"I thought they told me fourteen, but of course it's she," the doctor rejoined. "Poor child, I would have given much to have saved her."
Jessie did not talk; only once, when she asked Guy, if it was very far to heaven, and if he supposed Maddy had got there by this time.
"We'll go just the same," said Guy. "I will do what I can for the old man;" and so the carriage drove on, down the hill, across the meadow-land, and past a low-roofed house whose walls inclosed the stiffened form of him for whom the bell had tolled, the boy, fifteen years of age, who had been the patient of another than Dr. Holbrook.
Maddy was not dead, but the paroxysm of restlessness had passed, and she lay now in a heavy sleep so nearly resembling death that they who watched, waited expectantly to see the going out of her last breath. Never before had a carriage like that from Aikenside stopped at that humble cottage, but the neighbors thought it came merely to bring the doctor, whom they welcomed with a glad smile, making a way for him to pass to Maddy's bedside. Guy preferred waiting in the carriage until such time as Grandpa Markham could speak with him, but Jessie went with the doctor into the sick room, startling even the grandmother, and causing her to wonder who the richly-dressed child could be.
"Dying, doctor," said one of the women, affirmatively, not interrogatively; but the doctor shook his head, and holding in one hand his watch he counted the faint pulse beats as with his eye he measured off the minute.
"There are too many here," he said. "She needs the air you are breathing," and in his singular, authoritative way, he cleared the crowded room of the mistaken friends who were unwittingly breathing up Maddy's very life.
All but the grandparents and Jessie; these he suffered to remain, and sitting down by Maddy, watched till the long sleep was ended. Silently and earnestly the aged couple prayed for their darling, asking that if possible she might be spared, and God heard their prayers, lifting, at last, the heavy fog from Maddy's brain, and waking her to life and partial consciousness. It was Jessie who first caught the expression of the opening eyes, and darting forward, she exclaimed, "She's waked up, Dr. Holbrook. She will live."
Wonderingly Maddy looked at her, and then as a confused recollection of where they had met before crossed her mind, she smiled faintly, and said:
"Where am I now? Have I never come home, and is this Dr. Holbrook's office?"
"No, no; it's home, your home, and you are getting well," Jessie cried, bending over the bewildered girl. "Dr. Holbrook has cured you, and Guy is here, and I, and—"
"Hush, you disturb her," the doctor said, gently pulling Jessie away, and himself asking Maddy how she felt.
She did not recognize him. She only had a vague idea that he might be some doctor, but not Dr. Holbrook, sure; not the one who had so puzzled and tortured her on a day which seemed now so far behind. From the white-haired man kneeling by the bedside there was a burst of thanksgiving for the life restored, and then Grandpa Markham tottered from the room, out into the open air, which had never fallen so refreshingly on his tried frame as it fell now, when he first knew that Maddy would live. He did not care for his homestead; that might go, and he still be happy with Maddy left. But He who had marked that true disciple's every sigh, had another good in store, willing it so that both should come together, even as the two disappointments had come hand in hand.
From the soft cushions of his carriage, where he sat reclining, Guy Remington saw the old man as he came out, and alighting at once, he accosted him pleasantly, and then walked with him to the garden, where, on a rustic bench, built for Maddy beneath the cherry trees, Grandpa Markham sat down to rest. From speaking of Madeline it was easy to go back to the day when Guy had first met grandpa, whose application for money he had refused.
"I have thought better of it since," he said, "and am sorry I did not accede to your proposal. One object of my coming here to-day was to say that my purse is at your disposal. You can have as much as you wish, paying me whenever you like, and the house shall not be sold. Slocum, I understand, holds the mortgage. I will see him to-morrow and stop the whole proceeding."
Guy spoke rapidly, determined to make a clean breast of it, but grandpa understood him, and bowing his white head upon his bosom, the big tears dropped like rain upon the turf, while his lips quivered, first with thanks to the Providence who had truly done all things well, and next with thanks to his benefactor.
"Blessings on your head, young man, for making me so happy. You are worthy of your father, and he was the best of men."
"My father—did you know him?" Guy asked, in some surprise, and then the story came out, how, years before, when a city hotel was on fire, and one of its guests in imminent danger from the locality of his room, and his own nervous fear which made him powerless to act, another guest braved fearlessly the hissing flame, and scaling the tottering wall, dragged out to life and liberty one who, until that hour, was to him an utter stranger.
Pushing back his snowy hair, Grandfather Markham showed upon his temple a long, white scar, obtained the night when he periled his own life to save that of another. There was a doubly warm pressure now of the old man's hand, as Guy replied, "I've heard that story from father himself, but the name of his preserver had escaped me. Why didn't you tell me who you were?"
"I thought 'twould look too much like demanding it as a right—too much like begging, and I s'pose I felt too proud. Pride is my besetting sin—the one I pray most against."
Guy looked keenly now at the man whose besetting sin was pride, and as he marked the cheapness of his attire, his pantaloons faded and short, his coat worn threadbare and shabby, his shoes both patched at the toes, his cotton shirt minus a bosom, and then thought of the humble cottage, with its few rocky acres, he wondered of what he could be proud.
Meantime, for Maddy, Dr. Holbrook had prescribed perfect quiet, bidding them darken again the window from which the shade had been removed, and ordering all save the grandmother to leave the room and let the patient sleep, if possible. Even Jessie was not permitted to stay, though Maddy clung to her as to a dear friend. In a few whispered words Jessie had told her name, saying she came from Aikenside, and that her Brother Guy was there, too, outdoors, in the carriage. "He heard how sick you were at Devonshire, this morning, and drove right home for me to come to see you. I told him of you that day in the office, and that's why he brought me, I guess. You'll like Guy. I know all the girls do—he's so good."
Sick and weary as she was, and unable as yet to comprehend the entire meaning of all she heard, Maddy was conscious of a thrill of pride in knowing that Guy Remington, from Aikenside, was interested in her, and had brought his sister to see her. Winding her feeble arms around Jessie's neck, she kissed the soft, warm cheek, and said, "You'll come again, I hope."
"Yes, every day, if mamma will let me. I don't mind it a bit, if you are poor."
"Tut, tut, little tattler!" and Dr. Holbrook, who, unseen by the children, had all the while been standing near, took Jessie by the arm. "What makes you think them poor?"
In the closely-shaded room Maddy could see nothing distinctly, but she heard Jessie's reply: "Because the plastering comes down so low, and Maddy's pillows are so teenty, not much bigger than my dolly's. But I love her; don't you doctor?"
Through the darkness the doctor caught the sudden flash of Maddy's eyes, and something impelled him to lay his cool, broad hand on her forehead, as he replied, "I love all my patients;" then, taking Jessie's arm, he led her out to where Guy was waiting for her.
Had it not been for the presence of Dr. Holbrook, who, accepting Guy's invitation to tea, rode back with him to Aikenside, Mrs. Agnes would have gone off into a passion when told that Jessie had been "exposed to fever and mercy knows what."
"There's no telling what one will catch among the very poor," she said to Dr. Holbrook, as she clasped and unclasped the heavy gold bracelets flashing on her white, round arm.
"I'll be answerable for any disease Jessie caught at Mr. Markham's," the doctor replied.
"At Mr. Who's? What did you call him?" Agnes asked, the bright color on her cheek fading as the doctor replied:
"Markham—an old man who lives in Honedale. You never knew him, of course."
Involuntarily Agnes glanced at Guy, in whose eye there was, as she fancied, a peculiar expression. Could it be he knew the secret she guarded so carefully? Impossible, she said to herself; but still the white fingers trembled as she handled the china and silver, and for once she was glad when the doctor took his leave, and she was alone with Jessie.
"What was that girl's name?" she asked, "the one you went to see?"
"Maddy, mother—Madeline Clyde. She's so pretty. I'm going to see her again. May I?"
Agnes did not reply directly, but continued to question the child with regard to the cottage which Jessie thought so funny, slanting away back, she said, so that the roof on one side almost touched the ground. The window panes, too, were so very tiny, and the room where Maddy lay sick was small and low.
"Yes, yes, I know," Agnes said at last, impatiently, weary of hearing of the cottage whose humble exterior and interior she knew so much better than Jessie herself.
But this was not to be divulged; for surely the haughty Agnes Remington, who, in Boston, aspired to lead in society into which, as the wife of Dr. Remington, she had been admitted, and who, in Aikenside, was looked upon with envy, could have nothing in common with the red cottage or its inmates. So when Jessie asked again if she could not visit Maddy on the morrow, she answered decidedly: "No, daughter, no. I do not wish you to associate with such people," and when Jessie insisted on knowing why she must not associate with such people as Maddy Clyde, the answer was: "Because you are a Remington," and as if this of itself were of an unanswerable objection, Agnes sent her child from her, refusing to talk longer on a subject so disagreeable to her and so suggestive of the past. It was all in vain that Jessie, and even Guy himself, tried to revoke the decision. Jessie should not be permitted to come in contact with that kind of people, she said, or incur the risk of catching that dreadful fever.
So day after day, while life and health were slowly throbbing through her veins, Maddy waited and longed for the little girl whose one visit to her sick room seemed so much like a dream. From her grandfather she had heard the good news of Guy Remington's generosity, and that, quite as much as Dr. Holbrook's medicines, helped to bring the color back to the pallid cheek and the brightness to her eyes.
She was asleep the first time the doctor came after the occasion of Jessie's visit, and as sleep, be said, would do her more good than anything he might prescribe, he did not awaken her; but for a long time, as it seemed to Grandma Markham, who stood very little in awe of the Boston doctor, he watched her as she slept, now clasping the blue-veined wrist as he felt for the pulse, and now wiping from her forehead the drops of sweat, or pushing back her soft, damp hair. It would be three days before he could see her again, for a sick father in Cambridge needed his attention, and after numerous directions as to the administering of sundry powders and pills, he left her, feeling that the next three days would be long ones to him. Dr. Holbrook did not stop to analyze the nature of his interest in Maddy Clyde—an interest so different from any he had ever felt before for his patients; and even if he had sought to solve the riddle, he would have said that the knowing how he had wronged her was the sole cause of his thinking far more of her and of her case than of the thirty other patients on his list. Dr. Holbrook was a handsome man, a thorough scholar, and a most skillful physician; but ladies who expected from him those little polite attentions which the sex value so highly generally expected in vain, for he was no ladies' man, and his language and manners were oftentimes abrupt, even when both were prompted by the utmost kindness of heart. In his organization, too, there was not a quick perception of what would be exactly appropriate, and so, when, at last, he was about starting to visit Maddy again, he puzzled his brains until they fairly ached with wondering what he could do to give her a pleasant surprise and show that he was not as formidable a personage as her past experience might lead her to think.
