Purified by Suffering
BY MARY J. HOLMES
Author of "Dora Deane," "The English Orphans," "Homestead on the Hillside," "Tempest and Sunshine," "Lena Rivers," "Meadowbrook," "Cousin Maude," etc., etc.
THE FARMHOUSE AT SILVERTON.
Uncle Ephraim Barlow, deacon of the orthodox church in Silverton, Massachusetts, was an old-fashioned man, clinging to the old-time customs of his fathers, and looking with but little toleration upon what he termed the "new-fangled notions" of the present generation. Born and reared amid the rocks and hills of the Bay State, his nature partook largely of the nature of his surroundings, and he grew into manhood with many a rough point adhering to his character, which, nevertheless, taken as a whole, was, like the wild New England scenery, beautiful and grand. None knew Uncle Ephraim Barlow but to respect him, and at the church where he was a worshiper few would have been missed more than the tall, muscular man, with the long, white hair, who Sunday after Sunday walked slowly up the middle aisle to his accustomed seat before the altar, and who regularly passed the contribution box, bowing involuntarily in token of approbation when a neighbor's gift was larger than its wont, and gravely dropping in his own ten cents—never more, never less—always ten cents—his weekly offering, which he knew amounted in a year to just five dollars and twenty cents. And still Uncle Ephraim was not stingy, as the Silverton poor could testify, for many a load of wood and bag of meal found entrance to the doors where cold and hunger would have otherwise been, while to his minister he was literally a holder up of the weary hands, and a comforter in the time of trouble.
His helpmeet, Aunt Hannah, like that virtuous woman mentioned in the Bible, was one "who seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands, who riseth while yet it is night, and giveth meat to her household." Indeed, for this last stirring trait Aunt Hannah was rather famous, especially on Monday mornings, when her washing was invariably swinging on the line ready to greet the rising sun.
Miss Betsy Barlow, too, the deacon's maiden sister, was a character in her way, and was surely not one of those vain, frivolous females to whom the Apostle Paul had reference when he condemned the plaiting of hair and the wearing of gold and jewels. Quaint, queer and simple-hearted, she had but little idea of any world this side of heaven, except the one bounded by the "huckleberry" hills and the crystal waters of Fairy Pond, which from the back door of the farmhouse were plainly seen, both in the summer sunshine and when the intervening fields were covered with the winter snow.
The home of such a trio was, like themselves, ancient and unpretentious, nearly one hundred years having elapsed since the solid foundation was laid to a portion of the building. Unquestionably, it was the oldest house in Silverton, for on the heavy, oaken door of what was called the back room was still to be seen the mark of a bullet, left there by some marauders who, during the Revolution, had encamped in that neighborhood. George Washington, too, it was said, had once spent a night beneath its roof, the deacon's mother pouring for him her Bohea tea and breaking her home-made bread. Since that time several attempts had been made to modernize the house. Lath and plaster had been put upon the rafters and paper upon the walls, wooden latches had given place to iron, while in the parlor, where Washington had slept, there was the extravagance of a knob, a genuine porcelain knob, such, as Uncle Ephraim said, was only fit for the gentry who could afford to be grand. For himself, he was content to live as his father did; but young folks, he supposed, must in some things have their way, and so when his pretty niece, who had lived with him from childhood to the day of her marriage, came back to him a widow, bringing her two fatherless children and a host of new ideas, he good-humoredly suffered her to tear down some of his household idols and replace them with her own. And thus it was that the farmhouse gradually changed its appearance both outwardly and in, for young womanhood which had but one glimpse of the outer world will not settle down quietly amid fashions a century old. And Lucy Lennox, when she returned to the farmhouse, was not quite the same as when she went away. Indeed, Aunt Betsy in her guileless heart feared that she had actually fallen from grace, imputing the fall wholly to Lucy's predilection for a certain little book on whose back was written "Common Prayer," and at which Aunt Betsy scarcely dared to look, lest she should be guilty of the enormities practiced by the Romanists themselves. Clearer headed than his sister, the deacon read the black-bound book, finding therein much that was good, but wondering why, when folks promised to renounce the pomps and vanities, they did not do so, instead of acting more stuck up than ever. Inconsistency was the underlying strata of the whole Episcopal Church, he said, and as Lucy, without taking any public step, had still declared her preference for that church, he, too, in a measure, charged her propensity for repairs to the same source with Aunt Betsy; but, as he could really see no sin in what she did, he suffered her in most things to have her way. But when she contemplated an attack upon the huge chimney occupying the center of the building, he interfered; for there was nothing he liked better than the bright fire on the hearth when the evenings grew chilly and long, and the autumn rain was falling upon the roof. The chimney should stand, he said; and as no amount of coaxing could prevail on him to revoke his decision, the chimney stood, and with it the three fireplaces, where, in the fall and spring, were burned the twisted knots too bulky for the kitchen stove. This was fourteen years ago, and in that lapse of time Lucy Lennox had gradually fallen in with the family ways of living, and ceased to talk of her cottage in Western New York, where her husband had died and where were born her daughters, one of whom she was expecting home on the warm July day when our story opens.
Kate, or Katy Lennox, our heroine, had been for a year an inmate of Canandaigua Seminary, whither she was sent at the expense of a distant relative to whom her father had been guardian, and who, during her infancy, had also had a home with Uncle Ephraim, her mother having brought her with her when, after her husband's death, she returned to Silverton. Dr. Morris Grant he was now, and he had just come home from a three years' sojourn in Paris, and was living in his own handsome dwelling across the fields toward Silverton village, and half a mile or more from Uncle Ephraim's farmhouse. He had written from Paris, offering to send his cousins, Helen and Kate, to any school their mother might select, and as Canandaigua was her choice, they had both gone thither a year ago, Helen, the eldest, falling sick within the first three months, and returning home to Silverton, satisfied that the New England schools were good enough for her. This was Helen; but Katy was different. Katy was more susceptible of polish and refinement—so the mother thought; and as she arranged and rearranged the little parlor, lingering longest by the piano, Dr. Morris' gift, she drew bright pictures of her favorite child, wondering how the plain farmhouse and its inmates would seem to her after Canandaigua and all she must have seen during her weeks of travel since the close of the summer term. And then she wondered next why Cousin Morris was so much annoyed when told that Katy had accepted an invitation to accompany Mrs. Woodhull and her party on a trip to Montreal and Lake George, taking Boston on her homeward route. Surely Katy's movements were nothing to him, unless—and the little, ambitious mother struck at random a few notes of the soft-toned piano as she thought how possible it was that the interest always manifested by the staid, quiet Morris Grant for her light-hearted Kate was more than a brotherly interest, such as he would naturally feel for the daughter of one who had been to him a second father. But Katy was so much a child when he went away to Paris that it could not be. She would sooner think of the dark-haired Helen, who was older and more like him.
"It's Helen, if anybody," she said aloud, just as a voice at the window called out: "Please, Cousin Lucy, relieve me of these flowers. I brought them over in honor of Katy's return."
Blushing guiltily, Mrs. Lennox advanced to meet a tall, dark-looking man, with a grave, pleasant face, which, when he smiled, was strangely attractive, from the sudden lighting up of the hazel eyes and the glitter of the white, even teeth disclosed so fully to view.
"Oh, thank you, Morris! Kitty will like them, I am sure," Mrs. Lennox said, taking from his hand a bouquet of the choice flowers which grew only in the hothouse at Linwood. "Come in for a moment, please."
"No, thank you," the doctor replied. "There is a case of rheumatism just over the hill, and I must not be idle if I would retain the practice given to me. Not that I make anything but good will as yet, for only the Silverton poor dare trust their lives in my inexperienced hands. But I can afford to wait," and with another flash of the hazel eyes Morris walked away a pace or two, but, as if struck with some sudden thought, turned back, and fanning his heated face with his leghorn hat, said, hesitatingly: "By the way, Uncle Ephraim's last payment on the old mill falls due to-morrow. Tell him, if he says anything in your presence, not to mind unless it is perfectly convenient. He must be somewhat straitened just now, as Katy's trip cannot have cost him a small sum."
The clear, penetrating eyes were looking full at Mrs. Lennox, who for a moment felt slightly piqued that Morris Grant should take so much oversight of her uncle's affairs. It was natural, too, that he should, she knew, for, widely different as were their tastes and positions in life, there was a strong liking between the old man and the young, who, from having lived nine years in the family, took a kindly interest in everything pertaining to them.
"Uncle Ephraim did not pay the bills," Mrs. Lennox faltered at last, feeling intuitively how Morris' delicate sense of propriety would shrink from her next communication. "Mrs. Woodhull wrote that the expense should be nothing to me, and as she is fully able, and makes so much of Katy, I did not think it wrong."
"Lucy Lennox! I am astonished!" was all Morris could say, as the tinge of wounded pride dyed his cheek.
Kate was a connection—distant, it is true; but his blood was in her veins, and his inborn pride shrank from receiving so much from strangers, while he wondered at her mother, feeling more and more convinced that what he had so long suspected was literally true. Mrs. Lennox was weak, Mrs. Lennox was ambitious, and for the sake of associating her daughter with people whom the world had placed above her she would stoop to accept that upon which she had no claim.
"Mrs. Woodhull was so urgent and so fond of Katy; and then, I thought it well to give her the advantage of being with such people as compose that party, the very first in Canandaigua, besides some from New York," Mrs. Lennox began in self-defense, but Morris did not stop to hear more, and hurried off a second time, while Mrs. Lennox looked after him, wondering at the feeling which she called pride, and which she could not understand. "If Katy can go with the Woodhulls and their set, I certainly shall not prevent it," she thought, as she continued her arrangement of the parlor, wishing so much that it was more like what she remembered Mrs. Woodhull's to have been, fifteen years ago.
Of course that lady had kept up with the times, and if her old house was finer than anything Mrs. Lennox had ever seen, what must her new one be, with all the modern improvements? and, leaning her head upon the mantel, Mrs. Lennox thought how proud she would be could she live to see her daughter in similar circumstances to the envied Mrs. Woodhull, at that moment in the crowded car between Boston and Silverton, tired, hot, and dusty, worn out, and as nearly cross as a fashionable lady can be.
