Mary J. Holmes
Part 4 out of 4
thunder shower! Thar's a bathroom, and when them city folks is here
some on 'em is a-washin' in thar all the time. I don't do nothin'
now but wash and iron, and if I have fifty towels I have one! But
what pesters me most is the wide skirts I has to do up; Miss Canady
wears a hoop bigger than an amberell. They say Miss Empress, who
makes these things, lives in Paris, and I wish you'd put yourself
out a little to see her, and ask her, for me, to quit sendin' over
them fetched hoops. Thar aint no sense in it! We've got jiggers in
every chamber where the water spirts out. Besides turnin' the injin
John drives the horses in the new carriage. Dr. Canady looks poorly,
and yet madam purrs round him like a kitten, but I knows the claws
is thar. She's about broke him of usin' them maxims of his, and your
poor marm would enjoy it a spell seein' him paid off, but she'd pity
him after a while. I do, and if things continners to grow wus, I
shall just ask pra'rs for him in my meetin'. Elder Blossom is
powerful at that. My health is considerable good, but I find I grow
old. Yours, with respect and regrets," Hannah.
"P.S.--I don't believe that t'other beau of yourn is none the
happiest. They live with Miss Kelsey yet, but thar's a story round
that she's a-gwine to marry again, and the man don't like De Vere,
and won't have him thar, so if the doctor should run out, as I'm
afraid he will, what'll them lazy critters do? Nellie's got to be
kinder sozzlin' in her dress, and he has took to chawin' tobacker by
the pound. They was here a spell ago, and deaf as I be, I hearn 'em
have one right smart quarrel. He said she was slatterly, or
somethin' like that, and she called him a fool, and said she 'most
knew he wished he'd took you, blind as you was, and he said, kinder
sorry-like, 'Maude would never of called me a fool, nor wore such
holes in the heels of her stockin's.' I couldn't hear no more, but I
knew by her voice that she was cryin', and when I went below and
seen the doctor out behind the woodshed a-figgerin' up, says I to
myself, `If I was a Univarselar, I should b'lieve they was all on
'em a-gittin' thar pay,' but bein' I'm a Methodis', I don't believe
This letter, which conveyed to Maude a tolerably correct idea of
matters at home, will also show to the reader the state of feeling
existing between J.C. and Nellie. They were not suited to each
other, and though married but seven months, there had been many a
quarrel besides the one which Hannah overheard. Nellie demanded of
her husband more love than he had to bestow, and the consequence
was, a feeling of bitter jealousy on her part and an increasing
coldness on his. They were an ill-assorted couple, utterly incapable
of taking care of themselves, and when they heard from Mrs. Kelsey
that she really contemplated a second marriage, they looked forward
to the future with a kind of hopeless apathy, wholly at variance
with the feelings of the beautiful, dark-eyed Maude and the noble
James De Vere.
Their love for each other had increased each day, and their
happiness seemed almost greater than they could bear on that
memorable morn when the husband bent fondly over his young girl-
wife, who laid a hand on each side of his face, and while the great
tears rolled down her cheeks, whispered joyfully, "I can see you,
darling; I can see!"
Little more than two years have passed away since the September
afternoon when the deep-toned bell rang out the merry tidings,
"Maude can see--Maude can see," and again upon the billow another
vessel rides. But this time to the westward; and the beautiful lady,
whose soft, dark eyes look eagerly over the wave says to her
companion, "It is very pleasant going home."
They had tarried for a long time in Italy, both for Louis' sake and
because, after the recovery of her sight, Maude's health had been
delicate, and her husband would stay until it was fully re-
established. She was better now; roses were blooming on her cheek--
joy was sparkling in her eye--while her bounding step, her ringing
laugh, and finely rounded form told of youthful vigor and perfect
health. And they were going home at last--James, Louis, and Maude--
going to Hampton, where Mrs. De Vere awaited so anxiously their
coming. She did not, however, expect them so soon, for they had left
England earlier than they anticipated, and they surprised her one
day; as she sat by her pleasant window gazing out upon the western
sky and wondering how many more suns would set ere her children
would be with her. It was a happy meeting; and after the first joy
of it was over Maude inquired after the people at Laurel Hill.
