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´╗┐Title: Cousin Maude
Author: Holmes, Mary Jane, 1825-1907
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Cousin Maude" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



COUSIN MAUDE.


by

Mary J. Holmes



  To
  Morris W. Smith,

  of New Orleans,

  This story of life among the Northern
  Hills is respectfully dedicated
  by his friend
  The Author



CONTENTS

CHAPTER

     I.   DR. KENNEDY
    II.   THE JOURNEY
   III.   THE NEW HOME
    IV.   LITTLE LOUIS
     V.   MRS. JANET BLODGETT
    VI.   THE MOTHER
   VII.   PAST AND PRESENT
  VIII.   JAMES AND J.C.
    IX.   THE MILKMAN'S HEIRESS
     X.   THE ENGAGEMENT, REAL AND PROSPECTIVE
    XI.   MAUD GLENDOWER
   XII.   HOW THE ENGAGEMENTS PROSPERED
  XIII.   HAMPTON
   XIV.   THE DARK HOUR
    XV.   THE NEW MISTRESS AT LAUREL HILL
   XVI.   THE BLIND GIRL
  XVII.   NELLIE'S BRIDAL NIGHT
 XVIII.   COUSIN MAUDE
   XIX.   A SECOND BRIDAL
    XX.   THE SEXTON
   XXI.   HOME AGAIN



CHAPTER I.

DR. KENNEDY.


"If you please, marm, the man from York State is comin' afoot. Too
stingy to ride, I'll warrant," and Janet, the housekeeper,
disappeared from the parlor, just as the sound of the gate was
heard, and an unusually fine-looking middle-aged man was seen coming
up the box-lined walk which led to the cottage door.

The person thus addressed was a lady, whose face, though young and
handsome, wore a look which told of early sorrow. Matilda Remington
had been a happy, loving wife, but the old churchyard in Vernon
contained a grass-grown grave, where rested the noble heart which
had won her girlish love. And she was a widow now, a fair-haired,
blue-eyed widow, and the stranger who had so excited Janet's wrath
by walking from the depot, a distance of three miles, would claim
her as his bride ere the morrow's sun was midway in the heavens. How
the engagement happened she could not exactly tell, but happened it
had, and she was pledged to leave the vine-wreathed cottage which
Harry had built for her, and go with one of whom she knew
comparatively little.

Six months before our story opens she had spent a few days with him
at the house of a mutual friend in an adjoining State, and since
that time they had written to each other regularly, the
correspondence resulting at last in an engagement, which he had now
come to fulfill. He had never visited her before in her own home,
consequently she was wholly unacquainted with his disposition or
peculiarities. He was intelligent and refined, commanding in
appearance, and agreeable in manner whenever he chose to be, and
when he wrote to her of his home, which he said would be a second
Paradise were she its mistress, when he spoke of the little
curly-headed girl who so much needed a mother's care, and when, more than
all, he hinted that his was no beggar's fortune, she yielded; for
Matilda Remington did not dislike the luxuries which money alone can
purchase. Her own fortune was small, and as there was now no hand
save her own to provide, she often found it necessary to economize
more than she wished to do. But Dr. Kennedy was rich, and if she
married him she would escape a multitude of annoyances, so she made
herself believe that she loved him; and when she heard, as she more
than once did hear, rumors of a sad, white-faced woman to whom the
grave was a welcome rest, she said the story was false, and, shaking
her pretty head, refused to believe that there was aught in the
doctor of evil.

"To be sure, he was not at all like Harry--she could never find one
who was--but he was so tall, so dignified, so grand, so particular,
that it seemed almost like stooping, for one in his position to
think of her, and she liked him all the better for his condescension."

Thus she ever reasoned, and when Janet said that he was coming, and
she, too, heard his step upon the piazza, the bright blushes broke
over her youthful face, and casting a hurried glance at the mirror,
she hastened out to meet him.

"Matty, my dear!" he said, and his thin lips touched her glowing
cheek, but in his cold gray eye there shone no love,--no feeling,--no
heart.

He was too supremely selfish to esteem another higher than himself,
and though it flattered him to know that the young creature was so
glad to meet him, it awoke no answering chord, and he merely thought
that with her to minister to him he should possibly be happier than
he had been with her predecessor.

"You must be very tired," she said, as she led the way into the cozy
parlor. Then, seating him in the easy chair near to the open window,
she continued: "How warm you are. What made you walk this sultry
afternoon?"

"It is a maxim of mine never to ride when I can walk," said he, "for
I don't believe in humoring those omnibus drivers by paying their
exorbitant prices."

"Two shillings surely is not an exorbitant price," trembled on Mrs.
Remington's lips, but she was prevented from saying so by his asking
"if everything were in readiness for the morrow."

"Yes, everything," she replied. "The cottage is sold, and--"

"Ah, indeed, sold!" said he, interrupting her. "If I mistake not you
told me, when I met you in Rome, that it was left by will to you.
May I, as your to-morrow's husband, ask how much you received for
it?" And he unbent his dignity so far as to wind his arm around her
waist.

But the arm was involuntarily withdrawn when, with her usual
frankness, Matty replied; "I received a thousand dollars, but there
were debts to be paid, so that I had only five hundred left, and
this I made over to my daughter to be used for her education."

Dr. Kennedy did not say that he was disappointed, and as Matty was
not much of a physiognomist she did not read it in his face, and she
continued: "Janet will remain here a while, to arrange matters,
before joining me in my new home. She wished me to leave my little
girl to come with her, but I can't do that. I must have my child
with me. You've never seen her, have you? I'll call her at once."
And stepping to the door she bade Janet bring "Maude" into the
parlor.

"Maude!" How Dr. Kennedy started at the mention of a name which
drove all thoughts of the five hundred dollars from his mind. There
was feeling--passion--everything, now, in his cold gray eye, but
quickly recovering his composure, he said calmly: "Maude, Matty--Maude,
is that your child's name?"

"Why, yes," she answered laughingly. "Didn't you know it before?"

"How should I," he replied, "when in your letters you have always
called her 'daughter'? But has she no other name? She surely was not
baptized Maude?"

Ere Mrs. Remington could speak, the sound of little pattering feet
was heard in the hall without, and in a moment Maude Remington stood
before her stepfather-elect, looking, as that rather fastidious
gentleman thought, more like a wild gipsy than the child of a
civilized mother. She was a fat, chubby child, not yet five years
old; black-eyed, black-haired, black-faced, with short, thick curls,
which, damp with perspiration, stood up all over her head, giving
her a singular appearance. She had been playing in the brook, her
favorite companion, and now, with little spatters of mud ornamenting
both face and pantalets, her sun-bonnet hanging down her back, and
her hands full of pebble-stones, she stood furtively eyeing the
stranger, whose mental exclamation was: "Mercy, what a fright!"

"Maude!" exclaimed the distressed Mrs. Remington, "where have you
been? Go at once to Janet, and have your dress changed; then come
back to me."

Nothing loath to join Janet, whose company was preferable to that of
the stranger, Maude left the room, while Dr. Kennedy, turning to
Mrs. Remington, said: "She is not at all like you, my dear."

"No," answered the lady; "she is like her father in everything; the
same eyes, the same hair, and--"

She was going on to say more, when the expression of Dr. Kennedy's
face stopped her, and she began to wonder if she had displeased him.
Dr. Kennedy could talk for hours of "the late Mrs. Kennedy,"
accompanying his words with long-drawn sighs, and enumerating her
many virtues, all of which he expected to be improved upon by her
successor; but he could not bear to hear the name of Harry Remington
spoken by one who was to be his wife, and he at once changed the
subject of Maude's looks to her name, which he learned was really
Matilda. She had been called Maude, Matty said, after one who was
once a very dear friend both of herself and her husband.

"Then we will call her Matilda," said he, "as it is a maxim of mine
never to spoil children by giving them pet names."

"But you call your daughter Nellie," suggested the little widow, and
in her soft, blue eye there shone a mischievous twinkle, as if she
fancied she had beaten him with his own argument.

But if she thought to convince that most unreasonable man, she was
mistaken. What he did was no criterion for others, unless he chose
that it should be so, and he answered, "That is sister Kelsey's
idea, and as she is very fond of Nellie I do not interfere. But,
seriously, Matty, darling,"--and he drew her to his side, with an
uncommon show of fondness,--"I cannot call your daughter Maude; I
do not like the name, and it is a maxim of mine, that if a person
dislikes a name, 'tis an easy matter to dislike the one who bears
it."

Had Mrs. Remington cared less for him than she did, she might have
wondered how many more disagreeable maxims he had in store. But love
is blind, or nearly so; and when, as if to make amends for his
remarks, he caressed her with an unusual degree of tenderness, the
impulsive woman felt that she would call her daughter anything which
suited him. Accordingly, when at last Maude returned to the parlor,
with her dress changed, her curls arranged, and her dimpled cheeks
shining with the suds in which they had been washed, she was
prepared to say Matilda or whatever else pleased his capricious
fancy.

"Little girl," he said, extending his hand toward her, "little girl,
come here. I wish to talk with you."

But the little girl hung back, and when tier mother insisted upon
her going to the gentleman, asking if she did not like him, she
answered decidedly, "No, I don't like him, and he shan't be my pa,
either!"

"Maude, daughter!" exclaimed Mrs. Remington, while Dr. Kennedy,
turning slightly pale, thought "wretch!" but said, "Matilda, come
here, won't you?"

"I aint Matilda," she answered. "I won't be Matilda--I'm Maude," and
her large black eyes flashed defiantly upon him.

It was in vain that Dr. Kennedy coaxed and Mrs. Remington
threatened. Maude had taken a dislike to the stranger, and as he
persisted in calling her Matilda, she persisted in refusing to
answer, until at last, hearing Janet pass through the hall, she ran
out to her, sure of finding comfort and sympathy there.

"I am afraid I have suffered Maude to have her own way too much, and
for the future I must be more strict with her," said Mrs. Remington
apologetically; while the doctor replied, "I think, myself, a little
wholesome discipline would not be amiss. 'Tis a maxim of mine, spare
the rod and spoil the child; but, of course, I shall not interfere
in the matter."

This last he said because he saw a shadow flit over the fair face of
the widow, who, like most indulgent mothers, did not wholly believe
in Solomon. The sight of Janet in the hall suggested a fresh subject
to the doctor's mind, and, after coughing a little, he said, "Did I
understand that your domestic was intending to join you at Laurel
Hill?"

"Yes," returned Mrs. Remington, "Janet came to live with my mother
when I was a little girl no larger than Maude. Since my marriage she
has lived with me, and I would not part with her for anything."

"But do you not think two kinds of servants are apt to make trouble,
particularly if one is black and the other white?" and in the
speaker's face there was an expression which puzzled Mrs. Remington,
who could scarce refrain from crying at the thoughts of parting with
Janet, and who began to have a foretaste of the dreary homesickness
which was to wear her life away.

"I can't do without Janet," she said; "she knows all my ways, and I
trust her with everything."

"The very reason why she should not go," returned the doctor. "She
and old Hannah would quarrel at once. You would take sides with
Janet, I with Hannah, and that might produce a feeling which ought
never to exist between man and wife. No, my dear, listen to me in
this matter, and let Janet remain in Vernon. Old Hannah has been in
my family a long time. She was formerly a slave, and belonged to my
uncle, who lived in Virginia, and who, at his death, gave her to me.
Of course I set her free, for I pride myself on being a man of
humanity, and since that time she has lived with us, superintending
the household entirely since Mrs. Kennedy's death. She is very
peculiar, and would never suffer Janet to dictate, as I am sure,
from what you say, she would do. So, my dear, try and think all is
for the best. You need not tell her she is not to come, for it is a
maxim of mine to avoid all unnecessary scenes, and you can easily
write it in a letter."

Poor Mrs. Remington! she knew intuitively that the matter was
decided, and was she not to be forgiven if at that moment she
thought of the grass-grown grave whose occupant had in life been
only too happy granting her slightest wish? But Harry was gone, and
the man with whom she now had to deal was an exacting, tyrannical
master, to whose will her own must ever be subservient. This,
however, she did not then understand. She knew he was not at all
like Harry, but she fancied that the difference consisted in his
being so much older, graver, and wiser than her husband had been,
and so with a sigh she yielded the point, thinking that Janet would
be the greater sufferer of the two.

That evening several of her acquaintances called to see the
bridegroom-elect, whom, in Mrs. Remington's hearing, they pronounced
very fine looking and quite agreeable in manner; compliments which
tended in a measure to soothe her irritated feelings and quiet the
rapid beatings of her heart, which for hours after she retired to
rest would occasionally whisper to her that the path she was about
to tread was far from being strewn with flowers.

"He loves me, I know," she thought, "though his manner of showing it
is so different from Harry; but I shall become accustomed to that
after a while, and be very, very happy." And comforted with this
assurance she fell asleep, encircling within her arms the little
Maude, whose name had awakened bitter memories in the heart of him
who in an adjoining chamber battled with thoughts of the dark past,
which now on the eve of his second marriage passed in sad review
before his mind.

Memories there were of a gentle, pale-faced woman, who, when her
blue eyes were dim with coming death, had shudderingly turned away
from him, as if his presence brought her more of pain than joy.
Memories, too, there were of another--a peerlessly beautiful
creature who, ere he had sought the white-faced woman for his wife,
had trampled on his affections and spurned as a useless gift his
offered love. He hated her now, he thought; and the little black-haired
child, sleeping so sweetly in its mother's arms, was hateful
in his sight, because it bore that woman's name. One, two, three--sounded
the clock, and then he fell asleep, dreaming that underneath
the willows which grew in the churchyard, far off on Laurel Hill,
there were two graves instead of one; that in the house across the
common there was a sound of rioting and mirth, unusual in that
silent mansion. For she was there, the woman whom he had so madly
loved, and wherever she went crowds gathered about her as in the
olden time.

"Maude Glendower, why are you here?" he attempted to say, when a
clear, silvery voice aroused him from his sleep, and starting up, he
listened half in anger, half in disappointment, to the song which
little Maude Remington sang as she sat in the open door awaiting the
return of her mother, who had gone for the last time to see the
sunshine fall on Harry's grave.



CHAPTER II.

THE JOURNEY.


Mrs. Kennedy looked charming in her traveling dress of brown, and
the happy husband likened her to a Quakeress, as he kissed her
blushing cheek and called her his "little wife." He had passed
through the ceremony remarkably well, standing very erect, making
the responses very, loud, and squeezing very becomingly the soft
white hand on whose third finger he placed the wedding ring--a very
small one, by the way. It was over now, and many of the bridal
guests were gone; the minister, too, had gone, and jogging leisurely
along upon his sorrel horse had ascertained the size of his fee,
feeling a little disappointed that it was not larger--five dollars
seemed so small, when he fully expected twenty from one of Dr.
Kennedy's reputed wealth.

Janet had seen that everything was done for the comfort of the
travelers, and then out behind the smokehouse had scolded herself
soundly for crying, when she ought to appear brave, and encourage
her young mistress. Not the slightest hint had she received that she
was not to follow them in a few, weeks, and when at parting little
Maude clung to her skirts, beseeching her to go, she comforted the
child by telling her what she would bring her in the autumn, when
she came. Half a dozen dolls, as many pounds of candy, a dancing
jack, and a mewing kitten were promised, and then the faithful
creature turned to the weeping bride, who clasped her hard old hand
convulsively, for she knew it was a long good-by. Until the carriage
disappeared from view did Mrs. Kennedy look back through blinding
tears to the spot where Janet stood, wiping her eyes with a corner
of her stiffly starched white apron, and holding up one foot to keep
her from soiling her clean blue cotton stockings, for, in accordance
with a superstition peculiar to her race, she had thrown after the
travelers a shoe, by way of insuring them good luck.

For once in his life Dr. Kennedy tried to be very kind and attentive
to his bride, who, naturally hopeful and inclined to look upon the
brighter side, dried her tears soon after entering the cars, and
began to fancy she was very happy in her new position as the wife of
Dr. Kennedy. The seat in front of them was turned back and occupied
by Maude, who busied herself a while in watching the fence and the
trees, which she said were "running so fast toward Janet and home!"
Then her dark eyes would scan curiously the faces of Dr. Kennedy and
her mother, resting upon the latter with a puzzled expression, as if
she could not exactly understand it. The doctor persisted in calling
her Matilda, and as she resolutely persisted in refusing to answer
to that name, it seemed quite improbable that they would ever talk
much together. Occasionally, it is true, he made her some advances,
by playfully offering her his hand, but she would not touch it, and
after a time, standing upon the seat and turning round, she found
more agreeable society in the company of two boys who sat directly
behind her.

They were evidently twelve or thirteen years of age, and in personal
appearance somewhat alike, save that the face of the brown-haired
boy was more open, ingenuous, and pleasing than that of his
companion, whose hair and eyes were black as night. A jolt of the
cars caused Maude to lay her chubby hand upon the shoulder of the
elder boy, who, being very fond of children, caught it within his
own, and in this way made her acquaintance. To him she was very
communicative, and in a short time he learned that "her name was
Maude Remington, that the pretty lady in brown was her mother, and
that the naughty man was not her father, and never would be, for
Janet said so."

This at once awakened an interest in the boys, and for more than an
hour they petted and played with the little girl, who, though very
gracious to both, still manifested so much preference for the
brown-haired, that the other laughingly asked her which she liked the
best.

"I like you and you," was Maude's childlike answer, as she pointed a
finger at each.

"But," persisted her questioner, "you like my cousin the best. Will
you tell me why?"

Maude hesitated a moment, then laying a hand on either side of the
speaker's face, and looking intently into his eyes, she answered,
"You don't look as if you meant for certain, and he does!"

Had Maude Remington been twenty instead of five, she could not
better have defined the difference between those two young lads, and
in after years she had sad cause for remembering words which seemed
almost prophetic. At Albany they, parted company, for though the
boys lived in Rochester they were to remain in the city through the
night, and Dr. Kennedy had decided to go on. By doing so he would
reach home near the close of the next day, beside saving a large
hotel bill, and this last was with him a very weighty reason. But he
did not say so to his wife; neither did he tell her that he had left
orders for his carriage to be in Canadaigua on the arrival of the
noon train, but he said "he was in haste to show her to his
daughter--that 'twas a maxim of his to save as much time as
possible, and that unless she were very anxious to sleep, he would
rather travel all night." So the poor, weary woman, whose head was
aching terribly, smiled faintly upon him as she said, "Go on, of
course," and nibbled at the hard seedcakes and harder crackers which
he brought her, there not being time for supper in Albany.

It was a long, tedious ride, and though a strong arm was thrown
around her, and her head was pillowed upon the bosom of her husband,
who really tried to make her as comfortable as possible, Mrs.
Kennedy could scarcely refrain from tears as she thought how
different was this bridal tour from what she had anticipated. She
had fully expected to pass by daylight through the Empire State, and
she had thought with how much delight her eye would rest upon the
grassy meadows, the fertile plains, the winding Mohawk, the drone-like
boats on the canal, the beautiful Cayuga, and the silvery water
so famed in song; but, in contrast to all this, she was shut up in a
dingy car, whose one dim lamp sent forth a sickly ray and sicklier
smell, while without all was gloomy, dark, and drear. No wonder,
then, that when toward morning Maude, who missed her soft, nice bed,
began to cry for Janet and for home, the mother too burst forth in
tears and choking sobs, which could not be controlled.

"Hush, Matty--don't," and the disturbed doctor shook her very
gently; "it will soon be daylight, and 'tis a max--" Here he
stopped, for he had no maxim suited to that occasion; and, in a most
unenviable frame of mind, he frowned at the crying Maude, and tried
to soothe his weeping wife, until at last, as the face of the latter
was covered, and the former grew more noisy and unmanageable, he
administered a fatherly rebuke in the shape of a boxed ear, which
had no other effect than the eliciting from the child the outcry,
"Let me be, old doctor, you!" if, indeed, we except the long scratch
made upon his hand by the little sharp nail of his stepdaughter.

At that moment Matty lifted up her head, but as Maude was no
tale-bearer, and the doctor hardly dared to tell her that he had thus
early taken upon himself the government of her child, she never knew
exactly what it was which made Maude's ear so red or her liege
lord's face so dark.

It was nearly noon when they arrived at Canandaigua, where the first
object which caught Mrs. Kennedy's eye was an old-fashioned
carryall, which her husband honored with the appellation of
carriage, said carriage being drawn by two farm-horses, which looked
as if oats and corn were to them luxuries unknown.

"I must have a cup of tea," said Mrs. Kennedy, as she saw the black
man, John, arranging the baggage upon the rack of the carryall, and
heard her husband bid him hurry, as there was no time to lose. "I
must have a cup of tea, my head is aching dreadfully," and her white
lips quivered, while the tears rolled down her cheeks.

"Certainly, certainly," answered the doctor, who was in unusually
good spirits, having just heard from an acquaintance whom he chanced
to meet that a lawsuit which had long been pending was decided in
his favor, and that the house and lot of a widow would probably come
into his possession. "Certainly, two cups if you like; I should have
proposed it myself, only I knew old Hannah would have dinner in
readiness for us, and 'tis a maxim of mine, that fasting provokes an
appetite."

"Hang dis nigger, if he aint a-maxin' her so quick!" muttered the
darkey, showing his teeth from ear to ear; and, coaxing Maude away
from her mother, he took her to a restaurant, where he literally
crammed her with ginger-bread, raisins, and candy, bidding her eat
all she wanted at once, for it would be a long time, maybe, ere
she'd have another chance!

"If you please, sar," he said, when at last he had returned to his
master, "if you please, Miss Nellie say how you must fotch her
somethin', and the old woman spec's a present in honor of de
'casion."

Dr. Kennedy thought of the lawsuit, and so far opened both heart and
purse as to buy for Nellie a paper of peanuts and for Hannah a
ten-cent calico apron, after which he pronounced himself in readiness to
go, and in a few moments Mrs. Kennedy was on her way to her new
home.

The road led over rocky hills, reminding her so much of Vernon and
its surrounding country that a feeling of rest stole over her, and
she fell into a quiet sleep, from which she did not awaken until the
carriage stopped suddenly and her husband whispered in her ear,
"Wake, Matty, wake; we are home at last."



CHAPTER III.

THE NEW HOME.


It was a large, square, wooden building, built in the olden time,
with a wide hall in the center, a tiny portico in front, and a long
piazza in the rear. In all the town there was not so delightful a
location, for it commanded a view of the country for many miles
around, while from the chamber windows was plainly discernible the
sparkling Honeoye, whose waters slept so calmly 'mid the hills which
lay to the southward. On the grassy lawn in front tall forest trees
were growing, almost concealing the house from view, while their
long branches so met together as to form a beautiful arch over the
graveled walk which lead to the front door. It was, indeed, a
pleasant spot, and Matty, as she passed through the iron gate, could
not account for the feeling of desolation settling down upon her.

"Maybe it's because there are no flowers here--no roses," she
thought, as she looked around in vain for her favorites, thinking
the while how her first work should be to train a honeysuckle over
the door and plant a rose bush underneath the window.

Poor Matty! Dr. Kennedy had no love for flowers, and the only rose
bush he ever noticed was the one which John had planted at his
mistress' grave, and even this would, perchance, have been unseen,
if he had not scratched his hand unmercifully upon it as he one day
shook the stone to see if it were firmly placed in the ground ere he
paid the man for putting it there! It was a maxim of the doctor's
never to have anything not strictly for use, consequently his house,
both outside and in, was destitute of every kind of ornament; and
the bride, as she followed him through the empty hall into the
silent parlor, whose bare walls, faded carpet, and uncurtained
windows seemed so uninviting, felt a chill creeping over her
spirits, and sinking into the first hard chair she came to, she
might, perhaps, have cried had not John, who followed close behind
her, satchel on arm, whispered encouragingly in her ear, "Never you
mind, missus, your chamber is a heap sight brighter than this, 'case
I tended to that myself."

Mrs. Kennedy smiled gratefully upon him, feeling sure that beneath
his black exterior there beat a kind and sympathizing heart, and
that in him she had an ally and a friend.

"Where is Nellie?" said the doctor. "Call Nellie, John, and tell
your mother we are here."

John left the room, and a moment after a little tiny creature came
tripping to the door, where she stopped suddenly, and throwing back
her curls, gazed curiously first at Mrs. Kennedy and then at Maude,
whose large black eyes fastened themselves upon her with a gaze
quite as curious and eager as her own. She was more than a year
older than Maude, but much smaller in size, and her face seemed to
have been fashioned after a beautiful waxen doll, so brilliant was
her complexion and so regular her features. She was naturally
affectionate and amiable, too, when suffered to have her own way.
Neither was she at all inclined to be timid, and when her father,
taking her hand in his, bade her speak to her new mother, she went
unhesitatingly to the lady, and climbing into her lap, sat there
very quietly so long as Mrs. Kennedy permitted her to play with her
rings, pull her collar, and take out her side-combs, for she had
laid aside her bonnet; but when at last her little sharp eyes
ferreted out a watch, which she insisted upon having "all to
herself," a liberty which Mrs. Kennedy refused to grant, she began
to pout, and, sliding from her new mother's lap, walked up to Maude,
whose acquaintance she made by asking if she had a pink silk dress.
"No, but I guess Janet will bring me one," answered Maude, whose
eyes never for an instant left the face of her stepsister.

She was an enthusiastic admirer of beauty, and Nellie had made an
impression upon her at once; so, when the latter said, "What makes
you look at me so funny?" she answered, "Because you are so pretty."
This made a place for her at once in the heart of the vain little
Nellie, who asked her to go upstairs and see the pink silk dress
which "Aunt Kelsey had given her."

As they left the room Mrs. Kennedy said to her husband, "Your
daughter is very beautiful."

Dr. Kennedy liked to have people say that of his child, for he knew
she was much like himself, and he stroked his brown beard
complacently, as he replied: "Yes, Nellie is rather pretty, and,
considering all things, is as well-behaved a child as one often
finds. She seldom gets into a passion or does anything rude," and he
glanced at the long scratch upon his hand; but as his wife knew
nothing of said scratch, the rebuke was wholly lost, and he
continued: "I was anxious that she should be a boy, for it is a
maxim of mine that the oldest child in every family ought to be a
son, and so I said, repeatedly, to the late Mrs. Kennedy, who,
though a most excellent woman in most matters, was in others
unaccountably set in her way. I suppose I said some harsh things
when I heard it was a daughter, but it can't be helped now," and
with a slightly injured air the husband of "the late Mrs. Kennedy"
began to pace up and down the room, while the present Mrs. Kennedy
puzzled her rather weak brain to know "what in the world he meant."

Meantime between John and his mother there was a hurried
conversation, the former inquiring naturally after the looks of her
new mistress.

"Pretty as a pink," answered John, "and neat as a fiddle, with the
sweetest little baby ways; but I tell you what 'tis," and John's
voice fell to a whisper: "he'll maxim her into heaven a heap sight
quicker'n he did t'other one; 'case you see she haint so much--what
you call him--so much go off to her as Miss Katy had, and she can't
bar his grinding ways. They'll scrush her to onct--see if they
don't. But I knows one thing, this yer nigger 'tends to do his duty,
and hold up them little cheese-curd hands of her'n, jest as some of
them Scripter folks held up Moses with the bulrushes."

"And what of the young one?" asked Hannah, who had been quite
indignant at the thoughts of another child in the family, "what of
the young one?"

"Bright as a dollar!" answered John. "Knows more'n a dozen of
Nellie, and well she might, for she aint half as white, and as
Master Kennedy says, it's a maxim of mine, the blacker the hide the
better the sense!"

By this time Hannah had washed the dough from her hands, and taking
the roast chicken from the oven she donned a clean apron and started
to see the stranger for herself. Although a tolerably good woman,
Hannah's face was not very prepossessing, and Mrs. Kennedy
intuitively felt that 'twould be long before her former domestic's
place was made good by the indolent African. It is true her
obeisance was very low, and her greeting kindly enough, but there
was about her an inquisitive, and at the same time, rather
patronizing air which Mrs. Kennedy did not like, and she was glad
when she at last left the parlor, telling them, as she did so, that
"dinner was done ready."

Notwithstanding that the house itself was so large, the dining room
was a small, dark, cheerless apartment, and though she was beginning
to feel the want of food, Mrs. Kennedy could scarcely force down a
mouthful, for the homesick feeling at her heart; a feeling which
whispered to her that the home to which she had come was not like
that which she had left. Dinner being over, she asked permission to
retire to her chamber, saying she needed rest, and should feel
better after she had slept. Nellie volunteered to lead the way, and
as they left the dining room old Hannah, who was notoriously lazy,
muttered aloud: "A puny, sickly thing. Great help she'll be to me;
but I shan't stay to wait on more'n forty more."

Dr. Kennedy had his own private reason for wishing to conciliate
Hannah. When he set her free he made her believe it was her duty to
work for him for nothing, and though she soon learned better, and
often threatened to leave, he had always managed to keep her, for,
on the whole, she liked her place, and did not care to change it for
one where her task would be much harder. But if the new wife proved
to be sickly, matters would be different, and so she fretted, as we
have seen, while the doctor comforted her with the assurance that
Mrs. Kennedy was only tired--that she was naturally well and strong,
and would undoubtedly be of great assistance when the novelty of her
position had worn away.

While this conversation was taking place Mrs. Kennedy was examining
her chamber and thinking many pleasant things of John, whose
handiwork was here so plainly visible. All the smaller and more
fanciful pieces of furniture which the house afforded had been
brought to this room, whose windows looked out upon the lake and the
blue hills beyond. A clean white towel concealed the marred
condition of the washstand, while the bed, which was made up high
and round, especially in the middle, looked very inviting with its
snowy spread. A large stuffed rocking chair, more comfortable than
handsome, occupied the center of the room, while better far than
all, the table, the mantel, and the windows were filled with
flowers, which John had begged from the neighboring gardens, and
which seemed to smile a welcome upon the weary woman, who, with a
cry of delight, bent down and kissed them through her tears.

"Did these come from your garden?" she asked of Nellie, who, child-like,
answered, "We haint any flowers. Pa won't let John plant any.
He told Aunt Kelsey the land had better be used for potatoes, and
Aunt Kelsey said he was too stingy to live."

"Who is Aunt Kelsey?" asked Mrs. Kennedy, a painful suspicion
fastening itself upon her that the lady's opinion might be correct.

"She is pa's sister Charlotte," answered Nellie, "and lives in
Rochester, in a great big house, with the handsomest things; but she
don't come here often, it's so heathenish, she says."

Here spying John, who was going with the oxen to the meadow, she ran
away, followed by Maude, between whom and herself there was for the
present a most amicable understanding. Thus left alone Mrs. Kennedy
had time for thought, which crowded upon her so fast that, at last
throwing herself upon the bed, she wept bitterly, half wishing she
had never come to Laurel Hill, but was still at home in her own
pleasant cottage. Then hope whispered to her of a brighter day, when
things would not seem to her as they now did. She would fix up the
desolate old house, she thought; the bare windows which now so
stared her in the face should be shaded with pretty muslin curtains,
and she would loop them back with ribbons. The carpet, too, on the
parlor floor should be exchanged for a better one, and when her
piano and marble table came, the only articles of furniture she had
not sold, it would not seem so cheerless and so cold.

Comforted with these thoughts, she fell asleep, resting quietly
until, just as the sun had set and it was growing dark within the
room, Maude came rushing in, her dress all wet, her face flushed,
and her eyes red with tears. She and Nellie had quarreled--nay,
actually fought; Nellie telling Maude she was blacker than a nigger,
and pushing her into the brook, while Maude, in return, had pulled
out a handful of the young lady's hair, for which her stepfather had
shaken her soundly and sent her to her mother, whom she begged "to
go home, and not stay in that old house where the folks were ugly
and the rooms not a bit pretty."

Mrs. Kennedy's heart was already full, and drawing Maude to her
side, the two homesick children mingled their tears together, until
a heavy footstep upon the stairs announced the approach of Dr.
Kennedy. Not a word did he say of his late adventure with Maude, and
his manner was very kind toward his weary wife, who, with his hand
upon her aching forehead, and his voice in her ear, telling her how
sorry he was that she was sick, forgot that she had been unhappy.

"Whatever else he may do," she thought, "he certainly loves me," and
after a fashion he did perhaps love her. She was a pretty little
creature, and her playful, coquettish ways had pleased him at first
sight. He needed a wife, and when their mutual friend, who knew
nothing of him save that he was a man of integrity and wealth,
suggested Matty Remington, he too thought favorably of the matter,
and yielding to the fascination of her soft blue eyes he had won her
for his wife, pitying her, it may be, as he sat by her in the
gathering twilight, and half guessed that she was homesick. And when
he saw how confidingly she clung to him, he was conscious of a
half-formed resolution to be to her what a husband ought to be. But
Dr. Kennedy's resolves were like the morning dew, and as the days wore
on his peculiarities, one after another, were discovered by his
wife, who, womanlike, tried to think that he was right and she was
wrong.

In due time most of the villagers called upon her, and though they
were both intelligent and refined, she did not feel altogether at
ease in their presence, for the fancy she had that they regarded her
as one who for some reason was entitled to their pity. And in this
she was correct. They did pity her, for they remembered another
gentle woman, whose brown hair had turned gray, and whose blue eyes
had waxed dim beneath the withering influence of him she called her
husband. She was dead, and when they saw the young, light-hearted
Matty, they did not understand how she could ever have been induced
to take that woman's place and wed a man of thirty-eight, and they
blamed her somewhat, until they reflected that she knew nothing of
him, and that her fancy was probably captivated by his dignified
bearing, his manly figure, and handsome face. But these alone they
knew could not make her happy, and ere she had been six weeks a wife
they were not surprised that her face began to wear a weary look, as
if the burden of life were hard to bear.

As far as she could she beautified the home, purchasing with her own
means several little articles which the doctor called useless,
though he never failed to appropriate to himself the easy chair
which she had bought for the sitting room, and which when she was
tired rested her so much. On the subject of curtains he was
particularly obstinate. "There were blinds," he said, "and 'twas a
maxim of his never to spend his money for anything unnecessary."

Still, when Matty bought them herself for the parlor, when her piano
was unboxed and occupied a corner which had long been destitute of
furniture, and when her marble table stood between the windows, with
a fresh bouquet of flowers which John had brought, he exclaimed
involuntarily, "How nice this is!" adding the next moment, lest his
wife should be too much pleased, "but vastly foolish!"

In accordance with her husband's suggestion Mrs. Kennedy wrote to
Janet, breaking to her as gently as possible the fact that she was
not to come, but saying nothing definite concerning her new home or
her own happiness as a second wife. Several weeks went by, and then
an answer came.

"If you had of wanted me," wrote Janet, "I should of come, but bein'
you didn't, I've went to live with Mr. Blodgett, who peddles milk,
and raises butter and cheese, and who they say is worth a deal of
money, and well he may be, for he's saved this forty years."

