, and she had learned
better to know the meaning of "standing alone in the world," and
thoughts of Richard's many acts of love and kindness kept recurring to
her mind, she had come gradually to see that the one object in the
future to which she was looking forward was a return to Aunt Barbara and
a possible reconciliation with her husband. The first she had achieved,
and the second seemed so close within her grasp, a thing so easy of
success, that in her secret heart she had exulted that, after all, she
was not to be more sorely punished than she had been--that she could not
have been so very much in fault, or Providence would have placed greater
obstacles in the way of restoration to all that now seemed desirable.
But Ethie's path back to peace and quiet was not to be free from thorns,
and for a few minutes she writhed in pain, as she thought how possible,
and even probable, it was that Richard should seek to be free from one
who had troubled him so much. Life looked very dreary to Ethelyn that
moment--drearier than it ever had before--but she was far too proud to
betray her real feelings to her aunt, who, touched by the look of
anguish on her niece's face, began to change her tactics, and say how
glad she was to have her darling back under any circumstances, and so
she presumed Richard would be. She knew he would, in fact; and if she
were Ethie, she should write to him at once, apprising him of her
return, but not making too many concessions.--Men could not bear them,
and it was better always to hold a stiff rein, or there was danger of a
collision. She might as well have talked to the winds, for all that
Ethie heard or cared. She was thinking of Richard, and the possibility
that she might not be welcome to him now. If so, nothing could tempt her
to intrude herself upon him. At all events, she would not make the first
advances. She would let Richard find out that she was there through some
other source than Aunt Barbara, who should not now write the letter. It
would look too much like begging him to take her back. This was Ethie's
decision, from which she could not be moved; and when, next day, Mrs.
Van Buren went back to Boston with the check for $1,000 which Aunt
Barbara had given her, she was pledged not to communicate with Richard
Markham in any way, while Aunt Barbara was held to the same promise.

"He will find it out somehow. I prefer that he should act unbiased by
anything we can do," Ethelyn said to Aunt Barbara. "He might feel
obliged to come if you wrote to him that I was here, and if he came, the
sight of me so changed might shock him as it did Aunt Van Buren. She
verily thought me a fright," and Ethie tried to smile as she recalled
her Aunt Sophia's evident surprise at her looks.

The change troubled Ethie more than she cared to confess. Nor did the
villagers' remarks, when they came in to see her, tend to soothe her
ruffled feelings. Pale, and thin, and languid, she moved about the house
and yard like a mere shadow of her former self, having, or seeming to
have, no object in life, and worrying Aunt Barbara so greatly that the
good woman began at last seriously to inquire what was best to do.
Suddenly, like an inspiration, there came to her a thought of Clifton,
the famous water-cure in Western New York, where health, both of body
and soul, had been found by so many thousands. And Ethie caught eagerly
at the proposition, accepting it on one condition--she would not go
there as Mrs. Markham, where the name might be recognized. She had been
Miss Bigelow abroad, she would be Miss Bigelow again; and so Aunt
Barbara yielded, mentally asking pardon for the deception to which she
felt she was a party, and when, two weeks after, the clerk at Clifton
water-cure looked over his list to see what rooms were engaged, and to
whom, he found "Miss Adelaide Bigelow, of Massachusetts," put down for
No. 101, while "Governor Markham of Iowa," was down for No. 102.



CHAPTER XXXII

CLIFTON

They were very full at Clifton that summer, for the new building was not
completed, and every available point was taken, from narrow, contracted
No. 94 in the upper hall down to more spacious No. 8 on the lower floor,
where the dampness, and noise, and mold, and smell of coal and cooking,
and lower bathrooms were. "A very, very quiet place, with only a few
invalids too weak and languid, and too much absorbed in themselves and
their 'complaints' to note or care for their neighbors; a place where
one lives almost as much excluded from the world as if immured within
convent walls; a place where dress and fashion and distinction were
unknown, save as something existing afar off, where the turmoil and
excitement of life were going on." This was Ethelyn's idea of Clifton;
and when, at four o'clock, on a bright June afternoon, the heavily laden
train stopped before the little brown station, and "Clifton" was shouted
in her ears, she looked out with a bewildered kind of feeling upon the
crowd of gayly dressed people congregated upon the platform. Heads were
uncovered, and hair frizzled, and curled, and braided, and puffed, and
arranged in every conceivable shape, showing that even to that "quiet
town" the hairdresser's craft had penetrated. Expanded crinoline, with
light, fleecy robes, and ribbons, and laces, and flowers, was there
assembled, with bright, eager, healthful faces, and snowy hands wafting
kisses to some departed friend, and then turning to greet some new
arrival. There were no traces of sickness, no token of disease among the
smiling crowd, and Ethelyn almost feared she had made a mistake and
alighted at the wrong place, as she gave her checks to John, and then
taking her seat in the omnibus, sat waiting and listening to the lively
sallies and playful remarks around her. Nobody spoke to her, nobody
stared at her, nobody seemed to think of her; and for that she was
thankful, as she sat with her veil drawn closely over her face, looking
out upon the not very pretentious dwellings they were passing. The
scenery around Clifton is charming, and to the worn, weary invalid
escaping from the noise and heat and bustle of the busy city, there
seems to come a rest and a quiet, from the sunlight which falls upon the
hills, to the cool, moist meadow lands where the ferns and mosses grow,
and where the rippling of the sulphur brook gives out constantly a
soothing, pleasant kind of music. But for the architecture of the town
not very much can be said; and Ethie, who had longed to get away from
Chicopee, where everybody knew her story, and all looked curiously at
her, confessed to a feeling of homesickness as her eyes fell upon the
blacksmith shop, the dressmaker's sign, the grocery on the corner, where
were sold various articles of food forbidden by doctor and nurse; the
schoolhouse to the right, where a group of noisy children played, and
the little church further on, where the Methodist people worshiped. She
did not see the "Cottage" then, with its flowers and vines, and nicely
shaven lawn, for her back was to it; nor the handsome grounds, where the
shadows from the tall trees fall so softly upon the velvet grass; and
the winding graveled walks, which intersect each other and give an
impression of greater space than a closer investigation will warrant.

"I can't stay here," was Ethie's thought, as it had been the thought of
many others, when, like her, they first step into the matted hall and
meet the wet, damp odor, as of sheets just washed, which seems to be
inseparable from that part of the building.

But that was the first day, and before she had met the kindness and
sympathy of those whose business it is to care for the patients, or felt
the influences for good, the tendency to all the better impulses of our
nature, which seems to pervade the very atmosphere of Clifton. Ethie
felt this influence very soon, and her second letter to Aunt Barbara was
filled with praise of Clifton, where she had made so many friends, in
spite of her evident desire to avoid society and stay by herself. She
had passed through the usual ordeal attending the advent of every new
face, especially if that face be a little out of the common order of
faces. She had been inspected in the dining room, and bathroom, and
chapel, both when she went in and when she went out. She had been talked
up and criticised from the way she wore her hair to the hang of her
skirts, which here, as well as in Olney, trailed the floor with a sweep
unmistakably aristocratic and stamped her as somebody. The sacque and
hat brought from Paris had been copied by three or four, and pronounced
distingué, but ugly by as many more, while Mrs. Peter Pry, of whom there
are always one or two at every watering-place, had set herself
industriously at work to pry into her antecedents to find out just who
and what Miss Bigelow was. As the result of this research, it had been
ascertained that the young lady was remotely connected with the Bigelows
of Boston, and had something of her own--that she had spent several
years abroad, and could speak both French and German with perfect ease;
that she had been at the top of Mont Blanc, and passed part of a winter
at St. Petersburg, and seen a crocodile in the river Nile, and a Moslem
burying-ground in Constantinople, and had the cholera at Milan, the
varioloid at Rome, and was marked between the eyes and on the chin, and
was twenty-five years old, and did not wear false hair, nor use Laird's
Liquid Pearl, as was at first suspected from the clearness of her
complexion, and did wear crimping pins at night, and pay Annie, the
bath-girl, extra for bringing up the morning bath, and was more
interested in the chapel exercises when the great Head Center was there,
and bought cream every morning of Mrs. King, and sat up at night long
after the gas was turned off, and was there at Clifton for spine in the
back and head difficulties generally. These few items, together with the
surmise that she had had some great trouble--a disappointment, most
likely, which affected her health--were all Mrs. Pry could learn, and
she detailed them to anyone who would listen, until Ethelyn's history,
from the Pry point of view, was pretty generally known and the most made
of every good quality and virtue.

The Mrs. Pry of this summer was not ill-natured; she was simply
curious; and as she generally said more good than evil of people, she
was generally liked and tolerated by all. She was not a fashionable
woman, nor an educated woman, though very popular with her neighbors at
home, and she was there for numbness and swollen knees; and, having knit
socks for four years for the soldiers, she now knit stockings for the
soldiers' orphans, and took a dash every morning and screamed loud
enough to be heard at the depot when she took it, and had a pack every
afternoon, and corked her right ear with cotton, which she always took
out when in a pack, so as to hear whatever might be said in the hall,
her open ventilator being the medium of sound. This was Mrs. Peter Pry,
drawn from no one in particular, but a fair exponent of characters found
in other places than Clifton Springs. Rooming on the same floor with
Ethelyn, whom she greatly admired, the good woman persisted until she
overcame the stranger's shyness, and succeeded in establishing, first, a
bowing, then a speaking, and finally, a calling acquaintance between
them--the calls, however, being mostly upon one side, and that the
prying one.

Ethie had been at Clifton for three or four weeks, and the dimensions of
No. 101 did not seem half so circumscribed, as at first. On the whole,
she was contented, especially after the man who snored, and the woman
who wore squeaky boots, and talked in her sleep, vacated No. 102, the
large, airy, pleasant room adjoining her own. There was no one in it now
but Mary, the chambermaid, who said it was soon to be occupied by a sick
gentleman, adding that she believed he had the consumption, and hoped
his cough would not fret Miss Bigelow. Ethie hoped so too. Nervousness,
and, indeed, diseases of all kinds, seemed to develop rapidly at
Clifton, where one has nothing to do but to watch each new symptom, and
report to physician or nurse, and Ethie was not an exception. She was
very nervous, and she found herself dreading the arrival of the sick
man, wondering if his coughing would keep her awake nights, and if the
light from her candle shining out into the darkened hall would annoy
and worry him, as it had worried the woman opposite, who complained that
she could not rest with that glimmer on the wall, showing that somebody
was up, who, might at any moment make a noise. That he was a person of
consequence she readily guessed, for an extra pair of pillows was taken
in, and the rocking-chair possessed of two whole arms, and No. 109, also
vacant just then, was rifled of its round stand and footstool, and Mrs.
Pry reported that Dr. F---- himself had been up to see that all was
comfortable, and Miss Clark had ordered a better set of springs, with a
new hair mattress, and somebody had put a bouquet of flowers in the room
and hung a muslin curtain at the window.

"A big-bug, most likely," Mrs. Peter Pry said, when, after her pack, she
brought her knitting for a few moments into Ethelyn's room and wondered
who the man could be.