"If I could only take her something," he said, glancing ruefully around his office. "Now, if she were Jessie, nuts and raisins might answer—but she must not eat such trash as that," and he set himself to think again, just as Guy Remington rode up, bearing in his hand a most exquisite bouquet, whose fragrance filled the medicine-odored office at once, and whose beauty elicited an exclamation of delight even from the matter-of-fact Dr. Holbrook.
"I thought you might be going down to Honedale, as I knew you returned last night, so I brought these flowers for your patient with my compliments, or if you prefer I give them to you, and you can thus present them as if coming from yourself."
"As if I would do that," the doctor answered, taking the bouquet in his hand the better to examine and admire it. "Did you arrange it, or your gardener?" he asked, and when Guy replied that the merit of arrangement, if merit there were, belonged to himself, he began to deprecate his own awkwardness and want of tact. "Here I have been cudgeling my head this half hour trying to think what I could take her as a peace offering, and could think of nothing, while you—Well, you and I are different entirely. You know just what is proper—just what to say, and when to say it—while I am a perfect bore, and without doubt shall make some ludicrous blunder in delivering the flowers. To-day will be the first time really that we meet, as she was sleeping when I was there last, while on all other occasions she has paid no attention whatever to me."
For a moment Guy regarded his friend attentively, noticing now that extra care had been bestowed upon his toilet, that the collar was fresh from the laundry, and the new cravat tied in a most unexceptionable manner, instead of being twisted into a hard knot, with the ends looking as if they had been chewed.
"Doc," he said, when his survey was completed, "how old are you— twenty-five or twenty-six?"
"Twenty-five—just your age—why?" and the doctor looked with an expression so wholly innocent of Guy's real meaning that the latter, instead of telling why, replied:
"Oh! nothing; only I was wondering if you would do to be my father. Agnes, I verily believe, is more than half in love with you; but, on the whole, I would not like to be your son; so I guess you'd better take some one younger—say Jessie. You are only eighteen years her senior."
The doctor stared at him amazed, and when he had finished said with the utmost candor: "What has that to do with Madeline? I thought we were talking of her." "Innocent as the newly-born babe," was Guy's mental comment, as he congratulated himself on his larger and more varied experience.
And truly Dr, Holbrook was as simple-hearted as a child, never dreaming of Guy's meaning, or that any emotion save a perfectly proper one had a lodgment in his breast as he drove down to Honedale, guarding carefully Guy's bouquet, and wishing he knew just what he ought to say when he presented it.
Maddy had gained rapidly the last three days. Good nursing and the doctor's medicines were working miracles, and on the morning when the doctor, with Guy's bouquet, was riding rapidly toward Honedale, she was feeling so much better that in view of his coming she asked if she could not be permitted to receive him sitting in the rocking-chair, instead of lying there in bed, and when this plan was vetoed as utterly impossible, she asked, anxiously:
"And must I see him in this nightgown? Can't I have on my pink gingham wrapper?"
Hitherto Maddy had been too sick to care at all about her personal appearance, but it was different now. She did care, and thoughts of meeting again the handsome, stylish-looking man who had asked her to conjugate amo and whom she fully believed to be Dr. Holbrook, made her rather nervous. Dim remembrances she had of some one gliding in and out, and when the pain and noise in her head was at its highest, a hand, large, and, oh! so cool had been laid upon her temples, quieting their throbbings and making the blood course less madly through the swollen veins. They had told her how kind, how attentive he had been, and to herself she had said: "He's sorry about that certificate. He wishes to show me that he did not mean to be unkind. Yes; I forgive him: for I really was very stupid that afternoon."
And so, in a most forgiving frame of mind, Maddy submitted to the snowy robe which grandma brought in place of the coveted gingham wrapper, and which became her well, with its daintily-crimped ruffles about the neck and wrists. Those wrists and hands! How white and small they had grown! and Maddy sighed, as her grandmother buttoned together the wristbands, to see how loose it was.
"I have been very sick," she said. "Are my cheeks as thin as my arms?"
They were not, though they had lost some of their symmetrical roundness. Still there was much of childish beauty in the young, eager face, and the hair had lost comparatively none of its glossy brightness.
"That's him," grandma said, as the sound of a horse's gallop was heard, and in a moment the doctor reined up before the gate.
From Mrs. Markham, who met him in the door, he learned how much better she was; also how "she has been reckoning on this visit, making herself all a-sweat about it."
Suddenly the doctor felt returning all his old dread of Maddy Clyde. Why should she wrong herself into a sweat? What was there in that visit different from any other? Nothing, he said to himself, nothing; and yet he, too, had been more anxious about it than any he had ever paid. Depositing his hat and gloves upon the table, he followed Mrs. Markham up the stairs, vaguely conscious of wishing she would stay down, and very conscious of feeling glad; when just at Maddy's door and opposite a little window, she espied the hens busily engaged in devouring the yeast cakes, with which she had taken so much pains, and which she had placed in the hot sun to dry. Finding that they paid no heed to her loud "Shoo, shoos," she started herself to drive them away, telling the doctor to go right on and to help himself.
The perspiration was standing under Maddy's hair by this time, and when the doctor stepped across the threshold, and she knew he really was coming near her, it oozed out upon her forehead in big, round drops, while her cheeks glowed with a feverish heat. Thinking he should get along with it better if he treated her just as he would Jessie, the doctor confronted her at once, and asked:
"How is my little patient to-day?"
A faint scream broke from Maddy's lips, and she involuntarily raised her hands to thrust the stranger away. This black-eyed, black-haired, thick-set man was not Dr. Holbrook, for he was taller, and more slight, while she had not been deceived in the dark brown eyes which, even while they seemed to be mocking her, had worn a strange fascination for the maiden of fourteen and a half. The doctor fancied her delirious again, and this reassured him at once. Dropping the bouquet upon the bed, he clasped one of her hands in his, and without the slightest idea that she comprehended him, said, soothingly:
"Poor child, are you afraid of me—the doctor, Dr. Holbrook?" Maddy did not try to withdraw her hand, but raising her eyes, swimming in tears, to his face, she stammered out:
"What does it mean, and where is he—the one who—asked me—those dreadful questions? I thought that was Dr. Holbrook."
Here was a dilemma—something for which the doctor was not prepared, and with a feeling that he would not betray Guy, he said:
"No; that was some one else—a friend of mine—but I was there in the back office. Don't you remember me? Please don't grow excited. Compose yourself, and I will explain all by and by. This is wrong. 'Twill never do," and talking thus rapidly he wiped away the sweat, about which grandma had told him.
Maddy was disappointed, and it took her some time to rally sufficiently to convince the doctor that she was not flighty, as he termed it; but composing herself at last, she answered all his questions, and then, as he saw her eyes wandering toward the bouquet, he suddenly remembered that it was not yet presented, and placing it in her hands, he said:
"You like flowers, I know, and these are for you. I——"
"Oh! thank you, thank you, doctor; I am so glad. I love them so much, and you are so kind. What made you think to bring them? I've wanted flowers so badly; but I could not have them, because I was sick and did not work in the garden. It was so good in you," and in her delight Maddy's tears dropped upon the fair blossoms.
For a moment the doctor was sorely tempted to keep the credit thus enthusiastically given; but he was too truthful for that, and so watching her as her eyes glistened with pleased excitement, he said:
"I am glad you like them, Miss Clyde, and so will Mr. Remington be. He sent them to you from his conservatory."
"Not Mr. Remington from Aikenside—not Jessie's brother?" and Maddy's eyes now fairly danced as they sought the doctor's face.
"Yes Jessie's brother. He came here with her. He is interested in you, and brought these down this morning."
"It was Jessie, I guess, who sent them," Maddy suggested, but the doctor persisted that it was Guy.
"He wished me to present them with his compliments. He thought they might please you."
"Oh! they do, they do!" Maddy replied. "They almost make me well. Tell him how much I thank him, and like him too, though I never saw him."
The doctor opened his lips to tell her she had seen him, but changed his mind ere the words were uttered. She might not think as well of Guy, he thought, and there was no harm in keeping it back.
So Maddy had no suspicion that the face she thought of so much belonged to Guy Remington. She had never seen him, of course; but she hoped she would some time, so as to thank him for his generosity to her grandfather and his kindness to herself. Then, as she remembered the message she had sent him, she began to think that it sounded too familiar, and said to the doctor:
"If you please, don't tell Mr. Remington that I said I liked him—only that I thank him. He would think it queer for a poor girl like me to send such word to him. He is very rich, and handsome, and splendid, isn't he?"
"Yes, Guy's rich and handsome, and everybody likes him. We were in college together."
"You were?" Maddy exclaimed. "Then you know him well, and Jessie, and you've been to Aikenside often? There's nothing in the world I want so much as to go to Aikenside. They say it is so beautiful."
"Maybe I'll carry you up there some day when you are strong enough to ride," the doctor answered, thinking of his light buggy at home, and wondering he had not used it more, instead of always riding on horseback.
Dr. Holbrook looked much older than he was, and to Maddy he seemed quite fatherly, so that the idea of riding with him, aside from the honor it might be to her, struck her much as riding with Farmer Green would have done. The doctor, too, imagined that his proposition was prompted solely from disinterested motives, but he found himself wondering how long it would be before Maddy would be able to ride a little distance, just over the hill and back. He was tiring her all out talking to her; but somehow it was very delightful there in that sick room, with the summer sunshine stealing through the window and falling upon the soft reddish-brown head resting on the pillows. Once he fixed those pillows, arranging them so nicely that grandma, who had come in from her hens and yeast cakes, declared "he was as handy as a woman," and after receiving a few general directions with regard to the future, "guessed, if he wasn't in a hurry, she'd leave him with Maddy a spell, as there were a few chores she must do."
