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Ethelyn's Mistake by Mary Jane Holmes

Part 5 out of 6

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Ethie's, a tall man in the blue uniform accosted her, inquiring into her
reasons for wandering about so constantly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Do you love Richard now?"

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

"Richard Markham, Esq."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I had one, but I lost her."

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ethie's door was locked all the next morning, for she was writing to her
husband a long, humble letter, in which all the blame was taken upon
herself, inasmuch as she had made the great mistake of marrying without
love. "But I do love you now, Richard," she said; "love you truly, too,
else I should never be writing this to you, and asking you to take me
back and try if I cannot make you happy."

It was a good deal for Ethie to confess that she had been so much in
fault; but she did it honestly, and when the letter was finished she
felt as if all that had been wrong and bitter in the past was swept
away, and a new era in her life had begun. She would wait till night,
she said--wait till all was again quiet in the hall and in the
sick-room, and then when the boy came around with the mail, as he was
sure to do, she would hand her letter to him, and bid him leave it in
Governor Markham's room. The rest she could not picture to herself; but
she waited impatiently for the long August day to draw to its close,
joining the guests in the parlor by way of passing the time, and
appearing so bright and gay that those who had thought her proud and
cold, and reticent, wondered at the brightness of her face and the glad,
eager expression of her eyes. She was pretty, after all, they thought,
and even Miss Owens, from New York, tried to be very gracious, speaking
to her of Governor Markham, whose room adjoined hers, and asking if she
had seen him. About him Ethie did not care to talk, and, making some
excuse to get away, left the room without hearing a whisper of the
story which was going the rounds of the Cure, and which Miss Owens was
rather desirous of communicating to someone who, like herself, would be
likely to believe it a falsehood.



Mrs. Pry was in a pack, a whole pack, too, which left nothing free but
her head, and even that was bandaged in a wet napkin, so that the good
woman was in a condition of great helplessness, and nervously counted
the moments which must elapse ere Annie, the bath girl, would come to
her relief. Now, as was always the case when in a pack, her ears were
uncorked and turned toward the door, which she had purposely left ajar,
so as not to lose a word, in case any of the ladies came down to that
end of the hall and stood by the window while they talked together. They
were there now, some half a dozen or more, and they were talking eagerly
of the last fresh piece of news brought by Mrs. Carter and daughter, who
had arrived from Iowa the day before, and for lack of accommodations at
the Cure had gone to the hotel. Both were old patients, and well known
in Clifton and so they had spent most of the day at the Cure, hunting up
old acquaintances and making new ones. Being something of lion-seekers,
they had asked at the office who was there worth knowing, the young
lady's face wearing a very important air as she glanced round upon the
guests, and remarked, "How different they seemed from those charming
people from Boston and New York whom we met here last summer!"

It did not appear as if there was a single lion there this season,
whether moneyed, literary, or notorious; and Miss Annie Carter thought
it very doubtful whether they should remain or go on to Saratoga, as all
the while she had wished to do. In great distress good Mrs. Leigh racked
her brain to think who the notables were, and finally bethought herself
of Governor Markham, whose name acted like magic upon the newcomers.

"Governor Markham here? Strange, I never thought of Clifton when I heard
that he was going East for his health. How is he? Does he improve? It is
quite desirable that he should do so, if all reports are true;" and Mrs.
Carter looked very wise and knowing upon the group which gathered around
her, anxious to hear all she had to tell of Governor Markham.

She did not pretend that she knew him herself, as she lived some
distance from Davenport; but she had heard a great deal about him and
his handsome house; and Annie, her daughter, who was visiting in
Davenport, had been all over it after it was finished. Such a beautiful
suite of rooms as he had fitted up for his bride; they were the envy and
wonder of both Davenport and Rock Island, too.