Ethelyn did not care particularly who he was, provided he did not cough
nights and keep her awake, in which case she should feel constrained to
change her room, an alternative she did not care to contemplate, as she
had become more attached to No. 101 than she had at first supposed
possible. Ethelyn was very anxious that day, and, had she believed in
presentiments, she would have thought that something was about to befall
her, so heavy was the gloom weighing upon her spirits, and so dark the
future seemed. She was going to have a headache, she feared, and as a
means of throwing it off, she started, after ten, for a walk to Rocky
Run, a distance of a mile or more. It was a cool, hazy July afternoon,
such as always carried Ethie back to Chicopee and the days of her happy
girlhood, when her heart was not so heavy and sad as it was now. With
thoughts of Chicopee came also thoughts of Richard, and Ethie's eyes
were moist with tears as she looked wistfully toward the setting sun and
wondered if he ever thought of her now or had forgotten her, and was the
story true of his seeking for a divorce. That rumor had troubled Ethie
greatly, and was the reason why she did not improve as the physician
hoped she would when she first came to Clifton. Sitting down upon the
bridge across the creek, she bowed her head in her hands and went over
again all the dreadful past, blaming herself now more than she did
Richard, and wishing that much could be undone of all that had
transpired to make her what she was, and while she sat there the Western
train appeared in view, and, mechanically rising to her feet, Ethie
turned her steps back toward the Cure, standing aside to let the long
train go by, and feeling, when it passed her, a strange, sudden throb,
as if it were fraught with more than ordinary interest to her. Usually,
that Western train, the distant roll of whose wheels and the echo of
whose scream quickened so many hearts waiting for news from home, had no
special interest for her. It never brought her a letter. Her name was
never called in the exciting distribution which took place in the parlor
or on the long piazza after the eight-o'clock mail had arrived, and so
she seldom heeded it; but to-night there was a difference, and she
watched the long line curiously until it passed the corner by the old
brown farmhouse and disappeared from view. It had left the station long
ere she reached the Cure, for she had walked slowly, and lights were
shining from the different rooms, and there was a sound of singing in
the parlor, and the party of croquet players had come up from the lawn,
and ladies were hurrying toward the bathroom, when she came in and
climbed the three flights of stairs which led to the fourth floor. There
was a light shining through the ventilator of No. 102, the door was
partly ajar, and the doctor was there, asking some questions of the tall
figure, whose outline Ethelyn dimly descried as she went into her room.
There was more talking after a little--more going in and out, while Mary
Ann brought up some supper on a tray, and John brought up a traveling
trunk much larger than himself, and then, without Mrs. Pry's assurance,
Ethie knew that the occupant of No. 102 had arrived.



CHAPTER XXXIII

THE OCCUPANT OF NO. 102

He did not cough, but he seemed to be a restless spirit, for Ethie heard
him pacing up and down his room long after the gas was turned off and
her own candle was extinguished. Once, too, she heard a long-drawn sigh,
or groan, which made her start suddenly, for something in the tone
carried her to Olney and the house on the prairie. It was late that
night ere she slept, and when next morning she awoke, the nervous
headache, which had threatened her the previous night, was upon her in
full force, and kept her for nearly the entire day confined to her bed.
Mrs. Pry was spending the day in Phelps, and with this source of
information cut off, Ethelyn heard nothing of No. 102, further than the
chambermaid's casual remark that "the gentleman was quite an invalid,
and for the present was to take his meals and baths in his room to avoid
so much going up and down stairs."

Who he was Ethelyn did not know or care, though twice she awoke from a
feverish sleep with the impression that she had heard Richard speaking
to her; but it was only Jim, the bath man, talking in the next room, and
she laid her throbbing head again upon her pillow, while her new
neighbor dreamed in turn of her and woke with the strange fancy that she
was near him. Ethie's head was better that night; so much better that
she dressed herself and went down to the parlor in time to hear the
calling of the letters as the Western mail was distributed. Usually she
felt but little interest in the affair further than watching the eager,
anxious faces bending near the boy, and the looks of joy or
disappointment which followed failure and success. To-night, however, it
was different. She was not expecting a letter herself. Nobody wrote to
her but Aunt Barbara, whose letters came in the morning, but she was
conscious of a strange feeling of expectancy, and taking a step toward
the table around which the excited group were congregated, she stood
leaning against the column while name after name was called. First the
letters, a score or two, and then the papers, matters of less account,
but still snatched eagerly by those who could get nothing better. There
was a paper for Mrs. More-house, and Mrs. Stone, and Mrs. Wilson, and
Mrs. Turner, while Mr. Danforth had half a dozen or less, and then Perry
paused a moment over a new name--one which had never before been called
in the parlor at Clifton:

"Richard Markham, Esq."

The name rang out loud and clear, and Ethie grasped the pillar tightly
to keep herself from falling. She did not hear Mr. Danforth explaining
that it was "Governor Markham from Iowa, who came the night before." She
did not know, either, how she left the parlor, for the next thing of
which she was perfectly conscious was the fact that she was hurrying up
the stairs and through the unfinished halls toward her own room, casting
frightened glances around, and almost shrieking with excitement when
through the open door of No. 102 she heard Dr. Hayes speaking to
someone, and in the voice which answered recognized her husband.

He was there, then, next to her, separated by only a thin partition--the
husband whom she had not seen for five long years, whom she had
voluntarily left, resolving never to go back to him again, was there,
where, just by crossing a single threshold, she could fall at his feet
and sue for the forgiveness she had made up her mind to crave should she
ever see him again. Dr. Hayes' next call was upon her, and he found her
fainting upon the floor, where she had fallen in the excitement of the
shock she had experienced.

"It was a headache," she said, when questioned as to the cause of the
sudden attack; but her eyes had in them a frightened, startled look, for
which the doctor could not account.

There was something about her case which puzzled and perplexed him. "She
needed perfect quiet, but must not be left alone," he said, and so all
that night Richard, who was very wakeful, watched the light shining out
into the hall from the room next to his own, and heard occasionally a
murmur of low voices as the nurse put some question to Ethie, who
answered always in whispers, while her eyes turned furtively toward No.
102, as if fearful that its occupant would hear and know how near she
was. For three whole days her door was locked against all intruders, for
the headache and nervous excitement did not abate one whit. How could
they, when every sound from No. 102, every footfall on the floor, every
tone of Richard's voice speaking to servant or physician, quickened the
rapid beats and sent the hot blood throbbing fiercely through the temple
veins and down along the neck? At Clifton they are accustomed to every
phase of nervousness, from spasms at the creaking of a board to the
stumbling upstairs of the fireman in the early winter morning, and once
when Ethie shuddered and turned her head aside at the sound of Richard's
step, the attendant said to the physician:

"It's the gentleman's boots, I think, which make her nervous."

There was a deprecating gesture on Ethie's part, but it passed
unnoticed, and when next the doctor went to visit Richard he said, in a
half-apologetic way, that the young lady in the next room was suffering
from a violent headache, which was aggravated by every sound, even the
squeak of a boot--would Governor Markham greatly object to wearing
slippers for a while? Dr. Hayes was sorry to trouble him, but "if they
would effect a cure they must keep their patients quiet, and guard
against everything tending to increase nervous irritation."

Governor Markham would do anything in his power for the young lady, and
he asked some questions concerning her. Had he annoyed her much? Was she
very ill? And what was her name?

"Bigelow," he repeated after Dr. Hayes, thinking of Aunt Barbara in
Chicopee, and thinking of Ethelyn, too, but never dreaming how near she
was to him.

He had come to Clifton at the earnest solicitation of some of his
friends, who had for themselves tested the healing properties of the
water, but he had little faith that anything could cure so long as the
pain was so heavy at his heart. It had not lessened one jot with the
lapse of years. On the contrary, it seemed harder and harder to bear, as
the months went by and brought no news of Ethie. Oh, how he wanted her
back again, even if she came as willful and imperious as she used to be
at times, when the high spirit was roused to its utmost, and even if she
had no love for him, as she had once averred. He could make her love him
now, he said: he knew just where he had erred; and many a time in dreams
he had strained the wayward Ethie to his bosom in the fond caress which
from its very force should impart to her some faint sensation of joy. He
had stroked her beautiful brown hair, and caressed her smooth round
cheek, and pressed her little hands, and made her listen to him till the
dark eyes flashed into his own with something of the tenderness he felt
for her. Then, with a start, he had awakened to find it all a dream, and
only darkness around him. Ethie was not there. The arms which had held
her so lovingly were empty. The pillow where her dear head had lain was
untouched, and he was alone as of old. Even that handsome house he had
built for her had ceased to interest him, for Ethie did not come back to
enjoy it. She would never come now, he said, and he built many fancies
as to what her end had been, and where her grave could be. Here at
Clifton he had thought of her continually, but not that she was alive.
Andy's faith in her return was as strong as ever, but Richard's had all
died out. Ethie was dead, and when asked by Dr. Hayes if he had a wife,
he answered sadly:

"I had one, but I lost her."

He had no thought of deception, or how soon the story would circulate
through the house that he was a widower, and so he, as ex-governor of
Iowa, and a man just in his prime, became an object of speculative
interest to every marriageable woman there. He had no thought, no care
for the ladies, though for the Miss Bigelow, whom his boots annoyed, he
did feel a passing interest, and Ethie, whose ears seemed doubly sharp,
heard him in his closet adjusting the thin-soled slippers, which made no
sound upon the carpet. She heard him, too, as he moved his water
pitcher, and knew he was doing it so quietly for her. The idea of being
cared for by him, even if he did not know who she was, was very soothing
and pleasant, and she fell into a quiet sleep, which lasted several
hours, while Richard, on the other side of the wall, scarcely moved, so
fearful was he of worrying the young lady.

Ethie's headache spent itself at last, and she awoke at the close of the
third day, free from pain, but very weak and languid, and wholly unequal
to the task of entertaining Mrs. Peter Pry, who had been so distressed
on her account, and was so delighted with a chance to see and talk with
her again. Ethie knew she meant to be kind, and believed she was sincere
in her professions of friendship. At another time she might have been
glad to see her; but now, when she guessed what the theme of
conversation would be, she felt a thrill of terror as the good woman
came in, knitting in hand, and announced her intention of sitting
through the chapel exercises. She was not going to prayer meeting that
night, she said, for Dr. Foster was absent, and they were always stupid
when he was away. She could not understand all Mr.---- said, his words
were so learned, while the man who talked so long, and never came to the
point, was insufferable in hot weather, so she remained away, and came
to see her friend, who, she supposed, knew that she had a governor for
next-door neighbor--Governor Markham from Iowa--and a widower, too, as
Dr. Hayes had said, when she asked why his wife was not there with him.

"A widower!" and Ethie looked up so inquiringly that Mrs. Pry, mistaking
the nature of her sudden interest, went on more flippantly. "Yes, and a
splendid looking man, too, if he wasn't sick. I saw him in the chapel
this morning--the only time he has been there--and sat where I had a
good view of his face. They say he is very rich, and has one of the
handsomest places in Davenport."

"Does he live in Davenport?" Ethie asked, in some surprise, and Mrs. Pry
replied:

"Yes; and that Miss Owens, from New York, is setting her cap for him
already. She met him in Washington, a few years ago, and the minute
chapel exercises were over, she and her mother made up to him at once.
I'm glad there's somebody good enough for them to notice. If there's a
person I dislike it's that Susan Owens and her mother. I do hope she'll
find a husband. It's what she's here for, everybody says."

