It was his favorite song, and one which brought out Maddy's voice in its various modulations.
"Oh, please, Mr. Remington, anything but a song. I cannot sing," Maddy whispered pleadingly; but Guy answered resolutely, "You can."
There was no appeal after this, but a resigned, obedient look, which made the doctor gnash his teeth as he leaned upon the instrument. What right had Guy to command Maddy Clyde, and why should she obey? and yet, as the doctor glanced at Guy, he felt that were he in Maddy's place, he should do the same.
"No girl can resist Guy Remington," he thought. "I'm glad there's a Lucy Atherstone over the sea." And with a smile of encouragement for Maddy, who was pale with nervous timidity, he listened while her sweet, birdlike voice trembled for a moment with fear; and then, gaining from its own sound, filled the room with melody, and made those who had wandered off to other parts of the building hasten back to see who was singing.
Maria Cutler had presided at the piano earlier in the evening, as had one or two other young ladies, but to none of these had Guy paid half the attention he did to Maddy, staying constantly by her, holding her fan, turning the leaves of music, and dictating what she should play.
"There's devotion," tittered a miss in long ringlets; "but she really does play well," and she appealed to Maria Cutler, who answered, "Yes, she keeps good time, and I should think might play for a dance. I mean to ask her," and going up to Guy she said, "I wish to speak to—to— well, Jessie's governess. Introduce me, please."
Guy waited till Maddy was through, and then gave the desired introduction. In a tone not wholly free from superciliousness, Miss Cutler said:
"Can you play a waltz or polka, Miss Clyde? We are aching to exercise our feet."
Maddy bowed and struck into a spirited waltz, which set many of the people present to whirling in circles, and produced the result which Maria so much desired, viz: it drove Guy away from the piano, for he could not mistake her evident wish to have him as a partner, and with his arm around her waist he was soon moving rapidly from that part of the room, leaving only the doctor to watch Maddy's fingers as they flew over the keys. Maddy never thought of being tired. She enjoyed the excitement, and was glad she could do something toward entertaining Guy's guests. But Guy did not forget her for an instant. Through all the mazes of the giddy dance, he had her before his eye, seeing not the clouds of lace and muslin encircled by his arm, but the little figure in blue sitting so patiently at the piano until he knew she must be tired, and determined to release her. As it chanced, Maria was again his partner, and drawing her nearer to Maddy, he said, "Your fingers ache by this time, I am sure. It is wrong to trouble you longer. Agnes will take your place while you try a quadrille with me."
"Oh, thank you," Maddy answered. "I am not tired in the least. I had as lief play till morning, provided they are satisfied with my time and my stock of music holds out."
"But it is not fair for one to do all the playing; besides, I want you to dance with me—so consider yourself invited in due form to be my next partner."
Maddy's face crimsoned for an instant, and then in a low voice she said, "I thank you, but I must decline."
"Maddy!" Guy exclaimed, in tones more indicative of reproach than expostulation.
There were tears in Maddy's eyes, and Maria Cutler, watching her, was vexed to see how beautiful was the expression of her face as she answered frankly, "I have never told you that grandpa objected to my taking dancing lessons when I wrote to him about it. He does not like me to dance."
"A saint!" Maria uttered under her breath, smiling contemptuously as she made a movement to leave the piano, hoping Guy would follow her.
But he did not at once. Standing for a moment irresolute, while he looked curiously at Maddy, he said at last:
"Of course I interfere with no one's scruples of that kind, but I cannot allow you to wear yourself out for our amusement."
"I like to play—please let me," was Maddy's reply; and, as the set upon the floor were waiting for her, she turned to the instrument, while Guy mechanically offered his arm to Maria, and sauntered toward the green room.
"What a blue old ignoramus that grandfather must be, to object to dancing, don't you think so?"
Maria laughed a little spitefully, secretly glad that Maddy had refused, and secretly angry at Guy for seeming to care so much.
"Say," she continued, as Guy did not answer her, "don't you think it a sign that something is lacking in brains or education, when a person sets up that dancing is wicked?"
Guy would have taken Maddy's side then, whatever he might have thought, and he replied:
"No lack of brains, certainly; though education and circumstances have much to do with one's views upon that subject. For my part, I like to see people consistent. Now, that old ignoramus, as you call him, lays great stress on pomp and vanities, and when I asked him once what he meant by them, he mentioned dancing in particular as one of the things which you, church people, promise to renounce;" and Guy bowed toward Maria, who, knowing that she was one of the church people referred to, winced perceptibly.
"But this girl—this Maddy. There's no reason why she should decline," she said; and Guy replied: "Respect for her grandfather, in her case, seems to be stronger than respect for a higher power in some other cases."
"It's just as wicked to play for dancing as 'tis to dance," Maria remarked impatiently, while Guy rejoined:
"That is very possible; but I presume Maddy has never seen it in that light, which makes a difference;" and the two retraced their steps to the rooms where the gay revelers were still tripping to Maddy's stirring music.
After several ineffectual efforts Agnes had succeeded in enticing the doctor away from the piano, and thus there was no one near to see how at last the bright color began to fade from her cheeks as the notes before her ran together, and the keys assumed the form of one huge key which Maddy could not manage. There was a blur before her eyes, a buzzing in her ears, and just as the dancers were entering heart and soul into the merits of a popular polka, there was a sudden pause in the music, a crash among the keys, and a faint cry, which to those nearest to her sounded very much like "Mr. Guy," as Maddy fell forward with her face upon the piano. It was hard telling which carried her from the room, the doctor or Guy, or which face of the three was the whitest. Guy's was the most frightened, for the doctor knew she had only fainted, while Guy, struck with the marble rigidity of the face so recently flushed with excitement, said at first, "She's dead," while over him there flashed a feeling that life with Maddy dead would be desolate indeed. But Maddy was not dead, and Guy, when he went back to his guests carried the news that she had recovered from her faint, which she kindly ascribed to the heat of the rooms, instead of fatigue from playing so long. The doctor was with her and she was doing as well as could be expected, he said, thinking within himself how he wished they would go home, and wondering what attraction there was there, now that Maddy's place was vacant. Guy was a vastly miserable man by the time the last guest had bidden him good-night, and he had heard for the hundred-and-fiftieth time what a delightful evening it had been. Politeness required that he should look to the very last as pleasant and unconcerned as if upstairs there were no little sick girl, all alone undoubtedly with Dr. Holbrook, whom he mentally styled a "lucky dog," in that he was not obliged to appear again in the parlors unless he chose.
The doctor knew Maddy did not require his presence after the first half hour, but he insisted upon her being sent to bed, and then went frequently to her door until assured by Mrs. Noah that she was sleeping soundly, and would, if let alone, be well as ever on the morrow, a prediction which proved true, for when at a late hour next morning the family met at the breakfast table, Maddy's was the brightest, freshest face of the whole, not even excepting Jessie's. Maddy, too, was delighted with the party, declaring that nothing but pleasurable excitement and heat had made her faint, and then with all the interest which young girls usually attach to fainting fits, she asked how she looked, how she acted, if she didn't appear very ridiculous, and how she got out of the room, saying the only thing she remembered after falling was a sensation as if she were being torn in two.
"That's it," cried Jessie, who readily volunteered the desired information, "Brother Guy was 'way off with Maria Cutler, and doctor was with mamma, but both ran, oh, so fast, and both tried to take you up. I think Miss Cutler real hateful, for she said, so meanlike, 'Do you see them pull her, as if 'twas of the slightest consequence which carried her out?'"
"Jessie," Guy interposed sternly, while the doctor looked disapprovingly at the little girl, who subsided into silence after saying, in an undertone, "I do think she's hateful, and that isn't all she said either about Maddy."
It was rather uncomfortable at the table after that, and rather quiet, too, as Maddy did not care to ask anything more concerning her faint, while the others were not disposed to talk.
Breakfast over, the two young men repaired to the library, where Guy indulged in his cigar, while the doctor fidgeted for a time, and then broke out abruptly:
"I say, Guy, have you said anything to her about—well, about me, you know?"
"Why, no, I've hardly had a chance; and then, again, I concluded it better for each one to speak for himself;" and carelessly knocking the ashes from his half-smoked cigar, Guy leaned back in his chair, with his eyes, and, to all appearance, thoughts, wholly intent upon the curls of smoke rising above his head.
"Guy, if you were not engaged, I should be tempted to think you wanted Maddy Clyde yourself," the doctor suddenly exclaimed, confronting Guy, who, still watching the rings of smoke, answered with the most provoking coolness, "You should?"
"Yes, I should; and I am not certain but you do as it is, Guy," and the doctor grew very earnest in his manner, "if you do care for Maddy Clyde, and she for you, pray tell me so before I make a fool of myself."
"Doctor," returned Guy, throwing the remains of his cigar into the grate and folding his hands on his head, "you desire that I be frank, and I will. I like Maddy Clyde very much—more indeed than any girl I ever met—except Lucy. Had I never seen her—Lucy, I mean—I cannot tell how I should feel toward Maddy. The chances are, however, that much as I admire her, I should not make her my wife, even if she were willing. But I have seen Lucy. I am engaged to be married. I shall keep that engagement, and if you have feared me at all as a rival, you may fear me no longer. I do not stand between you and Maddy Clyde."