A call from Uncle Ephraim aroused her, and going out into the square entry she tied his gingham cravat, and then handing him the big umbrella, an appendage he took with him in sunshine and in storm, she watched him as he stepped into his one-horse wagon and drove briskly away in the direction of the depot, where he was to meet his niece.
"I wish Cousin Morris had offered his carriage," she thought, as the corn-colored and white wagon disappeared from view. "The train stops five minutes at West Silverton, and some of those grand people will be likely to see the turnout," and with a sigh as she doubted whether it were not a disgrace as well as an inconvenience to be poor, she repaired to the kitchen, where sundry savory smells betokened a plentiful dinner.
Bending over the sink, with her cap strings tucked back, her sleeves rolled up, and her short, purple calico shielded from harm by her broad, motherly check apron, Aunt Betsy stood cleaning the silvery onions, and occasionally wiping her dim old eyes as the odor proved too strong for her. At another table stood Aunt Hannah, deep in the mysteries of the light, white crust which was to cover the tender chicken boiling in the pot, while in the oven bubbled and baked the custard pie, remembered as Katy's favorite, and prepared for her coming by Helen herself—plain-spoken, blue-eyed Helen—now out in the strawberry beds, picking the few luscious berries which almost by a miracle had been coaxed to wait for Katy, who loved them so dearly. Like her mother, Helen had wondered how the change would impress her bright little sister, for she remembered well that even to her obtuse perceptions there had come a pang when, after only three months abiding in a place where the etiquette of life was rigidly enforced, she had returned to their homely ways, and felt that it was worse than vain to try to effect a change. But Helen's strong sense, with the help of two or three good cries, had carried her safely through, and her humble home amid the hills was very dear to her now. But she was Helen, as the mother had said; she was different from Katy, who might be lonely and homesick, sobbing herself to sleep in her patient sister's arms, as she did on that first night in Canandaigua, which Helen remembered so well.
"It's better, too, now, than when I came home," Helen thought, as with her rich, scarlet fruit she went slowly to the house. "Morris is here, and the new church, and if she likes she can teach in Sunday school, though maybe she will prefer going with Uncle Ephraim. He will be pleased if she does," and, pausing by the door, Helen looked across Fairy Pond in the direction of Silverton village, where the top of a slender spire was just visible—the spire of St. John's, built within the year, and mostly, as it was whispered, at the expense of Dr. Morris Grant, who, a zealous churchman himself, had labored successfully to instill into Helen's mind some of his own peculiar views, as well as to awaken in Mrs. Lennox's heart the professions which had lain dormant for as long a time as the little black-bound book had lain on the cupboard shelf, forgotten and unread.
How the doctor's views were regarded by the deacon's family we shall see, perhaps, by and by. At present our story has to do with Helen, holding her bowl of berries by the rear door and looking across the distant fields. With one last glance at the object of her thoughts she re-entered the house, where her mother was arranging the square table for dinner, bringing out the white stone china instead of the mulberry set kept for everyday use.
"We ought to have had some silver forks before Katy came home," she said, despondingly, as she laid by each plate the three-lined forks of steel, to pay for which Helen and Katy had picked huckleberries on the hills and dried apples from the orchard.
"Never mind, mother," Helen answered, cheerily; "if Katy is as she used to be, she will care more for us than for silver forks, and I guess she is, for I imagine it would take a great deal to make her anything but a warmhearted, merry little creature."
This was sensible Helen's tribute of affection to the little, gay, chattering butterfly, at that moment an occupant of Uncle Ephraim's corn-colored wagon, and riding with that worthy toward home, throwing kisses to every barefoot boy and girl she met, and screaming with delight as the old familiar waymarks met her view.
"There are the oxen, the darling oxen, and that's Aunt Betsy, with her dress pinned up as usual," she cried, when at last the wagon stopped before the door; and the four women stepped hurriedly out to meet her, almost smothering her with caresses, and then holding her off to see if she had changed.
She was very stylish in her pretty traveling dress of gray, made under Mrs. Woodhull's supervision, and nothing could be more becoming than her jaunty hat, tied with ribbons of blue, while the dainty kids, bought to match the dress, fitted her fat hands charmingly, and the little high-heeled boots of soft prunella were faultless in their style. She was very attractive in her personal appearance, and the mental verdict of the four females regarding her intently was something as follows: Mrs. Lennox detected unmistakable marks of the grand society she had been mingling in, and was pleased accordingly; Aunt Hannah pronounced her "the prettiest creeter she had ever seen;" Aunt Betsy decided that her hoops were too big and her clothes too fine for a Barlow; while Helen, who looked beyond dress, or style, or manner, straight into her sister's soft, blue eyes, brimming with love and tears, decided that Katy was not changed for the worse. Nor was she. Truthful, loving, simple-hearted and full of playful life she had gone from home, and she came back the same—never once thinking of the difference between the farmhouse and Mrs. Woodhull's palace, or if she did, giving the preference to the former.
"It was perfectly splendid to get home," she said, handing her gloves to Helen, her sunshade to her mother, her satchel to Aunt Hannah, and tossing her bonnet in the vicinity of the water pail—from which it was saved by Aunt Betsy, who, remembering the ways of her favorite child, put it carefully in the press, examining it closely first and wondering how much it cost.
Deciding that "it was a good thumpin' price," she returned to the kitchen, where Katy, dancing and curveting in circles, scarcely stood still long enough for them to see that in spite of boarding school fare, of which she had complained so bitterly, her cheeks were rounded, her eyes brighter, and her lithe little figure fuller than of old. She had improved in looks, but she did not appear to know it, or to guess how beautiful she was in the fresh bloom of seventeen, with her golden hair waving around her childish forehead, and her deep, blue eyes laughing so expressively with each change of her constantly varying face. Everything animate and inanimate pertaining to the old house was noticed by her. She kissed the kitten, squeezed the cat, hugged the dog, and hugged the little goat, tied to his post in the clover yard and trying so hard to get free. The horse, to whom she fed handfuls of grass, had been already hugged. She did that the first thing after strangling Uncle Ephraim as she alighted from the train, and some from the car window saw it, too, smiling at what they termed the charming simplicity of an enthusiastic schoolgirl. Blessed youth! blessed early girlhood, surrounded by a halo of rare beauty! It was Katy's shield and buckler, warding off many a cold criticism which might otherwise have been passed upon her.
They were sitting down to dinner now, and the deacon's voice trembled as, with the blessing invoked, he thanked God for bringing back to them the little girl, whose head was for a moment bent reverently, but quickly lifted itself up as its owner, in the same breath with that in which the deacon uttered his amen, declared how hungry she was, and went into rhapsodies over the nicely cooked viands which loaded the table. The best bits were hers that day, and she refused nothing until it came to Aunt Betsy's onions, once her special delight, but now declined, greatly to the distress of the old lady, who, having been on the watch for "quirks," as she styled any departure from long-established customs, now knew she had found one, and with an injured expression withdrew the offered bowl, saying sadly: "You used to eat 'em raw, Catherine; what's got into you?"
It was the first time Aunt Betsy had called a name so obnoxious to Kate, especially when, as in the present case, great emphasis was laid upon the "rine," and from past experience Katy knew that her good aunt was displeased. Her first impulse was to accept the dish refused; but when she remembered her reason for refusing, she said, laughingly: "Excuse me, Aunt Betsy, I love them still, but—but—well, the fact is, I am going by and by to run over and see Cousin Morris, inasmuch as he was not polite enough to come here, and you know it might not be so pleasant."
"The land!" and Aunt Betsy brightened. "If that's all, eat 'em. 'Tain't noways likely you'll get near enough to him to make any difference—only turn your head when you shake hands."
But Katy remained incorrigible, while Helen, who guessed that her impulsive sister was contemplating a warmer greeting of the doctor than a mere shaking of his hands, kindly turned the conversation by telling how Morris was improved by his tour abroad, and how much the poor people thought of him.
"He is very fine looking, too," she said, whereupon Katy involuntarily exclaimed: "I wonder if he is as handsome as Wilford Cameron? Oh, I never wrote about him, did I?" and the little maiden began to blush as she stirred her tea industriously.
"Who is Wilford Cameron?" asked Mrs. Lennox.
"Oh, he's Wilford Cameron, that's all; lives on Fifth Avenue—is a lawyer—is very rich—a friend of Mrs. Woodhull, and was with us in our travels," Katy answered, rapidly, the red burning on her cheeks so brightly that Aunt Betsy innocently passed her a big feather fan, saying she looked mighty hot.
And Katy was warm, but whether from talking of Wilford Cameron or not none could tell. She said no more of him, but went on to speak of Morris, asking if it were true, as she had heard, that he built the new church in Silverton.
"Yes, and runs it, too," Aunt Betsy answered, energetically, proceeding to tell what goin's-on they had, with the minister shiftin' his clothes every now and ag'in, and the folks all talkin' together. "Morris got me in once," she said, "and I thought meetin' was left out half a dozen times, so much histin' round as there was. I'd as soon go to a show, if it was a good one, and I told Morris so. He laughed and said I'd feel different when I knew 'em better; but needn't tell me that prayers made up is as good as them as isn't, though Morris, I do believe, will get to heaven a long ways ahead of me, if he is a 'Piscopal."
To this there was no response, and being launched on her favorite topic, Aunt Betsy continued:
"If you'll believe it, Helen here is one of 'em, and has got a sight of 'Piscopal quirks into her head. Why, she and Morris sing that talkin'-like singin' Sundays when the folks git up and Helen plays the accordeon."
"Melodeon, aunty, melodeon," and Helen laughed merrily at her aunt's mistake, turning the conversation again, and this time to Canandaigua, where she had some acquaintances.