"His bride! We did not know he had one. He passes for a widower here,"
several voices echoed in chorus, and then Mrs. Carter began the story
which had come to her through a dozen mediums, and which circulated
rapidly through the house, but had not reached Mrs. Pry up to the time
when, with her blanket and patchwork quilt she had brought from New
Hampshire, she lay reposing in her pack, with her ears turned toward the
door and ventilator, ready to catch the faintest breath of gossip.

She heard a great deal that afternoon, for the ladies at the end of the
hall did not speak very low, and when at last she was released from her
bandages and had made her afternoon toilet, she hastened round to Miss
Bigelow's to report what she had heard. Tired with her vigils of the
previous night, Ethie was lying down, but she bade Mrs. Pry come in, and
then kept very quiet while the good woman proceeded to ask if she had
heard the news. Ethie had not, but her heart stood still while her
visitor, speaking in a whisper, asked if she was sure Governor Markham
could not hear. That the news concerned herself Ethelyn was sure, and
she was glad that her face was in a measure concealed from view as she
listened to the story.

Governor Markham's wife was not dead, as they had supposed. She was a
shameless creature, who eight or ten years before eloped with a man a
great deal younger than herself. She was very beautiful, people said,
and very fascinating, and the governor worshiped the ground she trod
upon. He took her going off very hard at first, and for years scarcely
held up his head. But lately he had seemed different, and had been more
favorable to a divorce, as advised by his friends. This, however, was
after he met Miss Sallie Morton, whose father was a millionaire in
Chicago, and whose pretty face had captivated the grave governor. To get
the divorce was a very easy matter there in the West, and the governor
was now free to marry again. As Miss Morton preferred Davenport to any
other place in Iowa, he had built him a magnificent house upon a bluff,
finishing it elegantly, and taking untold pains with the suite of rooms
intended for his bride. As Miss Sallie objected to marrying him while he
was so much of an invalid, he had come to Clifton, hoping to reestablish
his health so as to bring home his wife in the autumn, for which event
great preparations were making in the family of Miss Sallie.

This was the story as told by Mrs. Pry, and considering that it had only
come to her through eight or ten different persons, she repeated the
substance of it pretty accurately, and then stopped for Ethie's comment.
But Ethie had nothing to say, and when, surprised at her silence, Mrs.
Pry asked if she believed it at all, there was still no reply, for
Ethelyn had fainted. The reaction was too great from the bright
anticipations of the hour before, to the crushing blow which had fallen
so suddenly upon her hopes. That a patient at Clifton should faint was
not an uncommon thing. Mrs. Pry had often felt like it herself when just
out of a pack, or a hot sulphur bath, and so Ethie's faint excited no
suspicion in her mind. She was fearful, though, that Miss Bigelow had
not heard all the story, but Ethie assured her that she had, and then
added that if left to herself she might possibly sleep, as that was what
she needed. So Mrs. Pry departed, and Ethie was alone with the terrible
calamity which had come upon her. She had been at the Water Cure long
enough to know that not more than half of what she heard was true, and
this story she knew was false in the parts pertaining to herself and her
desertion of her husband. She had never heard before that she was
suspected of having had an associate in the flight, and her cheeks
crimsoned at the idea, while she wondered if Richard had ever thought
that of her. Not at first, she knew, else he had never sought for her so
zealously as Aunt Barbara had intimated; but latterly, as he had heard
no tidings from her, he might have surmised something of the kind, and
that was the secret of the divorce.

"Oh, Richard! Richard!" she murmured, with her hands pressed tightly
over her lips, so as to smother all sound, "I felt so sure of your love.
You were so different from me. I am punished more than I can bear."