Guy believed that he was saying the truth, notwithstanding that his heart beat faster than its wont and his voice was a little thick. It was doubtful whether he would marry Maddy Clyde, if he could. By nature and education he was very proud, and the inmates of the red cottage would have been an obstacle to be surmounted by his pride. He knew they were good, far, far better than himself; but, from his earliest remembrance, he had been taught that blood and family and position were all-important; that by virtue of them Remington was a name of which to be proud; that his father's foolish marriage with a pretty governess was the first misalliance ever known in the family, and that he was not likely to follow that example was a point fully established in his own mind. He might admire Maddy very much, and, perhaps, build castles of what might possibly have been, had she been in his sphere of life; but, should he verily think of making her his wife, the olden pride would certainly come up a barrier between them. Guy could not explain all this to the doctor, who would have been tempted to knock him down, if he had; but he succeeded in quieting his fears, and even suggested bringing Maddy in there, if the doctor wished to know his fate that morning.
"I hear her now—I'll call her," he said; and, opening the door, he spoke to Maddy, just passing through the hall. "Dr. Holbrook wishes to see you," he said, as Maddy came up to him; and, holding the door for her to enter, he saw her take the seat he had just vacated. Then, closing it upon them, he walked away, thinking that last night's party, or something, had produced a bad effect on him, making him blue and wretched, just as he should suppose a criminal would feel when about to be executed.
THE DOCTOR AND MADDY.
Now that they were alone, the doctor's courage forsook him, and he could only stammer out some commonplace remarks about the party, asking how Maddy Lad enjoyed it, and if she was sure she had entirely recovered from the effects of her fainting fit. He was not getting on at all, and it was impossible for him to say anything as he had meant to say it. Why couldn't she help him, instead of looking so unsuspiciously at him with those large, bright eyes? Didn't she know how dear she was to him? He should think she might. She might have divined it ere this; and if so, why didn't she blush, or something?
At last she came to his aid by saying, "You promised to tell me about the bracelets and necklace, whether I ought to keep them."
"Yes, oh yes, he believed he did." And getting up from his chair, the doctor began to walk the floor, the better to hide his confusion. "Yes, the bracelets. You looked very pretty in them, Maddy, very; but you are always pretty—ahem—yes. If you were engaged to Guy, I should say it was proper; but if not, why, I don't know; the fact is, Maddy, I am not quite certain what I am saying, so you must excuse me. I almost hated you that day you sent the note, telling me you were coming to be examined; but I had not seen you then. I did not know how, after a while—a very little while—I should in all probability— well, I did; I changed my mind, and I—I guess you have not the slightest idea what I mean." And stopping suddenly, he confronted the astonished Maddy, who replied:
"Not the slightest, unless you are going crazy."
She could in no other way account for his strange conduct, and she sat staring at him while he continued: "I told you once that when I wanted my bill I'd let you know. I'd ask for pay. I want it now. I present my bill."
With a scared, miserable feeling, Maddy listened to him, wondering where she should get the money, if it were possible for her grandfather to raise it, and how much her entire wardrobe would bring, suppose she should sell it! The bill had not troubled her latterly, for she had fallen into a way of believing that the doctor would wait until she was graduated and could earn it by teaching. Nothing could be more inopportune than for him to present it now; and with a half-stifled sob she began to speak, but he her by a gesture, and sitting down beside her, said, in a voice more natural than the one with which he had at first addressed her:
"Maddy, I know you have no money. It is not that I want, Maddy; I want—I want—you."
He bent down over her now, for her face was hidden in her hands, all sense of sight shut out, all sense of hearing, too, save the words he was pouring into her ear—words which burned their way into her heart, making It throb for a single moment with gratified pride, and then growing heavy as lead as she knew how impossible it was for her to pay the debt in the way which he desired.
"I can't, doctor; oh, I can't!" she sobbed. "I never dreamed of this; never supposed you could want me for your wife. I'm only a little girl—only sixteen last October—but I'm so sorry for you, who have been so kind. If I only could love you as you deserve! I do love you, too; but not the way you mean. I cannot be Maddy Holbrook; no; doctor, I cannot."
She was sobbing piteously, and in his concern for her the doctor forgot somewhat the stunning blow he had received.
"Don't, Maddy darling!" he said, drawing her trembling form closely to him, "Don't be so distressed. I did not much think you'd tell me yes, and I was a fool to ask you. I am too old; but, Maddy, Guy is as old as I am."
The doctor did not know why he said this, unless in the first keenness of his disappointment there was a satisfaction in telling her that the objection to his age would apply also to Guy. But it did not affect Maddy one whit, or give her the slightest inkling of his meaning. He saw it did not, and the pain was less to bear. Still, he would know certainly if he had a rival, and so he said to her:
"Do you love some one else, Maddy? Is another preferred before me, and is that the reason why you cannot love me?"
"No," Maddy answered, through her tears. "There is no one else. Whom should I love, unless it were you? I know nobody but Guy."
That name touched a sore, aching chord in the doctor's heart, but he gave no sign of the jealousy which had troubled him, and for a moment there was silence in the room; then, as the doctor began faintly to realize that Maddy had refused him, there awoke within him a more intense desire to win her than he had ever felt before. He would not give her up without another effort, and laying her unresisting head upon his bosom, he pleaded again for her love, going over all the past, and telling of the interest awakened when first she came to him that April afternoon, almost two years ago; then of the little sick girl who had grown so into the heart never before affected in the least by womankind, and lastly of the beautiful woman, as he called her, sitting beside him now in all the freshness of her young womanhood. And Maddy, as she listened, felt for him a strange kind of pity, a wish to do his bidding if she only could, and why shouldn't she? Girls had married those whom they did not love, and been tolerably happy with them, too. Perhaps she could be so with the doctor. There was everything about him to respect, and much which she could love. Should she try? There was a great lump in Maddy's throat as she tried to speak, but it cleared away and she said very sadly, but very earnestly, too:
"Dr. Holbrook, would you like me to say yes with my lips, when all the time there was something at my heart tugging to answer no?"
This was not at all what Maddy meant to say, but the words were born of her extreme truthfulness, and the doctor thus learned the nature of the struggle which he saw plainly was going on.
"No, Maddy, I would not have you say yes unless your heart was in it," he answered, while he tried to smile upon the tearful face looking up so sorrowfully at him.
But the smile was a forlorn one, and there came instead a tear as he thought how dear was the fair creature who never would be his. Maddy saw the tear, and as if she were a child wiped it from his cheek; then, in tones which never faltered, she told him it might be in time she'd learn to love him. She would try so hard, she'd think of him always as her promised husband, and by that means should learn at last not to shrink from taking him for such. It might be ever so long, and perhaps she should be twenty or more, but some time in the future she should feel differently. Was he satisfied, and would he wait?
Her little hand was resting on his shoulder, but he did not mind its soft pressure or know that it was there, so strong was the temptation to accept that half-made promise. But the doctor was too noble, to unselfish to bind Maddy to himself unless she were wholly willing, and he said to her that if she did not love him now she probably never would. She could not make a love. She need not try, as it would only result in her own unhappiness. They would be friends just as they always had been, and none need know of what had passed between them, none but Guy. "I must tell him" the doctor said, "because he knows that I was going to ask you."
Maddy could not explain why it was that she felt glad the doctor would tell Guy. She did not analyze any of her feelings, or stop to ask why she should care to have Guy Remington know the answer she had given Dr. Holbrook. He was going to him now, she was sure, for he arose to leave her, saying he might not see her again before she returned to New York. She did not mention his bill. That was among the bygones, a thing never again to be talked about, and offering him her hand, she looked for an instant earnestly into his face, then without a word, hurried from the room, while the doctor, with a sad, heavy heart, went in quest of Guy.
"Refused you, did you say?" and Guy's face certainly looked brighter than it had before since he left the doctor with Maddy Clyde.
"Yes, refused me, as I might have known she would," was the doctor's reply, spoken so naturally that Guy looked up quickly to see if he really did not care.
But the expression of the face belied the calmness of the voice; and, touched with genuine pity, Guy asked the cause of the refusal— "preference for any one else, or what?"
"No, there was no one whom she preferred. She merely did not like me well enough to be my wife, that was all," the doctor said, and then he tried to talk of something else; but it would not do. The wound was yet too fresh and sore to be covered up, and in spite of himself the bearded chin quivered and the manly voice shook as he bade good-by to Guy, and then went galloping down the avenue.
Great was the consternation among the doctor's patients when it was known that their pet physician—the one in whose skill they had so much confidence—was going to Europe, where in Paris he could perfect himself in his profession. Some cried, and among them Agnes; some said he knew enough already; some tried to dissuade him from his purpose; some wondered at the sudden start, while only two knew exactly why he was going—Guy and Maddy; the former approving his decision and lending his influence to make his tour abroad as pleasant as possible; and the latter weeping bitterly as she thought how she had sent him away, and that if aught befell him on the sea or in that distant land, she would be held amenable. Once there came over her the wild impulse to bid him stay, to say that she would be his wife; but, ere the rash act was done, Guy came down to the cottage, and Maddy's resolution gave way at once.
It would be difficult to tell the exact nature of Maddy's liking for Guy at that time. Had he offered himself to her she would probably have refused him even more promptly than she did the doctor; for, to all intents and purposes, he was, in her estimation, the husband of Lucy Atherstone. As such, there was no harm in making him her paragon of all male excellence; and Guy would have felt flattered, could he have known how much he was in that young girl's thoughts. But now for a few days he had a rival, for Maddy's thoughts were all given to the doctor, who came down to see her once before starting for Europe. She did not cry while he was there, but her voice was strange and hoarse as she gave him messages for Lucy Atherstone; and all that day her face was white and sad, as are the faces of those who come back from burying their dead.