"It is more than four months since we heard from them," she said,
"and then Mrs. Kennedy's letter was very unsatisfactory. The doctor,
she hinted, had lost his senses, but she made no explanation. What
did she mean?"
"Why," returned Mrs. De Vere, "he had a paralytic shock more than
six months ago."
"Oh, poor father," cried Louis, while Mrs. De Vere continued, "It
was not a severe attack, but it has impaired his health somewhat.
You knew, of course, that his house and farm were to be sold."
"Our house, our old home! It shall not be!" and the tears glittered
in Louis' eyes, while, turning to Mrs. De Vere, Maude whispered
softly, "His wife has ruined him, but don't let us talk of it before
The lady nodded, and when at last they were alone, told all she knew
of the affair. Maude Glendower had persisted in her folly until her
husband's property was reduced to a mere pittance. There was a heavy
mortgage upon the farm, and even a chattel-mortgage upon the
furniture, and as the man who held them was stern and unrelenting,
he had foreclosed, and the house was to be sold at auction. "Why has
mother kept it from us?" said Maude, and Mrs. De Vere replied,
"Pride and a dread of what you might say prevented her writing it, I
think. I was there myself a few weeks since, and she said it could
do no good to trouble you. The doctor is completely broken down, and
seems like an old man. He cannot endure the handsome rooms below,
but stays all day in that small garret chamber, which is furnished
with your carpet, your mother's chair, and the high-past bedstead
which his first wife owned."
Maude's sympathies were roused, and, fatigued as she was, she
started the next morning with her husband and brother for Laurel
Hill. Louis seemed very sad, and not even the familiar way-marks, as
he drew near his home, had power to dissipate that sadness. He could
not endure the thought that the house where he was born and where
his mother had died should pass into the hands of strangers. He had
been fortunate with his paintings, and of his own money had nearly
two thousand dollars; but this could do but little toward canceling
the mortgage, and he continued in the same dejected mood until the
tall poplars of Laurel Hill appeared in view. Then, indeed, he
brightened up, for there is something in the sight of home which
brings joy to every human heart.
It was a hazy October day. The leaves were dropping one by one, and
lay in little hillocks upon the faded grass. The blue hills which
embosomed the lake were encircled with a misty veil, while the
sunshine seemed to fall with a somber light upon the fields of
yellow corn. Everything, even the gossamer thistle-top which floated
upon the autumnal air, conspired to make the day one of those
indescribable days when all hearts are pervaded with a feeling of
pleasurable sadness--a sense of beauty mingled with decay.
"Is this home?" cried Maude, as they stopped before the gate. "I
should hardly have recognized it."
It was indeed greatly changed, for Maude Glendower had perfect
taste, and if she had expended thousands upon the place, she had
greatly increased its value.
"Beautiful home, beautiful home--it must not be sold," was Louis'
exclamation as he gazed upon it.
"No, it must not be sold," returned Maude, while her husband smiled
quietly upon them both, and said nothing.
Maude Glendower had gone to an adjoining town, but Hannah and John
greeted the strangers with nosy demonstrations, the latter making
frequent use of his coat skirts to wipe away his tears.
"Can you see, marm--see me as true as you live?" he said, bowing
with great humility to Maude, of whom he stood a little in awe, so
polished were her manners and so elegant her appearance. Maude
assured him that she could, and then observing how impatient Louis
appeared, she asked for Dr. Kennedy. Assuming a mysterious air, old
Hannah whispered, "He's up in de ruff, at de top of de house, in dat
little charmber, where he stays mostly, to get shet of de music and
dancin' and raisin' ob cain generally. He's mighty broke down, but
the sight of you will peart him up right smart. You'd better go up
alone--he'll bar it better one at a time."
"Yes, go, sister," said Louis, who heard the last part of Hannah's
remarks, and felt that he could not take his father by surprise. So,
leaving her husband and brother below, Maude glided noiselessly
upstairs to the low attic room, where, by an open window, gazing
sorrowfully out upon the broad harvest-fields, soon to be no longer
his, a seemingly old man sat. And Dr. Kennedy was old, not in years,
perhaps, but in appearance. His hair had bleached as white as snow,
his form was bent, his face was furrowed with many a line of care,
while the tremulous motion of his head told of the palsy's blighting
power. And he sat there alone, that hazy autumnal day, shrinking
from the future and musing sadly of the past. From his armchair the
top of a willow tree was just discernible, and as he thought of the
two graves beneath that tree he moaned, "Oh, Katy, Matty, darlings.