The doctor knew that at least a dozen individuals were waiting for him that moment; but still he was in no hurry, he said, and so for half an hour longer he sat there talking of Guy, and Jessie, and Aikenside, and wondering he had never before observed how very becoming a white wrapper was to sick girls like Maddy Clyde. Had he been asked the question, he could not have told whether his other patients were habited in buff, or brown, or tan color; but he knew all about Maddy's garb, and thought the dainty frill around her slender throat the prettiest "puckered piece" that he had ever seen. How, then, was Dr. Holbrook losing his heart to that little girl of fourteen and a half? He did not think so. Indeed, he did not think anything about his heart, though thoughts of Maddy Clyde were pretty constantly with him, as after leaving her he paid his round of visits.
The Aikenside carriage was standing at Mrs. Conner's gate when he returned, and Jessie came running out to meet him, followed by Guy, while Agnes, in the most becoming riding habit, sat by the window looking as unconcerned at his arrival as if it were not the very event for which she had been impatiently waiting, Jessie was a great pet with the doctor, and, lifting her lightly in his arms, he kissed her forehead where the golden curls were clustering and said to her:
"I have seen Maddy Clyde. She asked for you, and why you do not come to see her, as you promised."
"Mother won't let me," Jessie answered. "She says they are not fit associates for a Remington."
There was a sudden flash of contempt on the doctor's face, and a gleam of wrath in Agnes' eyes as she motioned Jessie to be silent, and then gracefully received the doctor, who by this time was in the room. As if determined to monopolize the conversation, and keep it from turning on the Markhams, Agnes rattled on for nearly fifteen minutes, scarcely allowing Guy a chance for uttering a word. But Guy bided his time, and seized the first favorable opportunity to inquire after Madeline.
She was improving rapidly, the doctor said, adding: "You ought to have seen her delight when I gave her your bouquet."
"Indeed," and Agnes bridled haughtily; "I did not know that Guy was in the habit of sending bouquets to such as this Clyde girl. I really must report him to Miss Atherstone."
Guy's seat was very near to Agnes, and while a cloud overspread his fine features, he said to her in an aside:
"Please say in your report that the worst thing about this Clyde girl is that she aspires to be a teacher, and possibly a governess."
There was an emphasis on the last word which silenced Agnes and set her to beating her French gaiter on the carpet; while Guy, turning back to the doctor, replied to his remark:
"She was pleased, then?"
"Yes; she must be vastly fond of flowers, though I sometimes fancied the fact of being noticed by you afforded almost as much satisfaction as the bouquet itself. She evidently regards you as a superior being, and Aikenside as a second Paradise, and asking innumerable questions about you and Jessie, too."
"Did she honor me with an inquiry?" Agnes asked, her tone indicative of sarcasm, though she was greatly interested as well as relieved by the reply:
"Yes; she said she heard that Jessie's mother was a beautiful woman, and asked if you were not born in England."
"She's mixed me up with Lucy. Guy, you must go down and enlighten her," Agnes said, laughing merrily and appearing more at ease than she had before since Maddy Clyde had been the subject of conversation.
Guy did not go down to Honedale—but fruit and flowers, and once a bottle of rare old wine, found their way to the old red cottage, always brought by Guy's man, Duncan, and always accompanied with Mr. Remington's compliments. Once, hidden among the rosebuds, was a childish note from Jessie, some of it printed and some in the uneven hand of a child just commencing to write.
It was as follows:
"DEAD MADDY: I think that is such a pretty name, and so does Guy, and so does the doctor, too. I want to come see you, but mamma won't let me. I think of you ever so much, and so does Guy, I guess, for he sends you lots of things. Guy is a nice brother, and is most as old as mamma. Ain't that funny? You know my first ma is dead. The doctor tells us about you when he comes to Aikenside. I wish he'd come oftener, for I love him a bushel—don't you? Yours respectfully,
"JESSIE AGNES REMINGTON.
"P. S.—I am going to tuck this in just for fun, right among the buds, where you must look for it."
This note Maddy read and reread until she knew it by heart, particularly the part relating to Guy. Hitherto she had not particularly liked her name, greatly preferring that it should have been Eliza Ann, or Sarah Jane; but the knowing that Guy Remington fancied it made a vast difference, and did much toward reconciling her. She did not even see the clause, "and the doctor, too." His attentions and concern she took as a matter of course, so quietly and so constantly had they been given. The day was very long now which did not bring him to the cottage; but she missed him much as she would have missed her brother, if she had had one, though her pulse always quickened and her cheeks glowed when she heard him at the gate. The inner power did not lie deeper than a great friendliness for one who had been instrumental in saving her life. They had talked over the matter of her examination, the doctor blaming himself more than was necessary for his ignorance as to what was required of a teacher; but when she asked who was his proxy, he had again answered, evasively: "A friend from Boston."
And this he did to shield Guy, whom he knew was enshrined in the little maiden's heart as a paragon of all excellence.
Latterly the doctor had taken to driving in his buggy, and when Maddy was strong enough he took her with him one day, himself adjusting the shawl which grandma wrapped around her, and pulling a little farther on the white sunbonnet which shaded the sweet, pale face, where the roses were just beginning to bloom again. The doctor was very happy that morning, and so, too, was Maddy, talking to him upon the theme of which she never tired, Guy Remington, Jessie and Aikenside. Was it as beautiful a place as she had heard it was, and didn't he think it would be delightful to live there?
"I suppose Mr. Guy will be bringing a wife there some day when he finds one," and leaning back in the buggy Maddy heaved a little sigh, not at thoughts of Guy Remington's wife, but because she began to feel tired, and thus gave vent to her weariness.
The doctor, however, did not so construe it. He heard the sigh, and for the first time when listening to her as she talked of Guy, a keen throb of pain shot through his heart, a something as near akin to jealousy as it was possible for him then to feel. But all unused as he was to the workings of love he did not at that moment dream of such an emotion in connection with Madeline Clyde. He only knew that something affected him unpleasantly, prompting him, for some reason, to tell Maddy Clyde about Lucy Atherstone, who, in all probability, would one day come to Aikenside as its mistress.
"Yes, Guy will undoubtedly marry," he began, just as over the top of the easy hill they were ascending horses' heads were visible, and the Aikenside carriage appeared in view. "There he is now," he exclaimed, adding quickly: "No, I am mistaken, there's only a lady inside. It must be Agnes."
It was Agnes driving out alone, for the sole purpose of passing a place which had a singular attraction for her, the old, red cottage in Honedale. She recognized the doctor, and guessed whom he had with him, Putting up her glass, for which she had no more need than Jessie, she scrutinized the little figure bundled up in shawls, while she smiled her sweetest smile upon the doctor, showing to good advantage her white teeth, and shaking back her wealth of curls with the air and manner of a young coquettish girl.
"Oh, what a handsome lady! Who is she?" Maddy asked, turning to look after the carriage now swiftly descending the hill.
"That was Jessie's mother, Mrs. Agnes Remington," the doctor replied. "She'll feel flattered with your compliment."
"I did not mean to flatter. I said what I thought. She is handsome, beautiful, and so young, too. Was that a gold bracelet which flashed so on her arm?"
The doctor presumed it was, though he had not noticed. Gold bracelets were not new to him as they were to Maddy, who continued:
"I wonder if I'll ever wear a bracelet like that?"
"Would you like to?" the doctor asked, glancing at the small white wrist, around which the dark calico sleeve was closely buttoned, and thinking how much prettier and modest-looking it was than Agnes' half-bare arms, where the ornaments were flashing.
"Y-e-s," came hesitatingly from Maddy, who had a strong passion for jewelry. "I guess I would, though grandpa classes all such things with the pomps and vanities which I must renounce when I get to be good."
"And when will that be?" the doctor asked.
Again Maddy sighed, as she replied: "I cannot tell. I thought so much about it while I was sick, that is, when I could think; but now I'm better, it goes away from me some. I know it is wrong, but I cannot help it. I've seen only a bit of pomp and vanity, but I must say that I like what I have seen, and I wish to see more. It's very wicked, I know," she kept on, as she met the queer expression of the doctor's face;" and I know you think me so bad. You are good—a Christian, I suppose?"
There was a strange light in the doctor's eye as he answered, half sadly: "No, Maddy, I am not what you call a Christian, I have not renounced the pomps and vanities yet."
"Oh, I'm so sorry," and Maddy's eyes expressed all the sorrow she professed to feel. "You ought to be, now you've got so old."
The doctor colored crimson, and stopping his horse under the dim shadow of a maple in a little hollow, he said:
"I'm not so very old, Maddy; only twenty-five—only ten years older than yourself; and Agnes' husband was more than twenty years her senior."
The doctor did not know why he dragged that last in, when it had nothing whatever to do with their conversation; but as the most trivial thing often leads to great results, so far from the pang caused by Maddy's thinking him so old, was born the first real consciousness he had ever had that the little girl beside him was very dear, and that the ten years difference between them might prove a most impassable gulf. With this feeling, it was exceedingly painful for him to hear Maddy's sudden exclamation:
"Oh, oh! over twenty years—that's dreadful. She must be most glad he's dead. I would not marry a man more than five years older than I am."
"Not if you loved him, and he loved you very, very dearly?" the doctor asked, his voice low and tender in its tone.
Wholly unsuspicious of the wild storm beating in his heart, Maddy untied her white sunbonnet, and, taking it in her lap, smoothed back her soft hair, saying, with a long breath: "Oh! I'm so hot," and then, as just thinking of his question, replied: "I shouldn't love him—I couldn't. Grandma is five years younger than grandpa, mother was five years younger than father, Mrs. Green is five years younger than Mr. Green, and, oh! ever so many. You are warm, too; ain't you?" and she turned her innocent eyes full upon the doctor, who was wiping from his lips the great drops of water, induced not so much by the heat as by the apparent hopelessness of the love he now knew was growing in his heart for Maddy Clyde. Recurring again to Agnes, Maddy said: "I wonder why she married that old man? It is worse than if you were to marry Jessie."
