Chronicles of Avonlea
Lucy Maud Montgomery
Part 1 out of 5
Typed and Corrected by Kjell Nedrelid.
Last modified 02.11.1996. (dd.mm.yyyy)
Uncorrected version released to Internet 12.10.1996.
This version released 02.11.1996.
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by L. M. MONTGOMERY
TO THE MEMORY OF
Mrs. William A. Houston,
A DEAR FRIEND, WHO HAS GONE BEYOND
The unsung beauty hid
life's common things below.
I. The Hurrying of Ludovic
II. Old Lady Lloyd
III. Each In His Own Tongue
IV. Little Joscelyn
V. The Winning of Lucinda
VI. Old Man Shaw's Girl
VII. Aunt Olivia's Beau
VIII. The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham's
IX. Pa Sloane's Purchase
X. The Courting of Prissy Strong
XI. The Miracle at Carmody
XII. The End of a Quarrel
I. The Hurrying of Ludovic
Anne Shirley was curled up on the window-seat of Theodora
Dix's sitting-room one Saturday evening, looking dreamily afar
at some fair starland beyond the hills of sunset. Anne was
visiting for a fortnight of her vacation at Echo Lodge, where
Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Irving were spending the summer, and she
often ran over to the old Dix homestead to chat for awhile
with Theodora. They had had their chat out, on this particular
evening, and Anne was giving herself over to the delight of
building an air-castle. She leaned her shapely head, with its
braided coronet of dark red hair, against the window-casing,
and her gray eyes were like the moonlight gleam of shadowy
Then she saw Ludovic Speed coming down the lane. He was yet
far from the house, for the Dix lane was a long one, but
Ludovic could be recognized as far as he could be seen. No one
else in Middle Grafton had such a tall, gently-stooping,
placidly-moving figure. In every kink and turn of it there was
an individuality all Ludovic's own.
Anne roused herself from her dreams, thinking it would only be
tactful to take her departure. Ludovic was courting Theodora.
Everyone in Grafton knew that, or, if anyone were in ignorance
of the fact, it was not because he had not had time to find
out. Ludovic had been coming down that lane to see Theodora,
in the same ruminating, unhastening fashion, for fifteen
When Anne, who was slim and girlish and romantic, rose to go,
Theodora, who was plump and middle-aged and practical, said,
with a twinkle in her eye:
"There isn't any hurry, child. Sit down and have your call
out. You've seen Ludovic coming down the lane, and, I suppose,
you think you'll be a crowd. But you won't. Ludovic rather
likes a third person around, and so do I. It spurs up the
conversation as it were. When a man has been coming to see you
straight along, twice a week for fifteen years, you get rather
talked out by spells."
Theodora never pretended to bashfulness where Ludovic was
concerned. She was not at all shy of referring to him and his
dilatory courtship. Indeed, it seemed to amuse her.
Anne sat down again and together they watched Ludovic coming
down the lane, gazing calmly about him at the lush clover
fields and the blue loops of the river winding in and out of
the misty valley below.
Anne looked at Theodora's placid, finely-moulded face and
tried to imagine what she herself would feel like if she were
sitting there, waiting for an elderly lover who had,
seemingly, taken so long to make up his mind. But even Anne's
imagination failed her for this.
"Anyway," she thought, impatiently, "if I wanted him I think
I'd find some way of hurrying him up. Ludovic SPEED! Was
there ever such a misfit of a name? Such a name for such a man
is a delusion and a snare."
Presently Ludovic got to the house, but stood so long on the
doorstep in a brown study, gazing into the tangled green
boskage of the cherry orchard, that Theodora finally went and
opened the door before he knocked. As she brought him into the
sitting-room she made a comical grimace at Anne over his
Ludovic smiled pleasantly at Anne. He liked her; she was the
only young girl he knew, for he generally avoided young girls-
-they made him feel awkward and out of place. But Anne did not
affect him in this fashion. She had a way of getting on with
all sorts of people, and, although they had not known her very
long, both Ludovic and Theodora looked upon her as an old
Ludovic was tall and somewhat ungainly, but his unhesitating
placidity gave him the appearance of a dignity that did not
otherwise pertain to him. He had a drooping, silky, brown
moustache, and a little curly tuft of imperial,--a fashion
which was regarded as eccentric in Grafton, where men had
clean-shaven chins or went full-bearded. His eyes were dreamy
and pleasant, with a touch of melancholy in their blue depths.
He sat down in the big bulgy old armchair that had belonged to
Theodora's father. Ludovic always sat there, and Anne declared
that the chair had come to look like him.
The conversation soon grew animated enough. Ludovic was a good
talker when he had somebody to draw him out. He was well read,
and frequently surprised Anne by his shrewd comments on men
and matters out in the world, of which only the faint echoes
reached Deland River. He had also a liking for religious
arguments with Theodora, who did not care much for politics or
the making of history, but was avid of doctrines, and read
everything pertaining thereto. When the conversation drifted
into an eddy of friendly wrangling between Ludovic and
Theodora over Christian Science, Anne understood that her
usefulness was ended for the time being, and that she would
not be missed.
"It's star time and good-night time," she said, and went away
But she had to stop to laugh when she was well out of sight of
the house, in a green meadow bestarred with the white and gold
of daisies. A wind, odour-freighted, blew daintily across it.
Anne leaned against a white birch tree in the corner and
laughed heartily, as she was apt to do whenever she thought of
Ludovic and Theodora. To her eager youth, this courtship of
theirs seemed a very amusing thing. She liked Ludovic, but
allowed herself to be provoked with him.
"The dear, big, irritating goose!" she said aloud. "There
never was such a lovable idiot before. He's just like the
alligator in the old rhyme, who wouldn't go along, and
wouldn't keep still, but just kept bobbing up and down."
Two evenings later, when Anne went over to the Dix place, she
and Theodora drifted into a conversation about Ludovic.
Theodora, who was the most industrious soul alive, and had a
mania for fancy work into the bargain, was busying her smooth,
plump fingers with a very elaborate Battenburg lace centre-
piece. Anne was lying back in a little rocker, with her slim
hands folded in her lap, watching Theodora. She realized that
Theodora was very handsome, in a stately, Juno-like fashion of
firm, white flesh, large, clearly-chiselled outlines, and
great, cowey, brown eyes. When Theodora was not smiling, she
looked very imposing. Anne thought it likely that Ludovic held
her in awe.
"Did you and Ludovic talk about Christian Science ALL
Saturday evening?" she asked.
Theodora overflowed into a smile.
"Yes, and we even quarrelled over it. At least _I_ did.
Ludovic wouldn't quarrel with anyone. You have to fight air
when you spar with him. I hate to square up to a person who
won't hit back."
"Theodora," said Anne coaxingly, "I am going to be curious and
impertinent. You can snub me if you like. Why don't you and
Ludovic get married?"
Theodora laughed comfortably.
"That's the question Grafton folks have been asking for quite
a while, I reckon, Anne. Well, I'd have no objection to
marrying Ludovic. That's frank enough for you, isn't it? But
it's not easy to marry a man unless he asks you. And Ludovic
has never asked me."
"Is he too shy?" persisted Anne. Since Theodora was in the
mood, she meant to sift this puzzling affair to the bottom.
Theodora dropped her work and looked meditatively out over the
green slopes of the summer world.
"No, I don't think it is that. Ludovic isn't shy. It's just
his way--the Speed way. The Speeds are all dreadfully
deliberate. They spend years thinking over a thing before they
make up their minds to do it. Sometimes they get so much in
the habit of thinking about it that they never get over it--
like old Alder Speed, who was always talking of going to
England to see his brother, but never went, though there was
no earthly reason why he shouldn't. They're not lazy, you
know, but they love to take their time."
"And Ludovic is just an aggravated case of Speedism,"
"Exactly. He never hurried in his life. Why, he has been
thinking for the last six years of getting his house painted.
He talks it over with me every little while, and picks out the
colour, and there the matter stays. He's fond of me, and he
means to ask me to have him sometime. The only question is--
will the time ever come?"
"Why don't you hurry him up?" asked Anne impatiently.
Theodora went back to her stitches with another laugh.
"If Ludovic could be hurried up, I'm not the one to do it. I'm
too shy. It sounds ridiculous to hear a woman of my age and
inches say that, but it is true. Of course, I know it's the
only way any Speed ever did make out to get married. For
instance, there's a cousin of mine married to Ludovic's
brother. I don't say she proposed to him out and out, but,
mind you, Anne, it wasn't far from it. I couldn't do anything
like that. I DID try once. When I realized that I was
getting sere and mellow, and all the girls of my generation
were going off on either hand, I tried to give Ludovic a hint.
But it stuck in my throat. And now I don't mind. If I don't
change Dix to Speed until I take the initiative, it will be
Dix to the end of life. Ludovic doesn't realize that we are
growing old, you know. He thinks we are giddy young folks yet,
with plenty of time before us. That's the Speed failing. They
never find out they're alive until they're dead."
"You're fond of Ludovic, aren't you?" asked Anne, detecting a
note of real bitterness among Theodora's paradoxes.
"Laws, yes," said Theodora candidly. She did not think it
worth while to blush over so settled a fact. "I think the
world and all of Ludovic. And he certainly does need somebody
to look after HIM. He's neglected--he looks frayed. You can
see that for yourself. That old aunt of his looks after his
house in some fashion, but she doesn't look after him. And
he's coming now to the age when a man needs to be looked after
and coddled a bit. I'm lonesome here, and Ludovic is lonesome
up there, and it does seem ridiculous, doesn't it? I don't
wonder that we're the standing joke of Grafton. Goodness
knows, I laugh at it enough myself. I've sometimes thought
that if Ludovic could be made jealous it might spur him along.
But I never could flirt and there's nobody to flirt with if I
could. Everybody hereabouts looks upon me as Ludovic's
property and nobody would dream of interfering with him."
"Theodora," cried Anne, "I have a plan!"
"Now, what are you going to do?" exclaimed Theodora.