Mrs. Peter had dropped a stitch while animadverting against Miss Susan
Owens, from New York, and stopped a moment while she picked it up. It
would be difficult to describe Ethelyn's emotions as she heard her own
husband talked of as something marketable, which others than Susan Owens
might covet. He was evidently the lion of the season. It was something
to have a governor of Richard's reputation in the house, and the guests
made the most of it, wishing he would join them in the parlor or on the
piazza, and regretting that he stayed so constantly in his room. Many
attempts were made to draw him out, Mrs. and Miss Owens, on the strength
of their acquaintance in Washington, venturing to call upon him, and
advising him to take more exercise. Miss Owens' voice was loud and
clear, and Ethie heard it distinctly as the young lady talked and
laughed with Richard, the hot blood coursing rapidly through her veins,
and the first genuine pangs of jealousy she had ever felt creeping into
her heart as she guessed what might possibly be in Miss Owens' mind.
Many times she resolved to make herself known to him; but uncertainty as
to how she might be received, and the remembrance of what Mrs. Van Buren
had said with regard to the divorce, held her back; and so, with only a
thin partition between them, and within sound of each other's footsteps,
the husband and wife, so long estranged from each other, lived on, day
after day, Richard spending most of his time in his room, and Ethelyn
managing so adroitly when she came in and went out, that she never saw
so much as his shadow upon the floor, and knew not whether he was
greatly changed or not.



CHAPTER XXXIV

IN RICHARD'S ROOM

Richard had been sick for a week or more. As is frequently the case, the
baths did not agree with him at first, and Mrs. Pry reported to Ethelyn
that the governor was confined to his bed, and saw no one but the doctor
and nurses, not even "that bold Miss Owens, who had actually sent to
Geneva for a bouquet, which she sent to his room with her compliments."
This Mrs. Pry knew to be a fact, and the highly scandalized woman
repeated the story to Ethelyn, who scarcely heard what she was saying
for the many turbulent emotions swelling at her heart. That Richard
should be sick so near to her, his wife--that other hands than hers
should tend his pillow and minister to his wants--seemed not as it
should be; and when she recalled the love and tender care which had been
so manifest that time when he came home from Washington and found her so
very ill, the wish grew strong within her to do something for him. But
what to do--that was the perplexing question. She dared not go openly to
him, until assured that she was wanted; and so there was nothing left
but to imitate Miss Owens and adorn his room with flowers. Surely she
had a right to do so much, and still her cheek crimsoned like some young
girl's as she gathered together the choicest flowers the little town
afforded, and arranging them into a most tasteful bouquet, sent them in
to Richard, vaguely hoping that at least in the cluster of double pinks,
which had been Richard's favorite, there might be hidden some mesmeric
power or psychological influence which should speak to the sick man of
the wayward Ethie who had troubled him so much.

Richard was sitting up in bed when Mary brought the bouquet, saying,
Miss Bigelow sent it, thinking it might cheer him a bit. Should she put
it in the tumbler near Miss Owens'?

Miss Owens had sent a pretty vase with hers, but Ethie's was simply tied
with a bit of ribbon she had worn about her neck. And Richard took it
in his hand, an exclamation escaping him as he saw and smelled the
fragrant pinks, whose perfume carried him first to Olney and Andy's
weedy beds in the front yard, and then to Chicopee, where in Aunt
Barbara's pretty garden, a large plant of them had been growing when he
went after his bride. A high wind had blown them down upon the walk, and
he had come upon Ethie one day trying to tie them up. He had plucked a
few, he remembered, telling Ethie they were his favorites for perfume,
while the red peony was his favorite for beauty. There had been a
comical gleam in her brown eyes which he now knew was born of contempt
for his taste with regard to flowers. Red peonies were not the rarest of
blossoms--Melinda had taught him that when he suggested having them in
his conservatory; but surely no one could object to these waxen,
feathery pinks, whose odor was so delicious. Miss Bigelow liked them,
else she had never sent them to him. And he kept the bouquet in his
hand, admiring its arrangement, inhaling the sweet perfume of the
delicate pinks and heliotrope, and speculating upon the kind of person
Miss Bigelow must be to have thought so much of him. He could account
for Miss Owens' gift--the hot-house blossoms, which had not moved him
one-half so much as did this bunch of pinks. She had known him
before--had met him in Washington; he had been polite to her on one or
two occasions, and it was natural that she should wish to be civil, at
least while he was sick. But the lady in No. 101--the Miss Bigelow for
whom he had discarded his boots and trodden on tiptoe half the time
since his arrival--why she should care for him he could not guess; and
finally deciding that it was a part of Clifton, where everybody was so
kind, he put the bouquet in the tumbler Mary had brought and placed it
on the stand beside him. He was very restless that night, and Ethie
heard the watchman at his door twice asking if he wanted anything.

"Nothing," was the reply, and the voice, heard distinctly in the
stillness of the night, was so faint and sad that Ethie hid her face in
her pillow and sobbed bitterly, while the intense longing to see him
grew so strong within her that by morning the resolution was taken to
risk everything for the sake of looking upon him again.

He did not require an attendant at night--he preferred being alone, she
had ascertained; and she knew that his door was constantly left open for
the admission of fresh air. The watchman only came into the hall once an
hour or thereabouts, and while Richard slept it would be comparatively
easy for her to steal into his room. Fortune seemed to favor her, for
when at nine the doctor, as usual, came up to pay his round visits, she
heard him say, "I will leave you something which never fails to make one
sleep," and after two hours had passed she knew by the regular breathing
which, standing on the threshold of her room, she could distinctly hear,
that Richard was sleeping soundly. The watchman had just made the tour
of that hall, and the faint glimmer of his lantern was disappearing down
the stairs. It would be an hour before he came back again, and now, if
ever, was her time. There was a great throb of fear at her heart, a
trembling of every joint, a choking sensation in her throat, a shrinking
back from what might probably be the result of that midnight visit; and
then, nerving herself for the effort, she stepped out into the hall and
listened. Everything was quiet, and every room was darkened, save by the
moon, which, at its full, was pouring a flood of light through the
southern window at the end of the hall and seemed to beckon her on. She
was standing now at Richard's door, opened wide enough to admit her, and
so she made no noise as she stepped cautiously across the threshold and
stood within the chamber. The window faced the east, and the inside
blinds were opened wide, making Ethelyn remember how annoyed she used to
be at that propensity of Richard's to roll up every curtain and open
every shutter so as to make the room light and airy. It was light now
almost as day, for the moonlight lay upon the floor in a great sheet of
silver, and showed her plainly the form and features of the sick man
upon the bed. She knew he was asleep, and with a beating heart she drew
near to him, and stood for a moment looking down upon the face she had
not seen since that wintry morning five years before, when in the dim
twilight, it had bent wistfully over her, as if the lips would fain have
asked forgiveness for the angry words and deeds of the previous night.
That face was pale now, and thin, and the soft brown hair was streaked
with gray, making Richard look older than he was. He had suffered, and
the suffering had left its marks upon him so indisputably that Ethie
could have cried out with pain to see how changed he was.

"Poor Richard," she whispered softly, and kneeling by the bedside she
laid her hot cheek as near as she dared to the white, wasted hand
resting outside the counterpane.

She did not think what the result of waking him might be. She did not
especially care. She was his wife, let what would happen--his erring but
repentant Ethie. She had a right to be there with him, and so at last
she took his thin hand between her own, and caressed it tenderly. Then
Richard moved, and moaning in his deep sleep seemed to have a vague
consciousness that someone was with him. Perhaps it was the nurse who
had been with him at night on one or two occasions; but the slumber into
which he had fallen was too deep to be easily broken. Something he
murmured about the medicine, and Ethie's hand held it to his lips, and
Ethie's arm was passed beneath his pillow as she lifted up his head
while he swallowed it. Then, without unclosing his eyes, he lay back
upon his pillow again, while Ethie stood over him until the glimmer of
the watchman's lamp passed down the hall a second time, and disappeared
around the corner. The watchman had stopped at Richard's door to listen,
and then Ethie had experienced a spasm of terror at the possibility of
being discovered; but with the receding footsteps her fears left her,
and she waited a half-hour longer, while Richard in his dreams talked of
bygone days--speaking of Olney, and then of Daisy and herself. Dead,
both of them, he seemed to think; and Ethie's pulse throbbed with a
strange feeling of joy as she heard herself called his poor darling,
whom he wanted back again. She was satisfied now. He had not forgotten
her, or even thought to separate himself from her, as Aunt Van Buren
hinted. He was true to her yet, and she had acted foolishly in keeping
aloof from him so long. But she would be foolish no longer. To-morrow he
should know everything. If he would only awaken she would tell him now,
and take the consequences. But Richard did not waken, and at last, with
a noiseless step, she glided back to her own chamber. She would write to
Richard, she decided. She could talk to him better on paper, and, then,
if he did not care to receive her, they would both be spared much
embarrassment.

Ethie's door was locked all the next morning, for she was writing to her
husband a long, humble letter, in which all the blame was taken upon
herself, inasmuch as she had made the great mistake of marrying without
love. "But I do love you now, Richard," she said; "love you truly, too,
else I should never be writing this to you, and asking you to take me
back and try if I cannot make you happy."

It was a good deal for Ethie to confess that she had been so much in
fault; but she did it honestly, and when the letter was finished she
felt as if all that had been wrong and bitter in the past was swept
away, and a new era in her life had begun. She would wait till night,
she said--wait till all was again quiet in the hall and in the
sick-room, and then when the boy came around with the mail, as he was
sure to do, she would hand her letter to him, and bid him leave it in
Governor Markham's room. The rest she could not picture to herself; but
she waited impatiently for the long August day to draw to its close,
joining the guests in the parlor by way of passing the time, and
appearing so bright and gay that those who had thought her proud and
cold, and reticent, wondered at the brightness of her face and the glad,
eager expression of her eyes. She was pretty, after all, they thought,
and even Miss Owens, from New York, tried to be very gracious, speaking
to her of Governor Markham, whose room adjoined hers, and asking if she
had seen him. About him Ethie did not care to talk, and, making some
excuse to get away, left the room without hearing a whisper of the
story which was going the rounds of the Cure, and which Miss Owens was
rather desirous of communicating to someone who, like herself, would be
likely to believe it a falsehood.



CHAPTER XXXV

MRS. PETER PRY TAKES A PACK

Mrs. Pry was in a pack, a whole pack, too, which left nothing free but
her head, and even that was bandaged in a wet napkin, so that the good
woman was in a condition of great helplessness, and nervously counted
the moments which must elapse ere Annie, the bath girl, would come to
her relief. Now, as was always the case when in a pack, her ears were
uncorked and turned toward the door, which she had purposely left ajar,
so as not to lose a word, in case any of the ladies came down to that
end of the hall and stood by the window while they talked together. They
were there now, some half a dozen or more, and they were talking eagerly
of the last fresh piece of news brought by Mrs. Carter and daughter, who
had arrived from Iowa the day before, and for lack of accommodations at
the Cure had gone to the hotel. Both were old patients, and well known
in Clifton and so they had spent most of the day at the Cure, hunting up
old acquaintances and making new ones. Being something of lion-seekers,
they had asked at the office who was there worth knowing, the young
lady's face wearing a very important air as she glanced round upon the
guests, and remarked, "How different they seemed from those charming
people from Boston and New York whom we met here last summer!"

It did not appear as if there was a single lion there this season,
whether moneyed, literary, or notorious; and Miss Annie Carter thought
it very doubtful whether they should remain or go on to Saratoga, as all
the while she had wished to do. In great distress good Mrs. Leigh racked
her brain to think who the notables were, and finally bethought herself
of Governor Markham, whose name acted like magic upon the newcomers.