Then followed a detailed account of her household matters, occupying
in all three pages of foolscap, to which was pinned a bit of paper,
containing the following:

"Joel looked over my writing and said I'd left out the very thing I
wanted to tell the most. We are married, me and Joel, and I only
hope you are as happy with that doctor as I am with my man."

This announcement crushed at once the faint hope which Mrs. Kennedy
had secretly entertained, of eventually having Janet to supply the
place of Hannah, who was notoriously lazy, and never under any
circumstances did anything she possibly could avoid. Dr. Kennedy did
not tell his wife that he expected her to make it easy for Hannah,
so she would not leave them; but he told her how industrious the
late Mrs. Kennedy had been, and hinted that a true woman was not
above kitchen work. The consequence of this was that Matty, who
really wished to please him, became in time a very drudge, doing
things which she once thought she could not do, and then without a
murmur ministering to her exacting husband when he came home from
visiting a patient, and declared himself "tired to death." Very
still he sat while her weary little feet ran for the cool drink--the
daily paper--or the morning mail; and very happy he looked when her
snowy fingers combed his hair or brushed his threadbare coat; and
if, perchance, she sighed amid her labor of love, his ear was deaf,
and he did not hear, neither did he see how white and thin she grew
as day by day went by.

Her piano was now seldom touched, for the doctor did not care for
music; still he was glad that she could play, for "Sister Kelsey,"
who was to him a kind of terror, would insist that Nellie should
take music lessons, and, as his wife was wholly competent to give
them, he would be spared a very great expense. "Save, save, save,"
seemed to be his motto, and when at church the plate was passed to
him he gave his dime a loving pinch ere parting company with it; and
yet none read the service louder or defended his favorite liturgy
more zealously than himself. In some things he was a pattern man,
and when once his servant John announced his intention of
withdrawing from the Episcopalians and joining himself to the
Methodists, who held their meetings in the schoolhouse, he was
greatly shocked, and labored long with the degenerate son of
Ethiopia, who would render to him no reason for his most
unaccountable taste, though he did to Matty, when she questioned him
of his choice.

"You see, missus," said he, "I wasn't allus a herrytic, but was as
good a 'Piscopal as St. George ever had. That's when I lived in
Virginny, and was hired out to Marster Morton, who had a school for
boys, and who larnt me how to read a little. After I'd arn't a heap
of money for Marster Kennedy he wanted to go to the Legislatur', and
as some on 'em wouldn't vote for him while he owned a nigger, he set
me free, and sent for me to come home. 'Twas hard partin' wid dem
boys and Marster Morton, I tell you, but I kinder wanted to see
mother, who had been here a good while, and who, like a fool, was
a-workin' an' is a-workin' for nothin'."

"For nothing!" exclaimed Mrs. Kennedy, a suspicion of the reason why
Janet was refused crossing her mind.

"Yes, marm, for nothin'," answered John, "but I aint green enough
for that, and 'fused outright. Then marster, who got beat 'lection
day, threatened to send me back, but I knew he couldn't do it, and
so he agreed to pay eight dollars a month. I could get more somewhar
else, but I'd rather stay with mother, and so I stayed."

"But that has nothing to do with the church," suggested Mrs.
Kennedy, and John replied:

"I'm comin' to the p'int now. I live with Marster Kennedy, and went
with him to church, and when I see how he carried on week days, and
how peart like he read up Sabba' days, sayin' the Lord's Prar and
'Postle's Creed, I began to think thar's somethin' rotten in
Denmark, as the boys use to say in Virginny; so when mother, who
allus was a-roarin' Methodis', asked me to go wid her to meetin', I
went, and was never so mortified in my life, for arter the elder had
'xorted a spell at the top of his voice, he sot down and said there
was room for others. I couldn't see how that was, bein' he took up
the whole chair, and while I was wonderin' what he meant, as I'm a
livin' nigger, up got marm and spoke a piece right in meetin'! I
never was so shamed, and I kep' pullin' at her gownd to make her set
down, but the harder I pulled the louder she hollered, till at last
she blowed her breath all away, and down she sot."

"And did any of the rest speak pieces?" asked Mrs. Kennedy,
convulsed with laughter at John's vivid description.

"Bless your heart," he answered, with a knowing look, "'twarn't a
piece she was speaking--she was tellin' her 'sperience; but it
sounded so like the boys at school that I was deceived, for I'd
never seen such work before. But I've got so I like it now, and I
believe thar's more 'sistency down in that schoolhouse than thar is
in--I won't say the 'Piscopal church, 'case thar's heaps of shinin'
lights thar, but if you won't be mad, I'll say more than thar is in
Marster Kennedy, who has hisself to thank for my bein' a Methodis'."

Whatever Mrs. Kennedy might have thought she could not help laughing
heartily at John, who was now a decided Methodist, and adorned his
profession far more than his selfish, hard-hearted master. His
promise of holding up his mistress' hands had been most faithfully
kept, and, without any disparagement to Janet, Mrs. Kennedy felt
that the loss of her former servant was in a great measure made up
to her in the kind negro, who, as the months went by and her face
grew thinner each day, purchased with his own money many a little
delicacy which he hoped would tempt her capricious appetite. Maude,
too, was a favorite with John, both on account of her color, which
he greatly admired, and because, poor, ignorant creature though he
was, he saw in her the germ of the noble girl who in the coming
years was to bear uncomplainingly a burden of care from which the
selfish Nellie would unhesitatingly turn away.

Toward Maude the doctor had ever manifested a feeling of aversion,
both because of her name and because she had compelled him to yield
when his mind was fully made up to do otherwise. She had resolutely
refused to be called Matilda, and as it was necessary for him
sometimes to address her, he called her first, "You girl," then
"Mat," and finally arrived at "Maude," speaking it always
spitefully, as if provoked that he had once in his life been
conquered. With the management of her he seldom interfered, for that
scratch had given him a timely lesson, and as he did not like to be
unnecessarily troubled, he left both Maude and Nellie to his wife,
who suffered the latter to do nearly as she pleased, and thus
escaped many of the annoyances to which stepmothers are usually
subject.

Although exceedingly selfish Nellie was affectionate in her
disposition, and when Maude did not cross her path the two were on
the best of terms. Disturbances there were, however--quarrels and
fights, in the latter of which Maude, being the stronger of the two,
always came off victor; but these did not last long, and had her
husband been to her what he ought Mrs. Kennedy's life would not have
been as dreary as it was. He meant well enough, perhaps, but he did
not understand a woman, much less know how to treat her, and as the
winter months went by Matty's heart would have fainted within her
but for a hope which whispered to her, "He will love me better when
next summer comes."



CHAPTER IV.

LITTLE LOUIS.


It is just one year since the summer morning when Matty Kennedy took
upon herself a second time the duties of a wife, and now she lies in
a darkened room, her face white as the winter snow, and her breath
scarcely perceptible to the touch, as it comes faintly from her
parted lips. In dignified silence the doctor sits by, counting her
feeble pulse, while an expression of pride and almost perfect
happiness breaks over his face as he glances toward the cradle which
Hannah has brought from the garret, and where now slept the child
born to him that day. His oft-repeated maxim that if the first were
not a boy the second ought to be, had prevailed at last, and Dombey
had a son. It was a puny thing, but the father said it looked as
Nellie did when she first rested there, and Nellie, holding back her
breath and pushing aside her curls, bent down to see the red-faced
infant.

"I was never as ugly as that, and I don't love him a bit!" she
exclaimed, turning away in disgust; while Maude approached on tip-toe,
and kneeling by the cradle side kissed the unconscious sleeper,
whispering as she did so, "I love you, poor little brother."

Darling Maude--blessed Maude--in all your after life you proved the
truth of those low spoken words, "I love you, poor little brother."

For many days did Mrs. Kennedy hover between life and death, never
asking for her baby, and seldom noticing her husband, who, while
declaring there was no danger, still deemed it necessary, in case
anything should happen, to send for his sister, Mrs. Kelsey, who had
not visited him since his last marriage. She was a proud,
fashionable woman, who saw nothing attractive in the desolate old
house, and who had conceived an idea that her brother's second wife
was a sort of nobody whom he had picked up among the New England
hills. But the news of her illness softened her feelings in a
measure, and she started for Laurel Hill, thinking that if Matty
died she hoped a certain dashing, brilliant woman, called Maude
Glendower, might go there, and govern the tyrannical doctor, even as
he had governed others.

It was late in the afternoon when she reached her brother's house,
from which Nellie came running out to meet her, accompanied by
Maude. From the latter the lady at first turned disdainfully away,
but ere long stole another look at the brown-faced girl, about whom
there was something very attractive.

"Curtains, as I live!" she exclaimed, as she entered the parlor. "A
piano, and marble table, too. Where did these come from?"

"They are ma's, and she's got a baby upstairs," answered Maude, and
the lady's hand rested for an instant on the little curly head, for
strange as it may seem, she esteemed more highly a woman who owned a
piano and handsome table than she did one whose worldly possessions
were more limited.

After making some changes in her dress, she went up to the sick-room,
and as Matty was asleep, she had ample time to examine her
face, and also to inspect the room, which showed in someone a
refined and delicate taste.

"She must be more of a lady than I supposed," she thought, and when
at last her sister-in-law awoke she greeted her kindly, and during
her visit, which lasted nearly two weeks, she exerted herself to be
agreeable, succeeding so far that Matty parted from her at last with
genuine regret.

"Poor thing--she'll never see another winter," was Mrs. Kelsey's
mental comment, as she bade the invalid good-by; but in this she was
mistaken, for with the falling of the leaf Matty began to improve,
and though she never fully regained her health, she was able again
to be about the house, doing far more than she ought to have done,
but never uttering a word of complaint, however heavy was the burden
imposed upon her.

With Maude and her baby, who bore the name of Louis, she found her
greatest comfort. He was a sweet, playful child, and sure never
before was father so foolishly proud of his son as was Dr. Kennedy
of his. For hours would he sit watching him while he slept, and
building castles of the future, when "Louis Kennedy, only son of Dr.
Kennedy," should be honored among men. Toward the mother, too, who
had borne him such a prodigy he became a little more indulgent,
occasionally suffering her wishes to prevail over his maxims, and on
three several occasions giving her a dollar to spend as she pleased.
Surely such generosity did not deserve so severe a punishment as was
in store for the proud father.

Louis had a most beautiful face, and in his soft, brown eyes there
was a "look like the angels," as Maude once said to her mother, who
seldom spoke of him without a sigh, for on her mind a terrible fear
was fastening itself. Although mentally as forward as other
children, Louis' body did not keep pace with the growth of his
intellect, and when he was two years of age he could not bear his
weight upon his feet, but in creeping dragged his limbs slowly, as
if in them there was no life--no strength.

"Ma, why don't Louis walk?" asked Maude, one evening when she saw
how long it took him to cross the room.

"Loui' tant walk," answered the child, who talked with perfect ease.

The tears came instantly to Mrs. Kennedy's eyes, for, availing
herself of her husband's absence, she had that morning consulted
another physician, who, after carefully examining Louis' body, had
whispered in the poor woman's ear that which made every nerve quiver
with pain, while at the same time it made dearer a thousand-fold her
baby-boy; for a mother's pity increases a mother's love.

"Say, ma, what is it?" persisted Maude. "Will Louis ever walk?"

"Loui'll never walk," answered the little fellow, shaking his brown
curls, and tearing in twain a picture-book which his father had
bought him the day before.

"Maude," said Mrs. Kennedy, drawing her daughter to her side, "I
must tell somebody or my heart will burst," and laying her head upon
the table she wept aloud.

"Don't try, ma, Loui' good," lisped the infant on the floor, while
Mrs. Kennedy, drying at last her tears, told to the wondering Maude
that Louis was not like other children--that he would probably never
have the use of his feet--that a hunch was growing on his back--and
he in time would be--she could not say "deformed," and so she said
at last--"he'll be forever lame."

Poor little Maude! How all her childish dreams were blasted! She had
anticipated so much pleasure in guiding her brother's tottering
footsteps, in leading him to school, to church, and everywhere, and
she could not have him lame.

"Oh, Louis, Louis!" she cried, winding her arms around his neck, as
if she would thus avert the dreaded evil.

Very wonderfully the child looked up into her eyes, and raising his
waxen hand he wiped her tears away, saying as he did so, "Loui' love
Maude."

With a choking sob Maude kissed her baby brother, then going back to
her mother, whose head still lay upon the table, she whispered, "We
will love poor Louis all the more, you and I."

Blessed Maude, we say again, for these were no idle words, and the
clinging, tender love with which she cherished her unfortunate
brother ought to have shamed the heartless man who, when he heard of
his affliction, refused to be comforted, and almost cursed the day
when his only son was born. He had been absent for a week or more,
and with the exception of the time when he first knew he had a son
he did not remember of having experienced a moment of greater
happiness than that in which he reached his home where dwelt his
boy--his pride--his idol. Louis was not in the room, and on the
mother's face there was an expression of sadness, which at once
awakened the father's fears lest something had befallen his child.

"Where is Louis?" he asked. "Has anything happened to him that you
look so pale?"

"Louis is well," answered Matty, and then, unable longer to control
her feelings, she burst into tears, while the doctor looked on in
amazement, wondering if all women were as nervous and foolish as the
two it had been his fortune to marry.

"Oh, husband," she cried, feeling sure of his sympathy, and thinking
it better to tell the truth at once; "has it never occurred to you
that Louis was not like other children?"

"Of course it has," he answered quickly. "He is a thousand times
brighter than any child I have ever known."

"'Tisn't that, 'tisn't that," said Matty. "He'll never walk--he's
lame--deformed!"

"What do you mean?" thundered the doctor, reeling for an instant
like a drunken man; then, recovering his composure, he listened
while Matty told him what she meant.

At that moment Maude drew Louis into the room, and, taking the child
in his arms, the doctor examined him for himself, wondering he had
never observed before how small and seemingly destitute of life were
his lower limbs. The bunch upon the back, though slight as yet, was
really there, and Matty, when questioned, said it had been there for
weeks, but she did not tell of it, for she hoped it would go away.

"It will stay until his dying day," he muttered, as he ordered Maude
to take the child away. "Louis deformed! Louis a cripple! What have
I done that I should be thus sorely punished?" he exclaimed, when he
was alone with his wife; and then, as he dared not blame the
Almighty, he charged it to her, until at last his thoughts took
another channel. Maude had dropped him--he knew she had, and Matty
was to blame for letting her handle him so much, when she knew 'twas
a maxim of his that children should not take care of children.

He had forgotten the time when his worn-out wife had asked him to
hire a nurse girl for Louis, and he had answered that "Maude was
large enough for that." On some points his memory was treacherous,
and for days he continued to repine at his hard fate, wishing once
in Matty's presence that Louis had never been born.

"Oh, husband," she cried, "how can you say that! Do you hate our
poor boy because he is a cripple?"

"A cripple!" roared the doctor. "Never use that word again in my
presence. My son a cripple! I can't have it so! I won't have it so!
for 'tis a max--"

Here he stopped, being for a second time in his life at a loss what
to say.

"Sarve 'em right, sarve 'em right," muttered John, whose quick eye
saw everything. "Ole Sam payin' him off good. He think he'll be in
the seventh heaven when he got a boy, and he mighty nigh torment
that little gal's life out with his mexens and things; but now he
got a boy, he feel a heap like the bad place."

Still much as John rejoiced that his master was so punished, his
heart went out in pity toward the helpless child whom he almost
worshiped, carrying him often to the fields, where, seeking out the
shadiest spot and the softest grass for a throne, he would place the
child upon it, and then pay him obeisance by bobbing up and down his
wooly head in a manner quite as satisfactory to Louis as if he
indeed had been a king and John his loyal subject. Old Hannah, too,
was greatly softened, and many a little cake and pie she baked in
secret for the child, while even Nellie gave up to him her favorite
playthings, and her blue eyes wore a pitying look whenever they
rested on the poor unfortunate. All loved him seemingly the more--all,
save the cruel father, who, as the months and years rolled on,
seemed to acquire a positive dislike to the little boy, seldom
noticing him in any way except to frown if he were brought into his
sight. And Louis, with the quick instinct of childhood, learned to
expect nothing from his father, whose attention he never tried to
attract.

As if to make amends for his physical deformity, he possessed an
uncommon mind, and when he was nearly six years of age accident
revealed to him the reason of his father's continued coldness, and
wrung from him the first tears he had ever shed for his misfortune.
He heard one day his mother praying that God would soften her
husband's heart toward his poor hunchback boy, who was not to blame
for his misfortune--and laying his head upon the broad arm of the
chair which had been made for him, he wept bitterly, for he knew now
why he was not loved. That night, as in his crib he lay, watching
the stars which shone upon him through the window, and wondering if
in heaven there were hunchback boys like him, he overheard his
father talking to his mother, and the words that his father said
were never forgotten to his dying day. There were, "Don't ask me to
be reconciled to a cripple! What good can he do me? He will never
earn his own living, lame as he is, and will only be in the way."

"Oh, father, father," the cripple essayed to say, but he could not
speak, so full of pain was his little, bursting heart, and that
night he lay awake, praying that he might die and so be out of the
way.

The next morning he asked Maude to draw him to the churchyard where
"his other mother," as he called her, was buried. Maude complied,
and when they were there, placed him at his request upon the ground,
where stretching himself out at his full length, he said: "Look,
Maude, won't mine be a little grave?" then, ere she could answer the
strange question, he continued, "I want to die so bad; and if you
leave me lying here in the long grass maybe God's angel will take me
up to heaven. Will I be lame, there, think you?"

"Oh, Louis, Louis, what do you mean?" cried Maude, and as well as he
could, for the tears he shed, Louis told her what he meant.

"Father don't love me because I'm lame, and he called me a cripple,
too. What is a cripple, Maude? Is it anything very bad?" and his
beautiful brown eyes turned anxiously toward his sister.

He had never heard that word before, and to him it had a fearful
significance, even worse than lameness. In an instant Maude knelt by
his side--his head was pillowed on her bosom, and in the silent
graveyard, with the quiet dead around them, she spoke blessed words
of comfort to her brother, telling him what a cripple was, and that
because he bore that name he was dearer far to her.

"Your father will love you, too," she said, "when he learns how good
you are. He loves Nellie, and--"

Ere she could say more she was interrupted by Louis, on whose mind
another truth had dawned, and who now said, "But he don't love you
as he does Nellie. Why not? Are you a cripple, too?"

Folding him still closer in her arms, and kissing his fair, white
brow, Maude answered: "Your father, Louis, is not mine--for mine is
dead, and his grave is far away. I came here to live when I was a
little girl, not quite as old as you, and Nellie is not my sister,
though you are my darling brother."

"And do you love father?" asked Louis, his eyes still fixed upon her
face as if he would read the truth.

Every feeling of Maude Remington's heart answered, "No," to that
question, but she could not say so to the boy, and she replied, "Not
as I could love my own father--neither does he love me, for I am not
his child."

This explanation was not then wholly clear to Louis, but he
understood that there was a barrier between his father and Maude,
and this of itself was sufficient to draw him more closely to the
latter, who, after that day, cherished him, if possible, more
tenderly than she had done before, keeping him out of his father's
way, and cushioning his little crutches so they could not be heard,
for she rightly guessed that the sound of them was hateful to the
harsh man's ears.

Maude was far older than her years, and during the period of time
over which we have passed so briefly she had matured both in mind
and body, until now at the age of twelve she was a self-reliant
little woman on whom her mother wholly depended for comfort and
counsel. Very rapidly was Mrs. Kennedy passing from the world, and
as she felt the approach of death she leaned more and more upon her
daughter, talking to her often of the future and commending Louis to
her care, when with her he would be motherless. Maude's position was
now a trying one, for, when her mother became too ill to leave her
room, and the doctor refused to hire extra help, saying, "two great
girls were help enough," it was necessary for her to go into the
kitchen, where she vainly tried to conciliate old Hannah, who
"wouldn't mind a chit of a girl, and wouldn't fret herself either if
things were not half done."

From the first Nellie resolutely refused to work--"it would black
her hands," she said, and as her father never remonstrated she spent
her time in reading, admiring her pretty face, and drumming upon the
piano, which Maude, who was fonder even than Nellie of music, seldom
found time to touch. One there was, however, who gave to Maude every
possible assistance, and this was John. "Having tried his hand," as
he said, "at everything in Marster Norton's school," he proved of
invaluable service--sweeping, dusting, washing dishes, cleaning
knives, and once ironing Dr. Kennedy's shirts, when old Hannah was
in what he called her "tantrums." But alas for John! the entire
print of the iron upon the bosom of one, to say nothing of the piles
of starch upon another, and more than all, the tremendous scolding
which he received from the owner of said shirt, warned him never to
turn laundress again, and in disgust he gave up his new vocation,
devoting his leisure moments to the cultivation of flowers, which he
carried to his mistress, who smiled gratefully upon him, saying they
were the sweetest she had ever smelled. And so each morning a fresh
bouquet was laid upon her pillow, and as she inhaled their perfume
she thought of her New England home, which she would never see
again--thought, too, of Janet, whose cheering words and motherly
acts would be so grateful to her now when she so much needed care.

"'Tis a long time since I've heard from her," she said one day to
Maude. "Suppose you write tomorrow, and tell her I am sick--tell
her, too, that the sight of her would almost make me well, and maybe
she will come," and on the sick woman's face there was a joyous
expression as she thought how pleasant it would be to see once more
one who had breathed the air of her native hills--had looked upon
her Harry's grave--nay, had known her Harry when in life, and wept
over him in death.

Poor, lonesome, homesick woman! Janet shall surely come in answer to
your call, and ere you deem it possible her shadow shall fall across
your threshold--her step be heard upon the stairs--her hand be
clasped in yours!



CHAPTER V.

MRS. JANET BLODGETT.


It was a chilly, rainy afternoon toward the latter part of August.
John was gone, the doctor was cross, and Hannah was cross. Nellie,
too, was unusually irritable, and venting her spite upon Hannah
because there was nothing for dinner fit to eat, and upon Maude
because the house was so desolate and dark, she crept away upstairs,
and wrapping a shawl round her, sat down to a novel, pausing
occasionally to frown at the rain which beat at the windows or the
wind as it roared dismally through the trees. While thus employed
she heard the sound of wheels, and looking up, saw standing before
their gate a muddy wagon, from which a little, dumpy figure in black
was alighting, carefully holding up her alpaca dress, and carrying
in one hand a small box which seemed to be full of flowers.

"She must have come to stay a long time," thought Nellie, as she saw
the piles of baggage which the driver was depositing upon the stoop.
"Who can it be?" she continued, as she recalled all her aunts and
cousins, and found that none of them answered the description of
this woman, who knocked loudly at the door, and then walked in to
shelter herself from the storm.

"Forlornity!" Nellie heard her exclaim, as she left the chamber in
answer to the summons. "Forlornity! No table, no hat-stand, no
nothin', and the dingiest old ile-cloth! What does it mean? Your
servant, miss," she added, dropping a courtesy to Nellie, who now
stood on the stairs, with her finger between the pages of her book,
so as not to lose the place. "I guess I've made a mistake," said the
woman; "is this Dr. Canady's?"

"It is," answered Nellie, and the stranger continued, "Dr. Canady
who married the widder Remington?"

"The same," returned Nellie, thinking how unmercifully she would
tease Maude should this prove to be any of her relations.

"And who be you?" asked the stranger, feeling a little piqued at the
coldness of her reception.

"I am Miss Helen--Dr. Kennedy's daughter," answered the young lady,
assuming an air of dignity, which was not at all diminished by the
very, expressive "Mortal!" which dropped from the woman's lips.

"Can I do anything for you?" asked Nellie, and the stranger
answered: "Yes, go and call Maude, but don't tell her who I am."

She forgot that Nellie did not herself know who she was, and sitting
down upon her trunk, she waited while Nellie hurried to the kitchen,
where, over a smoky fire, Maude was trying in vain to make a bit of
nicely browned toast for her mother, who had expressed a wish for
something good to eat.

"Here, Maude," called out Nellie, "your grandmother or aunt has
come, I guess, and wants to see you in the hall."

"It's Janet--it's Janet, I know!" screamed Maude, and leaving her
slice of bread to burn and blacken before the fire, she hurried
away, while Nellie, who had heard nothing of the letter sent the
week before, wondered much who the "witched old thing with the
poking black bonnet could be."

With a cry of delight Maude wound her arms around the neck of her
old nurse, whom she knew in a moment, though Janet had more
difficulty in recognizing the little girl of other years in the
womanly looking maiden before her.

"It beats all how you've changed," she said, "though your eyes and
hair are the same," and she passed her hand caressingly over the
short glossy curls. Then looking intently in Maude's face she
continued. "You've grown handsome, child."

"No, no, not handsome, Janet; Nellie is the beauty of the house,"
and Maude shook her head mournfully, for on the subject of beauty
she was a little sensitive, her sister always pronouncing her "a
fright," and manifesting a most unamiable spirit if anyone
complimented her in the least.

"What, that yaller-haired, white-face chit who went for you?"
rejoined Janet. "No such thing; but tell me now of your marm. How
sick is she, and what of the little boy? Is he much deformed?"

"Come in here," said Maude, leading the way into the parlor, and
drawing a chair close to Janet, she told all she deemed it necessary
to tell.

But the quick-witted Janet knew there was something more, and
casting a scornful glance around the room she said: "You are a good
girl, Maude; but you can't deceive an old girl like me. I knew by
the tremblin' way you writ that somethin' was wrong, and started the
first blessed morning after gettin' your letter. I was calculating
to come pretty soon, anyway, and had all my arrangements made. So I
can stay a good long spell--always, mebby--for I'm a widder now,"
and she heaved a few sighs to the memory of Mr. Joel Blodgett, who,
she said, "had been dead a year," adding, in a whisper, "but there's
one consolation--he willed me all his property," and she drew from
her belt a huge silver time-piece, which she was in the habit of
consulting quite often, by way of showing that "she could carry a
watch as well as the next one."

After a little her mind came back from her lamented husband, and she
gave Maude a most minute account of her tedious ride in a lumber-wagon
from Canandaigua to Laurel Hill, for the stage had left when
she reached the depot, and she was in too great a hurry to remain at
the hotel until the next morning.

"But what of that doctor--do you like him?" she said at last, and
Maude answered: "Never mind him now; let us see mother first, or
rather let me see to her dinner," and she arose to leave the room.

"You don't like him," continued Janet, "and I knew you wouldn't; but
your poor mother, I pity her. Didn't you say you was gettin' her
something to eat? She's had a good time waitin', but I'll make
amends by seein' to her dinner myself," and spite of Maude's
endeavors to keep her back she followed on into the disorderly
kitchen, from which Nellie had disappeared, and where old Hannah sat
smoking her pipe as leisurely as if on the table there were not
piles of unwashed dishes, to say nothing of the unswept floor and
dirty hearth.

"What a hole!" was Janet's involuntary exclamation, to which Hannah
responded a most contemptuous "Umph!" and thus was the war-cry
raised on either side. "What was you goin' to git for your mother?"
asked Janet, without deigning to notice the portly African, who
smoked on in dignified silence.

"Toast and tea," answered Maude, and casting a deprecating glance at
the fire Janet continued: "You can't make any toast fit for a
heathen to eat by that fire. Aint there any dry wood--kindlin' nor
nothin'?" and she walked into the woodshed, where, spying a pine
board, she seized the ax and was about to commence operations when
Hannah called out: "Ole marster 'll be in yer ha'r if you tache
that."

"I aint afraid of your old marster," answered Janet, and in a moment
the board, which Dr. Kennedy would not suffer John to use because he
might want it for something, was crackling on the fire.

The hearth was swept, the tea-kettle hung in the blaze, and then,
with a look of perfect delight, Janet sat down to make the toast,
fixing it just as she knew Matty liked it best.

"Biled eggs will be good for her digester, and if I only had one
dropped in water," she said, and quick as thought Maude brought her
one, while Hannah growled again, "Ole marster 'll raise de ruff,
case he put 'em away to sell."

"Ole marster be hanged!" muttered Janet, breaking not one, but
three, into the water, for her own stomach began to clamor for food.

Everything was ready at last; a clean towel covered the server, the
fragrant black tea was made, the boiled egg was laid upon the toast,
and then Janet said, "She ought to have a rellish--preserves, jelly,
baked apple, or somethin'," and she opened a cupboard door, while
Hannah, springing to her feet, exclaimed, "Quit dat; thar aint no
sich truck in dis house."

But Janet's sharp eye had discovered behind a pile of papers, rags,
and dried herbs a tumbler of currant jelly, which Hannah had
secretly made and hidden away for her own private eating. Hannah's
first impulse was to snatch the jelly from Janet's hand, but feeling
intuitively that in the resolute Scotchwoman she had a mistress, and
fearing lest Maude should betray her to the doctor she exclaimed,
"If that aint the very stuff Miss Ruggles sent in for Miss Matty! I
forgot it till this blessed minit!" and shutting the cupboard door,
she stood with her back against it lest Janet should discover sundry
other delicacies hidden away for a like purpose.

"Mother has not had a feast like this--and she'll enjoy it so much,"
said Maude, as she started up the stairs followed by Janet, who, ere
they reached the chamber, suddenly stopped, saying, "I tell you what
'tis, if she knows I'm here she won't eat a mou'ful, so you say
nothin', and when she's through I'll come."

This seemed reasonable to Maude, who, leaving Janet to look through
a crevice in the door, entered alone into her mother's presence.
Mrs. Kennedy had waited long for Maude, and at last, weary with
listening to the rain, which made her feel so desolate and sad, she
fell asleep, as little Louis at her side had done before her; but
Maude's cheering voice awoke her.

"Look, mother," she cried, "see the nice dinner!" and her own eyes
fairly danced as she placed the tray upon the table before her
mother, who, scarcely less pleased, exclaimed, "A boiled egg--and
jelly, too!--I've wanted them both so much. How did it happen?"

"Eat first, and then I'll tell you," answered Maude, propping her up
with pillows, and setting the server in her lap.

"It tastes like old times--like Janet," said the invalid, and from
the room without, where Janet watched, there came a faint, choking
sound, which Matty thought was the wind and which Maude knew was
Janet.

Through the door she caught sight of her mistress, whose white,
wasted face wrung from her that cry. Stuffing her handkerchief into
her mouth, she waited until toast, tea, egg, and all had
disappeared, then, with the exclamation, "She's et 'em all up slick
and clean," she walked into the room.

It would be impossible to describe that meeting, when the poor sick
woman bowed her weary head upon the motherly bosom of her faithful
domestic, weeping most piteously while Janet folded her lovingly in
her arms, saying to her soothingly, "Nay, now, Matty darling--nay,
my bonnie bird--take it easy like--take is easy, and you'll feel
better."

"You won't leave me, will you?" sobbed Matty, feeling that it would
not be hard to die with Janet standing near.

"No, honey, no," answered Janet, "I'll stay till one or t'other of
us is carried down the walk and across the common where them
gravestones is standin', which I noticed when I drove up."

"It will be me, Janet. It will be me," said Matty. "They will bury
me beneath the willows, for the other one is lying there, oh, so
peacefully."

Louis was by this time awake, and taking him upon her lap Janet
laughed and cried alternately, mentally resolving that so long as
she should live, she would befriend the little helpless boy, whose
face, she said, "was far winsomer than any she had ever seen."

Then followed many mutual inquiries, during which Matty learned that
Janet was a widow, and had really come to stay if necessary.

"I'm able now to live as I please, for I've got property," said
Janet, again consulting the silver watch, as she usually did when
speaking of her husband's will.

Many questions, too, did Matty ask concerning her former home--her
friends--her flowers--and Harry's grave; "was it well kept now, or
was it overrun with weeds?"

To this last question Janet did not reply directly, but making some
excuse for leaving the room, she soon returned, bearing in one hand
a box in which a small rose-bush was growing. In the other hand she
held a beautiful bouquet which, having been kept moist, looked
almost as fresh as when it was first gathered. This she gave to
Matty, saying, "They grew on Harry's grave. I picked 'em myself
yesterday morning before I left; and this," pointing to the rose-bush,
"is a root I took from there last spring on purpose for you,
for I meant to visit you this fall."

Need we say those flowers were dearer to Matty than the wealth of
the Indies would have been! They had blossomed on Harry's grave--his
dust had added to them life, and as if they were indeed a part of
him, she hugged them to her heart--kissing them through her tears
and blessing Janet for the priceless gift.

"Don't tell him, though," she whispered, and a deep flush mounted to
her cheek as on the stairs she heard a heavy footstep, and knew that
Dr. Kennedy was coming!

He had been in the kitchen, demanding of Hannah, "Whose is all that
baggage in the hall?" and Hannah, glad of an opportunity to "free
her mind," had answered, "Some low-lived truck or other that they
called 'Janet,' and a body'd s'pose she owned the house, the way she
went on, splittin' up yer board for kindlin', makin' missus' toast
swim in butter, and a-bilin' three of them eggs you laid away to
sell. If she stays here, this nigger won't--that's my 'pinion," and
feeling greatly injured she left the kitchen, while Dr. Kennedy,
with a dark, moody look upon his face, started for the sick-room.

He knew very well who his visitor was, and when his wife said,
"Husband, this is my faithful Janet, or rather Mrs. Blodgett now.
Wasn't it kind in her to come so far to see me?" he merely nodded
coolly to Mrs. Blodgett, who nodded as coolly in return; then,
turning to his wife, he said, "You seem excited, my dear, and this
ought not to be. 'Tis a maxim of mine that company is injurious to
sick people. What do you think, Mrs. Blodgett?"

Mrs. Blodgett didn't think anything save that he was a most
disagreeable man, and as she could not say this in his presence, she
made no particular answer. Glancing toward the empty plate which
stood upon the table, he continued, "Hannah tells me, my dear, that
you have eaten three boiled eggs. I wonder at your want of
discretion, when you know how indigestible they are," and his eye
rested reprovingly on Janet, who now found her tongue, and starting
up, exclaimed, "One biled egg won't hurt anybody's digester, if it's
ever so much out of kilter--but the jade lied. Two of them eggs I
cooked for myself, and I'll warrant she's guzzled 'em down before
this. Anyway, I'll go and see," and she arose to leave the room.

Just as she reached the door the doctor called after her, saying,
"Mrs. Blodgett, I observed a trunk or two in the lower hall, which I
presume are yours. Will you have them left there, or shall I bring
them up to your chamber? You will stay all night with us, of
course!"

For an instant Janet's face was crimson, but forcing down her wrath
for Matty's sake, she answered, "I shall probably stay as long as
that," and slamming together the door she went downstairs, while
Matty said sadly, "Oh, husband, how could you thus insult her when
you knew she had come to stay a while at least, and that her
presence would do me so much good?"

"How should I know she had come to stay, when I've heard nothing
about it," was the doctor's reply; and then in no mild terms he gave
his opinion of the lady--said opinion being based on what old Hannah
had told him.