If she had never known before, Ethie knew now, how much she really loved
her husband, and how the hope of eventually returning to him had been
the day-star of her life. Had she heard that he was lying dead in the
next room, she would have gone to him at once, and claiming him as hers,
would have found some comfort in weeping sadly over him, and kissing his
cold lips, but now it did indeed seem more than she could bear. She did
not doubt the story of the divorce, or greatly disbelieve in the other
wife. It was natural that many should seek to win his love now that he
had risen so high, and she supposed it was natural that he should wish
for another companion. Perhaps he believed her dead, and Ethie's heart
gave one great throb of joy as she thought of going in to him, and by
her bodily presence contradict that belief, and possibly win him from
his purpose. But Ethie was too proud for that, and her next feeling was
one of exultation that she had not permitted Aunt Barbara to write, or
herself taken any measures for communicating with him. He should never
know how near she had been to him, or guess ever so remotely of the
anguish she was enduring, as, only a few feet removed from him, she
suffered, in part, all the pain and sorrow she had brought upon him.
Then, as she remembered the new house fitted for the bride, she said:

"I must see that house. I must know just what is in store for my rival.
No one knows me in Davenport. Richard is not at home, and there is no
chance for my being recognized."

With this decision came a vague feeling akin to hope that possibly the
story was false--that after all there was no rival, no divorce. At all
events, she should know for a certainty by going to Davenport; and with
every nerve stretched to its utmost tension, Ethie arose from her bed
and packed her trunk quietly and quickly, and then going to the office,
surprised the clerk with the announcement that she wished to leave on
the ten-o'clock train. She had received news which made her going so
suddenly imperative, she said to him, and to the physician, whom she
called upon next, and whose strong arguments against her leaving that
night almost overcame her. But Ethie's will conquered at last, and when
the train from the East came in she stood upon the platform at the
station, her white face closely veiled, and her heart throbbing with the
vague doubts which began to assail her as to whether she were really
doing a wise and prudent thing in going out alone and unprotected to the
home she had no right to enter, and where she was not wanted.



Hot, and dusty, and tired, and sick, and utterly hopeless and wretched,
Ethie looked drearily out from the windows of her room at the hotel,
whither she had gone on her first arrival in Davenport. Her head seemed
bursting as she stood tying her bonnet before the mirror, and drawing on
her gloves, she glanced wistfully at the inviting-looking bed, feeling
strongly tempted to lie down there among the pillows and wait till she
was rested before she went out in that broiling August sun upon her
strange errand. But a haunting presentiment of what the dizziness and
pain in her head and temples portended urged her to do quickly what she
had to do; so with another gulp of the ice water she had ordered, and
which only for a moment cooled her feverish heat, she went from her room
into the hall, where the boy was waiting to show her the way to "the
governor's house." He knew just where it was. Everybody knew in
Davenport, and the chambermaid to whom Ethie had put some questions, had
volunteered the information that the governor had gone East for his
health, and the house, she believed, was shut up--not shut so that she
could not effect an entrance to it. She would find her way through every
obstacle, Ethie thought, wondering vaguely at the strength which kept
her up and made her feel equal to most anything as she followed her
conductor through street after street, onward and onward, up the hill,
where the long windows and turrets of a most elegant mansion were
visible. When asked at the hotel if she would not have a carriage, she
had replied that she preferred to walk, feeling that in this way she
should expend some of the fierce excitement consuming her like an inward
fire. It had not abated one whit when at last the house was reached, and
dismissing her guide she stood a moment upon the steps, leaning her
throbbing head against the door post, and summoning courage to ring the
bell. Never before had she felt so much like an intruder, or so widely
separated from her husband, as during the moment she stood at the
threshold of her home, hesitating whether to ring or go away and give
the matter up. She could not go away now that she had come so far, she
finally decided. She must go in and see the place where Richard lived,
and so, at last, she gave the silver knob a pull, which reverberated
through the entire house, and brought Hannah, the housemaid, in a trice
to see who was there.

"Is Governor Markham at home?" Ethie asked, as the girl waited for her
to say something.

Governor Markham was East, and the folks all gone, the girl replied,
staring a little suspiciously at the stranger who without invitation,
had advanced into the hall, and even showed a disposition to make
herself further at home by walking into the drawing room, the door of
which was slightly ajar.