"Governor Markham here? Strange, I never thought of Clifton when I heard
that he was going East for his health. How is he? Does he improve? It is
quite desirable that he should do so, if all reports are true;" and Mrs.
Carter looked very wise and knowing upon the group which gathered around
her, anxious to hear all she had to tell of Governor Markham.

She did not pretend that she knew him herself, as she lived some
distance from Davenport; but she had heard a great deal about him and
his handsome house; and Annie, her daughter, who was visiting in
Davenport, had been all over it after it was finished. Such a beautiful
suite of rooms as he had fitted up for his bride; they were the envy and
wonder of both Davenport and Rock Island, too.

"His bride! We did not know he had one. He passes for a widower here,"
several voices echoed in chorus, and then Mrs. Carter began the story
which had come to her through a dozen mediums, and which circulated
rapidly through the house, but had not reached Mrs. Pry up to the time
when, with her blanket and patchwork quilt she had brought from New
Hampshire, she lay reposing in her pack, with her ears turned toward the
door and ventilator, ready to catch the faintest breath of gossip.

She heard a great deal that afternoon, for the ladies at the end of the
hall did not speak very low, and when at last she was released from her
bandages and had made her afternoon toilet, she hastened round to Miss
Bigelow's to report what she had heard. Tired with her vigils of the
previous night, Ethie was lying down, but she bade Mrs. Pry come in, and
then kept very quiet while the good woman proceeded to ask if she had
heard the news. Ethie had not, but her heart stood still while her
visitor, speaking in a whisper, asked if she was sure Governor Markham
could not hear. That the news concerned herself Ethelyn was sure, and
she was glad that her face was in a measure concealed from view as she
listened to the story.

Governor Markham's wife was not dead, as they had supposed. She was a
shameless creature, who eight or ten years before eloped with a man a
great deal younger than herself. She was very beautiful, people said,
and very fascinating, and the governor worshiped the ground she trod
upon. He took her going off very hard at first, and for years scarcely
held up his head. But lately he had seemed different, and had been more
favorable to a divorce, as advised by his friends. This, however, was
after he met Miss Sallie Morton, whose father was a millionaire in
Chicago, and whose pretty face had captivated the grave governor. To get
the divorce was a very easy matter there in the West, and the governor
was now free to marry again. As Miss Morton preferred Davenport to any
other place in Iowa, he had built him a magnificent house upon a bluff,
finishing it elegantly, and taking untold pains with the suite of rooms
intended for his bride. As Miss Sallie objected to marrying him while he
was so much of an invalid, he had come to Clifton, hoping to reestablish
his health so as to bring home his wife in the autumn, for which event
great preparations were making in the family of Miss Sallie.

This was the story as told by Mrs. Pry, and considering that it had only
come to her through eight or ten different persons, she repeated the
substance of it pretty accurately, and then stopped for Ethie's comment.
But Ethie had nothing to say, and when, surprised at her silence, Mrs.
Pry asked if she believed it at all, there was still no reply, for
Ethelyn had fainted. The reaction was too great from the bright
anticipations of the hour before, to the crushing blow which had fallen
so suddenly upon her hopes. That a patient at Clifton should faint was
not an uncommon thing. Mrs. Pry had often felt like it herself when just
out of a pack, or a hot sulphur bath, and so Ethie's faint excited no
suspicion in her mind. She was fearful, though, that Miss Bigelow had
not heard all the story, but Ethie assured her that she had, and then
added that if left to herself she might possibly sleep, as that was what
she needed. So Mrs. Pry departed, and Ethie was alone with the terrible
calamity which had come upon her. She had been at the Water Cure long
enough to know that not more than half of what she heard was true, and
this story she knew was false in the parts pertaining to herself and her
desertion of her husband. She had never heard before that she was
suspected of having had an associate in the flight, and her cheeks
crimsoned at the idea, while she wondered if Richard had ever thought
that of her. Not at first, she knew, else he had never sought for her so
zealously as Aunt Barbara had intimated; but latterly, as he had heard
no tidings from her, he might have surmised something of the kind, and
that was the secret of the divorce.

"Oh, Richard! Richard!" she murmured, with her hands pressed tightly
over her lips, so as to smother all sound, "I felt so sure of your love.
You were so different from me. I am punished more than I can bear."

If she had never known before, Ethie knew now, how much she really loved
her husband, and how the hope of eventually returning to him had been
the day-star of her life. Had she heard that he was lying dead in the
next room, she would have gone to him at once, and claiming him as hers,
would have found some comfort in weeping sadly over him, and kissing his
cold lips, but now it did indeed seem more than she could bear. She did
not doubt the story of the divorce, or greatly disbelieve in the other
wife. It was natural that many should seek to win his love now that he
had risen so high, and she supposed it was natural that he should wish
for another companion. Perhaps he believed her dead, and Ethie's heart
gave one great throb of joy as she thought of going in to him, and by
her bodily presence contradict that belief, and possibly win him from
his purpose. But Ethie was too proud for that, and her next feeling was
one of exultation that she had not permitted Aunt Barbara to write, or
herself taken any measures for communicating with him. He should never
know how near she had been to him, or guess ever so remotely of the
anguish she was enduring, as, only a few feet removed from him, she
suffered, in part, all the pain and sorrow she had brought upon him.
Then, as she remembered the new house fitted for the bride, she said:

"I must see that house. I must know just what is in store for my rival.
No one knows me in Davenport. Richard is not at home, and there is no
chance for my being recognized."

With this decision came a vague feeling akin to hope that possibly the
story was false--that after all there was no rival, no divorce. At all
events, she should know for a certainty by going to Davenport; and with
every nerve stretched to its utmost tension, Ethie arose from her bed
and packed her trunk quietly and quickly, and then going to the office,
surprised the clerk with the announcement that she wished to leave on
the ten-o'clock train. She had received news which made her going so
suddenly imperative, she said to him, and to the physician, whom she
called upon next, and whose strong arguments against her leaving that
night almost overcame her. But Ethie's will conquered at last, and when
the train from the East came in she stood upon the platform at the
station, her white face closely veiled, and her heart throbbing with the
vague doubts which began to assail her as to whether she were really
doing a wise and prudent thing in going out alone and unprotected to the
home she had no right to enter, and where she was not wanted.



CHAPTER XXXVI

IN DAVENPORT

Hot, and dusty, and tired, and sick, and utterly hopeless and wretched,
Ethie looked drearily out from the windows of her room at the hotel,
whither she had gone on her first arrival in Davenport. Her head seemed
bursting as she stood tying her bonnet before the mirror, and drawing on
her gloves, she glanced wistfully at the inviting-looking bed, feeling
strongly tempted to lie down there among the pillows and wait till she
was rested before she went out in that broiling August sun upon her
strange errand. But a haunting presentiment of what the dizziness and
pain in her head and temples portended urged her to do quickly what she
had to do; so with another gulp of the ice water she had ordered, and
which only for a moment cooled her feverish heat, she went from her room
into the hall, where the boy was waiting to show her the way to "the
governor's house." He knew just where it was. Everybody knew in
Davenport, and the chambermaid to whom Ethie had put some questions, had
volunteered the information that the governor had gone East for his
health, and the house, she believed, was shut up--not shut so that she
could not effect an entrance to it. She would find her way through every
obstacle, Ethie thought, wondering vaguely at the strength which kept
her up and made her feel equal to most anything as she followed her
conductor through street after street, onward and onward, up the hill,
where the long windows and turrets of a most elegant mansion were
visible. When asked at the hotel if she would not have a carriage, she
had replied that she preferred to walk, feeling that in this way she
should expend some of the fierce excitement consuming her like an inward
fire. It had not abated one whit when at last the house was reached, and
dismissing her guide she stood a moment upon the steps, leaning her
throbbing head against the door post, and summoning courage to ring the
bell. Never before had she felt so much like an intruder, or so widely
separated from her husband, as during the moment she stood at the
threshold of her home, hesitating whether to ring or go away and give
the matter up. She could not go away now that she had come so far, she
finally decided. She must go in and see the place where Richard lived,
and so, at last, she gave the silver knob a pull, which reverberated
through the entire house, and brought Hannah, the housemaid, in a trice
to see who was there.

"Is Governor Markham at home?" Ethie asked, as the girl waited for her
to say something.

Governor Markham was East, and the folks all gone, the girl replied,
staring a little suspiciously at the stranger who without invitation,
had advanced into the hall, and even showed a disposition to make
herself further at home by walking into the drawing room, the door of
which was slightly ajar.

"My name is Markham. I am a relative of the governor. I am from the
East," Ethelyn volunteered, as she saw the girl expected some
explanation.

Had Hannah known more of Ethelyn, she might have suspected something;
but she had not been long in the family, and coming, as she did, from
St. Louis, the story of her master's wife was rather mythical to her
than otherwise. That there was once a Mrs. Markham, who, for beauty, and
style, and grandeur, was far superior to Mrs. James, the present
mistress of the establishment, she had heard vague rumors; while only
that morning when dusting and airing Richard's room, she had stopped her
work a moment to admire the handsome picture which Richard had had
painted, from a photograph of Ethie, taken when she was only seventeen.
It was a beautiful, girlish face, and the brown eyes were bright and
soft, and full of eagerness and joy; while the rounded cheeks and
pouting lips were not much like the pale thin woman who now stood in the
marbled hall, claiming to be a relative of the family. Hannah never
dreamed who it was; but, accustomed to treat with respect everything
pertaining to the governor, she opened the door of the little
reception-room, and asked the lady to go in.

"I'll send you Mrs. Dobson the housekeeper," she said; and Ethie heard
her shuffling tread as she disappeared through the hall and down the
stairs to the regions where Mrs. Dobson reigned.

Ethelyn was a little afraid of that dignitary; something in the
atmosphere of the house made her afraid of everything, inspiring her as
it did with the feeling that she had no business there--that she was a
trespasser, a spy, whom Mrs. Dobson would be justified in turning from
the door. But Mrs. Dobson meditated no such act. She was a quiet,
inoffensive, unsuspicious, personage, believing wholly in Governor
Markham and everything pertaining to him. She was canning fruit when
Hannah came with the message that some of the governor's kin had come
from the East, and remembering to have heard that Richard once had an
uncle somewhere in Massachusetts, she had no doubt that this was a
daughter of the old gentleman and a cousin of Richard's, especially as
Hannah described the stranger as youngish and tolerably good-looking.
She had no thought that it was the runaway wife, of whom she knew more
than Hannah, else she would surely have dropped the Spencer jar she was
filling and burned her fingers worse than she did, trying to crowd in
the refractory cover, which persisted in tipping up sideways and all
ways but the right way.

"Some of his kin. Pity they are gone. What shall we do with her?" she
said, as she finally pushed the cover to its place and blew the thumb
she had burned badly.

"Maybe she don't mean to stay long; she didn't bring no baggage," Hannah
said, and thus reassured, Mrs. Dobson rolled down her sleeves and tying
on a clean apron, started for the reception-room, where Ethie sat like
one stupefied, or one who walks in a dream from which he tries in
vain to waken.

This house, as far as she could judge, was not like that home on the
prairie where her first married days were spent. Everything here was
luxurious and grand and in such perfect taste. It seemed a princely
home, and Ethie experienced more than one bitter pang of regret that by
her own act she had in all probability cut herself off from any part or
lot in this earthly paradise.