Anne told her. At first Theodora laughed and protested. In the
end, she yielded somewhat doubtfully, overborne by Anne's
"Well, try it, then," she said, resignedly. "If Ludovic gets
mad and leaves me, I'll be worse off than ever. But nothing
venture, nothing win. And there is a fighting chance, I
suppose. Besides, I must admit I'm tired of his dilly-
Anne went back to Echo Lodge tingling with delight in her
plot. She hunted up Arnold Sherman, and told him what was
required of him. Arnold Sherman listened and laughed. He was
an elderly widower, an intimate friend of Stephen Irving, and
had come down to spend part of the summer with him and his
wife in Prince Edward Island. He was handsome in a mature
style, and he had a dash of mischief in him still, so that he
entered readily enough into Anne's plan. It amused him to
think of hurrying Ludovic Speed, and he knew that Theodora Dix
could be depended on to do her part. The comedy would not be
dull, whatever its outcome.
The curtain rose on the first act after prayer meeting on the
next Thursday night. It was bright moonlight when the people
came out of church, and everybody saw it plainly. Arnold
Sherman stood upon the steps close to the door, and Ludovic
Speed leaned up against a corner of the graveyard fence, as he
had done for years. The boys said he had worn the paint off
that particular place. Ludovic knew of no reason why he should
paste himself up against the church door. Theodora would come
out as usual, and he would join her as she went past the
This was what happened, Theodora came down the steps, her
stately figure outlined in its darkness against the gush of
lamplight from the porch. Arnold Sherman asked her if he might
see her home. Theodora took his arm calmly, and together they
swept past the stupefied Ludovic, who stood helplessly gazing
after them as if unable to believe his eyes.
For a few moments he stood there limply; then he started down
the road after his fickle lady and her new admirer. The boys
and irresponsible young men crowded after, expecting some
excitement, but they were disappointed. Ludovic strode on
until he overtook Theodora and Arnold Sherman, and then fell
meekly in behind them.
Theodora hardly enjoyed her walk home, although Arnold Sherman
laid himself out to be especially entertaining. Her heart
yearned after Ludovic, whose shuffling footsteps she heard
behind her. She feared that she had been very cruel, but she
was in for it now. She steeled herself by the reflection that
it was all for his own good, and she talked to Arnold Sherman
as if he were the one man in the world. Poor, deserted
Ludovic, following humbly behind, heard her, and if Theodora
had known how bitter the cup she was holding to his lips
really was, she would never have been resolute enough to
present it, no matter for what ultimate good.
When she and Arnold turned in at her gate, Ludovic had to
stop. Theodora looked over her shoulder and saw him standing
still on the road. His forlorn figure haunted her thoughts all
night. If Anne had not run over the next day and bolstered up
her convictions, she might have spoiled everything by
Ludovic, meanwhile, stood still on the road, quite oblivious
to the hoots and comments of the vastly amused small boy
contingent, until Theodora and his rival disappeared from his
view under the firs in the hollow of her lane. Then he turned
about and went home, not with his usual leisurely amble, but
with a perturbed stride which proclaimed his inward disquiet.
He felt bewildered. If the world had come suddenly to an end
or if the lazy, meandering Grafton River had turned about and
flowed up hill, Ludovic could not have been more astonished.
For fifteen years he had walked home from meetings with
Theodora; and now this elderly stranger, with all the glamour
of "the States" hanging about him, had coolly walked off with
her under Ludovic's very nose. Worse--most unkindest cut of
all--Theodora had gone with him willingly; nay, she had
evidently enjoyed his company. Ludovic felt the stirring of a
righteous anger in his easy-going soul.
When he reached the end of his lane, he paused at his gate,
and looked at his house, set back from the lane in a crescent
of birches. Even in the moonlight, its weather-worn aspect was
plainly visible. He thought of the "palatial residence" rumour
ascribed to Arnold Sherman in Boston, and stroked his chin
nervously with his sunburnt fingers. Then he doubled up his
fist and struck it smartly on the gate-post.
"Theodora needn't think she is going to jilt me in this
fashion, after keeping company with me for fifteen years," he
said. "I'LL have something to say to it, Arnold Sherman or
no Arnold Sherman. The impudence of the puppy!"
The next morning Ludovic drove to Carmody and engaged Joshua
Pye to come and paint his house, and that evening, although he
was not due till Saturday night, he went down to see Theodora.
Arnold Sherman was there before him, and was actually sitting
in Ludovic's own prescriptive chair. Ludovic had to deposit
himself in Theodora's new wicker rocker, where he looked and
felt lamentably out of place.
If Theodora felt the situation to be awkward, she carried it
off superbly. She had never looked handsomer, and Ludovic
perceived that she wore her second best silk dress. He
wondered miserably if she had donned it in expectation of his
rival's call. She had never put on silk dresses for him.
Ludovic had always been the meekest and mildest of mortals,
but he felt quite murderous as he sat mutely there and
listened to Arnold Sherman's polished conversation.
"You should just have been here to see him glowering,"
Theodora told the delighted Anne the next day. "It may be
wicked of me, but I felt real glad. I was afraid he might stay
away and sulk. So long as he comes here and sulks I don't
worry. But he is feeling badly enough, poor soul, and I'm
really eaten up by remorse. He tried to outstay Mr. Sherman
last night, but he didn't manage it. You never saw a more
depressed-looking creature than he was as he hurried down the
lane. Yes, he actually hurried."
The following Sunday evening Arnold Sherman walked to church
with Theodora, and sat with her. When they came in Ludovic
Speed suddenly stood up in his pew under the gallery. He sat
down again at once, but everybody in view had seen him, and
that night folks in all the length and breadth of Grafton
River discussed the dramatic occurrence with keen enjoyment.
"Yes, he jumped right up as if he was pulled on his feet,
while the minister was reading the chapter," said his cousin,
Lorella Speed, who had been in church, to her sister, who had
not. "His face was as white as a sheet, and his eyes were just
glaring out of his head. I never felt so thrilled, I declare!
I almost expected him to fly at them then and there. But he
just gave a sort of gasp and set down again. I don't know
whether Theodora Dix saw him or not. She looked as cool and
unconcerned as you please."
Theodora had not seen Ludovic, but if she looked cool and
unconcerned, her appearance belied her, for she felt miserably
flustered. She could not prevent Arnold Sherman coming to
church with her, but it seemed to her like going too far.
People did not go to church and sit together in Grafton unless
they were the next thing to being engaged. What if this filled
Ludovic with the narcotic of despair instead of wakening him
up! She sat through the service in misery and heard not one
word of the sermon.
But Ludovic's spectacular performances were not yet over. The
Speeds might be hard to get started, but once they were
started their momentum was irresistible. When Theodora and Mr.
Sherman came out, Ludovic was waiting on the steps. He stood
up straight and stern, with his head thrown back and his
shoulders squared. There was open defiance in the look he cast
on his rival, and masterfulness in the mere touch of the hand
he laid on Theodora's arm.
"May I see you home, Miss Dix?" his words said. His tone said,
"I am going to see you home whether or no."
Theodora, with a deprecating look at Arnold Sherman, took his
arm, and Ludovic marched her across the green amid a silence
which the very horses tied to the storm fence seemed to share.
For Ludovic 'twas a crowded hour of glorious life.
Anne walked all the way over from Avonlea the next day to hear
the news. Theodora smiled consciously.
"Yes, it is really settled at last, Anne. Coming home last
night Ludovic asked me plump and plain to marry him,--Sunday
and all as it was. It's to be right away--for Ludovic won't be
put off a week longer than necessary."
"So Ludovic Speed has been hurried up to some purpose at
last," said Mr. Sherman, when Anne called in at Echo Lodge,
brimful with her news. "And you are delighted, of course, and
my poor pride must be the scapegoat. I shall always be
remembered in Grafton as the man from Boston who wanted
Theodora Dix and couldn't get her."
"But that won't be true, you know," said Anne comfortingly.
Arnold Sherman thought of Theodora's ripe beauty, and the
mellow companionableness she had revealed in their brief
"I'm not perfectly sure of that," he said, with a half sigh.
II. Old Lady Lloyd
I. The May Chapter
Spencervale gossip always said that "Old Lady Lloyd" was rich
and mean and proud. Gossip, as usual, was one-third right and
two-thirds wrong. Old Lady Lloyd was neither rich nor mean; in
reality she was pitifully poor--so poor that "Crooked Jack"
Spencer, who dug her garden and chopped her wood for her, was
opulent by contrast, for he, at least, never lacked three
meals a day, and the Old Lady could sometimes achieve no more
than one. But she WAS very proud--so proud that she would
have died rather than let the Spencervale people, among whom
she had queened it in her youth, suspect how poor she was and
to what straits was sometimes reduced. She much preferred to
have them think her miserly and odd--a queer old recluse who
never went anywhere, even to church, and who paid the smallest
subscription to the minister's salary of anyone in the
"And her just rolling in wealth!" they said indignantly.
"Well, she didn't get her miserly ways from her parents.
THEY were real generous and neighbourly. There never was a
finer gentleman than old Doctor Lloyd. He was always doing
kindnesses to everybody; and he had a way of doing them that
made you feel as if you was doing the favour, not him. Well,
well, let Old Lady Lloyd keep herself and her money to herself
if she wants to. If she doesn't want our company, she doesn't
have to suffer it, that's all. Reckon she isn't none too happy
for all her money and pride."
No, the Old Lady was none too happy, that was unfortunately
true. It is not easy to be happy when your life is eaten up
with loneliness and emptiness on the spiritual side, and when,
on the material side, all you have between you and starvation
is the little money your hens bring you in.
The Old Lady lived "away back at the old Lloyd place," as it
was always called. It was a quaint, low-eaved house, with big
chimneys and square windows and with spruces growing thickly
all around it. The Old Lady lived there all alone and there
were weeks at a time when she never saw a human being except
Crooked Jack. What the Old Lady did with herself and how she
put in her time was a puzzle the Spencervale people could not
solve. The children believed she amused herself counting the
gold in the big black box under her bed. Spencervale children
held the Old Lady in mortal terror; some of them--the "Spencer
Road" fry--believed she was a witch; all of them would run if,
when wandering about the woods in search of berries or spruce
gum, they saw at a distance the spare, upright form of the Old
Lady, gathering sticks for her fire. Mary Moore was the only
one who was quite sure she was not a witch.