Only once after the party did she go up to Aikenside, and then, summoning all her fortitude, she gave back to Guy the bracelets and the necklace, telling him she ought not to wear them; that ornaments as rich as these were not for her; that her grandmother did not wish her to keep them, and he must take them back. Guy saw she was in earnest, and much against his will he received again the ornaments he had been so happy in purchasing.
"They would do for Jessie when she was older," Maddy said; but Guy thought it very doubtful whether Jessie would ever have them. They were something he had bought for Maddy, something she had worn, and as such they were too sacred to be given to another. So he laid them away beside the picture guarded so carefully from every one.
Two weeks afterward Aikenside presented again a desolate, shut-up appearance, for Agnes, Maddy and Jessie had returned to New York; Agnes to continue the siege which, in despair of winning the doctor, she had commenced against a rich old bachelor, who had a house on Madison Square; and Maddy to her books, which ere long obliterated, in a measure, the bitter memory of all that had transpired during her winter vacation.
Two years pass quickly, particularly at school, and to Maddy Clyde, talking with her companions of the coming holidays, it seemed hardly possible that two whole years were gone since the eventful vacation when Dr. Holbrook had so startled her by offering her his hand. He was in Europe still, and another name than his was on the little office in Mrs. Conner's yard. To Maddy he now wrote frequently; friendly, familiar letters, such as a brother might write, never referring to the past, but telling her whatever he thought would interest and please her. Occasionally at first, and more frequently afterward, he spoke of Margaret Atherstone, Lucy's younger sister, a brilliant, beautiful girl who reminded him, he said, of Maddy, only she was saucier, and more of a tease; not at all like Lucy, whom he described as something perfectly angelic. Her twenty-fifth birthday found her on a sickbed, with Dr. Holbrook in attendance, and this was the reason given why the marriage between herself and Guy was again deferred. There had been many weeks of pain, succeeded by long, weary months of languor, and during all this time the doctor had been with her as the family physician, while Margaret also had been constantly in attendance. But Lucy was much better now. She could sit up all day, and even walk a little distance, assisted by the doctor and Margaret, whose name had become to be almost as familiar to Maddy as was that of Lucy. And Maddy, in thinking of Margaret, sometimes wondered "if——" but never went any farther than that. Neither did she ask Guy a word about her, though she knew he must have seen her. She not say much to him of Lucy, but she wondered why he did not go for her, and wanted to talk with him about it but he was so changed that she dared not. He was not sociable, as of old, and Agnes did not hesitate to call him cross, while Jessie complained that he never walked or played with her now, but sat all day long in a deep reverie of some kind.
On this account Maddy did not look forward to the coming vacation as joyfully as she would otherwise have done. Still it was, always pleasant going home, and she sat talking with her young friends of all they expected to do, when a servant entered the room and glancing over the group of girls, singled Maddy out saying, as he placed an unsealed envelope in her hand. "A telegram for Miss Clyde."
There was a blur before Maddy's eyes, so that at first she could not see clearly, and Jessie, climbing on the bench beside her, read aloud:
"Your grandmother is dying. Come at once. Agnes and Jessie will stay till next week.
It was impossible to go that afternoon but with the earliest dawn she was up, and unmindful of the snow falling so rapidly, started on the sad journey home. It was the first genuine storm of the season, and it seemed resolved on making amends for past neglect, sweeping in furious gusts against the windows sifting down in thick masses from the leaden sky, and so impeding the progress of the train that the chill wintery night had closed gloomily in ere the Sommerville station was reached, and Maddy, weary and dispirited, stepped out upon the platform, glancing anxiously around for the usual omnibus, which she had little hope would be there on such a night. If not, what should she do? This had been the burden of her thoughts for the last few hours, for she could not expect Guy to send out his horses in this fearful storm, much less to be there himself. But Guy was there, and it was his voice which first greeted her as she stood half blinded by the snow, uncertain what she must do next.
"Ah, Mr. Remington, I didn't expect this. I am so glad, and how kind it was of you to wait for me!" she exclaimed, her voice expressing her delight, and amply repaying the young man, who had not been very patient or happy through the six long hours of waiting he had endured.
But he was both happy and patient now with Maddy's hand in his, and pressing it very gently he led her into the ladies' room; then making her sit down before the fire he brushed her snowy garments himself, and dashing a few flakes from her disordered hair, told her what she so eagerly asked to know. Her grandmother had had a paralytic stroke, and the only word she had uttered since was "Maddy." Guy had not been down himself, but had sent Mrs. Noah as soon as Farmer Green had brought the news. She was there yet, he said, the storm having prevented her return.
"And grandma?" Maddy gasped, fixing her eyes wistfully upon him. "You do not think her dead?"
No, Guy did not, and stooping he asked if he should not remove from the dainty little feet resting on the stove hearth the overshoes, so full of melting snow. Maddy cared little for her shoes, or herself just then. She hardly knew that Guy was taking them off, much less that, as he bent beside her, her hand lay lightly upon his shoulder as she continued her questionings.
"She is not dead, you say; but do you think-does any-body think she'll die? Your telegram said 'dying.'"
Maddy was not to be deceived, and thinking it best to be frank with her, Guy told her that the physician, whom he had taken pains to see on his way to the depot, had said there was no hope. Old age and an impaired constitution precluded the possibility of recovery, but he trusted she might live till the young lady came.
"She must—she will! Oh, grandma, why did I ever leave her?" and burying her face in her hands. Maddy cried passionately, while the last three years of her Life passed in rapid review before her mind—years which she had spent in luxurious ease, leaving her grandmother to toil in the humble cottage, and die at the last, it might be, without one parting word for her.
The feeling that perhaps she had been guilty of neglect, was the bitterest of all, and Maddy wept on, unmindful of Guy's attempts to soothe and quiet her. At last, as she heard a clock in the adjoining room strike eight, she started up exclaiming "I have stayed too long. I must go now. Is there any conveyance here?"
"But, Maddy," Guy rejoined, "you cannot go to-night. The roads between here and Honedale are one unbroken snow bank. It would take hours to break through; besides you are too tired. You need rest, and must come with me to Aikenside, where you are expected, for when I found how late the train would be, I sent back word to have your room and parlors warmed, and a nice hot supper to be ready for us. You'll surely go with me, if I think best."
Guy's manner was more like a lover than a friend, but Maddy was in no state to remark it. She only felt an intense desire to go home, and turning a deaf ear to all he could urge, replied: "You don't know how dear grandma is to me, or you would not ask me to stay. She's all the mother I ever knew, and I must go. Think, would you stay if the one you loved best was dying?"
"But the one I love best is not dying, so I can reason clearly, Maddy."
Here Guy checked himself, and listened while Maddy asked again if there was no conveyance there as usual.
"None but mine," said Guy, while Maddy continued faintly:
"And you are afraid it will kill your horses?"
"No, it would only fatigue them greatly; it's for you I fear. You've borne enough to-day."
"Then, Mr. Remington, oh, please send me. I shall die at Aikenside. John will drive me, I know. He used to like me. I'll ask him," and Maddy was going in quest of the Aikenside coachman, when Guy held her back, and said:
"John will go if I bid him. But you, Maddy, if I thought it was safe."
"It is. Oh, let me go," and Maddy grasped both his hands beseechingly.
If there was a man who could resist the eloquent appeal of Maddy's eyes at that moment, the man was not Guy Remington, and leaving her alone, he sought out John, asking if it would be possible to get through to Homedale that night.
John shook his head decidedly, but when Guy explained Maddy's distress and anxiety, the negro began to relent, particularly as he saw his young master, too, was interested.
"It'll kill them horses," he said, "but mabby that's nothin' to please the girl."
"If we only had runners now, instead of wheels, John," Guy said, after a moment's reflection. "Drive back to Aikenside as fast as possible, and change the carriage for a covered sleigh. Leave the grays at home and drive a pair of farm horses. They can endure more. Tell Flora to send my traveling shawl. Miss Clyde may need it, and an extra buffalo, and a bottle of wine, and my buckskin gloves, and take Tom on with you, and a snow shovel; we may have to dig."
"Yes, yes, I know," and tying his muffler about his throat, John started off through the storm, his mind a confused medley of ideas, the main points of which were, bottles of wine, snow shovels, and the fact that his master was either crazy or in love.
Meanwhile, with the prospect of going home, Maddy had grown quiet, and did not refuse the temporary supper of buttered toast, muffins, steak and hot coffee, which Guy ordered from the small hotel just in the rear of the depot. Tired, nervous, and almost helpless, she allowed Guy himself to prepare her coffee, taking it from his hand and drinking it at his bidding as obediently as a child. There was a feeling of delicious rest in being cared for thus, and but for the dying one at Honedale she would have enjoyed it vastly. As it was, though, she never for a moment forgot her grandmother. She did forget, in a measure, her anxiety, and was able to think how kind, how exceedingly kind Guy was. He was like what he used to be, she thought, only kinder, and thinking it was because she was in trouble, she accepted all his little attentions willingly, feeling how pleasant it was to have him there, and thinking once with a half shudder of the long, cold ride before her, when Guy would no longer be present, and also of the dreary home where death might possibly be a guest ere she could reach it.
It was after nine ere John appeared, his crisp wool powdered with snow which clung to his outer garments, and literally covered his dark, cloth cap.
"'Twas mighty deep," he said, bowing to Maddy, "and the wind was getting colder. 'Twas a hard time Miss Clyde would have, and hadn't she better wait?"
No, Maddy could not wait, and standing up she suffered Guy to wrap her cloak about her, and fasten more securely the long, warm scarf she wore around her neck.
