"I am much obliged for your liking me," he said, a very little mischievously. "You surely have not much reason so to do when you recall the incidents of our first interview. Maddy—Miss Clyde—I have come to the conclusion that I knew less than you did, and I beg your pardon for annoying you so terribly."
Then briefly Guy explained to her how it all had happened, blaming himself far more than he did the doctor, who, he said, had repented bitterly. "Had you died, Miss Clyde, when you were so sick, I half believe he would have felt it his duty to die also. He likes you very much; more indeed than any patient I ever knew him to have," and Guy's eyes glanced curiously at Maddy to witness the effect his words might have upon her. But Maddy merely answered:
"Yes, I think he does like me, and I know I like him."
Mentally chastising himself for trying to find in Maddy's head an idea which evidently never was there, he began to speak of her proposition of leave, saying he should not suffer it, Jessie needed her and she must stay. She was not to mind the disagreeable things Mrs. Remington had said. She was tired and nervous, and so gave way to some very preposterous notions, which she had picked up somewhere. She would treat Maddy better hereafter, and she must stay. It was pleasanter for Jessie to have a companion so near her own age. Then, as he saw signs of yielding in Maddy's face, he continued:
"How would you like to turn scholar for a short time each day, I being your teacher? Time often hangs heavily upon my hands, and I fancy the novelty of the thing would suit me. I have books. I will appoint your lessons and the hour for recitation."
Guy's face was scarlet by the time he finished speaking, for suddenly he remembered to have heard or read of a similar instance which resulted in the marriage of the teacher and pupil; besides that it would subject him to so much remark, when it was known that he, the fashionable and fastidious Guy, was teaching a pretty, attractive girl like Maddy Clyde, and he sincerely hoped she would decline. But Maddy had no such intention. Always in earnest herself, she supposed every one else meant what they said, and without ever suspecting the peculiar position in which such a proceeding would place both herself and Guy, her heart leaped up at the idea of knowing what was in the books she had never dared hope she might study. With her beautiful eyes full of tears, which shone like diamonds, as she lifted them to Guy's face, she said:
"Oh, I thank you so much. You could not make me happier, and I'll try so hard to learn. They don't teach such things at the district school; and when there was a high school in Honedale I could not go, for it was three dollars a quarter, and grandpa had no three dollars for me. Uncle Joseph needed help, and so I stayed at home. It's dreadful to be poor, but, perhaps, I shall some time be competent to teach in a seminary, and won't that be grand? When may I begin?"
Guy had never met with so much frankness and simplicity in any one, unless it were in Lucy Atherstone, of whom Maddy reminded him somewhat, except that the latter was more practical, more—he hardly knew what—only there was a difference, and a thought crossed his mind that if Maddy had had all Lucy's advantages, and was as old, she would be what the world calls smarter. There was no disparagement to Lucy in his thoughts, only a compliment to Maddy, who was waiting for him to answer her question. There was no retracting now; he had offered his services; she had accepted; and with a mental comment: "I dread Doc's fun the most, so I'll explain to him how I am educating her for the future Mrs. Dr. Holbrook," he replied:
"As soon as I am rested from my journey, or sooner, if you like; and now tell me, please, who is this Uncle Joseph of whom you speak?"
He remembered what the doctor had said of a crazy uncle, but wishing to hear Maddy's version of it, put to her the question he did.
"Uncle Joseph is grandma's youngest brother," Maddy answered, "and he has been in the lunatic asylum for years. As long as his little property lasted, his bills were paid, but now they keep him from charity, only grandpa helps all he can, and buys some little nice things which he wants so badly, and sometimes cries for, they say. I picked berries all last summer, and sold to buy him a thin coat and pants. We should have more to spend than we do, if it were not for Uncle Joseph," and Maddy's face wore a thoughtful expression as she recalled all the shifts and turns she'd seen made at home that the poor maniac might be more comfortable.
"What made him crazy?" Guy asked, and after a moment's hesitancy Maddy replied: "I don't believe grandma would mind my telling you, though she don't talk about it much. I only knew it a little while ago. He was disappointed once. He loved a girl very much, and she made him think that she loved him. She was many years younger than Uncle Joseph—about my age at first, and when she grew up she said she was sick of him, because he was so much older. He wouldn't have felt so badly, if she had not gone straight off and married a rich man who was a great deal older even than Uncle Joseph; that was the hardest part, and he grew crazy at once. It has been so long that he never can be helped, and sometimes grandma talks of bringing him home, as he is perfectly harmless. I suppose it's wicked, but I most hope she won't, for it would be terrible to live with a crazy man," and a chill crept over Maddy, as if there had fallen upon her a foreshadowing of what might yet be. "Mr. Remington," she continued suddenly, "if you teach me, I can't, of course, expect three dollars a week. It would not be right."
"Perfectly right," he answered. "Your services to Jessie will be worth just as much as ever, so give yourself no trouble on that score."
He was the best man that ever lived, Maddy thought, and so she told the doctor that afternoon when, as he rode up to Aikenside, she met him out on the lawn before he reached the house.
It did strike the doctor a little comically that one of Guy's habits should offer to turn school teacher, but Maddy was so glad, that he was glad too, and doubly glad that across the sea there was a Lucy Atherstone. How he wished that she was there now as Mrs. Guy, and he must tell Guy so that very day. Seated in Guy's library, the opportunity soon occurred, Guy approaching the subject himself by saying:
"Guess, Hal, what crazy project I have just embarked in."
"I know without guessing; Maddy told me," and the doctor's eyebrows were elevated just a little as he crossed his feet upon the window sill and moved his chair so as to have a better view of Maddy and Jessie romping in the grass.
"And so you don't approve?" was Guy's next remark, to which the doctor replied:
"Why, yes; it's a grand thing for her, providing you know enough to teach her; but, Guy, this is a confounded gossiping neighborhood, and folks will talk, I'm afraid."
"Talk about what!" and Guy bridled up as his independent spirit began to rise, "What harm is there in my doing a generous act to a poor girl like Maddy Clyde? Isn't she graceful as a kitten, though?" and Guy nodded toward the spot where she was playing.
It annoyed the doctor to have Guy praise Maddy, but he would not show it, and answered calmly:
"It's all right in you, but just because the poor girl is Maddy Clyde, folks will talk. She is too handsome, Guy, for Madam Grundy to let alone. If Lucy were only here, it would be different. Why, in the name of wonder, are you two not married, if you are ever going to be?"
"Jealous, as I live!" and Guy's hand came down playfully on the doctor's shoulder. "I did not suppose you had got as far as that. You are afraid of the effect it may have on me teaching a sweet-faced little girl how to conjugate amo; and to cover up your own interest, you bring Lucy forward as an argument. Eh, Hal, have I not probed the secret?"
The doctor was in no mood for joking, and only smiled gloomily, while Guy continued:
"Honestly, doctor, I am doing it for you. I imagine you fancy her, as well you may. She'll make a splend'd woman, but she needs educating, of course, and I am going to do it. You ought to thank me, instead of looking so like a thundercloud," and Guy laughed merrily.
The doctor was ashamed of his mood, and could not tell what spirit prompted him to answer:
"I am obliged to you, Guy; but as far as I am concerned, you may spare yourself the trouble. If my wife needs educating, I can do it myself."
Guy was puzzled. Could it be that, after all, he was deceived, and the doctor did not care for Maddy? It might be, and he hastened to change the conversation to another topic than Maddy Clyde. The doctor stayed to dinner, and as Guy watched him closely, he made up his mind that he did care for Maddy Clyde, and this confirmed him in his plan of educating her for him.
Magnanimous Guy! He felt himself very good, very generous, very condescending, and very forgiving, the early portion of the afternoon; but later in the day he began to view Guy Remington in the light of a martyr, said martyrdom consisting in the scornful toss of the head with which Agnes had listened to his plan, and the open opposition of Mrs. Noah.
"Was he beside himself, or what?" this worthy asked. "She liked Maddy Clyde, to be sure, but it wasn't for him to demean himself by turning her school master. Folks would talk awfully, and she couldn't blame 'em; besides, what would Lucy say to his bein' alone in a room with a girl as pretty as Maddy? It was a duty he owed her at any rate to tell her all about it, and if she said 'twas right, why, go it."
This was the drift of Mrs. Noah's remarks, and as Guy depended much on her judgment, he decided to write to Lucy to see if she had the slightest objections to his teaching Maddy Clyde. Accordingly he wrote that very night, telling her frankly all he knew concerning Maddy Clyde, and narrating the circumstances under which he first had met her, being careful also to repeat what he knew would have weight with an English girl like Lucy, to wit, that though poor, Maddy's father and grandfather Clyde had been gentlemen, the one a clergyman, the other a sea captain. Then he told of her desire for learning, and his plan to teach her himself, of what the doctor and Mrs. Noah said about it, and his final determination to consult her. Then he described Maddy herself, feeling a strange thrill as he told how pure, how innocent, how artless and beautiful she was, and asked if Lucy feared aught from his association with her.
"If you do," he wrote, "you have but to say so, and though I am committed, I will extricate myself in some way rather than wound you in the slightest degree."
It would be some time ere an answer to this letter could be received, and until such time Guy could not honorably hear Maddy's lessons as he had agreed to do. But Maddy was not suspicious, and accepting his trivial excuse, waited patiently, while he, too, waited for the letter, wondering what it would contain.
A GENEROUS LETTER.
At last the answer came, and it was Maddy who brought it to Guy. She had been home that day, and on her return had ridden by the office as Guy had requested her to do. She saw the letter bore a foreign postmark, also that it was in the delicate handwriting of some female, but the sight did not affect her in the least. Maddy's heart was far too heavy that day to care for a trifle, and so placing the letter carefully in her basket she kept on to Aikenside.