"Witches are always ugly," she said decisively, "and Old Lady
Lloyd isn't ugly. She's real pretty--she's got such a soft
white hair and big black eyes and a little white face. Those
Road children don't know what they're talking of. Mother says
they're a very ignorant crowd."
"Well, she doesn't ever go to church, and she mutters and
talks to herself all the time she's picking up sticks,"
maintained Jimmy Kimball stoutly.
The Old Lady talked to herself because she was really very
fond of company and conversation. To be sure, when you have
talked to nobody but yourself for nearly twenty years, it is
apt to grow somewhat monotonous; and there were times when the
Old Lady would have sacrificed everything but her pride for a
little human companionship. At such times she felt very bitter
and resentful toward Fate for having taken everything from
her. She had nothing to love, and that is about as unwholesome
a condition as is possible to anyone.
It was always hardest in the spring. Once upon a time the Old
Lady--when she had not been the Old Lady, but pretty, wilful,
high-spirited Margaret Lloyd--had loved springs; now she hated
them because they hurt her; and this particular spring of this
particular May chapter hurt her more than any that had gone
before. The Old Lady felt as if she could NOT endure the
ache of it. Everything hurt her--the new green tips on the
firs, the fairy mists down in the little beech hollow below
the house, the fresh smell of the red earth Crooked Jack
spaded up in her garden. The Old Lady lay awake all one
moonlit night and cried for very heartache. She even forgot
her body hunger in her soul hunger; and the Old Lady had been
hungry, more or less, all that week. She was living on store
biscuits and water, so that she might be able to pay Crooked
Jack for digging her garden. When the pale, lovely dawn-colour
came stealing up the sky behind the spruces, the Old Lady
buried her face in her pillow and refused to look at it.
"I hate the new day," she said rebelliously. "It will be just
like all the other hard, common days. I don't want to get up
and live it. And, oh, to think that long ago I reached out my
hands joyfully to every new day, as to a friend who was
bringing me good tidings! I loved the mornings then--sunny or
gray, they were as delightful as an unread book--and now I
hate them--hate them--hate them!"
But the Old Lady got up nevertheless, for she knew Crooked
Jack would be coming early to finish the garden. She arranged
her beautiful, thick, white hair very carefully, and put on
her purple silk dress with the little gold spots in it. The
Old Lady always wore silk from motives of economy. It was much
cheaper to wear a silk dress that had belonged to her mother
than to buy new print at the store. The Old Lady had plenty of
silk dresses which had belonged to her mother. She wore them
morning, noon, and night, and Spencervale people considered it
an additional evidence of her pride. As for the fashion of
them, it was, of course, just because she was too mean to have
them made over. They did not dream that the Old Lady never put
on one of the silk dresses without agonizing over its
unfashionableness, and that even the eyes of Crooked Jack cast
on her antique flounces and overskirts was almost more than
her feminine vanity could endure.
In spite of the fact that the Old Lady had not welcomed the
new day, its beauty charmed her when she went out for a walk
after her dinner--or, rather, after her mid-day biscuit. It
was so fresh, so sweet, so virgin; and the spruce woods around
the old Lloyd place were athrill with busy spring doings and
all sprinkled through with young lights and shadows. Some of
their delight found its way into the Old Lady's bitter heart
as she wandered through them, and when she came out at the
little plank bridge over the brook down under the beeches, she
felt almost gentle and tender once more. There was one big
beech there, in particular, which the Old Lady loved for
reasons best known to herself--a great, tall beech with a
trunk like the shaft of a gray marble column and a leafy
spread of branches over the still, golden-brown pool made
beneath it by the brook. It had been a young sapling in the
days that were haloed by the vanished glory of the Old Lady's
The Old Lady heard childish voices and laughter afar up the
lane which led to William Spencer's place just above the
woods. William Spencer's front lane ran out to the main road
in a different direction, but this "back lane" furnished a
short cut and his children always went to school that way.
The Old Lady shrank hastily back behind a clump of young
spruces. She did not like the Spencer children because they
always seemed so afraid of her. Through the spruce screen she
could see them coming gaily down the lane--the two older ones
in front, the twins behind, clinging to the hands of a tall,
slim, young girl--the new music teacher, probably. The Old
Lady had heard from the egg pedlar that she was going to board
at William Spencer's, but she had not heard her name.
She looked at her with some curiosity as they drew near--and
then, all at once, the Old Lady's heart gave a great bound and
began to beat as it had not beaten for years, while her breath
came quickly and she trembled violently. Who--WHO could this
Under the new music teacher's straw hat were masses of fine
chestnut hair of the very shade and wave that the Old Lady
remembered on another head in vanished years; from under those
waves looked large, violet-blue eyes with very black lashes
and brows--and the Old Lady knew those eyes as well as she
knew her own; and the new music teacher's face, with all its
beauty of delicate outline and dainty colouring and glad,
buoyant youth, was a face from the Old Lady's past--a perfect
resemblance in every respect save one; the face which the Old
Lady remembered had been weak, with all its charm; but this
girl's face possessed a fine, dominant strength compact of
sweetness and womanliness. As she passed by the Old Lady's
hiding place she laughed at something one of the children
said; and oh, but the Old Lady knew that laughter well. She
had heard it before under that very beech tree.
She watched them until they disappeared over the wooded hill
beyond the bridge; and then she went back home as if she
walked in a dream. Crooked Jack was delving vigorously in the
garden; ordinarily the Old Lady did not talk much with Crooked
Jack, for she disliked his weakness for gossip; but now she
went into the garden, a stately old figure in her purple,
gold-spotted silk, with the sunshine gleaming on her white
Crooked Jack had seen her go out and had remarked to himself
that the Old Lady was losing ground; she was pale and peaked-
looking. He now concluded that he had been mistaken. The Old
Lady's cheeks were pink and her eyes shining. Somewhere in her
walk she had shed ten years at least. Crooked Jack leaned on
his spade and decided that there weren't many finer looking
women anywhere than Old Lady Lloyd. Pity she was such an old
"Mr. Spencer," said the Old Lady graciously--she always spoke
very graciously to her inferiors when she talked to them at
all--"can you tell me the name of the new music teacher who is
boarding at Mr. William Spencer's?"
"Sylvia Gray," said Crooked Jack.
The Old Lady's heart gave another great bound. But she had
known it--she had known that girl with Leslie Gray's hair and
eyes and laugh must be Leslie Gray's daughter.
Crooked Jack spat on his hand and resumed his work, but his
tongue went faster than his spade, and the Old Lady listened
greedily. For the first time she enjoyed and blessed Crooked
Jack's garrulity and gossip. Every word he uttered was as an
apple of gold in a picture of silver to her.
He had been working at William Spencer's the day the new music
teacher had come, and what Crooked Jack couldn't find out
about any person in one whole day--at least as far as outward
life went--was hardly worth finding out. Next to discovering
things did he love telling them, and it would be hard to say
which enjoyed that ensuing half-hour more--Crooked Jack or the
Crooked Jack's account, boiled down, amounted to this; both
Miss Gray's parents had died when she was a baby, she had been
brought up by an aunt, she was very poor and very ambitious.
"Wants a moosical eddication," finished up Crooked Jack, "and,
by jingo, she orter have it, for anything like the voice of
her I never heerd. She sung for us that evening after supper
and I thought 'twas an angel singing. It just went through me
like a shaft o' light. The Spencer young ones are crazy over
her already. She's got twenty pupils around here and in
Grafton and Avonlea."
When the Old Lady had found out everything Crooked Jack could
tell her, she went into the house and sat down by the window
of her little sitting-room to think it all over. She was
tingling from head to foot with excitement.
Leslie's daughter! This Old Lady had had her romance once.
Long ago--forty years ago--she had been engaged to Leslie
Gray, a young college student who taught in Spencervale for
the summer term one year--the golden summer of Margaret
Lloyd's life. Leslie had been a shy, dreamy, handsome fellow
with literary ambitions, which, as he and Margaret both firmly
believed, would one day bring him fame and fortune.
Then there had been a foolish, bitter quarrel at the end of
that golden summer. Leslie had gone away in anger, afterwards
he had written, but Margaret Lloyd, still in the grasp of her
pride and resentment, had sent a harsh answer. No more letters
came; Leslie Gray never returned; and one day Margaret wakened
to the realization that she had put love out of her life for
ever. She knew it would never be hers again; and from that
moment her feet were turned from youth to walk down the valley
of shadow to a lonely, eccentric age.
Many years later she heard of Leslie's marriage; then came
news of his death, after a life that had not fulfilled his
dreams for him. Nothing more she had heard or known--nothing
to this day, when she had seen his daughter pass her by
unseeing in the beech hollow.
"His daughter! And she might have been MY daughter,"
murmured the Old Lady. "Oh, if I could only know her and love
her--and perhaps win her love in return! But I cannot. I could
not have Leslie Gray's daughter know how poor I am--how low I
have been brought. I could not bear that. And to think she is
living so near me, the darling--just up the lane and over the
hill. I can see her go by every day--I can have that dear
pleasure, at least. But oh, if I could only do something for
her--give her some little pleasure! It would be such a
When the Old Lady happened to go into her spare room that
evening, she saw from it a light shining through a gap in the
trees on the hill. She knew that it shone from the Spencers'
spare room. So it was Sylvia's light. The Old Lady stood in
the darkness and watched it until it went out--watched it with
a great sweetness breathing in her heart, such as risen from
old rose-leaves when they are stirred. She fancied Sylvia
moving about her room, brushing and braiding her long,
glistening hair--laying aside her little trinkets and girlish
adornments--making her simple preparations for sleep. When the
light went out the Old Lady pictured a slight white figure
kneeling by the window in the soft starshine, and the Old Lady
knelt down then and there and said her own prayers in
fellowship. She said the simple form of words she had always
used; but a new spirit seemed to inspire them; and she
finished with a new petition--"Let me think of something I can
do for her, dear Father--some little, little thing that I can
do for her."