"My name is Markham. I am a relative of the governor. I am from the
East," Ethelyn volunteered, as she saw the girl expected some

Had Hannah known more of Ethelyn, she might have suspected something;
but she had not been long in the family, and coming, as she did, from
St. Louis, the story of her master's wife was rather mythical to her
than otherwise. That there was once a Mrs. Markham, who, for beauty, and
style, and grandeur, was far superior to Mrs. James, the present
mistress of the establishment, she had heard vague rumors; while only
that morning when dusting and airing Richard's room, she had stopped her
work a moment to admire the handsome picture which Richard had had
painted, from a photograph of Ethie, taken when she was only seventeen.
It was a beautiful, girlish face, and the brown eyes were bright and
soft, and full of eagerness and joy; while the rounded cheeks and
pouting lips were not much like the pale thin woman who now stood in the
marbled hall, claiming to be a relative of the family. Hannah never
dreamed who it was; but, accustomed to treat with respect everything
pertaining to the governor, she opened the door of the little
reception-room, and asked the lady to go in.

"I'll send you Mrs. Dobson the housekeeper," she said; and Ethie heard
her shuffling tread as she disappeared through the hall and down the
stairs to the regions where Mrs. Dobson reigned.

Ethelyn was a little afraid of that dignitary; something in the
atmosphere of the house made her afraid of everything, inspiring her as
it did with the feeling that she had no business there--that she was a
trespasser, a spy, whom Mrs. Dobson would be justified in turning from
the door. But Mrs. Dobson meditated no such act. She was a quiet,
inoffensive, unsuspicious, personage, believing wholly in Governor
Markham and everything pertaining to him. She was canning fruit when
Hannah came with the message that some of the governor's kin had come
from the East, and remembering to have heard that Richard once had an
uncle somewhere in Massachusetts, she had no doubt that this was a
daughter of the old gentleman and a cousin of Richard's, especially as
Hannah described the stranger as youngish and tolerably good-looking.
She had no thought that it was the runaway wife, of whom she knew more
than Hannah, else she would surely have dropped the Spencer jar she was
filling and burned her fingers worse than she did, trying to crowd in
the refractory cover, which persisted in tipping up sideways and all
ways but the right way.

"Some of his kin. Pity they are gone. What shall we do with her?" she
said, as she finally pushed the cover to its place and blew the thumb
she had burned badly.

"Maybe she don't mean to stay long; she didn't bring no baggage," Hannah
said, and thus reassured, Mrs. Dobson rolled down her sleeves and tying
on a clean apron, started for the reception-room, where Ethie sat like
one stupefied, or one who walks in a dream from which he tries in
vain to waken.

This house, as far as she could judge, was not like that home on the
prairie where her first married days were spent. Everything here was
luxurious and grand and in such perfect taste. It seemed a princely
home, and Ethie experienced more than one bitter pang of regret that by
her own act she had in all probability cut herself off from any part or
lot in this earthly paradise.

"I deserve it, but it is very hard to bear," she thought, just as Mrs.
Dobson appeared and bowing respectfully, began:

"Hannah tells me you are kin to the governor's folks,--his cousin, I
reckon--and I am so sorry they are all, gone, and will be yet for some
weeks. The governor is at a water cure down East--strange you didn't
hear of it--and t'other Mr. Markham has gone with his wife to Olney,
and St. Paul, and dear knows where. Too bad, ain't it? But maybe you'll
stay a day or two and rest? We'll make you as comfortable as we can. You
look about beat out," and Mrs. Dobson came nearer to Ethelyn, whose face
and lips were white as ashes, and whose eyes looked almost black with
her excitement.

She was very tired. The rapid journey, made without rest or food
either, save the cup of tea and cracker she tried to swallow, was
beginning to tell upon her, and while Mrs. Dobson was speaking she felt
stealing over her the giddiness which she knew was a precursor
to fainting.