The letter was decidedly Lucy-ish in all that pertained to her "dearest darling," her "precious Guy," but when she came to Maddy Clyde, her true, womanly nature spoke; and Guy, while reading it, felt how good she was. Of course he might teach Maddy Clyde all he wished to teach her, and it made Lucy love him better to know that he was willing to do such things. She wished she was there to help him; they would open a school for all the poor, but she did not know when mamma would let her come. That pain in her side was not any better, and her cough had come earlier this season than last. The physician had advised a winter in Naples, and they were going before very long. It would be pleasant there, no doubt, only she should be farther away from her boy Guy, but she would think of him, oh, so often, teaching that dear little Maddy Clyde, and she would pray for him, too, just as she always did. Then followed a few more lines sacred to the lover's eye, lines which told how pure was the love which sweet Lucy Atherstone bore for Guy Remington, who, as he read, felt his heart beat with a throb of pain, for Lucy spoke to him now for the first time of what might possibly be.
"I've dreamed about it nights," she said. "I've thought about it days, and tried so hard to be reconciled; to feel that if God will have it so, I am willing to die before you have ever called me your little wife, or I have ever called you husband. Heaven is better than earth, I know, and I am sure of going there, I think, but oh, dear Guy, a life with you looks so very sweet, that sometimes your little Lucy shrinks from the dark grave, which would hide her forever from you. Guy, you once said you never prayed, and it made me feel so badly, but you will, when you get this, won't you? You will ask God to make me well, and may be He will hear you. Do, Guy, please do pray for your Lucy, far away over the sea."
Guy could not resist that touching appeal, "to pray for his little Lucy," and though his lips were all unused to prayer, bowing his head upon his hands he did ask that she might live, beseeching the Father to send upon him any calamity save this one—Lucy must be spared. Guy felt better for having prayed, it was something to tell Lucy, something that would please her well, and though his heart yet was very sad, a part of the load was lifted, and he could think of Lucy now without the bitter pain her letter first had cost him. Was there nothing that would save her, nobody who could cure her? Her disease was not hereditary; surely it might be made to yield; had English physicians no skill, would not an American do better? It was possible, and if that mother of Lucy's would let her come where doctors knew something, she might get well; but she wouldn't; she was determined that no husband should be burdened with an ailing wife, and so if the mountain would not come to Mahomet, why, Mahomet must go to the mountain, and Guy fairly leaped from his chair as he exclaimed: "I have it—Doc!—he's the most skillful man I ever knew; I'll send him to England; send him to the Atherstones; he shall go to Naples with them as their family physician; he can cure Lucy; I'll speak to him the very next time he comes here;" and with another burden lifted from his mind, Guy began to wonder where Maddy was, and why that day had been so long.
He knew she had returned, for Flora had said she brought the letter, and he was about going out, in hopes of finding her and Jessie, when he heard her in the hall, as she answered some question of Mrs. Noah's; stepping to the door, he asked her to come in, saying he would, if she chose, appoint the lessons talked about so long. Ordinarily, Maddy's eyes would have flashed with delight, for she had anticipated so much from these lessons; now, however, there was a sad look upon her face and she could scarcely keep from crying as she came at Guy's bidding, and sat upon the sofa, near to his armchair. Somehow it rested Guy to look at Maddy Clyde, who, having recovered from her illness, seemed the very embodiment of perfect health, a health which glowed and sparkled all over her bright face; showing itself as well in the luxuriance of her glossy hair as in the brilliancy of her complexion, and the flash of her lustrous eyes. How Guy wished that Lucy could share in what seemed almost superfluity of health; and why shouldn't she? Dr. Holbrook had cured Maddy; Dr. Holbrook could cure Lucy; and so for the present dismissing that from his mind, he turned to Maddy, and said the time had come when he could give those promised lessons, asking if she would commence to-morrow, after she was through with Jessie, and what she would prefer to take up first?
"Oh, Mr. Remington," and Maddy began to cry: "I am afraid I cannot stay they need me at home, or maybe Grandpa said so and I don't want to go, though I know it's wicked not to; oh, dear, dear!"
Here Maddy broke down entirely, sobbing so convulsively that Guy became alarmed, and wondered what he ought to do to quiet her. As she sat the bowed head was just within his reach, and so he very naturally laid his hand upon it, and as if it had been Jessie's smoothed the silken hair, while he asked why she must go home. Had anything occurred to make her presence more necessary than it was at Aikenside? and into the young man's heart there crept a feeling that Aikenside would be very lonely without Maddy Clyde.
Controlling her voice as well as she was able, Maddy told him how the physicians at the asylum had written that as Uncle Joseph would in all human probability never be perfectly sane, and as a change of scene would do him good, Mr. Markham had better try taking him a while; that having been spoken with upon the subject, he seemed as anxious as a little child, even crying when the night came around and he was not at home, as he expressed it. "They have kept him so long," Maddy said, "that grandpa thought it his duty to relieve them, though he can't well afford it, and so he's coming next week, and grandma will need some one to help, and I must go. I know it's wrong, but I do not want to go, try as I will"
It was a gloomy prospect to exchange Aikenside for the humble home where poverty had its abode, and it was not very strange that Maddy should shrink from it at first. She did not stop to ask what was her duty, or think how much happiness her presence might give her grandparents, or how much she might cheer and amuse the weak imbecile, her uncle. She was but human, and so when Guy began to devise ways of preventing her going, she listened, while the pain at her heart grew less as her faith in Guy grew stronger. He would drive down with her to-morrow, he said, and see what could be done. Meanwhile she must dry her eyes and go to Jessie, who was calling her.
As Guy had half expected, the doctor came around that evening, and inviting him into his private room, Guy proceeded at once to unfold his scheme, asking him first:
"How much he probably received a year for his services as physician."
The doctor could not tell at once, but after a little thought made an estimate, and then inquired why Guy had asked the question.
"Because, Doc, I have a project on foot. Lucy Atherstone is dying with what they call consumption. I don't believe those old fogies understand her disease, and if you will go over to England and undertake her cure, I'll give you just double what you'll get by remaining here. They are going to Naples for the winter, and, undoubtedly, will spend some time in Paris. It will be just the thing for you. Lucy and her mother will be glad of your services when they know I sent you, Lucy likes you now. Will you go? You can trust Maddy to me. I'll take good care that she is worthy of you when you come back."
At the mention of Maddy's name, the doctor's brow darkened. He was sure that Guy meant kindly, but it grated on his feelings to be thus joked about what he knew was a stern reality. Guy's project appeared to him at first a most insane one, but as he continued to enlarge upon it, and the advantage it would be to the doctor to travel in the old world, a feeling of enthusiasm was kindled in his own breast; a desire to visit Naples and France, and the places he had dreamed of as a boy, but never hoped to see, Guy's plan began to look more feasible, and possibly he might have yielded but for one thought, and that a thought of Maddy Clyde. He would not leave her alone with Guy, even though Guy was true to Lucy as steel. He would stay; he would watch; and in time he would win the young girl waiting now for him in the hall below, waiting to tell him 'mid blushes of shame and tears of regret how she had meant to pay him with her very first wages, but now, Uncle Joseph was coming home, and he must wait a little longer.
"Would he, could he be so good?" and unmindful of Guy's presence Maddy laid her hand confidingly upon his arm, while her soft eyes looked beseechingly into his.
How the doctor wished Guy was away, and kindly taking the hint, Guy left them together in the lighted hall. Sitting down on the sofa, and making Maddy sit beside him, the doctor began:
"Maddy, you know I mean what I say, at least to you, and when I tell you that I never think of that bill except when you speak of it, you will believe me. I know your grandfather's circumstances, and I know, too, that I did much to induce your sickness, consequently if I made one out at all, it would be a very small one."
He did not get any further, for Maddy hastily interrupted him, and while her eyes flashed with pride, exclaimed:
"I will not be a charity patient! I say I will not! I'd be a hired girl before I'd do it!"
It troubled the doctor to see Maddy so disturbed about dollars and cents—to know that poverty was pressing its iron hand upon her young heart; and only because she was so young did he refrain from offering her then and there a resting place from the ills of life in his sheltering love. But she was not prepared, and he should only defeat his object by his rashness, so he restrained himself, though he did pass his arm partly around her waist as he said to her:
"I tell you, Maddy, honestly, that when I want that bill liquidated I'll ask you. I certainly will, and I'll let you pay it, too. Does that satisfy you?"
Yes, Maddy was satisfied, and after a little the doctor continued:
"By the way, Maddy, I have some idea of going to Europe for a few months, or a year or more. You know it does a physician good to study awhile in Paris. What do you think of it? Shall I go?"
The doctor had become quite necessary to Maddy's happiness. He it was to whom she confided all her little troubles, and to lose him would be a terrible loss, and so she answered that if it would be much better for him she supposed he ought to go, though she should miss him sadly and be so lonely without him.
"Would you, Maddy? Are you in earnest? Would you be lonelier for my being gone?" the doctor asked, eagerly. With her usual truthfulness, Maddy replied: "Of course I should;" and, when, after the conference was ended, the doctor stood for a moment talking with Guy, ere bidding him good-night, he said: "I think I shall not accept your European proposition. Somebody else must cure Lucy."
The next day, as Guy had proposed, he rode down to Honedale, taking Maddy with him, and offering so many reasons why she should not be called home, that the old people began to relent, particularly as they saw how Maddy's heart was set on the lessons Guy was going to give her. She might never have a like opportunity, the young man said, and as a good education would put her fa the way of helping them when they were older and needed her more, it was their duty to leave her with them. He knew they objected to her receiving three dollars a week, but he should pay it just the same, and if they chose they might, with a part of it, hire a little girl to do the work which Maddy would do were she at home. All this sounded very feasible, especially as it was backed up by Maddy's eyes, brimful of tears, and fixed pleadingly upon her grandfather. The sight of them, more than Guy's arguments, influenced the old man, who decided that if grandma were willing Maddy should stay, unless absolutely needed at the cottage. Then the tears burst forth, and winding her arms around her grandfather's neck, Maddy sobbed out her thanks, asking if it were selfish and wicked and naughty in her to prefer learning rather than staying there.
"Not if that's your only reason," grandpa replied. "It's right to want learning, quite right; but, if my child is biased by the fine things at Aikenside, and hates to come back to her poor home, because 'tis poor, I should say it was very natural, but not exactly right."