The Old Lady had slept in the same room all her life--the one
looking north into the spruces--and loved it; but the next day
she moved into the spare room without a regret. It was to be
her room after this; she must be where she could see Sylvia's
light, she put the bed where she could lie in it and look at
that earth star which had suddenly shone across the twilight
shadows of her heart. She felt very happy, she had not felt
happy for many years; but now a strange, new, dream-like
interest, remote from the harsh realities of her existence,
but none the less comforting and alluring, had entered into
her life. Besides, she had thought of something she could do
for Sylvia--"a little, little thing" that might give her
Spencervale people were wont to say regretfully that there
were no Mayflowers in Spencervale; the Spencervale young fry,
when they wanted Mayflowers, thought they had to go over to
the barrens at Avonlea, six miles away, for them. Old Lady
Lloyd knew better. In her many long, solitary rambles, she had
discovered a little clearing far back in the woods--a
southward-sloping, sandy hill on a tract of woodland belonging
to a man who lived in town--which in spring was starred over
with the pink and white of arbutus.
To this clearing the Old Lady betook herself that afternoon,
walking through wood lanes and under dim spruce arches like a
woman with a glad purpose. All at once the spring was dear and
beautiful to her once more; for love had entered again into
her heart, and her starved soul was feasting on its divine
Old Lady Lloyd found a wealth of Mayflowers on the sandy hill.
She filled her basket with them, gloating over the loveliness
which was to give pleasure to Sylvia. When she got home she
wrote on a slip of paper, "For Sylvia." It was not likely
anyone in Spencervale would know her handwriting, but, to make
sure, she disguised it, writing in round, big letters like a
child's. She carried her Mayflowers down to the hollow and
heaped them in a recess between the big roots of the old
beech, with the little note thrust through a stem on top.
Then the Old Lady deliberately hid behind the spruce clump.
She had put on her dark green silk on purpose for hiding. She
had not long to wait. Soon Sylvia Gray came down the hill with
Mattie Spencer. When she reached the bridge she saw the
Mayflowers and gave an exclamation of delight. Then she saw
her name and her expression changed to wonder. The Old Lady,
peering through the boughs, could have laughed for very
pleasure over the success of her little plot.
"For me!" said Sylvia, lifting the flowers. "CAN they really
be for me, Mattie? Who could have left them here?"
"I believe it was Chris Stewart," she said. "I know he was
over at Avonlea last night. And ma says he's taken a notion to
you--she knows by the way he looked at you when you were
singing night before last. It would be just like him to do
something queer like this--he's such a shy fellow with the
Sylvia frowned a little. She did not like Mattie's
expressions, but she did like Mayflowers, and she did not
dislike Chris Stewart, who had seemed to her merely a nice,
modest, country boy. She lifted the flowers and buried her
face in them.
"Anyway, I'm much obliged to the giver, whoever he or she is,"
she said merrily. "There's nothing I love like Mayflowers. Oh,
how sweet they are!"
When they had passed the Old Lady emerged from her lurking
place, flushed with triumph. It did not vex her that Sylvia
should think Chris Stewart had given her the flowers; nay, it
was all the better, since she would be the less likely to
suspect the real donor. The main thing was that Sylvia should
have the delight of them. That quite satisfied the Old Lady,
who went back to her lonely house with the cockles of her
heart all in a glow.
It soon was a matter of gossip in Spencervale that Chris
Stewart was leaving Mayflowers at the beech hollow for the
music teacher every other day. Chris himself denied it, but he
was not believed. Firstly, there were no Mayflowers in
Spencervale; secondly, Chris had to go to Carmody every other
day to haul milk to the butter factory, and Mayflowers grew in
Carmody, and, thirdly, the Stewarts always had a romantic
streak in them. Was not that enough circumstantial evidence
As for Sylvia, she did not mind if Chris had a boyish
admiration for her and expressed it thus delicately. She
thought it very nice of him, indeed, when he did not vex her
with any other advances, and she was quite content to enjoy
Old Lady Lloyd heard all the gossip about it from the egg
pedlar, and listened to him with laughter glimmering far down
in her eyes. The egg pedlar went away and vowed he'd never
seen the Old Lady so spry as she was this spring; she seemed
real interested in the young folk's doings.
The Old Lady kept her secret and grew young in it. She walked
back to the Mayflower hill as long as the Mayflowers lasted;
and she always hid in the spruces to see Sylvia Gray go by.
Every day she loved her more, and yearned after her more
deeply. All the long repressed tenderness of her nature
overflowed to this girl who was unconscious of it. She was
proud of Sylvia's grace and beauty, and sweetness of voice and
laughter. She began to like the Spencer children because they
worshipped Sylvia; she envied Mrs. Spencer because the latter
could minister to Sylvia's needs. Even the egg pedlar seemed a
delightful person because he brought news of Sylvia--her
social popularity, her professional success, the love and
admiration she had won already.
The Old Lady never dreamed of revealing herself to Sylvia.
That, in her poverty, was not to be thought of for a moment.
It would have been very sweet to know her--sweet to have her
come to the old house--sweet to talk to her--to enter into her
life. But it might not be. The Old Lady's pride was still far
stronger than her love. It was the one thing she had never
sacrificed and never--so she believed--could sacrifice.
II. The June Chapter
There were no Mayflowers in June; but now the Old Lady's
garden was full of blossoms and every morning Sylvia found a
bouquet of them by the beech--the perfumed ivory of white
narcissus, the flame of tulips, the fairy branches of
bleeding-heart, the pink-and-snow of little, thorny, single,
sweetbreathed early roses. The Old Lady had no fear of
discovery, for the flowers that grew in her garden grew in
every other Spencervale garden as well, including the Stewart
garden. Chris Stewart, when he was teased about the music
teacher, merely smiled and held his peace. Chris knew
perfectly well who was the real giver of those flowers. He had
made it his business to find out when the Mayflower gossip
started. But since it was evident Old Lady Lloyd did not wish
it to be known, Chris told no one. Chris had always liked Old
Lady Lloyd ever since the day, ten years before, when she had
found him crying in the woods with a cut foot and had taken
him into her house, and bathed and bound the wound, and given
him ten cents to buy candy at the store. The Old Lady went
without supper that night because of it, but Chris never knew
The Old Lady thought it a most beautiful June. She no longer
hated the new days; on the contrary, she welcomed them.
"Every day is an uncommon day now," she said jubilantly to
herself--for did not almost every day bring her a glimpse of
Sylvia? Even on rainy days the Old Lady gallantly braved
rheumatism to hide behind her clump of dripping spruces and
watch Sylvia pass. The only days she could not see her were
Sundays; and no Sundays had ever seemed so long to Old Lady
Lloyd as those June Sundays did.
One day the egg pedlar had news for her.
"The music teacher is going to sing a solo for a collection
piece to-morrow," he told her.
The Old Lady's black eyes flashed with interest.
"I didn't know Miss Gray was a member of the choir," she said.
"Jined two Sundays ago. I tell you, our music is something
worth listening to now. The church'll be packed to-morrow, I
reckon--her name's gone all over the country for singing. You
ought to come and hear it, Miss Lloyd."
The pedlar said this out of bravado, merely to show he wasn't
scared of the Old Lady, for all her grand airs. The Old Lady
made no answer, and he thought he had offended her. He went
away, wishing he hadn't said it. Had he but known it, the Old
Lady had forgotten the existence of all and any egg pedlars.
He had blotted himself and his insignificance out of her
consciousness by his last sentence. All her thoughts,
feelings, and wishes were submerged in a very whirlpool of
desire to hear Sylvia sing that solo. She went into the house
in a tumult and tried to conquer that desire. She could not do
it, even thought she summoned all her pride to her aid. Pride
"You will have to go to church to hear her. You haven't fit
clothes to go to church in. Think what a figure you will make
before them all."
But, for the first time, a more insistent voice than pride
spoke to her soul--and, for the first time, the Old Lady
listened to it. It was too true that she had never gone to
church since the day on which she had to begin wearing her
mother's silk dresses. The Old Lady herself thought that this
was very wicked; and she tried to atone by keeping Sunday very
strictly, and always having a little service of her own,
morning and evening. She sang three hymns in her cracked
voice, prayed aloud, and read a sermon. But she could not
bring herself to go to church in her out-of-date clothes--she,
who had once set the fashions in Spencervale, and the longer
she stayed away, the more impossible it seemed that she should
ever again go. Now the impossible had become, not only
possible, but insistent. She must go to church and hear Sylvia
sing, no matter how ridiculous she appeared, no matter how
people talked and laughed at her.
Spencervale congregation had a mild sensation the next
afternoon. Just before the opening of service Old Lady Lloyd
walked up the aisle and sat down in the long-unoccupied Lloyd
pew, in front of the pulpit.
The Old Lady's very soul was writhing within her. She recalled
the reflection she had seen in her mirror before she left--the
old black silk in the mode of thirty years agone and the queer
little bonnet of shirred black satin. She thought how absurd
she must look in the eyes of her world.
As a matter of fact, she did not look in the least absurd.
Some women might have; but the Old Lady's stately distinction
of carriage and figure was so subtly commanding that it did
away with the consideration of garmenting altogether.
The Old Lady did not know this. But she did know that Mrs.
Kimball, the storekeeper's wife, presently rustled into the
next pew in the very latest fashion of fabric and mode; she
and Mrs. Kimball were the same age, and there had been a time
when the latter had been content to imitate Margaret Lloyd's
costumes at a humble distance. But the storekeeper had
proposed, and things were changed now; and there sat poor Old
Lady Lloyd, feeling the change bitterly, and half wishing she
had not come to church at all.
Then all at once the Angel of Love touched there foolish
thoughts, born of vanity and morbid pride, and they melted
away as if they had never been. Sylvia Gray had come into the
choir, and was sitting just where the afternoon sunshine fell
over her beautiful hair like a halo. The Old Lady looked at
her in a rapture of satisfied longing and thenceforth the
service was blessed to her, as anything is blessed which comes
through the medium of unselfish love, whether human or divine.