"I am tired and heated," she gasped. "I could not sleep at the hotel or
eat, either. I will stay a day and rest, if you please. Rich--Governor
Markham will not care; I was traveling this way, and thought I would
call. I have heard so much about his house."

She felt constrained to say this by way of explanation, and Mrs. Dobson
accepted it all, warming up at once on the subject of the house--that
was her weak point; while to show strangers through the handsome rooms
was her delight. No opportunity to do this had for some time been
presented, and the good woman's face glowed with the pleasure she
anticipated from showing the governor's cousin his house and grounds.
But first the lady must have some dinner, and bidding her lay aside her
bonnet and shawl and make herself at home, she hurried back to the
kitchen and dispatched Hannah for the tender lamb-chop she was going to
broil, as that was something easily cooked, and the poor girl seemed so
tired and feeble.

"She looks like the Markhams, or like somebody I've seen," she said,
never dreaming of finding the familiar resemblance to "somebody she had
seen" in the picture hanging in Richard's room.

What she would have done had she known who the stranger was is doubtful.
Fortunately she did not know; but being hospitably inclined, and feeling
anxious to show the governor's Eastern relatives how grand and nice they
were, she broiled the tender lamb, and made the fragrant coffee, and
laid the table in the cozy breakfast-room, and put on the little silver
set, and then conducted her visitor out to dinner, helping her herself,
and leaving the room with the injunction to ring if she wanted anything,
as Hannah was within hearing. Terribly bewildered and puzzled with
regard to her own identity, Ethie sat down to Richard's table, in
Richard's house, and partook of Richard's food, with a strange feeling
of quiet, and a constantly increasing sensation of numbness and
bewilderment. Access to the house had been easier than she fancied; but
she could not help feeling that she had no right to be there, no claim
on Richard's hospitality. Certainly she had none, if what she had heard
at Clifton were true. But was it? There was some doubt creeping into her
mind, though why Richard should wish to build so large and so fine a
house just for himself alone she could not understand. She never guessed
how every part of that dwelling had been planned with a direct reference
to her and her tastes; that not a curtain, or a carpet, or a picture had
been purchased without Melinda's having said she believed Ethie would
approve it. Every stone, and plank and tack, and nail had in it a
thought of the Ethie whose coming back had been speculated upon and
planned in so many different ways, but never in this way--never just as
it had finally occurred, with Richard gone, and no one there to welcome
her, save the servants in the kitchen, who, while she ate her solitary
dinner, feeling more desolate and wretched than she had ever before felt
in her life, wondered who she was, and how far they ought to go with
their attentions and civilities. They were not suspicious, but took her
for what she professed to be--a Markham, and a near connection of the
governor; and as that stamped her somebody, they were inclined to be
very civil, feeling sure that Mrs. James would heartily approve their
course. She had rung no bell for Hannah; but they knew her dinner was
over, for they heard her as she went back into the reception-room, where
Mrs. Dobson ere long joined her, and asked if she would like to see
the house.

"It's the only thing we can amuse you with, unless you are fond of
music. Maybe you are," and Mrs. Dobson led the way to a little
music-room, where, in the recess of a bow window a closed piano
was standing.

At first Ethelyn did not observe it closely; but when the housekeeper
opened it, and pushing back the heavy drapery, disclosed it fully to
view, Ethie started forward with a sudden cry of wonder and surprise,
while her face was deathly pale, and the fingers which came down with a
crash upon the keys shook violently, for she knew it was her old
instrument standing there before her--the one she had sold to procure
money for her flight. Richard must have bought it back; for her sake,
too, or rather for the sake of what she once was to him, not what
she was now.

"Play, won't you?" Mrs. Dobson said. But Ethie could not then have
touched a note. The faintest tone of that instrument would have maddened
her and she turned away from it with a shudder, while the rather
talkative Mrs. Dobson continued: "It's an old piano, I believe, that
belonged to the first Mrs. Markham. There's to be a new one bought for
the other Mrs. Markham, I heard them say."

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