Maddy was very happy after it was settled, and chatted gayly with her grandmother, while Guy went out with her grandfather, who wished to speak with him alone.
"Young man," he said, "you have taken a deep interest in me and mine since I first came to know you, and I thank you for it all. I've nothing to give in return except my prayers, and those you have every day; you and that doctor. I pray for you two just as I do for Maddy. Somehow you three come in together. You're uncommon good to Maddy. 'Tain't every one like you who would offer and insist on learning her. I don't know what you do it for. You seem honest. You can't, of course, ever dream of making her your wife, and, if I thought—yes, if I supposed"—here grandpa's voice trembled, and his face became a livid hue with the horror of the idea—"if I supposed that in your heart there was the shadow of an intention to deceive my child, to ruin my Maddy, I'd throttle you here on the spot, old as I am, and bitterly as I should repent the rashness."
Guy attempted to speak, but grandpa motioned him to be silent, while he went on:
"I do not suspect you, and that's why I trust her with you. My old eyes are dim, but I can see enough to know that Maddy is beautiful. Her mother was so before her, and the Clydes were a handsome race. My Alice was elevated, folks thought, by marrying Captain Clyde, but I don't think so. She was pure and good as the angels, and Maddy is much like her, only she has the ambition of the Clydes: has their taste for everything a little above her. She wouldn't make nobody blush if she was mistress of Aikenside."
Grandpa felt relieved when he had said all this to Guy, who listened politely, smiling at the idea of his deceiving Maddy, and fully concurring with grandpa in all he said of her rare beauty and natural gracefulness. On their return to the house grandpa showed Guy the bedroom intended for Uncle Joseph, and Guy, as he glanced at the furniture, though within himself how he would send down from Aikenside some of the unused articles piled away on the garret when he refurnished his house. He was becoming greatly interested in the Markhams, caring nothing for the remarks his interest might excite among the neighbors, some of whom watched Maddy half curiously as in the stylish carriage, beside its stylish owner, she rode back to Aikenside in the quiet, autumnal afternoon.
In course of time Uncle Joseph came as was arranged, and on the day following Maddy and Guy rode down to see him, finding him a tall, powerfully built man, retaining many vestiges of manly beauty, and fully warranting all Mrs. Markham had said in his praise. He seemed perfectly gentle and harmless, though when Guy was announced as Mr. Remington, Maddy noticed that in his keen black eyes there was for an instant a fiery gleam, but it quickly passed away, as he muttered:
"Much too young; he was older than I, and I am over forty. It's all right."
And the fiery eye grew soft and almost sleepy in its expression, as the poor lunatic turned next to Maddy, telling her how pretty she was, asking if she were engaged, and bidding her be careful that her fiance was not more than a dozen years older than herself.
Uncle Joseph seemed to take to her from the very first, following her from room to room, touching her fair, soft cheeks, smoothing her silken hair, telling her Sarah's used to curl, asking if she knew where Sarah was, and finally crying for her as a child cries for its mother, when at last she went away. Much of this Maddy had repeated to Jessie, as in the twilight they sat together in the parlor at Aikenside; and Jessie was not the only listener, for, with her face resting on her hand, and her head bent eagerly forward, Agnes sat, so as not to lose a word of what Maddy was saying of Uncle Joseph. The intelligence that he was coming to the red cottage had been followed with a series of headaches, so severe and protracted that Dr. Holbrook had pronounced her really sick, and had been unusually attentive. Anxiously she had waited for the result of Maddy's visit to the poor lunatic, and her face was colorless as marble as she heard him described, while a faint sigh escaped her when Maddy told what he had said of Sarah.
Agnes was changed somewhat of late. She had grown more thoughtful and quiet, while her manner toward Maddy was not as haughty as formerly. Guy thought her improved, and thus was not so delighted as he would otherwise have been, when, one day, about two weeks after Uncle Joseph's arrival at Honedale, she startled him by saying she thought it nearly time for her to return to Boston, if she meant to spend the winter there, and asked what she should do with Jessie.
Guy was not quite willing for Agnes to leave him there alone, but when he saw that she was determined, he consented to her going, with the understanding that Jessie was to remain—a plan which Agnes did not oppose, as a child so large as Jessie might stand in the way of her being as gay as she meant to be in Boston. Jessie, too, when consulted, said she would far rather stay at Aikenside; and so one November morning, Agnes, wrapped in velvet and furs, kissed her little daughter, and bidding good-by to Maddy and the servants, left a neighborhood which, since Uncle Joseph was so near, had become so intolerable that not even the hope of winning the doctor could avail to keep her in it.
Guy accompanied her to the city, wondering why, when he used to like it so much, it now seemed dull and tiresome, or why the society he had formerly enjoyed failed to bring back the olden pleasure he had experienced when a resident of Boston. Guy was very popular there, and much esteemed by his friends of both sexes, and great were the efforts made to entertain and keep him as long as possible. But Guy could not be prevailed upon to stay there long, and after seeing Agnes settled in one of the most fashionable boarding houses, he started for Aikenside.
It was dark when he reached home, and as the evening had closed in with a heavy rain, the house presented rather a cheerless appearance, particularly as, in consequence of Mrs. Noah's not expecting him that day, no fires had been kindled in the parlors, or in any room except the library. There a bright coal fire was blazing in the grate, and thither Guy repaired, finding, as he had expected, Jessie and her teacher. Not liking to intrude on Mr. Guy, of whom she still stood somewhat in awe, Maddy soon arose to leave, but Guy bade her stay; he should be lonely without her, he said, and so bringing her work she sat down to sew, while Jessie looked over a book of prints, and Guy upon the lounge studied the face which, it seemed to him, grew each day more and more beautiful. Then he talked with her of books, and the lessons which were to be resumed on the morrow, watching Maddy as her bright face sparkled and glowed with excitement. Then he questioned her of her father's family, feeling a strange sense of satisfaction in knowing that the Clydes were not a race of whose blood any one need be ashamed; and Maddy was more like them he was sure than like the Markhams, and Guy shivered a little as he recalled the peculiar dialect of Mr. and Mrs. Markham, and remembered that they were Maddy's grandparents. Not that it was anything to him. Oh, no, only as an inmate of his family he felt interested in her, more so perhaps than young men were apt to be interested in their sister's governess.
Had Guy then been asked the question, he would, in all probability, have acknowledged that in his heart there was a feeling of superiority to Maddy Clyde; that she was not quite the equal of Aikenside's heir, nor yet of Lucy Atherstone. It was natural; he had been educated to feel the difference, but any haughty arrogance of which he might have been guilty was kept down by his extreme good sense and generous, impulsive nature. He liked Maddy; he liked to look at her as, in the becoming crimson merino which he really and Jessie nominally had given her, she sat before him, with the firelight falling on her beautiful hair, and making shadows on her sunny face.
Guy was luxurious in his tastes, and it seemed to him that Maddy was just the picture to set off that room, or in fact all the rooms at Aikenside. She would disgrace none of them, and he found himself wishing that Providence had made her something to him—sister or cousin, or anything that would make her one of the Remington line.
And now, my reader, do not fall to abusing Guy, or accuse him of forgetting Lucy Atherstone, for he did not. He thought of her many times that evening, and in his dreams that night Lucy and Maddy shared pretty equally, but the latter was associated with the lessons of the morrow, while Lucy was the bright daystar for which he lived and hoped.
It did not take long for the people of Sommerville to hear that Guy Remington had actually turned schoolmaster, having in his library for two hours or more each day Jessie's little girl-governess, about whose brilliant beauty there was so much said—people wondering, as people will, where it would end, and if it could be possible that the haughty Guy had forgotten his English Lucy and gone to educating a wife.
The doctor, to whom these remarks were sometimes made, silently gnashed his teeth, then said savagely that "if Guy chose to teach Maddy Clyde, he did not see whose business it was," and then rode over to Aikenside to see the teacher and pupil, half hoping that Guy would soom tire of his project and give it up. But Guy grew more and more pleased with his employment, until, at last, from giving Maddy two hours of his time, he came to give her four, esteeming them the pleasantest of the whole twenty-four. Guy was proud of Maddy's improvement, praising her often to the doctor, who also marveled at the rapid development of her mind and the progress she made, grasping a knotty point almost before it was explained, and retaining with wonderful tenacity what she learned.
It mattered nothing to Guy that neighbors gossiped there were none familiar enough to tell him what was said, except the doctor or Mrs. Noah; and so he heard few of the remarks made so frequently, As in Honedale, so in Sommerville Maddy was a favorite, and those who interested themselves most in the matter never said anything worse of her and Mr. Guy than that he might perhaps be educating his own wife, and insinuating that it would be a great "come up" for Grandfather Markham's child. But Maddy never dreamed of such a thing, and kept on her pleasant way, reciting every day to Guy and going every Wednesday to the red cottage, whither, after the first visit to Uncle Joseph, Guy never accompanied her. Jessie, on the contrary, went often to Honedale, where one at least always greeted her coming, stealing up closely to her, and whispering softly: "My Daisy is come again."
From the first Uncle Joseph had taken to Jessie, calling her Sarah for a while, and then changing the name to "Daisy"—"Daisy Mortimer, his little girl," he persisted in calling her, watching from his window for her coming, and crying whenever Maddy appeared without her. At first Agnes, from her city home, forbade Jessie's going so often to see a lunatic; but when Jessie described the poor, crazy man's delight at sight of her, telling how quiet and happy he seemed if he could but lay his hand on her head, or touch her hair, she withdrew her restrictions, and, as if moved to an unwonted burst of tenderness, wrote to her daughter: "Comfort that crazy man all you can; he needs it so much."
A few weeks after there came another letter from Agnes, but this time it was to Guy, and its contents darkened his handsome face with anger and vexation. Incidentally Agnes had heard the gossip, and written it to Guy, adding in conclusion: "Of course I know it is not true, for ever if there were no Lucy Atherstone, you, of all men, would not stoop to Maddy Clyde. I do not presume to advise, but I will say this, that now she is growing a young lady, folks will keep on talking so long as you keep her there in the house; and it's hardly fair toward Lucy."