Nay, are they not one and the same, differing in degree only,
not in kind?
The Old Lady had never had such a good, satisfying look at
Sylvia before. All her former glimpses had been stolen and
fleeting. Now she sat and gazed upon her to her hungry heart's
content, lingering delightedly over every little charm and
loveliness--the way Sylvia's shining hair rippled back from
her forehead, the sweet little trick she had of dropping
quickly her long-lashed eyelids when she encountered too bold
or curious a glance, and the slender, beautifully modelled
hands--so like Leslie Gray's hands--that held her hymn book.
She was dressed very plainly in a black skirt and a white
shirtwaist; but none of the other girls in the choir, with all
their fine feathers, could hold a candle to her--as the egg
pedlar said to his wife, going home from church.
The Old Lady listened to the opening hymns with keen pleasure.
Sylvia's voice thrilled through and dominated them all. But
when the ushers got up to take the collection, an undercurrent
of subdued excitement flowed over the congregation. Sylvia
rose and came forward to Janet Moore's side at the organ. The
next moment her beautiful voice soared through the building
like the very soul of melody--true, clear, powerful, sweet.
Nobody in Spencervale had ever listened to such a voice,
except Old Lady Lloyd herself, who, in her youth, had heard
enough good singing to enable her to be a tolerable judge of
it. She realized instantly that this girl of her heart had a
great gift--a gift that would some day bring her fame and
fortune, if it could be duly trained and developed.
"Oh, I'm so glad I came to church," thought Old Lady Lloyd.
When the solo was ended, the Old Lady's conscience compelled
her to drag her eyes and thoughts from Sylvia, and fasten them
on the minister, who had been flattering himself all through
the opening portion of the service that Old Lady Lloyd had
come to church on his account. He was newly settled, having
been in charge of the Spencervale congregation only a few
months; he was a clever little fellow and he honestly thought
it was the fame of his preaching that had brought Old Lady
Lloyd out to church.
When the service was over all the Old Lady's neighbours came
to speak to her, with kindly smile and handshake. They thought
they ought to encourage her, now that she had made a start in
the right direction; the Old Lady liked their cordiality, and
liked it none the less because she detected in it the same
unconscious respect and deference she had been wont to receive
in the old days--a respect and deference which her personality
compelled from all who approached her. The Old Lady was
surprised to find that she could command it still, in defiance
of unfashionable bonnet and ancient attire.
Janet Moore and Sylvia Gray walked home from church together.
"Did you see Old Lady Lloyd out to-day?" asked Janet. "I was
amazed when she walked in. She has never been to church in my
recollection. What a quaint old figure she is! She's very
rich, you know, but she wears her mother's old clothes and
never gets a new thing. Some people think she is mean; but,"
concluded Janet charitably, "I believe it is simply
"I felt that was Miss Lloyd as soon as I saw her, although I
had never seen her before," said Sylvia dreamily. "I have been
wishing to see her--for a certain reason. She has a very
striking face. I should like to meet her--to know her."
"I don't think it's likely you ever will," said Janet
carelessly. "She doesn't like young people and she never goes
anywhere. I don't think I'd like to know her. I'd be afraid of
her--she has such stately ways and such strange, piercing
"_I_ shouldn't be afraid of her," said Sylvia to herself, as
she turned into the Spencer lane. "But I don't expect I'll
ever become acquainted with her. If she knew who I am I
suppose she would dislike me. I suppose she never suspects
that I am Leslie Gray's daughter."
The minister, thinking it well to strike while the iron was
hot, went up to call on Old Lady Lloyd the very next
afternoon. He went in fear and trembling, for he had heard
things about Old Lady Lloyd; but she made herself so agreeable
in her high-bred fashion that he was delighted, and told his
wife when he went home that Spencervale people didn't
understand Miss Lloyd. This was perfectly true; but it is by
no means certain that the minister understood her either.
He made only one mistake in tact, but, as the Old Lady did not
snub him for it, he never knew he made it. When he was leaving
he said, "I hope we shall see you at church next Sunday, Miss
"Indeed, you will," said the Old Lady emphatically.
III. The July Chapter
The first day of July Sylvia found a little birch bark boat
full of strawberries at the beech in the hollow. They were the
earliest of the season; the Old Lady had found them in one of
her secret haunts. They would have been a toothsome addition
to the Old Lady's own slender bill of fare; but she never
thought of eating them. She got far more pleasure out of the
thought of Sylvia's enjoying them for her tea. Thereafter the
strawberries alternated with the flowers as long as they
lasted, and then came blueberries and raspberries. The
blueberries grew far away and the Old Lady had many a tramp
after them. Sometimes her bones ached at night because of it;
but what cared the Old Lady for that? Bone ache is easier to
endure than soul ache; and the Old Lady's soul had stopped
aching for the first time in many year. It was being nourished
with heavenly manna.
One evening Crooked Jack came up to fix something that had
gone wrong with the Old Lady's well. The Old Lady wandered
affably out to him; for she knew he had been working at the
Spencers' all day, and there might be crumbs of information
about Sylvia to be picked up.
"I reckon the music teacher's feeling pretty blue this
evening," Crooked Jack remarked, after straining the Old
Lady's patience to the last verge of human endurance by
expatiating on William Spencer's new pump, and Mrs. Spencer's
new washing-machine, and Amelia Spencer's new young man.
"Why?" asked the Old Lady, turning very pale. Had anything
happened to Sylvia?
"Well, she's been invited to a big party at Mrs. Moore's
brother's in town, and she hasn't got a dress to go in," said
Crooked Jack. "They're great swells and everybody will be got
up regardless. Mrs. Spencer was telling me about it. She says
Miss Gray can't afford a new dress because she's helping to
pay her aunt's doctor's bills. She says she's sure Miss Gray
feels awful disappointed over it, though she doesn't let on.
But Mrs. Spencer says she knows she was crying after she went
to bed last night."
The Old Lady turned and went into the house abruptly. This was
dreadful. Sylvia must go to that party--she MUST. But how
was it to be managed? Through the Old Lady's brain passed wild
thoughts of her mother's silk dresses. But none of them would
be suitable, even if there were time to make one over. Never
had the Old Lady so bitterly regretted her vanished wealth.
"I've only two dollars in the house," she said, "and I've got
to live on that till the next day the egg pedlar comes round.
Is there anything I can sell--ANYTHING? Yes, yes, the grape jug!"
Up to this time, the Old Lady would as soon have thought of
trying to sell her head as the grape jug. The grape jug was
two hundred years old and had been in the Lloyd family ever
since it was a jug at all. It was a big, pot-bellied affair,
festooned with pink-gilt grapes, and with a verse of poetry
printed on one side, and it had been given as a wedding
present to the Old Lady's great-grandmother. As long as the
Old Lady could remember it had sat on the top shelf in the
cupboard in the sitting-room wall, far too precious ever to be
Two years before, a woman who collected old china had explored
Spencervale, and, getting word of the grape jug, had boldly
invaded the old Lloyd place and offered to buy it. She never,
to her dying day, forgot the reception the Old Lady gave her;
but, being wise in her day and generation, she left her card,
saying that if Miss Lloyd ever changed her mind about selling
the jug, she would find that she, the aforesaid collector, had
not changed hers about buying it. People who make a hobby of
heirloom china must meekly overlook snubs, and this particular
person had never seen anything she coveted so much as that
The Old Lady had torn the card to pieces; but she remembered
the name and address. She went to the cupboard and took down
the beloved jug.
"I never thought to part with it," she said wistfully, "but
Sylvia must have a dress, and there is no other way. And,
after all, when I'm gone, who would there be to have it?
Strangers would get it then--it might as well go to them now.
I'll have to go to town to-morrow morning, for there's no time
to lose if the party is Friday night. I haven't been to town
for ten years. I dread the thought of going, more than parting
with the jug. But for Sylvia's sake!"
It was all over Spencervale by the next morning that Old Lady
Lloyd had gone to town, carrying a carefully guarded box.
Everybody wondered why she went; most people supposed she had
become too frightened to keep her money in a black box below
her bed, when there had been two burglaries over at Carmody,
and had taken it to the bank.
The Old Lady sought out the address of the china collector,
trembling with fear that she might be dead or gone. But the
collector was there, very much alive, and as keenly anxious to
possess the grape jug as ever. The Old Lady, pallid with the
pain of her trampled pride, sold the grape jug and went away,
believing that her great-grandmother must have turned over in
her grave at the moment of the transaction. Old Lady Lloyd
felt like a traitor to her traditions.
But she went unflinchingly to a big store and, guided by that
special Providence which looks after simple-minded old souls
in their dangerous excursions into the world, found a
sympathetic clerk who knew just what she wanted and got it for
her. The Old Lady selected a very dainty muslin gown, with
gloves and slippers in keeping; and she ordered it sent at
once, expressage prepaid, to Miss Sylvia Gray, in care of
William Spencer, Spencervale.
Then she paid down the money--the whole price of the jug,
minus a dollar and a half for railroad fare--with a grand,
careless air and departed. As she marched erectly down the
aisle of the store, she encountered a sleek, portly,
prosperous man coming in. As their eyes met, the man started
and his bland face flushed crimson; he lifted his hat and
bowed confusedly. But the Old Lady looked through him as if he
wasn't there, and passed on with not a sign of recognition
about her. He took one step after her, then stopped and turned
away, with a rather disagreeable smile and a shrug of his
Nobody would have guessed, as the Old Lady swept out, how her
heart was seething with abhorrence and scorn. She would not
have had the courage to come to town, even for Sylvia's sake,
if she had thought she would meet Andrew Cameron. The mere
sight of him opened up anew a sealed fountain of bitterness in
her soul; but the thought of Sylvia somehow stemmed the
torrent, and presently the Old Lady was smiling rather
triumphantly, thinking rightly that she had come off best in
that unwelcome encounter. SHE, at any rate, had not faltered
and coloured, and lost her presence of mind.