But Katy was so much afraid of Canandaigua, and what talking of it might lead to, that she kept to Cousin Morris, asking innumerable questions about him, his house and grounds, and whether there were as many flowers there now as there used to be in the days when she and Helen went to say their lessons at Linwood, as they had done before Morris sailed for Europe.
"I think it right mean in him not to be here to see me," she said, poutingly, "and I am going over as quick as I eat my dinner."
But against this all exclaimed at once. She was too tired, the mother said. She must lie down and rest, while Helen suggested that she had not yet told them about her trip, and Uncle Ephraim remarked that she would not find Morris home, as he was going that afternoon to Spencer. This last settled it. Katy must stay at home; but instead of lying down or talking much about her journey, she explored every nook and crevice of the old house and barn, finding the nest Aunt Betsy had so long looked for in vain, and proving to the anxious dame that she was right when she insisted that the speckled hen had stolen her nest and was in the act of setting. Later in the day, and a neighbor passing by spied the little maiden riding in the cart off into the meadow, where she sported like a child among the mounds of fragrant hay, playing her jokes upon the sober deacon, who smiled fondly upon her, feeling how much lighter the labor seemed because she was there with him, a hindrance instead of a help, in spite of her efforts to handle the rake skillfully.
"Are you glad to have me home again, Uncle Eph?" she asked, when once she caught him regarding her with a peculiar look.
"Yes, Katy-did, very glad," he answered. "I've missed you every day, though you do nothing much but bother me."
"Why did you look funny at me just now?" Katy continued, and the deacon replied: "I was thinking how hard it would be for such a highty-tighty thing as you to meet the crosses and disappointments which lie all along the road which you must travel. I should hate to see your young life crushed out of you, as young lives sometimes are."
"Oh, never fear for me. I am going to be happy all my life long. Wilford Cameron said I ought to be," and Katy tossed into the air a wisp of the new-made hay.
"I don't know who Wilford Cameron is, but there's no ought about it," the deacon rejoined. "God marks out the path for us to walk in, and when he says it's best, we know it is, though some are straight and pleasant and others crooked and hard."
"I'll choose the straight and pleasant, then—why shouldn't I?" Kate asked, laughingly, as she seated herself upon a rock near which the hay cart had stopped.
"Can't tell what path you'll take," the deacon answered. "God knows whether you'll go easy through the world, or whether he'll send you suffering to purify and make you better."
"Purified by suffering," Kate said aloud, while a shadow involuntarily crept for an instant over her gay spirits.
She could not believe she was to be purified by suffering. She had never done anything very bad, and humming a part of a song learned from Wilford Cameron, she followed after the loaded cart, returning slowly to the house, thinking to herself that there must be something great and good in the suffering which should purify at last, but hoping she was not the one to whom this great good should come.
It was supper time ere long, and after that was over Kate announced her intention of going now to Linwood, Morris' home, whether he were there or not.
"I can see the housekeeper and the birds and flowers, and maybe he will come pretty soon," she said, as she swung her straw hat by the string and started from the door.
"Ain't Helen going with you?" Aunt Hannah asked, while Helen herself looked a little surprised.
But Katy would rather go alone. She had a heap to tell Cousin Morris, and Helen could go next time.
"Just as you like;" Helen answered, good-naturedly; but there was a half-dissatisfied, wistful look on her face as she watched her young sister tripping across the fields to call on Morris Grant.
Morris had returned from Spencer, and in his dressing-gown and slippers was sitting by the window of his cheerful library, looking out upon the purple sunshine flooding the western sky, and thinking of the little girl coming so rapidly up the grassy lane in the rear of the house. He was going over to see her by and by, he said, and he pictured to himself how she must look by this time, hoping that he should not find her greatly changed, for Morris Grant's memories were very precious of the playful child who, in that very room where he was sitting, used to tease and worry him so much with her lessons poorly learned, and the never-ending jokes played off upon her teacher. He had thought of her so often when across the sea, and, knowing her love of the beautiful, he had never looked upon a painting or scene of rare beauty that he did not wish her by his side sharing in the pleasure. He had brought her from that far-off land many little trophies which he thought she would prize, and which he was going to take with him when he went to the farmhouse. He never dreamed of her coming there to-night. She would, of course, wait for him. Helen had, even when it was more her place to call upon him first. How, then, was he amazed when, just as the sun was going down and he was watching its last rays lingering on the brow of the hill across the pond, the library door was opened wide and the room seemed suddenly filled with life and joy, as a graceful figure, with reddish, golden hair, bounded across the floor, and winding its arms around his neck gave him the hearty kiss which Katy had in her mind when she declined Aunt Betsy's favorite vegetable.
Morris Grant was not averse to being kissed, and yet the fact that Katy Lennox had kissed him in such a way awoke a chill of disappointment, for it said that to her he was the teacher still, the elder brother, whom, as a child, she had in her pretty way loaded with caresses.
"Oh, Cousin Morris!" she exclaimed, and, still holding his hand: "Why didn't you come over at noon, you naughty, naughty boy? But what a splendid-looking man you've got to be, though! and what do you think of me?" she added, blushing for the first time, as he held her off from him and looked into the sunny face.
"I think you wholly unchanged," he answered, so gravely that Katy began to pout as she said: "And you are sorry, I know. Pray, what did you expect of me, and what would you have me be?"
"Nothing but what you are—the same Kitty as of old," he answered, his own bright smile breaking all over his sober face.
He saw that his manner repelled her, and he tried to be natural, succeeding so well that Katy forgot her first disappointment, and making him sit by her on the sofa, where she could see him distinctly, she poured forth a volley of talk, telling him, among other things, how much afraid of him some of his letters made her—they were so serious and so like a sermon.
"You wrote me once that you thought of being a minister," she added. "Why did you change your mind? It must be splendid, I think, to be a young clergyman—invited to so many tea-drinkings, and having all the girls in the parish after you, as they always are after unmarried ministers."
Into Morris Grant's eyes there stole a troubled light as he thought how little Katy realized what it was to be a minister of God—to point the people heavenward and teach them the right way. There was a moment's pause, and then he tried to explain to her that he hoped he had not been influenced either by thought of tea-drinking or having the parish girls after him, but rather by an honest desire to choose the sphere in which he could accomplish the most good.
"I did not decide rashly," he said, "but after weeks of anxious thought and prayer for guidance I came to the conclusion that in the practice of medicine I could find perhaps as broad a field for good as in the church, and so I decided to go on with my profession—to be a physician of the poor and suffering, speaking to them of Him who came to save, and in this way I shall not labor in vain. Many would seek another place than Silverton and its vicinity, but something told me that my work was here, and so I am content to stay, feeling thankful that my means admit of my waiting for patients, if need be, and at the same time ministering to the wants of those who are needy."
Gradually, as he talked, there came into his face a light, born only from the peace which passeth understanding, and the awe-struck Katy crept closer to his side, and, grasping his hand in hers, said, softly: "Dear cousin, what a good man you are, and how silly I must seem to you, thinking you cared for tea-drinkings, or even girls, when, of course, you do not."
"Perhaps I do," the doctor replied, slightly pressing the warm, fat hand holding his so fast. "A minister's or a doctor's life would be dreary indeed if there was no one to share it, and I have had my dreams of the girls, or girl, who was some day to brighten up my home."
He looked fully at Katy now, but she was thinking of something else, and her next remark was to ask him, rather abruptly, how old he was.
"Twenty-six last May," he answered, while Katy continued: "You are not old enough to be married yet. Wilford Cameron is thirty."
"Where did you meet Wilford Cameron?" Morris asked, in some surprise, and then the story which Katy had not told, even to her sister, came out in full, and Morris tried to listen patiently while Katy explained how, on the very first day of the examination, Mrs. Woodhull had come in, and with her the grandest, proudest-looking man, who the girls some of them said was Mr. Wilford Cameron, from New York, a very fastidious bachelor, whose family were noted for their wealth and exclusiveness, keeping six servants, and living in the finest style; that Mrs. Woodhull, who all through the year had been very kind to Katy, came to her after school and invited her home to tea; that she had gone, and met Mr. Cameron; that she was very much afraid of him at first, and was not sure that she was quite over it now, although he was so polite to her all through the journey, taking so much pains to have her see the finest sights, and laughing at her enthusiasm.
"Wilford Cameron with you on your trip?" Morris asked, a new idea, dawning on his mind.
"Yes; let me tell you," and Katy spoke rapidly. "I saw him that night, and then Mrs. Woodhull took me to ride with him in the carriage, and then—well, I rode alone with him once down by the lake, and he talked to me just as if he was not a grand man and I a little schoolgirl. And when the term closed I stayed at Mrs. Woodhull's, and he was there. He liked my playing and liked my singing, and I guess he liked me—that is, you know—yes, he liked me some," and Katy twisted the fringe of her shawl, while Morris, in spite of the pain tugging at his heart-strings, laughed aloud as he rejoined: "I have no doubt he did; but go on—what next?"
"He said more about my joining that party than anybody, and I am very sure he paid the bills."
"Oh, Katy," and Morris started as if he had been stung. "I would rather have given Linwood than have you thus indebted to Wilford Cameron or any other man."
"I could not well help it. I did not mean any harm," Katy said, timidly, for at first she had shrunk from the proposition, but Mrs. Woodhull seemed to think it right, urging it on until she had consented, and so she said to Morris, explaining how kind Mr. Cameron was, and how careful not to remind her of her indebtedness to him, attending to and anticipating every want as if she had been his sister.
"You would like Mr. Cameron, Cousin Morris. He made me think of you a little, only he is prouder," and Katy's hand moved up Morris' coat sleeve till it rested on his shoulder.
"Perhaps so," Morris answered, feeling a growing resentment toward one who, it seemed to him, had done him some great wrong.
But Wilford was not to blame, he reflected. He could not well help liking the bright little Katy—some; and so, conquering all ungenerous feelings, he turned to her at last and said:
"Did my little Cousin Kitty like Wilford Cameron?"