"Money and position were the attractions, I imagine," the doctor said. "Agnes was poor, and esteemed it a great honor to be made Mrs. Remington."
"Poor, was she?" Maddy rejoined. "Then maybe Mr. Guy will some day marry a poor girl. Do you think he will?"
Again Lucy Atherstone trembled on the doctor's lips, but he did not speak of her—it was preposterous that Maddy should have any thoughts of Guy Remington, who was quite as old as himself, besides being engaged, and with this comforting assurance the doctor turned his horse in the direction of the cottage, for Maddy was growing tired and needed to be at home.
"Perhaps you'll some time change your mind about people so much older, and if you do you'll remember our talk this morning," he said, as he drove up at last before the gate.
Oh, yes! Maddy would never forget that morning or the nice ride they'd had. She had enjoyed it so much, and she thanked him many times for his kindness, as she stood waiting for him to drive away, feeling no tremor whatever when at parting he took and held her hand, smoothing it gently, and telling her it was growing fat and plump again. He was a very nice doctor, much better than she had imagined, she thought, as she went slowly to the house and entered the neat kitchen, where her grandmother sat shelling peas for dinner, and her grandfather in his leathern chair was whispering over his weekly paper.
"Did you meet a grand lady in a carriage?" grandma asked, as Maddy sat down beside her.
"Yes; and Dr. Holbrook said it was Mrs. Remington, from Aikenside, Mr. Guy's stepmother, and that she was more than twenty years younger than her husband—isn't it dreadful? I thought so; but the doctor didn't seem to," and in a perfectly artless manner Maddy repeated much of the conversation which had passed between the doctor and herself, appealing to her grandma to know if she had not taken the right side of the argument.
"Yes, child, you did," and grandma's hands lingered among the light green peas in her pan, as if she were thinking of an entirely foreign subject. "I knows nothing about this Mrs. Remington, only that she stared a good deal at the house as she went by, even looking at us through a glass, and lifting her spotted veil after she got by. She may have been as happy as a queen with her man, but as a general thing these unequal matches don't work, and had better not be thought on. S'posin' you should think you was in love with somebody, and in a few years, when you got older, be sick of him. It might do him a sight of harm. That's what spoilt your poor Great-uncle Joseph, who's been in the hospital at Worcester goin' on nine years."
"It was!" and Maddy's face was all aglow with the interest she always evinced whenever mention was made of the one great living sorrow of her grandmother's life—the shattered intellect and isolation from the world of her youngest brother, who, as she said, had for nearly nine long years been an inmate of a madhouse.
"Tell me about it," Maddy continued, bringing a pillow, and lying down upon the faded lounge beneath the window.
"There is no great to tell, only he was many years younger than I. He's only forty-one now, and was thirteen years older than the girl he wanted. Joseph was smart and handsome, and a lawyer, and folks said a sight too good for the girl, whose folks were just nothing, but she had a pretty face, and her long curls bewitched him. She couldn't have been older than you when he first saw her, and she was only sixteen when they got engaged. Joseph's life was bound up in her; he worshiped the very air she breathed, and when she mittened him, it almost took his life. He was too old for her, she said, and then right on top of that we heard after a little that she married some big bug, I never knew who, plenty old enough to be her father. That settled it with Joseph; he went into a kind of melancholy, grew worse and worse, till we put him in the hospital, usin' his little property to pay the bill until it was all gone, and now he's on charity, you know, exceptin' what we do. That's what 'tis about your Uncle Joseph, and I warn all young girls of thirteen or fourteen not to think too much of nobody. They are bound to get sick of 'em, and it makes dreadful work."
Grandma had an object in telling this to Maddy, for she was not blind to the nature of the doctor's interest in her child, and though it gratified her pride, she felt that it must not be, both for his sake and Maddy's, so she told the sad story of Uncle Joseph as a warning to Maddy, who could scarcely be said to need it. Still it made an impression on her, and all that afternoon she was thinking of the unfortunate man, whom she had seen but once, and that in his prison home, where she had been with her grandfather the only time she had ever ridden in the cars. He had taken her in his arms then, she remembered, and called her his little Sarah. That must have been the name of his treacherous betrothed. She would ask if it were not so, and she did.
"Yes, Sarah Morris, that was her name, and her face was handsome as a doll," grandma replied, and wondering if she were as beautiful as Jessie, or Jessie's mother, Maddy went back to her reveries of the poor maniac, whom Sarah Morris had wronged so cruelly.
SHADOWINGS OF WHAT WAS TO BE.
It was very pleasant at Aikenside that afternoon, and the cool breeze blowing from the miniature fish pond in one corner of the grounds, came stealing into the handsome parlors, where Agnes Remington, in tasteful toilet, reclined languidly upon the crimson-hued sofa, bending her graceful head to suit the height of Jessie, who was twining some flowers among her curls, and occasionally appealing to Guy to know "if it was not pretty."
In his favorite seat in the pleasant bay window, opening into the garden, Guy was sitting, apparently reading a book, though his eyes did not move very rapidly down the page, for his thoughts were on some other object. When his pretty stepmother first came to Aikenside, three months before, he had been half sorry, for he knew just how his quiet would be disturbed, but as the weeks went by, and he became accustomed to Jessie's childish prattle and frolicsome ways, while even Agnes herself was not a bad picture for his handsome home, he began to feel how he should miss them when they were gone, Jessie particularly, who made so much sunshine wherever she went, and who was very dear to the heart of the half-brother. Full well he knew Agnes would rather stay there, that her income did not warrant as luxurious a home as he could give her, and that by remaining at Aikenside during the warmer season she could afford to board through the winter in Boston, where her personal attractions secured her quite as much attention as was good for her. Had she been more agreeable to him he would not have hesitated to offer her a home as long as she chose to remain, but, as it was, he felt that Lucy Atherstone would be much happier alone with him. Lucy, however, was not coming yet, and until she did come Agnes perhaps might stay. It certainly would be better for Jessie, who could have a teacher in the house, and it was upon these matters that he was reflecting.
As if divining his thoughts Agnes said to him rather abruptly:
"Guy, Ellen Laurie writes me that they are all going to Saratoga for a time, and then to Newport, and she wished I would join them. Do you think I can afford it?"
"Oh, yes, that's splendid, for I'll stay here while you are gone, and I like Aikenside so much better than Boston. Mamma can afford it, can't she, Guy?" Jessie exclaimed, dropping her flowers and springing upon her brother's knee.
Smoothing her bright hair and pinching her soft cheek, Guy replied:
"That means, I suppose, that I can afford it, don't it? but, puss, I was thinking just now about your staying here where you really do improve."
Then turning to Agnes he made some inquiries as to the plans proposed by the Laurie's, ascertaining that Agnes' plan was as follows: He should invite her to go with him to Saratoga, or Newport, or both, and that Jessie meantime should remain at Aikenside, just as she wished to do.
Guy could not find much pleasure in escorting Agnes to a fashionable watering place, particularly as he was, of course, expected to pay the bills, but he sometimes did unselfish things; and as he had not been very gracious to her on the occasion of her last visit to Aikenside, he decided to martyr himself and go to Saratoga. But who would care for Jessie? She must not be left wholly with the servants. A governess of some kind must be provided, and he was about speaking of this to Agnes, when the doctor was announced, and the conversation turned into another channel. Agnes Remington would not have confessed bow much she was interested in Dr. Holbrook. Indeed, only that morning in reply to a joking remark made to her by Guy, she had petulantly exclaimed:
"The idea of my caring for him, except as a friend and physician. Why, he must be younger than I am, or at most about my age. A mere boy, as it were."
And yet, in making her toilet that afternoon, she had arranged every part of her dress with direct reference to the "mere boy," her heart beating faster every time she remembered the white sunbonnet and the Scotch plaid shawl she had seen beside him in the drive that morning. Little Maddy Clyde would hardly have credited the story had she been told that the beautiful lady from Aikenside was positively jealous of Dr. Holbrook's attentions to herself; yet so it was, and the jealousy was all the more bitter when she remembered who Madeline was, and how startled that aged couple of the red cottage would be, could they know who she was. But they did not; she was quite sure of that; and so she had ventured to pass their door, her heart throbbing with a strange sensation as the old waymarks came in view, waymarks which she remembered so well, and around which so many sad memories were clustering. Agnes was not all bad. Indeed, she was scarcely worse than most vain, selfish fashionable women; and all that day, since her return from riding, haunting, remorseful thoughts of the long ago had been clinging to her, making her more anxious to leave that neighborhood for a time at least, and in scenes of gayety forget, if possible, that such things as broken vows or broken hearts existed.
The arrival of the doctor dissipated her sadness in a measure, and after greeting him with her usual expressions of welcome, she said, half playfully, half spitefully:
"By the way, doctor, who was that old lady, all bent up double in shawls and things, whom you were taking out for an airing?"
Guy looked up quickly, wondering where Agnes could have seen the doctor, who, conscious of a sudden pang, answered, naturally:
"That old lady, bent double and bundled in shawls, was young Maddy Clyde, to whom I thought a short ride might do good."
"Oh, yes; that patient about whom Jessie has gone mad. I am glad to have seen her."
There was unmistakable irony in her voice now, and turning from her to Guy, the doctor continued:
"The old man was telling me to-day of your kindness in saving his house from being sold. It was like you, Guy; and I wish I, too, had the means to be generous, for they are so very poor."
"I'll tell you," said Jessie, who had stolen to the doctor's side, and lain her fat, bare arm upon his shoulder, as if he had been Guy. "You might give Maddy the doctor's bill. I remember how mamma cried, and said she never could pay papa's bill when it was sent in."
"Jessie!" said Agnes and Guy, simultaneously, while the doctor laughingly pulled one of her long, bright curls.