There were tears in Matty's eyes, and they dropped from her long
eye-lashes as, taking the doctor's hand, she said: "Husband, you
know that I'm going to die--that ere the snow is falling you will be
a second time alone. And you surely will not refuse me when I ask
that Janet shall stay until the last. When I am gone you will,
perhaps, be happier in the remembrance that you granted me one
request."

There was something in the tone of her voice far more convincing
than her words, and when she added, "She does not expect wages, for
she has money of her own," Dr. Kennedy yielded the point,
prophesying the while that there would be trouble with Hannah.

Meantime Mrs. Blodgett had wended her way to the kitchen, meeting in
the way with Nellie, around whose mouth there was a substance
greatly resembling the yolk of an egg! Thus prepared for the worst,
Janet was not greatly disappointed when she found that her eggs had
been disposed of by both the young lady and Hannah, the latter of
whom was too busy with her dishes to turn her head or in any way
acknowledge the presence of a second person.

"Joel Blodgett's widow ought to be above havin' words with a
nigger," was Janet's mental comment as she contented herself with a
slice of bread and a cup of tea, which, by this time, was of quite a
reddish hue.

Her hunger being satisfied, she began to feel more amiably disposed
toward the old negress, whose dishes she offered to wipe. This
kindness was duly appreciated by Hannah, and that night, in speaking
of Janet to her son, she pronounced her "not quite so onery a white
woman as she at first took her to be."

As the days wore on Janet's presence in the family was felt in
various ways. To Matty it brought a greater degree of happiness than
she had experienced since she left her New England home, while even
the doctor acknowledged an increased degree of comfort in his
household, though not willing at first to attribute it to its proper
source. He did not like Janet; her ideas were too extravagant for
him, and on several different occasions he hinted quite strongly
that she was not wanted there; but Janet was perfectly invincible to
hints, and when at one time he embodied them in language that could
not be misunderstood, telling her, "'twas a maxim of his that if a
person had a home of their own they had better stay there," she
promptly replied that "'twas a maxim of hers to stay where she
pleased, particularly as she was a woman of property," and so, as
she pleased to stay there, she stayed!

It took but a short time for her to understand the doctor, and to
say that she disliked him would but feebly express the feeling of
aversion with which she regarded him. Not a word, however, would
Matty admit of past or present unkindness--neither was it necessary
that she should, for Janet saw it all--saw how "Old Maxim," as she
called him, had worried her life away, and while cherishing for him
a sentiment of hatred, she strove to comfort her young mistress, who
grew weaker and weaker every day, until at last the husband himself,
aroused to a sense of her danger, strove by little acts of kindness
unusual in him, to make amends for years of wrong. Experience is a
thorough teacher, and he shrank from the bitter memories which
spring from the grave of a neglected wife, and he would rather that
Matty, when she died, should not turn away from him, shuddering at
his touch, and asking him to take his hand from off her brow; just
as one brown-haired woman had done. This feeling of his was
appreciated by Janet, who in proportion as he became tender toward
Matty, was respectful to him, until at last there came to be a
tolerably good understanding between them, and she was suffered, in
most matters, to have her own way.

With John she was a special favorite, and through his
instrumentality open hostilities were prevented between herself and
his mother, until the latter missed another cup of jelly from its
new hiding-place. Then, indeed, the indignant African announced her
intention of going at once to "Miss Ruggles'," who had offered her
"twelve shillings a week and a heap of leisure."

"Let her go," said John, who knew Mrs. Ruggles to be a fashionable
woman, the mother of nine children, whose ages varied from one to
fifteen; "let her go--she'll be glad to come back," and the sequel
proved he was right, for just as it was beginning to grow light on
the second day of her absence, someone rapped at his window, and a
half-crying voice whispered, "Let me in, John; I've been out to
sarvice enough."

John complied with the request, and when Janet came down to the
kitchen, how was she surprised at finding Hannah there, leisurely
grinding her coffee, with an innocent look upon her sable face, as
if nothing had ever happened. John's raillery, however, loosened her
tongue at last, and very minutely she detailed her grievances. "She
had done a two weeks' washing, besides all the work, and the whole
of them young ones under her feet into the bargain. Then at night,
when she hoped for a little rest, Mrs. Ruggles had gone off to a
party and stayed till midnight, leaving her with that squallin'
brat; but never you mind," said she, "I poured a little paregol down
its throat, or my name aint Hannah," and with a sigh of relief at
her escape from "Miss Ruggles," she finished her story and resumed
her accustomed duties, which for many weeks she faithfully
performed, finding but little fault with the frequent suggestions of
Mrs. Janet Blodgett, whose rule in the household was for the time
being firmly established.



CHAPTER VI.

THE MOTHER.


From the tall trees which shade the desolate old house the leaves
have fallen one by one, and the November rain makes mournful music
as in the stillness of the night it drops upon the withered foliage,
softly, slowly, as if weeping for the sorrow which has come upon the
household. Matty Kennedy is dead; and in the husband's heart there
is a gnawing pain, such as he never felt before; not even when Katy
died; for Katy, though pure and good, was not so wholly unselfish as
Matty had been, and in thinking of her, he could occasionally recall
an impatient word; but from Matty none. Gentle, loving, and
beautiful she had been to him in life; and now, beautiful in death,
she lay in the silent parlor, on the marble table she had brought
from home, while he--oh, who shall tell what thoughts were busy at
his heart, as he sat there alone, that dismal, rainy night.

In one respect his wishes had been gratified; Matty had not turned
from him in death. She had died within his arms; but so long as the
light of reason shone in her blue eyes,--so long had they, rested on
the rose-bush within the window,--the rose-bush brought from Harry's
grave! Nestled among its leaves was a half-opened bud, and when none
could hear, she whispered softly to Janet, "Place it in my bosom
just as you placed one years ago, when I was Harry's bride."

To Nellie and to Maude she had spoken blessed words of comfort,
commending to the latter as to a second mother the little Louis,
who, trembling with fear, had hidden beneath the bedclothes, so that
he could not see the white look upon her face. Then to her husband
she had turned, pleading with all a mother's tenderness for her
youngest born--her unfortunate one.

"Oh, husband," she said, "you will care for him when I am gone. You
will love my poor, crippled boy! Promise me this, and death will not
be hard to meet. Promise me, won't you?" and the voice was very,
very faint.

He could not refuse, and bending low, he said, "Matty, I will, I
will."

"Bless you, my husband, bless you for that," was Matty's dying
words, for she never spoke again.

It was morning then,--early morning, and a long, dreary day had
intervened, until at last it was midnight, and silence reigned
throughout the house. Maude, Nellie, Janet, and John had wept
themselves sick, while in little Louis' bosom there was a sense of
desolation which kept him wakeful, even after Maude had cried
herself to sleep. Many a time that day had he stolen into the
parlor, and climbing into a chair, as best he could, had laid his
baby cheek against the cold, white face, and smoothing with his
dimpled hand the shining hair, had whispered, "Poor, sick mother,
won't you speak to Louis any more?"

He knew better than most children of his age what was meant by
death, and as he lay awake, thinking how dreadful it was to have no
mother, his thoughts turned toward his father, who had that day been
too much absorbed in his own grief to notice him.

"Maybe he'll love me some now ma is dead," he thought, and with that
yearning for paternal sympathy natural to the motherless, he crept
out of bed, and groping his way with his noiseless crutches to his
father's door, he knocked softly for admittance.

"Who's there?" demanded Dr. Kennedy, every nerve thrilling to the
answer.

"It's me, father; won't you let me in, for its dark out here, and
lonesome, with her lying in the parlor. Oh, father, won't you love
me a little, now mother's dead? I can't help it because I'm lame,
and when I'm a man I will earn my own living. I won't be in the way.
Say, pa, will you love me?"

He remembered the charges his father had preferred against him, and
the father remembered them too. She to whom the cruel words were
spoken was gone from him now and her child, their child, was at the
door, pleading for his love. Could he refuse? No, by every kindly
feeling, by every parental tie, we answer, No; he could not; and
opening the door he took the little fellow in his arms, hugging him
to his bosom, while tears, the first he had shed for many a year,
fell like rain upon the face of his crippled boy. Like some mighty
water, which breaking through its prison walls seeks again its
natural channel, so did his love go out toward the child so long
neglected, the child who was not now to him a cripple. He did not
think of the deformity, he did not even see it. He saw only the
beautiful face, the soft brown eyes and silken hair of the little
one, who ere long fell asleep, murmuring in his dreams, "He loves
me, ma, he does."

Surely the father cannot be blamed if, when he looked again upon the
calm face of the dead, he fancied that it wore a happier look, as if
the whispered words of Louis had reached her unconscious ear. Very
beautiful looked Matty in her coffin--for thirty years had but
slightly marred her youthful face, and the doctor, as he gazed upon
her, thought within himself, "she was almost as fair as Maude
Glendower."

Then, as his eye fell upon the rosebud which Janet had laid upon her
bosom, he said, "'Twas kind in Mrs. Blodgett to place it there, for
Matty was fond of flowers;" but he did not dream how closely was
that rosebud connected with a grave made many years before.

Thoughts of Maude Glendower and mementos of Harry Remington meeting
together at Matty's coffin! Alas, that such should be our life!

Underneath the willows, and by the side of Katy, was Matty laid to
rest, and then the desolate old house seemed doubly desolate--Maude
mourning truly for her mother, while the impulsive Nellie, too, wept
bitterly for one whom she had really loved. To the doctor, however,
a new feeling had been born, and in the society of his son he found
a balm for his sorrow, becoming ere long, to all outward appearance,
the same exacting, overbearing man he had been before. The blows are
hard and oft repeated which break the solid rock, and there will
come a time when that selfish nature shall be subdued and broken
down; but 'tis not yet--not yet.

And now, leaving him a while to himself, we will pass on to a period
when Maude herself shall become in reality the heroine of our story.



CHAPTER VII.

PAST AND PRESENT.


Four years and a half have passed away since the dark November night
when Matty Kennedy died, and in her home all things are not as they
were then. Janet, the presiding genius of the household, is gone--married
a second time, and by this means escaped, as she verily
believes, the embarrassment of refusing outright to be Mrs. Dr.
Kennedy, No. 3! Not that Dr. Kennedy ever entertained the slightest
idea of making her his wife, but knowing how highly he valued money,
and being herself "a woman of property," Janet came at last to fancy
that he had serious thoughts of offering himself to her. He, on the
contrary, was only intent upon the best means of removing her from
his house, for, though he was not insensible to the comfort which
her presence brought, it was a comfort for which he paid too dearly.
Still he endured it for nearly three years, but at the end of that
time he determined that she should go away, and as he dreaded a
scene he did not tell her plainly what he meant, but hinted, and
with each hint the widow groaned afresh over her lamented Joel.

At last, emboldened by some fresh extravagance, he said to her one
day: "Mrs. Blodgett, ah--ahem." Here he stopped, while Mrs.
Blodgett, thinking her time had come, drew out Joel's picture, which
latterly she carried in her pocket, so as to be ready for any
emergency. "Mrs. Blodgett, are you paying attention?" asked the
doctor, observing how intently she was regarding the picture of the
deceased.

"Yes, yes," she answered, and he continued:

"Mrs. Blodgett, I hardly know what to say, but I've been thinking
for some time past--"

"I know you've been thinking," interrupted the widow, "but it won't
do an atom of good, for my mind was made up long ago, and I shan't
do it, and if you've any kind of feeling for Matty, which you haint,
nor never had, you wouldn't think of such a thing, and I know, as
well as I want to know, that it's my property, and nothin' else,
which has put such an idee into your head!"

Here, overcome with her burst of indignation, she began to cry,
while the doctor, wholly misunderstanding her, attempted to smooth
the matter somewhat by saying: "I had no intention of distressing
you, Mrs. Blodgett, but I thought I might as well free my mind. Were
you a poor woman, I should feel differently, but knowing you have
money--"

"Wretch!" fairly screamed the insulted Janet. "So you confess my
property is at the bottom of it! But I'll fix it--I'll put an end to
it!" and in a state of great excitement she rushed from the room.

Just across the way a newly-fledged lawyer had hung out his sign,
and thither that very afternoon the wrathful widow wended her way,
nor left the dingy office until one-half of her property, which was
far greater than anyone supposed it to be, was transferred by deed
of gift to Maude Remington, who was to come in possession of it on
her eighteenth birthday, and was to inherit the remainder by will at
the death of the donor.

"That fixes him," she muttered, as she returned to the house; "that
fixes Old Maxim good; to think of his insultin' me by ownin' right
up that 'twas my property he was after, the rascal! I wouldn't have
him if there warn't another man in the world!" and entering the room
where Maude was sewing, she astonished the young girl by telling her
what she had done. "I have made you my heir," said she, tossing the
deed of gift and the will into Maude's lap. "I've made you my heir;
and the day you're eighteen you'll be worth five thousand dollars,
besides havin' the interest to use between this time and that. Then,
if I ever die; you'll have five thousand more. Joel Blodgett didn't
keep thirty cows and peddle milk for nothin'."

Maude was at first too much astonished to comprehend the meaning of
what she heard, but she understood it at last, and then with many
tears thanked the eccentric woman for what she had done, and asked
the reason for this unexpected generosity.

"'Cause I like you!" answered Janet, determined not to injure
Maude's feelings by letting her know how soon her mother had been
forgotten. "'Cause I like you, and always meant to give it to you.
But don't tell anyone how much 'tis, for if the old fool widowers
round here know I am still worth five thousand dollars they'll like
enough be botherin' me with offers, hopin' I'll change my will; but
I shan't. I'll teach 'em a trick or two, the good for-nothin' Old
Maxim."

The latter part of this speech was made as Janet was leaving the
room, consequently Maude did not hear it, neither would she have
understood if she had. She knew her nurse was very peculiar, but she
never dreamed it possible for her to fancy that Dr. Kennedy wished
to make her his wife, and she was greatly puzzled to know why she
had been so generous to her. But Janet knew; and when a few days
afterward Dr. Kennedy, determining upon a fresh attempt to remove
her from his house, came to her side, as she was sitting alone in
the twilight, she felt glad that one-half her property at least was
beyond her control.

"Mrs. Blodgett," he said, clearing his throat and looking
considerably embarrassed, "Mrs. Blodgett."

"Well, what do you want of Mrs. Blodgett?" was the widow's testy
answer, and the doctor replied, "I did not finish what I wished to
say to you the other day, and it's a maxim of mine, if a person has
anything on his mind, he had better tell it at once."

"Certainly, ease yourself off, do," and Janet's little gray eyes
twinkled with delight, as she thought how crestfallen he would look
when she told him her property was gone.

"I was going, Mrs. Blodgett," he continued, "I was going to propose
to you--"

He never finished the sentence, for the widow sprang to her feet,
exclaiming, "It's of no kind of use! I've gin my property all to
Maude; half of it the day she's eighteen, and the rest on't is
willed to her when I die, so you may as well let me alone," and
feeling greatly flurried with what she verily believed to have been
an offer, she walked away, leaving the doctor to think her the most
inexplicable woman he ever saw.

The next day Janet received an invitation to visit her husband's
sister who lived in Canada. The invitation was accepted, and to his
great delight the doctor saw her drive from his door, just one week
after his last amusing interview. In Canada Janet formed the
acquaintance of a man full ten years her junior. He had been a
distant relative of her husband, and knowing of her property, asked
her to be his wife. For several days Janet studied her face to see
what was in it "which made every man in Christendom want her!" and,
concluding at last that "handsome is that handsome does," said
"Yes," and made Peter Hopkins the happiest of men.

There was a bridal trip to Laurel Hill, where the new husband
ascertained that the half of that for which he had married was
beyond his reach; but being naturally of a hopeful nature, he did
not despair of eventually changing the will, so he swallowed his
disappointment and redoubled his attentions to his mother-wife, now
Mrs. Janet Blodgett Hopkins.

Meantime the story that Maude was an heiress circulated rapidly, and
as the lawyer kept his own counsel and Maude, in accordance with
Janet's request, never told how much had been given her, the amount
was doubled; nay, in some cases trebled, and she suddenly found
herself a person of considerable importance, particularly in the
estimation of Dr. Kennedy, who, aside from setting a high value upon
money, fancied he saw a way by which he himself could reap some
benefit from his stepdaughter's fortune. If Maude had money she
certainly ought to pay for her board, and so he said to her one day,
prefacing his remarks with his stereotyped phrase that "'twas a
maxim of his that one person should not live upon another if they
could help it."

Since Janet's last marriage Maude had taken the entire management of
affairs, and without her there would have been but little comfort or
order in a household whose only servant was old and lazy, and whose
eldest daughter was far too proud to work. This Maude knew, and with
a flush of indignation upon her cheek she replied to her stepfather:
"Very well, sir, I can pay for my board, if you like; but boarders,
you know, never trouble themselves with the affairs of the kitchen."

The doctor was confounded. He knew he could not well dispense with
Maude's services, and it had not before occurred to him that a
housekeeper and boarder were two different persons.

"Ah--yes--just so," said he, "I see I'm laboring under a mistake;
you prefer working for your board--all right," and feeling a good
deal more disconcerted than he ever supposed it possible for him to
feel, he gave up the contest.

Maude was at this time nearly sixteen years of age, and during the
next year she was to all intents and purposes the housekeeper,
discharging faithfully every duty and still finding time to pursue
her own studies and superintend the education of little Louis, to
whom she was indeed a second mother. She was very fond of books, and
while Janet was with them she had with Nellie attended the seminary
at Laurel Hill, where she stood high in all her classes, for
learning was with her a delight, and when at last it seemed
necessary for her to remain at home, she still devoted a portion of
each day to her studies, reciting to a teacher who came regularly to
the house and whom she paid with her own money. By this means she
was at the age of seventeen a far better scholar than Nellie, who
left every care to her stepsister, saying she was just suited to the
kitchen work and the tiresome old books with which she kept her
chamber littered. This chamber to which Nellie referred was Maude's
particular province. Here she reigned joint sovereign with Louis,
who thus early evinced a degree of intellectuality wonderful in one
so young, and who in some things excelled even Maude herself.

Drawing and painting seemed to be his ruling taste, and as Dr.
Kennedy still cherished for his crippled boy a love almost
idolatrous, he spared neither money nor pains to procure for him
everything necessary for his favorite pursuit. Almost the entire day
did Louis pass in what he termed Maude's library, where, poring over
books or busy with his pencil, he whiled the hours away without a
sigh for the green fields and shadowy woods, through which he could
never hope to ramble. And Maude was very proud of her artist
brother--proud of the beautiful boy whose face seemed not to be of
earth, so calm, so angel-like was its expression. All the softer,
gentler virtues of the mother, and all the intellectual qualities of
the father were blended together in the child, who presented a
combination of goodness, talent, beauty, and deformity such as this
is seldom seen. For his sister Maude, Louis possessed a deep,
undying love which neither time nor misfortune could in any way
abate. She was part and portion of himself--his life--his light--his
all, in all--and to his childlike imagination a purer, nobler being
had never been created than his darling sister Maude. And well might
Louis Kennedy love the self-sacrificing girl who devoted herself so
wholly to him, and who well fulfilled her mother's charge, "Care for
my little boy."

Nellie, too, was well beloved, but he soon grew weary of her
company, for she seldom talked of anything save herself and the
compliments which were given to her youthful beauty. And Nellie, at
the age of eighteen, was beautiful, if that can be called beauty
which is void of heart or soul or intellect. She was very small, and
the profusion of golden curls which fell about her neck and
shoulders gave her the appearance of being younger than she really
was. Her features were almost painfully regular, her complexion
dazzlingly brilliant, while her large blue eyes had in them a
dreamy, languid expression exceedingly attractive to those who
looked for nothing beyond--no inner chamber where dwell the graces
which make a woman what she ought to be. Louis' artist eye,
undeveloped though it was, acknowledged the rare loveliness of
Nellie's face. She would make a beautiful picture, he thought; but
for the noble, the good, the pure, he turned to the dark-eyed Maude,
who was as wholly unlike her stepsister as it was possible for her
to be. The one was a delicate blonde, the other a decided brunette,
with hair and eyes of deepest black. Her complexion, too, was dark,
but tinged with a beautiful red, which Nellie would gladly have
transferred to her own paler cheek. It was around the mouth,
however, the exquisitely shaped mouth, and white even teeth, that
Maude's principal beauty lay, and the bright smile which lit up her
features when at all animated in conversation would have made a
plain face handsome. There were some who gave her the preference,
saying there was far more beauty in her clear, beautiful eyes and
sunny smile than in the dollish face of Nellie, who treated such
remarks with the utmost scorn. She knew that she was beautiful. She
had known it all her life--for had she not been told so by her
mirror, her father, her schoolmates, her Aunt Kelsey, and more than
all by J.C. De Vere, the elegant young man whom she had met in
Rochester, where she had spent the winter preceding the summer of
which we are writing, and which was four and one-half years after
Matty's death.

Greatly had the young lady murmured on her return against the dreary
old house and lonely life at Laurel Hill, which did indeed present a
striking contrast to the city gayeties in which she had been
mingling. Even the cozy little chamber which the kind-hearted Maude
had fitted up for her with her own means was pronounced heathenish
and old-fashioned, while Maude herself was constantly taunted with
being countryfied and odd.

"I wish J.C. De Vere could see you now," she said one morning to her
sister, who had donned her working dress, and with sleeves rolled up
and wide checked apron tied around her waist was deep in the
mysteries of bread making.

"I wish he could see her too," said Louis, who had rolled his chair
into the kitchen so that he could be with Maude. "He would say he
never saw a handsomer color than the red upon her cheeks."

"Pshaw!" returned Nellie. "I guess he knows the difference between
rose-tint and sunburn. Why, he's the most fastidious man I ever saw.
He can't endure the smell of cooking, and says he would never look
twice at a lady whose hands were not as soft and white as--well, as
mine," and she glanced admiringly at the little snowy fingers, which
were beating a tune upon the window-sill.

"I wants no better proof that he's a fool," muttered old Hannah, who
looked upon Nellie as being what she really was, a vain, silly
thing.

"A fool, Hannah," retorted Nellie; "I'd like to have Aunt Kelsey
hear you say that. Why, he's the very best match in Rochester. All
the girls are dying for him, but he don't care a straw for one of
them. He's out of health now, and is coming here this summer with
Aunt Kelsey, and then you'll see how perfectly refined he is. By the
way, Maude, if I had as much money at my command as you have I'd fix
up the parlor a little. You know father won't, and that carpet, I'll
venture to say, was in the ark. I almost dread to have J.C. come,
he's so particular; but then he knows we are rich, and beside that,
Aunt Kelsey has told him just how stingy father is, so I don't care
so much. Did I tell you J.C. has a cousin James, who may possibly
come too. I never saw him, but Aunt Kelsey says he's the queerest
man that ever lived. He never was known to pay the slightest
attention to a woman unless she was married or engaged. He has a
most delightful house at Hampton, where he lives with his mother;
but he'll never marry, unless it is some hired girl who knows how to
work. Why, he was once heard to say he would sooner marry a
good-natured Irish girl than a fashionable city lady who knew nothing but
to dress, and flirt, and play the piano--the wretch!"

"Oh! I know I should like him," exclaimed Louis, who had been an
attentive listener.

"I dare say you would, and Maude, too," returned Nellie, adding,
after a moment: "And I shouldn't wonder if Maude just suited him,
particularly if he finds her up to her elbows in dough. So, Maude,
it is for your interest to improve the old castle a little. Won't
you buy a new carpet?" and she drew nearer to Maude, who made no
direct reply.

The three hundred and fifty dollars interest money which she had
received the year before had but little of it been expended on
herself, though it had purchased many a comfort for the household,
for Maude was generous, and freely gave what was her own to give.
The parlor carpet troubled even her, but she would not pledge
herself to buy another until she had first tried her powers of
persuasion upon the doctor, who, as she expected, refused outright.

"He knew the carpet was faded," he said, "but 'twas hardly worn at
all, and 'twas a maxim of his to make things last as long as
possible."

It was in vain that Nellie, who was present, quoted Aunt Kelsey and
J.C. De Vere, the old doctor didn't care a straw for either, unless
indeed, J.C. should some time take Nellie off his hands, and pay her
bills, which were altogether too large for one of his maxims. That
this would probably be the result of the young man's expected visit
had been strongly hinted by Mrs. Kelsey, and thus was he more
willing to have him come. But on the subject of the carpet he was
inexorable, and with tears of anger in her large blue eyes Nellie
gave up the contest, while Maude very quietly walked over to the
store and gave orders that a handsome three-ply carpet which she had
heard her sister admire should be sent home as soon as possible.
"You are a dear good girl, after all, and I hope James De Vere will
fall in love with you," was Nellie's exclamation as she saw a large
roll deposited at their door, but not a stitch in the making of the
carpet did she volunteer to take. "She should prick her fingers or
callous her hand," she said, "and Mr. De Vere thought so much of a
pretty hand."

"Nonsense!" said John, who was still a member of the family,
"nonsense, Miss Nellie. I'd give a heap more for one of Miss Maude's
little fingers, red and rough as they be, than I would for both them
soft, sickish feeling hands of yourn;" and John hastily disappeared
from the room to escape the angry words which he knew would follow
his bold remark.

Nellie was not a favorite at home, and no one humored her as much as
Maude, who, on this occasion, almost outdid herself in her endeavors
to please the exacting girl, and make the house as presentable as
possible to the fashionable Mrs. Kelsey and the still more
fashionable J.C. De Vere. The new carpet was nicely fitted to the
floor, new curtains hung before the windows, the old sofa was
recovered, the piano was tuned, a hat-stand purchased for the hall,
the spare chamber cleaned, and then very impatiently Nellie waited
for the day when her guests were expected to arrive.

The time came at last, a clear June afternoon, and immediately after
dinner Nellie repaired to her chamber, so as to have ample time to
try the effect of her different dresses, ere deciding upon any one.
Maude, too, was a good deal excited, for one of her even
temperament. She rather dreaded Mrs. Kelsey, whom she had seen but
twice in her life, but for some reason, wholly inexplicable to
herself, she felt a strange interest in the wonderful J.C., of whom
she had heard so much. Not that he would notice her in the least,
but a man who could turn the heads of all the girls in Rochester
must be somewhat above the common order of mortals; and when at last
her work was done, and she, too, went up to dress, it was with an
unusual degree of earnestness that she asked her sister what she
should wear that would be becoming.

"Wear what you please, but don't bother me," answered Nellie,
smoothing down the folds of her light blue muslin, which harmonized
admirably with her clear complexion.

"Maude," called Louis, from the adjoining room, "wear white. You
always look pretty in white."

"So does every black person!" answered Nellie, feeling provoked that
she had not advised the wearing of some color not as becoming to
Maude as she knew white to be.

Maude had the utmost confidence in Louis' taste, and when fifteen
minutes later she stood before the mirror, her short, glossy curls
clustering about her head, a bright bloom on her cheek, and a
brighter smile upon her lip, she thought it was the dress which made
her look so well, for it had never entered her mind that she was
handsome.

"Wear your coral earrings," said Louis, who had wheeled himself into
the room, and was watching her with all a fond brother's pride.

The earrings were a decided improvement, and the jealous Nellie,
when she saw how neat and tasteful was her sister's dress, began to
cry, saying, "she herself looked a fright, that she'd nothing fit to
wear, and if her father did not buy her something she'd run away."

This last was her usual threat when at all indignant, and as after
giving vent to it she generally felt better, she soon dried her
tears, saying, "she was glad anyway that she had blue eyes, for J.C.
could not endure black ones."

"Maybe James can," was the quick rejoinder of Louis, who always
defended Maude from Nellie's envious attacks.

By this time the clock was striking five. Half an hour more and they
would be there, and going through the rooms below Nellie looked to
see if everything was in order, then returning to her chamber above
she waited impatiently until the sound of wheels was heard in the
distance. A cloud of dust was visible next, and soon a large
traveling carriage stopped at the gate, laden with trunks and boxes,
as if its occupants had come to spend the remainder of the summer. A
straight, slender, dandified-looking young man sprang out, followed
by another far different in style, though equally as fine looking.
The lady next alighted, and scarcely were her feet upon the ground
when she was caught around the neck by a little fairy figure in
blue, which had tripped gracefully down the walk, seemingly
unconscious, but really very conscious of every step she took, for
the black-mustached young man, who touched his hat to her so
politely, was particular about a woman's gait.

A little apart from the rest stood the stranger, casually eyeing the
diminutive creature, of whose beauty and perfections he had heard so
much both from her partial aunt and his half-smitten cousin: There
was a momentary thrill--a feeling such as one experiences in gazing
upon a rare piece of sculpture--and then the heart of James De Vere
resumed its accustomed beat, for he knew the inner chamber of the
mind was empty, and henceforth Nellie's beauty would have no
attraction for him. Very prettily she led the way to the house, and
after ushering her guests into the parlor ran upstairs to Maude,
bidding her to order supper at once, and telling her as a piece of
important news which she did not already know, that "Aunt Kelsey,
James, and J.C. had come."



CHAPTER VIII.

JAMES AND J.C.


James and J.C. De Vere were cousins, and also cousins of Mrs.
Kelsey's husband; and hence the intimacy between that lady and
themselves, or rather between that lady and J.C., who was undeniably
the favorite, partly because he was much like herself and partly
because of his name, which she thought so exclusive--so different
from anyone's else. His romantic young mother, who liked anything
savoring at all of "Waverly," had inflicted upon him the cognomen of
Jedediah Cleishbotham, and repenting of her act when too late had
dubbed him "J.C.," by which name he was now generally known. The
ladies called him "a love of a man," and so he was, if a faultless
form, a wicked black eye, a superb set of teeth, an unexceptionable
mustache, a tiny foot, the finest of broadcloth, reported wealth,
and perfect good humor constitute the ingredients which make up "a
love of a man." Added to this, he really did possess a good share of
common sense, and with the right kind of influence would have made a
far different man from what he was. Self-love was the bane of his
life, and as he liked dearly to be flattered, so he in turn became a
most consummate flatterer; always, however, adapting his remarks to
the nature of the person with whom he was conversing. Thus to Nellie
Kennedy he said a thousand foolish things, just because he knew he
gratified her vanity by doing so. Although possessing the reputation
of a wealthy man, J.C. was far from being one, and his great object
was to secure a wife who, while not distasteful to him, still had
money enough to cover many faults, and such a one he fancied Nellie
Kennedy to be. From Mrs. Kelsey he had received the impression that
the doctor was very rich, and as Nellie was the only daughter, her
fortune would necessarily be large. To be sure, he would rather she
had been a little more sensible, but as she was not he resolved to
make the best of it, and although claiming to be something of an
invalid in quest of health, it was really with the view of asking
her to be his wife that he had come to Laurel Hill. He had first
objected to his cousin accompanying him--not for fear of rivalry,
but because he disliked what he might say of Nellie, for if there
was a person in the world whose opinion he respected, and whose
judgment he honored, it was his Cousin James.

Wholly unlike J.C. was James, and yet he was quite as popular, for
one word from him was more highly prized by scheming mothers and
artful young girls than the most complimentary speech that J.C. ever
made. He meant what he said; and to the kindest, noblest of hearts
he added a fine commanding person, a finished education, and a
quiet, gentlemanly manner, to say nothing of his unbounded wealth,
and musical voice, whose low, deep tones had stirred the
heart-strings of more than one fair maiden in her teens, but stirred them
in vain, for James De Vere had never seen the woman he wished to
call his wife; and now, at the age of twenty-six, he was looked upon
as a confirmed old bachelor, whom almost anyone would marry, but
whom no one ever could. He had come to Laurel Hill because Mrs.
Kelsey had asked him so to do, and because he thought it would be
pleasant to spend a few weeks in that part of the country.

Of Maude's existence he knew nothing, and when at last supper was
announced, and he followed his cousin to the dining room, he started
in surprise as his eye fell on the dark-eyed girl who, with a
heightened bloom upon her cheek, presided at the table with so much
grace and dignity. Whether intentionally or not, we cannot say, but
Nellie failed to introduce her stepsister, and as Mrs. Kelsey was
too much absorbed in looking at her pretty niece, and in talking to
her brother, to notice the omission, Maude's position would have
been peculiarly embarrassing but for the gentlemanly demeanor of
James, who, always courteous, particularly to those whom he thought
neglected, bowed politely, and made to her several remarks
concerning the fineness of the day and the delightful view which
Laurel Hill commanded of the surrounding country. She was no menial,
he knew, and looking in her bright, black eyes he saw that she had
far more mind than the dollish Nellie, who, as usual, was provoking
J.C. to say all manner of foolish things.

As they were returning to the parlor J.C. said to Nellie: "By the
way, Nell, who is that young girl in white, and what is she doing
here?"

"Why, that's Maude Remington, my stepsister," answered Nellie. "I'm
sure you've heard me speak of her."

J.C. was sure he hadn't; but he did not contradict the little lady,
whose manner plainly indicated that any attention paid by him to the
said Maude would be resented as an insult to herself. Just then Mrs.
Kelsey went upstairs, taking her niece with her; and as Dr. Kennedy
had a patient to visit he, too, asked to be excused, and the young
men were left alone. The day was warm, and sauntering out beneath
the trees they sat down upon a rustic seat which commanded a view of
the dining room, the doors and windows of which were open,
disclosing to view all that was transpiring within.

"In the name of wonder, what's that?" exclaimed J.C., as he saw a
curiously shaped chair wheeling itself, as it were, into the room.

"It must be Dr. Kennedy's crippled boy," answered James, as Louis
skipped across the floor on crutches and climbed into the chair
which Maude carefully held for him.

Louis did not wish to eat with the strangers until somewhat
acquainted, consequently he waited until they were gone, and then
came to the table, where Maude stood by his side, carefully
ministering to his wants, and assisting him into his chair when he
was through. Then, pushing back her curls, and donning the check
apron which Nellie so much abhorred, she removed the dishes herself,
for old Hannah she knew was very tired, having done an unusual
amount of work that day.

"I tell you what, Jim, I wouldn't wonder if that's the very one for
you," said J.C., puffing leisurely at his cigar, and still keeping
his eyes fixed upon the figure in white, as if to one of his
fastidious taste there was nothing very revolting in seeing Maude
Remington wash the supper dishes, even though her hands were brown
and her arms a little red.

James did not answer immediately, and when he did he said: "Do you
remember a little girl we met in the cars between Springfield and
Albany, several years ago when we were returning from school? She
was a funny little black-eyed creature, and amused us very much with
her remarks."

"I wouldn't wonder if I remembered her," returned J.C., "for didn't
she say I looked as if I didn't mean for certain? I tell you what it
is, Jim, I've thought of the speech more than a thousand times when
I've been saying things I did not mean to foolish girls and their
mammas. But what reminded you of her?"

"If I mistake not, that child and the young lady yonder are one and
the same. You know she told us her name was Maude Remington, and
that the naughty man behind us wasn't her father, and she didn't
like him a bit, or something like that."