This was what knotted up Guy's forehead and made him, as Jessie said, "real cross for once." Somehow, he fancied, latterly, that the doctor did not like Maddy's being there, while even Mrs. Noah managed to keep her out of his way as soon as the lessons were ended. What did they mean? what were they afraid of, and why did they presume to interfere with him? he'd know, at all events; and summoning Mrs. Noah to his presence, he read that part of Agnes' letter, pertaining to Maddy, and then asked what it meant.
"It means this, that folks are in a constant worry, for fear you'll fall in love with Maddy Clyde."
"I fall in love with that child!" Guy repeated, laughing at the idea, and forgetting that he had long since, accused the doctor of doing that very thing.
"Yes, you," returned Mrs. Noah, "and 'taint strange they do; Maddy is not a child: she's nearer sixteen than fifteen, is almost a young lady; and if you'll excuse my boldness, I must say, I ain't any too well pleased with the goin's on myself; not that I don't like the girl, for I do, and I don't blame her an atom. She's as innocent as a new-born babe, and I hope she'll always stay so; but you, Mr. Guy, you—now tell me honest—do you think as much of Lucy Atherstone, as you used to, before you took up school-keepin'?"
Guy did not like to be interfered with, and naturally high-spirited, he at first flew into a passion, declaring that he would not have folks meddling with him, that he thought of Lucy Atherstone all the time, and he did not know what more he could do; that 'twas a pity if a man could not enjoy himself in his own way, provided that way were harmless, that he'd never, in all his life, spent so happy a winter as the last; that—-
Here Mrs. Noah interrupted him with: "That's it, the very it; you want nothing better than to have that girl sit close to you when she recites, as she does; and once when she was workin' out some of them plusses and minuses, and things, her slate rested on your knee; it did, I saw it with my own eyes; and then, let me ask, when Jessie is drummin' on the piano, why don't you bend over her, and turn the leaves, and count the time, as you do when Maddy plays; and how does it happen that lately Jessie is one too many, when you hear Maddy's lessons. She has no suspicions, but I know she ain't sent off for nothin'; I know you'd rather be alone with Maddy Clyde than to have anybody present, isn't it so?"
Guy began to wince. There was much truth in what Mrs. Noah had said. He did devise various methods of getting rid of Jessie, when Maddy was in his library, but it had never looked to him in just the light it did when presented by Mrs. Noah, and he doggedly asked what Mrs. Noah would have him do.
"First and foremost, then, I'd have you tell Maddy yourself that you are engaged to Lucy Atherstone; second, I'd have you write to Lucy all about it, and if you honestly can, tell her that you only care for Maddy as a friend; third, I'd have you send the girl—-"
"Not away from Aikenside! I never will!" and Guy sprang to his feet.
The mine had exploded, and for an instant the young man reeled, as he caught a glimpse of where he stood; still he would not believe it, or confess to himself how strong a place in his affections was held by the beautiful girl now no longer a child. It was almost a year since that April afternoon when he first met Maddy Clyde, and from a timid, bashful child, of fourteen and a half, she had grown to the rather tall, and rather self-possessed maiden of fifteen and a half, almost sixteen, as Mrs. Noah said, "almost a woman;" and as if to verify the latter fact, she herself appeared at that very moment, asking permission to come in and find a book, which had been mislaid, and which she needed in hearing Jessie's lessons.
"Certainly, come in," Guy said, and folding his arms he leaned against the mantel, watching her as she hunted for the missing book.
There was no pretense about Maddy Clyde, nothing put on for effect, and yet in every movement she showed marks of great improvement, both in manner and style. Of one hundred people who might glance at her, ninety-nine would look a second time, asking who she was. Naturally graceful and utterly forgetful of herself, she always appeared to good advantage, and never to better than now, when two pairs of eyes were watching her, as standing on tiptoe, or kneeling upon the floor to look under the secretary, she hunted for the book. Not the remotest suspicion had Maddy of what was occupying the thoughts of her companions, though as she left the room and glanced brightly up at Guy, it struck her that his face was dark and moody, and a painful sensation flitted through her mind that in some way she had intruded.
"Well," was Mrs. Noah's first comment, as the door closed on Maddy, but as Guy made no response to that, she continued: "She is pretty. That you won't deny."
"Yes, more than pretty. She'll make a most beautiful woman."
Guy seemed to talk more to himself than to Mrs. Noah, while his foot kicked the fender, and he mentally compared Lucy and Maddy with each other, and tried to think that it was not the result of that comparison, but rather Mrs. Noah's next remark, which affected him unpleasantly. The remark or remarks were as follows:
"Of course she'll make a splendid woman. Everybody notices her now for her beauty, and that's why you've no business to keep her here where you see her every day. It's a wrong to her, lettin' yourself alone."
Guy looked up inquiringly, and Mrs. Noah continued:
"I've been a girl myself, and I know that Maddy can't be treated as you treat her without its having an effect. I've no idea that it's entered her head yet, but it will by-and-by, and then good-by to her happiness."
"For pity's sake, what do you mean? Do explain, and not talk to me in riddles. What have I done to Maddy, or what am I going to do?"
Gay spoke savagely, and his boots were in great danger of being burned as he kicked vigorously against the fender. Coming nearer to him, and lowering her voice, Mrs. Noah replied:
"You are going to teach her to love you, Guy Remington, just as sure as my name is Noah."
"And is that anything so very bad, I'd like to know. Most girls do not find love distasteful," and Guy walked hastily to the window, where he stood for a moment gazing out upon the soft April snow, which was falling, and feeling anything but satisfied either with the weather or himself; then walking back, and taking a seat before the fire, he said: "I understand you now. You would save Maddy Clyde from sorrow, and you are right. You know more of girls than I do. She might in time get to—to—think of me as she ought not. I never looked upon it in this light before. I've been so happy with her;" here Guy's voice faltered a little, but he recovered himself and went on: "I will tell her about Lucy tonight, but the sending her away, I can't do that. Neither will she be happy to go back where I took her from, for though the best of people, they are not like Maddy, and you know it."
Yes, Mrs. Noah did know it, and pleased that her boy, as she called Guy, had shown some signs of penitence and amendment, she said she did not think it necessary to send Maddy home; she did not advise it either. She liked the girl, and what she advised was this, that Guy should send Maddy and Jessie both to boarding school. Agnes, she knew, would be willing, and it was the best thing he could do. Maddy would thus learn what was expected of a teacher, and as soon as she graduated, she could procure some eligible situation, or if Lucy were there, and desired it, she could come and stay forever for all what sue cared,
"And during the vacations, where must she go then?" Guy asked.
"Go where she pleases, of course. As Jessie is so fond of her, and they are much like sisters, it will not be improper for her to come here, as I see, provided Agnes is here. Her presence, of course, would make a difference," Mrs. Noah replied, while Guy continued:
"I know you are right; that is, I do not wish to do Maddy a harm by placing temptation in her way, neither will I have everybody meddling with my business. I tell you I won't. I don't mean you, for you have a right to say what no one else has," and he glanced half angrily at Mrs. Noah. "Pity if I can't take an interest in a girl, because I once wronged her, without every old woman in Christendom thinking she needs to fall in love with me, and so be ruined for life. Maddy Clyde has too good sense for that, or will have when I tell her about Lucy."
"And you will do so?" Mrs. Noah said coaxingly.
"Of course I will, and write to Lucy, too, telling her how you talked, and how I care no more for Maddy than I do for Jessie."
"And will that be true?" Mrs. Noah asked.
Guy could not look her fully in the face then, so he kicked the grate until the concussion sent the red-hot coals out upon the carpet as he replied:
"True? Yes, every word of it."
Mrs. Noah noted all this, and thinking within herself:
"I orto have took him in hand long ago," she came up to him and said kindly, soothingly: "We shall all miss Maddy; I as much as any one, but I do think it best for her to go to school; and so, after tea, I'll manage to keep Jessie with me, and send Maddy to you, while you tell her about Lucy and the plan."
Guy nodded a little jerking kind of a nod, in token of his assent, and then with that perversity which prompts women particularly to press a subject after enough has been said upon it, Mrs. Noah, as she turned to leave the room, gave vent to the following:
"You know, Guy, as well as I, that pretty and smart as she is, Maddy is really beneath you, and no kind of a match, even if you wan't as good as married, which you be;" and the good lady left the room in time to escape seeing the sparks fly up the chimney, as Guy now made a most vigorous use of the poker, and so did not finish the scorching process commenced on the end of his boot.
Mrs. Noah's last remark awakened in Guy a Singular train of thought. Yes, Maddy was his inferior as the world saw matters, and settling himself in the chair he tried to fancy what that same world would say if he should make Maddy his wife. Of course he had no such intention, he was just imagining something which never could possibly happen, because in the first place he wouldn't marry Maddy Clyde if he could, and he couldn't if he would! Still, it was not an unpleasant occupation fancying what folks, and especially Agnes, would say if he did, and so he sat dreaming about it until the bell rang for supper, when with a nervous start he woke from the reverie, and wishing the whole was over, started for the supper.
MADDY AND LUCY.
Supper was over, and Guy was back again in his library. He had not stopped as he usually did, to romp with Jessie or talk to Maddy Clyde, until it was so dark that he could not see her sparkling face, but had come directly back, dropping the heavy curtains and piling fresh coal upon the fire. Mrs. Noah had lighted the lamps and then gone after Maddy, explaining to Jessie how she must stay with her while Maddy went to Mr. Guy, who wanted to talk with her.
"Is he angry with me, Mrs. Noah?" and remembering his moody looks when she went in quest of the book, Maddy felt her heart misgive her as to what might be the result of an interview with Guy.
Mrs. Noah, however, reassured her, and Maddy stole for a moment to her own room to see how she was looking. The crimson dress, with its soft edge of lace about the slender throat, became her well, and smoothing the folds of her black silk apron, whose jaunty shoulder pieces gave her a very girlish appearance, she went down to where Guy was waiting for her. He heard her coming, and involuntarily drew nearer to him the chair where he intended she should sit. But Maddy took instead a stool, and leaning her elbow on the chair, turned her face fully toward him, waiting for him to speak.