Something in Morris' voice startled Katy strangely; her hand came down from his shoulder, and for an instant there swept over her an emotion similar to what she had felt when with Wilford Cameron she rambled along the shores of Lake George, or sat alone with him on the deck of the steamer which carried them down Lake Champlain. But Morris had always been her brother, and she did not guess how hard it was for him to keep from telling her then that she was more to him than a sister. Had he told her, this story, perhaps, had not been written; but he kept silence, and so it is ours to record how Katy answered frankly at last: "I guess I did like him a little. I could not help it, Morris. You could not, either, or any one. I believe Mrs. Woodhull was more than half in love with him, and she is an old woman compared with me. By the way, what did she mean by introducing me to him as the daughter of Judge Lennox? I meant to have asked her, but forgot it afterward. Was father ever a judge?"
"Not properly," Morris replied. "He was justice of the peace in Bloomfield, where you were born, and for one year held the office of side or associate judge, that's all. Few ever gave him that title, and I wonder at Mrs. Woodhull. Possibly she fancied Mr. Cameron would think better of you if he supposed you the daughter of a judge."
"That may be, though I do not believe he would, do you?"
Morris did not say what he thought, but quietly remarked, instead: "I know those Camerons."
"What! Wilford! You don't know Wilford?" Katy almost screamed, and Morris replied: "Not Wilford, no; but the mother and the sisters were last year in Paris, and I met them many times."
"What were they doing in Paris?" Katy asked, and Morris replied that he believed the immediate object of their being there was to obtain the best medical advice for a little orphan grandchild, a bright, beautiful boy, to whom some terrible accident had happened in infancy, preventing his walking entirely, and making him nearly helpless. His name was Jamie, Morris said, and as he saw that Katy was interested, he told her how sweet-tempered the little fellow was, how patient under suffering, and how eagerly he listened when Morris, who at one time attended him, told him of the Savior and His love for little children.
"Did he get well?" Katy asked, her eyes filling with tears at the picture Morris drew of Jamie Cameron, sitting all day long in his wheel chair, and trying to comfort his grandmother's distress when the torturing instruments for straightening his poor back were applied.
"No, he will always be a cripple, till God takes him to Himself," Morris said, and then Katy asked about the mother and sisters—were they proud, and did he like them much?
"They were very proud," Morris said; "but they were always civil to me," and Katy, had she been watching, might have seen a slight flush on his cheek as he told her of the stately woman, Wilford's mother, of the haughty Juno, a beauty and a belle, and lastly of Arabella, whom the family nicknamed Bluebell, from her excessive fondness for books, a fondness which made her affect a contempt for the fashionable life her mother and sister led.
It was very evident that neither of the young ladies were wholly to Morris' taste, but of the two he preferred the Bluebell, for though very imperious and self-willed, she really had some heart, some principle, while Juno had none. This was Morris' opinion, and it disturbed the little Katy, as was very perceptible from the nervous tapping of her foot upon the carpet and the working of her hands.
"How would I appear by the side of those ladies?" she suddenly asked, her countenance changing as Morris replied that it was almost impossible to think of her as associated with the Camerons, she was so wholly unlike them in every respect.
"I don't believe I shocked Wilford so very much," Katy rejoined, reproachfully, while again a heavy pain shot through Morris' heart, for he saw more and more how Wilford Cameron was mingled with every thought of the young girl, who continued: "And if he was satisfied, I guess his mother and sisters will be. Anyway, I don't want you to make me feel how different I am from them."
There were tears now on Katy's face, and casting aside all selfishness, Morris wound his arm around her, and smoothed her golden hair, just as he used to do when she was a child and came to him to be soothed. He said, very gently:
"My poor Kitty, you do like Wilford Cameron; tell me honestly—is it not so?"
"Yes, I guess I do," and Katy's voice was a half sob. "I could not help it, either, he was so kind, so—I don't know what, only I could not help doing what he bade me. Why, if he had said: 'Jump overboard, Katy Lennox,' I should have done it, I know—that is, if his eyes had been upon me, they controlled me so absolutely. Can you imagine what I mean?"
"Yes, I understand. There was the same look in Bell Cameron's eye, a kind of mesmeric influence which commanded obedience. They idolize this Wilford, and I dare say he is worthy of their idolatry. One thing, at least, is in his favor—the crippled Jamie, for whose opinion I would give more than all the rest, seemed to worship his Uncle Will, talking of him continually, and telling how kind he was, sometimes staying up all night to carry him in his arms when the pain in his back was more than usually severe. So there must be a good, kind heart in Wilford Cameron, and if my Cousin Kitty likes him, as she says she does, and he likes her as I believe he must, why, I hope—"
Morris Grant could not finish the sentence; for he did not hope that Wilford Cameron would win the gem he had so long coveted as his own.
He might give Kitty up because she loved another best. He was generous enough to do that, but if he did it, she must never know how much it cost him, and lest he should betray himself he could not to-night talk with her longer of Wilford Cameron, whom he believed to be his rival. It was time now for Katy to go home, but she did not seem to remember it until Morris suggested to her that her mother might be uneasy if she stayed away much longer, and so they went together across the fields, the shadow all gone from Katy's heart, but lying so dark and heavy around Morris Grant, who was glad when he could leave Katy at the farmhouse door and go back alone to the quiet library, where only God could witness the mighty struggle it was for him to say: "Thy will be done." And while he prayed, not that Katy should be his, but that he might have strength to bear it if she were destined for another, Katy, up in her humble bedroom, with her head nestled close to Helen's neck, was telling her of Wilford Cameron, who, when they went down the rapids and she had cried with fear, had put his arm around her, trying to quiet her, and who once again, on the mountain overlooking Lake George, had held her hand a moment, while he pointed out a splendid view seen through the opening trees. And Helen, listening, knew just as Morris Grant had done that Katy's heart was lost, and that for Wilford Cameron to deceive her now would be a cruel thing.
The day succeeding Katy Lennox's return to Silverton was rainy and cold for the season, the storm extending as far westward as the city of New York, and making Wilford Cameron shiver as he stepped from the Hudson River cars into the carriage waiting for him, first greeting pleasantly the white-gloved driver, who, carefully closing the carriage door, mounted to his seat and drove his handsome bays in the direction of No. —— Fifth Avenue. And Wilford, leaning back among the yielding cushions, thought how pleasant it was to be going home again, feeling glad, as he frequently did, that the home to which he was going was in every particular unexceptionable. The Camerons he knew were an old and highly respectable family, while it was his mother's pride that, go back as far as one might on either side, there could not be found a single blemish or a member of whom to be ashamed. On the Cameron side there were millionaires, merchant princes, bankers and stockholders, professors and scholars, while on hers, the Rossiter side, there were LL.D.'s and D.D.'s, lawyers and clergymen, authors and artists, beauties and belles, the whole forming an illustrious line of ancestry, admirably represented and sustained by the present family of Camerons, occupying the brownstone front, corner of —— Street and Fifth Avenue, where the handsome carriage stopped and a tall figure ran quickly up the marble steps. There was a soft rustle of silk, an odor of delicate perfume, and from the luxurious chair before the fire kindled in the grate an elderly lady arose and advanced a step or two toward the parlor door. In another moment she was kissing the young man bending over her and saluting her as mother, kissing him quietly, properly, as the Camerons always kissed. She was very glad to have Wilford home again, for he was her favorite child, and brushing the raindrops from his coat she led him to the fire, offering him her own easy-chair and starting herself in quest of another. But Wilford held her back, and making her sit down, he drew an ottoman beside her and then asked her first how she had been and then how Jamie was, then where his sisters were, and if his father had come home—for there was a father, the elder Cameron, a quiet, unassuming man, who stayed all day in Wall Street, seldom coming home in time to carve at his own dinner table, and when he was at home, asking for nothing except to be left by his fashionable wife and daughters to himself, free to smoke and doze over his evening paper in the seclusion of his own reading-room.
As Wilford's question concerning his sire had been the last one asked, so it was the last one answered, his mother parting his dark hair with her jeweled hand, and telling him first that with the exception of a cold taken at the park on Saturday afternoon when she drove out to try the new carriage, she was in usual health; second, that Jamie was very well, but impatient for his uncle's return; third, that Juno was spending a few days in Orange, and that Bell had gone to pass the night with her particular friend, Mrs. Meredith, the bluest, most bookish woman in New York.
"Your father," the lady added, "has not yet returned, but as the dinner is ready I think we will not wait."