"Yes, I could do that. I'd thought of it, but they might not accept it, as they are proud as well as poor."
"Mr. Markham has no one to care for but his wife and this Madeline, has he?" Agnes asked, and the doctor replied:
"I did not suppose so until a few days since, when I learned from a Mr. Green that Mrs. Markham's youngest and now only brother has been an inmate of a lunatic asylum for years; and that though they cannot pay his entire expenses, of course they do all they can toward providing him with comforts."
"What is a lunatic asylum, mother? What does he mean?" Jessie asked, but it was the doctor, not Agnes, who explained to the child what a lunatic asylum was.
"Is insanity hereditary in this family?" Guy asked.
Agnes' cheek was very white, though her face was fumed away as the doctor answered: "I do not know; I did not ask the cause. I only heard the fact that such a man as Joseph Mortimer exists."
For a moment there was silence in the room, and then Guy told the doctor of what himself and Agnes were speaking when he arrived.
"I suppose it's of no use asking you to join us for a week or so."
"There was not," the doctor said. "His patients needed him and he must stay at home."
"Doctor, how would this Maddy Clyde do to stay here with Jessie while we are gone, partly as companion and partly as her teacher?" was Guy's next question, which brought Mrs. Agnes at once from her reverie.
"Guy," she exclaimed, "are you crazy? That child Jessie's governess! No, indeed! I shall have a teacher from Boston—one whose manners and style are unexceptionable."
Guy had a will of his own, and few could provoke it into action as effectually as Agnes, who, in thus opposing him, was working directly against herself. Paying her no attention, except to bow in token that he heard, Guy asked Jessie her opinion.
"Oh, it will be splendid! Can she come to-morrow? I shan't care how long you are gone if I can have Maddy here, and doctor will come up every day, will you, doctor?" and the soft eyes looked up pleadingly into the doctor's face.
"It is not settled yet that Maddy comes," the doctor replied, adding as an answer to Guy's question: "If Agnes could be willing, I do not think you could do better than to secure Miss Clyde's services. Two children will thus be made happy, for Maddy, as I have told you, thinks Aikenside must be a little lower only than Paradise. I shall be happy to open negotiations, if you say so."
"I'll ride down and let you know to-morrow," Guy said. "These domestic matters, where there is a difference of thinking, had better be discussed alone," and he turned good-humoredly toward Agnes, who knew it was useless to oppose him then.
But oppose him she did that night, after the doctor had gone, taking at first the high stand that sooner than have a country girl like Maddy Clyde associated daily with her daughter, whether as teacher or companion, she would give up Saratoga and stay at home. Guy could not explain why it was that opposition from Agnes always aroused all his powers of antagonism. Yet so it was, and now he was as fully determined that Maddy Clyde should come to Aikenside as Agnes was that she should not. He knew, too, how to attain this end without further altercation.
"Very well," was his quiet reply, "you can remain at home if you choose, of course. I had intended taking you myself, wherever you wished to go; and not only that, but I was about to ask how much was needed for the necessary additions to your wardrobe, but if you prefer remaining here to giving up a most unfounded prejudice against a girl who never harmed you, and whom Jessie already loves, you can do so," and Guy walked from the room, leaving Agnes first to cry, then to pout, then to think it all over, and finally to decide that going to Saratoga and Newport under the protection of Guy, was better than carrying out a whim, which, after all, was nothing but a whim.
Accordingly next morning as Guy was in his library reading his papers, she went tripping up to him, and folding her white hands upon his shoulder, said, very prettily:
"I was real cross last night, and let my foolish pride get the ascendency, but I have considered the matter, and am willing for this Miss Clyde to come, provided you still think it best."
Guy's mustache hid the mischievous smile lurking about his mouth, and he received the concession as graciously as if he did not know perfectly the motive which impelled it. As she had commenced being amiable she seemed determined to continue it, and offered herself to write a note soliciting Maddy's services,
"As I am Jessie's mother, it will be perfectly proper for me to hire and manage her," she said, and as Guy acquiesced in this suggestion, she sat down at the writing desk, and commenced a very pleasantly worded note, in which Miss Clyde was informed that she had been recommended as a suitable person with whom to leave Jessie during the summer and a part of the autumn, and that she, Jessie's mother, wrote to ask if for the sum of one dollar per week she were at liberty to come to Aikenside as governess, or waiting-maid.
"Or what?" Guy asked, as she read to him what she had written. "Maddy Clyde will not be waiting-maid in this house, neither will she come for one dollar per week as you propose. I hire her myself. I have taken a fancy to the girl. Commence again; substitute companion for waiting-maid, and offering her three dollars per week instead of one."
As long as Guy paid the bill Agnes could not demur to the price, although remembering a time when she had taught a district school for one dollar per week and boarded around besides. She thought three dollars far too much. But Guy had commanded, and him she generally obeyed, so she wrote another note, which he approved, and sealing it up sent it by a servant down to the red cottage.
The reception of Agnes' note produced quite a commotion at the red cottage, where various opinions were expressed as to the prime mover of the plan, grandpa thinking that as Mrs. Agnes wrote the note, and was most interested in it, she, of course, had suggested it, grandma insisting that it was Jessie's doings, while Maddy, when she said anything, agreed with her grandmother, though away down in her heart was a tiny spot warm with the half belief that Mr. Guy himself had first thought of having her at Aikenside, where she would rather go than to any other spot in the wide world; to Aikenside, with its shaven lawn, almost large enough to be called a park, with its shaded paths and winding walks, its costly flowers and running vines, its fountains and statuary, its fish pond and grove, its airy rooms, its marbled hall, its winding stairs, with banisters of rosewood, its cupola at the top, from which so many miles of hill and meadow land could be discerned, its bay windows and long piazzas, its sweet-faced, golden-haired Jessie, and its manly, noble Guy. Only the image of Agnes, flashing in silk and diamonds was a flaw on the picture's fair surface. From thoughts of her Maddy had insensibly shrank, until she met her in the carriage, and then received the note asking her services. These events wrought in her a change, and dread of Mrs. Agnes passed away. She should like her, and she should be so happy at Aikenside, for, of course, she was going, and she began to wish the doctor would come so as to tell her how long before she would be strong enough to perform the duties of teacher to little Jessie.
At first Grandpa Markham hesitated. It might do Maddy a deal of hurt to go to Aikenside, he said, her humble home would look mean to her after all that finery, while the temptations to vanity and ambition would be greater there than at home; but Maddy put all his objections aside, and long before the doctor came she had written to Mrs. Agnes that she would go. The doctor could not understand why it was that in Maddy's home he did not think as well of her going to Aikenside as he had done the evening previous. She looked so bright, so pure, so artless, sitting by her grandfather's knee, that it seemed a pity to transplant her to another soil, while, hidden in his heart where even he did not know it was hidden, was a fear of what might be the effect of daily intercourse with Guy. Still he said it was the best thing for her to do, and laughingly remarked that it was far better than teaching the district school, and then he asked if she would ride again that day; but to this Mrs. Markham objected. It was too soon, she said, Maddy had hardly recovered from yesterday's fatigue, suggesting that as the doctor was desirous of doing good to his convalescent patients, he carry out poor old deaf Mary Barnes, who complained that he stayed so long with the child at "granther Markham's" as to have but a moment to spare for her.
Instantly the eyes of Mrs. Markham and the doctor met, the latter feeling very uncomfortable, while the former was confirmed in the suspicion raised by what Maddy told her the day before.
It was the doctor who carried Maddy's answer to Agnes, the doctor who made all the succeeding arrangements, deciding that Maddy would not be wholly strong until the very day fixed upon by Agnes for her departure for Saratoga. For this Guy was sorry. It would have been an easy matter for him to have ridden down to the cottage, and seen the girl in whom he was beginning to feel so much interest that in his last letter to Lucy he had mentioned her as about to become his sister's governess; but he did not care to see her there. It seemed to him that the surroundings of that slanting-roofed house did not belong to her, and he would rather meet her in his own more luxurious home. But the doctor's word was law, and so, on the first day of August he followed Agnes and her three huge traveling trunks to the carriage, and was driven from the house to which Maddy was coming that afternoon.
It was a long, tiresome ride, for grandpa, from Honedale to Aikenside, and as he was not in his wife's secret, he accepted thankfully the doctor's offer to take Maddy there himself. With this arrangement Maddy was well pleased, as it would thus afford her the opportunity she had so much desired, of talking with the doctor about his bill, and asking him to wait until she had earned enough to pay it.
To the aged couple, parting for the first time with their darling, the day was very sad, but they would not intrude their grief upon the young girl looking so eagerly forward to the new life opening before her; only grandpa's voice faltered a little when, in the morning prayer, he commended his child to God, asking that she might be kept from temptation, and that the new sights and scenes to which she was going might not beget in her a love of the world's vanities, or a disgust for her old home; but that she might come back to it the same loving, happy child as she was then, and never be ashamed of the parents to whom she was so dear. There was an answering sob from the chair where Maddy knelt, and after the devotions were ended she wound her arm around her grandfather's neck, and parting his silvery locks, said to him, earnestly;
"Grandpa, do you think I could ever be ashamed of you and grandma?"
"I hope not, darling; it would break our hearts; but finery and things is mighty apt to set folks up, and after you've walked a spell on them velvet carpets, you'll no doubt think your feet make a big noise on our bare kitchen floor."
"That may be, but I shan't be ashamed of you. No, not if I were Mrs. Guy Remington herself." And Maddy emphasized her words with a kiss, as she thought how nice it would be provided she were a widow, to be Mrs. Guy Remington, and have her grandparents live at Aikenside with her.
"But, pshaw! I'll never be Mrs. anybody; and if I am, I'll have to have a husband, which would be such a bother!" was her next mental comment, as, leaving her grandfather, she went to help her grandmother with the breakfast dishes, wondering when she would wipe those blue cups again, and how she should probably feel when she did.