"And I honor her judgment both in his case and mine," interrupted
J.C., continuing, after a moment: "The old fellow looks as that man
did. I guess you are right. I mean to question 'Cuffee' on the
subject," and he beckoned to John, who was passing at no great
distance.

"Sambo," said he, as the negro approached, "who is that young lady
using the broom-handle so vigorously?" and he pointed to Maude, who
was finishing her domestic duties by brushing the crumbs from the
carpet.

"If you please, sar, my name is John," answered the African,
assuming a dignity of manner which even J.C. respected.

"Be it John, then," returned the young man, "but tell us how long
has she lived here, and where did she come from?"

Nothing pleased John better than a chance to talk of Maude, and he
replied: "She came here twelve years ago this very month with that
little blue-eyed mother of hern, who is lyin' under them willers in
the graveyard. We couldn't live without Miss Maude. She's all the
sunshine thar is about the lonesome old place. Why, she does
everything, from takin' care of her crippled half-brother to mendin'
t'other one's gownd."

"And who is t'other one?" asked J.C., beginning to feel greatly
interested in the negro's remarks.

"T'other one," said John, "is Miss Nellie, who won't work for fear
of silin' her hands, which some fool of a city chap has made her
b'lieve are so white and handsome," and a row of ivory was just
visible, as, leaning against a tree, John watched the effect of his
words upon "the fool of a city chap."

J.C. was exceedingly good-natured, and tossing his cigar into the
grass he replied, "You don't mean me, of course; but tell us more of
this Maude, who mops the floor and mends Nellie's dresses."

"She don't mop the floor," muttered John. "This nigger wouldn't let
her do that--but she does mend Nellie's gownds, which I wouldn't do,
if I's worth as much money as she is!"

If J.C. had been interested before, he was doubly interested now,
and coming nearer to John he said: "Money, my good fellow! Is Maude
an heiress?"

"She aint nothin' else," returned John, who proceeded to speak of
Janet and her generous gift, the amount of which he greatly
exaggerated. "Nobody knows how much 'tis," said he: "but everybody
s'poses that will and all it must be thirty or forty thousand," and
as the doctor was just then seen riding into the yard John walked
away to attend to his master's horse.

"Those butter and cheese men do accumulate money fast," said J.C.,
more to himself than to his companion, who laughingly replied, "It
would be funny if you should make this Maude my cousin instead of
Nellie. Let me see--Cousin Nellie--Cousin Maude. I like the sound of
the latter the best, though I am inclined to think she is altogether
too good for a mercenary dog like you."

"Pshaw!" returned J.C., pulling at the maple leaves which grew above
his head, "I hope you don't think I'd marry a rude country girl for
her money. No, give me la charmant Nellie, even though she cannot
mend her dress, and you are welcome to Cousin Maude, the milkman's
heiress."

At that moment Mrs. Kelsey and Nellie appeared upon the stoop, and
as Maude was no longer visible the young gentlemen returned to the
parlor, where J.C. asked Nellie to favor him with some music. Nellie
liked to play, for it showed her white hands to advantage, and
seating herself at the piano she said: "I have learned a new song
since I saw you, but Maude must sing the other part--maybe, though,
I can get along without her."

This last was said because she did not care to have Maude in the
parlor, and she had inadvertently spoken of her singing. The young
men, however, were not as willing to excuse her, and Maude was
accordingly sent for. She came readily, and performed her part
without the least embarrassment, although she more than once half
paused to listen to the rich, full tones of James' voice, for he was
an unusually fine singer; Maude had never heard anything like it
before, and when the song was ended the bright, sparkling eyes which
she turned upon him told of her delight quite as eloquently as words
could have done.

"You play, I am sure, Miss Remington," he said, as Nellie arose from
the stool.

Maude glanced at her red hands, which J.C. would be sure to notice,
then feeling ashamed to hesitate for a reason like this, she
answered, "Yes, sometimes," and taking her seat she played several
pieces, keeping admirable time, and giving to the music a grace and
finish which Nellie had often tried in vain to imitate.

"Mr. De Vere did not expect you to play all night," called out the
envious girl, who, not satisfied with having enticed J.C. from the
piano, wished James to join her also.

"She is merely playing at my request," said Mr. De Vere, "but if it
is distasteful to Miss Kennedy, we will of course desist," and
bending low he said a few words of commendation to Maude, whose
heart thrilled to the gentle tones of his voice, just as many
another maiden's had done before. Mr. De Vere was exceedingly
agreeable, and so Maude found him to be, for feeling intuitively
that she was somewhat slighted by the overbearing Nellie, he devoted
himself to her entirely, talking first of books, then of music, and
lastly of his home, which, without any apparent boasting, he
described as a most beautiful spot.

For a long time that night did Louis wait for his sister in his
little bed, and when at last she came to give him her accustomed
kiss he pushed the thick curls from off her face and said, "I never
saw you look so happy, Maude. Do you like that Mr. De Vere?"

"Which one?" asked Maude. "There are two, you know."

"Yes, I know," returned Louis, "but I mean the one with the voice.
Forgive me, Maude, but I sat ever so long at the head of the stairs,
listening as he talked. He is a good man, I am sure. Will you tell
me how he looks?"

Maude could not well describe him. She only knew that he was taller
than J.C., and, as she thought, much finer looking, with deep blue
eyes, dark brown hair, and a mouth just fitted to his voice. Farther
than this she could not tell. "But you will see him in the morning,"
she said. "I have told him how gifted, how good, you are, and
to-morrow, he says, he shall visit you in your den."

"Don't let the other one come," said Louis hastily, "for if he can't
endure red hands he'd laugh at my withered feet and the bunch upon
my back; but the other one won't, I know."

Maude knew so too, and somewhat impatiently she waited for the
morrow, when she could introduce her brother to her friend. The
morrow came, but, as was frequently the case, Louis was suffering
from a severe pain in his back, which kept him confined to his room,
so that Mr. De Vere neither saw him at all nor Maude as much as he
wished to do. He had been greatly interested in her, and when at
dinner he heard that she would not be down he was conscious of a
feeling of disappointment. She was not present at supper either, but
after it was over she joined him in the parlor, and, together with
J.C. and Nellie, accompanied him to the graveyard, where, seating
herself upon her mother's grave, she told him of that mother, and
the desolation which crept into her heart when first she knew she
was an orphan. From talking of her mother it was an easy matter to
speak of her Vernon home, which she had never seen since she left it
twelve years before, and then Mr. De Vere asked if she had met two
boys in the cars on her way to Albany. At first Maude could not
recall them, and when at last she did so her recollections were so
vague that Mr. De Vere felt another pang of disappointment, though
wherefore he could not tell, unless indeed, he thought there would
be something pleasant in being remembered twelve long years by a
girl like Maude Remington. He reminded her of her remark made to his
cousin, and in speaking of him casually alluded to his evident
liking for Nellie, saying playfully, "Who knows, Miss Remington, but
you may some time be related to me--not my cousin exactly, though
Cousin Maude sounds well. I like that name."

"I like it too," she said impulsively, "much better than Miss
Remington, which seems so stiff."

"Then let me call you so. I have no girl cousin in the world," and
leaning forward he put back from her forehead one of her short,
glossy curls, which had been displaced by the evening breeze.

This was a good deal for him to do. Never before had he touched a
maiden's tresses, and he had no idea that it would make his fingers
tingle as it did. Still, on the whole, he liked it, and half-wished
the wind would blow those curls over the upturned face again, but it
did not, and he was about to make some casual remark when J.C., who
was not far distant, called out, "Making love, I do believe!"

The speech was sudden, and grated harshly on James' ear. Not because
the idea of making love to Maude was utterly distasteful, but
because he fancied she might be annoyed, and over his features there
came a shadow, which Maude did not fail to observe.

"He does not wish to be teased about me," she thought, and around
the warm spot which the name of "Cousin Maude" had made within her
heart there crept a nameless chill--a fear that she had been
degraded in his eyes. "I must go back to Louis," she said at last,
and rising from her mother's grave she returned to the house,
accompanied by Mr. De Vere, who walked by her side in silence,
wondering if she really cared for J.C.'s untimely joke.

James De Vere did not understand the female heart, and wishing to
relieve Maude from all embarrassment in her future intercourse with
himself, he said to her as they reached the door: "My Cousin Maude
must not mind what J.C. said, for she knows it is not so."

"Certainly not," was Maude's answer, as she ran upstairs, hardly
knowing whether she wished it were or were not so.

One thing, however, she knew. She liked to have him call her Cousin
Maude; and when Louis asked what Mr. De Vere had said beneath the
willows she told him of her new name, and asked if he did not like
it.

"Yes," he answered, "but I'd rather you were his sister, for then
maybe he'd call me brother, even if I am a cripple. How I wish I
could see him, and perhaps I shall to-morrow."

But on the morrow Louis was so much worse that in attending to him
Maude found but little time to spend with Mr. De Vere, who was to
leave them that evening. When, however, the carriage which was to
take him away stood at the gate, she went down to bid him good-by,
and ask him to visit them again.

"I shall be happy to do so," he said; and then, as they were
standing alone together, he continued: "Though I have not seen as
much of you as I wished, I shall remember my visit at Laurel Hill
with pleasure. In Hampton there are not many ladies for whose
acquaintance I particularly care, and I have often wished that I had
some female friend with whom I could correspond, and thus while away
some of my leisure moments. Will my Cousin Maude answer me if I
should some time chance to write to her mere friendly, cousinly
letters, of course?"

This last he said because he mistook the deep flush on Maude's cheek
for an unwillingness to do anything which looked at all like "making
love."

"I will write," was all Maude had a chance to say ere Nellie joined
them, accompanied by J.C., who had not yet terminated his visit at
Laurel Hill, and as soon as his cousin left he intended removing to
the hotel, where he would be independent of Dr. Kennedy, and at the
same time, devote himself to the daughter or stepdaughter, just as
he should feel inclined.

Some such idea might have intruded itself upon the mind of James,
for, when at parting he took his cousin's hand, he said, "You have
my good wishes for your success with Nellie, but--"

"But not with t'other one, hey?" laughingly rejoined J.C., adding
that James need have no fears, for there was not the slightest
possibility of his addressing the milkman's heiress.

Alas for J.C.'s honesty! Even while he spoke there was treachery in
his saucy eyes, for the milkman's heiress, as he called her, was not
to him an object of dislike, and when, after the carriage drove
away, he saw the shadows on her face, and suspected their cause, he
felt a strong desire that his departure might affect her in a
similar manner. That evening, too, when Nellie sang to him his
favorite song, he kept one ear turned toward the chamber above,
where, in a low, sweet voice, Maude Remington sang her suffering
brother to sleep.

The next morning he removed to the hotel, saying he should probably
remain there during the summer, as the air of Laurel Hill was highly
conducive to his rather delicate health; but whether he meant the
invigorating breeze which blew front the surrounding hills, or an
heir of a more substantial kind, time and our story will show.



CHAPTER IX.

THE MILKMAN'S HEIRESS.


Mr. De Vere had been gone four weeks. Louis had entirely recovered
from his illness, and had made the acquaintance of J.C., with whom
he was on the best of terms. Almost every bright day did the young
man draw the little covered wagon through the village, and away to
some lovely spot, where the boy artist could indulge in his favorite
occupation--that of sketching the familiar objects around him. At
first Nellie accompanied them in these excursions; but when one day
her aunt, who still remained at Laurel Hill, pointed out to her a
patch of sunburn and a dozen freckles, the result of her outdoor
exercise, she declared her intention of remaining at home
thereafter--a resolution not altogether unpleasant to J.C., as by
this means Maude was more frequently his companion.

If our readers suppose that to a man of J.C.'s nature there was
anything particularly agreeable in thus devoting himself to a
cripple boy they are mistaken, for Louis Kennedy might have remained
indoors forever had it not been for the sunny smile and look of
gratitude which Maude Remington always gave to J.C. De Vere when he
came for or returned with her darling brother. Insensibly the
domestic virtues and quiet ways of the black-haired Maude were
winning a strong hold upon J.C.'s affections, and still he had never
seriously thought of making her his wife. He only, knew that he
liked her, that he felt very comfortable where she was, and very
uncomfortable where she was not; that the sound of her voice singing
in the choir was the only music he heard on the Sabbath day, and
though Nellie in her character of soprano ofttimes warbled like a
bird, filling the old church with melody, he did not heed it, so
intent was he in listening to the deeper, richer notes of her who
sang the alto, and whose fingers swept the organ keys with so much
grace and beauty.

And Maude! within her bosom was there no interest awakened for one
who thought so much of her? Yes, but it was an interest of a
different nature from his. She liked him, because he was so much
more polite to her than she had expected him to be, and more than
all, she liked him for his kindness to her brother, never dreaming
that for her sake alone those kindly acts were done. Of James De
Vere she often thought, repeating sometimes to herself the name of
Cousin Maude, which had sounded so sweetly to her ear when he had
spoken it. His promise she remembered, too, and as often as the mail
came in, bringing her no letter, she sighed involuntarily to think
she was forgotten. Not forgotten, Maude, no, not forgotten, and when
one afternoon, five weeks after James' departure J.C. stood at her
side, he had good reason for turning his eyes away from her truthful
glance, for he knew of a secret wrong done to her that day. There
had come to him that morning a letter from James, containing a note
for Maude, and the request that he would hand it to her.

"I should have written to her sooner," James wrote, "but mother's
illness and an unusual amount of business prevented me from doing
so. 'Better late than never,' is, however, a good motto at times,
and I intrust the letter to you, because I would save her from any
gossip which an open correspondence with me might create."

For James De Vere to write to a young girl was an unheard-of
circumstance, and the sight of that note aroused in J.C.'s bosom a
feeling of jealousy lest the prize he now knew he coveted should be
taken from him. No one but himself should write to Maude Remington,
for she was his, or rather she should be his. The contents of that
note might be of the most ordinary kind, but for some reason
undefinable to himself he would rather she should not see it yet,
and though it cost him a struggle to deal thus falsely with both, he
resolved to keep it from her until she had promised to be his wife.
He never dreamed it possible that she could tell him no, he had been
so flattered and admired by the city belles; and the only point
which troubled him was what his fashionable friends would say when
in place of the Nellie whose name had been so long associated with
his, he brought to them a Maude fresh from the rural districts, with
naught in her disposition save goodness, purity, and truth. They
would be surprised, he knew, but she was worth a thousand of them
all, and then with a glow of pride he thought how his tender love
and care would shield her from all unkind remarks, and how he would
make himself worthy of such a treasure.

This was the nobler, better part of J.C.'s nature, but anon a more
sordid feeling crept in, and he blushed to find himself wondering
how large her fortune really was! No one knew, save the lawyers and
the trustee to whose care it had been committed, and since he had
become interested in her he dared not question them lest they should
accuse him of mercenary motives. Was it as large as Nellie's? He
wished he knew, while at the same time he declared to himself that
it should make no difference. The heart which had withstood so many
charms was really interested at last, and though he knew both Mrs.
Kelsey and her niece would array themselves against him, he was
prepared to withstand the indignation of the one and the opposition
of the other.

So perfectly secure was Nellie in J.C.'s admiration for herself,
that she failed to see his growing preference for Maude, whom she
frequently ridiculed in his presence, just because she thought he
would laugh at it, and think her witty. But in this she was
mistaken, for her ridicule raised Maude higher in his estimation,
and he was glad when at last an opportunity occurred for him to
declare his intentions.

For a week or more Nellie and a few of the young people of the
village had been planning a picnic to the lake, and the day was
finally decided upon. Nellie did not ask J.C. if he were going; she
expected it as a matter of course, just as she expected that Maude
would stay at home to look after Louis and the house. But J.C. had
his own opinion of the matter, and when the morning came he found it
very convenient to be suffering from a severe headache which would
not permit him to leave his bed, much less to join the pleasure
party.

"Give my compliments to Miss Kennedy," he said to the young man who
came to his door, "and tell her I cannot possibly go this morning,
but will perhaps come down this afternoon."

"Mr. De Vere not going! I can't believe it!" and the angry tears
glittered in Nellie's blue eyes when she heard the message he had
sent her.

"Not going!" exclaimed Mrs. Kelsey, while even Maude sympathized in
the general sorrow, for her hands had prepared the repast, and she
had taken especial pains with the pies which Mr. De Vere liked the
best, and which, notwithstanding his dislike to kitchen odors, he
had seen her make, standing at her elbow and complimenting her
skill.

Nellie was in favor of deferring the ride, but others of the party,
who did not care so much for Mr. De Vere's society objected, and
poutingly tying on her hat, the young lady took her seat beside her
aunt, who was scarcely less chagrined than herself at their
disappointment.

Meanwhile, from behind his paper curtains J.C. looked after the
party as they rode away, feeling somewhat relieved when the blue
ribbons of Nellie's hat disappeared from view. For appearance's sake
he felt obliged to keep his room for an hour or more, but at the end
of that time he ventured to feel better, and dressing himself with
unusual care he started for Dr. Kennedy's, walking very slowly, as
became one suffering from a nervous headache, as he was supposed to
be. Maude had finished her domestic duties, and in tasteful gingham
morning-gown, with the whitest of linen collars upon her neck, she
sat reading alone at the foot of the garden beneath a tall cherry
tree where John had built her a rough seat of boards. This was her
favorite resort, and here J.C. found her, so intent upon her book as
not to observe his approach until he stood before her. She seemed
surprised to see him, and made anxious inquiries concerning his
headache, which he told her was much better. "And even if it were
not," said he, seating himself at her feet; "even if it were not,
the sight of you, looking so bright, so fresh, and so neat, would
dissipate it entirely," and his eyes, from which the saucy, wicked
look was for the moment gone, rested admiringly upon her face.

His manner was even more pointed than his words, and coloring
crimson, Maude replied, "You are disposed to be complimentary, Mr.
De Vere."

"I am disposed for once to tell the truth," he answered. "All my
life long I have acted a part, saying and doing a thousand foolish
things I did not mean, just because I thought it would please the
senseless bubbles with whom I have been associated. But you, Maude
Remington, have brought me to my senses, and determined me to be a
man instead of a fool. Will you help me, Maude, in this resolution?"
and seizing both her hands he poured into her astonished ear his
declaration of love, speaking so rapidly and so vehemently as al
most to take her breath away, for she had never expected a scene
like this.

She had looked upon him as one who would undoubtedly be her sister's
husband, and the uniform kindness with which he had treated her, she
attributed to his exceeding good nature; but to be loved by him, by
J.C. De Vere, who had been sought after by the fairest ladies in the
land, she could not believe possible, and with mingled feelings of
pleasure, pain, and gratified vanity she burst into tears.

Very gently J.C. wiped her tears away, and sitting down beside her
he said, "The first time I ever saw you, Maude, you told me 'I did
not look as if I meant for certain,' and you were right, for all my
life has been a humbug; but I mean 'for certain' now. I love you,
Maude, love you for the very virtues which I have so often affected
to despise, and you must make me what J.C. De Vere ought to be. Will
you, Maude? Will you be my wife?"

To say Maude was not gratified that this man of fashion should
prefer her to all the world would be an untruth, but she could not
then say "Yes," for another, and a more melodious voice was still
ringing in her ear, and she saw in fancy a taller, nobler form than
that of him who was pressing her to answer.

"Not yet, Mr. De Vere," she said. "Not yet. I must have time to
think. It has come upon me so suddenly, so unexpectedly, for I have
always thought of you as Nellie's future husband, and my manners are
so different from what you profess to admire."

"'Twas only profession, Maude," he said, and then, still holding her
closely to him, he frankly and ingenuously gave her a truthful
history of his life up to the time of his first acquaintance with
Nellie, of whom he spoke kindly, saying she pleased him better than
most of his city friends, and as he began really to want a wife he
had followed her to Laurel Hill, fully intending to offer her the
heart which, ere he was aware of it, was given to another. "And now,
I cannot live without you," he said. "You must be mine. Won't you,
Maude? I will be a good husband. I will take lessons of Cousin
James, who is called a pattern man."

The mention of that name was unfortunate, and rising to her feet,
Maude replied: "I cannot answer you now, Mr. De Vere. I should say
No, if I did, I am sure, and I would rather think of it a while."

He knew by her voice that she was in earnest, and kissing her hand
he walked rapidly away, his love increasing in intensity with each
step he took. He had not expected anything like hesitancy. Everyone
else had met his advances at least halfway, and Maude's indecision
made him feel more ardent than he otherwise might have been.

"What if she should refuse me?" he said, as he paced up and down his
room, working himself up to such a pitch of feeling that when that
afternoon Nellie on the lake shore was waiting impatiently his
coming he on his pillow was really suffering all the pangs of a
racking headache, brought on by strong nervous excitement. "What if
she should say No?" he kept repeating to himself, and at last,
maddened by the thought, he arose, and dashing off a wild rambling
letter, was about sending it by a servant, when he received a note
from her, for an explanation of which we will go back an hour or so
in our story.

In a state of great perplexity Maude returned to the house, and
seeking out her brother, the only person to whom she could go for
counsel, she told him of the offer she had received, and asked him
what he thought. In most respect Louis was far older than his years,
and he entered at once into the feelings of his sister.

"J.C. De Vere proposed to you!" he exclaimed. "What will Nellie
say?"

"If I refuse, she never need to know of it," answered Maude, and
Louis continued: "They say he is a great catch, and wouldn't it be
nice to get him away from everybody else. But what of the other De
Vere? Don't you like him the best?"

Maude's heart beat rapidly, and the color on her cheek deepened to a
brighter hue as she replied, "What made you think of him?"

"I don't know," was Louis' answer, "only when he was here I fancied
you were pleased with him, and that he would suit you better than
J.C."

"But he don't like me," said Maude. "He don't like any woman well
enough to make her his wife," and she sighed deeply as she thought
of his broken promise and the letter looked for so long.

"Maude," said Louis suddenly, "men like J.C. De Vere sometimes marry
for money, and maybe he thinks your fortune larger than it is. Most
everybody does."

That Maude was more interested in J.C. De Vere than she supposed was
proved by the earnestness with which she defended him from all
mercenary motives.

"He knows Nellie's fortune is much larger than my own," she said;
"and by preferring me to her he shows that money is not his motive."

Still Louis' suggestion troubled her, and by way of testing the
matter she sat down at once and wrote him a note, telling him
frankly how much she had in her own name and how much in expectancy.
This note she sent to him by John, who, naturally quick-witted, read
a portion of the truth in her tell-tale face, and giving a loud
whistle in token of his approbation he exclaimed, "This nigger'll
never quit larfin' if you gets him after all Miss Nellie's nonsense,
and I hopes you will, for he's a heap better chap than I s'posed,
though I b'lieve I like t'other one the best!"

Poor Maude! That other one seemed destined to be continually thrust
upon her, but resolving to banish him from her mind as one who had
long since ceased to think of her, she waited impatiently, for a
reply to her letter.

Very hastily J.C. tore it open, hoping, believing, that it contained
the much desired answer. "I knew she could not hold out against me--no
one ever did," he said; but when he read the few brief lines, he
dashed it to the floor with an impatient "Pshaw!" feeling a good
deal disappointed that she had not said Yes and a very little
disappointed that the figures were not larger!

"Five thousand dollars the 20th of next June, and five thousand more
when that old Janet dies; ten thousand in all. Quite a handsome
property, if Maude could have it at once. I wonder if she's healthy,
this Mrs. Hopkins," soliloquized J.C., until at last a new idea
entered his mind, and striking his fist upon the table he exclaimed,
"Of course she will. Such people always do, and that knocks the will
in head!" and J.C. De Vere frowned wrathfully upon the little
imaginary Hopkinses who were to share the milkman's fortune with
Maude.

Just then a girlish figure was seen beneath the trees in Dr.
Kennedy's yard, and glancing at the white cape bonnet J.C. knew that
it was Maude, the sight of whom drove young Hopkins and the will
effectually from his mind. "He would marry her, anyway," he said,
"five thousand dollars was enough;" and donning his hat he started
at once for the doctor's. Maude had returned to the house, and was
sitting with her brother when the young man was announced. Wholly
unmindful of Louis' presence, he began at once by asking "if she
esteemed him so lightly as to believe that money could make any
difference whatever with him."

"It influences some men," answered Maude, "and though you may like
me--"

"Like you, Maude Remington!" he exclaimed; "like is a feeble word. I
worship you, I love the very air you breathe, and you must be mine.
Will you, Maude?"

J.C. had never before been so much in earnest, for never before had
he met with the least indecision, and he continued pleading his
cause so vehemently that Louis, who was wholly unprepared for so
stormy a wooing, stopped his ears and whispered to his sister, "Tell
him Yes, before he drives me crazy!"

But Maude felt that she must have time for sober, serious
reflection; J.C. was not indifferent to her, and the thought was
very soothing that she who had never aspired to the honor had been
chosen from all others to be his wife. He was handsome, agreeable,
kind-hearted, and, as she believed, sincere in his love for her. And
still there was something lacking. She could not well tell what,
unless, indeed, she would have him more like James De Vere.

"Will you answer me?" J.C. said, after there had been a moment's
silence, and in his deep black eyes there was a truthful, earnest
look wholly unlike the wicked, treacherous expression usually hidden
there.

"Wait a while," answered Maude, coming to his side and laying her
hand upon his shoulder. "Wait a few days, and I most know I shall
tell you Yes. I like you, Mr. De Vere, and if I hesitate it is
because--because--I really don't know what, but something keeps
telling me that our engagement may be broken, and if so, it had
better not be made."

There was another storm of words, and then, as Maude still seemed
firm in her resolution to do nothing hastily, J.C. took his leave.
As the door closed after him, Louis heaved a deep sigh of relief,
and, turning to his sister, said: "I never heard anything like it; I
wonder if James would act like that!"

"Louis," said Maude, but ere Louis could reply she had changed her
mind, and determined not to tell him that James De Vere alone stood
between her and the decision J.C. pleaded for so earnestly. So she
said: "Shall I marry J.C. De Vere?"

"Certainly, if you love him," answered Louis. "He will take you to
Rochester away from this lonesome house. I shall live with you more
than half the time, and--"

Here Louis was interrupted by the sound of wheels. Mrs. Kelsey and
Nellie had returned from the Lake, and bidding her brother say
nothing of what he had heard, Maude went down to meet them. Nellie
was in the worst of humors. "Her head was aching horridly--she had
spent an awful day--and J.C. was wise in staying at home."

"How is he?" she asked, "though of course you have not seen him."

Maude was about to speak when Hannah, delighted with a chance to
disturb Nellie, answered for her. "It's my opinion that headache was
all a sham, for you hadn't been gone an hour, afore he was over here
in the garden with Maude, where he stayed ever so long. Then he came
agen this afternoon, and hasn't but jest gone."

Nellie had not sufficient discernment to read the truth of this
assertion in Maude's crimson cheeks, but Mrs. Kelsey had, and very
sarcastically she said: "Miss Remington, I think, might be better
employed than in trying to supplant her sister."

"I have not tried to supplant her, madam," answered Maude, her look
of embarrassment giving way to one of indignation at the unjust
accusation.

"May I ask, then, if Mr. De Vere has visited you twice to-day, and
if so, what was the object of those visits?" continued Mrs. Kelsey,
who suddenly remembered several little incidents which had
heretofore passed unheeded, and which, now that she recalled them to
mind, proved that J.C. De Vere was interested in Maude.

"Mr. De Vere can answer for himself, and I refer you to him," was
Maude's reply, as she walked away.

Nellie began to cry. "Maude had done something," she knew, "and it
wouldn't be a bit improper for a woman as old as Aunt Kelsey to go
over and see how Mr. De Vere was, particularly as by this means she
might find out why he had been there so long with Maude."

Mrs. Kelsey was favorably impressed with this idea, and after
changing her dusty dress and drinking a cup of tea she started for
the hotel. J.C. was sitting near the window, watching anxiously for
a glimpse of Maude when his visitor was announced. Seating herself
directly opposite him, Mrs. Kelsey inquired after his headache, and
then asked how he had passed the day.

"Oh, in lounging, generally," he answered, while she continued,
"Hannah says you spent the morning there, and also a part of the
afternoon. Was my brother at home?"

"He was not. I went to see Maude," J.C. replied somewhat stiffly,
for he began to see the drift of her remarks.

Mrs. Kelsey hesitated a moment, and then proceeded to say that "J.C.
ought not to pay Miss Remington much attention, as she was very
susceptible and might fancy him in earnest."

"And suppose she does?" said J.C., determining to brave the worst.
"Suppose she does?"

Mrs. Kelsey was very uncomfortable, and coughing a little she
replied, "It is wrong to raise hopes which cannot be realized, for
of course you have never entertained a serious thought of a low
country girl like Maude Remington."

There had been a time when a remark like this from the fashionable
Mrs. Kelsey would have banished any girl from J.C.'s mind, for he
was rather dependent on the opinion of others, but it made no
difference now, and, warming up in Maude's defense, he replied, "I
assure you, madam, I have entertained serious thoughts toward Miss
Remington, and have this day asked her to be my wife."

"Your wife!" almost screamed the high-bred Mrs. Kelsey. "What will
your city friends--What will Nellie say?"

"Confound them all, I don't care what they, say," and J.C. drove his
knife-blade into the pine table, while he gave his reasons for
having chosen Maude in preference to Nellie, or anyone else he had
ever seen. "There's something to her," said he, "and with her for my
wife I shall make a decent man. What would Nellie and I do together--when
neither of us know anything--about business, I mean," he
added, while Mrs. Kelsey rejoined, "I always intended that you would
live with me, and I had that handsome suite of rooms arranged
expressly for Nellie and her future husband. I have no children, and
my niece will inherit my property."

This, under some circumstances, would have strongly tempted the
young man; nay, it might perchance have tempted him then, had not
the deep tones of the organ at that moment have reached his ear. It
was the night when Maude usually rehearsed for the coming Sabbath,
and soon after her interview with her sister she had gone to the
church where she sought to soothe her ruffled spirits by playing a
most plaintive air. The music was singularly soft and sweet, and the
heart of J.C. De Vere trembled to the sound, for he knew it was
Maude who played--Maude, who out-weighed the tempting bait which
Mrs. Kelsey offered, and with a magnanimity quite astonishing to
himself he answered, "Poverty with Maude, rather than riches with
another!"

"Be it so, then," was Mrs. Kelsey's curt reply, "but when in the
city you blush at your bride's awkwardness don't expect me to lend a
helping hand, for Maude Remington cannot by me be recognized as an
equal," and the proud lady swept from the room, wearing a deeply
injured look, as if she herself had been refused instead of her
niece.

"Let me off easier than I supposed," muttered J.C., as he watched
her cross the street and enter Dr. Kennedy's gate. "It will be
mighty mean, though, if she does array herself against my wife, for
Madam Kelsey is quoted everywhere, and even Mrs. Lane, who lives
just opposite, dare not open her parlor blinds until assured by
ocular demonstration that Mrs. Kelsey's are open too. Oh, fashion,
fashion, what fools you make of your votaries! I am glad that I for
one dare break your chain and marry whom I please," and feeling more
amiably disposed toward J.C. De Vere than he had felt for many a
day, the young man started for the church, where to his great joy he
found Maude alone.

She was not surprised to see him, nay, she was half expecting him,
and the flush which deepened on her cheek as he came to her side
showed that his presence was not unwelcome. Human nature is the same
everywhere, and though Maude was perhaps as free from its weaknesses
as almost anyone, the fact that her lover was so greatly coveted by
others increased rather than diminished her regard for him, and when
he told her what had passed between himself and Mrs. Kelsey, and
urged her to give him a right to defend her against that haughty
woman's attacks by engaging herself to him at once, she was more
willing to tell him Yes than she had been in the morning. Thoughts
of James De Vere did not trouble her now--he had ceased to remember
her ere this--had never been more interested in her than in any
ordinary acquaintance, and so, though she knew she could be happier
with him than with the one who with his arm around her waist was
pleading for her love, she yielded at last, and in that dim old
church, with the summer moonlight stealing up the dusky aisles, she
promised to be the wife of J.C. De Vere on her eighteenth birthday.

Very pleasant now it seemed sitting there alone with him in the
silent church. Very pleasant walking with him down the quiet street,
and when her chamber was reached, and Louis, to whom she told her
story, whispered in her ear, "I am glad that is so," she thought it
very nice to be engaged, and was conscious of a happier, more
independent feeling than she had ever known before. It seemed so
strange that she, an unpretending country girl, had won the heart
that many a city maiden had tried in vain to win, and then with a
pang she thought of Nellie, wondering what excuse she could render
her for having stolen J.C. away.

"But he will stand between us," she said; "he will shield me from
her anger," and grateful for so potent a protector, she fell asleep,
dreaming alas, not of J.C., but of him who called her Cousin Maude,
and whose cousin she really was to be.

J.C. De Vere, too, had dreams of a dark-eyed girl, who, in the
shadowy church, with the music she had made still vibrating on the
ear, had promised to be his. Dreams, too, he had of a giddy throng
who scoffed at the dark-eyed girl, calling her by the name which he
himself had given her. It was not meet, they said, that he should
wed the "Milkman's Heiress," but with a nobleness of soul unusual in
him, he paid no heed to their remarks, and folded the closer to his
heart the bride which he had chosen.

Alas! that dreams so often prove untrue.



CHAPTER X.

THE ENGAGEMENT, REAL AND PROSPECTIVE.


To her niece Mrs. Kelsey had communicated the result of her
interview with J.C., and that young lady had fallen into a violent
passion, which merged itself at last into a flood of tears, and
ended finally in strong hysterics. While in this latter condition
Mrs. Kelsey deemed it necessary to summon her brother, to whom she
narrated the circumstances of Nellie's illness. To say that the
doctor was angry would but feebly express the nature of his
feelings. He had fully expected that Nellie would be taken off his
hands, and he had latterly a very good reason for wishing that it
might be so.

Grown-up daughters, he knew, were apt to look askance at
stepmothers, and if he should wish to bring another there he would
rather that Nellie should be out of the way. So he railed at the
innocent Maude, and after exhausting all the maxims which would at
all apply to that occasion, he suggested sending for Mr. De Vere and
demanding an explanation. But this Mrs. Kelsey would not suffer.

"It will do no good," she said, "and may make the matter worse by
hastening the marriage. I shall return home to-morrow, and if you do
not object shall take your daughter with me, to stay at least six
months, as she needs a change of scene. I can, if necessary,
intimate to my friends that she has refused J.C., who, in a fit of
pique, has offered himself to Maude, and that will save Nellie from
all embarrassment. He will soon tire of his new choice, and then--"

"I won't have him if he does," gasped Nellie, interrupting her aunt--"I
won't have anybody who has first proposed to Maude. I wish she'd
never come here, and if pa hadn't brought that woman--"

"Helen!" and the doctor's voice was very stern, for time had not
erased from his heart all love for the blue-eyed Matty, the gentle
mother of the offending Maude, and more than all, the mother of his
boy--"Helen, that woman was my wife, and you must not speak
disrespectfully of her."