She touched a silver bell beside her, and ordering dinner to be sent up at once, went on to ask her son concerning his journey, and the people he had met. But Wilford, though intending to tell her all, for he kept nothing from his mother, would wait till after dinner. So, offering her his arm, he led her out to where the table was spread, widely different from the table prepared for Katy Lennox away among the Silverton hills, for where at the farmhouse there had been only the homely wares common to the country, with Aunt Betsy's onions served in a bowl, there was here the finest of damask, the choicest of china, the costliest of cut-glass, and the heaviest of silver, with the well-trained waiter gliding in and out, himself the very personification of strict table etiquette, such as the Barlows had never dreamed about. There was no fricasseed chicken here, or flaky crust, with pickled beans and apple sauce; no custard pie with strawberries and rich, sweet cream, poured from a blue earthen pitcher, but there were soups, and fish, and roasted meats, and dishes with French names and taste, and desert elaborately gotten up and served with the utmost precision, and wines, with fruit and colored cloth, and handsome finger bowl; and Mrs. Cameron presiding over all, with the ladylike decorum so much a part of herself, her soft, glossy silk of brown, with her rich lace and diamond pin seeming in keeping with herself and her surroundings. And opposite to her Wilford sat, a tall, dark, handsome man of thirty or thereabouts—a man whose polished manners betokened at once a perfect knowledge of the world, and whose face to a close observer indicated how little satisfaction he had as yet found in that world. He had tried its pleasures, drinking the cup of freedom and happiness to its very dregs, and though he thought he liked it, he often found himself dissatisfied and reaching after something which should make life more real, more worth the living for. He had traveled all over Europe twice, had visited every spot worth visiting in his own country, had been a frequenter of every fashionable resort in New York, from the skating pond to the theatres, had been admitted as a lawyer, had opened an office on Broadway, acquiring some reputation in his profession, had looked at more than twenty girls with the view of making them his wife, and found them as he believed, alike fickle, selfish, artificial and hollow-hearted. In short, while thinking far more of family, and accomplishments, and style, than he ought, he was yet heartily tired of the butterflies who flitted so constantly around him, offering to be caught if he would but stretch out his hand to catch them. This he would not do, and disgusted with the world as he saw it in New York, he had gone to the Far West, roaming a while amid the solitude of the broad prairies, and finding there much that was soothing to him, but not discovering the fulfillment of the great want he was craving, until, coming back to Canandaigua, he met with Katy Lennox. He had smiled wearily when asked by Mrs. Woodhull to go with her to the examination then in progress at the seminary. There was nothing there to interest him, he thought, as Euclid and algebra, French and rhetoric were bygone things, while young school misses in braided hair and pantalets were shockingly insipid. Still, to be polite to Mrs. Woodhull, a childless, fashionable woman, who patronized Canandaigua generally, and Katy Lennox in particular, he consented to go, and soon found himself in the crowded room, the cynosure of many eyes as the whisper ran around that the fine-looking man with Mrs. Woodhull was the Wilford Cameron from New York, and brother to the proud, dashing Juno Cameron, who once spent a few weeks in town, Wilford knew they were talking about him, but he did not care, and assuming as easy an attitude as possible, he leaned hack in his chair, yawning indolently, and wishing the time away, until the class in algebra was called and Katy Lennox came tripping on to the stage, a pale blue ribbon in her golden hair and her simple dress of white relieved by no ornament except the cluster of wild flowers fastened in her belt and at her graceful throat. But Katy needed no ornaments to make her more beautiful than she was at the moment when, with glowing cheeks and sparkling eyes, modestly cast down for a moment as she took her place, and then as modestly uplifted to her teacher's face, she first burst upon Wilford's vision, a creature of rare, bewitching beauty, such as he had never dreamed about.
Wilford had met his destiny, and he felt it in every throb of blood which went rushing through his veins.
"Who is she?" he asked of Mrs. Woodhull, and that lady knew at once whom he meant, even though he had not designated her.
An old acquaintance of Mrs. Lennox when she lived in East Bloomfield, Mrs. Woodhull had petted Katy from the first day of her arrival in Canandaigua with a letter of introduction to herself from the ambitious mother, and being rather inclined to match-making, she had had Katy in her mind when she urged Wilford to accompany her to the seminary. Accordingly, she answered him at once: "That is Katy Lennox, daughter of Judge Lennox, who died in East Bloomfield a few years ago."
Lennox was a good name, while the title of judge increased its value. Wilford would not have acknowledged that, perhaps, but it was nevertheless the truth, and Mrs. Woodhull, who understood exactly the claim which Mr. Lennox had to the title, knew it was true, and that was why she spoke as she did. It was time Wilford Cameron was settled in life, and with the exception of wealth and family position, he could not find a better wife than Katy Lennox, and she would do what she could to bring the marriage about.
"Pretty, is she not?" was her question put to Wilford after answering his inquiry, but Wilford did not hear, having neither eye nor ear for anything save Kitty, acquitting herself with a good deal of credit as she worked out a rather difficult problem, her dimpled white hand showing to good advantage against the deep black of the board; and then her voice, soft-toned and silvery as a lady's voice should be, thrilled Wilford's ear, awaking a strange feeling of disquiet, as if the world would never again be quite the same to him that it was before he met that fair young girl now passing from the room.
Mrs. Woodhull saw that he was interested, and mentally congratulating herself upon the successful working of her plan, first gained the preceptress' consent, and then asked Katy home with her to tea that night. And this was how Wilford Cameron came to know little Katy Lennox, the simple-hearted child, who blushed so prettily when first presented to him, and blushed again when he praised her recitations, but who after that forgot the difference in their social relations, laughing and chatting as merrily in his presence as if she had been alone with Mrs. Woodhull. This was the great charm to Wilford, Katy was so wholly unconscious of himself or what he might think of her, that he could not sit in judgment upon her, and he watched her eagerly as she sported, and flashed, and sparkled, filling the room with sunshine, and putting to rout the entire regiment of blues which had been for months harassing the city-bred young man.
If there was any one thing in which Katy excelled, it was music, both vocal and instrumental, a taste for which had been developed very early, and fostered by Morris Grant, who had seen that his cousin had every advantage which Silverton could afford. Great pains, too, had been given to her style of playing while at Canandaigua, so that as a performer upon the piano she had few rivals in the seminary, while her bird-like voice filled every nook and corner of the room, where, on the night after her visit to Mrs. Woodhull, a select exhibition was held, Katy shining as the one bright star, and winning golden laurels for beauty, grace and perfect self-possession from others than Wilford Cameron, who was one of the invited auditors.
"Juno herself could not equal that," he thought, as Katy's fingers flew over the keys, executing a brilliant and difficult piece without a single mistake, and receiving the applause of the spectators easily, naturally, as if it were an everyday occurrence. But when by request she sang "Comin' through the Rye," Wilford's heart, if he had any before, was wholly gone, and he dreamed of Katy Lennox that night, wondering all the ensuing day how his haughty mother would receive that young schoolgirl as her daughter, wife of the son whose bride she fancied must be equal to the first lady in the land. And if Katy were not now equal she could be made so, Wilford thought, wondering if Canandaigua were the best place for her, and if she would consent to receive a year or two years' tuition from him, provided her family were poor. He did not know as they were, but he would ask, and he did, feeling a pang of regret when he heard to some extent how Katy was circumstanced. Mrs. Woodhull had never been to Silverton, and so she did not know of Uncle Ephraim, with his old-fashioned spouse and his older-fashioned sister, but she knew that they were poor—that some relation sent Katy to school; and she frankly told Wilford so, adding, as she detected the shadow on his face, that one could not expect everything, and that a girl like Katy was not found every day. Wilford admitted all this, growing more and more infatuated, until at last he consented to join the traveling party, provided Katy joined it too, and when on the morning of their departure for the Falls he seated himself beside her in the car, he could not well have been happier, unless she had really been his wife, as he so much wished she was.
It was a most delightful trip, and Wilford was better satisfied with himself than he had been before in years. His past life was not all free from error, and there were many sad memories haunting him, but with Katy at his side, seeing what he saw, admiring what he admired, and doing what he bade her do, he gave the bygones to the wind, feeling only an intense desire to clasp the young girl in his arms and bear her away to some spot where with her pure fresh life all his own he could begin the world anew, and retrieve the past which he had lost. This was when he was with Katy. Away from her he could remember the difference in their position, and prudential motives began to make themselves heard. Never but once had he taken an important step without consulting his mother, and then, alas! the trouble it brought him was not ended yet, and never would be ended until death had set its seal upon the brow of one almost as dear as Katy, though in a far different way. And this was why Katy came back to Silverton unengaged, leaving her heart with Wilford Cameron, who would first seek advice from his mother ere committing himself by word. He had seen the white-haired man with his coarse, linen coat and coarser pants, waiting eagerly for her when the train stopped at Silverton, but standing there as he did, with his silvery locks parted in the center, and shading his honest, open face, Uncle Ephraim looked like some patriarch of old rather than a man to be despised, and Wilford felt only a respect for him until he saw Katy's arms wound so lovingly around his neck as she kissed and called him Uncle Eph. That sight grated harshly, and Wilford, knowing this was the uncle of whom Katy had often spoken, felt glad that he was not bound to her by any pledge. Very curiously he looked after the couple, witnessing the meeting between Katy and old Whitey, and guessing rightly that the corn-colored vehicle was the one sent to transport Katy home. He was very moody for the remainder of the route between Silverton and Albany, where he parted with his Canandaigua friends, they going on to the westward, while he stopped all night in Albany, where he had some business to transact for his father. And this was why he did not reach New York until late in the afternoon of the following day.
He was intending to tell his mother everything, except indeed that he paid Katy's bills. He would rather keep that to himself, as it might shock his mother's sense of propriety and make her think less of Katy, impulsive, confiding Katy, little dreaming as on that rainy afternoon she sat in the kitchen at Silverton, with her feet in the stove-oven and the cat asleep in her lap, of the conversation taking place between Wilford Cameron and his mother. They had left the dinner table, and lighting his cigar, which for that one time the mother permitted in the parlor, Wilford opened the subject by asking her to guess what took him off so suddenly with Mrs. Woodhull.
The mother did not know—unless—and a strange light gleamed in her eyes, as she asked if it were some girl.
"Yea, mother, it was," and without any reservation Wilford frankly told the story of his interest in Katy Lennox.
He admitted that she was poor and unaccustomed to society, but he loved her more than words could express.
"Not as I loved Genevra," he said, as he saw his mother about to speak, and there came a look of intense pain into his fine eyes as he continued: "That was the passion of a boy of nineteen, simulated by secrecy, but this is different—this is the love of a mature man of thirty, who feels that he is capable of judging for himself."
In Wilford's voice there was a tone warning the mother that opposition would only feed the flame, and so she offered none directly, but heard him patiently to the end, and then quietly questioned him of Katy and her family, especially the last. What did he know of it? Was it one to detract from the Cameron line kept untarnished so long? Were the relatives such as he never need blush to own, even if they came there into their drawing-room, as they would come if Katy did?
Wilford thought of Uncle Ephraim as he had seen him upon the platform at Silverton, and could scarcely repress a smile as he pictured to himself his mother's consternation at beholding that man in her drawing-room, but he did not mention the deacon, though he acknowledged that Katy's family friends were not exactly the Cameron style. But Katy was young; Katy could be easily molded, and once away from her old associates, his mother and sisters could make of her what they pleased.
"I understand, then, that if you marry her you do not marry the family," and in the handsome, matronly face there was an expression from which Katy would have shrunk; could she have seen it and understood its meaning.