"Drive close to the platform," he said to John, and the covered sleigh was soon brought to the point designated. "Now then, Maddy, I won't let you run the risk of covering your feet with snow. I shall carry you myself," Guy said, and ere Maddy was fully aware of his intentions, he had her in his arms, and was bearing her to the sleigh.
Very carefully he drew the soft, warm robe about her, shielding her as well as he could from the cold; then pulling his own fur collar about his ears, he sprang in beside her, and, closing the door behind him, bade John drive on.
"But, Mr. Remington," Maddy exclaimed in much surprise, "surely you are not going too? You must not. It is asking too much. It is more than I expected. Please don't go." "Would you rather I should not—that is, aside from any inconvenience it may be to me—would you rather go alone?" Guy asked, and Maddy replied:
"Oh, no. I was dreading the long ride, but did not dream of your going. You will shorten it so much." "Then I shall be paid for going," was Guy's response, as he drew still more closely around her the fancy buffalo robe.
The roads, though badly drifted in some places, were not as bad as Guy had feared, and the strong horses kept steadily on; while Maddy, growing more and more fatigued, at last fell away to sleep, and ceased to answer Guy, For a time he watched her drooping head, and then carefully drawing it to him, made it rest upon his shoulder, while he wound his arm around her slight figure, and so supported her. He knew she was sleeping quietly, by her gentle breathings; and once or twice he involuntarily passed his hand caressingly over her soft, round cheek, feeling the blood tingle to his finger tips as he thought of his position there, with Maddy Clyde sleeping in his arms. What would Lucy say, could she see him? And the doctor, with his strict ideas of right and wrong, would he object? Guy did not know, and, with his usual independence, he did not care. At least, he said to himself he did not care; and so, banishing both the doctor and Lucy from his mind, he abandoned himself to the happiness of the moment—a singular land of happiness, inasmuch as it merely consisted in the fact that Maddy Clyde's young head was pillowed on his bosom, and that, by bending down, he could feel her sweet breath on his face. Occasionally there flitted across Guy's mind a vague, uneasy consciousness that though the act was, under the circumstances, well enough, the feelings which prompted it were not such as either the doctor or Lucy would approve. But they were far away; they would never know unless he told them, as he probably should, of this ride on that wintry night; this ride, which seemed to him so short that he scarcely believed his senses when, without once having been overturned or called upon to use the shovels so thoughtfully provided, the carriage suddenly came to a halt, and he knew by the dim light shining through the low window that the red cottage was reached.
Grandma Markham was dying, but she knew Maddy, and the palsied lips worked painfully as they attempted to utter the loved name; while her wasted face lighted up with eager joy as Maddy's arms were twined about her neck, and she felt Maddy's kisses on her cheek and brow. Could she not speak? Would she never speak again, Maddy asked despairingly, and her grandfather replied: "Never, most likely. The only thing she's said since the shock was to call your name; She's missed you despatly this winter back, more than ever before, I think. So have we all, but we would not send for you—Mr. Guy said you was learning so fast." "Oh, grandpa, why didn't you? I would have come so willingly," and for an instant Maddy's eyes flashed reproachfully upon the recreant Guy, standing aloof from the little group gathered about the bed, his arms folded together, and a moody look upon his face.
He was thinking of what had not yet entered Maddy's mind, thinking of the future—Maddy's future, when the aged form upon the bed should be gone, and the two comparatively helpless men be left alone.
"But it shall not be. The sacrifice is far too great. I can prevent it, and I will," he muttered to himself, as he turned to watch the gray dawn breaking in the east. Guy was a puzzle to himself. He would not admit that during the past year his liking for Maddy Clyde had grown to be something stronger than mere friendship, nor yet that his feelings toward Lucy had undergone a change, prompting him not to go to her when she was sick, and not to be as sorry as he ought that the marriage was again deferred. Lucy had no suspicion of the change and her childlike trust in him was the anchor which held him still true to her in intentions at least, if not in reality. He knew from her letters how much she had learned to like Maddy Clyde, and so, he argued, there was no harm in his liking her too. She was a splendid girl, and it seemed a pity that her lot should have been so humbly cast. This was usually the drift of his thoughts in connection with her; and now, as he stood there its that cottage, Maddy's home, they recurred to him with tenfold intensity, for well he foresaw that a struggle was before him if he rescued Maddy as he meant to do from her approaching fate.
No such thoughts, however, intruded themselves on Maddy's mind. She did not look away from the present, except it were at the past, in which she feared she had erred by leaving her grandmother too much alone. But to her passionate appeals for forgiveness, if she ever had neglected the dying one, there came back only loving looks and mute caresses, the aged hand smoothing lovingly the bowed head, or pressing fondly the girlish cheeks where Guy's hand had been. With the coming of daylight, however, there was a change; and Maddy, listening intently, heard what sounded like her name. The tied tongue was loosed for a little, and in tones scarcely articulate, the disciple who for long years had served her Heavenly Father faithfully, bore testimony to the blessed truth that God's promises to those who love Him are not mere promises—that He will go with them through the river of death, disarming the fainting soul of every fear, and making the dying bed the very gate of heaven. This tribute to the Savior was her first thought, while the second was a blessing for her darling, a charge to seek the narrow way now in life's early morning. Disjointed sentences they were, but Maddy understood them all, treasuring up every word even to the last, the words the farther apart and most painfully uttered, "You—will—care—and—comfort——" She did not say whom, but Maddy knew whom she meant; and without then realizing the magnitude of the act, virtually accepted the burden from which Guy was so anxious to save her.
Grandma Markham was dead, and the covered sleigh, which late in the afternoon plowed its way heavily back to Aikenside, carried only Mrs. Noah, who, with her forehead tied up in knots, sat back among the cushions, thinking not of the peaceful dead, gone forever to the rest which remains for the people of God, but of the wayward Guy, who had resisted all her efforts to persuade him to return with her, instead of staying where he was, not needed, and where his presence was a restraint to all save one, and that one Maddy, for whose sake he stayed.
"She'd be vummed," the indignant old lady said, "if she would not write to Lucy herself if Guy did not quit such doin's," and thus resolving she kept on her way, while the subject of her wrath was, it may be, more than half repenting of his decision to stay, inasmuch as he began to have an unpleasant consciousness of himself being in everybody's way.
In the first hour of Maddy's bereavement he had not spoken with her, but had kept himself aloof from the room where, with her grandfather and Uncle Joseph, she sat, holding the poor aching head of the latter in her lap and trying to speak a word of consolation to the old, broken-hearted man, whose hand was grasped in hers. But Maddy knew he was there. She could hear his voice each time he spoke to Mrs. Noah, and that made the desolation easier to bear. She did not look forward to the time when he would be gone; and when at last he told her he was going, she started quickly, and with a gush of tears, exclaimed: "No, no! oh, no!"
"Maddy," Guy whispered, bending over the strange trio, "would you rather I should stay? Will it be pleasanter for you, if I do?"
"Yes—I don't know. I guess it would not be so lonely. Oh, it's terrible to have grandmother dead!" was Maddy's response; after which Guy would have stayed if a whole regiment of Mrs. Noah's had confronted him instead of one.
Maddy wished it; that was reason enough for him; and giving a few directions to John, he stayed, thereby disconcerting the neighboring women who came in to perform the last offices for the dead, and who wished the young man from Aikenside was anywhere but there, watching them in all their movements, as they vainly fancied he did. But Guy thought only of Maddy, watching her so carefully that more than one meaning glance was exchanged between the women, who, even over the inanimate form of the dead, spoke together of what might possibly occur, wondering what would be the effect on Grandpa Markham and Uncle Joseph. Who would take care of them? And then, in case Maddy should feel it her duty to stay there, as they half hoped she would, they fell to pitying the young girl, who seemed now so wholly unfitted for the burden.
To Maddy there came no definite idea of the future during the two days that white, rigid form lay in the darkened cottage; but when, at last, the deep grave made for Grandma Markham was occupied, and the lounge in the little front room was empty—when the Aikenside carriage, which had been sent down for the use of the mourners, had been driven away, taking both Guy and Mrs. Noah—when the neighbors, too, had gone, leaving only herself and the little hired girl sitting by the evening fire, with the grandfather and the imbecile Uncle Joseph—then it was that she first began to fed the pressure of the burden—began to ask herself if she could live thus always, or at least for many years—as long as either of the two helpless men were spared. Maddy was young, and the world as she had seen it was very bright and fair, brighter far than a life of laborious toil, and for a while the idea that the latter alternative must be accepted made her dizzy and faint.
As if divining her thoughts, poor old grandpa, in his prayers that night, asked in trembling tones, which showed how much he felt what he was saying, that God would guide his darling in all she did, and give her wisdom to make the proper decision; that if it were best she might be happy there with them, but if not, "Oh, Father, Father!" he sobbed, "help me and Joseph to bear it." He could pray no more aloud, and the gray head remained bowed down upon his chair, while Uncle Joseph, in his peculiar way, took up the theme, begging like a very child that Maddy might be inclined to stay—that no young men with curling hair, a diamond cross, and smell of musk, might be permitted to come near her with enticing looks, but that she might stay as she was and die an old maid forever! This was the subject of Uncle Joseph's prayer, a prayer which set the little hired girl to tittering, and would have wrung a smile from Maddy herself had she not felt all the strange petition implied.