Nellie answered by a fresh burst of tears, for her own conscience
smote her for having spoken thus lightly of one who had ever been
kind to her.

After a moment Mrs. Kelsey resumed the conversation by suggesting
that, as the matter could not now be helped, they had better say
nothing, but go off on the morrow as quietly as possible, leaving
J.C. to awake from his hallucination, which she was sure he would do
soon, and follow them to the city. This arrangement seemed wholly
satisfactory to all parties, and though Nellie declared she'd never
again speak to Jed De Vere, she dried her tears, and retiring to
rest, slept quite as soundly as she had ever done in her life.

The next morning when Maude as usual went down to superintend the
breakfast, she was surprised to hear from Hannah that Mrs. Kelsey
was going that day to Rochester, and that Nellie was to accompany
her.

"Nobody can 'cuse me," said Hannah, "of not 'fillin' Scriptur'
oncet, whar it says `them as has ears to hear, let 'em hear,' for I
did hear 'em a-talkin' last night of you and Mr. De Vere, and I tell
you they're ravin' mad to think you'd cotched him; but I'm glad
on't. You desarves him, if anybody. I suppose that t'other chap aint
none of your marryin' sort," and unconscious of the twinge her last
words had inflicted Hannah carried the coffee-urn to the dining
room, followed by Maude, who was greeted with dark faces and
frowning looks.

Scarcely a word was spoken during breakfast, and when after it was
over Maude offered to assist Nellie in packing her trunks, the
latter answered decisively, "You've done enough, I think."

A few moments afterward J.C.'s voice was heard upon the stairs. He
had come over to see the "lioness and her cub," as he styled Mrs.
Kelsey and her niece, whose coolness was amply atoned for by the
bright, joyous glance of Maude, to whom he whispered softly, "Won't
we have glorious times when they are gone!"

Their projected departure pleased him greatly, and he was so very
polite and attentive that Nellie relented a little, and asked how
long he intended remaining at Laurel Hill, while even Mrs. Kelsey
gave him her hand at parting, and said, "Whenever you recover from
your unaccountable fancy I shall be glad to see you."

"You'll wait some time, if you wait for that," muttered J.C., as he
returned to the house in quest of Maude, with whom he had a long and
most delightful interview, for old Hannah, in unusually, good
spirits, expressed her willingness to see to everything, saying to
her young mistress, "You go along now and court a spell. I reckon I
haint done forgot how I and Crockett sot on the fence in old
Virginny and heard the bobolinks a-singin'."

Old Hannah was waxing sentimental, and with a heightened bloom upon
her cheeks Maude left her to her memories of Crockett and the
bobolinks, while she went back to her lover. J.C. was well skilled
in the little, delicate acts which tend to win and keep a woman's
heart, and in listening to his protestations of love Maude forgot
all else, and abandoned herself to the belief that she was perfectly
happy. Only once did her pulses quicken as they would not have done
had her chosen husband been all that she could wish, and that was
when he said to her, "I wrote to James last night, telling him of my
engagement. He will congratulate me, I know, for he was greatly
pleased with you."

Much did Maude wonder what James would say, and it was not long ere
her curiosity was gratified; for scarcely four days were passed when
J.C. brought to her an unsealed note, directed to "Cousin Maude."

"I have heard from Jim," he said, "and he is the best fellow in the
world. Hear what he says of you," and from his own letter he read,
"I do congratulate you upon your choice. Maude Remington is a noble
creature--so beautiful, so refined, and withal so pure and good.
Cherish her, my cousin, as she ought to be cherished, and bring her
some time to my home, which will never boast so fair a mistress."

"I'm so glad he's pleased," said J.C. "I would rather have his
approval than that of the whole world. But what! Crying, I do
believe!" and turning Maude's face to the light he continued, "Yes,
there are tears on your eyelashes. What is the matter?"

"Nothing, nothing," answered Maude, "only I am so glad your
relatives like me."

J.C. was easily deceived, so was Maude--and mutually believing that
nothing was the matter, J.C. drummed on the piano, while Maude tore
open the note which James had written to her. It seemed so strange
to think he wrote it, and Maude trembled violently, while the little
red spots came out all over her neck and face as she glanced at the
words, "My dear Cousin Maude."

It was a kind, affectionate note, and told how the writer would
welcome and love her as his cousin, while at the same time it chided
her for not having answered the letter sent some weeks before.
"Perhaps you did not deem it worthy of an answer," he wrote, "but I
was sadly disappointed in receiving none, and now that you are
really to be my cousin I shall expect you to do better, and treat me
as if I had an existence. J.C. must not monopolize you wholly, for I
shall claim a share of you for myself."

Poor, poor Maude! She did not feel the summer air upon her brow--did
not hear the discordant notes which J.C. made upon the piano, for
her whole soul was centered on the words, "sadly disappointed,"
"love you as my cousin," and "claim a share of you for myself."

Only for a moment, though, and then recovering her composure she
said aloud, "What does he mean? I never received a note."

"I know it, I know it," hastily spoke J.C., and coming to her side
he handed her the soiled missive, saying, "It came a long time ago,
and was mislaid among my papers, until this letter recalled it to my
mind. There is nothing in it of any consequence, I dare say, and had
it not been sealed I might, perhaps, have read it, for as the doctor
says, `It's a maxim of mine that a wife should have no secrets from
her husband,' hey, Maude?" and he caressed her burning cheek, as she
read the note which, had it been earlier received, might have
changed her whole after life.

And still it was not one-half as affectionate in its tone as was the
last, for it began with, "Cousin Maude" and ended with "Yours
respectfully," but she knew he had been true to his promise, and
without a suspicion that J.C. had deceived her she placed the
letters in her pocket, to be read again when she was alone, and
could measure every word and sentiment.

That afternoon when she went to her chamber to make some changes in
her dress she found herself standing before the mirror much longer
than usual, examining minutely the face which James De Vere had
called beautiful.

"He thought so, or he would not have said it; but it is false," she
whispered; "even J.C. never called me handsome;" and taking out the
note that day received, she read it again, wondering why the name
"Cousin Maude" did not sound as pleasantly as when she first heard
it.

That night as she sat with Louis in her room she showed the letters
to him, at the same time explaining the reason why one of them was
not received before.

"Oh, I am so glad," said Louis, as he finished reading them, "for
now I know that James De Vere don't like you."

"Don't like me, Louis!" and in Maude's voice there was a world of
sadness.

"I mean," returned Louis, "that he don't love you for anything but a
cousin. I like J.C. very, very much, and I am glad you are to be his
wife; but I've sometimes thought that if you had waited the other
one would have spoken, for I was almost sure he loved you, but he
don't, I know; he couldn't be so pleased with your engagement, nor
write you so affectionately if he really cared."

Maude hardly knew whether she were pleased or not with Louis'
reasoning. It was true, though, she said, and inasmuch as James did
not care for her, and she did not care for James, she was very glad
she was engaged to J.C.! And with reassured confidence in herself
she sat down and wrote an answer to that note, a frank, impulsive,
Maude-like answer, which, nevertheless, would convey to James De
Vere no idea how large a share of that young girl's thoughts were
given to himself.

The next day there came to Maude a letter bearing the Canada
postmark, together with the unmistakable handwriting of Janet
Hopkins. Maude had not heard of her for some time, and very eagerly
she read the letter, laughing immoderately, and giving vent to
sudden exclamations of astonishment at its surprising intelligence.
Janet was a mother!--"a livin' mother to a child born out of due
season," so the delighted creature wrote, "and what was better than
all, it was a girl, and the Sunday before was baptized as Maude
Matilda Remington Blodgett Hopkins, there being no reason," she
said, "why she shouldn't give her child as many names as the Queen
of England hitched on to hers, beside that it was not at all likely
that she would ever have another, and so she had improved this
opportunity, and named her daughter in honor of Maude, Matty, Harry,
and her first husband Joel. But," she wrote, "I don't know what
you'll say when I tell you that my old man and some others have made
me believe that seein' I've an heir of my own flesh and blood, I
ought to change that will of mine, so I've made another, and if
Maude Matilda dies you'll have it yet. T'other five thousand is
yours, anyway, and if I didn't love the little wudget as I do, I
wouldn't have changed my will; but natur' is natur'."

Scarcely had Maude finished reading this letter when J.C. came in,
and she handed it to him. He did not seem surprised, for he had
always regarded the will as a doubtful matter; but in reality he was
a little chagrined, for five thousand was only half as much as ten.
Still his love for Maude was, as yet, stronger than his love for
money, and he only laughed heartily at the string of names which
Janet had given to her offspring, saying, "It was a pity it hadn't
been a boy, so she could have called him Jedediah Cleishbotham."

"He does not care for my money," Maude thought, and her heart went
out toward him more lovingly than it had ever done before, and her
dark eyes filled with tears when he told her, as he ere long did,
that he must leave the next day, and return to Rochester.

"The little property left me by my mother needs attention, so my
agent writes me," he said, "and now the will has gone up, and we are
poorer than we were before by five thousand dollars, it is necessary
that I should bestir myself, you know." Maude could not tell why it
was that his words affected her unpleasantly, for she knew he was
not rich, and she felt that she should respect him more if he really
did bestir himself, but still she did not like his manner when
speaking of the will, and her heart was heavy all the day. He, on
the contrary, was in unusually good spirits. He was not tired of
Maude, but he was tired of the monotonous life at Laurel Hill, and
when his agent's summons came it found him ready to go. That for
which he had visited Laurel Hill had in reality been accomplished.
He had secured a wife, not Nellie, but Maude, and determining to do
everything honorable, he on the morning of his departure went to the
doctor, to whom he talked of Maude, expressing his wish to marry
her. Very coldly the doctor answered that "Maude could marry whom
she pleased. It was a maxim of his never to interfere with matches,"
and then, as if the subject were suggestive, he questioned the young
man to know if in his travels he had ever met the lady Maude
Glendower. J.C. had met her frequently at Saratoga.

"She was a splendid creature," he said, and he asked if the doctor
knew her.

"I saw her as a child of seventeen, and again as a woman of twenty-five.
She is forty now," was the doctor's answer, as he walked away,
wondering if the Maude Glendower of to-day were greatly changed from
the Maude of fifteen years ago.

To J.C.'s active mind a new idea was presented, and seeking out the
other Maude--his Maude--he told her of his suspicion. There was a
momentary pang, a thought of the willow-shaded grave where Kate and
Matty slept, and then Maude Remington calmly questioned J.C. of
Maude Glendower--who she was, and where did she live?

J.C. knew but little of the lady, but what little he knew he told.
She was of both English and Spanish descent. Her friends, he
believed, were nearly all dead, and she was alone in the world.
Though forty years of age, she was well preserved, and called a
wondrous beauty. She was a belle--a flirt--a spinster, and was
living at present in Troy.

"She'll never marry the doctor," said Maude, laughing, as she
thought of an elegant woman leaving the world of fashion to be
mistress of that house.

Still the idea followed her, and when at last J.C. had bidden her
adieu, and gone to his city home, she frequently found herself
thinking of the beautiful Maude Glendower, whose name, it seemed to
her, she had heard before, though when or where she could not tell.
A strange interest was awakened in her bosom for the unknown lady,
and she often wondered if they would ever meet. The doctor thought
of her, too--thought of her often, and thought of her long, and as
his feelings toward her changed, so did his manner soften toward the
dark-haired girl who bore her name, and who he began at last to
fancy resembled her in more points than one. Maude was ceasing to be
an object of perfect indifference to him. She was an engaged young
lady, and as such, entitled to more respect than he was wont to pay
her, and as the days wore on he began to have serious thoughts of
making her his confidant and counselor in a matter which he would
never have intrusted to Nellie.

Accordingly, one afternoon when he found her sitting upon the
piazza, he said, first casting an anxious glance around to make sure
no one heard him: "Maude, I wish to see you alone a while."

Wonderingly Maude followed him into the parlor, where her
astonishment was in no wise diminished by his shutting the blinds,
dropping the curtains, and locking the door! Maude began to tremble,
and when he drew his chair close to her side, she started up,
alarmed. "Sit down--sit down," he whispered; "I want to tell you
something, which you must never mention in the world. You certainly
have some sense, or I should not trust you. Maude, I am going--that
is, I have every reason to believe--or rather, I should say perhaps--well,
anyway, there is a prospect of my being married."

"Married!--to whom?" asked Maude.

"You are certain you'll never tell, and that there's no one in the
hall," said the doctor, going on tip-toe to the door, and assuring
himself there was no one there. Then returning to his seat, he told
her a strange story of a marvellously beautiful young girl, with
Spanish fire in her lustrous eyes, and a satin gloss on her
blue-black curls.

Her name was Maude Glendower, and years ago she won his love,
leading him on and on until at last he paid her the highest honor a
man can pay a woman--he offered her his heart, his hand, his name.
But she refused him--scornfully, contemptuously, refused him, and he
learned afterward that she had encouraged him for the sake of
bringing another man to terms!--and that man, whose name the doctor
never knew, was a college student not yet twenty-one.

"I hated her then," said he, "hated this Maude Glendower, for her
deception; but I could not forget her, and after Katy died I sought
her again. She was the star of Saratoga, and no match for me. This I
had sense enough to see, so I left her in her glory, and three years
after married your departed mother. Maude Glendower has never
married, and at the age of forty has come to her senses, and
signified her willingness to become my wife--or, that is to say, I
have been informed by my sister that she probably would not refuse
me a second time. Now, Maude Remington, I have told you this because
I must talk with someone, and as I before remarked, you are a girl
of sense, and will keep the secret. It is a maxim of mine, when
anything is to be done, to do it; so I shall visit Miss Glendower
immediately, and if I like her well enough I shall marry her at
once. Not while I am gone, of course, but very soon. I shall start
for Troy one week from to-day, and I wish you would attend a little
to my wardrobe; it's in a most lamentable condition. My shirts are
all worn out, my coat is rusty, and last Sunday I discovered a hole
in my pantaloons--"

"Dr. Kennedy," exclaimed Maude, interrupting him, "you surely do not
intend to present yourself before the fastidious Miss Glendower with
those old shabby clothes. She would say No sooner than she did
before. You must have an entire new suit. You can afford it, too,
for you have not had one since mother died."

Dr. Kennedy was never in a condition to be so easily coaxed as now.
Maude Glendower had a place in his heart, which no other woman bad
ever held, and that very afternoon the village merchant was
astonished at the penurious doctor's inquiring the prices of the
finest broadcloth in his store. It seemed a great deal of money to
pay, but Maude Remington at his elbow and Maude Glendower in his
mind conquered at last, and the new suit was bought, including vest,
hat, boots, and all. There is something in handsome clothes very
satisfactory to most people, and the doctor, when arrayed in his,
was conscious of a feeling of pride quite unusual to him. On one
point, however, he was obstinate, "he would not spoil them by
wearing them on the road, when he could just as well dress at the
hotel."

So Maude, between whom and himself there was for the time being
quite an amicable understanding, packed them in his trunk, while
Hannah and Louis looked on wondering what it could mean.

"The Millennial is comin', or else he's goin' a-courtin'," said
Hannah, and satisfied that she was right she went back to the
kitchen, while Louis, catching at once at her idea, began to cry,
and laying his head on his sister's lap begged of her to tell him if
what Hannah had said were true.

To him it seemed like trampling on the little grave beneath the
willows, and it required all Maude's powers of persuasion to dry his
tears and soothe the pain which every child must feel when first
they know that the lost mother, whose memory they so fondly cherish,
is to be succeeded by another.



CHAPTER XI.

MAUDE GLENDOWER.


She was a most magnificent looking woman, as she sat within her
richly furnished room on that warm September night, now gazing idly
dawn the street and again bending her head to catch the first sound
of footsteps on the stairs. Personal preservation had been the great
study of her life, and forty years had not dimmed the luster of her
soft, black eyes, or woven one thread of silver among the luxuriant
curls which clustered in such profusion around her face and neck.
Gray hairs and Maude Glendower had nothing in common, and the fair,
round cheek, the pearly teeth, the youthful bloom, and white,
uncovered shoulders seemed to indicate that time had made an
exception in her favor, and dropped her from its wheel.

With a portion of her history the reader is already acquainted.
Early orphaned, she was thrown upon the care of an old aunt who,
proud of her wondrous beauty, spared no pains to make her what
nature seemed to will that she should be, a coquette and a belle. At
seventeen we find her a schoolgirl in New Haven, where she turned
the heads of all the college boys, and then murmured because one, a
dark-eyed youth of twenty, withheld from her the homage she claimed
as her just due. In a fit of pique she besieged a staid, handsome
young M.D. of twenty-seven, who had just commenced to practice in
the city, and who, proudly keeping himself aloof from the college
students, knew nothing of the youth she so much fancied. Perfectly
intoxicated with her beauty, he offered her his hand, and was
repulsed. Overwhelmed with disappointment and chagrin, he then left
the city, and located himself at Laurel Hill, where now we find him
the selfish, overbearing Dr. Kennedy.

But in after years Maude Glendower was punished for that act. The
dark-haired student she so much loved was wedded to another, and
with a festering wound within her heart she plunged at once into the
giddy world of fashion, slaying her victims by scores, and exulting
as each new trophy of her power was laid at her feet. She had no
heart, the people said, and with a mocking laugh she thought of the
quiet grave 'mid the New England hills, where, one moonlight night
two weeks after that grave was made, she had wept such tears as were
never wept by her again. Maude Glendower had loved, but loved in
vain; and now, at the age of forty, she was unmarried and alone in
the wide world. The aunt, who had been to her a mother, had died a
few months before, and as her annuity ceased with her death Maude
was almost wholly destitute. The limited means she possessed would
only suffice to pay her, board for a short time, and in this dilemma
she thought of her old lover, and wondered if he could again be won.
He was rich, she had always heard, and as his wife she could still
enjoy the luxuries to which she had been accustomed. She knew his
sister,--they had met in the salons of Saratoga,--and though it hurt
her pride to do it, she at last signified her willingness to be
again addressed.

It was many weeks ere Dr. Kennedy conquered wholly his olden grudge,
but conquered it he had, and she sat expecting him on the night when
first we introduced her to our readers. He had arrived in Troy on
the western train, and written her a note announcing his intention
to visit her that evening. For this visit Maude Glendower had
arrayed herself with care, wearing a rich silk dress of crimson and
black--colors well adapted to her complexion.

"He saw me at twenty-five. He shall not think me greatly changed
since then," she said, as over her bare neck and arms she threw an
exquisitely wrought mantilla of lace.

The Glendower family had once been very wealthy, and the last
daughter of the haughty race glittered with diamonds which had come
to her from her great-grandmother, and had been but recently reset.
And there she sat, beautiful Maude Glendower--the votary of fashion--the
woman of the world--sat waiting for the cold, hard, overbearing
man who thought to make her his wife. A ring at the door, a heavy
tread upon the winding stairs, and the lady rests her head upon her
hand, so that her glossy curls fall over, but do not conceal her
white, rounded arm, where the diamonds are shining.

"I could easily mistake him for my father," she thought, as a
gray-haired man stepped into the room, where he paused an instant,
bewildered with the glare of light and the display of pictures,
mirrors, tapestry, rosewood, and marble, which met his view.

Mrs. Berkley, Maude Glendower's aunt, had stinted herself to gratify
her niece's whims, and their surroundings had always been of the
most expensive kind, so it was not strange that Dr. Kennedy,
accustomed only to ingrain carpet and muslin curtains, was dazzled
by so much elegance. With a well-feigned start the lady arose to her
feet, and going to his side offered him her hand, saying, "You are
Dr. Kennedy, I am sure. I should have known you anywhere, for you
are but little changed."

She meant to flatter his self-love, though, thanks to Maude
Remington for having insisted upon the broadcloth suit, he looked
remarkably well.

"She had not changed at all," he said, and the admiring gaze he
fixed upon her argued well for her success. It becomes us not to
tell how that strange wooing sped. Suffice it to say that at the
expiration of an hour Maude Glendower had promised to be the wife of
Dr. Kennedy when another spring should come. She had humbled herself
to say that she regretted her girlish freak, and he had so far
unbent his dignity as to say that he could not understand why she
should be willing to leave the luxuries which surrounded her and go
with him, a plain, old-fashioned man. Maude Glendower scorned to
make him think that it was love which actuated her, and she replied,
"Now that my aunt is dead, I have no natural protector. I am alone
and want a home."

"But mine is so different," he said. "There are no silk curtains
there, no carpets such as this--"

"Is Maude Remington there?" the lady asked, and in her large black
eyes there was a dewy tenderness, as she pronounced that name.

"Maude Remington!--yes," the doctor answered. "Where did you hear of
her? My sister told you, I suppose. Yes, Maude is there. She has
lived with me ever since her mother died. You would have liked
Matty, I think," and the doctor felt a glow of satisfaction in
having thus paid a tribute to the memory of his wife.

"Is Maude like her mother?" the lady asked; a glow upon her cheek,
and the expression of her face evincing the interest she felt in the
answer.

"Not at all," returned the doctor. "Matty was blue-eyed and fair,
while Maude is dark, and resembles her father, they say."

The white jeweled hands were clasped together, for a moment, and
then Maude Glendower questioned him of the other one, Matty's child
and his. Very tenderly the doctor talked of his unfortunate boy,
telling of his soft brown hair, his angel face, and dreamy eyes.

"He is like Matty," the lady said, more to herself than her
companion, who proceeded to speak of Nellie as a paragon of
loveliness and virtue. "I shan't like her, I know," the lady
thought, "but the other two," how her heart bounded at the thoughts
of folding them to her bosom.

Louis Kennedy, weeping that his mother was forgotten, had nothing to
fear from Maude Glendower, for a child of Matty Remington was a
sacred trust to her, and when as the doctor bade her good-night he
said again, "You will find a great contrast between your home and
mine," she answered, "I shall be contented if Maude and Louis are
there."

"And Nellie, too," the doctor added, unwilling that she should be
overlooked.

"Yes, Nellie too," the lady answered, the expression of her mouth
indicating that Nellie too was an object of indifference to her.

The doctor is gone, his object is accomplished, and at the Mansion
House near by he sleeps quietly and well. But the lady, Maude
Glendower, oh, who shall tell what bitter tears she wept, or how in
her in-most soul she shrank from the man she had chosen. And yet
there was nothing repulsive in him, she knew. He was fine-looking,--he
stood well in the world,--he was rich while she was poor. But not
for this alone had she promised to be his wife. To hold Maude
Remington within her arms, to look into her eyes, to call his
daughter child, this was the strongest reason of them all. And was
it strange that when at last she slept she was a girl again, looking
across the college green to catch a glimpse of one whose
indifference had made her what she was, a selfish, scheming,
cold-hearted woman.

There was another interview next morning, and then the doctor left
her, but not until with her soft hand in his, and her shining eyes
upon his face, she said to him, "You think your home is not a
desirable one for me. Can't you fix it up a little? Are there two
parlors, and do the windows come to the floor? I hope your carriage
horses are in good condition, for I am very fond of driving. Have
you a flower garden? I anticipate much pleasure in working among the
plants. Oh, it will be so cool and nice in the country. You have an
ice-house, of course."

Poor doctor! Double parlors, low windows, ice-house, and flower
garden he had none, while the old carryall had long since ceased to
do its duty, and its place was supplied by an open buggy, drawn by a
sorrel nag. But Maude Glendower could do with him what Katy and
Matty could not have done, and after his return to Laurel Hill he
was more than once closeted with Maude, to whom he confided his plan
of improving the place, asking her if she thought the profits of
next year's crop of wheat and wool would meet the whole expense.
Maude guessed at random that it would, and as money in prospect
seems not quite so valuable as money in hand, the doctor finally
concluded to follow out Maude Glendower's suggestions, and greatly
to the surprise of the neighbors, the repairing process commenced.



CHAPTER XII.

HOW THE ENGAGEMENTS PROSPERED.


The October sun had painted the forest trees with the gorgeous tints
of autumn and the November winds had changed them to a more sober
hue ere J.C. De Vere came again to Laurel Hill. Very regularly he
wrote to Maude--kind, loving letters, which helped to cheer her
solitary life. Nellie still remained with Mrs. Kelsey, and though
she had so far forgiven her stepsister as to write to her
occasionally, she still cherished toward her a feeling of animosity
for having stolen away her lover.

On his return to Rochester J.C. De Vere had fully expected that his
engagement would be the theme of every tongue, and he had prepared
himself for the attack. How, then, was he surprised to find that no
one had the least suspicion of it, though many joked him for having
quarreled with Nellie as they were sure he had done, by his not
returning when she did.

Mrs. Kelsey had changed her mind and resolved to say nothing of an
affair which she was sure would never prove to be serious, and the
result showed the wisdom of her proceeding. No one spoke of Maude to
J.C., for no one knew of her existence, and both Mrs. Kelsey, and
Nellie, whom he frequently met, scrupulously refrained from
mentioning her name. At first he felt annoyed, and more than once
was tempted to tell of his engagement, but as time wore on and he
became more and more interested in city gayeties, he thought less
frequently of the dark-eyed Maude, who, with fewer sources of
amusement, was each day thinking more and more of him. Still, he was
sure he loved her, and one morning near the middle of November, when
he received a letter from her saying, "I am sometimes very lonely,
and wish that you were here," he started up with his usual
impetuosity, and ere he was fully aware of his own intentions he
found himself ticketed for Canandaigua, and the next morning Louis
Kennedy, looking from his window and watching the daily stage as it
came slowly up the hill, screamed out, "He's come--he's come!"

A few moments more and Maude was clasped in J.C.'s arms. Kissing her
forehead, her cheek, and her lips, he held her off and looked to see
if she had changed. She had, and he knew it. Happiness and
contentment are more certain beautifiers than the most powerful
cosmetics, and under the combined effects of both Maude was greatly
improved. She was happy in her engagement, happy in the increased
respect it brought her from her friends, and happy, too, in the
unusual kindness, of her stepfather. All this was manifest in her
face, and for the first time in his life J.C. told her she was
beautiful.

"If you only had more manner, and your clothes were fashionably
made, you would far excel the city girls," he said, a compliment
which to Maude seemed rather equivocal.

When he was there before he had not presumed to criticise her style
of dress, but he did so now, quoting the city belles until, half in
earnest, half in jest, Maude said to him, "If you think so much of
fashion, you ought not to marry a country girl."

"Pshaw!" returned J.C. "I like you all the better for dressing as
you please, and still I wish you could acquire a little city polish,
for I don't care to have my wife the subject of remark. If Maude
Glendower comes in the spring, you can learn a great deal of her
before the 20th of June."

Maude colored deeply, thinking for the first time in her life that
possibly J.C. might be ashamed of her, but his affectionate caresses
soon drove all unpleasant impressions from her mind, and the three
days that he stayed with her passed rapidly away. He did not mention
the will, but he questioned her of the five thousand which was to be
hers on her eighteenth birthday, and vaguely, hinted that he might
need it to set himself up in business. He had made no arrangements
for the future, he said, there was time enough in the spring, and
promising to be with her again during the holidays, he left her
quite uncertain as to whether she were glad he had visited her or
not.

The next; day she was greatly comforted by a long letter from James,
who wrote occasionally, evincing so much interest in "Cousin Maude"
that he always succeeded in making her cry, though why she could not
tell, for his letters gave her more real satisfaction than did those
of J.C., fraught as the latter were with protestations of constancy
and love. Slowly dragged the weeks, and the holidays were at hand,
when she received a message from J.C., saying he could not possibly
come as he had promised. No reason was given for this change in his
plan, and with a sigh of disappointment Maude turned to a letter
from Nellie, received by the same mail. After dwelling at length
upon the delightful time she was having in the city, Nellie spoke of
a fancy ball to be given by her aunt during Christmas week. Mr. De
Vere was to be "Ivanhoe," she said, and she to be "Rowena."

"You don't know," she wrote, "how interested J.C. is in the party.
He really begins to appear more as he used to do. He has not
forgotten you, though, for he said the other day you would make a
splendid Rebecca. It takes a dark person for that, I believe!"

Maude knew the reason now why J.C. could not possibly come, and the
week she had, anticipated so much seemed dreary, enough,
notwithstanding it was enlivened by a box of oranges and figs from
her betrothed, and a long, affectionate letter from James De Vere,
who spoke of the next Christmas, saying he meant she should spend it
at Hampton.

"You will really be my cousin then," he wrote, "and I intend
inviting yourself and husband to pass the holidays with us. I want
my mother to know you, Maude. She will like you, I am sure, for she
always thinks as I do."

This letter was far more pleasing to Maude's taste than were the
oranges and figs, and: Louis was suffered to monopolize the latter--a
privilege which he appreciated, as children usually do. After the
holidays J.C. paid a flying visit to Laurel Hill, where his presence
caused quite as much pain as pleasure, so anxious he seemed to
return. Rochester could not well exist without him, one would
suppose, from hearing him talk of the rides he planned, the surprise
parties he man--aged, and the private theatricals of which he was
the leader.

"Do they pay you well for your services?" Louis asked him once, when
wearying of the same old story.

J.C. understood the hit, and during the remainder of his stay was
far less egotistical than he would otherwise have been. After his
departure there ensued an interval of quiet, which, as spring
approached, was broken by the doctor's resuming the work of repairs,
which had been suspended during the coldest weather. The partition
between the parlor and the large square bedroom was removed;
folding-doors were made between; the windows were cut down; a carpet
was bought to match the one which Maude had purchased the summer
before; and then, when all was done, the doctor was seized with a
fit of the blues, because it had cost so much. But he could afford
to be extravagant for a wife like Maude Glendower, and trusting much
to the wheat crop and the wool, he started for Troy about the middle
of March, fully expecting to receive from the lady a decisive answer
as to when she would make them both perfectly happy!

With a most winning smile upon her lip and a bewitching glance in
her black eyes, Maude Glendower took his hand in hers and begged for
a little longer freedom.

"Wait till next fall," she said; "I must go to Saratoga one more
summer. I shall never be happy if I don't, and you, I dare say,
wouldn't enjoy it a bit."

The doctor was not so sure of that. Her eyes, her voice, and the
soft touch of her hand made him feel very queer; and he was almost
willing to go to Saratoga himself if by these means he could secure
her.

"How much do they charge?" he asked; and, with a flash of her bright
eyes, the lady answered, "I suppose both of us can get along with
thirty or forty dollars a week, including everything; but that isn't
much, as I don't care to stay more than two months!"

This decided the doctor. He had not three hundred dollars to throw
away, and so he tried to persuade his companion to give up Saratoga
and go with him to Laurel Hill, telling her, as an inducement, of
the improvements he had made.

"There were two parlors now," he said, "and with her handsome
furniture they would look remarkably well."

She did not tell him that her handsome furniture was mortgaged for
board and borrowed money--neither did she say that her object in
going to Saratoga was to try her powers upon a rich old Southern
bachelor who had returned from Europe, and who she knew was to pass
the coming summer at the Springs. If she could secure him Dr.
Kennedy might console himself as best he could, and she begged so
hard to defer their marriage until the autumn that the or gave up
the contest, and with a heavy heart prepared to turn his face
homeward.

"You need not make any more repairs until I come; I'd rather see to
them myself," Miss Glendower said at parting; and wondering what
further improvements she could possibly suggest, now that the parlor
windows were all right, the doctor bade her adieu, and started for
home.

Hitherto Maude had been his confidant, keeping her trust so well
that no one at Laurel Hill knew, exactly what his intentions were,
and, as was very, natural, immediately after his return he went to
her for sympathy in his disappointment. He found her weeping
bitterly, and ere he could lay before her his own grievances she
appealed to him for sympathy and aid. The man to whom her money was
intrusted had speculated largely, loaning some of it out West, at
twenty per cent., investing some in doubtful railroad stocks, and
experimenting with the rest, until by some unlucky chance he lost
the whole, and, worse than all, had nothing of his own with which to
make amends. In short, Maude was penniless, and J.C. De Vere in
despair. She had written to him immediately, and he had come,
suggesting nothing, offering no advice, and saying nothing at first,
except that "the man was mighty mean, and he had never liked his
looks."

After a little, however, he rallied somewhat, and offered the
consolatory remark that "they were in a mighty bad fix. I'll be
honest," said he, "and confess that I depended upon that money to
set me up in business. I was going to shave notes, and in order to
do so I must have some ready, capital. It cramps me," he continued,
"for, as a married man, my expenses will necessarily be more than
they now are."

"We can defer our marriage," sobbed Maude, whose heart throbbed
painfully with every word he uttered. "We can defer our marriage a
while, and possibly a part of my fortune may be regained--or, if you
wish it, I will release you at once. You need not wed a penniless
bride," and Maude hid her face in her hands while she awaited the
answer to her suggestion. J.C. De Vere did love Maude Remington
better than anyone he had ever seen, and though he caught eagerly at
the marriage deferred, he was not then willing to give her up, and,
with one of his impetuous bursts, he exclaimed, "I will not be
released, though it may be wise to postpone our bridal day for a
time, say until Christmas next, when I hope to be established in
business," and, touched by the suffering expression of her white
face, he kissed her tears away and told her how gladly he would work
for her, painting "love in a cottage," with nothing else there,
until he really made himself believe that he could live on bread and
water with Maude, provided she gave him the lion's share!

 J.C.'s great faults were selfishness, indolence, and love of money,
and Maude's loss affected him deeply; still, there was no redress,
and playfully bidding her "not to cry for the milkman's spilled
milk," he left her on the very day when Dr. Kennedy returned. Maude
knew J.C. was keenly disappointed; that he was hardly aware what he
was saying, and she wept for him rather than for the money.

Dr. Kennedy could offer no advice--no comfort. It had always been a
maxim of his not to make that man her guardian; but women would do
everything wrong, and then, as if his own trials were paramount to
hers, he bored her with the story of his troubles, to which she
simply answered, "I am sorry;" and this was all the sympathy either
gained from the other!

In the course of a few days Maude received a long letter from James
De Vere. He had heard from J.C. of his misfortune, and very tenderly
he strove to comfort her, touching at once upon the subject which he
naturally supposed lay heaviest upon her heart. The marriage need
not be postponed, he said; there was room in his house and a place
in his own and his mother's affections for their "Cousin Maude." She
could live there as well as not. Hampton was only half an hour's
ride from Rochester, and J. G., who had been admitted at the bar,
could open an office in the city until something better presented.

"Perhaps I may set him up in business myself," he wrote. "At all
events, dear Maude, you need not dim the brightness of your eyes by
tears, for all will yet be well. Next June shall see you a bride,
unless your intended husband refuse my offer, in which case I may
divine something better."

"Noble man," was Maude's exclamation, as she finished reading the
letter, and if at that moment the two cousins rose up in contrast
before her mind, who can blame her for awarding the preference to
him who had penned those lines, and who thus kindly strove to remove
from her pathway every obstacle to her happiness.