"No, I do not marry the family," Wilford rejoined, emphatically, but the expression of his face was different from his mother's, for where she thought only of herself, not hesitating to trample on all Katy's love of home and friends, Wilford remembered Katy, thinking how he would make amends for separating her wholly from her home, as he surely meant to do if he should win her. "Did I tell you," he continued, "that her father was a judge? She must be well connected on that side, though I never heard of a Judge Lennox in any of our courts."
"It must have been when you were in Europe the first time," Mrs. Cameron suggested, and as if the mention of Europe reminded him of something else, Wilford rejoined: "Katy would be kind to Jamie, mother. In some things she is almost as much a child as he, poor fellow," and again there came into his eyes a look of pain, while his voice was sadder in its tone, just as it always was when he spoke of little Jamie. "And now, what shall I do?" he asked, playfully. "Shall I propose to Katy Lennox, or shall I try to forget her?"
"I should not do either," was Mrs. Cameron's reply for she well knew that trying to forget her was the surest way of keeping her in mind, and she dared not confess to him how wholly she was determined that Katy Lennox should never be her daughter if she could prevent it.
If she could not, then as a lady and a woman of policy, she should make the most of it, receiving Katy kindly and doing her best to educate her up to the Cameron ideas of style and manner.
"Let matters take their course for a while," she said, "and see how you feel after a little. We are going to Newport the first of August, Jamie and all, and perhaps you may find somebody there infinitely superior to this Katy Lennox. That's your father's ring. He is earlier than usual to-night. I would not tell him yet till you are more decided," and the lady went hastily out into the hall to meet her husband.
A moment more and the elder Cameron appeared—a short, square-built man, with a face seamed with lines of care and eyes much like Wilford's, save that the shaggy eyebrows gave them a different expression. He was very glad to see his son, though he merely shook his hand, asking what nonsense took him off around the Lakes with Mrs. Woodhull, and wondering if women were never happy unless they were chasing after fashion. The elder Cameron was evidently not of his wife's way of thinking, but she let him go on until he was through, and then, with the most unruffled mien, suggested that his dinner would he cold. He was accustomed to that, and so he did not mind, but he hurried through his lonely meal to-night, for Wilford was home, and the father was always happier when he knew his son was in the house. Contrary to his usual custom, he spent the short summer evening in the parlor, talking with Wilford on various items of business, and thus preventing any further conversation concerning Katy Lennox, who just as their evening was commencing, was bowing the knee reverently between her sister and her uncle, listening while the good old man invoked the nightly blessing, without which he never retired to sleep. But in that household on Fifth Avenue there was no blessing asked of Heaven, no word of thanksgiving for the prosperity so long vouchsafed, no prayer said except by the crippled Jamie, who, remembering the Savior of whom Morris Grant had told him when across the sea, whispered his childish prayer, thanking him most for bringing back the uncle so dearly loved, the Wilford who, on his way to his own room, had stopped as he always did to say good-night to Jamie, folding his arms around him and kissing his sweet face with a fondness in which there was something half regretful, half sad, as well as pleasing.
It took but a short time for Wilford to fall back into his old way of living, passing a few hours of each day in his office, driving with his mother, reading to little Jamie, sparring with his imperious sister, Juno, and teasing his blue sister, Bell, but never after that first night breathing a word to any one of Katy Lennox. And still Katy was not forgotten, as his mother sometimes believed. On the contrary, the very silence he kept concerning her increased his passion, until he began seriously to contemplate a trip to Silverton. The family's removal to Newport, however, diverted his attention for a little, making him decide to wait and see what Newport might have in store for him. But Newport was dull this season, at least to him, though Juno and Bell both found ample scope for their different powers of attraction, and his mother was always happy when showing off her children and knowing that they were appreciated. With Wilford it was different. Listless and taciturn, he went through with the daily routine, wondering how he had ever found happiness there, and finally, at the close of the season, casting all policy and prudence aside, he wrote to Katy Lennox that he was coming to Silverton on his way home, and that he presumed he should have no difficulty in finding his way to the farmhouse.
PREPARING FOR THE VISIT.
"Of course he will not, for I shall ask Dr. Morris to go after him in his carriage," Katy said, as out in the orchard where she was gathering the early harvest apples she read the letter brought her by Uncle Ephraim, her face crimsoning all over with happy blushes as she saw the dear affixed to her name.
Katy had waited so anxiously for a letter, or some message which should say that she was not forgotten by Wilford Cameron, but as the weeks went by and it did not come, a shadow had fallen upon her spirits, and the family missed something from her ringing laugh and frolicsome ways, while she herself wondered why the household duties given to her should be so utterly distasteful. She used to enjoy them so much, but now she liked nothing except to go with Uncle Ephraim out into the fields where she could sit alone while he worked nearby, or to ride with Morris as she sometimes did when he made his round of calls. She was not as good as she used to be, she thought, and with a view of making herself better she took to teaching in Morris' and Helen's Sunday-school, greatly to the distress of Aunt Betsy, who groaned bitterly when both her nieces adopted the "Episcopal quirks," forsaking entirely the house where Sunday after Sunday her old-fashioned leghorn with its faded ribbon of green was seen, bending down in the humble worship which God so much approves. But teaching in Sunday-school, taken by itself, could not make Katy better, and the old restlessness remained until the morning when, sitting on the grass beneath the apple tree, she read that Wilford Cameron was coming. Then, as by magic, everything was changed, and Katy never forgot the brightness of that day when the robins sang so merrily above her head and all nature seemed to sympathize with her joy. Afterward there came to her dark, wretched hours, when in her young heart's agony she wished that day had never been, but there was no shadow around her now, nothing but hopeful sunshine, and with a bounding step she sought out Helen, to tell her the good news. Helen's first remark, however, was a chill upon her spirits.
"Wilford Cameron coming here? What will he think of us, we are so unlike him?"
This was the first time Katy had seriously considered the difference between her surroundings and those of Wilford Cameron, or how it might affect him. But Aunt Betsy, who had never dreamed of anything like Wilford's home, and who thought her own quite as good as they would average, comforted her, telling her how "if he was any kind of a chap he wouldn't be looking round, and if he did, who cared; she guessed they was as good as he, and as much thought of by the neighbors."
Wilford's letter had been delayed so that the morrow was the day appointed for his coming, and never sure was there a busier afternoon at the farmhouse than the one which followed the receipt of the letter. Everything that was not spotlessly clean before was made so now. Aunt Betsy in her petticoat and short gown going down upon her knees to scrub the door sill of the back room, as if the city guest were expected to sit in there. On Aunt Hannah and Mrs. Lennox devolved the duty of preparing for the wants of the inner man, while Helen and Katy bent their energies to beautifying their humble home and making the most of their plain furniture.
"If Uncle Ephraim had only let me move the chimney, we could have had a nice spare sleeping-room instead of this little tucked up hole," Mrs. Lennox said, coming in with her hands covered with flour, and casting a rueful look at the small room kept for company, and where Wilford was to sleep.
It was not very spacious, being only large enough to admit the high post bed, a single chair, and the old-fashioned washstand with the hole in the top for the bowl and a drawer beneath for towels, the whole presenting a most striking contrast to those handsome chambers on Fifth Avenue, or, indeed, to the one at the Ocean House where Wilford sat smoking and wishing the time away, while Helen and Katy held a consultation as to whether it would not be better to dispense with the parlor altogether and give that room to their visitor. But this was vetoed by Aunt Betsy, who, having finished the back door sill, had now come around to the front, and, with her scrubbing brush in one hand and her saucer of sand in the other, held forth upon the foolishness of the girls.
"Of course if they had a beau, they'd want a t'other room, else where would they do their sparkin'."
That settled it. The parlor should remain as it was, Katy said, and Aunt Betsy went on with her scouring, while Helen and Katy consulted together how to make the huge feather bed seem more like the mattresses such as Morris had, and such as Mr. Cameron must be accustomed to. Helen's mind being the most suggestive solved the problem first, and a large comfortable was brought from the box in the garret and folded carefully over the bed, which, thus hardened and flattened, "seemed like a mattress," Katy said, for she tried it, pronouncing it good, and feeling quite well satisfied with the room when it was finished. And certainly it was not wholly uninviting with its snowy bed, whose covering almost swept the floor, its strip of bright carpeting in front, its vase of flowers upon the stand and its white fringed curtain sweeping back from the narrow window.
"I'd like to sleep here myself. It looks real nice," was Katy's comment, while Helen offered no opinion, but followed her sister into the yard where they were to sweep the grass and prune the early September flowers.
This afforded Aunt Betsy a chance to reconnoiter and criticise, which last she did unsparingly.
"What have they done to that bed to make it look so flat? Put on a bed-quilt, as I'm alive! What children! It would break my back to lie there, and this Cannon is none the youngest, accordin' to their tell—nigh on to thirty, if not turned. It will make his bones ache, of course. I am glad I know better than to treat visitors that way. The comforter may stay, but I'll be bound I'll make it softer!" and stealing up the stairs, Aunt Betsy brought down a second feather bed, much lighter than the one already on, but still large enough to suggest the thought of smothering. This she had made herself, intending it as a part of Katy's "setting out," should she ever marry, and as things now seemed tending that way, it was only right, she thought, that Mr. Cannon, as she called him, should begin to have the benefit of it. Accordingly, the handiwork of the girls was destroyed, and two beds, instead of one, were placed beneath the comfortable, which Aunt Betsy permitted to remain.
"I'm mighty feared they'll find me out," she said, stroking, and patting, and coaxing the beds to lie down, taking great pains in the making, and succeeding so well that when her task was done there was no perceptible difference between Helen's bed and hers, except that the latter was a few inches higher than the former, and more nearly resembled a pincushion in shape.