"It is little wonder HE did," thought the Old Lady
vindictively. It pleased her that Andrew Cameron should lose,
before her, the front of adamant he presented to the world. He
was her cousin and the only living creature Old Lady Lloyd
hated, and she hated and despised him with all the intensity
of her intense nature. She and hers had sustained grievous
wrong at his hands, and the Old Lady was convinced that she
would rather die than take any notice of his existence.
Presently, she resolutely put Andrew Cameron out of her mind.
It was desecration to think of him and Sylvia together. When
she laid her weary head on her pillow that night she was so
happy that even the thought of the vacant shelf in the room
below, where the grape jug had always been, gave her only a
"It's sweet to sacrifice for one we love--it's sweet to have
someone to sacrifice for," thought the Old Lady.
Desire grows by what it feeds on. The Old Lady thought she was
content; but Friday evening came and found her in a perfect
fever to see Sylvia in her party dress. It was not enough to
fancy her in it; nothing would do the Old Lady but seeing her.
"And I SHALL see her," said the Old Lady resolutely, looking
out from her window at Sylvia's light gleaming through the
firs. She wrapped herself in a dark shawl and crept out,
slipping down to the hollow and up the wood lane. It was a
misty, moonlight night, and a wind, fragrant with the aroma of
clover fields, blew down the lane to meet her.
"I wish I could take your perfume--the soul of you--and pour
it into her life," said the Old Lady aloud to that wind.
Sylvia Gray was standing in her room, ready for the party.
Before her stood Mrs. Spencer and Amelia Spencer and all the
little Spencer girls, in an admiring semi-circle. There was
another spectator. Outside, under the lilac bush, Old Lady
Lloyd was standing. She could see Sylvia plainly, in her
dainty dress, with the pale pink roses Old Lady Lloyd had left
at the beech that day for her in her hair. Pink as they were,
they were not so pink as her cheeks, and her eyes shone like
stars. Amelia Spencer put up her hand to push back a rose that
had fallen a little out of place, and the Old Lady envied her
"That dress couldn't have fitted better if it had been made
for you," said Mrs. Spencer admiringly. "Ain't she lovely,
Amelia? Who COULD have sent it?"
"Oh, I feel sure that Mrs. Moore was the fairy godmother,"
said Sylvia. "There is nobody else who would. It was dear of
her--she knew I wished so much to go to the party with Janet.
I wish Aunty could see me now." Sylvia gave a little sigh in
spite of her joy. "There's nobody else to care very much."
Ah, Sylvia, you were wrong! There was somebody else--somebody
who cared very much--an Old Lady, with eager, devouring eyes,
who was standing under the lilac bush and who presently stole
away through the moonlit orchard to the woods like a shadow,
going home with a vision of you in your girlish beauty to
companion her through the watches of that summer night.
IV. The August Chapter
One day the minister's wife rushed in where Spencervale people
had feared to tread, went boldly to Old Lady Lloyd, and asked
her if she wouldn't come to their Sewing Circle, which met
fortnightly on Saturday afternoons.
"We are filling a box to send to our Trinidad missionary,"
said the minister's wife, "and we should be so pleased to have
you come, Miss Lloyd."
The Old Lady was on the point of refusing rather haughtily.
Not that she was opposed to missions--or sewing circles
either--quite the contrary, but she knew that each member of
the Circle was expected to pay ten cents a week for the
purpose of procuring sewing materials; and the poor Old Lady
really did not see how she could afford it. But a sudden
thought checked her refusal before it reached her lips.
"I suppose some of the young girls go to the Circle?" she said
"Oh, they all go," said the minister's wife. "Janet Moore and
Miss Gray are our most enthusiastic members. It is very lovely
of Miss Gray to give her Saturday afternoons--the only ones
she has free from pupils--to our work. But she really has the
"I'll join your Circle," said the Old Lady promptly. She was
determined she would do it, if she had to live on two meals a
day to save the necessary fee.
She went to the Sewing Circle at James Martin's the next
Saturday, and did the most beautiful hand sewing for them. She
was so expert at it that she didn't need to think about it at
all, which was rather fortunate, for all her thoughts were
taken up with Sylvia, who sat in the opposite corner with
Janet Moore, her graceful hands busy with a little boy's
coarse gingham shirt. Nobody thought of introducing Sylvia to
Old Lady Lloyd, and the Old Lady was glad of it. She sewed
finely away, and listened with all her ears to the girlish
chatter which went on in the opposite corner. One thing she
found out--Sylvia's birthday was the twentieth of August. And
the Old Lady was straightway fired with a consuming wish to
give Sylvia a birthday present. She lay awake most of the
night wondering if she could do it, and most sorrowfully
concluded that it was utterly out of the question, no matter
how she might pinch and contrive. Old Lady Lloyd worried quite
absurdly over this, and it haunted her like a spectre until
the next Sewing Circle day.
It met at Mrs. Moore's and Mrs. Moore was especially gracious
to Old Lady Lloyd, and insisted on her taking the wicker
rocker in the parlour. The Old Lady would rather have been in
the sitting-room with the young girls, but she submitted for
courtesy's sake--and she had her reward. Her chair was just
behind the parlour door, and presently Janet Moore and Sylvia
Gray came and sat on the stairs in the hall outside, where a
cool breeze blew in through the maples before the front door.
They were talking of their favourite poets. Janet, it
appeared, adored Byron and Scott. Sylvia leaned to Tennyson
"Do you know," said Sylvia softly, "my father was a poet? He
published a little volume of verse once; and, Janet, I've
never seen a copy of it, and oh, how I would love to! It was
published when he was at college--just a small, private
edition to give his friends. He never published any more--poor
father! I think life disappointed him. But I have such a
longing to see that little book of his verse. I haven't a
scrap of his writings. If I had it would seem as if I
possessed something of him--of his heart, his soul, his inner
life. He would be something more than a mere name to me."
"Didn't he have a copy of his own--didn't your mother have
one?" asked Janet.
"Mother hadn't. She died when I was born, you know, but Aunty
says there was no copy of father's poems among mother's books.
Mother didn't care for poetry, Aunty says--Aunty doesn't
either. Father went to Europe after mother died, and he died
there the next year. Nothing that he had with him was ever
sent home to us. He had sold most of his books before he went,
but he gave a few of his favourite ones to Aunty to keep for
me. HIS book wasn't among them. I don't suppose I shall ever
find a copy, but I should be so delighted if I only could."
When the Old Lady got home she took from her top bureau drawer
an inlaid box of sandalwood. It held a little, slim, limp
volume, wrapped in tissue paper--the Old Lady's most treasured
possession. On the fly-leaf was written, "To Margaret, with
the author's love."
The Old Lady turned the yellow leaves with trembling fingers
and, through eyes brimming with tears, read the verses,
although she had known them all by heart for years. She meant
to give the book to Sylvia for a birthday present--one of the
most precious gifts ever given, if the value of gifts is
gauged by the measure of self-sacrifice involved. In that
little book was immortal love--old laughter--old tears--old
beauty which had bloomed like a rose years ago, holding still
its sweetness like old rose leaves.
She removed the telltale fly-leaf; and late on the night
before Sylvia's birthday, the Old Lady crept, under cover of
the darkness, through byways and across fields, as if bent on
some nefarious expedition, to the little Spencervale store
where the post-office was kept. She slipped the thin parcel
through the slit in the door, and then stole home again,
feeling a strange sense of loss and loneliness. It was as if
she had given away the last link between herself and her
youth. But she did not regret it. It would give Sylvia
pleasure, and that had come to be the overmastering passion of
the Old Lady's heart.
The next night the light in Sylvia's room burned very late,
and the Old Lady watched it triumphantly, knowing the meaning
of it. Sylvia was reading her father's poems, and the Old Lady
in her darkness read them too, murmuring the lines over and
over to herself. After all, giving away the book had not
mattered so very much. She had the soul of it still--and the
fly-leaf with the name, in Leslie's writing, by which nobody
ever called her now.
The Old Lady was sitting on the Marshall sofa the next Sewing
Circle afternoon when Sylvia Gray came and sat down beside
her. The Old Lady's hands trembled a little, and one side of a
handkerchief, which was afterwards given as a Christmas
present to a little olive-skinned coolie in Trinidad, was not
quite so exquisitely done as the other three sides.
Sylvia at first talked of the Circle, and Mrs. Marshall's
dahlias, and the Old Lady was in the seventh heaven of
delight, though she took care not to show it, and was even a
little more stately and finely mannered than usual. When she
asked Sylvia how she liked living in Spencervale, Sylvia said,
"Very much. Everybody is so kind to me. Besides"--Sylvia
lowered her voice so that nobody but the Old Lady could hear
it--"I have a fairy godmother here who does the most beautiful
and wonderful things for me."
Sylvia, being a girl of fine instincts, did not look at Old
Lady Lloyd as she said this. But she would not have seen
anything if she had looked. The Old Lady was not a Lloyd for
"How very interesting," she said, indifferently.
"Isn't it? I am so grateful to her and I have wished so much
she might know how much pleasure she has given me. I have
found lovely flowers and delicious berries on my path all
summer; I feel sure she sent me my party dress. But the
dearest gift came last week on my birthday--a little volume of
my father's poems. I can't express what I felt on receiving
them. But I longed to meet my fairy godmother and thank her."
"Quite a fascinating mystery, isn't it? Have you really no
idea who she is?"
The Old Lady asked this dangerous question with marked
success. She would not have been so successful if she had not
been so sure that Sylvia had no idea of the old romance
between her and Leslie Gray. As it was, she had a comfortable
conviction that she herself was the very last person Sylvia
would be likely to suspect.
Sylvia hesitated for an almost unnoticeable moment. Then she
said, "I haven't tried to find out, because I don't think she
wants me to know. At first, of course, in the matter of the
flowers and dress, I did try to solve the mystery; but, since
I received the book, I became convinced that it was my fairy
godmother who was doing it all, and I have respected her wish
for concealment and always shall. Perhaps some day she will
reveal herself to me. I hope so, at least."
"I wouldn't hope it," said the Old Lady discouragingly. "Fairy
godmothers--at least, in all the fairy tales I ever read--are
somewhat apt to be queer, crochety people, much more agreeable
when wrapped up in mystery than when met face to face."