"I deserve it, but it is very hard to bear," she thought, just as Mrs.
Dobson appeared and bowing respectfully, began:

"Hannah tells me you are kin to the governor's folks,--his cousin, I
reckon--and I am so sorry they are all, gone, and will be yet for some
weeks. The governor is at a water cure down East--strange you didn't
hear of it--and t'other Mr. Markham has gone with his wife to Olney,
and St. Paul, and dear knows where. Too bad, ain't it? But maybe you'll
stay a day or two and rest? We'll make you as comfortable as we can. You
look about beat out," and Mrs. Dobson came nearer to Ethelyn, whose face
and lips were white as ashes, and whose eyes looked almost black with
her excitement.

She was very tired. The rapid journey, made without rest or food
either, save the cup of tea and cracker she tried to swallow, was
beginning to tell upon her, and while Mrs. Dobson was speaking she felt
stealing over her the giddiness which she knew was a precursor
to fainting.

"I am tired and heated," she gasped. "I could not sleep at the hotel or
eat, either. I will stay a day and rest, if you please. Rich--Governor
Markham will not care; I was traveling this way, and thought I would
call. I have heard so much about his house."

She felt constrained to say this by way of explanation, and Mrs. Dobson
accepted it all, warming up at once on the subject of the house--that
was her weak point; while to show strangers through the handsome rooms
was her delight. No opportunity to do this had for some time been
presented, and the good woman's face glowed with the pleasure she
anticipated from showing the governor's cousin his house and grounds.
But first the lady must have some dinner, and bidding her lay aside her
bonnet and shawl and make herself at home, she hurried back to the
kitchen and dispatched Hannah for the tender lamb-chop she was going to
broil, as that was something easily cooked, and the poor girl seemed so
tired and feeble.

"She looks like the Markhams, or like somebody I've seen," she said,
never dreaming of finding the familiar resemblance to "somebody she had
seen" in the picture hanging in Richard's room.

What she would have done had she known who the stranger was is doubtful.
Fortunately she did not know; but being hospitably inclined, and feeling
anxious to show the governor's Eastern relatives how grand and nice they
were, she broiled the tender lamb, and made the fragrant coffee, and
laid the table in the cozy breakfast-room, and put on the little silver
set, and then conducted her visitor out to dinner, helping her herself,
and leaving the room with the injunction to ring if she wanted anything,
as Hannah was within hearing. Terribly bewildered and puzzled with
regard to her own identity, Ethie sat down to Richard's table, in
Richard's house, and partook of Richard's food, with a strange feeling
of quiet, and a constantly increasing sensation of numbness and
bewilderment. Access to the house had been easier than she fancied; but
she could not help feeling that she had no right to be there, no claim
on Richard's hospitality. Certainly she had none, if what she had heard
at Clifton were true. But was it? There was some doubt creeping into her
mind, though why Richard should wish to build so large and so fine a
house just for himself alone she could not understand. She never guessed
how every part of that dwelling had been planned with a direct reference
to her and her tastes; that not a curtain, or a carpet, or a picture had
been purchased without Melinda's having said she believed Ethie would
approve it. Every stone, and plank and tack, and nail had in it a
thought of the Ethie whose coming back had been speculated upon and
planned in so many different ways, but never in this way--never just as
it had finally occurred, with Richard gone, and no one there to welcome
her, save the servants in the kitchen, who, while she ate her solitary
dinner, feeling more desolate and wretched than she had ever before felt
in her life, wondered who she was, and how far they ought to go with
their attentions and civilities. They were not suspicious, but took her
for what she professed to be--a Markham, and a near connection of the
governor; and as that stamped her somebody, they were inclined to be
very civil, feeling sure that Mrs. James would heartily approve their
course. She had rung no bell for Hannah; but they knew her dinner was
over, for they heard her as she went back into the reception-room, where
Mrs. Dobson ere long joined her, and asked if she would like to see
the house.

"It's the only thing we can amuse you with, unless you are fond of
music. Maybe you are," and Mrs. Dobson led the way to a little
music-room, where, in the recess of a bow window a closed piano
was standing.

At first Ethelyn did not observe it closely; but when the housekeeper
opened it, and pushing back the heavy drapery, disclosed it fully to
view, Ethie started forward with a sudden cry of wonder and surprise,
while her face was deathly pale, and the fingers which came down with a
crash upon the keys shook violently, for she knew it was her old
instrument standing there before her--the one she had sold to procure
money for her flight. Richard must have bought it back; for her sake,
too, or rather for the sake of what she once was to him, not what
she was now.

"Play, won't you?" Mrs. Dobson said. But Ethie could not then have
touched a note. The faintest tone of that instrument would have maddened
her and she turned away from it with a shudder, while the rather
talkative Mrs. Dobson continued: "It's an old piano, I believe, that
belonged to the first Mrs. Markham. There's to be a new one bought for
the other Mrs. Markham, I heard them say."

Ethie's hands were tightly locked together now, and her teeth shut so
tightly over her lips that the thin skin was broken, and a drop of blood
showed upon the pale surface; but in so doing she kept back a cry of
anguish which leaped up from her heart at Mrs. Dobson's words. The
"first Mrs. Markham," that was herself, while the "other Mrs. Markham"
meant, of course, her rival--the bride about whom she had heard at
Clifton. She did not think of Melinda as being a part of that household,
"and the other Mrs. Markham," for whom the new piano was to be
purchased--she thought of nothing but herself, and her own
blighted hopes.

"Does the governor know for certain that his first wife is dead?" she
asked, at last, and Mrs. Dobson replied:

"He believes so, yes. It's five years since he heard a word. Of course
she's dead. She must have been a pretty creature. Her picture is in the
governor's room. Come, I will show it to you."

Mrs. Dobson had left her glasses in the kitchen, so she did not notice
the white, stony face, so startling in its expression, as her visitor
followed her on up the broad staircase into the spacious hall above, and
on still further, till they came to the door of Richard's room, which
Hannah had left open. Then for a moment Ethelyn hesitated. It seemed
almost like a sacrilege for her feet to tread the floor of that private
room, for her breath to taint the atmosphere of a spot where the new
wife would come. But Mrs. Dobson led her on until she stood in the
center of Richard's room, surrounded by the unmistakable paraphernalia
of a man, with so many things around her to remind her of the past.
Surely, this was her own furniture; the very articles he had chosen for
the room in Camden. It was kind in Richard to keep and bring them here,
where everything was so much more elegant--kind, too, in him to redeem
her piano. It showed that for a time, at least, he had remembered her;
but alas! he had forgotten her now, when she wanted his love so much.
There were great blurring tears in her eyes, and she could not
distinctly see the picture on the walk which Mrs. Dobson said was the
first Mrs. Markham, asking if she was not a beauty.

"Rather pretty, yes," Ethie said, making a great effort to speak
naturally, and adding after a moment: "I suppose it will be taken down
when the other Mrs. Markham comes."

In Mrs. Dobson's mind the other Mrs. Markham only meant Melinda, and she
replied:

"Why should it? She knows it is here. She knew the other lady and liked
her, too."

"She knew me? Who can it be?" Ethie asked herself, remembering that the
name she had heard at Clifton was a strange one to her.

"This, now, is the very handsomest part of the whole house," Mrs. Dobson
said, throwing open a door which led from Richard's room into a suite of
apartments which, to Ethie's bewildered gaze, seemed more like fairyland
than anything real she had ever seen. "This the governor fitted up
expressly for his wife and I'm told he spent more money here than in all
the upper rooms. Did you ever see handsomer lace? He sent to New York
for them," she said, lifting up one of the exquisitely wrought curtains
festooned across the arch which divided the boudoir from the large
sleeping room beyond. "This I call the bridal chamber," she continued,
stepping into the room where everything was so pure and white. "But,
bless me, I forgot that I put on a lot of bottles to heat: I'll venture
they are every one of them shivered to atoms. Hannah is so careless.
Excuse me, will you, and entertain yourself a while. I reckon you can
find your way back to the parlor."

Ethelyn wanted nothing so much as to be left alone and free to indulge
in the emotions which were fast getting the mastery of her. Covering her
face with her hands, as the door closed after Mrs. Dobson, she sat for a
moment bereft of the power to think or feel. Then, as things became more
real, as great throbs of heat and pain went tearing through her temples,
she remembered that she was in Richard's house, up in the room which
Mrs. Dobson had termed the bridal chamber, the apartments which had been
fitted up for Richard's bride, whoever she might be.

"I never counted on this," she whispered, as she paced up and down the
range of rooms, from the little parlor or boudoir to the dressing room
beyond the bedroom, and the little conservatory at the side, where the
choicest of plants were in blossom, and where the dampness was so cool
to her burning brow.

It did not strike her as strange that Richard should have thought of all
this, nor did she wonder whose taste had aided him in making such a
home. She did not wonder at anything except at herself, who had missed
so much and fallen into such depths of woe.

"Oh, Richard!" she sighed, as she went back to the bridal chamber. "You
would pity me now, and forgive me, too, if you knew what I am suffering
here in your home, which can never, never be mine!"

She was standing now near the low window, taking in the effect of her
surroundings, from the white ground carpet covered with brilliant
bouquets, to the unrumpled, snowy bed which looked so deliciously cool
and inviting and seemed beckoning the poor, tired woman to its embrace.
And Ethie yielded at last to the silent invitation, forgetting
everything save how tired, and sorry, and fever-smitten she was, and how
heavy her swollen eyelids were with tears unshed, and the many nights
she had not slept. Ethie's cheeks were turning crimson, and her pulse
throbbing rapidly as, loosing her long, beautiful hair, which of all her
girlish beauty remained unimpaired, and putting off her little gaiters,
she lay down upon the snowy bed, and pressing her aching head upon the
pillows, whispered softly to her other self--the Ethelyn Grant she used
to know in Chicopee, when a little twelve-year-old girl she fled from
the maddened cow and met the tall young man from the West.

"Governor Markham they call him now," she said, "and I am Mrs.
Governor," and a wild laugh broke the stillness of the rooms kept so
sacred until now.

In the hall below Hannah overheard the laugh, and mounting the stairs
cast one frightened glance into the chamber where a tossing, moaning
figure lay upon the bed, with masses of brown hair falling about the
face and floating over the pillows.

Good Mrs. Dobson dropped one of the jars she was filling when Hannah
came with her strange tale, and leaving the scalding mass of pulp and
juice upon the floor, she hastened up the stairs, and with as stern a
voice as it was possible for her to assume, demanded of Ethelyn what she
was doing there. But Ethie only whispered on to herself of divorces, and
governors' wives-elect, and bridal chambers where she could rest so
nicely. Mrs. Dobson and Mrs. Dobson's ire were nothing to her, and the
good woman's wrath changed to pity as she met the bright, restless eyes,
and felt the burning hands which she held for a moment in her own. It
was a pretty little hand--soft and white and small almost as a child's.
There was a ring upon the left hand, too; a marriage ring, Mrs. Dobson
guessed, wondering now more than ever who the stranger was that had thus
boldly taker possession of a room where none but the family ever came.

"She is married, it would seem," she said to Hannah, and then, as
Richard's name dropped from Ethelyn's lips, she looked curiously at the
flushed face so ghastly white, save where spots of crimson colored the
cheeks, and at the mass of hair which Ethie had pushed up and off from
the forehead it seemed to oppress with its weight.