"Maddy," he began, "are you happy here at Aikenside?"
"Oh, yes, very, very happy," and Maddy's soft eyes shone with the happiness she tried to express.
It was at least a minute before he spoke again, and when he did, it came out how he had concluded it best to send her and Jessie to school, for a year or two at least; not that he was tired of teaching her, but it would be better for her, he thought, to mingle with other girls and learn the ways of the world. Aikenside would still be her home, still the place where her vacations would be spent with Jessie if she chose, and then he spoke of New York as the place he had in view, and asked her what she thought of it.
Maddy was too much stunned to think of anything at first. That the good she had coveted most should be placed within her grasp, and by Guy Remington too, was almost too much to credit. She was happy at Aikenside, but she had never expected her life there to continue very long, and had often wished that when it ended she might devise some means of entering a seminary as other young ladies did. But she had never dreamed of being sent to school by Guy, nor could she conceive of his motive. He hardly knew himself, only he liked her, and wished to do something for her. This was his reply to her tearful question:
"Oh, Mr. Remington, you are so good to me; what makes you?"
He liked her, and all over Maddy's face there spread a beautiful flush as the words rang in her ears. And then she told Guy how much she wished to be a teacher, and so take care of her grandparents and her poor Uncle Joseph. It seemed almost cruel for that young creature to be burdened with the care of those three half-helpless people, and Guy shuddered just as he usually did when he associated Maddy with them, but when he listened while she told him of all the castles she had built, and in every one of which there was a place for "our folks," as she termed them, it was more in the form of a blessing than a caress that his hand rested on her shining hair.
"You are a good girl, Maddy," he said, "and I am glad now that I have concluded to send you where you can be better fitted for the office you mean to fill than you could be here, but I shall miss you sadly. I like little girls, and though you can hardly be classed there now, you seem to me much like Jessie, and I take pleasure in doing for you as I would for her. Maddy—-"
Guy stopped, uncertain what to say next, while Maddy's eyes again looked up inquiringly.
He was going now to tell "the little girl much like Jessie" of Lucy Atherstone, and the words would not come at first.
"Maddy," he said, again blushing guiltily, "I have said I liked you, and so I hope will some one else. I have written of you to her."
Up to this point Maddy had a vague idea that he meant the doctor, but the "her" dispelled that thought, and a most inexplicable feeling of numbness crept over her as she asked faintly:
"Written to whom?"
Guy did not look at Maddy. He only knew that her head moved out from beneath his hand as he replied:
"To Miss Atherstone—Miss Lucy Atherstone. Have you never heard of her?"
No, Maddy never had, and with that same numbness she could not understand, she listened while Guy told her who Lucy Atherstone was, and why she was not at that moment the mistress of Aikenside. There was no reason why Guy should be excited, but he was, and he talked very rapidly, never once glancing at Maddy until he had finished speaking. She was looking at him intently, wondering if he could hear as she did the beatings of her heart. Had her life depended upon it, she could not at first have spoken, for the numbness which, like bands of steel, seemed to press all the feeling out of it. She did not know why it was that hearing of Lucy Atherstone should affect her so. Surely she ought to be glad for Guy that he possessed the love of so sweet a creature as he described her to be. He was glad, she knew, he talked so energetically—so much as if it were a pleasure to talk; and she was glad, too, only it had taken her so by surprise to know that Mr. Guy, whom she had rather considered as exclusively her own and Jessie's was engaged, and that some time, before long it might be, Aikenside would really have a mistress. She did not quite understand Guy's last words, although she was looking at him, and he asked her twice if she would like to see Lucy's picture ere she comprehended what he meant.
"Yes," came faintly from the parted lips, about which there was a slight quiver as she put up her hand to take the case Guy drew from his bosom.
Turning it to the light she gazed silently upon the sweet young face, which seemed to return her gaze with a look as earnest and lifelike as her own.
"What do you think of her—of my Lucy? Is she not pretty?" Guy asked, bending down so that his dark hair swept against Maddy's, while his warm breath touched her burning cheeks.
"Yes, she's beautiful, oh! so beautiful, and happy, too. I wish I had been like her. I wish—" and Maddy burst into a most uncontrollable fit of weeping, her tears dropping like rain upon the inanimate features of Lucy Atherstone.
Guy looked at her amazed, his own heart throbbing with a keen pang of something undefinable as he listened to her stormy weeping. What did ail her? he wondered. Could it be that the evil against which he was providing had really come upon her? Was Maddy more interested in him than he supposed? He hoped not, though with a man's vanity he felt a slight thrill of satisfaction in thinking that it might be so. Guy knew this feeling was not worthy of him, and he struggled to cast it off, while he asked Maddy why she cried.
Child as she was, the real cause of her tears never entered her brain, and she answered:
"I can't tell why, unless I was thinking how different Miss Atherstone is from me. She's rich and handsome. I am poor and homely, and—"
"No, Maddy, you are not;" and Guy interrupted her.
Gently lifting up her head, he smoothed back her hair, and keeping a hand on each side of her face, said, pleasantly:
"You are not homely. I think you quite as pretty as Lucy; I do, really," he continued, as her eyes kindled at the compliment. "I am going to write to her to-night, and shall tell her more about you. I want you to like each other very much when she comes, so that you may live with us. Aikenside would not be Aikenside without you, Maddy."
In all his wooings of Lucy Atherstone, Guy's voice had never been tenderer in its tone than when he said this to Maddy, whose lip quivered again, and who involuntarily laid her head now upon his knee as she cried a second time, not noisily, but quietly, softly, as if this crying did her good. For several minutes they sat there thus, the nature of their thoughts known only to each other, for neither spoke, until Maddy, half ashamed of her emotions, lifted up her head, and said:
"I do not know what made me cry, only I'd been so happy here that I guess I'd come to think that you only liked Jessie and me. Of course I knew that some time you would see and think all the world of somebody else, but I did not expect it so soon. I am afraid Miss Atherstone will not fancy me, and I know most I shall not feel as free here, after she comes, as I do now. Then your being so good, sending me to school, helped me to cry more, and so I was very foolish. Don't tell Miss Atherstone that I cried. Tell her, though, how beautiful she is, and how glad I am that she loves you, and is going to be your wife."
Maddy's voice was very steady in its tone. She evidently meant what she said, but Guy, the bad man, did not feel as graciously as he ought to have felt in knowing that Maddy Clyde was glad "Lucy loved him, and was to be his wife,"
Guy was rather uncomfortable, and as Maddy was in some way associated with his discomfort, he did not oppose her when she arose to leave him.
Had Maddy been more a woman, or less a child, she would have seen that it was well for her to know of Lucy Atherstone before her feelings for Guy Remington had assumed a definite form. As it was, she never dreamed how near she was to loving Aikenside's young heir; and while talking with Jessie of the grand times they should have at school, she marveled at that little round spot of pain which was burning at her heart, or why she should wish that Guy would not speak of her in his letter to Lucy Atherstone.
But Guy did speak of her, frankly confessing the interest he felt in her, telling just how people were beginning to talk, and asking Lucy if she cared, declaring that if she did, he would not see Maddy Clyde any more than was necessary. In a little less than four weeks there came an answer from Lucy, who, with health somewhat improved, had returned to England, and wrote to Guy from Brighton, where she expected to spend the summer, half hoping Guy might join her there, though she could not urge it, as mamma still insisted that she was not able to take upon herself the duties of a wife. Then she spoke of Maddy Clyde, saying "She was not one bit jealous of her dear Guy, Of course ignorant, meddling people, of whom she feared there were a great many in America, would gossip, but he was not to mind them." Then she said that if Maddy were willing, she would so much like her picture, as she had a curiosity to know just how she looked, and if Maddy pleased, "would she write a few lines, so as not to seem so much a stranger?"
Lucy Atherstone had been educated to think a great deal of birth, and blood, and family, and Guy never did a wiser thing than when he told her that according to English views, Maddy was a lady. It went far toward reconciling Lucy to his interest in one whom her haughtier and more sanguine mother called a rival, advising her mother to ignore her altogether. But Lucy's was a different nature, and though it cost her pride a pang, she asked for a line from Maddy, partly to mortify that pride, and partly to prove to Guy how free she was from jealousy.
"Darling little Lucy, I do love her very dearly," was Guy's comment, as he finished reading her letter, feeling somewhat as if her mother were a kind of cruel ogress, bent on preventing him from being happy. Then, as he remembered Lucy's hope that he might join her, and thought how much easier of access New York was than Brighton, he said, half petulantly:
"I've been to England for nothing times enough. When that mother of hers says I may have Lucy, I'll go again, but not before. It don't pay."
And crushing the letter into his pocket, he went out upon the piazza where were assembled Maddy, Jessie and Mrs. Agnes, the latter of whom had come to Aikenside the day before.
At first she had objected to the boarding-school arrangement, saying Jessie was too young, but Guy as usual had overruled her objections, as he had those of Grandpa Markham, and it was now a settled thing that Maddy and Jessie both should go to New York, Mrs. Agnes to accompany them if she chose, and having a general supervision of her child. This was Guy's plan, the one which had prevailed with the fashionable woman, who, tired of Boston, was well pleased with the prospect of a life in New York. Guy's interest in Maddy was wholly inexplicable to her, unless she explained it on the principal that in the Remington nature there was a fondness for governesses, as had been exemplified in her own history. That Guy would ever marry Maddy she doubted, but the mere possibility of it made her set her teeth firmly together as she thought how embarrassing it would be to acknowledge as the mistress of Aikenside the little girl whom she had sought to banish from her table. Since her return she had had no opportunity of judging for herself how matters stood, and was consequently much relieved when, as Guy joined them, he began at once to speak of Lucy, telling of the letter, and her request for Maddy's picture.