"I'm convinced that mine is the very opposite, and that the
better I became acquainted with her, the more charming a
personage I should find her," said Sylvia gaily.
Mrs. Marshall came up at this juncture and entreated Miss Gray
to sing for them. Miss Gray consenting sweetly, the Old Lady
was left alone and was rather glad of it. She enjoyed her
conversation with Sylvia much more in thinking it over after
she got home than while it was taking place. When an Old Lady
has a guilty conscience, it is apt to make her nervous and
distract her thoughts from immediate pleasure. She wondered a
little uneasily if Sylvia really did suspect her. Then she
concluded that it was out of the question. Who would suspect a
mean, unsociable Old Lady, who had no friends, and who gave
only five cents to the Sewing Circle when everyone else gave
ten or fifteen, to be a fairy godmother, the donor of
beautiful party dresses, and the recipient of gifts from
romantic, aspiring young poets?
V. The September Chapter
In September the Old Lady looked back on the summer and owned
to herself that it had been a strangely happy one, with
Sundays and Sewing Circle days standing out like golden
punctuation marks in a poem of life. She felt like an utterly
different woman; and other people thought her different also.
The Sewing Circle women found her so pleasant, and even
friendly, that they began to think they had misjudged her, and
that perhaps it was eccentricity after all, and not meanness,
which accounted for her peculiar mode of living. Sylvia Gray
always came and talked to her on Circle afternoons now, and
the Old Lady treasured every word she said in her heart and
repeated them over and over to her lonely self in the watches
of the night.
Sylvia never talked of herself or her plans, unless asked
about them; and the Old Lady's self-consciousness prevented
her from asking any personal questions: so their conversation
kept to the surface of things, and it was not from Sylvia, but
from the minister's wife that the Old Lady finally discovered
what her darling's dearest ambition was.
The minister's wife had dropped in at the old Lloyd place one
evening late in September, when a chilly wind was blowing up
from the northeast and moaning about the eaves of the house,
as if the burden of its lay were "harvest is ended and summer
is gone." The Old Lady had been listening to it, as she
plaited a little basket of sweet grass for Sylvia. She had
walked all the way to Avonlea sand-hills for it the day
before, and she was very tired. And her heart was sad. This
summer, which had so enriched her life, was almost over; and
she knew that Sylvia Gray talked of leaving Spencervale at the
end of October. The Old Lady's heart felt like very lead
within her at the thought, and she almost welcomed the advent
of the minister's wife as a distraction, although she was
desperately afraid that the minister's wife had called to ask
for a subscription for the new vestry carpet, and the Old Lady
simply could not afford to give one cent.
But the minister's wife had merely dropped in on her way home
from the Spencers' and she did not make any embarrassing
requests. Instead, she talked about Sylvia Gray, and her words
fell on the Old Lady's ears like separate pearl notes of
unutterably sweet music. The minister's wife had nothing but
praise for Sylvia--she was so sweet and beautiful and winning.
"And with SUCH a voice," said the minister's wife
enthusiastically, adding with a sigh, "It's such a shame she
can't have it properly trained. She would certainly become a
great singer--competent critics have told her so. But she is
so poor she doesn't think she can ever possibly manage it--
unless she can get one of the Cameron scholarships, as they
are called; and she has very little hope of that, although the
professor of music who taught her has sent her name in."
"What are the Cameron scholarships?" asked the Old Lady.
"Well, I suppose you have heard of Andrew Cameron, the
millionaire?" said the minister's wife, serenely unconscious
that she was causing the very bones of the Old Lady's family
skeleton to jangle in their closet.
Into the Old Lady's white face came a sudden faint stain of
colour, as if a rough hand had struck her cheek.
"Yes, I've heard of him," she said.
"Well, it seems that he had a daughter, who was a very
beautiful girl, and whom he idolized. She had a fine voice,
and he was going to send her abroad to have it trained. And
she died. It nearly broke his heart, I understand. But ever
since, he sends one young girl away to Europe every year for a
thorough musical education under the best teachers--in memory
of his daughter. He has sent nine or ten already; but I fear
there isn't much chance for Sylvia Gray, and she doesn't think
there is herself."
"Why not?" asked the Old Lady spiritedly. "I am sure that
there can be few voices equal to Miss Gray's."
"Very true. But you see, these so-called scholarships are
private affairs, dependent solely on the whim and choice of
Andrew Cameron himself. Of course, when a girl has friends who
use their influence with him, he will often send her on their
recommendation. They say he sent a girl last year who hadn't
much of a voice at all just because her father had been an old
business crony of his. But Sylvia doesn't know anyone at all
who would, to use a slang term, have any 'pull' with Andrew
Cameron, and she is not acquainted with him herself. Well, I
must be going; we'll see you at the Manse on Saturday, I hope,
Miss Lloyd. The Circle meets there, you know."
"Yes, I know," said the Old Lady absently. When the minister's
wife had gone, she dropped her sweetgrass basket and sat for a
long, long time with her hands lying idly in her lap, and her
big black eyes staring unseeingly at the wall before her.
Old Lady Lloyd, so pitifully poor that she had to eat six
crackers the less a week to pay her fee to the Sewing Circle,
knew that it was in her power--HERS--to send Leslie Gray's
daughter to Europe for her musical education! If she chose to
use her "pull" with Andrew Cameron--if she went to him and
asked him to send Sylvia Gray abroad the next year--she had no
doubt whatever that it would be done. It all lay with her--if-
-if--IF she could so far crush and conquer her pride as to
stoop to ask a favour of the man who had wronged her and hers
Years ago, her father, acting under the advice and urgency of
Andrew Cameron, had invested all his little fortune in an
enterprise that had turned out a failure. Abraham Lloyd lost
every dollar he possessed, and his family were reduced to
utter poverty. Andrew Cameron might have been forgiven for a
mistake; but there was a strong suspicion, amounting to almost
certainty, that he had been guilty of something far worse than
a mistake in regard to his uncle's investment. Nothing could
be legally proved; but it was certain that Andrew Cameron,
already noted for his "sharp practices," emerged with improved
finances from an entanglement that had ruined many better men;
and old Doctor Lloyd had died brokenhearted, believing that
his nephew had deliberately victimized him.
Andrew Cameron had not quite done this; he had meant well
enough by his uncle at first, and what he had finally done he
tried to justify to himself by the doctrine that a man must
look out for Number One.
Margaret Lloyd made no such excuses for him; she held him
responsible, not only for her lost fortune, but for her
father's death, and never forgave him for it. When Abraham
Lloyd had died, Andrew Cameron, perhaps pricked by his
conscience, had come to her, sleekly and smoothly, to offer
her financial aid. He would see, he told her, that she never
Margaret Lloyd flung his offer back in his face after a
fashion that left nothing to be desired in the way of plain
speaking. She would die, she told him passionately, before she
would accept a penny or a favour from him. He had preserved an
unbroken show of good temper, expressed his heartfelt regret
that she should cherish such an unjust opinion of him, and had
left her with an oily assurance that he would always be her
friend, and would always be delighted to render her any
assistance in his power whenever she should choose to ask for
The Old Lady had lived for twenty years in the firm conviction
that she would die in the poorhouse--as, indeed, seemed not
unlikely--before she would ask a favour of Andrew Cameron. And
so, in truth, she would have, had it been for herself. But for
Sylvia! Could she so far humble herself for Sylvia's sake?
The question was not easily or speedily settled, as had been
the case in the matters of the grape jug and the book of
poems. For a whole week the Old Lady fought her pride and
bitterness. Sometimes, in the hours of sleepless night, when
all human resentments and rancours seemed petty and
contemptible, she thought she had conquered it. But in the
daytime, with the picture of her father looking down at her
from the wall, and the rustle of her unfashionable dresses,
worn because of Andrew Cameron's double dealing, in her ears,
it got the better of her again.
But the Old Lady's love for Sylvia had grown so strong and
deep and tender that no other feeling could endure finally
against it. Love is a great miracle worker; and never had its
power been more strongly made manifest than on the cold, dull
autumn morning when the Old Lady walked to Bright River
railway station and took the train to Charlottetown, bent on
an errand the very thought of which turned her soul sick
within her. The station master who sold her her ticket thought
Old Lady Lloyd looked uncommonly white and peaked--"as if she
hadn't slept a wink or eaten a bite for a week," he told his
wife at dinner time. "Guess there's something wrong in her
business affairs. This is the second time she's gone to town
When the Old Lady reached the town, she ate her slender little
lunch and then walked out to the suburb where the Cameron
factories and warehouses were. It was a long walk for her, but
she could not afford to drive. She felt very tired when she
was shown into the shining, luxurious office where Andrew
Cameron sat at his desk.
After the first startled glance of surprise, he came forward
beamingly, with outstretched hand.
"Why, Cousin Margaret! This is a pleasant surprise. Sit down--
allow me, this is a much more comfortable chair. Did you come
in this morning? And how is everybody out in Spencervale?"
The Old Lady had flushed at his first words. To hear the name
by which her father and mother and lover had called her on
Andrew Cameron's lips seemed like profanation. But, she told
herself, the time was past for squeamishness. If she could ask
a favour of Andrew Cameron, she could bear lesser pangs. For
Sylvia's sake she shook hands with him, for Sylvia's sake she
sat down in the chair he offered. But for no living human
being's sake could this determined Old Lady infuse any
cordiality into her manner or her words. She went straight to
the point with Lloyd simplicity.
"I have come to ask a favour of you," she said, looking him in
the eye, not at all humbly or meekly, as became a suppliant,
but challengingly and defiantly, as if she dared him to
"DE-lighted to hear it, Cousin Margaret." Never was anything
so bland and gracious as his tone. "Anything I can do for you
I shall be only too pleased to do. I am afraid you have looked
upon me as an enemy, Margaret, and I assure you I have felt
your injustice keenly. I realize that some appearances were
against me, but--"
The Old Lady lifted her hand and stemmed his eloquence by that
"I did not come here to discuss that matter," she said. "We
will not refer to the past, if you please. I came to ask a
favour, not for myself, but for a very dear young friend of
mine--a Miss Gray, who has a remarkably fine voice which she
wishes to have trained. She is poor, so I came to ask you if
you would give her one of your musical scholarships. I
understand her name has already been suggested to you, with a
recommendation from her teacher. I do not know what he has
said of her voice, but I do know he could hardly overrate it.