With waywardness natural to people in his condition, Uncle Joseph that night turned to Maddy for the little services his sister had formerly rendered, and which, since her illness, Grandpa Markham had done, and would willingly do still. But Joseph refused to let him. Maddy must untie his cravat, unbutton his vest, and take off his shoes, while, after he was in bed, Maddy must sit by his side, holding his hand until he fell away to sleep. And Maddy did it cheerfully, soothing him into quiet, and keeping back her own choking sorrow for the sake of comforting him. Then, when this task was done she sought her grandfather, still sitting before the kitchen fire and evidently waiting for her. The little hired girl had retired, and thus there was no barrier to free conversation between them.
"Maddy," the old man said, "come sit close by me, where I can look into your face, while we talk over what must be done."
With a half shudder, Maddy drew a stool to her grandfather's feet, and resting her head upon his knee, listened while he talked to her of the future; told her all her grandmother had done; told of his own helplessness; of the trial it was to care for Uncle Joseph, and then in faltering tones asked who was going to look after them now. "We can't live here alone, Maddy. We can't. We're old and weak, and want some one to lean on. Oh, why didn't God take us with her, Joseph and me, and that would leave you free, to go back to the school and the life which I know is pleasanter than to stay here with us. Oh, Maddy! it comforts me to look at you—to hear your voice, to know that though I don't see you every minute, you are somewhere, and by and by you'll come in. I shan't live long, and maybe Joseph won't. God's promise is to them who honor father and mother. It'll be hard for you to stay, harder than it was once; but, Maddy, oh, Maddy! stay with me, stay with me!—stay with your old grandpa!"
In his earnestness he grasped her arm, as if he thus would hold her, while the tears rained over his wrinkled face. For a moment Maddy made no response. She had no intention of leaving him, but the burden was pressing heavily and her tongue refused to move. Maddy was then a stranger to the religion which was sustaining her grandfather in his great trouble, but the teachings of her childhood had not been in vain. She was God's covenant child. His protecting presence was over and around her, moving her to the right. New York, with its gay sights, her school, where in another year she was to graduate, the trip to the Catskills which Guy had promised Mrs. Agnes, Jessie and herself, Aikenside with its luxurious ease—all these must be given up, while, worse than all the rest, Guy, too, must be given up. He would not come there often; the place was not to his taste, and in time he would cease to care for her as he cared for her now. "Oh, that would be dreadful!" she groaned aloud, while here thoughts went backward to that night ride in the snowstorm, and the numberless attentions he had paid her then. She would never ride with him again—never; and Maddy moaned bitterly, as she began to realize for the first time how much she liked Guy Remington, and how the giving him up and his society was the hardest part of all. But Maddy had a brave young heart, and at last, winding her arms around her grandfather's neck, she whispered: "I will not leave you, grandpa. I'll stay in grandmother's place."
Surely Heaven would answer the blessings whispered over Maddy by the delighted old man, and the young girl taking so cheerfully the burden from which many would have shrunk, should be blessed by God.
With her grandfather's hand upon her head, Maddy could almost feel that the blessing was descending; but when, in her own room, the one where she had lain sick for so many weary weeks, her courage began to give way, and the burden, magnified tenfold by her nervous weakness, looked heavier than she could bear. How could she stay there, going through each day with the same routine of literal drudgery—drudgery which would not end until the two for whom she made the sacrifice were dead.
"Oh, is there no way of escape, no help?" she moaned, as she tossed from side to side, "Must my life be wasted here. Surely—-"
Maddy did not finish the sentence, for something checked the words of repining, and she seemed to hear again her grandfather's voice as it repeated the promise to those who keep with their whole souls the fifth commandment.
"I will, I will," she cried, while into her heart there crept an intense longing for the love of him who alone could make her task a light one. "If I were good like grandma, I could bear everything," she thought, and turning upon her pillow, Maddy prayed an earnest, childlike prayer, that God would help her do night, that He would take from her the proud spirit which rebelled against her lot because of its loneliness, that pride and love of her own ease and advancement in preference to others' good might all be subdued; in short that she might be God's child, walking where He appointed her to walk without a murmur, and doing cheerfully His will.
Aikenside, and school, and the Catskill Mountains were easier to abandon after that contrite prayer; but when she thought of Guy, the fiercest, sharpest pang she had ever felt shot through her heart, making her cry out so quickly that the little hired girl who shared her bed moved as if about to waken, but Maddy lay very quiet until all was still again, when turning a second time to God she tried to pray, tried to give up what to her was the dearest idol, but she could not say the words, and ere she knew what she was doing she found herself asking that Guy should not forsake her. "Let him come," she sobbed, "let Guy come some time to see me".
Once the tempter whispered to her, that had she accepted Dr. Holbrook she would have been spared all this, but Maddy turned a deaf ear to that suggestion. Dr. Holbrook was too noble a man to have an unloving wife, and not for a moment did she repent of her decision with regard to him. She almost knew he would say now that she was right in refusing him, and right in staying there, as she must. Thoughts of the doctor quieted her, she believed, not knowing that Heaven was already owning its submissive child, and breathing upon it a soothing benediction. The moan of the winter wind and the sound of the snow beating against her little window ceased to annoy her. Heaven, happiness, Aikenside and Guy, all seem blended into one great good just within her reach, and when the long clock below the stairs struck three, she did not hear it, but with the tear stains upon her face she lay nestled among her pillows, dreaming that her grandmother had come back from the bright world of glory to bless her darling child.
It was broad noon ere Maddy awoke, and starting up she looked about her in bewilderment, wondering where she was and what agency had been at work in her room, transforming it from the cold, comfortless apartment she had entered the previous night into the cheery-looking chamber, with a warm fire blazing in the tiny fireplace, a rug spread down upon the hearth, a rocking-chair drawn up before it, and all traces of the little hired girl as completely obliterated as if she had never been. In her grief Maddy seemed to have forgotten how to make things cozy, and as, during her grandmother's illness, her own room had been left to the care of the hired girl, Nettie, it wore a neglected, rude aspect, which had grated on Maddy's finer feelings, and made everything so uninviting. But this morning all was changed. Some skillful hand had been busy there while she slept, and Maddy was wondering who it could be, when the door opened cautiously and Flora's good-humored face looked in—Flora from Aikenside. Maddy knew now to whom she was indebted for all this comfort, and with a cry of joy she welcomed the girl, whose very presence brought back something of the life with which she had parted forever.
"Flora," she exclaimed, "how came you here, and did you make this fire and fix the room for me?"
"Yes, I made the fire," Flora replied, "and fixed up the things a little, hustlin' that young one's goods out of here; because it was not fittin' for you to be sleepin' with her. Mr. Guy was mad enough when he found it out."
"Mr. Guy, Flora? How should he know of our sleeping "rrangements?" Maddy asked, but Flora evaded a direct reply, saying, "there was enough ways for things to get to Aikenside;" then continuing, "How tired you must be, Miss Maddy, to sleep so sound as never to hear me at all, though to be sure I tried to be still as a mouse. But let me help you dress. It's all but noon, and you must be hungry. I've got your breakfast all ready."
"Thank you, Flora, I can dress myself," Maddy said, stepping out upon the floor, and feeling that the world was not as dark as it had seemed to her when last night she came up to her chamber.
God was comforting her already, and as she made her simple toilet, she tried to thank Him for His goodness, and ask for grace to make her what she ought to be.
"You have not yet told me why you came here," she said to Flora, who was busy making her bed, and who replied: "It's Mr. Guy's work. He thought I'd better come, as you would need help to get things set to rights, to could go back to school."
Maddy felt her heart coming up in her throat, but she answered calmly, "Mr. Guy is very kind—so are you all; but, Flora, I am not going back to school." "Not going back!" and Flora stopped her bed-making, while she stared blankly at Maddy. "What be you going to do?" "Stay here and take care of grandpa," Maddy said, bathing her face and neck in the cold water, which could not cool the feverish heat she felt spreading all over them. "Stay here! You are crazy, Miss Maddy! 'Tain't no place for a girl like you, and Mr. Guy never will suffer it, I know," Flora rejoined, as she resumed her work, thinking she "should die to be moped up in that nutshell of a house." With a little sigh as she foresaw the opposition she should probably meet with from Guy, Maddy went on with her toilet, which was soon completed, as it did not take long to arrange the dark calico dress and plain linen collar which she wore. She was not as fresh-looking as usual that morning, for excitement and fatigue had lent a paleness to her cheek, and a languor to her whole appearance, but Flora, who glanced anxiously after her as she went out, muttered to herself, "She was never more beautiful, and I don't wonder an atom that Mr. Guy thinks so much of her." The kitchen was in perfect order, for Flora had been busy there as elsewhere. The kettle was boiling on the stove, while two or three little covered dishes were ranged upon the hearth, as if waiting for some one. Grandpa Markham had gone out, but Uncle Joseph sat in his accustomed corner, rubbing his hands when he saw Maddy, and nodding mysteriously toward the front room, the door of which was open, so that Maddy could hear the fire crackling on the hearth.
"Go in, go in," Uncle Joseph said, waving his hand in that direction. "My Lord Governor is in there waiting for you. He won't let me spit on the floor any more as Martha did, and I've swallowed so much that I'm almost choked."
Continual spitting was one of Uncle Joseph's worst habits, and as his sister had indulged him in it, it had become a source of great annoyance both to Maddy, and to some one else of whose proximity Maddy did not dream. Thinking that Uncle Joseph referred to her grandfather, and feeling glad that the latter had attempted a reform, she entered the room known at the cottage as the parlor, the one where the rag carpet was, the six cane-seated chairs and the Boston rocker, and where now the little round table was nicely laid for two, while cozily seated in the rocking-chair, reading last night's paper, and looking very handsome and happy, was Guy!