Quickly the morning passed, and just as the clock struck two the doctor's buggy appeared over the hill. Up to this moment Maddy had only been happy in anticipation; but when, with her shawl and bonnet on, she stood waiting while the doctor fastened her little trunk, and when she saw a tear on the wrinkled faces of both her grandparents, her fortitude gave way; and 'mid a storm of sobs, she said her good-bys and received her grandfather's blessing.
It was very pleasant that afternoon, for the summer breeze was blowing cool across the fields, where the laborers were busy; and with the elasticity of youth, Maddy's tears stopped their flowing, but not until the dear old home had disappeared, and they were some distance on the road to Aikenside.
"I wonder how I shall like Mrs. Remington and Mr. Guy?" was the first remark she made.
"You'll not see them immediately. They left this morning for Saratoga," the doctor replied.
"Left! Mr. Guy gone!" Maddy repeated in a disappointed tone.
"Are you very sorry?" the doctor asked, and Maddy replied:
"I did want to see him once; you know I never have."
It would be such a surprise to find that Guy was no other than the terrible inspector, that he would not undeceive her, the doctor thought; and so he relapsed into a thoughtful mood, from which Maddy aroused him by breaking the subject of the unpaid bill, asking if he'd please not trouble grandpa, but wait until she could pay it.
"Perhaps it's wrong asking it when you were so good, but if you only will take me for payment," and Maddy's soft brown eyes were lifted to his face.
"Yes, Maddy, I'll take you for payment," the doctor said, smiling, half seriously, as his eyes rested fondly upon her.
Even then stupid Maddy did not understand him, but began to calculate out loud how long it would take to earn the money. She'd heard people say that the doctor charged a dollar a visit to Honedale, and he'd been so many, many times, that it would take a great many weeks to pay him; besides, there was the debt to Mr. Guy. She wanted to help pay that, but did not see how she could, unless he waited, too. Did the doctor think he would? It seemed terrible to the doctor that one so young as Maddy should be harassed with the payment of debts, and he felt a most intense desire for the right to shield her from all such care, but he must not speak of it then; he'd rather she should remain a little longer an artless child, confiding all her troubles to him as if he had been her brother.
"There's Aikenside," he said, at last, and it was not long before they passed through the gate, guarded by the great bronze lions, and struck into the graveled road leading to the house.
"It's grander, finer, than I ever dreamed. Oh! if I could some time have just such a home! and doctor, look! What does make that water go up in the air so? Is it what they call a fountain?"
In her excitement Maddy had risen, and with one hand resting on the doctor's shoulder, was looking around her eagerly. Guy Remington would have laughed, and been gratified, too, could he have heard the enthusiastic praises heaped upon his home by the little schoolgirl as she drove up to his door. But Guy was away in the dusty cars, and only Jessie stood on the piazza to receive her teacher. There were warm words of welcome, kisses and hugs; and then Jessie led her friend to the chamber she was to occupy.
"Mother wanted you to sleep the other side of the house, but Brother Guy said no, you should have a pleasant room; and when Guy says a thing, it's so. It's nice in here, and close to me. See, I'm right here," and Jessie opened a door leading directly to her own sleeping room.
"Here's one trunk," she continued, as a servant brought up and set down, a little contemptuously, the small hair-cloth box containing Maddy's wardrobe. "Here's one; where's the rest?" and she was flying after Tom, when Maddy stopped her, saying:
"I have but one—that's all."
"Only that little, teenty thing? How funny. Why, mamma carried three most as big as my bed to Saratoga. You can't have many dresses. What are you going to wear to dinner?"
"I've been to dinner." And Maddy looked up in some surprise.
"You have! We never have it till five, when Guy is at home; but now they are gone, Mrs. Noah says we will have it at one, as folks ought to do. To-day I coaxed her to wait till you come, and the table is all set out so nicely for two. Can you carve, and do you like green turtle soup?"
Maddy was bewildered, but managed to reply that she could not carve, that she never saw any green turtle soup, and that she supposed she should wear to dinner the delaine she had on. "Why, we always change, even Mrs. Noah," Jessie exclaimed, bending over the open trunk and examining its contents.
Two calicoes, a blue muslin, a gingham and another delaine, beside the one she had on. That was the sum total of Maddy's wardrobe, and Jessie glanced at it a little ruefully as Maddy carefully shook out the nicely folded dresses and laid them upon the bed. Here Mrs. Noah was heard calling Jessie, who ran away leaving Maddy alone for a moment.
Maddy had seen the look Jessie gave her dresses, and for the first time there dawned upon her mind the possibility that her plain apparel, and ignorance of the ways of Aikenside might be to her the cause of much mortification.
"And grandma said they were so nice, too—doing them up so carefully," she said, her lip beginning to quiver, and her eyes filling with tears, as thoughts of home came rushing over her.
She could not force them back, and laying her head upon the top of the despised hair trunk, she sobbed aloud. Guy Remington's private room was in that hall, and as the doctor knew a book was to have been left there for him, he took the liberty of getting it; passing Maddy's door he heard the low sound of weeping, and looking in, saw her where she sat or rather knelt upon the floor.
"Homesick so soon!" he said, advancing to her side, and then amid a torrent of tears, the whole came out.
Maddy never could do as they did there, and everybody would laugh at her so for an awkward thing; she never knew that folks ate dinner at five instead of twelve—she should surely starve to death—she couldn't carve—she could not eat mud-turtle soup, and she did not know which dress to wear for dinner—would the doctor tell her? There they were, and she pointed to the bed, only five, and she knew Jessie thought it so mean.
Such was the substance of Maddy's passionate outpouring of her griefs to the highly perplexed doctor, who, after quieting her somewhat, ascertained that the greatest present trouble was the deciding what dress was suitable to the occasion. The doctor had never made dress his study, but as it happened he liked blue, and so suggested it, as the one most likely to be becoming.
"That!" and Maddy looked confounded. "Why, grandma never let me wear that, except on Sunday; that's my very best dress."
"Poor child; I'm not sure it was right for you to come here where the life is so different from the quiet, unpretentious one you have led," the doctor thought, but he merely said: "It's my impression they wear their best dresses here, all the time."
"But what will I do when that's worn out! Oh, dear, dear, I wish I had not come!" and another impetuous fit of weeping ensued, in the midst of which Jessie came back, greatly disturbed on Maddy's account, and asking eagerly what was the matter.
Very adroitly the doctor managed to draw Jessie aside, while as well as he was able he gave her a few hints with regard to her intercourse with Maddy, and Jessie, who seemed intuitively to understand him, went back to the weeping girl, soothing her much as a little mother would have soothed her child. They would have such nice times, when Maddy got used to their ways, which would not take long, and nobody would laugh at her, she said, when Maddy expressed her fears on that point. "You are too pretty even if you do make mistakes!" and then she went into ecstasies over the blue muslin, which was becoming to Maddy, and greatly enhanced her girlish beauty. The tear stains were all washed away, Jessie using very freely her mother's eau-de-cologne, and making Maddy's cheeks very red with rubbing, the nut-brown hair was brushed until it shone like satin, a little narrow band of black velvet ribbon was pinned about Maddy's snowy neck, and then she was ready for that terrible ordeal, her first dinner at Aikenside. The doctor was going to stay, and this helped to relieve her somewhat.
"You must come to the housekeeper's room and see her first," Jessie said, and with a beating heart and brain bewildered by the elegancies which met her at every turn, Maddy followed to where the dreaded Mrs. Noah, in rustling back silk and a thread lace collar, sat sewing and greatly enjoying the leisure she had in her master's absence.
Mrs. Noah knew who Maddy was, remembering the old man said that she would not disgrace a drawing-room as fine as that at Aikenside. She had discovered, too, that Mrs. Agnes was opposed to her coming, that only Guy's determined will had brought her there; and this, if nothing else, had disposed her to feel kindly toward the little governess. She had expected to see her rather pretty, but was not prepared to find her what she was. Maddy's was a singular type of beauty—a beauty untarnished by any selfish, uncharitable, or suspicious feeling. Clear and truthful as a mirror, her brown eyes looked into Mrs. Noah's, while her low courtesy—so full of deference, found its way straight to that motherly heart.
"I am glad to see you, Miss Clyde," she said, "very glad."
Maddy's lip quivered a little and her voice shook as she replied:
"Please call me Maddy. They do at home, and I shan't be quite so—so—"
She could not say "homesick," lest she should break out again into a fit of crying, but Mrs. Noah understood her, and remembering her own experience when first she went from home, she involuntarily stooped to kiss the pure, white forehead of the girl, who henceforth was sure of one friend at least at Aikenside.
The dinner was a success, so far as Maddy was concerned. Not a single mistake did she perpetrate, though her cheeks burned painfully as she felt the eyes of the polite waiters fixed so often upon her, and fancied they might be laughing at her. But they were not, and thanks to the kind-hearted Guy, they thought of her only with respect, as one who was their superior and must be treated accordingly. Knowing how different everything was at Aikenside from that to which she had been accustomed, Guy, with the thoughtfulness natural to him, had taken the precaution of speaking to each of the servants concerning Miss Clyde, Jessie's teacher. As he could not be there himself when she first came it would devolve upon them, more or less, to make it pleasant for her by kind, civil attentions, he said, hinting at the dire displeasure sure to fall on any one who should be guilty of a misdemeanor in that direction. To Paul, the coachman, he had been particular in his charges, telling him who Maddy was, and arguing that from the insolence once given to the grandfather the offender was bound to be more polite to the grandchild. The carriage was to be at hers and Jessie's command, Paul never refusing a reasonable request to drive the young ladies when and where they wished to go, while a pretty little black pony, recently broken to the saddle for Agnes, was to be at Miss Clyde's service, if she chose to have it. As Guy's slightest wish was always obeyed, Maddy's chances for happiness were not small, notwithstanding that she felt so desolate and lonely when the doctor left her, and standing by Jessie she watched him with a swelling heart until he was lost to view in the deepening twilight.
Feeling that she must be homesick, Mrs. Noah suggested that she try the fine piano in the little music-room.
"Maybe you can't play, but you can drum 'Days of Absence,' as most girls do," and opening the lid she bade Maddy "thump as long as she liked."