"Go, bring me some ice-water from the cellar," Mrs. Dobson said to
Hannah, who hurried away on the errand, while the housekeeper, left to
herself, bent nearer to Ethelyn and closely scrutinized her face; then
stepping to Richard's room, she examined the picture on the wall, where
the hair was brushed back and the lips were parted like the lips and
hair in that other room where the stranger was.

Mrs. Dobson was a good deal alarmed--"set back," as she afterward
expressed it when telling the story to Melinda--and her knees fairly
knocked together as she returned to the sick-room, and bending again
over the stranger asked, "Is your name Ethelyn?"

For an instant there was a look of consciousness in the brown eyes, and
Ethie whispered faintly:

"Don't tell him. Don't send me away. Let me stay here and die; it won't
be long, and this pillow is so nice."

She was wandering again, and satisfied that her surmises were correct,
Mrs. Dobson lifted her gently up, and to the great surprise of Hannah,
who had returned with the ice, began removing the heavy dress and the
skirts so much in the way.

"Bring some of Mrs. Markham's night-clothes, and ask me no questions,"
she said to the astonished girl, who silently obeyed her, and then
assisted while Ethelyn was arrayed in Melinda's night-gown and made more
comfortable and easy than she could be in her own tight-fitting dress.

"Take this to the telegraph office," was Mrs. Dobson's next order, after
she had been a few moments in the library, and Hannah obeyed, reading
as she ran:

     "DAVENPORT, August--.
     "To MRS. JAMES MARKHAM, Olney:

     "There's a strange woman sick here. Please come
     home. "ELINOR DOBSON."

The way was open for the dispatch, and in less than half an hour the
operator at Olney was writing out the message which would take Melinda
back to Davenport as fast as steam could carry her.



CHAPTER XXXVII

AT HOME

Mrs. James Markham had spent a few weeks with a party of Davenport
friends in St. Paul and vicinity, but she was now at home in Olney with
her mother, whom she helped with the ironing that morning, showing a
quickness and dexterity in the doing up of Tim's shirts and best table
linen which proved that, although a "mighty fine lady," as some of the
Olneyites termed her, she had neither forgotten nor was above working in
the kitchen when the occasion required. The day's ironing was over now,
and refreshed with a bath and a half-hour's sleep after it, she sat
under the shadow of the tall trees, arrayed in her white marseilles,
which, being gored, made her look, as unsophisticated Andy thought, most
too slim and flat. Andy himself was over at the Joneses that afternoon,
and, down upon all fours, was playing bear with baby Ethelyn, who
shouted and screamed with delight at the antics of her childish uncle.
Mrs. James was not contemplating a return to Davenport for three or four
weeks; indeed, ever since the letter received from Clifton with regard
to Richard's sickness, she had been seriously meditating a flying visit
to the invalid, who she knew would be glad to see her. It must be very
desolate for him there alone, she said; and then her thoughts went after
the wanderer whom they had long since ceased to talk about, much less
than to expect back again. Melinda was sadly thinking of her, and
speculating as to what her fate had been, when down the road from the
village came the little messenger boy, who always made one's heart beat
so fast when he handed out his missive. He had one now, and he brought
it to Melinda, who, thinking of her husband, gone to Denver City, felt
a thrill of fear lest something had befallen him. But no; the dispatch
came from Davenport, from Mrs. Dobson herself, and read that a strange
woman lay very sick in the house.

"A strange woman," that was all, but it made Melinda's heart leap up
into her throat at the bare possibility as to who the strange woman
might be. Andy was standing by her now reading the message, and Melinda
knew by the flush upon his face, and the drops of perspiration which
started out so suddenly around his mouth, that he, too, shared her
suspicions. But not a word was spoken by either upon the subject
agitating them so powerfully. Melinda only said, "I must go home at
once--in the next train if possible," while Andy rejoined, "I am going
with you."

Melinda knew why he was going, and when at last they were on the way,
the sight of his honest-speaking face, glowing all over with eagerness
and joyful anticipations, kept her own spirits up, and made what she so
greatly hoped for seem absolutely certain. It was morning when they
arrived, and were driven rapidly through the streets toward home. The
house seemed very quiet; every window and shutter, so far as they could
see, was closed, and both experienced a terrible fear lest "the strange
woman" was gone. They could not wait for Hannah to open the door, and so
they went round to the basement, surprising Mrs. Dobson as she bent over
the fire, stirring the basin of gruel she was preparing for her patient.
"The strange woman" was not gone. She was raving mad, Mrs. Dobson said,
and talked the queerest things. "I've had the doctor, just as I knew you
would have done, had you been here," she said, "and he pronounced it
brain fever, brought on by fatigue, and some great excitement or
worriment. 'Pears like she thought she was divorced, or somebody was
divorced, for she was talking about it, and showing the ring on her
fourth finger. I hope Governor Markham won't mind it. 'Twas none of my
doings. She went there herself, and I first found her in the bed in that
room where nobody ever slept--the bride's room, I call it, you know."

"Is she there?" Melinda asked, in amazement, while Andy, who had been
standing near the door which led up to the next floor, disappeared up
the stairs, leaving the women alone.

He knew the way to the room designated, and went hurrying on until he
reached the door, and there he paused, his flesh creeping with the
intensity of his excitement, and his whole being pervaded with a
crushing sense of eager expectancy. He had not put into words what or
whom he expected to find on the other side of the door he hardly dared
to open. He only knew he should be terribly disappointed if his
conjectures proved wrong, and a smothered prayer rose to his lips, "God
grant it may be the she I mean."

The she he meant was sleeping now. The brown head which rolled so
restlessly all night was lying quietly upon the pillows, the burning
cheek resting upon one hand, and the mass of long, bright hair tucked
back under one of Mrs. Dobson's own nightcaps, that lady having sought
in vain for such an article among her mistress' wardrobe. She did not
hear Andy as he stepped softly across the floor to the bedside. Bending
cautiously above her, he hesitated a moment, while a great throb of
disappointment ran through his veins. Surely that was not Ethie, with
the hollow cheeks and the disfiguring frill around her face, giving her
more the look of the new and stylish nurse Melinda had got from
Chicago--the woman who wore a cap in place of a bonnet, and jabbered
half the time in some foreign tongue, which Melinda said was French. The
room was very dark, and Andy pushed back a blind, letting in such a
flood of light that the sleeper started, and moaned, and turned herself
upon the pillow, while with a gasping, sobbing cry, Andy fell upon his
knees, and with clasped hands and streaming eyes, exclaimed:

"I thank Thee, Father of mercies, more than I can tell, for it is
Ethie--it is Ethie--it is Ethie, our own darling Ethie, come back to us
again; and now, dear Lord, bring old Dick home at once, and let us have
a time of it."

Ethie's eyes were opened and fixed inquiringly upon Andy. Something in
his voice and manner must have penetrated through the mists of delirium
clouding her brain, for the glimmer of a smile played round her lips,
and her hands moved slowly toward him; then they went back again to her
throat and tugged at the nightcap strings which good Mrs. Dobson had
tied in a hard knot by way of keeping the cap upon the refractory head.
Ethie did not fancy the cap any more than Andy, who, guessing her
wishes, lent his own assistance to the untying of the strings.

"You don't like the pesky thing on your head, making you look so like a
scarecrow, do you?" he said gently, as with a jerk he broke the strings
and then threw the discarded cap upon the floor.

Ethie seemed to know him for a moment, and, "Kiss me, Andy," came feebly
from her lips. Winding his arms about her, Andy did kiss her many times,
while his tears dropped upon her face and moistened the long hair,
which, relieved from its confinement, fell in dark masses about her
face, making her look more like the Ethelyn of old than she had
at first.

"Was there a divorce?" she whispered, and Andy, in great perplexity, was
wondering what she meant, when Melinda's step came along the hall, and
Melinda entered the room together with Mrs. Dobson.

"It's she--herself! It's our own Ethie!" Andy exclaimed, standing back a
little from the bed, but still holding the feverish hand which had
grasped his so firmly, as if in that touch alone was rest and security.

"I thought so," and with a satisfied nod Mrs. Dobson put down her bowl
of gruel and went down to communicate the startling news to Hannah, who
nearly lost her senses in the first moment of surprise.

"Do you know me, Ethie?" Melinda asked, but in the bright, rolling eyes
there was no ray of reason; only the lip quivered slightly, and Ethie
said so sadly, so beseechingly, "Don't send me away, when I am so tired
and sorry."

She seemed to have a vague idea where she was and who was with her,
clinging closer to Andy, as if surest of him, and once when he bent
over her, she suddenly wound her arms around his neck and whispered,
"Don't leave me--it's nice to know you are with me; and don't let them
put that dreadful thing on my head again. Aunt Van Buren said I was a
fright. Will Richard think so, too?"

This was the only time she mentioned her husband, though she talked of
Clifton and Mrs. Pry, and the story of the divorce, and the dear little
chapel where she said God always came, bidding Andy kneel down and pray
just as they were doing there when the summer day drew to a close.

"We must send for Dick," Andy said; "but don't let's tell the whole;
let's leave something to his imagination;" and so the telegram which
went to Governor Markham read simply: "Come home immediately. Don't wait
for a single train."

Richard had heard of Miss Bigelow's sudden departure, and had been
surprised to find how much he missed the light footsteps and the
rustling sound which had come from No. 101. He was a good deal
interested in Miss Bigelow, and when Mary told him of her leaving so
unexpectedly and appearing so excited, there had for a moment flashed
over him the wild thought, "Could it be?" No, it could not, he said; but
he questioned Mary as to the appearance of the lady in No. 101. "Was she
very handsome, with full, rosy cheeks, and eyes of chestnut brown?"

"She was rather pretty," Mary said; "but her face was thin and pale, and
her eyes, she guessed, were black."

It was not Ethie, then--Richard had never believed it was--but he felt
sorry that she was gone, whoever she might be, and Clifton was not so
pleasant to him now as it had been at first. He was much better, and had
been once to the chapel, when up the three flights of stairs Perry came
and along the hall till he stopped at Room No. 102. There was a telegram
for Richard, who took it with trembling hands and read it with a blur
before his eyes and something at his heart like a blow, but which was
born of a sudden hope that, after many days and months and years of
waiting, God had deigned to be merciful. But only for a brief moment did
this hope buoy him up. It could not be, he said; and yet, as he made his
hasty preparations for his journey, he found the possibility constantly
recurring to his mind, while the nearer he came to Davenport the more
probable it seemed, and the more impatient he grew at every little
delay. There were several upon the road, and once, only fifty miles from
home, there was a detention of four hours. But the long train moved at
last, and just as the sun was setting the cars stopped in the Davenport
depot, and as the passengers alighted the loungers whispered to each
other, "Governor Markham has come home."



CHAPTER XXXVIII

RICHARD AND ETHELYN

Arrived at Davenport, and so near his home that he could discern its
roofs and chimneys, the hope which had kept Richard up all through his
rapid journey began to give way, and he hardly knew what or whom he
expected to find, as he went up the steps to his house and rang the door
bell. Certainly not Andy--he had not thought of him--and his pulse
quickened with a feeling of eagerness and hope renewed when he caught
sight of his brother's beaming face and felt the pressure of his broad
hand. In his delight Andy kissed his brother two or three times during
the interval it took to get him through the hall into the reception
room, where they were alone. Arrived there, Andy fell to capering across
the floor, while Richard looked on, puzzled to decide whether his weak
brother had gone wholly daft or not. Recollecting himself at last, and
assuming a more sober attitude, Andy came close to him and whispered:

"Dick, you ought to be thankful, so thankful and glad that God has been
kind at last and heard our prayers, just as I always told you he would.
Guess who is upstairs, ravin' crazy by spells, and quiet as a Maltese
kitten the rest of the time? I'll bet, though, you'll never guess, it
is so strange? Try, now--who do you think it is?"