When Maddy prayed that he might come and see her she did not expect an answer so soon, and she started back in much surprise, while Guy came easily forward to greet her, asking how she was, once telling her she looked tired and thin, then making her take the chair he had vacated, he stood over her, smoothing her hair, while he continued:
"I have taken some liberties, you see, and have made myself quite at home. I knew how unaccustomed you were to the duties of a house, and as I saw that girl was wholly incompetent, I denied myself at least two hours' sleep this morning for the sake of getting here early, bringing Flora with me and a few things which I thought would be for your comfort. You must excuse me, but Flora looked so cold when she came down from your chamber, where I sent her to see how you were, that with your grandfather's permission I ordered a fire to be kindled there. I hope you found it comfortable. This house is very cold."
He kept talking on, and Maddy in a delicious kind of bewilderment listened to him, wondering if ever before there was a person so kind and good as Guy. And really Guy was doing great violence to his pride by being there as he was, but he could do anything for Maddy, and so he had forced down his pride, trying for her sake to make the cottage as pleasant as possible. With Flora to assist he had succeeded wonderfully, and was really enjoying it himself. At first Maddy could not thank him, her heart was so full, but Guy was satisfied with the expression of her face, and calling Flora he bade her serve the breakfast.
"You know my habits," he said, smilingly, as he took a seat at the table, "and breakfasting at daylight, as I did, has given me an appetite; so, with your permission, I'll carve this nice bit of steak for you, while you pour me a cup of coffee, some of Mrs. Noah's best. She"—Guy was going to say, "sent it," but as no stretch of the imagination could construe her "calling him a fool" into sending Maddy coffee, he added instead, "I brought it from Aikenside, together with this strawberry jelly, of which I remember you were fond;" and he helped Maddy lavishly from the fanciful jelly jar which yesterday was adorning the sweetmeat closet at Aikenside.
How chatty and social he was, trying to cheer Maddy up and make her forget that such a thing as death had so lately found entrance there; talking of Jessie, of Aikenside, of the pleasant little time they would have during the vacation, and of the next term at school, when Maddy, as one of the graduating class, would not be kept in as strictly as heretofore, but allowed to see more of the city. Maddy felt as if she should die for the pain tugging at her heart, while she listened to him and knew that the pictures he was drawing were not for her. Her place was there; and after the breakfast was over and Flora had cleared the dishes away, she shut the door, so that they might be alone, and then standing before Guy, she told him of her resolution, begging of him to help her and not make it harder to bear by devising means for her to escape what she felt to be an imperative duty. Guy had expected something like this and was prepared, as he thought, to combat all her arguments; so when she had finished, he replied that of course he did not wish to interfere with her duty, but there might be a question as to what really was her duty, and it seemed to him he was better able to judge of that than herself. It was not right for her to bury herself there while her education was unfinished, when another could do as well. Her superior talents were given to her to improve, and how could she improve them in Honedale; besides her grandfather did not expect her to stay. Guy had talked with him while she was asleep, and the matter was all arranged; a competent woman was to be hired to take charge of the domestic arrangements, and if it seemed desirable, two should be procured; anything to leave Maddy free.
"And grandpa consented to this willingly?" Maddy said, feeling a throb of pleasure at thoughts of release. But Guy could not answer that the grandfather consented willingly.
"He thinks it best. When he comes back you can ask him yourself," he said, just as Uncle Joseph, opening the door, brought their interview to a close by asking very meekly, "if it would please the Lord Governor to let him spit!"
The blood rushed at once to Maddy's face, and she not repress a smile, white Guy laughed aloud, saying to her softly: "For your sake, I tried my skill to stop what I knew must annoy you. Pardon me if I did wrong;" then turning to Uncle Joseph, he gave the desired permission, together with the promise of a handsome spittoon, which should be sent down on the morrow. With a bow Uncle Joseph turned away, muttering to himself, "High doings now Martha's gone; but new lords, new laws. I trust he's not going to live here;" and slyly he asked Flora if the Lord Governor had brought his things!
At this point Grandpa Markham came in, and to him Guy appealed at once to know if he were not willing for Maddy to return to school.
"I said she might if she thought best," was the reply, spoken so sadly that Maddy's arms were at once twined around the old man's neck, while she said to him:
"Tell me honestly which you prefer. I'd like so much to go to school, but I am not sure I should be happy there, knowing how lonely you were here at home. Say, grandpa, which would you rather now, honor bright?" and Maddy tried to speak playfully, though her heart-beats were almost audible as she waited for the answer.
Grandpa could not deceive. He wanted his darling sorely, and he wanted her to be happy, he said. Perhaps they would get on just as well without her. When Mr. Guy was talking it looked as if they might, he made it all so plain, but the sight of Maddy was a comfort. She was all he had left. Maybe he shouldn't live long to pester her, and if he didn't wouldn't she always feel better for having stayed with her old grandpa to the last?
He looked very pale and thin, and his hair was white as snow. He could not live many years, and turning resolutely from Guy, who, so long as he held her eye, controlled her, Maddy said:
"I've chosen once for all. I'll stay with grandpa till he dies," and with a convulsive sob she clung tightly to his neck, as if fearful that without such told on him her resolution would give way.
It was in vain that Guy strove to change Maddy's resolution. She was wholly decided, and late in the afternoon he rode back to Aikenside, a disappointed man, with, however, the feeling that Maddy had done right, and that he respected her all the more for withstanding the temptation.
LIFE AT THE COTTAGE.
It was arranged that Flora should for the present at least remain at the cottage, and Maddy accepted the kindness gratefully. She had become so much accustomed to being cared for by Guy that she almost looked upon it as a matter of course, and did not think of what others might possibly say, but when, in as delicate a manner as possible Guy suggested furnishing the cottage in better style, even proposing to modernize it entirely in the spring, Maddy objected at once. "They were already indebted to him for more than they could ever pay," she said, and she would not suffer it. So Guy submitted, though it grated upon his sense of the beautiful and refined terribly, to see Maddy amid so humble surroundings. Twice a week, and sometimes oftener, he rode down to Honedale, and Maddy felt that without these visits life would hardly have been endurable.
During the vacation Jessie spent a part of the time with her, but Agnes resolutely resisted all Guy's entreaties that she would at least call once on Maddy, who had expressed a wish to see her, and who, on account of her grandfather's health, and the childishness with which Uncle Joseph clung to her, could not well come up to Aikenside. Agnes would not go down, neither would she give other reason for her obstinacy than the apparently foolish one that she did not wish to see the crazy man. Still she did not object to Jessie's going as often as she liked, and she sent by her many little delicacies from the larder at Aikenside, some for grandpa, but most for Uncle Joseph, who prized highly everything coming from "the madam," and sent back to her more than one strangely worded message which made the proud woman's eyes overflow when sure that no one could see her. But this kind of intercourse came to an end at last. The vacation was over, Jessie had gone back to school, and Maddy began in sober earnest the new life before her. Flora, it is true, relieved her of all household drudgery, but no one could share the burden of care and anxiety pressing so heavily upon her, anxiety for her grandfather, whose health seemed failing so fast, and who always looked so disturbed if a shadow were resting on her bright face, or her voice were less cheerful in its tone, and care for the imbecile Joseph, who clung to her as a puny child clings to its mother, refusing to be cared for by any one else, and often requiring of her more than her strength could endure for a great length of time. She it was who gave him his breakfast in the morning, amused him through the day, and then, after he was in bed at night, often sat by his side till a late hour, singing to him old songs, or telling Bible stories until he fell away to sleep. Then if he awoke, as he frequently did, there was a cry for Maddy, and the soothing process had to be repeated, until the tired, pale watcher ceased to wonder that her grandmother had died so suddenly, wondering rather that she had lived so long and borne so much.
Those were dark, wearisome days to Maddy, and the long, cold winter was gone from the New England hills, and the early buds of spring were coming up by the cottage door, the neighbors began to talk of the change which had come over the young girl, once so full of life and health, but now so languid and pale. Still Maddy was not unhappy, nor was the discipline too severe, for by it she learned at last the great object of life; learned to take her troubles and cares to One who helped her bear them so cheerfully, that those who pitied her most never dreamed how heavy was her burden, so patiently and sweetly she bore it. Occasionally there came to her letters from the doctor, but latterly they gave her less pleasure than pain, for as sure as she read one of his kind, friendly messages of sympathy and remembrance, the tempter whispered to her that though she did not love him as she ought to love her husband, yet a life with him was far preferable to the life she was living, and a receipt of his letters always gave her a pang which lasted until Guy came down to see her, when it usually disappeared. Agnes was now at Aikenside, and thus Maddy frequently had Jessie at the cottage, but Agnes never came, and Maddy little guessed how often the proud woman cried herself to sleep after listening to Jessie's recital of all Maddy had to do for the crazy man, and how patiently she did it. He had taken a fancy that Maddy must tell him stories of Sarah, describing her as she was now, not as she used to be when he knew her, but now. "What is she now? How does she look? What does she wear? Tell me, tell me!" he would plead, until Maddy, forced to tell him something, and having distinctly in her mind but one fashionable woman such as she fancied Sarah might be, told him of Agnes Remington, describing her as she was in her mature beauty, with her heavy flowing curls, her brilliant color, her flashing diamonds and costly laces, and Uncle Joseph, listening to her with parted lips and hushed breath, would whisper softly, "Yes, that's Sarah, beautiful Sarah; but tell me—does she ever think of me, or of that time in Hie orchard when I wove the apple blossoms in her hair, where the diamonds are now? She loved me then; she told me so. Does she know how sick, and sorry, and foolish I am?—how the aching in my poor, simple brain is all for her, and how you, Maddy, are doing for me what it is her place to do? Had I a voice," and the crazy man now grew excited, as, raising himself in bed, he gesticulated wildly, "had I a voice to reach her, I'd cry shame on her, to let you do her work, let you-wear your young life and fresh, bright beauty all away for me, whom she ruined."