Music was a delight to Maddy, who coveted nothing so much as a knowledge of it, and sitting down upon the stool, she touched the soft-toned instrument, ascertaining by her far several sweet chords, and greatly astonishing Jessie, who wondered at her skill. Twice each week a teacher came up from Devonshire to give lessons to Jessie, but as yet she could only play one scale and a few simple bars. These she attempted to teach to Maddy, who caught at them so quickly and executed them so well that Jessie was delighted. Maddy ought to take lessons, she said, and some time during the next day she took to Mrs. Noah a letter which she had written to Guy. After going into ecstasies over Maddy, saying she was the nicest kind of a girl, that she prayed in the morning as well as at night, and looked so sweet in blue, she asked if she couldn't take music lessons, too, advancing many reasons why she should, one of which was that she could play now a great deal better than herself.
It was several days before an answer came to this letter, and when it did it brought Guy's consent for Maddy to take lessons, together with a note for Mr. Simons, requesting him to consider Miss Clyde his pupil, on the same terms with Jessie.
Though greatly pleased with Aikenside, and greatly attached to Jessie, Maddy had had many hours of loneliness when her heart was back in the humble cottage where she knew they were missing her so much, but now a new world, a world of music, was suddenly opened before her, and the homesickness all disappeared. It had been arranged with Mrs. Noah, by Agnes, that Jessie should only study for two hours each day, consequently Maddy had nearly all the time to herself, and well did she improve it, making so rapid progress that Simons looked on amazed declaring her case to be without a parallel, while Jessie was left far behind. Indeed, after a short time Maddy might have been her teacher, and was of much service to her in practicing her lessons.
Meanwhile the doctor came often to Aikenside, praising Maddy's progress in music, and though he did not know a single note, compelling himself to listen while with childlike satisfaction she played him her last lesson. She was very happy now at Aikenside, where all were so kind to her, and half wished that the family would always remain as it was then, that Agnes and Guy would not come home, for with their coming she felt there would be a change. It was nearly time now to expect them. Indeed, Guy had written on one Saturday that they should probably be home the next, and during the ensuing week Aikenside presented that most uncomfortable phase of a house being cleaned. Everything must be in order for Mr. Guy, Mrs. Noah said, taking more pains with his rooms than with the remaining portion of the building. Guy was her idol; nothing was too good for him, few things quite good enough, and she said so much in his praise that Maddy began to shrink from meeting him. What would he think of her? Perhaps he might not notice her in the least, and that would be terrible. But, no, a man as kind as he had shown himself to her, would at least pay her some attention, and so at last she began to anticipate his coming home, wondering what their first meeting would be, what she should say to him, and what he would think of her.
GUY AT HOME.
Saturday came at last, a balmy September day, when all nature seemed conspiring to welcome the travelers for whom so extensive preparations were making at Aikenside. They were expected at about six in the afternoon, and just before that hour the doctor rode up to be in readiness to meet them. In the dining-room the table was set as Maddy had never seen it set before, making, with its silver, its china, and cut-glass, a glittering display. There was Guy's seat as carver, with Agnes at the urn, while Maddy felt sure that the two plates between Agnes and Guy were intended for Jessie and herself, the doctor occupying the other side. Jessie would sit next her mother, which would leave her near to Guy, where he could see every movement she made. Would he think her awkward, or would he, as she hoped, be so much absorbed with the doctor as not to notice her? Suppose she should drop her fork, or upset one of those queer-looking goblets, more like bowls than anything else? It would be terrible, and Maddy's cheeks tingled at the very thought of such a catastrophe. Were they goblets really, those funny colored things, and if they were not, what were they? Summoning all her courage, she asked the doctor, her prime counselor, and learned that they were the finger-glasses, of which she had read, but which she had never seen before.
"Oh, must I use them?" she asked, in so evident distress that the doctor could not forbear a laugh as he told her it was not of the slightest consequence whether she used them or not, advising her to watch Mrs. Agnes, who was au fait in all such matters.
Six o'clock came, but no travelers. Then an hour went by, and there came a telegram that the cars had broken down and would not probably arrive until late in the night, if indeed they did till morning. Greatly disappointed, the doctor, after dinner, took his leave, telling the girls they had better not sit up. Consequently, at a late hour they both retired, sleeping so soundly as not to near the noise outside the house; the banging of doors, the setting down of trunks, the tramp of feet, Mrs. Noah's words of welcome, one pleasant voice which responded, and another more impatient one which sounded as if its owner were tired and cross.
Agnes and Guy had come. As a whole, Agnes' season at Saratoga had been rather disagreeable. Guy, it is true had been exceedingly kind. She had been flattered by brainless fops. She had heard herself called "that beautiful Mrs. Remington," and "that charming young widow," but no serious attentions had been paid, no millionaire had asked to be her second husband. If there had, she would have said yes, for Agnes was not averse to changing her state of widowhood. She liked the doctor, but if he did not propose, and some other body did, she should accept that other body, of course. This was her intention when she left Aikenside, and when she came back, it was with the determination to raise the siege at once, and compel the doctor to surrender. She knew he was not wealthy as she could wish, but his family were the Holbrooks, and as she positively liked him, she was prepared to waive the matter of money. In this state of mind it is not surprising that the morning of the return home she should listen with a troubled mind to Jessie's rather exaggerated account of the number of times the doctor had been there, and the nice things he had said to her and Maddy.
"He had visited them ever so much, staying ever so long. I know Maddy likes him; I do, anyway," Jessie said, never dreaming of the passion she was exciting, jealousy of Maddy, hatred of Maddy, and a desire to be revenged on a girl whom Dr. Holbrook visited "ever so much."
What was she that he should care for her? A mere nothing—a child, whom Guy had taken up. Pity there was a Lucy Atherstone in the way of his making her mistress of Aikenside. It would be a pretty romance, Guy Remington and Grandpa Markham's grandchild. Agnes was nervous and tired, and this helped to increase her anger toward the innocent girl. She would take immediate measures, she thought, to put the upstart down, and the sight of Flora laying the cloth for breakfast suggested to her the first step in teaching Maddy her place.
"Flora," she said, "I notice you are arranging the table for four. Have we company?"
"Why, no, ma'am; there's Mr. Guy, yourself, Miss Jessie, and Miss Clyde," was Flora's reply, while Agnes continued haughtily: "Remove Miss Clyde's plate. No one allows their governess to eat with them."
"But, ma'am," and Flora hesitated, "she's very pretty, and ladylike, and young; she has always eaten with Miss Jessie and Dr. Holbrook when he was here. He treats her as if she was good as anybody."
In her eagerness to serve Maddy and save her from insult, Flora was growing bold, but she only hurt the cause by mentioning the doctor. Agnes was determined now, and she replied:
"It was quite right when we were gone, but it is different now, and Mr. Remington, I am sure, will not suffer it."
"Might I ask him?" Flora persisted, her hand still on the plate.
"No," Agnes would attend to that, and also see Miss Clyde. All Flora had to do was to remove the plate, which she finally did, muttering to herself: "Such airs! but I know Mr. Guy won't stand it."
Meantime Maddy had put on her prettiest delaine, tied her little dainty black silk apron, Mrs. Noah's gift, and with the feeling that she was looking unusually well, started for the parlor to meet her employer, Mrs. Agnes. Jessie had gone in quest of her brother, and thus Agnes was alone when Maddy Clyde first presented herself before her. She had not expected to find Maddy so pretty, and for a moment the hot blood crimsoned her cheek, while her heart throbbed wildly beneath the rich morning dress. Dr. Holbrook had cause for being attracted by that fresh, bright face, she thought, and so she steeled herself against the better impulses of her nature, impulses which pleaded that for the sake of the past she should be kind to Maddy Clyde.
"Ah, good-morning. You are Jessie's governess, I presume," she said, bowing distantly, and pretending not to notice the hand which Maddy involuntarily extended toward her. "Jessie speaks well of you, and I am very glad you suit her. You have had a pleasant time, I trust?"
Her voice was so cold and her manner so distant that Maddy's eyes for an instant filled with tears, but she answered civilly that she had been very happy, and everybody was very kind. It was harder work to put down Maddy Clyde than Agnes had expected, and after a little further conversation there ensued a silence, which neither was inclined to break. At last, summoning all her courage, Agnes began:
"Excuse me, Miss Clyde, but your own good sense, of which I am sure you have an abundance, must tell you that now Mr. Remington and myself are at home, your intercourse with our family must be rather limited—that is—ahem—that is, neither Mr. Remington nor myself are accustomed to having our governess very much with us. I suppose you have had the range of the parlors, sitting there when you liked, and all this was perfectly proper. Mind, I am finding no fault with you. It is all quite right," she continued, as she saw the strange look of terror and surprise visible on Maddy's face. "The past is right, but in future it will be a little different, I am willing to accord to a governess all the privileges possible. They are human as well as myself, but society makes a difference. Don't you know it does?"
"Yes—no—I don't know. Oh, pray tell me what I am to do!" Maddy gasped, her face as white as ashes, and her eyes wearing as yet only a scared, uncertain look.
With little, graceful tosses of the head, which set in motion every one of the brown curls, Mrs. Agnes replied:
"You are not, of course, to go to Mr. Remington. It is my matter, and does not concern him. What I wish is this: You are to come to the parlor only when invited, and are not to intrude upon us at any time, particularly when company is here, such as—well, such as Dr. Holbrook, if you please. As you cannot be with Jessie all the while, you will, when your labors as governess are over, sit in your own room, or the schoolroom, or walk in the back yard, just as the higher servants do—such as Mrs. Noah and the sewing girl, Sarah. Occasionally we shall have you in to dine with us, but usually you will take your meals with Mrs. Noah and Sarah. By following these directions you will, I think, give entire satisfaction."