James De Vere was indeed a noble-hearted man. Generous, kind, and
self-denying, he found his chief pleasure in doing others good, and
he had written both to Maude and J.C. just as the great kindness of
his heart had prompted him to write. He did not then know that he
loved Maude Remington, for he had never fully analyzed the nature of
his feelings toward her. He knew he admired her very much, and when
he wrote the note J.C. withheld he said to himself, "If she answers
this, I shall write again--and again, and maybe"--he did not exactly
know what lay beyond the "maybe," so he added, "we shall be very
good friends."

But the note was not answered, and when his cousin's letter came,
telling him of the engagement, a sharp, quick pang shot through his
heart, eliciting from him a faint outcry, which caused his mother,
who was present, to ask what was the matter.

"Only a sudden pain," he answered, laying his hand upon his side.

"Pleurisy, perhaps," the practical mother rejoined, and supposing
she was right he placed the letter in his pocket and went out into
the open air. It had grown uncomfortably warm, he thought, while the
noise of the falling fountain in the garden made his head ache as it
had never ached before; and returning to the house he sought his
pleasant library. But not a volume in all those crowded shelves had
power to interest him then, and with a strange disquiet he wandered
from room to room, until at last, as the sun went down, he laid his
throbbing temples upon his pillow, and in his feverish dreams saw
again the dark-eyed Maude sitting on her mother's grave, her face
upturned to him, and on her lip the smile that formed her greatest
beauty.

The next morning the headache was gone, and with a steady hand he
wrote to his cousin and Maude congratulations which he believed
sincere. That J.C. was not worthy of the maiden he greatly feared,
and he resolved to have a care of the young man, and try to make him
what Maude's husband ought to be, and when he heard of her
misfortune he stepped forward with his generous offer, which J.C.
instantly refused.

"He never would take his wife to live upon his relatives, he had too
much pride for that, and the marriage must be deferred. A few months
would make no difference. Christmas was not far from June, and by
that time he could do something for himself."

Thus he wrote to James, who mused long upon the words, "A few months
will make no difference," thinking within himself, "If I were like
other men, and was about to marry Maude, a few months would make a
good deal of difference, but everyone to their mind." Four weeks
after this he went one day to Canandaigua on business, and having an
hour's leisure ere the arrival of the train which would take him
home he sauntered into the public parlor of the hotel. Near the
window, at the farther extremity of the room, a young girl was
looking out upon the passers-by. Something in her form and dress
attracted his attention, and he was approaching the spot where she
stood when the sound of his footsteps caught her ear, and turning
round she disclosed to view the features of Maude Remington.

"Maude!" he exclaimed, "this is indeed a surprise. I must even claim
a cousin's right to kiss you," and taking both her hands in his, he
kissed her blushing cheek--coyly--timidly--for James De Vere was
unused to such things, and not quite certain, whether under the
circumstances it were perfectly proper for him to do so or not.

Leading her to the sofa, he soon learned that she had come to the
village to trade, and having finished her shopping was waiting for
her stepfather, who had accompanied her.

"And what of J.C.?" he asked, after a moment's silence. "Has he been
to visit you more than once since the crisis, as he calls it?"

Maude's eyes filled with tears, for J.C.'s conduct was not wholly
satisfactory to her. She remembered his loud protestations of utter
disregard for her money, and she could not help thinking how little
his theory and practice accorded. He had not been to see her since
his flying visit in March, and though he had written several times
his letters had contained little else save complaints against their
"confounded luck." She could not tell this to James De Vere, and she
replied, "He is very busy now, I believe, in trying to make some
business arrangement with the lawyer in whose office he formerly
studied."

"I am glad he has roused himself at last," answered James; "he would
not accept my offer, for which I am sorry, as I was anticipating
much happiness in having my Cousin Maude at Hampton during the
summer. You will remain at home, I suppose."

"No," said Maude hesitatingly; "or, that is, I have serious thoughts
of teaching school, as I do not like to be dependent on Dr.
Kennedy."

James De Vere had once taught school for a few weeks by way of
experiment, and now as he recalled the heated room, the stifling
atmosphere, the constant care, and more than all, the noisy shout of
triumph which greeted his ear on that memorable morning when he
found himself fastened out, and knew his rule was at an end, he
shuddered at the thought of Maude's being exposed to similar
indignities, and used all his powers of eloquence to dissuade her
from her plan. Maude was frank, open-hearted, and impulsive, and
emboldened by James' kind, brotherly manner she gave in a most
childlike manner her reason for wishing to teach.

"If I am married next winter," she said, "my wardrobe will need
replenishing, for J.C. would surely be ashamed to take me as I am,
and I have now no means of my own for purchasing anything."

In an instant James De Vere's hand was on his purse, but ere he drew
it forth he reflected that to offer money then might possibly be out
of place, so he said, "I have no sister, no girl-cousin, no wife,
and more money than I can use, and when the right time comes nothing
can please me more than to give you your bridal outfit. May I,
Maude? And if you do not like to stay with Dr. Kennedy, come to
Hampton this summer and live with us, will you, Maude? I want you
there so much," and in the musical tones of his voice there was a
deep pathos which brought the tears in torrents from Maude's eyes;
while she declined the generous offer she could not accept.

Just then Dr. Kennedy appeared. He was ready, to go, he said, and
bidding Mr. De Vere good-by, Maude was soon on her way home, her
spirits lighter and her heart happier for that chance meeting at the
hotel. One week later Mr. De Vere wrote to her, saying that if she
still wished to teach, she could have the school at Hampton. He had
seen the trustees, had agreed upon the price, and had even selected
her a boarding-place near by. "I regret," said he, "that we live so
far from the schoolhouse as to render it impossible for you to board
with us. You might ride, I suppose, and I would cheerfully carry you
every day; but, on the whole, I think you had better stop with Mrs.
Johnson."

This letter Maude took at once to her brother, from whom she had
hitherto withheld her intention to teach, as she did not wish to
pain him unnecessarily with the dread of a separation, which might
never be. Deeply had he sympathized with her in her misfortune,
whispering to her that two--thirds of his own inheritance should be
hers. "I can coax almost anything from father," he said, "and when I
am twenty-one I'll ask him to give me my portion, and then I'll take
you to Europe. You won't be old, Maude, only twenty-seven, and I
shall be proud when the people say that beautiful woman with eyes
like stars is the crippled artist's sister!"

In all his plans he made no mention of J.C., whose conduct he
despised, and whose character he began to read aright.

"Maude will never marry him, I hope," he thought, and when she
brought to him the letter from James De Vere, the noble little
fellow conquered his own feelings, and with a hopeful heart as to
the result of that summer's teaching he bade her go. So it was all
arranged, and the next letter which went from Maude to J.C. carried
the intelligence that his betrothed was going "to turn country
school-ma'am, and teach the Hampton brats their A B C's," so at last
he said to Mrs. Kelsey and her niece, between whom and himself there
was a perfectly good understanding, and to whom he talked of his
future prospects without reserve. Mrs. Kelsey was secretly
delighted, for matters were shaping themselves much as she would
wish. Her brother evinced no particular, desire to have his daughter
at home, and she determined to keep her as long as there was the
slightest chance of winning J.C. De Vere. He was now a regular
visitor at her house, and lest he should suspect her design, she
spoke often and respectfully of Maude, whose cause she seemed to
have espoused, and when he came to her with the news of her teaching
she sympathized with him at once.

"It would be very mortifying," she said, "to marry a district
school-mistress, though there was some comfort in knowing that his
friends were as yet ignorant of the engagement."

"Let them remain so a while longer," was the hasty answer of J.C.,
who, as time passed on, became more and more unwilling that the gay
world should know of his engagement with one who was not an heiress
after all.



CHAPTER XIII.

HAMPTON.


Six happy weeks Maude had been a teacher, and though she knew J.C.
did not approve her plan, she was more than repaid for his
displeasure by the words of encouragement which James always had in
store for her. Many times had she been to the handsome home of the
De Veres, and the lady-mother, whom she at first so much dreaded to
meet, had more than once stroked her silken curls, calling her "my
child," as tenderly as if she did indeed bear that relation to her.
James De Vere was one of the trustees, and in that capacity he
visited the school so often that the wise villagers shook their
heads significantly, saying, "if he were any other man they should
think the rights of J.C. were in danger."

The young school-mistress' engagement with the fashionable Jedediah
was generally known, and thus were the public blinded to the true
state of affairs. Gradually James De Vere had learned how dear to
him was the dark-eyed girl he called his "Cousin Maude." There was
no light like that which shone in her truthful eyes--no music so
sweet as the sound of her gentle voice--no presence which brought
him so much joy as hers--no being in the world he loved so well. But
she belonged to another--the time had passed when she might have
been won. She could never be his, he said; and with his love he
waged a mighty battle--a battle which lasted days and nights,
wringing from him more than one bitter moan, as with his face bowed
in his hands he murmured sadly, the mournful words, "It might have
been."

Matters were in this condition when J.C. came one day to Hampton,
accompanied by some city friends, among whom were a few young ladies
of the Kelsey order. Maude saw them as they passed the schoolhouse
in the village omnibus; saw, too, how resolutely J.C.'s head was
turned away, as if afraid their eyes would meet.

"He wishes to show his resentment, but of course he'll visit me ere
he returns," she thought. And many times that day she cast her eyes
in the direction of Hampton Park, as the De Vere residence was often
called.

But she looked in vain, and with a feeling of disappointment she
dismissed her school, and glad to be alone, laid her head upon the
desk, falling ere long asleep, for the day was warm and she was very
tired. So quietly she slept that she did not hear the roll of wheels
nor the sound of merry voices as the party from the city rode by on
their way to the depot. Neither half an hour later did she hear the
hasty footstep which crossed the threshold of they door; but when a
hand was laid upon her shoulder and a well-known voice bade her
awake, she started up, and saw before her James De Vere. He had been
to her boarding-place, he said, and not finding her there had sought
her in the schoolhouse.

"I have two letters for you," he continued; "one from your brother,
and one from J.C."

"From J.C.!" she repeated. "Has he gone back? Why didn't he call on
me?"

"He's a villain," thought James De Vere, but he answered simply, "He
had not time, and so wrote you instead," and sitting down beside her
he regarded her with a look in which pity, admiration, and love were
all blended--the former predominating at that moment, and causing
him to lay his hand caressingly on her forehead, saying as he did
so, "Your head aches, don't it, Maude?"

Maude's heart was already full, and at this little act of sympathy
she burst into tears, while James, drawing her to his side and
resting her head upon his bosom, soothed her as he would have done
had she been his only sister. He fancied that he knew the cause of
her grief, and his heart swelled with indignation toward J.C., who
had that day shown himself unworthy of a girl like Maude. He had
come to Hampton without any definite idea as to whether he should
see her or not ere his return, but when, as the omnibus drew near
the schoolhouse and Maude was plainly visible through the open
window, one of the ladies made some slighting remark concerning
school-teachers generally, he determined not to hazard an interview,
and quieted his conscience by thinking he would come out in a few
days and make the matter right. How then was he chagrined when in
the presence of his companions his cousin said: "Shall I send for
Miss Remington? She can dismiss her school earlier than usual and
come up to tea."

"Dismiss her school!" cried one of the young ladies, while the
other, the proud Miss Thayer, whose grandfather was a pedlar and
whose great-uncle had been hanged, exclaimed, "Miss Remington! Pray
who is she? That schoolmistress we saw in passing? Really, Mr. De
Vere, you have been careful not to tell us of this new acquaintance.
Where did you pick her up?" and the diamonds on her fingers shone
brightly in the sunshine as she playfully pulled a lock of J.C.'s
hair. The disconcerted J.C. was about stammering out some reply when
James, astonished both at the apparent ignorance of his guests and
the strangeness of his cousin's manner, answered for him, "Miss
Remington is our teacher, and a splendid girl. J.C. became
acquainted with her last summer at Laurel Hill. She is a stepsister
of Miss Kennedy, whom you probably know."

"Nellie, Kennedy's stepsister. I never knew there was such a being,"
said Miss Thayer, while young Robinson, a lisping, insipid dandy,
drawled out, "A sthool-marm, J. Thee? I'th really romantic! Thend
for her, of courth. A little dithipline won't hurt any of uth."

J.C. made a faint effort to rally, but they joked him so hard that
he remained silent, while James regarded him with a look of cool
contempt sufficiently indicative of his opinion.

At last when Miss Thayer asked "if the bridal day were fixed," he
roused himself, and thinking if he told the truth he should
effectually deceive them, he answered, "Yes, next Christmas is the
time appointed. We were to have been married in June, but the lady
lost her fortune and the marriage was deferred."

"Oh, teaching to purchase her bridal trousseau. I'm dying to see
it," laughingly replied Miss Thayer, while another rejoined, "Lost
her fortune. Was she then an heiress?"

"Yes, a milkman's heiress," said J.C., with a slightly scornful
emphasis on the name which he himself had given to Maude at a time
when a milkman's money seemed as valuable to him as that of any
other man.

There was a dark, stern look on the face of James De Vere, and as
Miss Thayer, the ruling spirit of the party, had an eye on him and
his broad lands, she deemed it wise to change the conversation from
the "Milkman's Heiress" to a topic less displeasing to their
handsome host. In the course of the afternoon the cousins were alone
for a few moments, when the elder demanded of the other: "Do you
pretend to love Maude Remington, and still make light both of her
and your engagement with her?"

"I pretend to nothing which is not real," was J.C.'s haughty answer;
"but I do dislike having my matters canvassed by every silly tongue,
and have consequently kept my relation to Miss Remington a secret. I
cannot see her to-day, but with your permission I will pen a few
lines by way of explanation," and, glad to escape from the rebuking
glance he knew he so much deserved, he stepped into his cousin's
library, where he wrote the note James gave to Maude.

Under some circumstances it would have been a very unsatisfactory
message, but with her changed feelings toward the writer and James
De Vere sitting at her side, she scarcely noticed how cold it was,
and throwing it down, tore open Louis' letter which had come in the
evening mail. It was very brief, and hastily perusing its contents
Maude cast it from her with a cry of horror and disgust--then
catching it up, she moaned, "Oh, must I go!--I can't! I can't!"

"What is it?" asked Mr. De Vere, and pointing to the lines Maude
bade him read.

He did read, and as he read his own cheek blanched, and he wound his
arm closely round the maiden's waist as if to keep her there and
thus save her from danger. Dr. Kennedy had the smallpox, so Louis
wrote, and Nellie, who had been home for a few days, had fled in
fear back to the city. Hannah, too, had gone, and there was no one
left to care for the sick man save John and the almost helpless
Louis.

"Father is so sick," he wrote, "and he says, tell Maude, for
humanity's sake, to come."

If there was one disease more than another of which Maude stood in
mortal fear it was the smallpox, and her first impulse was, "I will
not go." But when she reflected that Louis, too, might take it, and
need her care, her resolution changed, and moving away from her
companion she said firmly, "I must go, for if anything befall my
brother, how can I answer to our mother for having betrayed my
trust? Dr. Kennedy, too, was her husband, and he must not be left to
die alone."

Mr. De Vere was about to expostulate, but she prevented him by
saying, "Do not urge me to stay, but rather help me to go, for I
must leave Hampton to-morrow. You will get someone to take my place,
as I, of course, shall not return, and if I have it--"

Here she paused, while the trembling of her body showed how terrible
to her was the dread of the disease.

"Maude Remington," said Mr. De Vere, struck with admiration by her
noble, self-sacrificing spirit, "I will not bid you stay, for I know
it would be useless; but if that which you so much fear comes upon
you, if the face now so fair to took upon be marred and disfigured
until not a lineament is left of the once beautiful girl, come back
to me. I will love you all the same."

As he spoke he stretched his arms involuntarily toward her, and
scarce knowing what she did, she went forward to the embrace. Very
lovingly he folded her for a moment to his bosom, then turning her
face to the fading sunlight which streamed through the dingy window,
he looked at it wistfully and long, as if he would remember every
feature. Pushing back the silken curls which clustered around her
forehead, he kissed her twice, and then releasing her said: "Forgive
me, Maude, if I have taken more than a cousin's liberty with you, I
could not help it."

Bewildered at his words and manner, Maude raised her eyes
wonderingly to his, and looking into the shining orbs, he thought
how soft, how beautiful they were, but little, little did he dream
their light would e'er be quenched in midnight darkness. A while
longer they talked together, Mr. De Vere promising to send a servant
to take her home in the morning. Then, as the sun had set and the
night shadows were deepening in the room, they bade each other
good-by, and ere the next day's sun was very high in the heavens Maude
was far on her way to Laurel Hill.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE DARK HOUR.


Dr. Kennedy had been to Buffalo, and taken the smallpox, so his
attending physician said, and the news spread rapidly, frightening
nervous people as they never were frightened before. Nellie had been
home for a week or two, but at the first alarm she fled, rushing
headlong through the hall and down the stairs, unmindful of the
tremulous voice, which cried imploringly, "Don't leave me, daughter,
to die alone!"

Hannah followed next, holding the camphor bottle to her nose, and
saying to John when he expostulated with her, "I reckon I's not
gwine to spile what little beauty I've got with that fetched
complaint."

"But, mother," persisted John, "may be it's nothin' but vary-o-lord
after all, and that don't mark folks, you know."

"You needn't talk to me about your very-o-lord," returned Hannah. "I
know it's the very-o-devil himself, and I won't have them pock-ed
marks on me for all the niggers in Virginny."

"Then go," said John, "hold tight to the camphire, and run for your
life, or it may cotch you before you git out of the house."

Hannah needed no second bidding to run, and half an hour later she
was domesticated with a colored family who lived not far from the
Hill. Thus left to themselves, Louis and John, together with the
physician, did what they could for the sick man, who at last
proposed sending for Maude, feeling intuitively that she would not
desert him as his own child had done. Silent, desolate, and forsaken
the old house looked as Maude approached it, and she involuntarily
held her breath as she stepped into the hall, whose close air seemed
laden with infection. She experienced no difficulty in finding the
sick-room, where Louis' cry of delight, John's expression of joy,
and the sick man's whispered words, "God bless you, Maude," more
than recompensed her for the risk she had incurred. Gradually her
fear subsided, particularly when she learned that it was in fact the
varioloid. Had it been possible to remove her brother from danger
she would have done so, but it was too late now, and she suffered
him to share her vigils, watching carefully for the first symptoms
of the disease in him.

In this manner nearly two weeks passed away, and the panic-stricken
villagers were beginning to breathe more freely, when it was told
them one day that Maude and Louis were both smitten with the
disease. Then indeed the more humane said to themselves, "Shall they
be left to suffer alone?" and still no one was found who dared to
breathe the air of the sick-room. Dr. Kennedy was by this time so
much better that Louis was taken to his apartment, where he
ministered to him himself, while the heroic Maude was left to the
care of John. Everything he could do for her he did, but his heart
sunk within him when he saw how fast her fever came on, and heard
her, in her sleep, mourn for her mother, to hold her aching head.

"She mustn't die," he said, and over his dark skin the tears rolled
like rain, as raising his eyes to the ceiling he cried imploringly,
"Will the good Father send someone to help?"

The prayer of the weak African was heard, and ere the sun went down
a man of noble mien and noble heart stood at the maiden's bedside,
bathing her swollen face, pushing back her silken curls, counting
her rapid pulses, and once, when she slept, kissing her parched
lips, e'en though he knew that with that kiss he inhaled, perhaps,
his death! James De Vere had never for a day lost sight of Maude.
Immediately after her return he had written to the physician
requesting a daily report, and when, at last he learned that she was
ill, and all alone, he came unhesitatingly, presenting a striking
contrast to the timid J.C., who had heard of her illness, and at
first, dared not open the letter which his cousin wrote, apprising
him of Maude's affliction. But when he reflected that he could be
re-vaccinated, and thus avert the dreaded evil, he broke the seal
and read, commenting as follows: "Jim is a splendid fellow, though I
can't see why he takes so much interest in her. Don't I have
confounded luck, though? That will first, the five thousand dollars
next, and now the smallpox, too. Of course she'll be marked, and
look like a fright. Poor girl! I'd help her if I could," and, as the
better nature of J.C. came over him, he added mournfully: "What if
she should die?"

But Maude did not die; and at the expiration of ten days she was so
far out of danger that James De Vere yielded to the importunity of
his mother, who, in an agony of terror, besought him to return. When
first he came to her bedside Maude had begged of him to leave her
and not risk his life in her behalf; but he silenced her objections
then, and now when he bade her adieu he would not listen to her
protestations of gratitude.

"I would do even more for you if I could," he said. "I am not afraid
of the varioloid, and henceforth I shall think gratefully of it for
having dealt so lightly with you."

So saying, he turned away, feeling happier than he could well
express, that Maude had not only escaped from death, but that there
would be no marks left to tell how near the ravager had been.
Scarcely had the door closed on him when, emboldened by his last
words to ask a question she greatly wished, yet dreaded to ask,
Maude turned to John and said, "Am I much pitted?"

Rolling up his eyes and wholly mistaking her meaning, John replied,
"I aint no great of a physiognomer, but when a thing is as plain as
day I can discern it as well as the next one, and if that ar' chap
haint pitied you, and done a heap more'n that, I'm mistaken."

"But," continued Maude, smiling at his simplicity, "I mean shall I
probably be scarred?"

"Oh, bless you, not a scar," answered John, "for don't you mind how
he kep' the iled silk and wet rags on yer face, and how that night
when you was sickest he held yer hands so you couldn't tache that
little feller between yer eyes. That was the spunkiest varmint of
'em all, and may leave a mark like the one under yer ear, but it
won't spile yer looks an atom."

"And Louis?" said Maude, "is he disfigured?"

"Not a disfigurement," returned John, "but the ole governor, he's a
right smart sprinklin' of 'em, one squar' on the tip of his nose,
and five or six more on his face."

Thus relieved of her immediate fears Maude asked many questions
concerning Louis, who she learned had not been very sick.

"You can see him afore long, I reckon," said John, and in a few days
she was able to join him in the sitting room below.

After a while Hannah returned to her post of duty, her beauty
unimpaired, and herself thoroughly ashamed of having thus
heartlessly deserted her master's family in their affliction. As if
to make amends for this she exerted herself to cleanse the house
from everything which could possibly inspire fear on the villagers,
and by the last of August there was scarce a trace left of the
recent scourge, save the deep scar on the end of the doctor's nose,
one or two marks on Louis' face, and a weakness of Maude's eyes,
which became at last a cause of serious alarm.

It was in vain that Louis implored his father to seek medical aid in
Rochester, where the physicians were supposed to have more
experience in such matters. The doctor refused, saying, "'twas a
maxim of his not to counsel with anyone, and he guessed he knew how
to manage sore eyes."

But Maude's eyes were not sore--they were merely weak, while the
pain in the eyeball was sometimes so intense as to wring from her a
cry, of suffering. Gradually there crept into her heart a horrid
fear that her sight was growing dim, and often in the darkness of
the night she wept most bitterly, praying that she might not be
blind.

"Oh, Louis," she said to her brother one day, "I would so much
rather die than to be blind, and never see you any more--never see
the beautiful world I love so much. Oh, must it be? Is there no
help?"

"James De Vere could help us if he were here," answered Louis, his
own tears mingling with his sister's.

But James De Vere had left Hampton for New Orleans, where he would
probably remain until the winter, and there could be no aid expected
from him. The doctor, too, was wholly absorbed in thoughts of his
approaching nuptials, for Maude Glendower, failing to secure the
wealthy bachelor, and overhearing several times the remark that she
was really getting old, had consented to name the 20th of October
for their marriage. And so the other Maude was left to battle with
the terrible fear which was strengthened every day.

At length J.C., roused not so much by the touching letter which she
wrote him as by the uncertain handwriting, came himself, bringing
with him a physician, who carefully examined the soft black eyes,
which could not now endure the light, then shaking his head he said
gravely, "There is still some hope, but she must go to the city,
where I can see her every day."

J.C. looked at Dr. Kennedy, and Dr. Kennedy, looked at J.C., and
then both their hands sought their pockets, but came out again--empty!
J.C. really had not the ready means with which to meet the
expense, while Dr. Kennedy had not the inclination. But one there
was, the faithful John, who could not stand by unmoved, and darting
from the room, he mounted the woodshed stairs, and from beneath the
rafters drew out an old leathern wallet, where from time to time he
had deposited money for "the wet day." That wet day had come at
last; not to him, but to another--and without a moment's hesitation
he counted out the ten golden eagles which his purse contained, and,
going back to Maude, placed them in her hand, saying: "Go to
Rochester, Miss Maude. I saved 'em for you, for I wouldn't have the
light squenched in them shinin' eyes for all the land in old
Virginny."

It was a noble act, and it shamed the paler faces who witnessed it,
but they offered no remonstrance, though Maude did, refusing to
accept it, until Louis said: "Take it, sister--take it, and when I'm
twenty-one I'll give to him ten times ten golden eagles."

The necessary arrangements were quickly made, and ere a week was
passed Maude found herself in Rochester, and an inmate of Mrs.
Kelsey's family; for, touched with pity, that lady had offered to
receive her, and during her brief stay treated her with every
possible attention. Nellie, too, was very kind, ministering
carefully to the comfort of her stepsister, who had ceased to be a
rival, for well she knew J.C. De Vere would never wed a penniless
bride and blind!



CHAPTER XV.

THE NEW MISTRESS AT LAUREL HILL.


The 20th of October came, and with a firm hand Maude Glendower
arrayed herself for the bridal, which was to take place at an early
hour. The scar on the end of the doctor's nose had shaken her
purpose for an instant, but when she thought again of the unpaid
bills lying in her private drawer, and when, more than all, the
doctor said, "We greatly fear Maude Remington will be blind," her
resolution was fixed, and with a steady voice she took upon herself
the marriage vows.

They were to go to Laurel Hill that day, and when the doctor saw
that the handsome furniture of her rooms was still untouched, he
ventured to ask "if she had left orders to have it sent."

"Oh, I didn't tell you, did I, that my furniture was all mortgaged
to Mrs. Raymond for board and borrowed money, too; but of course you
don't care; you did not marry my furniture," and the little soft,
white hands were laid upon those of the bridegroom, while the
lustrous eyes sought his face, to witness the effect of her words.

The dent on the nose grew red a moment, and then the doctor,
perfectly intoxicated with the beauty of his bride, answered, "No,
Maude, I married you."

A rap at the door, and a note from Messrs. Barnabas Muggins & Brown
"hoped Miss Glendower would not forget to settle her bill."

"It's really quite provoking to trouble you with my debts so soon,"
said the lady, "but I dare say it's a maxim of yours that we should
have no secrets from each other, and so I may as well show you these
at once," and she turned into his lap a handful of bills, amounting
in all to four hundred dollars, due to the different tradesmen of
Troy.

The spot on the nose was decidedly purple, and had Katy or Matty
been there they would surely, have recognized the voice which began,
"Really, I did not expect this, and 'tis a max--"

"Never mind the maxim," and the mouth of the speaker was covered by
a dimpled hand, as Maude Glendower continued, "It's mean, I know,
but four hundred dollars is not much, after all, and you ought to be
willing to pay even more for me, don't you think so, dearest?"

"Ye-es," faintly answered the doctor, who, knowing there was no
alternative, gave a check for the whole amount on a Rochester bank,
where he had funds deposited.

Maude Glendower was a charming traveling companion, and in listening
to her lively sallies, and noticing the admiration she received, the
doctor forgot his lost four hundred dollars, and by the time they
reached Canandaigua he believed himself supremely happy in having
such a wife. John was waiting for them, just as thirteen years
before he had waited for blue-eyed Matty, and the moment her eye
fell upon the carriage he had borrowed from a neighbor, the new wife
exclaimed, "Oh, I hope that lumbering old thing is not ours. It
would give me the rickets to ride in it long."

"It's borrowed," the doctor said, 'and she continued, "I'll pick out
mine, and my horses, too. I'm quite a connoisseur in those matters."

John rolled his eyes toward his master, whose face wore a look never
seen there before.

"Henpecked!" was the negro's mental comment, as he prepared to
start.

When about three miles from the village the lady started up, saying,
"she had left her shawl, and must go back immediately."

"There is not time," said the doctor, "for the sun is already nearly
set. It will be perfectly safe."

"But it's my India shawl. I must have it," and the lady's hand was
laid upon the reins to turn the horses' heads.

Of course they went back, finding the shawl, not at the hotel, but
under the carriage cushions, where the lady herself had placed it.

"It's a maxim of mine to know what I'm about," the doctor ventured
to say, while a silvery voice returned, "So do I ordinarily, but it
is not strange that I forget myself on my wedding day." This was
well timed, and wrapping the garment carefully round her to shelter
her from the night air, the doctor bade the highly amused John to
drive on. They were more than halfway home when some luscious
oranges in a small grocery window, caught the bride's eye, and "she
must have some, she always kept them in her room," she said, and to
the grocer's inquiry, "How many, madam?" she answered, "Two dozen,
at least, and a box of figs, if you have them. I dote on figs."

It was the doctor's wedding day. He could not say no, and with a
mental groan he parted company with another bill, while John, on the
platform without, danced the "double shuffle" in token of his
delight. There was a second grocery to be passed, but by taking a
more circuitous route it could be avoided, and the discomfited
bridegroom bade John "go through the Hollow."

"Yes, sar," answered the knowing negro, turning the heads of the
unwilling horses in a direction which would not bring them home so
soon by one whole hour.

But the grocery was shunned, and so the doctor did not care even if
the clock did strike nine just as they stopped at their own gate.
The night was dark and the bride could not distinguish the exterior
of the house, neither was the interior plainly discernible, lighted
as it was with an oil lamp, and a single tallow candle. But she
scarcely thought of this, so intent was she upon the beautiful face
of the crippled boy, who sat in his armchair, eagerly awaiting her
arrival.

"This is Louis," the father said: and the scornful eyes which with
one rapid glance had scanned the whole apartment filled with tears
as they, turned toward the boy.

Dropping on one knee before him, the lady, parted the silken hair
from his forehead, saying very gently, "You must be like your
mother, save that your eyes are brown, and hers were blue. May I be
your mother, Louis?"

Very wonderingly the child gazed into her face. It was radiantly
beautiful, while the dreamy eyes rested upon him with such a
yearning look that his heart went out toward her at once, and
winding his arms around her neck, he murmured, "I shall love you
very much, my mother."

For a moment Maude Glendower held him to her bosom, while her
thoughts went back to the long ago when another face much like his
had rested there, and another voice had whispered in her ear, "I
love you, Maude Glendower." That voice was hushed in death, but
through the child it spoke to her again, and with a throbbing heart
she vowed to be to the crippled boy what Matty herself would well
approve, could she speak from her low bed beneath the willows.

"What of your sister?" the lady said at last, rising to her feet.
"Is she recovering her sight?"

"Nellie writes there is hope," said Louis, "though she did not
receive attention soon enough, the physician says."

There was reproach, contempt, and anger in the large black eyes
which sought the doctor's face, but the light was dim, and he did
not see it.

"It will be a great misfortune to her, and very hard on me if she is
blind, for of course I must take care of her," he said at last,
while his wife indignantly replied, "Take care of her! Yes, I'd sell
my diamonds rather than see her suffer!"

Supper was now announced, and in examining the arrangement of the
table and inspecting the furniture of the dining room, the bride
forgot everything save the novelty of her situation. Mentally
styling the house "an old rookery," she forced back the bitter
feelings which would rise up when she thought how unlike was all
this to what she had been accustomed. It needed but one glance of
her keen eyes to read the whole, and ere the close of the next day
she understood her position perfectly, and summoning to her aid her
iron will, she determined to make the most of everything. She knew
the doctor had money, aye, and she knew, too, how to get it from
him, but she was too wary to undertake it in any of the ordinary
ways. She did not tell him how desolate the old house seemed, or
that she was homesick because of its desolation; but after she had
been there a few days she sat down by his side, and told him that
with a few improvements it could be made the most delightful spot in
all the country, and she was glad she had come there to help him to
fix it up. She knew he had exquisite taste, and as he was now at
leisure they would contrive together how their parlors could be
improved. She didn't quite like them as they were, the window lights
were too small, and they must have the large panes of glass. Then
satin paper on the walls would look so much better, and the carpets,
though really very nice, were hardly good enough for a man of Dr.
Kennedy's standing in society.

"But," gasped the doctor, "the one in the back parlor is brand
new--has scarcely been used at all and it is a maxim of mine--"

"Your maxim is good, undoubtedly," interrupted the lady, "but the
chambers all need recarpeting, and this will exactly fit Maude's
room, which I intend fixing before she returns."

The doctor looked aghast, and his wife continued: "The season is so
far advanced that it is hardly worth while to make any changes now,
but next spring I shall coax you into all manner or repairs. I do
wonder what makes that spot on your nose so red at times. You are
really very fine looking when it is not there. It is gone," she
continued, and smoothing away a wrinkle in his forehead, she said,
"We won't talk of the future now, but seriously, we must have some
new Brussels carpets, and a furnace to warm the whole house."

Here she shivered and coughed quite naturally after which she
returned to the charge, saying, "her family were consumptive, and
she could not endure the cold."

"But, my dear," said the doctor, "it will cost a great deal of money
to carry out your plans."

"Oh, no, not much," she answered, "give me five hundred dollars and
I will do everything necessary to make us comfortable for the
winter."

"Five hundred dollars, Mrs. Kennedy!" and the doctor's gray eyes
looked as they used to look when Katy and Matty asked him for five.
"Five hundred dollars! Preposterous! Why, during the seven years I
lived with your predecessor she did not cost me that!"

From old Hannah Mrs. Kennedy had, learned how her predecessor had
been stinted by the doctor, and could he that moment have looked
into her heart he would have seen there a fierce determination to
avenge the wrongs so meekly borne. But she did not embody her
thoughts in words, neither did she deem it advisable to press the
subject further at that time, so she waited for nearly a week, and
then resumed the attack with redoubled zeal.

"We must have another servant," she said.

"Old Hannah is wholly inefficient, and so I have engaged a colored
woman from the hotel; and did I tell you, I have spoken to a man
about the furnace we are going to have, and I also told Mr. Jenks to
buy me one hundred yards of Brussels carpeting in New York. He's
gone for goods, you know."

"Really, Mrs. Kennedy, this exceeds all. My former companions saw
fit to consult me always. Really, one hundred yards of carpeting and
a black cook! Astonishing, Mrs. Kennedy!"

The doctor was quite too much confounded to think of a single maxim,
for his wife's effrontery took him wholly by surprise. She was a
most energetic woman, and her proceedings were already the theme of
many a tea-table gossip, in which the delighted villagers exulted
that Dr. Kennedy had at last found his match. Yes, he had found his
match, and when next day the black cook, Rose, came, and Mr. Brown
asked when he would have the furnace put in his cellar, there was
that in the eye of his better half which prompted a meek submission.
When the bill for the new carpets was handed him he again rebelled,
but all to no purpose. He paid the requisite amount, and tried to
swallow his wrath with his wife's consolatory remark, that "they
were the handsomest couple in town, and ought to have the handsomest
carpets!"