You would pity me, I know, could you see me now so lonesome. My only
boy is over the sea--my only daughter is selfish and cold, and all
the day I'm listening in vain for someone to call me father."
"Father!" The name dropped involuntarily from the lips of Maude,
standing without the door.
But he did not hear it, and she could not say it again; for he was
not her father; but her heart was moved with sympathy, and going to
him laid her hands on his head and looked into his face.
"Maude--Matty's Maude--my Maude!" And the poor head shook with a
palsied tremor, as he wound his arms around her and asked her when
Her sudden coming unmanned him wholly, and bending over her he wept
like a little child. It would seem that her presence inspired in him
a sense of protection, a longing to detail his grievances, and with
quivering lips he said, "I am broken in body and mind. I've nothing
to call my own, nothing but a lock of Matty's hair and Louis' little
crutches--the crutches that you cushioned so that I should not hear
their sound. I was a hard-hearted monster then. I aint much better
now, but I love my child. What of Louis, Maude? Tell me of my boy,"
and over the wrinkled face of the old man broke beautifully the
father-love, giving place to the father-pride, as Maude told of
Louis' success, of the fame he won, and the money he had earned.
"Money!" Dr. Kennedy started quickly at that word, but ere he could
repeat it his ear caught a coming sound, and his eyes flashed
eagerly as, grasping the arm of Maude, he whispered, "It's music,
Maude--it's music--don't you hear it? Louis crutches on the stairs.
He comes! he comes! Matty's boy and mine! Thank Heaven, I have
something left in which that woman has no part."
In his excitement he had risen, and with lips apart, and eyes bent
on the open door he waited for his crippled boy; nor waited long ere
Louis came in sight, when with a wild, glad cry which made the very
rafters ring he caught him to his bosom. Silently Maude stole from
the room, leaving them thus together, the father and his son. Nor is
it for us to intrude upon the sanctity of that interview, which
lasted more than an hour, and was finally terminated by the arrival
of Maude Glendower. She had returned sooner than was anticipated,
and, after joyfully greeting Maude started in quest of Louis.
"Don't let her in here," whispered the doctor, as he heard her on
the stairs. "Don't let her in here; she'd be seized with a fit of
repairs. Go to her; she loves you, at least."
Louis obeyed, and in a moment was in the arms of his stepmother. She
had changed since last they, met. Much of her soft, voluptuous
beauty was gone, and in its place was a look of desperation, as if
she did not care for what she had done, and meant to brave it
through. Still, when alone with Mr. De Vere and Maude, she conversed
freely of their misfortunes, and ere the day was over they
thoroughly understood the matter. The doctor was ruined; and when
his wife was questioned of the future she professed to have formed
no plan, unless, indeed, her husband lived with Nellie, who was now
housekeeping, while she went whither she could find a place. To this
arrangement Mr. De Vere made no comment. He did not seem disposed to
talk, but when the day of sale came he acted; and it was soon
understood that the house together with fifty acres of land would
pass into his hands. Louis, too, was busy. Singling out every
article of furniture which had been his mother's, he bought it with
his own money, while John, determining that "t'other one," as he
called Katy, should not be entirely overlooked, bid off the high-
post bedstead and chest of drawers which once were hers. Many of the
more elegant pieces of furniture were sold, but Mr. De Vere kept
enough to furnish the house handsomely; and when the sale was over
and the family once more reassembled in the pleasant parlor, Dr.
Kennedy wept like a child as he blessed the noble young man who had
kept for him his home. Maude Glendower, too, was softened; and going
up to Mr. De Vere she said, "If I know how to spend lavishly I know
also how to economize, and henceforth none shall accuse me of
These were no idle words, for, as well as she could, she kept her
promise; and though she often committed errors, she usually tried to
do the thing which her children would approve. After a day or two
Mr. De Vere and Maude returned to Hampton, leaving Louis with his
father, who, in his society, grew better and happier each day.