Carefully shutting the door, Aunt Betsy hurried away, feeling glad that her nieces were too much engaged in training a vine over a frame to afford them time for discovering what she had done. Katy, she knew, was going to Linwood by and by, after various little things which Mrs. Lennox thought indispensable to the entertaining of so great a man as Wilford Cameron, and which the farmhouse did not possess, and as Helen too would be busy, there was not much danger of detection.
It was late when the last thing was accomplished, and the sun was quite low ere Katy was free to start on her errand, carrying the market basket in which she was to put the articles borrowed of Morris.
He was sitting out on his piazza enjoying the fine prospect he had of the sun shining across the pond, on the Silverton hill, and just gilding the top of the little church nestled in the valley. At sight of Katy he arose and greeted her with the kind, brotherly manner now habitual with him, for since we last looked upon Morris Grant he had fought a fierce battle with his selfishness, coming off conqueror, and learning to listen quite calmly while Katy talked to him, as she often did, of Wilford Cameron, never trying to conceal from him how anxious she was for some word of remembrance, and often asking if he thought Mr. Cameron would ever write to her. It was hard at first for Morris to listen, and harder still to hold back the passionate words of love trembling on his lips, to keep himself from telling her how improbable it was that one like Mr. Cameron should cherish thoughts of her after mingling again with the high-born city belles, and to beg of her to take him in Cameron's stead—him who had loved her so long, ever since he first knew what it was to love, and who would cherish her so tenderly, loving her the more because of the childishness which some men might despise. But Morris had kept silence, and, as weeks went by, there came insensibly into his heart a hope, or rather conviction, that Cameron had forgotten the little girl who might in time turn to him, gladdening his home just as she did every spot where her fairy footsteps trod. Morris did not fully know that he was hugging this fond dream, until he felt the keen pang which cut like a dissector's knife as Katy, turning her bright, eager face up to him, whispered softly: "He's coming to-morrow—he surely is; I have his letter to tell me so."
Morris did not see the sunshine then upon the distant hills, although it lay there just as purple as before Katy came, bringing blackness and pain when heretofore she had only brought him joy and gladness. There was a moment of darkness, in which the hills, the pond, the sun setting, and Katy seemed a great ways off to Morris, trying so hard to be calm, and mentally asking for help to do so. But Katy's hat, which she swung in her hand, had become entangled in the vines encircling one of the pillars of the piazza, and so she did not notice him until all traces of his agitation were past, and he could talk with her concerning Wilford, and then playfully lifting her basket he asked what she had come to get.
This was not the first time the great house had rendered a like service to the little house, and so Katy did not blush when she explained how her mother wanted Morris' forks, and saltcellars, and spoons, and would he be kind enough to bring the castor over himself, and come to dinner to-morrow at two o'clock?—and would he go after Mr. Cameron? The forks, and saltcellars, and spoons, and castor were cheerfully promised, while Morris consented to go for the guest; and then Katy came to the rest of her errand, the part distasteful to her, inasmuch as it might look like throwing disrespect upon Uncle Ephraim—honest, unsophisticated Uncle Ephraim—who would come to the table in his shirt sleeves. This was the burden of her grief—the one thing she dreaded most, inasmuch as she knew by experience how such an act was looked upon by Mr. Cameron, who, never having lived in the country a day in his life, except as he was either guest or traveler, could not make due allowance for these little departures from refinement, so obnoxious to people of his training.
"What is it, Katy?" Morris asked, as he saw how she hesitated, and guessed her errand was not done.
"I hope you will not think me foolish or wicked," Katy began, her eyes filling with tears, as she felt that she might be doing Uncle Ephraim a wrong by even admitting that in any way he could be improved. "I certainly love Uncle Ephraim dearly, and I do not mind his ways, but Mr. Cameron may—that is, oh, Cousin Morris! did you ever notice how Uncle Ephraim will persist in coming to the table in his shirt sleeves."
"Persist is hardly the word to use," Morris replied, smiling comically, as he readily understood Katy's misgivings. "Persist would imply his having been often remonstrated with for that breach of etiquette; whereas I doubt much whether the idea that it was not in strict accordance with politeness was ever suggested to him."
"Maybe not," Katy answered. "It was never necessary till now, and I feel so disturbed, for I want Mr. Cameron to like him, and if he does that I am sure he won't."
"Why do you think so?" Morris asked, and Katy replied: "He is so particular, and was so very angry at a little hotel between Lakes George and Champlain, where we took our dinner before going on the boat. There was a man along—a real good-natured man, too, so kind to everybody—and, as the day was warm, he carried his coat on his arm, and sat down to the table that way, right opposite me. Mr. Cameron was so indignant, and said such harsh things, which the man heard, I am sure, for he put on his coat directly; and I saw him afterward on the boat, sweating like rain, and looking sorry as if he had done something wrong. I am sure, though, he had not?"
This last was spoken interrogatively, and Morris replied: "There is nothing wrong or wicked in going without one's coat. Everything depends upon the circumstances under which it is done. For me to appear at table in my shirt sleeves would be very impolite; but for an old man like Uncle Ephraim, who has done it all his life and who never gave it a thought, would, in my estimation, be a very different thing. Still, Mr. Cameron may see from another standpoint. But I would not distress myself. That love is not worth much which would think the less of you for anything outre which Uncle Ephraim may do. If Mr. Cameron cannot stand the test of seeing your relatives as they are, he is not worth the long face you are wearing," and Morris pinched her cheek playfully.
"Yes, I know," Katy replied; "but if you only could manage Uncle Eph I should be so glad."
Morris had little hope of breaking a habit of years, but he promised to try if an opportunity should occur, and as Mrs. Hull, the housekeeper, had by this time gathered up the articles required for the morrow, Morris himself took the basket in his own hands and went back with Katy across the fields, which had never seemed so desolate as to-night, when he felt how vain were all the hopes he had been cherishing.
"God bless you, Katy, and may Mr. Cameron's visit bring you as much happiness as you anticipate," he said as he set her basket upon the doorstep and turned back without entering the house.
Katy noticed the peculiar tone of his voice, and again there swept over her the same thrill she had felt when Morris first said to her, "And did Katy like this Mr. Cameron?" but so far was she from guessing the truth that she only feared she might have displeased him by what she had said of Uncle Ephraim; and as an unkind word breathed against a dear friend, even to a mutual friend, always leaves a scar, so Katy, though saying nothing ill, still felt that in some way she had wronged her uncle; and the good old man, resting from his hard day's toil, in his accustomed chair, with not only his coat, but his vest and boots cast aside, little guessed what prompted the caresses which Katy bestowed upon him, sitting in his lap and parting lovingly his snowy hair, as if thus she would make amends for any injury done. Little Katy-did he called her, looking fondly into her bright, pretty face, and thinking how terrible it would be to see that face shadowed with pain and care. Somehow, of late, Uncle Ephraim was always thinking of such a calamity as more than possible for Katy, and when that night she knelt beside him, his voice was full of pleading earnestness as he prayed that God would keep them all in safety, and bring to none of them more grief, more suffering, than was necessary to purify them for His own. "Purified by suffering" came involuntarily into Katy's mind as she listened, and then remembered the talk down in the meadow, when she sat on the rock beneath the butternut tree. But Katy was far too thoughtless yet for anything serious to abide with her long; and the world, while it held Wilford Cameron as he seemed to her now, was too full of joy for her to be sad, and so she arose from her knees, thinking only how long it would be before to-morrow noon, wondering if Wilford would surely be there next time their evening prayers were said, and if he would notice Uncle Ephraim's shocking grammar!
Much surprise was expressed by all the Cameron family, save the mother, when told that instead of accompanying them to New York, Wilford would take another route, and one directly out of his way; while, what was stranger than all, he did not know when he should be home; it would depend upon circumstances, he said, evincing so much annoyance at being questioned with regard to his movements, that the quick-witted Juno readily divined that there was some girl in the matter, teasing him unmercifully to tell her who she was, and what the fair one was like.
"Don't, for pity's sake, bring us a verdant specimen," she said, as she at last bade him good-by, and turned her attention to Mark Ray, her brother's partner, who had been with them at Newport, and whom she was bending all her energies to captivate.
With his sister's bantering words ringing in his ears, Wilford kept on his way until the last change was made, and when he stopped again it would be at Silverton. He did not expect any one to meet him, but as he remembered the man whom he had seen greeting Katy, he thought it not unlikely that he might be there now, laughing to himself as he pictured Juno's horror, could she see him driving along in the corn-colored vehicle which Uncle Ephraim drove. But that vehicle was safe at home beneath the shed, while Uncle Ephraim was laying a stone wall upon the huckleberry hill, and the handsome carriage waiting at Silverton depot was certainly unexceptionable; while in the young man who, as the train stopped and Wilford stepped out upon the platform, came to meet him, bowing politely, and asking if he were Mr. Cameron, Wilford recognized the true gentleman, and his spirits arose as Morris said to him: "I am Miss Lennox's cousin, deputed by her to meet and take charge of you for a time."
Wilford had heard of Dr. Morris Grant, for his name was often on Jamie's lips, while his proud Sister Juno, he suspected, had tried her powers of fascination in vain upon the grave American, met in the saloons of Paris; but he had no suspicion that his new acquaintance was the one until they were driving toward the farmhouse and Morris mentioned having met his family in France, inquiring after them all, and especially for Jamie. Involuntarily then Wilford grasped again the hand of Morris Grant, exclaiming: "And are you the doctor who was so kind to Jamie? I did not expect this pleasure?"
After that the ride seemed very short, and Wilford was surprised when as they turned a corner in the sandy road, Morris pointed to the farmhouse, saying: "We are almost there—that is the place."
"That!" and Wilford's voice indicated his disappointment, for in all his mental pictures of Katy Lennox's home he had never imagined anything like this:
Large, rambling and weird-like, with something lofty and imposing, just because it was so ancient, was the house he had in his mind, and he could not conceal his chagrin as his eye took in the small, low building, with its high windows and tiny panes of glass, paintless and blindless, standing there alone among the hills, Morris understood it perfectly; but, without seeming to notice it, remarked: "It is the oldest house probably in the country, and should be invaluable on that account. I think we Americans are too fond of change and too much inclined to throw aside all that reminds us of the past. Now I like the farmhouse just because it is old and unpretentious."