One day he found her giving directions to two or three men who were
papering, painting, and whitewashing Maude's room, and then, as John
remarked, he seemed more like himself than he had done before since
his last marriage.

"If Maude is going to be blind," he said, "it can make no difference
with her how her chamber looks, and 'tis a maxim of mine to let well
enough alone."

"I wish you would cure yourself of those disagreeable maxims," was
the lady's cool reply, as, stepping to the head of the stairs, she
bade John "bring up the carpet, if it were whipped enough."

"Allow me to ask what you are going to do with it?" said the doctor,
as from the windows he saw the back parlor carpet swinging on the
line.

"Why, I told you I was going to fit up Maude's room. She is coming
home in a week, you know, and I am preparing a surprise. I have
ordered a few pieces of light furniture from the cabinet-maker's,
and I think her chamber would look nicely if the walls were only a
little higher. They can't be raised, I suppose?"

She was perfectly collected, and no queen on her throne ever issued
her orders with greater confidence in their being obeyed; and when
that night she said to her husband, "These men must have their pay,"
he had no alternative but to open his purse and give her what she
asked. Thus it was with everything.

"Ki, aint him cotchin' it good?" was John's mental comment, as he
daily watched the proceedings, and while Hannah pronounced him "the
hen-peck-ed-est man she had ever seen," the amused villagers knew
that will had met will, and been conquered!



CHAPTER XVI.

THE BLIND GIRL.


Maude's chamber was ready at last, and very inviting it looked with
its coat of fresh paint, its cheerful paper, bright carpet, handsome
bedstead, marble washstand, and mahogany bureau, on which were
arranged various little articles for the toilet. The few pieces of
furniture which Mrs. Kennedy had ordered from the cabinet-maker's
had amounted, in all, to nearly one hundred dollars, but the bill
was not yet sent in; and in blissful ignorance of the surprise
awaiting him the doctor rubbed his hands and tried to seem pleased
when his wife, passing her arm in his, led him to the room, which
she compelled him to admire.

"It was all very nice," he said, "but wholly unnecessary for a blind
girl. What was the price of this?" he asked, laying his hand upon
the bedstead.

"Only twenty-five dollars. Wasn't it cheap?" and the wicked black
eyes danced with merriment at the loud groan which succeeded the
answer.

"Twenty-five dollars!" he exclaimed. "Why, the bedstead Matty and I
slept on for seven years only cost three, and it is now as good as
new."

"But times have changed," said the lady. "Everybody has nicer
things; besides, do you know people used to talk dreadfully about a
man of your standing being so stingy? But I have done considerable
toward correcting that impression. You aint stingy, and in proof of
it you'll give me fifty cents to buy cologne for this." And she took
up a beautiful bottle which stood upon the bureau.

The doctor had not fifty cents in change, but a dollar bill would
suit her exactly as well, she said, and secretly exulting in her
mastery over the self-willed tyrant, she suffered him to depart,
saying to himself as he descended the stair, "Twenty-five dollars
for one bedstead. I won't stand it! I'll do something!"

"What are you saying, dear?" a melodious voice called after him, and
so accelerated his movements that the extremity of his coat
disappeared from view, just as the lady Maude reached the head of
the stairs.

"Oh!" was the involuntary exclamation of Louis, who had been a
spectator of the scene, and who felt intuitively that his father had
found his mistress.

During her few weeks residence at Laurel Hill Maude Glendower had
bound the crippled boy to herself by many a deed of love, and
whatever she did was sure of meeting his approval. With him she had
consulted concerning his sister's room, yielding often to his artist
taste in the arrangement of the furniture, and now that the chamber
was ready they both awaited impatiently the arrival of its occupant.
Nellie's last letter had been rather encouraging, and Maude herself
had appended her name at its close. The writing was tremulous and
uncertain, but it brought hope to the heart of the brother, who had
never really believed it possible for his sister to be blind. Very
restless he seemed on the day when she was expected; and when, just
as the sun was setting, the carriage drove to the gate, a faint
sickness crept over him, and wheeling his chair to the window of her
room he looked anxiously at her, as with John's assistance, she
alighted from the carriage.

"If she walks alone I shall know she is not very blind," he said,
and with clasped hands he watched her intently as she came slowly
toward the house with Nellie a little in advance.

Nearer and nearer she came--closer and closer the burning forehead
was pressed against the window pane, and hope beat high in Louis'
heart, when suddenly she turned aside--her foot rested on the
withered violets which grew outside the walk, and her hand groped in
the empty air.

"She's blind--she's blind," said Louis, and with a moaning cry he
laid his head upon the broad arm of his chair, sobbing most
bitterly.

Meantime below there was a strange interview between the new mother
and her children, Maude Glendower clasping her namesake in her arms
and weeping over her as she had never wept before but once, and that
when the moonlight shone upon her sitting by a distant grave.
Pushing back the clustering curls, she kissed the open brow and
looked into the soft black eyes with a burning gaze which penetrated
the shadowy darkness and brought a flush to the cheek of the young
girl.

"Maude Remington! Maude Remington!" she said, dwelling long upon the
latter name, "the sight of you affects me painfully; you are so like
one I have lost. I shall love you, Maude Remington, for the sake of
the dead, and you, too, must love me, and call me mother--will you?"
and her lips again touched those of the astonished maiden.

Though fading fast, the light was not yet quenched in Maude's eyes,
and very wistfully she scanned the face of the speaker, while her
hands moved caressingly over each feature, as she said, "I will love
you, beautiful lady, though you can never be to me what my gentle
mother was."

At the sound of that voice Maude Glendower started suddenly, and
turning aside, so her words could not be heard, she murmured sadly,
"Both father and child prefer her to me." Then, recollecting
herself, she offered her hand to the wondering Nellie, saying, "Your
Sister's misfortune must be my excuse for devoting so much time to
her, when you, as my eldest daughter, were entitled to my first
attention."

Her stepmother's evident preference for Maude had greatly offended
the selfish Nellie, who coldly answered, "Don't trouble yourself,
madam. It's not of the least consequence. But where is my father? He
will welcome me, I am sure."

The feeling too often existing between stepmothers and stepdaughters
had sprung into life, and henceforth the intercourse of Maude
Glendower and Nellie Kennedy would be marked with studied
politeness, and nothing more. But the former did not care. So long
as her eye could feast itself upon the face and form of Maude
Remington she was content, and as Nellie left the room she wound her
arm around the comparatively helpless girl, saying, "Let me take you
to your brother."

Although unwilling, usually, to be led, Maude yielded now, and
suffered herself to be conducted to the chamber where Louis watched
for her coming. She could see enough to know there was a change, and
clasping her companion's hand she said, "I am surely indebted to you
for this surprise."

"Maude, Maude!" and the tones of Louis' voice trembled with joy, as
stretching his arms toward her, he cried, "You can see."

Guided more by the sound than by actual vision, Maude flew like
lightning to his side, and kneeling before him hid her face in his
lap, while he bent fondly over her, beseeching her to say if she
could see. It was a most touching sight, and drawing near, Maude
Glendower mingled her tears with those of the unfortunate children
on whom affliction had laid her heavy hand.

Maude Remington was naturally of a hopeful nature, and though she
had passed through many an hour of anguish, and had rebelled against
the fearful doom which seemed to be approaching, she did not yet
despair. She still saw a little--could discern colors and forms, and
could tell one person from another. "I shall be better by and by,"
she said, when assured by the sound of retreating footsteps that
they were alone. "I am following implicitly the doctor's directions,
and I hope to see by Christmas; but if I do not--"

Here she broke down entirely, and wringing her hands she cried, "Oh,
brother--brother, must I be blind? I can't--I can't, for who will
care for poor, blind, helpless Maude?"

"I, sister, I," and hushing his own great sorrow the crippled boy
comforted the weeping girl just as she had once comforted him, when
in the quiet graveyard he had lain him down in the long, rank grass
and wished that he might die. "Pa's new wife will care for you,
too," he said. "She's a beautiful woman, Maude, and a good one, I am
sure, for she cried so hard over mother's grave, and her voice was
so gentle when, just as though she had known our mother, she said,
`Darling Matty, I will be kind to your children.'"

"Ah, that I will--I will," came faintly from the hall without, where
Maude Glendower stood, her eyes riveted upon the upturned face of
Maude, and her whole body swelling with emotion.

A sad heritage had been bequeathed to her--a crippled boy and a
weak, blind girl; but in some respects she was a noble woman, and as
she gazed upon the two she resolved that so long as she should live,
so long should the helpless children of Matty Remington have a
steadfast friend. Hearing her husband's voice below she glided down
the stairs, leaving Louis and Maude really alone.

"Sister," said Louis, after a moment, "what of Mr. De Vere? Is he
true to the last?"

"I have released him," answered Maude. "I am nothing to him now,"
and very calmly she proceeded to tell him of the night when she had
said to Mr. De Vere, "My money is gone--my sight is going too, and I
give you back your troth, making you free to marry another--Nellie,
if you choose. She is better suited to you than I have ever been."

Though secretly pleased at her offering to give him up, J.C. made a
show of resistance, but she had prevailed at last, and with the
assurance that he should always esteem her highly, he consented to
the breaking of the engagement, and the very, next afternoon, rode
out with Nellie Kennedy.

"He will marry her, I think," Maude said, as she finished narrating
the circumstances, and looking into her calm, unruffled face Louis
felt sure that she had outlived her love for one who had proved
himself as fickle as J.C. De Vere.

"And what of James?" he asked. "Is he still in New Orleans."

"He is," answered Maude. "He has a large wholesale establishment
there, and as one of the partners is sick, he has taken his place
for the winter. He wrote to his cousin often, bidding him spare no
expense for me, and offering to pay the bills if J.C. was not able."

A while longer they conversed, and then they were summoned to
supper, Mrs. Kennedy coming herself for Maude, who did not refuse to
be assisted by her.

"The wind hurt my eyes--they will be better to-morrow," she said,
and with her old sunny smile she greeted her stepfather, and then
turned to Hannah and John, who had come in to see her.

But alas for the delusion! The morrow brought no improvement,
neither the next day, nor the next, and as the world grew dim there
crept into her heart a sense of utter desolation which neither the
tender love of Maude Glendower nor yet the untiring devotion of
Louis could in any degree dispel. All day would she sit opposite the
window, her eyes fixed on the light with a longing, eager gaze, as
if she feared that the next moment it might leave her forever.
Whatever he could do for her Louis did, going to her room each
morning and arranging her dress and hair just as he knew she used to
wear it. She would not suffer anyone else to do this for her, and in
performing these little offices Louis felt that he was only repaying
her in part for all she had done for him.

Christmas Eve came at last, and if she thought of what was once to
have been on the morrow, she gave no outward token, and with her
accustomed smile bade the family good-night. The next morning Louis
went often to her door, and hearing no sound within fancied she was
sleeping, until at last, as the clock struck nine, he ventured to go
in. Maude was awake, and advancing to her side he bade her a "Merry
Christmas," playfully chiding her the while for having slept so
late. A wild, startled expression flashed over her face, as she
said: "Late, Louis! Is it morning, then? I've watched so long to see
the light?"

Louis did not understand her, and he answered, "Morning, yes. The
sunshine is streaming into the room. Don't you see it?"

"Sunshine!" and Maude's lips quivered with fear, as springing from
her pillow, she whispered faintly, "Lead me to the window."

He complied with her request, watching her curiously, as she laid
both hands in the warm sunshine, which bathed her fair, round arms
and shone upon her raven hair. She felt what she could not see, and
Louis Kennedy ne'er forgot the agonized expression of the white,
beautiful face which turned toward him as the wretched Maude moaned
piteously, "Yes, brother, 'tis morning to you, but dark, dark night
to me. I'm blind! oh, I'm blind!"

She did not faint, she did not shriek, but she stood there rigid and
immovable, her countenance giving fearful token of the terrible
storm within. She was battling fiercely with her fate, and until
twice repeated, she did not hear the childish voice which said to
her pleadingly, "Don't look so, sister. You frighten me, and there
may be some hope yet."

"Hope," she repeated bitterly, turning her sightless eyes toward
him, "there is no hope but death."

"Maude," and Louis' voice was like a plaintive harp, so mournful was
its tone, "Maude, once in the very spot where mother is lying now,
you said because I was a cripple you would love me all the more. You
have kept that promise well, my sister. You have been all the world
to me, and now that you are blind I, too, will love you more. I will
be your light--your eyes, and when James De Vere comes back--"

"No, no, no," moaned Maude, sinking upon the floor. "Nobody will
care for me. Nobody will love a blind girl. Oh, is it wicked to wish
that I could die, lying here in the sunshine, which I shall never
see again?"

There was a movement at the door, and Mrs. Kennedy appeared,
starting back as her eye fell upon the face of the prostrate girl,
who recognized her step, and murmured sadly, "Mother, I'm blind,
wholly blind."

Louis' grief had been too great for tears, but Maude Glendower's
flowed at once, and bending over the white-faced girl she strove to
comfort her, telling her how she would always love her, that every
wish should be gratified.

"Then give me back my sight, oh, give me back my sight," and Maude
clasped her mother's hands imploringly.

Ere long she grew more calm, and suffered herself to be dressed as
usual, but she would not admit anyone to her room, neither on that
day nor for many succeeding days. At length, however, this feeling
wore away, and in the heartfelt sympathy of her family and friends
she found a slight balm for her grief. Even the doctor was softened,
and when Messrs. Beebe & Co. sent in a bill of ninety-five dollars
for various articles of furniture, the frown upon his face gave way
when his wife said to him, "It was for Maude, you know!"

"Poor Maude!" seemed to be the sentiment of the whole household, and
Nellie herself said it many a time, as with unwonted tenderness she
caressed the unfortunate girl, fearing the while lest she had done
her a wrong, for she did not then understand the nature of Maude's
feelings for J.C. De Vere, to whom Nellie was now engaged.

Urged on by Mrs. Kelsey and a fast diminishing income, J.C. had
written to Nellie soon after her return to Laurel Hill, asking her
to be his wife. He did not disguise his former love for Maude,
neither did he pretend to have outlived it, but he said he could not
wed a blind girl. And Nellie, forgetting her assertion that she
would never marry one who had first proposed to Maude, was only too
much pleased to answer Yes. And when J.C. insisted upon an early
day, she named the 5th of March, her twentieth birthday. She was to
be married at home, and as the preparations for the wedding would
cause a great amount of bustle and confusion in the house, it seemed
necessary that Maude should know the cause, and with a beating heart
Nellie went to her one day to tell the news. Very composedly Maude
listened to the story, and then as composedly replied, "I am truly
glad, and trust you will be happy."

"So I should be," answered Nellie, "if I were sure you did not
care."

"Care! for whom?" returned Maude. "For J.C. De Vere? Every particle
of love for him has died out, and I am now inclined to think I never
entertained for him more than a girlish fancy, while he certainly
did not truly care for me."

This answer was very quieting to Nellie's conscience, and in
unusually good spirits she abandoned herself to the excitement which
usually precedes a wedding. Mrs. Kennedy, too, entered heart and
soul into the matter, and arming herself with the plea, that "it was
his only daughter, who would probably never be married again," she
coaxed her husband into all manner of extravagances, and by the 1st
of March few would have recognized the interior of the house, so
changed was it by furniture and repairs. Handsome damask curtains
shaded the parlor windows, which were further improved by large
heavy panes of glass. Matty's piano had been removed to Maude's
chamber, and its place supplied by a new and costly instrument,
which the crafty woman made her husband believe was intended by Mrs.
Kelsey, who selected it, as a bridal present for her niece. The
furnace was in splendid order, keeping the whole house, as Hannah
said, "hotter than an oven," while the disturbed doctor lamented
daily over the amount of fuel it consumed, and nightly counted the
contents of his purse or reckoned up how much he was probably worth.
But neither his remonstrances nor yet his frequent groans had any
effect upon his wife. Although she had no love for Nellie, she was
determined upon a splendid wedding, one which would make folks talk
for months, and when her liege lord complained of the confusion, she
suggested to him a furnished room in the garret, where it would be
very quiet for him to reckon up the bill, which from time to time
she brought him.

"Might as well gin in at oncet," John said to him one day, when he
borrowed ten dollars for the payment of an oyster bill. "I tell you
she's got more besom in her than both them t'other ones."

The doctor probably thought so too, for he became comparatively
submissive, though he visited often the sunken graves, where he
found a mournful solace in reading, "Katy, wife of Dr. Kennedy, aged
twenty-nine,"--"Matty, second wife of Dr. Kennedy, aged thirty," and
once he was absolutely guilty of wondering how the words, "Maude,
third wife of Dr. Kennedy, aged forty-one," would look. But he
repented him of the wicked thought, and when on his return from his
"graveyard musings," Maude, aged forty-one, asked him for the twenty
dollars which she saw a man pay to him that morning, he gave it to
her without a word.

Meanwhile the fickle J.C. in Rochester was one moment regretting the
step he was about to take and the next wishing the day would hasten,
so he could "have it over with." Maude Remington had secured a place
in his affections which Nellie could not fill, and though he had no
wish to marry her now, he tried to make himself believe that but for
her misfortune she should still have become his wife.

"Jim would marry her, I dare say, even if she were blind as a bat,"
he said; "but then he is able to support her," and reminded by this
of an unanswered letter from his cousin, who was still in New
Orleans, he sat down and wrote, telling him of Maude's total
blindness, and then, almost in the next sentence saying that his
wedding was fixed for the 5th of March. "There," he exclaimed, as he
read over the letter, "I believe I must be crazy, for I never told
him that the bride was Nellie; but no matter, I'd like to have him
think me magnanimous for a while, and I want to hear what he says."

Two weeks or more went by, and then there came an answer, fraught
with sympathy for Maude, and full of commendation for J.C., who "had
shown himself a man."

Accompanying the letter was a box containing a most exquisite set of
pearls for the bride, together with a diamond ring, on which was
inscribed, "Cousin Maude."

"Aint I in a deuced scrape," said J.C., as he examined the beautiful
ornaments; "Nellie would be delighted with them, but she shan't have
them; they are not hers. I'll write to Jim at once, and tell him the
mistake," and seizing his pen he dashed off a few lines, little
guessing how much happiness they would carry to the far-off city,
where daily and nightly James De Vere fought manfully with the love
that clung with a deathlike grasp to the girl J.C. had forsaken, the
poor, blind, helpless Maude.



CHAPTER XVII.

NELLIE'S BRIDAL NIGHT.


The blind girl sat alone in her chamber, listening to the sound of
merry voices in the hall without, or the patter of feet, as the fast
arriving guests tripped up and down the stairs. She had heard the
voice of J.C. De Vere as he passed her door, but it awoke within her
bosom no lingering regret, and when an hour later Nellie stood
before her, arrayed in her bridal robes, she passed her hand
caressingly over the flowing curls, the fair, round face, the satin
dress, and streaming veil, saying as she did so, "I know you are
beautiful, my sister, and if a blind girl's blessing can be of any
avail, you have it most cordially."

Both Mrs. Kennedy and Nellie had urged Maude to be present at the
ceremony, but she shrank from the gaze of strangers, and preferred
remaining in her room, an arrangement quite satisfactory to J.C.,
who did not care to meet her then. It seemed probable that some of
the guests would go up to see her, and knowing this, Mrs. Kennedy
had arranged her curls and dress with unusual care, saying to her as
she kissed her pale cheek, "You are far more beautiful than the
bride."

And Maude was beautiful. Recent suffering and non-exposure to the
open air had imparted a delicacy to her complexion which harmonized
well with the mournful expression of her face and the idea of
touching helplessness which her presence inspired. Her long, fringed
eyelashes rested upon her cheek, and her short, glossy curls were
never more becomingly arranged than now, when stepping backward a
pace or two, Mrs. Kennedy stopped a moment to admire her again ere
going below where her presence was already needed.

The din of voices grew louder in the hall, there was a tread of many
feet upon the stairs, succeeded by a solemn hush, and Maude,
listening to every sound, knew that the man to whom she had been
plighted was giving to another his marriage vow. She had no love for
J.C. De Vere, but as she sat there alone in her desolation, and
thoughts of her sister's happiness rose up in contrast to her own
dark, hopeless lot, who shall blame her if she covered her face with
her hands and wept most bitterly. Poor Maude! It was dark, dark
night within, and dark, dark night without; and her dim eye could
not penetrate the gloom, nor see the star which hung o'er the brow
of the distant hill, where a wayworn man was toiling on. Days and
nights had he traveled, unmindful of fatigue, while his throbbing
heart outstripped the steam-god by many a mile. The letter had
fulfilled its mission, and with one wild burst of joy when he read
that she was free, he started for the North. He was not expected at
the wedding, but it would be a glad surprise, he knew, and he
pressed untiringly on, thinking but one thought, and that, how he
would comfort the poor, blind Maude. He did not know that even then
her love belonged to him, but he could win it, perhaps, and then
away to sunny France, where many a wonderful cure had been wrought,
and might be wrought again.

The bridal was over, and the congratulations nearly so; when a
stranger was announced, an uninvited guest, and from his armchair in
the corner Louis saw that it was the same kind face which had bent
so fearlessly over his pillow little more than six months before.
James De Vere--the name was echoed from lip to lip, but did not
penetrate the silent chamber where Maude sat weeping yet.

A rapid glance through the rooms assured the young man that she was
not there: and when the summons to supper was given he went to Louis
and asked him for his sister.

"She is upstairs," said Louis, adding impulsively: "she will be glad
you have come, for she has talked of you so much."

"Talked of me!" and the eyes of James De Vere looked earnestly into
Louis' face. "And does she talk of me still?"

"Yes," said Louis, "I heard her once when she was asleep, though I
ought not to have mentioned it," he continued, suddenly recollecting
himself, "for when I told her, she blushed so red, and bade me not
to tell."

"Take me to her, will you?" said Mr. De Vere, and following his
guide he was soon opposite the door of Maude's room.

"Wait a moment," he exclaimed, passing his fingers through his hair,
and trying in vain to brush from his coat the dust which had settled
there.

"It don't matter, for she can't see," said Louis, who comprehended
at once the feelings of his companion.

By this time they stood within the chamber, but so absorbed was
Maude in her own grief that she did not hear her brother until he
bent over her and whispered in her ear, "Wake, sister, if you're
sleeping. He's come. He's here!"

She had no need to ask of him who had come. She knew intuitively,
and starting up, her unclosed eyes flashed eagerly around the room,
turning at last toward the door where she felt that he was standing.
James De Vere remained motionless, watching intently the fair,
troubled face, which had never seemed so fair to him, before.

"Brother, have you deceived me? Where is he?" she said at last, as
her listening ear caught no new sound.

"Here, Maude, here," and gliding to her side, Mr. De Vere wound his
arm around her, and kissing her lips, called her by the name to
which she was getting accustomed, and which never sounded so
soothingly as when breathed by his melodious voice. "My poor, blind
Maude," was all he said, but by the clasp of his warm hand, by the
tear she felt upon her cheek, and by his very silence, she knew how
deeply he sympathized with her.

Knowing that they would rather be alone, Louis went below, where
many inquiries were making for the guest who had so suddenly
disappeared. The interview between the two was short, for some of
Maude's acquaintance came up to see her, but it sufficed for Mr. De
Vere to learn all that he cared particularly to know then. Maude did
not love J.C., whose marriage with another caused her no regret, and
this knowledge made the future seem hopeful and bright. It was not
the time to speak of that future to her, but he bade her take
courage, hinting that his purse, should never be closed until every
possible means had been used for the restoration of her sight. What
wonder, then, if she dreamed that night that she could see again,
and, that the good angel by whose agency this blessing had been
restored to her was none other than James De Vere.



CHAPTER XVIII.

COUSIN MAUDE.


Three days had passed since the bridal, and James still lingered at
Laurel Hill, while not very many miles away his mother waited and
wondered why he did not come. J.C. and Nellie were gone, but ere
they had left the former sought an interview with Maude, whose
placid brow he kissed tenderly as he whispered in her ear: "Fate
decreed that you should not be my wife, but I have made you my
sister, and, if I mistake not, another wishes to make you my
cousin."

To James he had given back the ornaments intended for another bride
than Nellie, saying, as he did so, "Maude De Vere may wear them
yet."

"What do you mean?" asked James, and J.C. replied: "I mean that I,
and not you, will have a Cousin Maude."

Two days had elapsed since then, and it was night again--but to the
blind girl, drinking in the words of love which fell like music on
her ear, it was high noon-day, and the sky undimmed by a single
cloud.

"I once called you my cousin, Maude," the deep-toned voice said,
"and I thought it the sweetest name I had ever heard, but there is a
nearer, dearer name which I would give to you, even my wife--Maude--shall
it be?" and he looked into her sightless eyes to read her
answer.

She had listened eagerly to the story of his love born so long
ago--had held her breath lest she should lose a single word when he told
her how he had battled with that love, and how his heart had
thrilled with joy when he heard that she was free--but when he asked
her to be his wife the bright vision faded, and she answered
mournfully, "You know not what you say. You would not take a blind
girl in her helplessness."

"A thousandfold dearer to me for that very helplessness," he said,
and then he told her of the land beyond the sea, where the
physicians were well skilled in everything pertaining to the eye.
"Thither they would go," he said, "when the April winds were
blowing, and should the experiment not succeed, he would love and
cherish her all the more."

Maude knew he was in earnest, and was about to answer him, when
along the hall there came the sound of little crutches, and over her
face there flitted a shadow of pain. It was the sister-love warring
with the love of self, but James De Vere understood it all, and he
hastened to say, "Louis will go, too, my darling. I have never had a
thought of separating you. In Europe he will have a rare opportunity
for developing his taste. Shall it not be so?"

"Let him decide," was Maude's answer, as the crutches struck the
soft carpet of the room.

"Louis," said Mr. De Vere, "shall Maude go with me to Europe as my
wife?"

"Yes, yes--yes, yes," was Louis' hasty answer, his brown eyes
filling with tears of joy when he heard that he, too, was to
accompany them.

Maude could no longer refuse, and she half fancied she saw the
flashing of the diamonds, when James placed upon her finger the ring
which bore the inscription of "Cousin Maude." Before coming there
that night, Mr. De Vere had consulted a New York paper, and found
that a steamship would sail for Liverpool on the 20th of April,
about six weeks from that day.

"We will go in it," he said, "my blind bird, Louis, and I," and he
parted lovingly the silken tresses of her to whom this new
appellation was given.

There was much in the future to anticipate, and much in the past
which he wished to talk over; so he remained late that night, and on
passing through the lower hall was greatly surprised to see Mrs.
Kennedy still sitting in the parlor. She had divined the object and
result of his visit, and the moment he was gone she glided up the
stairs to the room where Maude was quietly weeping for very joy. The
story of the engagement was soon told, and winding her arm around
Maude's neck Mrs. Kennedy said, "I rejoice with you, daughter, in
your happiness, but I shall be left so desolate when you and Louis
are both gone."

Just then her eye caught the ring upon Maude's finger, and taking it
in her hand, she admired its chaste beauty, and was calculating its
probable cost, when glancing at the inside she started suddenly,
exclaiming, "'Cousin Maude'--that is my name--the one by which he
always called me. Has it been given to you, too?" and as the throng
of memories that name awakened came rushing over her, the impulsive
woman folded the blind girl to her bosom, saying to her, "My child,
my, child, you should have been!"

"I do not understand you," said Maude, and Mrs. Kennedy replied, "It
is not meet that we should part ere I tell you who and what I am. Is
the name of Maude Glendower strange to you? Did you never hear it in
your Vernon home?"

"It seemed familiar to me when J.C. De Vere first told me of you,"
answered Maude, "but I cannot recall any particular time when I
heard it spoken. Did you know my mother?"

"Yes, father and mother both, and loved them too. Listen to me,
Maude, while I tell you of the past. Though it seems so long ago, I
was a schoolgirl once, and nightly in my arms there slept a
fair-haired, blue-eyed maiden, four years my junior, over whom I
exercised an elder sister's care. She loved me, this little blue-eyed
girl, and when your brother first spoke to me I seemed again to
hear her voice whispering in my ear, 'I love you, beautiful Maude.'"

"It was mother--it was mother!" and Maude Remington drew nearer to
the excited woman, who answered:

"Yes, it was your mother, then little Matty Reed; we were at school
together in New Haven, and she was my roommate. We were not at all
alike, for I was wholly selfish, while she found her greatest
pleasure in ministering to others' happiness; but she crossed my
path at last, and then I thought I hated her."

"Not my mother, lady. You could not hate my mother!" and the blind
eyes flashed as if they would tear away the veil of darkness in
which they were enshrouded, and gaze upon a woman who could hate
sweet Matty Remington.

"Hush, child! don't look so fiercely at me," said Maude Glendower.
"Upon your mother's grave I have wept that sin away, and I know I am
forgiven as well as if her own soft voice had told me so. I loved
your father, Maude, and this was my great error. He was a distant
relative of your mother, whom he always called his cousin. He
visited her often, for he was a college student, and ere I was aware
of it, I loved him, oh, so madly, vainly fancying my affection was
returned. He was bashful, I thought, for he was not then twenty-one,
and by way of rousing him to action. I trifled with another--with
Dr. Kennedy," and she uttered the name spitefully, as if it were
even now hateful to her.

"I know it--I know it," returned Maude, "he told me that when he
first talked with me of you, but I did not suppose the dark-eyed
student was my father."

"It was none other," said Mrs. Kennedy, "and you can form some
conception of my love for him, when I tell you that it has never
died away, but is as fresh within my heart this night as when I
walked with him upon the College Green and he Called me 'Cousin
Maude,' for he gave me that name because of my fondness for Matty,
and he sealed it with a kiss. Matty was present at that time, and
had I not been blind I should have seen how his whole soul was bound
up in her, even while kissing me. I regarded her as a child, and so
she was; but men sometimes love children, you know. When she was
fifteen, she left New Haven. I, too, had ceased to be a schoolgirl,
but I still remained in the city and wrote to her regularly, until
at last your father came to me, and with the light of a great joy
shining all over his face, told me she was to be his bride on her
sixteenth birthday. She would have written it herself, he said, only
she was a bashful little creature, and would rather he should tell
me. I know not what I did, for the blow was sudden, and took my
senses away. He had been so kind to me of late--had visited me so
often, that my heart was full of hope. But it was all gone now.
Matty Reed was preferred to me, and while my Spanish blood boiled at
the fancied indignity, I said many a harsh thing of her--I called
her designing, deceitful, and false; and then in my frenzy quitted
the room. I never saw Harry, again, for he left the city next
morning; but to my dying hour I shall not forget the expression of
his face when I talked to him of Matty. Turn away, Maude, turn away!
for there is the same look now upon your face. But I have repented
of that act, though not till years after. I tore up Mattie's
letters. I. said I would burn the soft brown tress--"

"Oh, woman, woman! you did not burn my mother's hair!" and with a
shudder Maude unwound the soft, white arm which so closely encircled
her.

"No, Maude, no. I couldn't. It would not leave my fingers, but
coiled around them with a loving grasp. I have it now, and esteem it
my choicest treasure. When I heard that you were born, my heart
softened toward the young girl. Mother and I wrote, asking that
Harry's child might be called for me. I did not disguise my love for
him, and I said it would be some consolation to know that his
daughter bore my name. My letter did not reach them until you had
been baptized Matilda, which was the name of your mother and
grandmother, but to prove their goodness, they ever after called you
Maude."

"Then I was named for you;" and Maude Remington came back to the
embrace of Maude Glendower, who, kissing, her white brow, continued:
"Two years afterward I found myself in Vernon, stopping for a night
at the hotel. 'I will see them in the morning,' I said; 'Harry,
Matty, and the little child;' and I asked the landlord where you
lived. I was standing upon the stairs, and in the partial darkness
he could not see my anguish when he replied, 'Bless you, miss. Harry
Remington died a fortnight ago.'"

"How I reached my room I never knew, but reach it I did, and half an
hour later I knelt by his grave, where I wept away every womanly
feeling of my heart, and then went back to the giddy world, the
gayest of the gay. I did not seek an interview with your mother,
though I have often regretted it since. Did she never speak of me?
Think. Did you never hear my name?"

"In Vernon, I am sure I did," answered Maude, "but I was then too
young to receive a very vivid impression, and after we came here
mother, I fear, was too unhappy to talk much of the past."

"I understand it," answered Maude Glendower, and over her fine
features there stole a hard, dark look, as she continued, "I can see
how one of her gentle nature would wither and die in this
atmosphere, and forgive me, Maude, she never loved your father as I
loved him, for had he called me wife I should never have been here."

"What made you come?" asked Maude; and the lady answered, "For
Louis' sake and yours I came. I never lost sight of your mother. I
knew she married the man I rejected, and from my inmost soul I
pitied her. But I am redressing her wrongs and those of that other
woman who wore her life away within these gloomy walls. Money is his
idol, and when you touch his purse you touch his tenderest point.
But I have opened it, and, struggle as he may, it shall not be
closed again."

She spoke bitterly, and Maude knew that Dr. Kennedy had more than
met his equal in that woman of iron will.

"I should have made a splendid carpenter," the lady continued, "for
nothing pleases me more than the sound of the hammer and saw, and
when you are gone I shall solace myself with fixing the entire
house. I must have excitement, or die as the others did."

"Maude--Mrs. Kennedy, do you know what time it is?" came from the
foot of the stairs, and Mrs. Kennedy answered, "It is one o'clock, I
believe."

"Then why are you sitting up so late, and why is that lamp left
burning in the parlor, with four tubes going off at once? It's a
maxim of mine--"

"Spare your maxims, do. I'm coming directly," and kissing the blind
girl affectionately, Mrs. Kennedy went down to her liege lord, whom
she found extinguishing the light, and gently shaking the lamp to
see how much fluid had been uselessly wasted.

He might have made some conjugal remark, but the expression of her
face forbade anything like reproof, and he soon found use for his
powers of speech in the invectives he heaped upon the long rocker of
the chair over which he stumbled as he groped his way back to the
bedroom, where his wife rather enjoyed, than otherwise, the
lamentations which he made over his "bruised shin." The story she
had been telling had awakened many bitter memories in Maude
Glendower's bosom, and for hours she turned uneasily from side to
side, trying in vain to sleep. Maude Remington, too, was wakeful,
thinking over the strange tale she had heard, and marveling that her
life should be so closely interwoven with that of the woman whom she
called her mother.

"I love her all the more," she said; "I shall pity her so, staying
here alone, when I am gone."

Then her thoughts turned upon the future, when she would be the wife
of James De Vere, and while wondering if she should really ever see
again, she fell asleep just as the morning was dimly breaking in the
east.



CHAPTER XIX.

A SECOND BRIDAL.


After the night of which we have written, the tie of affection
between Mrs. Kennedy and the blind girl was stronger than before,
and when the former said to her husband, "Maude must have an outfit
worthy of a rich man's stepdaughter," he knew by the tone of her
voice that remonstrance was useless, and answered meekly, "I will do
what is right, but don't be too extravagant, for Nellie's clothes
almost ruined me, and I had to pay for that piano yesterday. Will
fifty dollars do?"