"Ethelyn," came in a whisper from Richard's lips, and rather
crestfallen, the simple Andy said, "Somebody told you, I know; but you
are right. Ethie is here--came when we all was gone--said she was a
connection of yourn, and so Miss Dobson let her in, and treated her up,
and showed her the house, and left her in them rooms you fixed a purpose
for her. You see Miss Dobson had some truck she was canning, and she
stayed downstairs so long that when she went back she found Ethie had
taken possession of that bed where nobody ever slept, and was burnin' up
with fever and talkin' the queerest kind of talk about divorces, and all
that, and there was something in her face made Miss Dobson mistrust who
she was, and she telegraphed for Melinda and me--or rather for
Melinda--and I came out with her, for I knew in a minit who the strange
woman was. But she won't know you, Dick. She don't know me, though she
lays her head on my arm and snugs up to me awful neat. Will you go now
to see her?"

The question was superfluous, for Richard was halfway up the stairs,
followed close by Andy, who went with him to the door of Ethie's room,
and then stood back, thinking it best for Richard to go in alone.

Ethelyn was asleep, and Melinda sat watching her. She knew it was
Richard who came in, for she had heard his voice in the hall, and
greeting him quickly, arose and left the room, whispering: "If she
wakes, don't startle her. Probably she will not know you."

Then she went out, and Richard was alone with the wife he had not seen
for more than five weary years. It was very dark in the room, and it
took him a moment to accustom himself to the light enough to discover
the figure lying so still before him, the pale eyelids closed, and the
long eyelashes resting upon the crimson cheek. The lips and forehead
were very white, but the rest of the face was purple with fever, and as
that gave the cheeks a fuller, rounder look, she did not at first seem
greatly changed, but looked much as she did the time he came from
Washington and found her so low. The long hair which Andy would not have
confined in a cap was pushed back from her brow, and lay in tangled
masses upon the pillow, while her hands were folded one within the other
and rested outside the covering. And Richard touched her hands
first--the little, soft, white hands he used to think so pretty, and
which he now kissed so softly as he knelt by the bedside and tried to
look closely into Ethie's face.

"My poor, sick darling, God knows how glad I am to have you back," he
murmured, and his tears dropped like rain upon the hands he pressed so
gently. Then softly caressing the pale forehead, his fingers threaded
the mass of tangled hair, and his lips touched the hot, burning ones
which quivered for a moment, and then said, brokenly:

"A dream--all a dream. I've had it so many times."

She was waking, and Richard drew back a step or two, while the bright,
restless eyes moved round the room as if in quest of someone.

"It's very dark," she said, and turning one of the shutters Richard came
back and stood just where the light would fall upon his face as it
did on hers.

He saw now how changed she was; but she was none the less dear to him
for that, and he spoke to her very tenderly:

"Ethie, darling, don't you know me? I am Richard, your husband, and I am
so glad to get you back."

There did seem to be a moment's consciousness, for there crept into the
eyes a startled, anxious look as they scanned Richard's face; then the
lip quivered again, and Ethie said pleadingly:

"Don't send me away. I am so tired, and the road was so long. I thought
I would never get here. Let me stay. I shall not be bad any more."

Then, unmindful of consequences, Richard gathered her in his arms, and
held her there an instant in a passionate embrace, which left her pale
and panting, but seemed to reassure her, for when he would have laid her
back upon the pillow, she said to him, "No, not there--on your arm--so.
Yes, that's nice," and an expression of intense satisfaction stole into
her face as she nestled her head close to Richard's bosom, and, closing
her eyes, seemed to sleep again. And Richard held her thus, forgetting
his own fatigue, and refusing to give up his post either to Andy or
Melinda, both of whom ventured in at last, and tried to make him take
some refreshment and rest.

"I am not hungry," he said, "and it is rest enough to be with Ethelyn."

Much he wondered where she had come from, and Melinda repeated all
Ethelyn had said which would throw any light upon the subject.

"She has talked of the Nile, and St. Petersburg, and the Hellespont, and
the ship which was bringing her to Richard, and of Chicopee, but it was
difficult telling how much was real," Melinda said, adding, "She talked
of Clifton, too; and were it possible, I should say she came direct from
there, but that could not be. You would have known if she had been
there. What was the number of your room?"

"102," Richard replied, a new revelation dawning upon him, while Melinda
rejoined:

"That is the number she talks about--that and 101. Can it be that she
was there?"

Richard was certain of it. The Miss Bigelow who had interested him so
much lay there in his arms, his own wife, who was, if possible, tenfold
dearer to him now than when he first held her as his bride. He knew she
was very sick, but she would not die, he said to himself. God had not
restored her to him just to take her away again, and make his desolation
more desolate. Ethie would live. And surely if love, and nursing, and
tender care were of any avail to save the life which at times seemed
fluttering on the very verge of the grave, Ethelyn would live. Nothing
was spared which could avail to save her, and even the physician, who
had all along done what he could, seemed to redouble his efforts when he
ascertained who his patient was.

Great was the surprise, and numerous the remarks and surmises of the
citizens, when it was whispered abroad that the strange woman lying so
sick in the governor's house was no other than the governor's wife,
about whom the people had speculated so much. Nor was it long ere the
news went to Camden, stirring up the people there, and bringing Mrs.
Miller at once to Davenport, where she stayed at a hotel until such time
as she could be admitted to Ethelyn's presence.

Mrs. Markham, senior, was washing windows when Tim Jones brought her the
letter bearing the Davenport postmark. Melinda had purposely abstained
from writing home until Richard came; and so the letter was in his
handwriting, which his mother recognized at once.

"Why, it's from Richard!" she exclaimed. "I thought he wouldn't stay
long at Clifton. I never did believe in swashin' all the time. A bath in
the tin washbasin does me very well," and the good woman wiped her
window leisurely, and even put it back and fastened the side-slat in its
place before she sat down to see what Richard had written.

Tim knew what he had written, for in his hat was another letter from
Melinda, for his mother, which he had opened, his feet going off into a
kind of double shuffle as he read that Ethelyn had returned. She had
been very cold and proud to him; but he had admired her greatly, and
remembered her with none but kindly feelings. He was a little anxious to
know what Mrs. Markham would say, but as she was in no hurry to open her
letter, and he was in a hurry to tell his mother the good news, he bade
her good-morning, and mounting his horse, galloped away toward home.

"I hope he's told who the critter was that was took sick in the house,"
Mrs. Markham said, as she adjusted her glasses and broke the seal.

Mrs. Markham had never fainted in her life, but she came very near it
that morning, feeling some as she would if the Daisy, dead, so long, had
suddenly walked into the room and taken a seat beside her.

"I am glad for Dick," she said. "I never saw a man change as he has,
pinin' for her. I mean to be good to her, if I can," and Mrs. Markham's
sun-bonnet was bent low over Richard's letter, on which there were
traces of tears when the head was lifted up again. "I must let John
know, I never can stand it till dinner time," she said, and a shrill
blast from the tin horn, used to bring her sons to dinner, went echoing
across the prairie to the lot where John was working.

It was not a single blast, but peal upon peal, a loud, prolonged sound,
which startled John greatly, especially as he knew by the sun that it
could not be twelve o'clock.

"Blows as if somebody was in a fit," he said, as he took long and rapid
strides toward the farmhouse.

His mother met him in the lane, letter in hand, and her face white with
excitement as she said below her breath:

"John, John, oh! John, she's come. She's there at Richard's--sick with
the fever, and crazy; and Richard is so glad. Read what he says."

She did not say who had come, but John knew, and his eyes were dim with
tears as he took the letter from his mother's hand, and read it, walking
beside her to the house.

"I presume they doctor her that silly fashion, with little pills the
size of a small pin head. Melinda is so set in her way. She ought to
have some good French brandy if they want to save her. I'd better go
myself and see to it," Mrs. Markham said, after they had reached the
house, and John, at her request, had read the letter aloud.

John did not quite fancy his mother's going, particularly as Richard had
said nothing about it, but Mrs. Markham was determined.

"It was a good way to make it up with Ethelyn, to be there when she come
to," she thought, and so, leaving her house-cleaning to itself, and John
to his bread and milk, of which he never tired, she packed a little
traveling bag, and taking with her a bottle of brandy, started on the
next train for Davenport, where she had never been.

Aunt Barbara was not cleaning house. She was cutting dried caraway seed
in the garden, and thinking of Ethie, wondering why she did not write,
and hoping that when she did she would say that she had talked with
Richard, and made the matter up. Ever since hearing that he was at
Clifton, in the next room to Ethie, Aunt Barbara had counted upon a
speedy reconciliation, and done many things with a direct reference to
that reconciliation. The best chamber was kept constantly aired, with
bouquets of flowers in it, in case the happy pair, "as good as just
married," should come suddenly upon her. Ethie's favorite loaf cake was
constantly kept on hand, and when Betty suggested that they should let
Uncle Billy cut down that caraway seed, "and heave it away," the good
soul objected, thinking there was no telling what would happen, and it
was well enough to save such things as anise and caraway. So, in her big
cape bonnet, she was cutting her branches of herbs, when Charlie Howard
looked over the garden gate with "Got a letter for you."

"It ain't from her. It's from--why, it's from Richard, and he is in
Davenport," Aunt Barbara exclaimed, as she sat down in a garden chair to
read the letter which was not from Ethie.

Richard did not say directly to her that she must come, but Aunt Barbara
felt an innate conviction that her presence would not be disagreeable,
even if Ethie lived, while "if she died," and Aunt Barbara's heart gave
a great throb as she thought it, "if Ethie died she must be there," and
so her trunk was packed for the third time in Ethie's behalf, and the
next day's train from Boston carried the good woman on her way to
Davenport.



CHAPTER XXXIX

RECONCILIATION

There had been a succession of rainy days in Davenport--dark, rainy
days, which added to the gloom hanging over that house where they
watched so intently by Ethie's side, trembling lest the life they prayed
for so earnestly might go out at any moment, so high the fever ran, and
so wild and restless the patient grew. The friends were all there
now--James, and John, and Andy, and Aunt Barbara, with Mrs. Markham,
senior, who, at first, felt a little worried, lest her son should be
eaten out of house and home, especially as Melinda manifested no
disposition to stint the table of any of their accustomed luxuries. As
housekeeper, Mrs. Dobson was a little inclined at first to stand in awe
of the governor's mother, and so offered no remonstrance when the tea
grounds from supper were carefully saved to be boiled up for breakfast,
as both Melinda and Aunt Barbara preferred tea to coffee, but when it
came to a mackerel and a half for seven people, and four of them men,
Mrs. Dobson demurred, and Melinda's opinion in requisition, the result
was that three fishes, instead of one and a half smoked upon the
breakfast table next morning, together with toast and mutton-chops.
After that Mrs. Markham gave up the contest with a groan, saying, "they
might go to destruction their own way, for all of her."