"Me? Mine? You cannot mean that?" Maddy exclaimed, her eyes opening wide with wonder, but Guy did mean it, and began to plan a drive on the morrow to Devonshire, where there was at that time a tolerably fair artist.
Accordingly the next day the four went down to Devonshire, calling first upon the doctor, whose face brightened when he heard why they had come. During the weeks that had passed, the doctor had not been blind to at that was passing at Aikenside, and the fear that Guy was more interested in Maddy than he ought to be, had grown almost to a certainty. Now, however, he was not so sure. Indeed, the fact that Guy had told her of Lucy Atherstone would indicate that his suspicions were groundless, and he entered heartily into the picture plan, saying laughingly that if he supposed Miss Lucy would like his face he'd sit himself, and bidding Guy be sure to ask her. The doctor's gay spirits helped raise those of Maddy, and as that little burning spot in her heart was fast wearing away, she was in just the mood for a most admirable likeness. Indeed, the artist's delight at his achievement was unbounded, as he declared it the very best picture he had ever taken. It was beautiful, even Agnes acknowledged to herself, while Jessie wait into raptures, and Maddy blushed to hear her own praises. Guy said nothing, except to ask that Maddy should sit again; this was good, but a second might be better. So Maddy sat again, succeeding quite as well as at first, but as the artist's preference was for the former, it was left to be finished up, with the understanding that Guy would call for it. As the ladies passed down the stairs, Guy lingered behind, and when sure they were out of hearing, said in a low voice:
"You may as well finish both; they are too good to be lost."
The artist bowed, and Guy, with a half guilty blush, hurried down into the street, where Agues was waiting for him. Two hours later, Guy, in Mrs. Conner's parlor, was exhibiting the finished picture, which in its handsome casing, was more beautiful than ever, and more natural, if possible.
"I think I might have one of Maddy's," Jessie said, half poutingly; then, as she remembered the second sitting, she begged of Guy to get it for her, "that was a dear brother."
But the "dear brother" did not seem inclined to comply with her request, putting her off, until, despairing of success, Jessie, when alone with the doctor, tried her powers of persuasion on him, coaxing until in self-defense he crossed the street, and entering the daguerrean gallery asked for the remaining picture of Miss Clyde, saying that he wished it for little Miss Remington.
"Mr. Remington took them both," the artist replied, commencing a dissertation on the style and beauty of the young girl, all of which was lost upon the doctor, who, in a kind of maze, quitted the room, and returning to Jessie, said to her carelessly: "He hasn't it. You know they rub out those they do not use. So you'll have to do without; and, Jessie, I wouldn't tell Guy I tried to get it for you."
Jessie wondered why she must not tell Guy, but the fact that the doctor requested her not was sufficient. Consequently Guy little guessed that the doctor knew what it was he carried so carefully in his coat pocket, looking at it earnestly when at home and alone in his own room, admiring its soft, girlish beauty, half shrinking from the lifelike expression of the large, bright eyes, and trying to convince himself that his sole object in getting it was to give it to the doctor after Maddy was gone! It would be such a surprise, and the doctor would be so glad, that Guy finally made himself believe that he had done a most generous thing!
"I am going to send Lucy your picture to-day, and as she asked that you should write her a few lines, suppose you do it now," Guy said to Maddy next morning, as they were leaving the breakfast table.
It was a sore trial to Maddy to write to Lucy Atherstone, but she offered no remonstrance, and so accompanying the picture was a little note, filled mostly with praises of Mr. Guy, and which would be very gratifying to the unsuspecting Lucy.
Now that it was fully decided for Jessie to go with Maddy, her lessons were suspended, and Aikenside for the time being was turned into a vast dressmaking and millinery establishment. With his usual generosity, Guy had given Agnes permission to draw upon his purse for whatever was needed, either for herself or Jessie, with the definite understanding that Maddy should have an equal share of dress and attention.
"It will not be necessary," he said, "for you to enlighten the citizens of New York with regard to Maddy's position. She goes there as Jessie's equal, and as such her wardrobe must be suitable."
No one could live long with Maddy Clyde without becoming interested in her, and in spite of herself Agnes' dislike was wearing away, particularly as of late she had seen no signs of special attention on the doctor's part. He had gotten over his weakness, she thought, and so was very gracious toward Maddy, who, naturally forgiving, began to like her better than she had ever dreamed it possible for her to like so proud and haughty a woman. Down at the cottage in Honedale there were many consultations held and many fears expressed by the aged couple as to what would be the result of all Guy was doing for their child. Womanlike, Grandma Markham felt a flutter of pride in thinking that Maddy was going to school in a big city like New York. It gave her something to talk about with her less fortunate neighbors, who wondered, and gossiped, and envied, but could not bring themselves to feel unkindly toward the girl Maddy, who had grown up in their midst, and who as yet was wholly unchanged by prosperity. Grandpa Markham, on the contrary, though pleased that Maddy should have every opportunity for acquiring the education she so much desired, was fearful of the result—fearful that there might come a time when his darling would shrink from the relations to whom she was as sunshine to the flowers. He knew that the difference between Aikenside and the cottage must strike her unpleasantly every time she came home, and he did not blame her for her always apparent readiness to go back. That was natural, he thought, but a life in New York, that great city which to the simple- hearted old man seemed a very Babylon of iniquity, was different, and for a time he demurred to sending her there. But Guy persuaded him, and when he heard that Agnes was going, too, he consented, for he had faith in Agnes as a protector. Maddy had never told him of the scene which followed that lady's return from Saratoga. Indeed, Maddy never told anything but good of Aikenside or its inmates, and so Mrs. Agnes came in for a share of the old people's gratitude, while even Uncle Joseph, hearing daily a prayer for the "young madam," as grandpa termed her, learned to pray for her himself, coupling her name with that of Sarah, and asking in his crazy way that God would "forgive Sarah" first, and then "bless the madam—the madam—the madam."
A few days before Maddy's departure, grandpa went up to see "the madam;" anxious to know something more than hearsay about a person to whose care his child was to be partially intrusted. Agnes was in her room when told who wanted to see her. Starting quickly, she turned so deadly white that Maddy, who brought the message, flew to her side, asking in much alarm, what was the matter.
"Only a little faint. It will soon pass off," Agnes said, and then, dismissing Maddy, she tried to compose herself sufficiently to pass the ordeal she so much dreaded, and from which there was no possible escape.
Thirteen years! Had they changed her past recognition? She hoped, she believed so, and yet, never in her life had Agnes Remington's heart beaten with so much terror and apprehension as when she entered the reception room where Guy sat talking with the infirm old man she remembered so well. He had grown older, thinner, poorer looking, than when she saw him last, but in his wrinkled face there was the same benignant, heavenly expression which, when she was better than she was now, used to remind her of the angels. His snowy hair was parted just the same as ever, but the mild blue eye was dimmer, and it rested on her with no suspicious glance as, partially reassured, she glided across the threshold, and bowed civilly when Guy presented her.
A little anxious as to how her grandfather would acquit herself, Maddy sat by, wondering why Agnes appeared so ill at ease, and why her grandsire started sometimes at the sound of her voice, and looked earnestly at her.
"We've never met before to my knowledge, young woman," he said once to Agnes, "but you are mighty like somebody, and your voice when you talk low keeps makin' me jump as if I'd heard it summers or other."
After that Agnes spoke in elevated tones, as if she thought him deaf, and the mystified look of wonder did not return to his face. Numerous were the charges he gave to Agnes concerning Maddy, bidding her be watchful of his child, and see that she did not "get too much drinked in with the wicked things on Broadway!" then, as he arose to go, he laid his trembling hand on her head and said solemnly: "You are young yet, lady, and there may be a long life before you. God bless you, then, and prosper you in proportion as you are kind to Maddy. I've nothing to give you nor Mr. Guy for your goodness only my prayers, and them you have every day. We all pray for you, lady, Joseph and all, though I doubt me he knows much the meaning of what he says." "Who, sir? What did you say?" and Agnes' face was scarlet, as grandpa replied: "Joseph, our unfortunate boy; Maddy must have told you, the one who's taken such a shine to Jessie. He's crazy-like, and from the corner where he sits so much, I can hear him whispering by the hour, sometimes of folks he used to know, and then of you, who we call madam. He says for ten minutes on the stretch: "God bless the madam—the madam—the madam!" You're sick, lady; talkin' about crazy folks makes you faint," grandpa added, hastily, as Agnes turned white, like the dress she wore. "No—oh, no, I'm better now," Agnes gasped, bowing him to the door with a feeling that she could not breathe a moment longer in his presence. He did not hear her faint cry of bitter, bitter remorse, as he walked through the hall, nor know she watched him as he went slowly down the walk, stopping often to admire the fair blossoms which Maddy did not feel at liberty to pick. "He loved flowers," Agnes whispered, as her better nature prevailed over every other feeling, and, starting eagerly forward, she ran after the old man, who, surprised at her evident haste, waited a little anxiously for her to speak. It was rather difficult to do so with Maddy's inquiring eyes upon her, but Agnes managed at last to say: "Does that crazy man like flowers—the one who prays for the madam?" "Yes, he used to years ago," grandpa replied; and, bending down, Agnes began to pick and arrange into a most tasteful bouquet the blossoms and buds of May, growing so profusely within the borders.
"Take them to him, will you?" and her hand shook as she passed to Grandpa Markham the gift which would thrill poor crazy Joseph with a strange delight, making him hold converse a while with the unseen presence which he called "she," and then whisper blessings on the madam's head. Three days after this, a party of four left Aikenside, which presented a most forlorn and cheerless appearance to the passers-by, who were glad almost as the servants when, at the expiration of a week, Guy came back and took up his olden life of solitude and loneliness, with nothing in particular to interest him, except his books the letters he wrote to Lucy; unless, indeed, it were those he was going to write to Maddy, who, with Jessie, had promised to become his correspondents. Nothing but these and the picture—the doctor's picture—the one designed expressly for him, and which troubled him greatly. Believing that he had fully intended it for the doctor, Guy felt as if it were, in a measure, stolen property, and this made him prize it all the more.