The voice he craved, or the echo of it, did reach her, for Jessie had been present when the fancy first seized him to hear of Sarah, and in the shadowy twilight she told her mother all, dwelling most upon the touching sadness of his face when he said, "Does she know how sick and sorry I am?"
The pillow which Agnes pressed that night was wet with tears, while in her heart was planted a germ of gratitude and respect for the young girl doing her work for her. All that she could do for Maddy without going directly to her, she did, devising many articles of comfort, sending her fruit and flowers, the last new book, or whatever else she thought might please her, and always finding a willing messenger in Guy. He was miserable, and managed when at home to make others so around him. The sight of Maddy bearing her burden so uncomplainingly almost maddened him. Had she fretted or complained could bear it better, he said, but he did not see the necessity for her to lose all her spirit or interest in everything and everybody. Once when he hinted as much to Maddy, he had been awed into silence by the subdued expression of her face as she told him in part what it was which helped her to bear and made the rough places so smooth. He had seen something like this in Lucy, when paroxysms of pain were racking her delicate frame, but he could not understand it; he only knew it was something he could not touch—something against which his arguments beat helplessly, and so, with an added respect for Maddy Clyde, he smothered his impatience, and determining to help her all he could, rode down to Honedale every day, instead of twice a week, as he had done before.
Attentions so marked could not fail to be commented upon; and while poor, unsuspecting Maddy was deriving so much comfort from his daily visits, deeming that day very long which did not bring him to her, the Honedale gossips, of which there were many, were busy with her affairs, talking them over at their numerous tea-drinkings, discussing them in the streets, and finally at a quilting, where they met in solemn conclave, deciding, that, "for a girl like Maddy Clyde it did not look well to have so much to do with that young Remington, who, everybody knew, was engaged to a somebody in England."
"Yes, and would have been married long ago, if it wasn't for this foolin' with Maddy," chimed in Mrs. Joel Spike, throwing the chalk across the quilt to her sister, Tripheny Marvel, who wondered if Maddy thought he'd ever have her.
"Of course he wouldn't. He knew what he was about. He was not green enough to marry Grandpa Markham's daughter; and if she didn't look out, she'd get herself into a pretty scrape. It didn't look well, anyhow, for her to be putting on airs, as she had done ever since big folks took her up, and she guessed she wouldn't be beholden to nobody for her larnin'."
All this and much more was discussed, and by the time the patchwork thing was done, there remained but little to be said either for or against Guy Remington and Maddy Clyde which had not been said by either friend or foe.
Among the invited guests at that quilting was the wife of Farmer Green, Maddy's warmest friend in Honedale, and the one who did her best to defend her against the attacks of those whose remarks she well knew were caused more by envy than any personal dislike to Maddy, who used to be so much of a pet until her superior advantages separated her in a measure from them. Good Mrs. Green was sorely tried. Without in the least blaming Maddy, she, too, had been troubled at the frequency of Guy's Visits to the cottage. It was not friendship alone which took him there, she was sure; and knowing that he was engaged, she feared for Maddy's happiness at first, and afterward, when people began to talk, she feared for her good name. Something must be done, and though she dreaded it greatly, she was the one to do it. Accordingly, next day she started for the cottage, which Guy had just left, and this, in her opinion, accounted for the bright color in Maddy's cheek and the sparkle in her eye. Guy had been there, bringing and leaving a world of sunshine, but, alas, his chances for coming ever again as he had done were fearfully small, when, at the close of Mrs. Green's well-meant visit, Maddy lay on her bed, her white, frightened face buried in the pillows, and herself half wishing she had died before the last hour had come, with the terrible awakening it had brought; awakening to the fact that of all living beings, Guy Remington was the one she loved the best—the one without whose presence it seemed to her she could not live, but without which she now knew she must.
With the best of intentions Mrs. Green had made a bungle of the whole affair, but had succeeded in giving Maddy a general impression that folks were talking awfully about Guy's coming there, and doing for her so much like an accepted lover, when everybody knew he was engaged, and wouldn't be likely to marry a poor girl if he wasn't; that unless she wanted to be ruined teetotally, and lose all her friends, she must contrive to stop his visits, and not see him so much.
"Yes, I'll do anything, only please leave me now," Maddy gasped, her face as white as ashes and her eyes fixed pleadingly upon Mrs. Green, who, having been young herself, guessed the truth, and, as she arose to go, laid her motherly hand on Maddy's head, saving kindly:
"Poor child, it's hard to bear now, but you'll get over it in time."
"Get over it," Maddy moaned, as she shut and bolted the door after Mrs. Green, and then threw herself upon the bed, "I never shall till I die."
She almost felt that she was dying then, so desolate and so dreary the future looked to her. What was life worth without Guy, and why had she been thrown so much in his way; why permitted to love him as she knew she did, if she must lose him now? Maddy could not cry; there was a tightness about her eyes, and a keen, cutting pain about her heart as she tried to pray for strength to do what was right—strength to cast Guy Remington from her heart where it was a sin for him to be; and then she asked to be forgiven for the wrong she had unwittingly done to Lucy Atherstone, who trusted implicitly, and who, in her last letter, had said:
"If I had not so much faith in Guy I should be jealous of one who has so many opportunities for stealing his heart from me. But I trust you, Maddy Clyde. You would not do a thing to harm me, I am sure, and to lose Guy now, after these years of cruel waiting, would kill me."
Sweet Lucy, there was in her heart a faint stirring of fear lest Maddy Clyde might be a shadow in her pathway, else she had never written that to her. But Lucy's cause was safe in Maddy's hands. Always too high-souled to do a treacherous act, she was now sustained by another and holier principle, which of itself would have kept her from the wrong. But for a few moments Maddy abandoned herself to the bliss of fancying what it would be to be loved by Guy Remington, even as she loved him. And as she thought, there crept into her heart the certainty that in some degree he did love her; that his friendship was more than a mere liking for the girl to whom he had been so kind. In Lucy's absence she was essential to his happiness, and that was why he sought her society so much. Remembering everything that had passed, but more particularly the incidents of that memorable night ride to Honedale with all that had followed since, she could not doubt it, and softly to herself she whispered, "He loves me, he loves me," while little throbs of joy beat all over her heart; but only for an instant, and then the note of joy was changed to sorrow as she thought how she must henceforth seek to kill that love, both for her own sake and Lucy's. Guy must not come there any more. She could not bear it now, even if the neighbors had never meddled with her. She could not see him as she had done, and not betray her real feelings toward him. He had been there that day; he would come again tomorrow. She could see him now just as he would look coming up the walk, easy and self- possessed, confident of his reception, his handsome face beaming all over with kind thoughtfulness for her, and his voice full of tender concern as he asked how she was, and bade Flora see that she did not overtax herself, and all this must cease. She had seen it, heard it for the last time. No wonder that Maddy's heart fainted within her, as she thought how desolate, how dreary would be the days when Guy no longer came. But the victory was gained at last, and strength imparted for the task she had to do.
Going to the table she opened her portfolio, the gift of Guy, and with her gold pen, also his gift, wrote to him what the neighbors were saying, and that he must come there no more; at least, only once in a great while, because if he did, she could not see him. Then, when this was written, she went down to Uncle Joseph, beginning to call for her, and sat by him as usual, singing to him the songs he loved so well, and which this night pleased him especially, because the voice which sang them was so plaintive, so full of woe. Would he never go to sleep, or the hand which held hers so firmly relax its hold? Never, it seemed to Maddy, who sat and sang, while the night-bird on a distant tree, awakened by the low song, uttered a responsive note, and the hours crept on to midnight. Human nature could endure no more, and when the crazy man said to her, "Now sing of Him who died on Calvary," Maddy's answer was a gaping cry as she fell fainting on the pillow.
"It was only a nervous headache," she said to the frightened Flora, who came at Uncle Joseph's call, and helped her young mistress up to bed. "She should be better in the morning, and she would rather be alone."
So Flora left her there, but went often to her door, until assured by the low breathing sound that Maddy was sleeping at last. It was a heavy sleep, and when Maddy awakened from it the pain in her temples was there still; she could not rise, and half glad that she could not, inasmuch as her illness would be a reason why she could not see Guy if he came. She did not know he was here already, until she heard his voice speaking to her grandfather. It was later than she imagined, and he had ridden down early because he could not stay away.
"I can't see him, Flora," Maddy said, when the latter came up with the message that Mr. Remington was there with his buggy, and asked if a little ride would not do her good. "I can't see him, but give him this," and she placed in Flora's hand the note, baptized with so many tears and prayers, and the contents of which made Guy furious; not at her, but at the neighbors, the inquisitive, envious, ignorant, meddlesome neighbors, who had dared to talk of him, or to breathe a suspicious word against Maddy Clyde. He would see; he would make them sorry for it; they should take back every word; and they should beg Maddy's forgiveness for the pain they had caused her.