Where Ethelyn was concerned, however, she showed no stint. Nothing was
too good for her, no expense too great, and next to Richard and Andy,
she seemed more anxious, more interested than anyone for the sick girl
who lay so insensible of all that was passing around her, save at brief
intervals when she seemed for an instant to realize where she was, for
her eyes would flash about the room with a frightened, startled look,
and then seek Richard's face with a wistful, pleading expression, as if
asking not to cast her off, not to send her back into the dreary world
where she had wandered so long alone. The sight of so many seemed to
worry her, for she often talked of the crowd at the Clifton depot,
saying they took her breath away; and once, drawing Andy's face down to
her, she whispered to him, "Send them back to the Cure, all but his
royal highness"--pointing to Richard--"and Anna, the prophetess, she
can stay."

This was Aunt Barbara, to whom Ethelyn clung as a child to its mother,
missing her the moment she left the room, and growing quiet as soon as
she returned. It was the same with Richard. She seemed to know when he
quitted her side, and her eyes watched the door eagerly till he came
back to her again. At the doctor's suggestion, all were at last banished
from the sick-room except Aunt Barbara, and Richard, and Nick Bottom, as
she persisted in calling poor Andy, who was terribly perplexed to know
whether he was complimented or not, and who eventually took to studying
Shakspere to find out who Bottom was. Those were trying days to Richard,
who rarely left Ethie's bedside, except when it was absolutely
necessary. She was more quiet with him, and would sometimes sleep for
hours upon his arm, with one hand clasped in Aunt Barbara's, and the
other held by Andy. At other times, when the fever was on, no arm
availed to hold her as she tossed from side to side, talking of things
at which a stranger would have marveled, and which made Richard's heart
ache to its very core. At times she was a girl in Chicopee, and all the
past as connected with Frank Van Buren was lived over again; then she
would talk of Richard, and shudder as she recalled the dreary, dreadful
day when the honeysuckles were in blossom, and he came to make her
his wife.

"It was wrong, all wrong. I did not love him then," she said, "nor
afterward, on the prairie, nor anywhere, until I went away, and found
what it was to live without him."

"And do you love him now?" Richard asked her once when he sat alone with
her.

There was no hesitancy on her part, no waiting to make up an answer. It
was ready on her lips, "Yes, oh, yes!" and the weak arms lifted
themselves up and were wound around his neck with a pressure almost
stifling. How much of this was real Richard could not tell, but he
accepted it as such, and waited impatiently for the day when the full
light of reason should return and Ethie be restored to him. There was
but little of her past life which he did not learn from her ravings, and
so there was less for her to tell him when at last the fever abated, and
his eyes met hers with a knowing, rational expression. Andy was alone
with her when the change first came. The rain, which had fallen so
steadily, was over, and out upon the river the sunlight was softly
falling. At Andy's earnest entreaty, Richard had gone for a little
exercise in the open air, and was walking slowly up and down the broad
piazza, while Aunt Barbara slept, and Andy kept his vigils by Ethelyn.
She, too, was sleeping quietly, and Andy saw the great drops of
perspiration standing upon her brow and beneath her hair. He knew it was
a good omen, and on his knees by the bedside, with his face in his
hands, he prayed aloud, thanking God for restoring Ethelyn to them, and
asking that they might all be taught just how to make her happy. A faint
sound between a moan and a sob roused him and, looking up, he saw the
great tears rolling down Ethie's cheeks, while her lips moved as if they
would speak to him.

"Andy, dear old Andy! is it you, and are you glad to have me back?" she
said, and then all Andy's pent-up feelings found vent in a storm of
tears and passionate protestations of love and tenderness for his
darling sister.

She remembered how she came there, and seemed to understand why Andy was
there, too; but the rest was a little confused. Was Aunt Barbara there,
or had she only dreamed it?

"Aunt Barbara is here," Andy said, and then, with the same frightened,
anxious look her face had so often worn during her illness, Ethie said:
"Somebody else has sat by me and held my head and hands, and kissed me!
Andy, tell me--was that Richard?--and did he kiss me, and is he glad
to find me?"

She was gazing fixedly at Andy, who replied: "Yes, Dick is here. He's
glad to have you back. He's kissed you more than forty times. He don't
remember nothing.''

"And the divorce, Andy--is the story true, and am I not his wife?"

"I never heard of no divorce, only what you said about one in your
tantrums. Dick would as soon have cut off his head as got such a thing,"
Andy replied.

Ethelyn knew she could rely on what Andy said, and a heartfelt "Thank
God! It is more than I deserve!" fell from her lips, just as a step was
heard in the hall.

"That's Dick,--he's coming," Andy whispered, and hastily withdrawing he
left the two alone together.

It was more than an hour before even Aunt Barbara ventured into the
room, and when she did she knew by the joy written on Richard's face and
the deep peace shining in Ethie's eyes that the reconciliation had been
complete and perfect. Every error had been confessed, every fault
forgiven, and the husband and wife stood ready now to begin the world
anew, with perfect love for and confidence in each other. Ethie had
acknowledged all her faults, the greatest of which was the giving her
hand to one from whom she withheld her heart.

"But you have that now," she said. "I can truly say that I love you far
betten than ever frank Van Buren was loved, and I know you to be worthy,
too. I have been so wicked, Richard,--so wilful and impatient,--that I
wonder you have not learned to hate my very name. I may be wilful still.
My old hot temper is not all subdued, though I hope I am a better woman
than I used to be when I cared for nothing but myself. God has been so
good to me who have forgotten Him so long; but we will serve Him
together now."

As Ethie talked she had nestled closer and closer to her husband, whose
arms encircled her form and whose face bent itself down to hers, while a
rain of tears fell upon her hair and forehead as the strong man,--the
grave Judge and the honored Governor,--confessed where he, too, had been
in fault, and craving his young wife's pardon, ascribed also to God the
praise for bringing them both to feel their dependence on Him, as well
as to see this day, the happiest of their lives.

Gradually, as she could bear it, the family came in one by one to see
her, Mrs. Markham, Sen., waiting till the very last, and refusing to go
until Ethelyn had expressed a wish to see her.

"I was pretty hard on her, I s'pose, and it would not be strange if she
laid it up against me," she said to Melinda; but Ethie had nothing
against her now.

The deep waters through which she had passed had obliterated all traces
of bitterness toward anyone, and when her mother-in-law came in she
feebly extended her hand and whispered: "I'm too tired, mother, to talk
much, but kiss me once for the sake of what we are going to be to
each other."

Mrs. Markham was not naturally a bad or a hard woman, either. She was
only unfortunate that her ideas had run in one rut so long without any
jolt to throw them out. Circumstances had greatly softened her, and
Ethie's words touched her deeply.

"I was mighty mean to you sometimes, Ethelyn, and I've been sorry for
it," she said, as she stooped to kiss her daughter-in-law, and then
hurried from the room, "Only to think, she called me mother," she said
to Melinda, to whom she reported the particulars of her interview with
Ethelyn--"me, who had been meaner than dirt to her--called me mother,
when I used to mistrust her she didn't think any more of me than if I'd
been an old squaw. I shan't forget it right away."

Perhaps the sweetest, most joyful tears Ethelyn shed that day were those
which came to her eyes when they brought her Ethelyn, her namesake, the
little three-year-old, who pushed her brown curls back from her baby
face with such a womanly air, and said:

"I'se glad to see Aunt Ethie. I prays for her ever' night. Uncle Andy
told me so. I loves you, Aunt Ethie."

She was a beautiful little creature, and her innocent prattle and
engaging manners did much toward bringing the color back to Ethie's
cheeks and the brightness to her eyes. Those days of convalescence were
blissful ones, for now there was no shadow of a cloud resting on the
domestic horizon. Between husband and wife there was perfect love, and
in his newly born happiness, Richard forgot the ailments which had sent
him an invalid to Clifton, while Ethie, surrounded by every luxury which
love could devise or money procure, and made each hour to feel how dear
she was to those from whom she had been so long estranged, grew fresh,
and young, and pretty again; so that when, early in December, Mrs. Dr.
Van Buren came to Davenport to see her niece, she found her more
beautiful far than she had been in her early girlhood, when the boyish
Frank had paid his court to her. Poor little Nettie was dead. Her life
had literally been worried out of her; and during those September days,
when Ethelyn was watched and tended so carefully, she had turned herself
wearily upon her pillow, and just as the clock was striking the hour of
midnight, asked of the attendant:

"Has Frank come yet?"

"Not yet. Do you want anything?"

"No, nothing. Is mother here?"

"She was tired out, and has gone to her room to rest. Shall I call her?"

"No, no matter. Is Ethie in her crib? Please bring her here. Never mind
if you do wake her. 'Tis the last time."

And so the little sleeping child was brought to the dying mother, who
would fain feel that something she had loved was near her in the last
hour of loneliness and anguish she would ever know. Sorrow,
disappointment, and cruel neglect had been her lot ever since she became
a wife, but at the last these had purified and made her better, and led
her to the Saviour's feet, where she laid the little child she held so
closely to her bosom, dropping her tears upon its face and pressing her
farewell kiss upon its lips. Then she put it from her, and bidding the
servant remove the light, which made her eyes ache so, turned again upon
her pillow, and folding her little, white, wasted hands upon her bosom,
said softly the prayer the Saviour taught, and then glided as softly
down the river whose tide is never backward toward the shores of time.

       *       *       *       *       *

About one Frank came home from the young men's association which he
attended so often, his head fuller of champagne and brandy than it was
of sense, and every good feeling blunted with dissipation. But the
Nettie whose pale face had been to him so constant a reproach was gone
forever, and only the lifeless form was left of what he once called his
wife. She was buried in Mount Auburn, and they made her a grander
funeral than they had given to her first-born, and then the household
want on the same as ever until Mrs. Van Buren conceived the idea of
visiting her niece, Mrs. Gov. Markham, and taking her grandchild with
her. For the sake of the name she was sure the little girl would be
welcome, as well as for the sake of the dead mother. And she was
welcome, more so even than the stately aunt, whose deep mourning robes
seemed to throw a kind of shadowy gloom over the house which she found
so handsome, and elegant, and perfectly kept that she would willingly
have spent the entire winter there. She was not invited to do this, and
some time in January she went back to her home, looking out on Boston
Common, but not until she had eaten a Christmas dinner with Mrs.
Markham, senior, at whose house the whole family were assembled on
that occasion.

There was much good cheer and merriment there, and Ethie, in her rich
crimson silk which Richard had surprised her with, was the queen of all,
her wishes deferred to, and her tastes consulted with a delicacy and
deference which no one could fail to observe. And Eunice Plympton was
there, too, waiting upon the table with Andy, who insisted upon standing
at the back of Ethie's chair, just as he had seen the waiters do in
Camden, and would have his mother ring the silver bell when anything was
wanted. It was a happy family reunion, and a meet harbinger of the
peaceful days in store for our heroine--days which came and went so
fast, until winter melted into spring, and the spring budded into
blushing summer, and the summer faded into the golden autumn, and the
autumn floated with feathery snowflakes into the chilly winter and
December came again, bringing another meeting of the Markhams. But this
time it was at the governor's house in Davenport, and another was added
to the number--a pretty little waxen thing, which all through the
elaborate dinner slept quietly in its crib, and then in the evening,
when the gas was lighted in the parlors, and Mr. Townsend was there in
his gown, behaved most admirably, and lay very still in its father
Richard's arms, until it was transferred from his to those of the
clergyman, who in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost
baptized it "Daisy Adelaide Grant."





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large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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