Now that Maddy was away, Guy missed her terribly, wondering how he had ever lived without her, and sometimes working himself into a violent passion against the meddlesome neighbors who would not let her remain with him in peace, and who, now that she was gone, did not stop their talking one whit. Of this last, however, he was ignorant, as there was no one to tell him how people marveled more than ever, feeling confident now that he was educating his own wife, and making sundry hateful remarks as to what he intended doing with her relations. Guy only knew that he was very lonely, that Lucy's letters seemed insipid, that even the doctor failed to interest him, as of old, and that his greatest comfort was in looking at the bright young face which seemed to smile so trustfully upon him from the tiny casing, just as Maddy had smiled upon him when, in Madam ——-'s parlor, he bade her good-by. The doctor could not have that picture, he finally decided. Hal ought to be satisfied with getting Maddy, as of course he would, for wasn't he educating her for that very purpose? Certainly he was, and, as a kind of atonement for what he deemed treachery to his friend, he talked with him often of her, always taking it for granted that when she was old enough, the doctor would woo and win the little girl who had come to him in his capacity of inspector, as candidate number one.
At first, the doctor suspected him of acting a part in order to cover up some design of his own with regard to Maddy, and affected an indifference he did not feel; but, as time passed on, Guy, who really believed himself sincere, managed to make the doctor believe so, too. Consequently, the latter abandoned his suspicions, and gave himself up to blissful dreams of what might possibly be when Maddy should have become the brilliant woman she was sure one day to be. Alas! for the doctor's dreams.
The summer vacation had been spent by the Remington's and Maddy at the seaside, the latter coming to the cottage for a week before returning to her school in New York, and as the doctor was then absent from home, she did not meet him at all. Consequently he had not seen her since she left Aikenside for New York. But she was at home now for the Christmas holidays—was down at the cottage, too; and unusually nervous for him, the doctor stood before the little square glass in his back office, trying to make himself look as well as possible, for he was going that very afternoon to call upon Miss Clyde. He was glad she was not at Aikenside; he would rather meet her where Guy was not, and he hoped he might be fortunate enough to find her alone.
The doctor was seriously in love. He acknowledged that now to himself, confessing, too, that with his love was mingled a spice of jealousy, lest Guy Remington should be expending more thought on Maddy Clyde than was consistent with the promised husband of Lucy Atherstone. He wished so much to talk with Guy about her, and yet he dreaded it; for if the talk should confirm his suspicious there would be no hope for him. No girl in her right mind would prefer him to Guy Remington, and with a little sigh the doctor was turning away from the glass, when, as if to verify a familiar proverb, Guy himself drove up in a most dashing equipage, the silver-tipped harness of his high-mettled steed flashing in the wintry sunlight, and the bright-hued lining of his fanciful robes presenting a very gay appearance.
Guy was in the best of spirits. For an entire half day he had tried to devise some means to getting Maddy up to Aikenside. It was quite too bad for her to spend the whole vacation at the cottage, as she seemed likely to do. He knew she was lonely there; that the bare floor and low, dark walls affected her unpleasantly. He had seen that in her face when he bade her good-by, for he had carried her down to the cottage himself, and now he was going after her. There was to be a party at Aikenside; the very first since Guy was its master. The neighbors had said he was too proud to invite them, but they should say so no more. The house was to be thrown open in honor of Guy's twenty-sixth birthday, and all who were at all desirable as guests were to be bidden to the festival. First on the list was the doctor, who, remembering how averse Guy was to large parties, wondered at the proceedings. But Guy was all engaged in the matter, and after telling who were to be invited, added rather indifferently: "I'm going now down to Honedale after Maddy. It's better for her to be with us a day or two beforehand. You've seen her, of course."
No, the doctor had not; he was just going there, he said, in a tone so full of sad disappointment, that Guy detected it at once, and asked if anything was the matter.
"Guy," the doctor continued, sitting down by his friend, "I remember once your making me your confidant about Lucy. You remember it, too?"
"Yes, why? well?" Guy replied, beginning to feel strangely uncomfortable as he half divined what was coming next.
Latterly Guy had stopped telling the doctor that he was educating Maddy for him. Indeed, he did not talk of her at all, and the doctor might have fancied her out of his mind but for the frequent visits to New York, which Guy found it absolutely necessary to make. Guy did not himself understand the state of his own feelings with regard to Maddy, but if compelled to explain them they would have been something as follows: He fully expected to marry Lucy Atherstone; the possibility that he should not had never occurred to him, but that was no reason why Maddy Clyde need be married for these many years. She was very young yet; there was time enough for her to think of marrying when she was twenty-five, and in the meanwhile it would be splendid to have her at Aikenside as Lucy's and his friend. Nothing could be nicer, and Guy did not care to have this little arrangement spoiled. But that the doctor had an idea of spoiling it, he had not a doubt, particularly after the doctor's next remark.
"I have not seen Maddy since last spring, you know. Is she very much improved?"
"Yes, very much. There is no more stylish-looking girl to be seen on Broadway than Maddy Clyde," and Guy shook down his pantaloons a little awkwardly.
"Well, is she as handsome as she used to be, and as childish in her manner?" the doctor asked; and Guy replied:
"I took her to the opera once, last month, and the many admiring glances cast at our box proved pretty positively that Maddy's beauty was not of the ordinary kind."
"The opera!" the doctor exclaimed; "Maddy Clyde at the opera! What would her grandfather say? He is very puritanical, you know."
"Yes, I know; and so is Maddy, too. She wrote and obtained his consent before she'd go with me. He won't let her go to a theatre anyhow."
Here an interval of silence ensued, and then the doctor began again,
"Guy, you told me once you were educating Maddy Clyde for me, and I tried then to make you think I didn't care; but I did, oh, so much. Guy, laugh at me, if you please. I cannot blame you if you do; but the fact is, I believe I've loved Maddy Clyde ever since that time she was so sick. At all events, I love her now, and I was going down there this very afternoon to tell her so. She's old enough. She was sixteen last October, the—the——"
"Tenth day," Guy responded, thus showing that he, too, was keeping Maddy's age, even to a day.
"Yes, the tenth day," resumed the doctor. "There's 'most eleven years' difference between us, but if she feels at all as I do, she will not care, Guy;" and the doctor began to talk earnestly: "I'll be candid with you, and say that you have sometimes made my heart ache a little."
"Me!" and Guy's face was crimson, while the doctor continued:
"Yes, and I beg your pardon for it; but let me ask you one question, and upon its answer will depend my future course with regard to Maddy: You are true to Lucy?"
Guy felt the blood trickling at the roots of his hair, but he answered truthfully as he believed:
"Yes, true as steel;" while the generous thought came over him that he would further the doctor's plans all he possibly could.
"Then I am satisfied," the doctor rejoined; "and as you have rather assumed the position of her guardian or brother, I ask your permission to offer her the love which whether she accepts it or not, is hers."
Guy had never felt a sharper pang than that which now thrilled through every nerve, but he would not prove false to the friend confiding in him, and he answered calmly:
"You have my consent; but, Doc, better put it off till you see her at Aikenside. There's no chance at the cottage, with those three old people. I wonder she don't go wild. I'm sure I should."
Guy was growing rather savage about something, but the doctor did not mind; and grasping his arm as he arose, he said:
"And you'll manage it for me, Guy? You know how. I don't. You'll contrive for me to see her alone, and maybe say a word beforehand in my favor."
"Yes, yes, I'll manage it. I'll fix it right. Don't forget, day after to-morrow night. The Cutlers' will be there, and, by the way, Marcia has got to be a splendid girl. She fancied you once, you know. Old Cutler is worth half a million." And Guy tore himself away from the doctor, who, now that the ice was broken, would like to have talked of Maddy forever.
But Guy was not thus inclined, and in a mood not extremely amiable, he threw himself into his sleigh and went dashing down toward Honedale. For some unaccountable reason he was not now one bit interested in the party, and, were it not that a few of the invitations were issued, he would have been tempted to give it up. Guy did not know what ailed him. He only felt as if somebody had been meddling with his plans, and had he been in the habit of swearing, he would probably have sworn; but as he was not, he contented himself with driving like a second Jehu he reached Honedale, where a pair of soft, brown eyes smiled up into his face, and a little, fat, warm hand was clasped in his, as Maddy came even to the gate to meet him.
She was very glad to see him. The cottage with its humble adornings did seem lonely, almost dreary, after the life and bustle of New York, and Maddy had cried more than once to think how hard and wicked she must be growing when her home had ceased to be the dear old home she once loved so well. She had been there five days now, and notwithstanding the efforts of her grandparents to entertain her, each day had seemed a week in its duration. Neither the doctor nor Guy had been near her, and capricious little Maddy had made herself believe that the former was sadly remiss in his duty, inasmuch as he had not seen her for so long. He had been in the habit of calling every week, her grandmother said, and this did not tend to increase her amiability. Why didn't he come now when he knew she was at home? Didn't he want to see her? Well, she could be indifferent, too, and when they did meet, she'd show how little she cared!
Maddy was getting to be a woman with womanly freaks, as the reader will readily see. At Guy she was not particularly piqued. She did not take his attentions, as a matter of course; still she thought more of him, if possible, than of the doctor, during those five days, saying to herself each morning: "He'll surely come to-day," and to herself each night: "He will be here to-morrow." She had something to show him at last—a letter from Lucy Atherstone, who had gradually come to be her regular correspondent, and whom Maddy had learned to love with all the intensity of her girlhood. To her ardent imagination Lucy Atherstone was but a little lower than the angels, and the pure, sweet thoughts contained in every letter were doing almost as much toward molding her character as Grandpa Markham's prayers and constant teachings. Maddy did not know it, but it was these letters from Lucy which kept her from loving Guy Remington. She could not for a moment associate him with herself when she so constantly thought of him as the husband of another, and that other Lucy Atherstone. Not for worlds would Maddy have wronged the gentle creature who wrote to her so confidingly of Guy, envying her in that she could so often see his face and hear his voice, while his betrothed was separated from him by many thousand miles. Little by little it had come out that Lucy's mother was averse to the match, that she had in her mind the case of an English lord, who would make her daughter "My Lady;" and this was the secret of her deferring so long her daughter's marriage. In her last letter to Maddy, however, Lucy had written with more than her usual spirit that she would come in possession of her property on her twenty-fifth birthday. She should then feel at liberty to act for herself, and she launched out into joyful anticipations of the time when she should come to Aikenside and meet her dear Maddy Clyde. Feeling that Guy, if he did not already know it, would be glad to hear it, Maddy had all the morning been wishing he would come; and when she saw him at the gate she ran out to meet him, her eyes and face sparkling with eager joy as she suffered him to retain her hand while she said: "I am so glad to see you, Mr. Remington. I almost thought you had forgotten me at Aikenside, Jessie and all."