If you send her abroad for training, you will not make any
The Old Lady stopped talking. She felt sure Andrew Cameron
would grant her request, but she did hope he would grant it
rather rudely or unwillingly. She could accept the favour so
much more easily if it were flung to her like a bone to a dog.
But not a bit of it. Andrew Cameron was suaver than ever.
Nothing could give him greater pleasure than to grant his dear
Cousin Margaret's request--he only wished it involved more
trouble on his part. Her little protege should have her
musical education assuredly--she should go abroad next year--
and he was DE-lighted--
"Thank you," said the Old Lady, cutting him short again. "I am
much obliged to you--and I ask you not to let Miss Gray know
anything of my interference. And I shall not take up any more
of your valuable time. Good afternoon."
"Oh, you mustn't go so soon," he said, with some real kindness
or clannishness permeating the hateful cordiality of his
voice--for Andrew Cameron was not entirely without the homely
virtues of the average man. He had been a good husband and
father; he had once been very fond of his Cousin Margaret; and
he was really very sorry that "circumstances" had "compelled"
him to act as he had done in that old affair of her father's
investment. "You must be my guest to-night."
"Thank you. I must return home to-night," said the Old Lady
firmly, and there was that in her tone which told Andrew
Cameron that it would be useless to urge her. But he insisted
on telephoning for his carriage to drive her to the station.
The Old Lady submitted to this, because she was secretly
afraid her own legs would not suffice to carry her there; she
even shook hands with him at parting, and thanked him a second
time for granting her request.
"Not at all," he said. "Please try to think a little more
kindly of me, Cousin Margaret."
When the Old Lady reached the station she found, to her
dismay, that her train had just gone and that she would have
to wait two hours for the evening one. She went into the
waiting-room and sat down. She was very tired. All the
excitement that had sustained her was gone, and she felt weak
and old. She had nothing to eat, having expected to get home
in time for tea; the waiting-room was chilly, and she shivered
in her thin, old, silk mantilla. Her head ached and her heart
likewise. She had won Sylvia's desire for her; but Sylvia
would go out of her life, and the Old Lady did not see how she
was to go on living after that. Yet she sat there
unflinchingly for two hours, an upright, indomitable old
figure, silently fighting her losing battle with the forces of
physical and mental pain, while happy people came and went,
and laughed and talked before her.
At eight o'clock the Old Lady got off the train at Bright
River station, and slipped off unnoticed into the darkness of
the wet night. She had two miles to walk, and a cold rain was
falling. Soon the Old Lady was wet to the skin and chilled to
the marrow. She felt as if she were walking in a bad dream.
Blind instinct alone guided her over the last mile and up the
lane to her own house. As she fumbled at her door, she
realized that a burning heat had suddenly taken the place of
her chilliness. She stumbled in over her threshold and closed
VI. The October Chapter
On the second morning after Old Lady Lloyd's journey to town,
Sylvia Gray was walking blithely down the wood lane. It was a
beautiful autumn morning, clear and crisp and sunny; the
frosted ferns, drenched and battered with the rain of
yesterday, gave out a delicious fragrance; here and there in
the woods a maple waved a gay crimson banner, or a branch of
birch showed pale golden against the dark, unchanging spruces.
The air was very pure and exhilarating. Sylvia walked with a
joyous lightness of step and uplift of brow.
At the beech in the hollow she paused for an expectant moment,
but there was nothing among the gray old roots for her. She
was just turning away when little Teddy Kimball, who lived
next door to the manse, came running down the slope from the
direction of the old Lloyd place. Teddy's freckled face was
"Oh, Miss Gray!" he gasped. "I guess Old Lady Lloyd has gone
clean crazy at last. The minister's wife asked me to run up to
the Old Lady, with a message about the Sewing Circle--and I
knocked--and knocked--and nobody came--so I thought I'd just
step in and leave the letter on the table. But when I opened
the door, I heard an awful queer laugh in the sitting-room,
and next minute, the Old Lady came to the sitting-room door.
Oh, Miss Gray, she looked awful. Her face was red and her eyes
awful wild--and she was muttering and talking to herself and
laughing like mad. I was so scared I just turned and run."
Sylvia, without stopping for reflection, caught Teddy's hand
and ran up the slope. It did not occur to her to be
frightened, although she thought with Teddy that the poor,
lonely, eccentric Old Lady had really gone out of her mind at
The Old Lady was sitting on the kitchen sofa when Sylvia
entered. Teddy, too frightened to go in, lurked on the step
outside. The Old Lady still wore the damp black silk dress in
which she had walked from the station. Her face was flushed,
her eyes wild, her voice hoarse. But she knew Sylvia and
"Don't look at me," she moaned. "Please go away--I can't bear
that YOU should know how poor I am. You're to go to Europe--
Andrew Cameron is going to send you--I asked him--he couldn't
refuse ME. But please go away."
Sylvia did not go away. At a glance she had seen that this was
sickness and delirium, not insanity. She sent Teddy off in hot
haste for Mrs. Spencer and when Mrs. Spencer came they induced
the Old Lady to go to bed, and sent for the doctor. By night
everybody in Spencervale knew that Old Lady Lloyd had
Mrs. Spencer announced that she meant to stay and nurse the
Old Lady. Several other women offered assistance. Everybody
was kind and thoughtful. But the Old Lady did not know it. She
did not even know Sylvia Gray, who came and sat by her every
minute she could spare. Sylvia Gray now knew all that she had
suspected--the Old Lady was her fairy godmother. The Old Lady
babbled of Sylvia incessantly, revealing all her love for her,
betraying all the sacrifices she had made. Sylvia's heart
ached with love and tenderness, and she prayed earnestly that
the Old Lady might recover.
"I want her to know that I give her love for love," she
Everybody knew now how poor the Old Lady really was. She let
slip all the jealously guarded secrets of her existence,
except her old love for Leslie Gray. Even in delirium
something sealed her lips as to that. But all else came out--
her anguish over her unfashionable attire, her pitiful
makeshifts and contrivances, her humiliation over wearing
unfashionable dresses and paying only five cents where every
other Sewing Circle member paid ten. The kindly women who
waited on her listened to her with tearfilled eyes, and
repented of their harsh judgments in the past.
"But who would have thought it?" said Mrs. Spencer to the
minister's wife. "Nobody ever dreamed that her father had lost
ALL his money, though folks supposed he had lost some in
that old affair of the silver mine out west. It's shocking to
think of the way she has lived all these years, often with not
enough to eat--and going to bed in winter days to save fuel.
Though I suppose if we had known we couldn't have done much
for her, she's so desperate proud. But if she lives, and will
let us help her, things will be different after this. Crooked
Jack says he'll never forgive himself for taking pay for the
few little jobs he did for her. He says, if she'll only let
him, he'll do everything she wants done for her after this for
nothing. Ain't it strange what a fancy she's took to Miss
Gray? Think of her doing all those things for her all summer,
and selling the grape jug and all. Well, the Old Lady
certainly isn't mean, but nobody made a mistake in calling her
queer. It all does seem desperate pitiful. Miss Gray's taking
it awful hard. She seems to think about as much of the Old
Lady as the Old Lady thinks of her. She's so worked up she
don't even seem to care about going to Europe next year. She's
really going--she's had word from Andrew Cameron. I'm awful
glad, for there never was a sweeter girl in the world; but she
says it will cost too much if the Old Lady's life is to pay
Andrew Cameron heard of the Old Lady's illness and came out to
Spencervale himself. He was not allowed to see the Old Lady,
of course; but he told all concerned that no expense or
trouble was to be spared, and the Spencervale doctor was
instructed to send his bill to Andrew Cameron and hold his
peace about it. Moreover, when Andrew Cameron went back home,
he sent a trained nurse out to wait on the Old Lady, a
capable, kindly woman who contrived to take charge of the case
without offending Mrs. Spencer--than which no higher tribute
could be paid to her tact!
The Old Lady did not die--the Lloyd constitution brought her
through. One day, when Sylvia came in, the Old Lady smiled up
at her, with a weak, faint, sensible smile, and murmured her
name, and the nurse said that the crisis was past.
The Old Lady made a marvellously patient and tractable
invalid. She did just as she was told, and accepted the
presence of the nurse as a matter of course.
But one day, when she was strong enough to talk a little, she
said to Sylvia,
"I suppose Andrew Cameron sent Miss Hayes here, did he?"
"Yes," said Sylvia, rather timidly.
The Old Lady noticed the timidity and smiled, with something
of her old humour and spirit in her black eyes.
"Time has been when I'd have packed off unceremoniously any
person Andrew Cameron sent here," she said. "But, Sylvia, I
have gone through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and I
have left pride and resentment behind me for ever, I hope. I
no longer feel as I felt towards Andrew. I can even accept a
personal favour from him now. At last I can forgive him for
the wrong he did me and mine. Sylvia, I find that I have been
letting no ends of cats out of bags in my illness. Everybody
knows now how poor I am--but I don't seem to mind it a bit.
I'm only sorry that I ever shut my neighbours out of my life
because of my foolish pride. Everyone has been so kind to me,
Sylvia. In the future, if my life is spared, it is going to be
a very different sort of life. I'm going to open it to all the
kindness and companionship I can find in young and old. I'm
going to help them all I can and let them help me. I CAN
help people--I've learned that money isn't the only power for
helping people. Anyone who has sympathy and understanding to
give has a treasure that is without money and without price.
And oh, Sylvia, you've found out what I never meant you to
know. But I don't mind that now, either."
Sylvia took the Old Lady's thin white hand and kissed it.
"I can never thank you enough for what you have done for me,
dearest Miss Lloyd," she said earnestly. "And I am so glad
that all mystery is done away with between us, and I can love
you as much and as openly as I have longed to do. I am so glad
and so thankful that you love me, dear fairy godmother."
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