All this, and much more, Guy thought, as with Maddy's note in his hand he walked up and down the sitting-room, raging like a young lion, and threatening vengeance upon everybody. This was not the first intimation Guy had received of the people's gossip, for only that morning Mrs. Noah had hinted that his course was not at all calculated to do Maddy any good, while Agnes had repeated to him some things which she had heard touching the frequency of his visits to Honedale; but these were nothing to the calmly worded message which banished him effectually from Maddy's presence. He knew Maddy, and he knew, she meant what she wrote, but he could not have it so. He must see her; he would see her; and so for the next half hour Flora was the bearer of written messages to and from Maddy's room; messages of earnest entreaty on the one hand, and of firm denial on the other. At last Maddy wrote:
"If you care for me in the least, or for my respect, leave me, and do not come again until I send for you. I am not insensible to your kindness. I feel it all; but the world is nearer right than you suppose. It does not look well for you to come here so much, and I prefer that you should not. Justice to Lucy requires that you stay away."
That ended it! That roused up Guy's pride, and writing back:
"You shall be obeyed. Good-by." He sprang into his buggy, and Maddy, listening, with head and heart throbbing alike, heard him as he drove furiously away.
Those were long, dreary days which followed, and but for her grandfather's increasing feebleness Maddy would almost have died. Anxiety for him, however, kept her from dwelling too much upon herself, but the excitement sad the care wore upon her sadly, robbing her eye of its luster and her cheek of its remaining bloom, making even Mrs. Noah cry when she came one day with Jessie to see how they were getting on. She had heard from Guy of his banishment, and now that he stayed away, she was ready to step in; so she came, laden with sympathy and other more substantial comforts brought from the Aikenside larder.
Maddy was glad to see her, and for a time cried softly on her bosom, while Mrs. Noah's tears kept company with hers. Not a word was said of Guy, except when Jessie told her he was gone to Boston, and it was so stupid at home without him.
With more than her ordinary discretion, Flora kept to herself what had passed when Guy was last there, so Mrs. Noah knew nothing except what he had told her, and what she read in Maddy's white, suffering face. This last was enough to excite all her pity, and she treated the young girl with the most motherly kindness saying all night, and herself taking care of grandpa, who was now too ill to sit up. There seemed to be no disease preying upon him, nothing save old age, and the loss of one who for more than forty years had shared all his joy and sorrow. He could not live without her, and one night, three weeks after Guy's dismissal, he said to Maddy, as she was about to leave him:
"Sit with me, darling, for a little while, if you are not too tired. Your grandmother seems near me to-night, and so does Alice, your mother. Maybe I'll be with them before another day. I hope I may if God is willing, and there's much I would say to you."
He was very pale, and the great sweat drops stood on his forehead and under his white hair, but Maddy wiped them away and listened with a breaking heart while the aged disciple almost home told her of the peace, the joy, that shone around his pathway to the tomb, and of the everlasting arm bearing him so gently over Jordan. Then he talked of herself, blessing her for all she had been to him, telling her how happy she had made his life since she came home to stay, and how for a time he had ached so with fear lest she should choose to go back and leave him to a stranger. "But my darling stayed with her old grandpa. She'll never be sorry for it, never. I've tried you sometimes, I know, for old folks ain't like young; but I'm sorry, Maddy, and you'll forget it when I'm gone, darling Maddy, precious child;" and the trembling hand rested caressingly on her bowed head as grandpa went on to speak of his affairs, his little property which was hers after the mortgage to Mr. Guy was paid. "I've kept up the interest," he said, "but I could never get him to take any of the principal. I don't know why he is so good to me. Tell him, Maddy, how I thanked and blessed him just before I died; tell him how I used to pray for him every day that he might choose the better part. And he will—I'm sure he will, some day. He hasn't been here of late, and though my old eyes are dim, I can see that your step has got slow, and your face whiter by many shades, since he stayed away. Maddy, child, the dead tell no secrets, and I shall soon be dead. Tell me, then, what it is between you two. Does my girl love Mr. Guy?"
"Oh, grandpa! grandpa!" Maddy moaned, laying her head beside his own on the pillow.
It would be a relief to talk with some one of that terrible pain, which grew worse every day; of that intense longing just for one sight of the beloved one; of Guy, still absent from Aikenside, wandering nobody knew where; and so Maddy told the whole story, while the dying man listened to her, and smoothing her silken hair, tried to comfort her.
"The worst is not over yet," he said. "Guy will offer to make you his wife, sacrificing Lucy for you, and if he does, what will my darling do?"
Maddy's heart leaped up into her throat, and for a moment prevented her from answering, for the thought of Guy's really offering to make her his wife, to shield her from evil, to enfold her in his tender love, made her giddy with joy. But it could not be, and she answered through her tears:
"I shall tell him no."
"God bless my Maddy! She will tell him no for Lucy's sake, and God will bring it right at last," the old man whispered, his voice growing very faint and tremulous. "She will tell him no," he kept repeating, until, rousing up to greater consciousness, he spoke of Uncle Joseph, and asked what Maddy would do with him; would she send him back to the asylum, or care for him there? "He will be happier here," he said, "but it is asking too much of a young girl like you. He may live for years."
"I do not know, grandpa. I hope I may do right. I think I shall keep Uncle Joseph with me," Maddy replied, a shudder creeping over her as she thought of living out all her youth and possibly middle age with a lunatic.
But her grandfather's whispered blessings brought comfort with them, and a calm quiet fell upon her as she sat there listening to the words of prayer, and catching now and then her own name and that of Guy's.
"I am drowsy, Maddy. Watch while I sleep. Perhaps I'll never wake again," grandpa said, and clasping Maddy's hands he fell away to sleep, while Maddy kept her watch beside him, herself falling into a troubled sleep, from which she was aroused by a clammy hand pressing on her forehead, and Uncle Joseph's voice, which said: "Wake, my child. There's been a guest here while you slumbered," and he pointed to the rigid features of the newly dead.
THE BURDEN GROWS HEAVIER.
Of the days which followed, Maddy had no distinct consciousness. She only knew that other hands than hers cared for the dead, that in the little parlor a stiff, white figure lay, that neighboring women stole in, treading on tiptoe, and speaking in hushed voices as they consulted, not her, but Mrs. Noah, who had come at once, and cared for her and hers so kindly. That she lay all day in her own room, where the summer breeze blew softly through the window, bringing the perfume of summer flowers, the sound of a tolling bell, of grinding wheels, the notes of a low, sad hymn, sung in faltering tones, and of many feet moving from the door. Then friendly faces looked in upon her, asking how she felt, and whispering ominously to each other as she answered:
"Very well; is grandpa getting better?"
Then Mrs. Noah sat with her for a time, fanning her with a palm-leaf fan and brushing the flies away. Then Flora came up with a man whom they called "Doctor," and who gave his sundry little pills and powders dissolved in water, after which they all went out and left her there with Jessie who had been crying, and whose soft little hands felt so cool on her hot head, and whose kisses on her lips made the tears start, and brought a thought of Guy, making her ask, "if he was at the funeral." She did not know whose funeral, or why she used that word, only it seemed to her that Jessie just came back from somebody's grave, and she asked if Guy was there. "No," Jessie said; "mother wanted to write and tell him, but we don't know where he is."
And this was all Maddy could recall of the days succeeding the night of her last watch at her grandfather's side, until one balmy August afternoon, when on the Honedale hills there lay that smoky haze so like the autumn time hurrying on apace, and when through her open window stole the fragrance of the later summer flowers. Then, as if waking from an ordinary sleep, she woke suddenly to consciousness, and staring about the room, wondered if it were as late as the western sun would indicate, and how she came to sleep so long. For a while she lay thinking, and as she thought, a sad scene came back to her, a night when her hot hands had been enfolded in those of the dead, and that dead her grandfather. Was it true, or was she laboring under some hallucination of the brain? If true, was that white, placid face still to be seen in the room below, or had they burial him from her sight? She would know, and with a strange kind of nervous strength she arose, and throwing on the wrapper and slippers which lay near, descended the stairs, wondering to find herself so weak, and half shuddering at the deep stillness of the house; stillness broken only by the ticking of the clock and the purring of the house cat, which at sight of Maddy arose from its position near the door and came forward, rubbing its sides against her dress, and trying in various ways to evince its joy at seeing one whose caresses it had missed so long. The little bedroom off the kitchen where grandpa slept and died was vacant; the old fashioned coat was put away, as was every vestige of the old man save the broad-rimmed hat which hung upon the wall just where his hands had hung it, and which looked so much like its owner that with a gush of tears Maddy sank upon the bed, moaning to herself, "Yes, grandpa is dead. I remember now. But Uncle Joseph, where is he? Can he too have died without my knowledge? and she looked round in vain for the lunatic, not a trace of whom was to be found. His room was in perfect order, as was everything about the house, showing that Flora was still the domestic goddess, while Maddy detected also various things which she recognized as having come from Aikenside. Who sent them? Did Guy, and had he been there too while she was sick? The thought brought a throb of joy to Maddy's heart, but it soon passed away as she began again to wonder if Uncle Joseph too had died, and where Flora was. It was not far to the Honedale burying ground. Maddy could see the headstones from where she sat gleaming through the August sunlight; could discern her mother's, and knew that two fresh mounds at least were made beside it. But were there three? Was Uncle Joseph there? By stealing across the meadow in the rear of the house the distance to the graveyard was shortened more than half, and could not be more than the eighth part of a mile, She could walk so far, she knew. The fresh air would do her good, and hunting up her long unused flat, the impatient girl started, stopping once or twice to rest as a dizzy faintness came over her, and then continuing on until the spot she sought was reached, Three graves, one old and sunken, one made when the last winter's snow was on the hills, the other fresh and new. That was all, Uncle Joseph was not there, and vague terror entered Maddy's heart lest he had been taken back to the asylum.