"Fifty dollars!" repeated the lady. "Are you crazy?" Then, touched
perhaps by the submissive expression of his face, she added, "As
Maude is blind, she will not need as much as if she were going at
once into society. I'll try and make two hundred dollars answer,
though that will purchase but a meager trousseau."

Mrs. Kennedy's pronounciation of French was not always correct, and
John, who chanced to be within hearing, caught eagerly at the last
word, exclaiming, "Ki! dem trouses must cost a heap sight mor'n
mine! What dis nigger spec' 'em can be?" and he glanced ruefully at
his own glazed pants of corduroy, which had done him service for two
or three years.

Maude was a great favorite with John, and when he heard that she was
going away forever he went up to the woodshed chamber where no one
could see him, and seating himself upon a pile of old shingles,
which had been put there for kindling, he cried like a child.

"It'll be mighty lonesome, knowin' she's gone for good," he said,
"for, though she'll come back agin, she'll be married, and when a
gal is married, that's the last on 'em. I wish I could give her
somethin', to show her my feelin's."

He examined his hands; they were hard, rough, and black. He drew
from his pocket a bit of looking-glass and examined his face--that
was blacker yet; and shaking his head, he whispered: "It might do
for a mulatto gal, but not for her." Then, as a new idea crossed his
mind, he brightened up, exclaiming, "My heart is white, and if I
have a tip-top case, mebby she won't 'spise a poor old nigger's
picter!"

In short, John contemplated having his daguerreotype taken as a
bridal present for Maude. Accordingly, that very afternoon he
arrayed himself in his best, and, entering the yellow car of a
traveling artist who had recently come to the village, he was soon
in possession of a splendid case and a picture which he, pronounced
"oncommon good-lookin' for him." This he laid carefully away until
the wedding-day, which was fixed for the 15th of April. When Mr. De
Vere heard of John's generosity to Maude in giving her the golden
eagles, he promptly paid them back, adding five more as interest,
and at the same time asking him if he would not like to accompany
them to Europe.

"You can be of great assistance to us," he said, "and I will gladly
take you."

This was a strong temptation, and for a moment the negro hesitated,
but when his eye fell upon his master, who was just then entering
the gate, his decision was taken, and he answered, "No, I'm bleeged
to you. I'd rather stay and see the fun."

"What fun?" asked Mr. De Vere; and John replied, "The fun of seein'
him cotch it;" and he pointed to the doctor coming slowly up the
walk, his hands behind him and his head bent forward in a musing
attitude.

Dr. Kennedy was at that moment in an unenviable frame of mind, for
he was trying to decide whether he could part for a year or more
with his crippled boy, who grew each day more dear to him. "It will
do him good, I know," he said, "and I might, perhaps, consent, if I
could spare the money; but I can't, for I haven't got it. That woman
keeps me penniless, and will wheedle me out of two hundred dollars
more. Oh, Mat--"

He did not finish the sentence, for by this time he had reached the
hall, where he met Mr. De Vere, who asked if Louis was to go.

"He can't," answered the doctor. "I have not the means. Mrs. Kennedy
says Maude's wardrobe will cost two hundred dollars."

"Excuse me, sir," interrupted Mr. De Vere. "I shall attend to
Maude's wants myself, and if you are not able to bear Louis'
expenses, I will willingly do it for the sake of having him with his
sister. They ought not to be separated, and who knows but Louis'
deformity may be in a measure relieved?"

This last decided the matter. Louis should go, even though his
father mortgaged his farm to pay the bill, and during the few weeks
which elapsed before the 15th the house presented an air of bustle
and confusion equal to that which preceded Nellie's bridal. Mr. De
Vere remained firm in his intention to defray all Maude's expenses,
and he delegated to Mrs. Kennedy the privilege of purchasing
whatever she thought was needful. Her selections were usually in
good taste, and in listening to her enthusiastic praises Maude
enjoyed her new dresses almost as much as if she had really seen
them. A handsome plain silk of blue and brown was decided upon for a
traveling dress, and very sweetly the blind girl looked when,
arrayed in her simple attire, she stood before the man of God whose
words were to make her a happy bride. She could not see the sunlight
of spring streaming into the room, neither could she see the
sunlight of love shining over the face of James De Vere, nor yet the
earnest gaze of those who thought her so beautiful in her
helplessness, but she could feel it all, and the long eyelashes
resting on her cheek were wet with tears when a warm kiss was
pressed upon her lips and a voice murmured in her ear, "My wife--my
darling Maude."

There were bitter tears shed at that parting; Maude Glendower
weeping passionately over the child of Harry Remington, and Dr.
Kennedy hugging to his bosom the little hunchback boy, Matty's boy
and his. They might never meet again, and the father's heart clung
fondly to his only son. He could not even summon to his aid a maxim
with which to season his farewell, and bidding a kind good-by to
Maude, he sought the privacy of his chamber, where he could weep
alone in his desolation.

Hannah and John grieved to part with the travelers, but the latter
was somewhat consoled by the gracious manner with which Maude had
accepted his gift.

"I cannot see it," she said, "but when I open the casing I shall
know your kind, honest face is there, and it will bring me many
pleasant memories of you."

"Heaven bless you, Miss Maude," answered John, struggling hard to
keep back the tears he deemed it unmanly to shed. "Heaven bless you,
but if you keep talking so book-like and good, I'll bust out
a-cryin', I know, for I'm nothin' but an old fool anyhow," and
wringing her hand, he hurried off into the woodshed chamber, where
he could give free vent to his grief.

Through the harbor, down the bay, and out upon the sea, a noble
vessel rides; and as the evening wind comes dancing o'er the wave it
sweeps across the deck, kissing the cheek of a brown-eyed boy and
lifting the curls from the brow of one whose face, upturned to the
tall man at her side, seems almost angelic, so calm, so peaceful, is
its expression of perfect bliss. Many have gazed curiously upon that
group, and the voices were very, low which said, "The little boy is
deformed," while there was a world of sadness in the whisper, which
told to the wondering passengers that "the beautiful bride was
blind."

They knew it by the constant drooping of her eyelids, by the
graceful motion of her hand as it groped in the air, and more than
all by the untiring watchfulness of the husband and brother who
constantly hovered near. It seemed terrible that so fair a creature
should be blind; and like the throb of one great heart did the
sympathy of that vessel's crew go out toward the gentle Maude, who
in her newborn happiness forgot almost the darkness of the world
without, or if she thought of it, looked forward to a time when hope
said that she should see again. So, leaving her upon the sea,
speeding away to sunny France, we glance backward for a moment to
the lonely house where Maude Glendower mourns for Harry's child, and
where the father thinks often of his boy, listening in vain for the
sound which once was hateful to his ear, the sound of Louis'
crutches.

Neither does John forget the absent ones, but in the garden, in the
barn, in the fields, and the woodshed chamber, he prays in his
mongrel dialect that He who holds the wind in the hollow of His hand
will give to the treacherous deep charge concerning the precious
freight it bears. He does not say it in those words, but his
untutored language, coming from a pure heart, is heard by the Most
High. And so the breeze blows gently o'er the bark thus followed by
black John's prayers--the skies look brightly down upon it--the blue
waves ripple at its side, until at last it sails into its destined
port; and when the apple-blossoms are dropping from the trees, and
old Hannah lays upon the grass to bleach the fanciful white
bed-spread which her own hands have knit for Maude, there comes a letter
to the lonely household, telling them that the feet of those they
love have reached the shores of the Old World.



CHAPTER XX.

THE SEXTON.


The Methodist Society of Laurel Hill had built themselves a new
church upon the corner of the common, and as a mark of respect had
made black John their sexton. Perfectly delighted with the office,
he discharged his duties faithfully, particularly the ringing of the
bell, in which accomplishment he greatly excelled his Episcopal
rival, who tried to imitate his peculiar style in vain. No one could
make such music as the negro, or ring so many changes. In short, it
was conceded that on great occasions he actually made the old bell
talk; and one day toward the last of September, and five months
after the events of the preceding chapter, an opportunity was
presented for a display of his skill.

The afternoon was warm and sultry, and overcome by the heat the
village loungers had disposed of themselves, some on the long piazza
of the hotel, and others in front of the principal store, where,
with elevated heels and busy jackknives, they whittled out shapeless
things, or made remarks concerning any luckless female who chanced
to pass. While thus engaged they were startled by a loud, sharp ring
from the belfry of the Methodist church succeeded by a merry peal,
which seemed to proclaim some joyful event. It was a musical,
rollicking ring, consisting of three rapid strokes, the last
prolonged a little, as if to give it emphasis.

"What's up now?" the loungers said to each other, as the three
strokes were repeated in rapid succession. "What's got into John?"
and those who were fortunate enough to own houses in the village,
went into the street to assure themselves there was no fire.

"It can't be a toll," they said. "It's too much like a dancing tune
for that," and as the sound continued they walked rapidly to the
church, where they found the African bending himself with might and
main to his task, the perspiration dripping from his sable face,
which was all aglow with happiness.

It was no common occasion which had thus affected John, and to the
eager questioning of his audience he replied, "Can't you hear the
ding--dong--de-el. Don't you know what it says? Listen now," and the
bell again rang forth the three short sounds. But the crowd still
professed their ignorance, and, pausing a moment, John said, with a
deprecating manner: "I'll tell the first word, and you'll surely
guess the rest: it's 'Maude.' Now try 'em," and wiping the sweat
from his brow, he turned again to his labor of love, nodding his
head with every stroke. "No ear at all for music," he muttered, as
he saw they were as mystified as ever, and in a loud, clear voice,
he sang, "Maude can see-e! Maude can see-e!"

It was enough. Most of that group had known and respected the blind
girl, and joining at once in the negro's enthusiasm they sent up a
deafening shout for "Maude De Vere, restored to sight."

John's face at that moment was a curiosity, so divided was it
between smiles and tears, the latter of which won the mastery, as
with the last hurrah the bell gave one tremendous crash, and he sank
exhausted upon the floor, saying to those who gathered round, "Will
'em hear that, think, in France?"

"How do you know it is true?" asked one, and John replied, "She writ
her own self to tell it, and sent her love to me; think of dat--sent
her love to an old nigger!" and John glanced at the bell, as if he
intended a repetition of the rejoicings.

Surely Maude De Vere, across the sea, never received a greater
tribute of respect than was paid to her that day by the warm-hearted
John, who, the moment he heard the glad news, sped away, to proclaim
it from the church-tower. The letter had come that afternoon, and,
as John said, was written by Maude herself. The experiment had been
performed weeks before, but she would wait until assurance was
doubly sure ere she sent home the joyful tidings. It was a wonderful
cure, for the chance of success was small, but the efforts used in
her behalf had succeeded, and she could see again.

"But what of Louis?" asked Dr. Kennedy, who was listening while his
wife read to him the letter. "What of Louis? Have they done anything
for him?"

"They had tried, but his deformity could not be helped," and with a
pang of disappointment the father was turning away when something
caught his ear which caused him to listen again.

"You don't know," Maude wrote, "how great a lion Louis is getting to
be. He painted a picture of me just as I looked that dreadful
morning when I stood in the sunshine and felt that I was blind. It
is a strange, wild thing, but its wildness is relieved by the
angel-faced boy who looks up at me so pityingly. Louis is perfect, but
Maude--oh! I can scarce believe that she ever wore that expression
of fierce despair. Strange as it may seem, this picture took the
fancy of the excitable French, and ere Louis was aware of it he
found himself famous. They come to our rooms daily to see le petit
artist, and many ask for pictures or sketches, for which they pay an
exorbitant price. One wealthy American gentleman brought him a
daguerreotype of his dead child, with the request that he would
paint from it a life-sized portrait, and if he succeeds in getting a
natural face he is to receive five hundred dollars. Think of little
Louis Kennedy earning five hundred dollars, for he will succeed. The
daguerreotype is much like Nellie, which will make it easier for
Louis."

This was very gratifying to Dr. Kennedy, who that day more than once
repeated to himself, "Five hundred dollars: it's a great deal of
money, for him to earn; maybe he'll soon be able to help me, and
mercy knows I shall soon need it if that woman continues her
unheard-of extravagances. More city company to-morrow, and I heard
her this morning tell that Jezebel in the kitchen to put the whites
of sixteen eggs into one loaf of cake. What am I coming to?" and
Dr. Kennedy, groaned in spirit as he walked through the handsome
apartments, seeking in vain for a place where he could sit and have
it seem as it used to do, when the rocking-chair which Matty had
brought stood invitingly in the middle of the room where now a
center-table was standing, covered with books and ornaments of the
most expensive kind.

Since last we looked in upon her Maude Glendower had ruled with a
high hand. She could not live without excitement, and rallying from
her grief at parting with her child, she plunged at once into
repairs, tearing down and building up, while her husband looked on
in dismay. When they were about it, she said, they might as well
have all the modern improvements, and water, both hot and cold, was
accordingly carried to all the sleeping apartments, the fountain-head
being a large spring distant from the house nearly half a mile.
Gas she could not have, though the doctor would hardly have been
surprised had she ordered the laying of pipes from Rochester to
Laurel Hill, so utterly reckless did she seem. She was fond of
company, and as she had visited everybody, so everybody in return
must visit her, she said, and toward the last of summer she filled
the house with city people, who vastly enjoyed the good cheer with
which her table was always spread.

John's desire to see the fun was more than satisfied, as was also
Hannah's, and after the receipt of Maude's letter the latter
determined to write herself, "and let Miss De Vere know just how
things was managed." In order to do this, it was necessary to employ
an amanuensis, and she enlisted the services of the gardener, who
wrote her exact language, a mixture of negro, Southern, and Yankee.
A portion of this letter we give to the reader.

After expressing her pleasure that Maude could see, and saying that
she believed the new Miss to be a good woman, but a mighty queer
one, she continued:

"The doin's here is wonderful, and you'd hardly know the old place.
Thar's a big dining room run out to the south, with an expansion
table mighty nigh a rod long, and what's more, it't allus full too,
of city stuck-ups--and the way they do eat! I haint churned nary
pound of butter since you went away. Why, bless yer soul, we has to
buy. Do you mind that patch of land what the doctor used to plant
with corn? Well, the garden sass grows there now, and t'other garden
raises nothin' but flowers and strabries, and thar's a man hired on
purpose to tend 'em. He's writin' this for me. Thar's a tower run up
in the northeast eend, and when it's complete, she's goin' to have a
what you call 'em--somethin' that blows up the water--oh, a
fountain. Thar's one in the yard, and, if you'll believe it, she's
got one of Cary's rotary pumpin' things, that folks are runnin'
crazy about, and every hot day she keeps John a-turnin' the injin'
to squirt the water all over the yard, and make it seem like a
thunder shower! Thar's a bathroom, and when them city folks is here
some on 'em is a-washin' in thar all the time. I don't do nothin'
now but wash and iron, and if I have fifty towels I have one! But
what pesters me most is the wide skirts I has to do up; Miss Canady
wears a hoop bigger than an amberell. They say Miss Empress, who
makes these things, lives in Paris, and I wish you'd put yourself
out a little to see her, and ask her, for me, to quit sendin' over
them fetched hoops. Thar aint no sense in it! We've got jiggers in
every chamber where the water spirts out. Besides turnin' the injin
John drives the horses in the new carriage. Dr. Canady looks poorly,
and yet madam purrs round him like a kitten, but I knows the claws
is thar. She's about broke him of usin' them maxims of his, and your
poor marm would enjoy it a spell seein' him paid off, but she'd pity
him after a while. I do, and if things continners to grow wus, I
shall just ask pra'rs for him in my meetin'. Elder Blossom is
powerful at that. My health is considerable good, but I find I grow
old. Yours, with respect and regrets," Hannah.

"P.S.--I don't believe that t'other beau of yourn is none the
happiest. They live with Miss Kelsey yet, but thar's a story round
that she's a-gwine to marry again, and the man don't like De Vere,
and won't have him thar, so if the doctor should run out, as I'm
afraid he will, what'll them lazy critters do? Nellie's got to be
kinder sozzlin' in her dress, and he has took to chawin' tobacker by
the pound. They was here a spell ago, and deaf as I be, I hearn 'em
have one right smart quarrel. He said she was slatterly, or
somethin' like that, and she called him a fool, and said she 'most
knew he wished he'd took you, blind as you was, and he said, kinder
sorry-like, 'Maude would never of called me a fool, nor wore such
holes in the heels of her stockin's.' I couldn't hear no more, but I
knew by her voice that she was cryin', and when I went below and
seen the doctor out behind the woodshed a-figgerin' up, says I to
myself, `If I was a Univarselar, I should b'lieve they was all on
'em a-gittin' thar pay,' but bein' I'm a Methodis', I don't believe
nothin'."

This letter, which conveyed to Maude a tolerably correct idea of
matters at home, will also show to the reader the state of feeling
existing between J.C. and Nellie. They were not suited to each
other, and though married but seven months, there had been many a
quarrel besides the one which Hannah overheard. Nellie demanded of
her husband more love than he had to bestow, and the consequence
was, a feeling of bitter jealousy on her part and an increasing
coldness on his. They were an ill-assorted couple, utterly incapable
of taking care of themselves, and when they heard from Mrs. Kelsey
that she really contemplated a second marriage, they looked forward
to the future with a kind of hopeless apathy, wholly at variance
with the feelings of the beautiful, dark-eyed Maude and the noble
James De Vere.

Their love for each other had increased each day, and their
happiness seemed almost greater than they could bear on that
memorable morn when the husband bent fondly over his young
girl-wife, who laid a hand on each side of his face, and while the great
tears rolled down her cheeks, whispered joyfully, "I can see you,
darling; I can see!"



CHAPTER XXI.

HOME AGAIN.


Little more than two years have passed away since the September
afternoon when the deep-toned bell rang out the merry tidings,
"Maude can see--Maude can see," and again upon the billow another
vessel rides. But this time to the westward; and the beautiful lady,
whose soft, dark eyes look eagerly over the wave says to her
companion, "It is very pleasant going home."

They had tarried for a long time in Italy, both for Louis' sake and
because, after the recovery of her sight, Maude's health had been
delicate, and her husband would stay until it was fully
re-established. She was better now; roses were blooming on her
cheek--joy was sparkling in her eye--while her bounding step, her ringing
laugh, and finely rounded form told of youthful vigor and perfect
health. And they were going home at last--James, Louis, and
Maude--going to Hampton, where Mrs. De Vere awaited so anxiously their
coming. She did not, however, expect them so soon, for they had left
England earlier than they anticipated, and they surprised her one
day; as she sat by her pleasant window gazing out upon the western
sky and wondering how many more suns would set ere her children
would be with her. It was a happy meeting; and after the first joy
of it was over Maude inquired after the people at Laurel Hill.

"It is more than four months since we heard from them," she said,
"and then Mrs. Kennedy's letter was very unsatisfactory. The doctor,
she hinted, had lost his senses, but she made no explanation. What
did she mean?"

"Why," returned Mrs. De Vere, "he had a paralytic shock more than
six months ago."

"Oh, poor father," cried Louis, while Mrs. De Vere continued, "It
was not a severe attack, but it has impaired his health somewhat.
You knew, of course, that his house and farm were to be sold."

"Our house, our old home! It shall not be!" and the tears glittered
in Louis' eyes, while, turning to Mrs. De Vere, Maude whispered
softly, "His wife has ruined him, but don't let us talk of it before
Louis."

The lady nodded, and when at last they were alone, told all she knew
of the affair. Maude Glendower had persisted in her folly until her
husband's property was reduced to a mere pittance. There was a heavy
mortgage upon the farm, and even a chattel-mortgage upon the
furniture, and as the man who held them was stern and unrelenting,
he had foreclosed, and the house was to be sold at auction. "Why has
mother kept it from us?" said Maude, and Mrs. De Vere replied,
"Pride and a dread of what you might say prevented her writing it, I
think. I was there myself a few weeks since, and she said it could
do no good to trouble you. The doctor is completely broken down, and
seems like an old man. He cannot endure the handsome rooms below,
but stays all day in that small garret chamber, which is furnished
with your carpet, your mother's chair, and the high-past bedstead
which his first wife owned."

Maude's sympathies were roused, and, fatigued as she was, she
started the next morning with her husband and brother for Laurel
Hill. Louis seemed very sad, and not even the familiar way-marks, as
he drew near his home, had power to dissipate that sadness. He could
not endure the thought that the house where he was born and where
his mother had died should pass into the hands of strangers. He had
been fortunate with his paintings, and of his own money had nearly
two thousand dollars; but this could do but little toward canceling
the mortgage, and he continued in the same dejected mood until the
tall poplars of Laurel Hill appeared in view. Then, indeed, he
brightened up, for there is something in the sight of home which
brings joy to every human heart.

It was a hazy October day. The leaves were dropping one by one, and
lay in little hillocks upon the faded grass. The blue hills which
embosomed the lake were encircled with a misty veil, while the
sunshine seemed to fall with a somber light upon the fields of
yellow corn. Everything, even the gossamer thistle-top which floated
upon the autumnal air, conspired to make the day one of those
indescribable days when all hearts are pervaded with a feeling of
pleasurable sadness--a sense of beauty mingled with decay.

"Is this home?" cried Maude, as they stopped before the gate. "I
should hardly have recognized it."

It was indeed greatly changed, for Maude Glendower had perfect
taste, and if she had expended thousands upon the place, she had
greatly increased its value.

"Beautiful home, beautiful home--it must not be sold," was Louis'
exclamation as he gazed upon it.

"No, it must not be sold," returned Maude, while her husband smiled
quietly upon them both, and said nothing.

Maude Glendower had gone to an adjoining town, but Hannah and John
greeted the strangers with nosy demonstrations, the latter making
frequent use of his coat skirts to wipe away his tears.

"Can you see, marm--see me as true as you live?" he said, bowing
with great humility to Maude, of whom he stood a little in awe, so
polished were her manners and so elegant her appearance. Maude
assured him that she could, and then observing how impatient Louis
appeared, she asked for Dr. Kennedy. Assuming a mysterious air, old
Hannah whispered, "He's up in de ruff, at de top of de house, in dat
little charmber, where he stays mostly, to get shet of de music and
dancin' and raisin' ob cain generally. He's mighty broke down, but
the sight of you will peart him up right smart. You'd better go up
alone--he'll bar it better one at a time."

"Yes, go, sister," said Louis, who heard the last part of Hannah's
remarks, and felt that he could not take his father by surprise. So,
leaving her husband and brother below, Maude glided noiselessly
upstairs to the low attic room, where, by an open window, gazing
sorrowfully out upon the broad harvest-fields, soon to be no longer
his, a seemingly old man sat. And Dr. Kennedy was old, not in years,
perhaps, but in appearance. His hair had bleached as white as snow,
his form was bent, his face was furrowed with many a line of care,
while the tremulous motion of his head told of the palsy's blighting
power. And he sat there alone, that hazy autumnal day, shrinking
from the future and musing sadly of the past. From his armchair the
top of a willow tree was just discernible, and as he thought of the
two graves beneath that tree he moaned, "Oh, Katy, Matty, darlings.
You would pity me, I know, could you see me now so lonesome. My only
boy is over the sea--my only daughter is selfish and cold, and all
the day I'm listening in vain for someone to call me father."

"Father!" The name dropped involuntarily from the lips of Maude,
standing without the door.

But he did not hear it, and she could not say it again; for he was
not her father; but her heart was moved with sympathy, and going to
him laid her hands on his head and looked into his face.

"Maude--Matty's Maude--my Maude!" And the poor head shook with a
palsied tremor, as he wound his arms around her and asked her when
she came.

Her sudden coming unmanned him wholly, and bending over her he wept
like a little child. It would seem that her presence inspired in him
a sense of protection, a longing to detail his grievances, and with
quivering lips he said, "I am broken in body and mind. I've nothing
to call my own, nothing but a lock of Matty's hair and Louis' little
crutches--the crutches that you cushioned so that I should not hear
their sound. I was a hard-hearted monster then. I aint much better
now, but I love my child. What of Louis, Maude? Tell me of my boy,"
and over the wrinkled face of the old man broke beautifully the
father-love, giving place to the father-pride, as Maude told of
Louis' success, of the fame he won, and the money he had earned.

"Money!" Dr. Kennedy started quickly at that word, but ere he could
repeat it his ear caught a coming sound, and his eyes flashed
eagerly as, grasping the arm of Maude, he whispered, "It's music,
Maude--it's music--don't you hear it? Louis crutches on the stairs.
He comes! he comes! Matty's boy and mine! Thank Heaven, I have
something left in which that woman has no part."

In his excitement he had risen, and with lips apart, and eyes bent
on the open door he waited for his crippled boy; nor waited long ere
Louis came in sight, when with a wild, glad cry which made the very
rafters ring he caught him to his bosom. Silently Maude stole from
the room, leaving them thus together, the father and his son. Nor is
it for us to intrude upon the sanctity of that interview, which
lasted more than an hour, and was finally terminated by the arrival
of Maude Glendower. She had returned sooner than was anticipated,
and, after joyfully greeting Maude started in quest of Louis.

"Don't let her in here," whispered the doctor, as he heard her on
the stairs. "Don't let her in here; she'd be seized with a fit of
repairs. Go to her; she loves you, at least."

Louis obeyed, and in a moment was in the arms of his stepmother. She
had changed since last they, met. Much of her soft, voluptuous
beauty was gone, and in its place was a look of desperation, as if
she did not care for what she had done, and meant to brave it
through. Still, when alone with Mr. De Vere and Maude, she conversed
freely of their misfortunes, and ere the day was over they
thoroughly understood the matter. The doctor was ruined; and when
his wife was questioned of the future she professed to have formed
no plan, unless, indeed, her husband lived with Nellie, who was now
housekeeping, while she went whither she could find a place. To this
arrangement Mr. De Vere made no comment. He did not seem disposed to
talk, but when the day of sale came he acted; and it was soon
understood that the house together with fifty acres of land would
pass into his hands. Louis, too, was busy. Singling out every
article of furniture which had been his mother's, he bought it with
his own money, while John, determining that "t'other one," as he
called Katy, should not be entirely overlooked, bid off the
high-post bedstead and chest of drawers which once were hers. Many of the
more elegant pieces of furniture were sold, but Mr. De Vere kept
enough to furnish the house handsomely; and when the sale was over
and the family once more reassembled in the pleasant parlor, Dr.
Kennedy wept like a child as he blessed the noble young man who had
kept for him his home. Maude Glendower, too, was softened; and going
up to Mr. De Vere she said, "If I know how to spend lavishly I know
also how to economize, and henceforth none shall accuse me of
extravagance."

These were no idle words, for, as well as she could, she kept her
promise; and though she often committed errors, she usually tried to
do the thing which her children would approve. After a day or two
Mr. De Vere and Maude returned to Hampton, leaving Louis with his
father, who, in his society, grew better and happier each day.
Hannah, who was growing old, went, from choice, to live with Maude,
but John would not forsake his master. Nobody knew the kinks of the
old place like himself, he said, and he accordingly stayed,
superintending the whole, and coming ere long to speak of it all as
his. It was his farm, his oxen, his horses, his everything, except
the pump which Hannah in her letter to Mauda, had designated as an
injun.

"'Twas a mighty good thing in its place," he said, "and at a fire it
couldn't be beat, but he'd be hanged if he didn't b'lieve a nigger
was made for somethin' harder and more sweaty-like than turnin' that
crank to make b'lieve rain when it didn't. He reckoned the Lord knew
what he was about, and if He was a mind to dry up the grass and the
arbs, it wasn't for Cary nor nary other chap to take the matter into
their own hands, and invent a patent thunder shower."

John reasoned clearly upon some subjects, and though his reasoning
was not always correct, he proved a most invaluable servant. Old
Hannah's place was filled by another colored woman, Sylvia, and
though John greatly admired her complexion, as being one which would
not fade, he lamented her inefficiency, often wishing that the
services of Janet Hopkins could be again secured.

But Janet was otherwise engaged; and here, near the close of our
story, it may not be amiss to glance for a moment at one who in the
commencement of the narrative occupied a conspicuous place. About
the time of Maude's blindness she had removed to a town in the
southern part of New York, and though she wrote apprising her young
mistress of the change, she forgot entirely to say where she was
going, consequently the family were ignorant of her place of
residence, until accident revealed it to J.C. De Vere. It was but a
few weeks preceding Maude's return from Europe that he found himself
compelled to spend a Sabbath in the quiet town of Fayette. Not far
from his hotel an Episcopal church reared its slender tower, and
thither, at the usual hour for service, he wended his way. There was
to be a baptism that morning, and many a smile flitted over the face
of matron and maid, as a meek-looking man came slowly up the aisle,
followed by a short, thick, resolute Scotchwoman, in whom we
recognize our old friend Janet Hopkins. Notwithstanding her firm
conviction that Maude Matilda Remington Blodgett was her last and
only one, she was now the mother of a sturdy boy, which the meek man
carried in his arms. Hot disputes there had been between the twain
concerning a name, Mr. Hopkins advocating simply John, as having
been borne by his sire, while Janet, a little proud of the notoriety
which her daughter's cognomen had brought to her, determined to
honor her boy with a name which should astonish every one.

At the time of Maude's engagement with J.C. De Vere she had written
to know what J.C. was for, and Jedediah Cleishbotham pleased her
fancy as being unusual and odd. Indirectly she had heard that Maude
was married to Mr. De Vere, and gone to Europe, and supposing it was
of course J.C., she on this occasion startled her better half by
declaring that her son should be baptized "John Joel Jedediah
Cleishbotham," or nothing! It was in vain that he remonstrated.
Janet was firm, and hunting up Maude's letter, written more than
three years before, she bade him write down the name, so as not to
make a blunder. But this he refused to do. "He guessed he could
remember that horrid name; there was not another like it in
Christendom," he said, and on the Sunday morning of which we write
he took his baby in his arms, and in a state of great nervous
irritability started for church, repeating to himself the names,
particularly the last, which troubled him the most. Many a change he
rang upon it, and by the time he stood before the altar the
perspiration was starting from every pore, so anxious was he to
acquit himself creditably, and thus avoid the Caudle lecture which
was sure to follow a mistake. "But he should not make a mistake; he
knew exactly what the name was; he'd said it over a hundred times,"
and when the minister, taking the baby in his arms, said, "Name this
child," he spoke up loud and promptly, jerking out the last word
with a vengeance, as if relieved to have it off his mind, "John Joel
Jedediah Leusebottom."

"That's for me," was J.C.'s involuntary exclamation, which, however,
was lost amid the general titter which ran through the house.

In an agony of anxiety Janet strove to rectify the mistake, while
her elbow sought the ribs of her conjugal lord; but the minister
paid no heed, and when the screaming infant was given back to its
frightened father's arms it bore the name of "John Joel," and
nothing more.

To this catastrophe Janet was in a measure reconciled when after
church J.C. sought her out and, introducing himself, informed her of
the true state of affairs.

"Then you aint married to Maude after all," said the astonished
Janet, as she proceeded to question him of the doctor's family. "It
beats all, I never heard on't; but no wonder, livin' as we do in
this out o' the way place--no cars, no stage, no post office but
twice a week--no nothin'."

This was indeed the reason why Janet had remained so long in
ignorance of the people with whom she formerly lived. Fayette, as
she said, was an out of the way place, and after hearing from a man
who met them in New York, that Maude and Louis were both gone to
Europe, she gave Laurel Hill no further thought, and settled quietly
down among the hills until her monotonous life was broken by the
birth of a son, the John Joel who, as she talked with J.C., slept
calmly in his crib.

"So you aint merried to her," she kept repeating, her anger at her
husband's treacherous memory fast decreasing. "I kinder thought her
losin' my money might make a difference, but you're jest as happy
with Nellie, aint you?"

The question was abrupt, and J.C. colored crimson as he tried to
stammer out an answer.

"Never you mind," returned Janet, noticing his embarrassment.
"Married life is just like a checker-board, and all on us has as much
as we can do to swaller it at times; but you would of been happy
with Maude, I know."

J.C. knew so, too, and long after he parted with Janet her last
words were ringing in his ears, while mingled with them was the
bitter memory, "It might perhaps have been."

But there was no hope now, and with an increased air of dejection he
went back to his cheerless home. They were housekeeping, Nellie and
himself, for Mrs. Kelsey had married again, and as the new husband
did not fancy the young people they had set up an establishment of
their own, and J.C. was fast learning how utterly valueless are
soft, white hands when their owner knows not how to use them. Though
keeping up an outside show, he was really very poor, and when he
heard of the doctor's misfortune he went to his chamber and wept as
few men ever weep. As Hannah well expressed it, "he was shiftless,"
and did not know how to take care of himself. This James De Vere
understood, and after the sale at Laurel Hill he turned his
attention to his unfortunate cousin, and succeeded at last in
securing for him the situation of bookkeeper in a large
establishment in New York with which he was himself remotely
connected. Thither about Christmas J.C. and Nellie went, and from
her small back room in the fifth story of a New York boarding-house
Nellie writes to Louis glowing descriptions of high life in the
city, and Louis, glancing at his crutches and withered feet, smiles
as he thinks how weary he should be climbing the four flights of
stairs which lead to that high life.

And now, with one more glance at Maude, we bring our story to a
close. It is Easter, and over the earth the April sun shines
brightly, just as it shone on the Judean hills eighteen hundred
years ago. The Sabbath bells are ringing, and the merry peal which
comes from the Methodist tower bespeaks in John a frame of mind
unsuited to the occasion. Since forsaking the Episcopalians, he had
seldom attended their service, but this morning, after his task is
done, he will steal quietly across the common to the old stone
church, where James De Vere and Maude sing together the glorious
Easter Anthem. Maude formerly sang the alto, but in the old world
her voice was trained to the higher notes, and to-day it will be
heard in the choir where it has so long been missed.

The bells have ceased to toll, and a family group come slowly up the
aisle. Dr. Kennedy, slightly bent, his white hair shading a brow
from which much of his former sternness has gone, and his hand
shaking but slightly as he opens the pew door and then steps back
for the lady to enter, the lady Maude Glendower, who walks not as
proudly as of old. She, too, has been made better by adversity, and
though she will never love the palsied man, her husband, she will be
to him a faithful wife, and a devoted mother to his boy, who in the
square, old-fashioned pew sits where his eye can rest upon his
beautiful sister, as her snowy fingers sweep once more the organ
keys, which tremble joyfully as it were to the familiar touch. Low,
deep-toned, and heavy is the prelude to the song, and they who
listen feel the floor tremble beneath their feet. Then a strain of
richest melody echoes through the house, arid the congregation hold
their breath, as Maude De Vere sings to them of the Passover once
sacrificed for us.

And now, shall we not leave them thus with the holy Easter light
streaming up the aisles and the sweet music of the Easter song dying
on the air?





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