When Mrs. Agnes had finished this, Maddy began to understand her position, and into her white face the hot blood poured indignantly. Wholly inexperienced, she had never dreamed that a governess was not worthy to sit at the same table with her employer, that she must never enter the parlors unbidden, or intrude herself in any way. No wonder that her cheeks burned at the degradation, or that, for an instant, she felt like defying the proud woman to her face. But the angry words trembling on her tongue were repressed as she remembered her grandfather's teachings; and with a bow as haughty as any Mrs. Agnes could have made, and a look on her face which could not easily be forgotten, she left the room, and in a kind of stunned bewilderment sought the garden, where she could, unseen, give way to her feelings.
Once alone, the torrent burst forth, and burying her face in the soft grass, she wept bitterly, never hearing the step coming near, and not at first heeding the voice which asked what was the matter. Guy Remington, too, had come out into the garden, accidentally wandering that way, and so stumbling upon the little figure crying in the grass. He knew it was Maddy, and greatly surprised to find her thus, asked what was the matter. Then, as she did not hear him, he laid his hand gently upon her shoulder, compelling her to look up. In all her imaginings of Guy, she had never associated him with the man who had so puzzled and confused her, and now she did not for a time suspect the truth. She only thought him a guest at Aikenside; some one come with Guy, and her degradation seemed greater than before. She was not surprised when he called her by name; of course he remembered her, just as she did him; but she did wonder a little what Mrs. Agnes would say, could she know how kindly he spoke to her, lifting her from the grass and leading her to a rustic seat at no great distance from them.
"Now, tell me why you are crying so?" he said, brushing from her silk apron the spot of dirt which had settled upon it. "Are you homesick?" he continued, and then Maddy burst out again.
She forgot that he was a stranger, forgot everything except that he sympathized with her.
"Oh, sir," she sobbed, "I was so happy here till they came home, Mrs. Remington and Mr. Guy. I never thought it was a disgrace to be a governess; never heard it was so considered, or that I was not good enough to eat with them till she told me this. Oh, dear, dear!" and choked with tears Maddy stopped a moment to take breath.
She did not look up at the young man beside her, and it was well she did not, for the dark expression of his face would have frightened her. Half guessing the truth, and impatient to hear more, he said to her:
"Go on," so sternly, that she started, and replied:
"I know you are angry with me and I ought not to have told you."
"I am not angry—not at you at least—go on," was Guy's reply, and Maddy continued:
"She told me that now they had come home it would be different, that only when invited must I come to the parlor, or anywhere, but must stay in the servants' part, and eat with Mrs. Noah and Sarah. I'd just as soon do that. I am no better than they, only, only—the way she told me made me feel so mean, as if I was not anybody, when I am," and here Maddy's pride began to rise. "I'm just as good as she, if grandpa is poor, and I won't stay here to be treated like a nigger by her and Mr. Guy. I liked him so much too, because he was kind to grandpa and to me when I was sick. Yes, I did like him so much."
"And how is it now?" Guy asked, wondering who in the world she thought he was. "How is it now?"
"I s'pose it's wicked to feel such things on Sunday, but, somehow, what she said keeps making me so bad that I know I hate her, and I guess I hate Mr. Guy!"
This was Maddy's answer, spoken deliberately, while she looked up at the young man, who, with a comical expression about his mouth, answered back:
"I am Mr. Guy." "You, you! Oh, I can't bear it! I will die!" and Maddy sprang up as quickly as if feeling an electric shock.
But Guy's arm was interposed to stop her, and Guy's arm held her back, while he asked where she was going.
"Anywhere, out of sight where you can never see me again," Maddy sobbed vehemently. "It is bad enough to have you think me a fool, as you must; but now, oh what do you think of me?"
"Nothing bad, I assure you," Guy said, still holding her wrist to keep her there. "I supposed you knew who I was, but as you did not, I forgive you for hating me so cordially. If you thought I sanctioned what Mrs. Remington has said to you, you had cause to dislike me, but Miss Clyde, I do not, and this is the first intimation I have had that you were to be treated other than as a lady. I am master of Aikenside, not Mrs. Agnes, who shall be made to understand it."
"Oh, please don't quarrel about me. Let me go home, and then all will be well," Maddy cried, feeling, at that moment, more averse to leaving Aikenside than she could have thought it possible.
"We shall not quarrel, but I shall have my way; meanwhile go to your room and stay there until told that I have sent for you."
They went to the house together, but separated in the hall; Maddy repairing to her room, while Guy sought Mrs. Agnes. The moment she saw his face she knew a storm was coming, but was not prepared for the biting sarcasm and bitter reproaches heaped upon her by one who, when roused, was a perfect hurricane.
Maybe she had forgotten what she was when his father married her, he said, but he had not, and he remembered well the wonder expressed by many that his father should stoop to marry a poor school teacher. "Yes, that's what you were, madam, much as you despise Maddy Clyde for being a governess; you were one once yourself, and before that time mercy knows what you were—a hired girl, perhaps—your present airs would seem to warrant as much!"
Guy was in a sad passion by this time, and failed to note the effect his last words had on Agnes, who turned livid with rage and terror; but smothering down her wrath, she said beseechingly:
"Pray, Guy, do not be so angry; I know I am foolish about some things, and proud people who 'come up' as you say always are, I guess; I know that marrying your father made me what I am, but everybody does not know it, and it is not necessary they should. I don't remember exactly what I did say to this Clyde girl, but I thought it would be pleasanter for you, pleasanter for us all, not to have her always around; it seems she has presided at the table when Dr. Holbrook was here to tea, and even you can't think that quite right."
"I don't know why," and at mention of Dr. Holbrook Guy's temper burst out again. "Agnes, you can't deceive me; I know the secret of your abominable treatment of Maddy Clyde is jealousy."
"Guy—jealous, I jealous of that child;" and Agnes' voice was expressive of the utmost consternation.
"Yes, jealous of that child; you think that because the doctor has been kind to her, perhaps he wants her some time for his wife. I hope he does; I mean to help it on; I'll tell him to have her, and if he don't I'll almost marry her myself!" and Guy paced up and down the parlor, chafing and foaming like a young lion.
Agnes was conquered, and quite as much bewildered as Maddy had been; she heard only in part how Maddy Clyde was henceforth to be treated.
"Yes, yes," she gasped at last, as Guy talked on, "stop now, for mercy's sake, and I'll do anything, only not this morning, my head aches so I cannot go to the breakfast table; I must be excused," and holding her temples, which were throbbing with pain, induced by strong excitement, Agnes hurried to her own room and threw herself upon the bed, angry, mortified and subdued.
The breakfast bell had rung twice while Guy was holding that interview with Agnes, and at last Mrs. Noah came up herself to learn the cause of the delay; standing in the hall she heard a part of what was transpiring in the parlor. Mrs. Noah was proud and jealous of her master's dignity, and once or twice the thought had crossed her mind that perhaps when he came home Maddy would be treated more as some governesses were treated by their employers, but to have Agnes take the matter up was quite a different thing, and Mrs. Noah smiled with grim satisfaction, as she heard Guy issuing orders as to how Miss Clyde should be treated. Standing back to let Agnes pass, she waited a moment, and then, as if she had just come up, presented herself before Guy, asking if he were ready for breakfast.
"Yes, call Miss Clyde; tell her I sent for her," was Guy's answer, and forthwith Mrs. Noah repaired to Maddy's room, finding her still sobbing bitterly.
"I cannot go down," she said; "my face is all stains, and it's so dreadful, happening on Sunday, too. What would grandpa say?"
"You can wash off the stains. Come," Mrs. Noah said, pouring water into the bowl, and bidding Maddy hurry, "as Mr. Guy was waiting breakfast for her."
"But I am not to eat with them," Maddy began, when Mrs. Noah stopped her by explaining how Guy ruled that house, and Agnes had been completely routed.
This did not quiet Maddy particularly, and her heart beat painfully as she descended to the parlor, where Guy was still walking up and down.
"Come, Miss Clyde, Jessie is nearly famished," he said pleasantly, as Maddy appeared, and without the slightest reference to what had passed he drew Maddy's arm within his own, and giving a hand to Jessie, who had just come in, he went to the breakfast room, where Maddy was told to preside.
Guy watched her closely without seeming to do so, mentally deciding that she was neither vulgar nor awkward. On the contrary, he thought her very pretty, and very graceful for one so unaccustomed to society. Nothing was said of Agnes, who kept her room the entire day, and did not join the family until evening, when Guy sat upon the piazza with Jessie in his lap, while Maddy was not very far away. At first there was much constraint between Agnes and Maddy, but with Guy to manage, it soon wore away, and Agnes felt herself exceedingly amiable when she reflected how gracious she had been to her rival.
But Maddy could not so soon forget. All through the day the conviction had been settling upon her that she could not stay at Aikenside, and so on the following morning, just after breakfast was over, she summoned courage to ask Mr. Guy if she might talk with film. Leading the way to his library, he bade her sit down, while he took the chair opposite, and then waited for her to commence.
Maddy was afraid of Guy. He did not seem quite like Dr. Holbrook. He was haughtier in his appearance, while his rather elaborate style of dress and polished manners gave him, in her estimation, a kind of superiority over all the men she had ever met. Besides that, she remembered how his dark eyes had flashed when she told him what she did the previous day, and also that she had said to his face that she hated him. She could not bear to leave a bad impression on his mind, so the first words she said to him were:
"Mr. Remington, I can't stay here after all that has happened. It would not be pleasant for me or Mrs. Agnes, so I am going home, but I want you to forget what I said about hating you yesterday. I did not then know who you were. I don't hate you. I like you, and I want you to like me."
She did not look at him, for her eyelids were cast down, and her lashes were wet with the tears she could scarcely keep from shedding. Guy had never known much about girls of Maddy's age, and there was something extremely fascinating in the artless simplicity of this half child, half woman, sitting there before him, and asking him so demurely to like her. She was very pretty, he thought, and with proper culture would make a beautiful woman. Then, as he remembered his avowed intention of urging the doctor to make her his wife some day, the idea flashed upon him that it would be very generous, very magnanimous in him to educate that young girl expressly for the doctor, and though he hardly seemed to wait at all ere replying to Maddy, he had in the brief interval formed a skeleton plan, and saw it in all its bearings and triumphal result.