Guy began to exclaim against any one's forgetting her, and also to express his pleasure at finding her so glad to see him, when Maddy interrupted him with, "Oh, it's not that; I've something to show you— something which will make you very happy. I had a letter from Lucy last night. When she is twenty-five she will be her own mistress, you know, and she means to be married in spite of her mother—she says—let me see—" and drawing from her bosom Lucy's letter, Maddy read, "'I do not intend to fail in filial obedience, but I have tired dear Guy's patience long enough, and as soon as I can I shall marry him.' Isn't it nice?" and returning the letter to its hiding place, Maddy scooped up in her hand and ate a quantity of the snow beside the path.
"Yes, it was very nice," Guy admitted, but there was a shadow on his brow as he followed Maddy into the cottage, where the lunatic, who had been watching them from the window, shook his head doubtfully and said, "Too young, too young for you, young man. You can't have our Sunshine if you want her."
"Hush, Uncle Joseph," Maddy whispered, softly, taking his arm and laying it around her neck. "Mr. Remington don't want me. He is engaged to a beautiful English girl across the sea."
Low as Maddy's words were, Guy heard them, as well as the crazy man's reply, "Engagements have been broken."
That was the first time the possibility had ever entered Guy's brain that his engagement might be broken, provided he wished it, which he did not, he said to himself positively. Lucy loved him, he loved Lucy, and that was enough, so in a kind of abstracted manner arising from the fact that he was calculating how long it would be before Lucy was twenty-five, he began to talk with Maddy, asking how she had spent her time, and so forth. This reminded Maddy of the doctor, who, she said, had not been to see her at all.
"He was coming this morning," Guy rejoined, "but I persuaded him to defer his call until you were at Aikenside. I have come to take you back with me, as we are to have a party day after to-morrow evening, and I wish you to be present."
A party, a big party, such as Maddy had never in her life attended! How her eyes sparkled from mere anticipation as she looked appealingly to her grandfather, who, though classing parties with the pomps and vanities from which he would shield his child, still remembered that he once was young, that fifty years ago he, too, like Maddy, wanted "to see the folly of it," and not take the mere word of older people that in every festive scene there was a pitfall, strewn over so thickly with roses that it was ofttimes hard to tell just where its boundary line commenced. Besides that, grandpa had faith in Guy, and so his consent was granted, and Maddy was soon on her way to Aikenside, which presented a gayer, busier appearance than she had ever known before. Jessie was wild with delight, dragging forth at once the pink dress which she was to wear, and whispering to Maddy that Guy had bought a dark blue silk for her, and that Sarah Jones was at that moment fashioning it after a dress left there by Maddy the previous summer.
"Mother said plain white muslin was more appropriate for a young girl, but Brother Guy said no; fee blue would be useful after the party; it was what you needed, and so he bought it and paid a dollar and three- quarters a yard, but it's a secret until you are called to try it on. Isn't Guy splendid?"
He was indeed splendid, Maddy thought, wondering why he was so kind to her, and if it would be so when Lucy came. The dress fitted admirably, only Maddy thought grandpa would say it was too low in the neck, but Sarah overruled her objections, assisted by Guy, who, when the dress was completed and tried on for the last time, was called in by Jessie to see if "Maddy's neck didn't look just like cheese curd," and if "she shouldn't have a piece sewed on as she suggested." The neck was au fait, Guy said, laughing as Maddy for blushing so, and saying when he saw how really distressed she seemed that he would provide her with something to relieve the bareness of which she complained. "Oh, I know, I saw, I peeked in the box," Jessie began, but Guy put his hand over the little tattler's mouth, bidding her keep the result of her peeking to herself.
And for once Jessie succeeded in doing so, although she several times set Maddy to guessing what it was Guy had for her in a box! As the size of the box was not mentioned, Maddy had fully made up her mind to a shawl or scarf, and was proportionately disappointed when, as she was dressing for the party, there was sent up to her room a small round box, scarcely large enough to hold an apple, much less a small scarf. The present proved to be a pair of plain but heavy bracelets, and a most exquisitely wrought chain of gold, to which was appended a beautiful pearl cross, the whole accompanied with the words, "From Guy." Jessie was in ecstasies again. Clasping the ornaments on Maddy's neck and arms, she danced around her, declaring there never was anything more beautiful, or anybody as pretty as Maddy was in her rich party dress. Maddy was fond of jewelry—as what young girl is not?— and felt a flush of gratified pride, or vanity, or satisfaction, whichever one chooses to call it, as she glanced at herself in the mirror and remembered the time when, riding with the doctor, she had met Mrs. Agnes, with golden bracelets flashing on her arms, and wished she might one day wear something like them. The day had come sooner than she then anticipated, but Maddy was not as happy in possession of the coveted ornaments as she had thought she should be. Somehow, it seemed to her that Guy ought not to have given them to her, that it was improper for her to keep them, and that both Mrs. Noah and Agnes thought so, too. She wished she knew exactly what was right, and then, remembering that Guy had said the doctor was expected early, she decided to ask his opinion on the subject and abide by it.
At first Agnes had cared but little about the party, affecting to despise the people in their immediate neighborhood; but when Guy gave her permission to invite from the adjoining towns, and even from Worcester if she liked, her spirits arose; and when her toilet was completed, she shone resplendent in lace and diamonds and curls, managing to retain through all a certain simplicity of dress appropriate to the hostess. But beautiful as Agnes was, she felt in her jealous heart that there was about Maddy Clyde an attraction she did not possess. Guy saw it, too, and while complimenting his pretty mother-in-law, kept his eyes fixed admiringly on Maddy, who started him into certain unpleasant remembrances by asking if the doctor had come yet.
"No—yes—there he was now," and Guy looked into the hall, where the doctor's voice was heard inquiring for him.
"I want to see him a minute, alone, please. There's something I want to ask him." And, unmindful of Agnes' darkening frown, or Guy's look of wonder, Maddy darted from the room, and ran hastily down the hall to where the doctor stood, waiting for Guy, not for her.
He had not expected to meet her thus, or to see her thus, and the sight of her, grown so tall, so womanly, so stylish and so beautiful, almost took his breath away. And yet, as he stood with her soft hand in his, and surveyed her from head to foot, he felt that he would rather have had her as she was when a dainty frill shaded her pale, wasted face, when the snowy ruffle was fastened high about her throat, and the cotton bands were buttoned about her wrists, where gold ones now were shining. The doctor had never forgotten Maddy as she was then, the very embodiment, he thought, of helpless purity. The little sick girl, so dear to him then, was growing away from him now; and these adornings, which marked the budding woman, seemed to remove her from him and place her nearer to Guy, whose bride should wear silk and jewels, just as Maddy did.
She was very glad to see him, she said, asking in the same breath why he had not been to the cottage, if she had not grown tall, and if he thought her one bit improved with living in a city?
"One question at a time, if you please," he said, drawing her a little more into the shadow of the door where they would be less observed by any one passing through.
Maddy did not wait for him to answer, so eager was she to unburden her mind and know if she ought to keep the costly presents, at which she knew he was looking.
"If he remembers his unpaid bill, he must consider me mighty mean," she thought: and then, with her usual frankness, she told him of the perplexity and asked his opinion.
"It would displease Mr. Guy very much if I were to give them back," she said: "but it hardly is right for me to accept them, is it?"
The doctor did not say she ought not to wear the ornaments, though he longed to tear them from her arms and neck and throw them anywhere, he cared not where, so they freed her wholly from Guy.
They were very becoming, he said. She would not look as well without them; so she had better wear them to-night, and to-morrow, if she would grant him an interview, he would talk with her further.
Dissembling doctor! He said all this to gain the desired interview with Maddy, the interview for which Guy was to prepare her. That he had not done so he felt assured, but he could not be angry with him, as he came smilingly toward them, asking if they had talked privacy long enough, and glancing rather curiously at Maddy's face. There was nothing in its expression to disturb him, and, offering her his arm, he led her back to the drawing-rooms where Agnes was smoothing down the folds of her dress, preparatory to receiving the guests just descending the stairs. It was a brilliant scene which Aikenside presented that night, and amid it all Agnes bore herself like a queen, while Jessie, with her sunny face and golden hair, came in for a full share of attention. But amid the gay throng there was none so fair or so beautiful as Maddy, who deported herself with as much ease and grace as if she had all her life long been accustomed to just such occasions as this. At a distance the doctor watched her, telling several who she was, and once resenting by both look and manner a remark made by Maria Cutler to the effect that she was nobody but Mrs. Remington's governess, a poor girl whom Guy had taken a fancy to educate out of charity.
"He seems very fond of his charity pupil, upon my word. He scarcely leaves her neighborhood at all," whispered old Mrs. Cutler, the mother of Maria, who, Guy said, once fancied Dr. Holbrook, and who had no particular objections to fancying him now, provided it could be reciprocal.
But the doctor was only intent on Maddy, knowing always just where she was standing, just who was talking to her; and just how far from her Guy was. He knew, too, when the latter was urging her to sing; and, managing to get nearer, heard her object that no one cared to hear her.
"But I do; I wish it," Guy replied in that tone which people generally obeyed; and casting a half-frightened look at the sea of faces around her, Maddy suffered him to lead her to the piano, sitting quite still while he found what he wished her to play.