Hannah, who was growing old, went, from choice, to live with Maude,
but John would not forsake his master. Nobody knew the kinks of the
old place like himself, he said, and he accordingly stayed,
superintending the whole, and coming ere long to speak of it all as
his. It was his farm, his oxen, his horses, his everything, except
the pump which Hannah in her letter to Mauda, had designated as an
"'Twas a mighty good thing in its place," he said, "and at a fire it
couldn't be beat, but he'd be hanged if he didn't b'lieve a nigger
was made for somethin' harder and more sweaty-like than turnin' that
crank to make b'lieve rain when it didn't. He reckoned the Lord knew
what he was about, and if He was a mind to dry up the grass and the
arbs, it wasn't for Cary nor nary other chap to take the matter into
their own hands, and invent a patent thunder shower."
John reasoned clearly upon some subjects, and though his reasoning
was not always correct, he proved a most invaluable servant. Old
Hannah's place was filled by another colored woman, Sylvia, and
though John greatly admired her complexion, as being one which would
not fade, he lamented her inefficiency, often wishing that the
services of Janet Hopkins could be again secured.
But Janet was otherwise engaged; and here, near the close of our
story, it may not be amiss to glance for a moment at one who in the
commencement of the narrative occupied a conspicuous place. About
the time of Maude's blindness she had removed to a town in the
southern part of New York, and though she wrote apprising her young
mistress of the change, she forgot entirely to say where she was
going, consequently the family were ignorant of her place of
residence, until accident revealed it to J.C. De Vere. It was but a
few weeks preceding Maude's return from Europe that he found himself
compelled to spend a Sabbath in the quiet town of Fayette. Not far
from his hotel an Episcopal church reared its slender tower, and
thither, at the usual hour for service, he wended his way. There was
to be a baptism that morning, and many a smile flitted over the face
of matron and maid, as a meek-looking man came slowly up the aisle,
followed by a short, thick, resolute Scotchwoman, in whom we
recognize our old friend Janet Hopkins. Notwithstanding her firm
conviction that Maude Matilda Remington Blodgett was her last and
only one, she was now the mother of a sturdy boy, which the meek man
carried in his arms. Hot disputes there had been between the twain
concerning a name, Mr. Hopkins advocating simply John, as having
been borne by his sire, while Janet, a little proud of the notoriety
which her daughter's cognomen had brought to her, determined to
honor her boy with a name which should astonish every one.
At the time of Maude's engagement with J.C. De Vere she had written
to know what J.C. was for, and Jedediah Cleishbotham pleased her
fancy as being unusual and odd. Indirectly she had heard that Maude
was married to Mr. De Vere, and gone to Europe, and supposing it was
of course J.C., she on this occasion startled her better half by
declaring that her son should be baptized "John Joel Jedediah
Cleishbotham," or nothing! It was in vain that he remonstrated.
Janet was firm, and hunting up Maude's letter, written more than
three years before, she bade him write down the name, so as not to
make a blunder. But this he refused to do. "He guessed he could
remember that horrid name; there was not another like it in
Christendom," he said, and on the Sunday morning of which we write
he took his baby in his arms, and in a state of great nervous
irritability started for church, repeating to himself the names,
particularly the last, which troubled him the most. Many a change he
rang upon it, and by the time he stood before the altar the
perspiration was starting from every pore, so anxious was he to
acquit himself creditably, and thus avoid the Caudle lecture which
was sure to follow a mistake. "But he should not make a mistake; he
knew exactly what the name was; he'd said it over a hundred times,"
and when the minister, taking the baby in his arms, said, "Name this
child," he spoke up loud and promptly, jerking out the last word
with a vengeance, as if relieved to have it off his mind, "John Joel
"That's for me," was J.C.'s involuntary exclamation, which, however,
was lost amid the general titter which ran through the house.
In an agony of anxiety Janet strove to rectify the mistake, while
her elbow sought the ribs of her conjugal lord; but the minister
paid no heed, and when the screaming infant was given back to its
frightened father's arms it bore the name of "John Joel," and
To this catastrophe Janet was in a measure reconciled when after
church J.C. sought her out and, introducing himself, informed her of
the true state of affairs.
"Then you aint married to Maude after all," said the astonished
Janet, as she proceeded to question him of the doctor's family. "It
beats all, I never heard on't; but no wonder, livin' as we do in
this out o' the way place--no cars, no stage, no post office but
twice a week--no nothin'."
This was indeed the reason why Janet had remained so long in
ignorance of the people with whom she formerly lived. Fayette, as
she said, was an out of the way place, and after hearing from a man
who met them in New York, that Maude and Louis were both gone to
Europe, she gave Laurel Hill no further thought, and settled quietly
down among the hills until her monotonous life was broken by the
birth of a son, the John Joel who, as she talked with J.C., slept
calmly in his crib.
"So you aint merried to her," she kept repeating, her anger at her
husband's treacherous memory fast decreasing. "I kinder thought her
losin' my money might make a difference, but you're jest as happy
with Nellie, aint you?"
The question was abrupt, and J.C. colored crimson as he tried to
stammer out an answer.
"Never you mind," returned Janet, noticing his embarrassment."
Married life is just like a checker-board, and all on us has as much
as we can do to swaller it at times; but you would of been happy
with Maude, I know."
J.C. knew so, too, and long after he parted with Janet her last
words were ringing in his ears, while mingled with them was the
bitter memory, "It might perhaps have been."
But there was no hope now, and with an increased air of dejection he
went back to his cheerless home. They were housekeeping, Nellie and
himself, for Mrs. Kelsey had married again, and as the new husband
did not fancy the young people they had set up an establishment of
their own, and J.C. was fast learning how utterly valueless are
soft, white hands when their owner knows not how to use them. Though
keeping up an outside show, he was really very poor, and when he
heard of the doctor's misfortune he went to his chamber and wept as
few men ever weep. As Hannah well expressed it, "he was shiftless,"
and did not know how to take care of himself. This James De Vere
understood, and after the sale at Laurel Hill he turned his
attention to his unfortunate cousin, and succeeded at last in
securing for him the situation of bookkeeper in a large
establishment in New York with which he was himself remotely
connected. Thither about Christmas J.C. and Nellie went, and from
her small back room in the fifth story of a New York boarding-house
Nellie writes to Louis glowing descriptions of high life in the
city, and Louis, glancing at his crutches and withered feet, smiles
as he thinks how weary he should be climbing the four flights of
stairs which lead to that high life.
And now, with one more glance at Maude, we bring our story to a
close. It is Easter, and over the earth the April sun shines
brightly, just as it shone on the Judean hills eighteen hundred
years ago. The Sabbath bells are ringing, and the merry peal which
comes from the Methodist tower bespeaks in John a frame of mind
unsuited to the occasion. Since forsaking the Episcopalians. he had
seldom attended their service, but this morning, after his task is
done, he will steal quietly across the common to the old stone
church, where James De Vere and Maude sing together the glorious
Easter Anthem. Maude formerly sang the alto, but in the old world
her voice was trained to the higher notes, and to-day it will be
heard in the choir where it has so long been missed.
The bells have ceased to toll, and a family group come slowly up the
aisle. Dr. Kennedy, slightly bent, his white hair shading a brow
from which much of his former sternness has gone, and his hand
shaking but slightly as he opens the pew door and then steps back
for the lady to enter, the lady Maude Glendower, who walks not as
proudly as of old. She, too, has been made better by adversity, and
though she will never love the palsied man, her husband, she will be
to him a faithful wife, and a devoted mother to his boy, who in the
square, old-fashioned pew sits where his eye can rest upon his
beautiful sister, as her snowy fingers sweep once more the organ
keys, which tremble joyfully as it were to the familiar touch. Low,
deep-toned, and heavy is the prelude to the song, and they who
listen feel the floor tremble beneath their feet. Then a strain of
richest melody echoes through the house, arid the congregation hold
their breath, as Maude De Vere sings to them of the Passover once
sacrificed for us.
And now, shall we not leave them thus with the holy Easter light
streaming up the aisles and the sweet music of the Easter song dying
on the air?
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