"Yes, certainly," Wilford answered, looking ruefully around him at the old stone wall, half tumbled down, the tall well-sweep, and the patch of sunflowers in the garden, with Aunt Betsy bending behind them, picking tomatoes for dinner, and shading her eyes with her hand to look at him as he drove up.
It was all very rural, no doubt, and very charming to people who liked it, but Wilford did not like it, and he was wishing himself safely in New York when a golden head flashed for an instant before the window and then disappeared as Katy emerged into view, waiting at the door to receive him and looking so sweetly in her dress of white with the scarlet geranium blossoms in her hair, that Wilford forgot the homeliness of her surroundings, thinking only of her and how soft and warm was the little hand he held as she led him into the parlor. He did not know she was so beautiful, he said to himself, and he feasted his eyes upon her, forgetful for a time of all else. But afterward when Katy left him for a moment he noticed the well-worn carpet, the six cane-seated chairs, the large stuffed rocking chair, the fall-leaf table, with its plain wool spread, and, lastly, the really expensive piano, the only handsome piece of furniture the room contained, and which he rightly guessed must have come from Morris.
"What would Juno or Mark say?" he kept repeating to himself, half shuddering as he recalled the bantering proposition to accompany him made by Mark Ray, the only young man whom he considered fully his equal in New York.
Wilford knew these feelings were unworthy of him and he tried to shake them off, listlessly turning over the books upon the table, books which betokened in some one both taste and talent of no low order.
"Mark's favorite," he said, lifting up a volume of Schiller, and turning to the fly-leaf he read, "Helen Lennox, from Cousin Morris," just as Katy returned and with her Helen, whom she presented to the stranger.
Helen was prepared to like him just because Katy did, and her first thought was that he was splendid-looking, but when she met fully his cold glance and knew how closely he was scrutinizing her, there arose in her heart a feeling of dislike for Wilford Cameron, which she could never wholly conquer. He was very polite to her, but something in his manner annoyed and provoked her, it was so cool, so condescending, as if he endured her merely because she was Katy's sister, nothing more.
"Rather pretty, more character than Katy, but odd, and self-willed, with no kind of style."
This was Wilford's running comment on Helen as he took her in from the plain arrangement of her dark hair to the fit of her French calico and the cut of her linen Collar.
Fashionable dress would improve her very much, he thought, turning from her with a feeling of relief to Katy, whom nothing could disfigure, and who was now watching the door eagerly for the entrance of her mother. That lady had spent a good deal of time at her toilet, and she came in at last, flurried, fidgety, and very red, both from exercise and the bright-hued ribbons streaming from her cap and sadly at variance with the color of her dress. Wilford noticed the discrepancy at once, and noticed too how little style there was about the nervous woman greeting him so deferentially and evidently regarding him as something infinitely superior to herself. Wilford had looked with indifference upon Helen, but it would take a stronger word to express his opinion of the mother. Had he come accidentally upon her without ever having met with Katy, he would have regarded her as a plain, common country woman, who meant well if nothing more; but now, alas! with Katy in the foreground, he was weighing her in a far different balance and finding her sadly wanting. He had not seen Aunt Hannah, nor yet Aunt Betsy, for they were in the kitchen, making the last preparations for the dinner to which Morris was to remain. He was in the parlor now and in his presence Wilford felt more at ease, more as if he had found an affinity. Uncle Ephraim was not there, having eaten his bowl of milk and gone back to his stone wall, so that upon Morris devolved the duties of host, and he courteously led the way to the little dining-room, which Wilford confessed was not uninviting, with its clean floor and walls, and the table so loaded with the good things Aunt Hannah had prepared, burning and browning her wrinkled face, which nevertheless smiled pleasantly upon the stranger presented as Mr. Cameron.
About Aunt Hannah there was something naturally ladylike, and Wilford saw it; but when it came to Aunt Betsy, of whom he had never heard, he felt for a moment as if by being there in such promiscuous company he had somehow fallen from the Cameron's high estate. By way of pleasing the girls and doing honor to their "beau," as she called Wilford, Aunt Betsy had donned her very best attire, wearing the slate-colored pongee dress, bought twenty years before, and actually sporting a set of Helen's cast off hoops, which being quite too large for the dimensions of her scanty skirt, gave her anything but the stylish appearance she intended.
"Oh, auntie!" was Katy's involuntary exclamation, while Helen bit her lip with vexation, for the hoop had been an after thought to Aunt Betsy just before going in to dinner.
But the good old lady never dreamed of shocking any one with her attempts at fashion; and curtseying very low to Mr. Cameron, she hoped for a better acquaintance, and then took her seat at the table, just where each movement could be distinctly seen by Wilford, scanning her so intently as scarcely to hear the reverent words with which Morris asked a blessing upon themselves and the food so abundantly prepared. They could hardly have gotten through that first dinner without Morris, who adroitly tried to divert Wilford's mind from what was passing around him. But with all his vigilance he could not prevent his hearing Aunt Betsy as, in an aside to Helen, she denounced the heavy fork she was awkwardly trying to use, first expressing her surprise at finding it by her plate instead of the smaller one to which she was accustomed.
"The land! if you didn't borry Morris' forks! I'd as soon eat with the toastin' iron," she said, in a tone of distress, but Helen's foot touching hers warned her to keep silence, which she did after that, and the dinner proceeded quietly, Wilford discovering ere its close that Mrs. Lennox, now that she was more composed, had really some pretensions to a lady, while Helen's dress and collar ceased to be obnoxious, as he watched the play of her fine features and saw her eyes kindle as she took a modest part in the conversation when it turned on books and literature.
Meanwhile Katy kept very still, her cheeks flushing and her eyes cast down whenever she met Wilford's gaze; but when, after dinner was over and Morris had gone, she went with him down to the shore of the pond, her tongue was loosed, and Wilford found again the little fairy who had so bewitched him a few weeks before. And yet there was a load upon his mind—a shadow made by the actual knowledge that between Katy's family and his there was a gulf which never could be crossed by either party. He might bear Katy over, it was true, but would she not look longingly back to the humble home, and might he not sometimes be greatly chagrined by the sudden appearing of some one of this old-bred family who did not seem to realize how ignorant they were, how far below him in the social scale? Poor Wilford! he winced and shivered when he thought of Aunt Betsy, in her antiquated pongee, and remembered that she was a near relative of the little maiden sporting so playfully around him, stealing his heart away in spite of family pride, and making him more deeply in love than ever. It was very pleasant down by the pond, and Wilford, who liked staying there better than at the house, kept Katy with him until the sun was going down and they heard in the distance the tinkle of a bell as the deacon's cows plodded slowly homeward. Supper was waiting for them, and with his appetite sharpened by his walk, Wilford found no cause of complaint against Aunt Hannah's viands, though he smiled mentally as he accepted the piece of apple pie Aunt Betsy offered him, saying by way of recommendation that "she made the crust but Catherine peeled and sliced the apples."
The deacon had not returned from his work, and so Wilford did not see him until he came suddenly upon him, seated in the woodshed door, washing his feet after the labor of the day. Ephraim Barlow was a man to command respect, and to a certain extent Wilford recognized the true worth embodied in that unpolished exterior. He did not, however, see much of him that night, for, as the deacon said, apologetically: "The cows is to milk and the chores all to do, for I never keep no boy," and when at last the chores were done the clock pointed to half-past eight, the hour for family worship. Unaccustomed as Wilford was to such things, he felt the influence of the deacon's voice as he read from the Word of God, and involuntarily found himself kneeling when Katy knelt, noticing the deacon's grammar, it is true, but still listening patiently to the rather lengthy prayer which included him as well as the rest of mankind.
There was no chance of seeing Katy alone, and so full two hours before his usual custom Wilford retired to the little room to which the deacon conducted him, saying as he put down the lamp: "You'll find it pretty snug quarters, I guess, for such a close, muggy night as this, but if you can't stand it you must lie on the floor."
And truly they were snug quarters, Wilford thought; but there was no alternative, and a few moments found him in the center of two feather beds, neither Helen nor Katy having discovered the addition made by Aunt Betsy, and which came near being the death of the New York guest, who, wholly unaccustomed to feathers, was almost smothered in them, besides being nearly melted. To sleep was impossible, as the September night was hot and sultry, and never for a moment did Wilford lose his consciousness or forget to accuse himself of being an idiot for coming into that heathenish neighborhood after a wife when at home there were so many girls ready and waiting for him.
"I'll go back to-morrow morning," he said, and, striking a match, he read in his Railway Guide when the first train passed Silverton, feeling comforted to think that only a few hours intervened between him and freedom.
But alas! for Wilford. He was but a man, subject to man's caprices, and when next morning he met Katy Lennox, looking in her light muslin as pure and fair as the white blossoms twined in her wavy hair, his resolution began to waver. Perhaps there was a decent hotel in Silverton; he would inquire of Dr. Grant; at all events he would not take the first train as he had intended doing; and so he stayed, eating fried apples and beefsteak, but forgetting to criticise, in his appreciation of the rich thick cream poured into his coffee, and the sweet, golden butter, which melted in soft waves upon the flakey rolls. Again Uncle Ephraim was absent, having gone to the mill before Wilford left his room, nor was he visible to the young man until after dinner, for Wilford did not go home, but drove instead with Katy in the carriage which Morris sent around, excusing himself from coming on the plea of being too busy, but saying he would join them at tea, if possible. Wilford's mind was not yet fully made up, so he concluded to remain another day and see more of Katy's family. Accordingly, after dinner, he bent his energies to read them all, from Helen down to Aunt Betsy, the latter of whom proved the most transparent of the four. Arrayed again in the pongee, but this time without the hoop, she came into the parlor, bringing her calico patchwork, which she informed him was pieced in the "herrin' bone pattern" and intended for Katy; telling him, further, that the feather bed on which he slept was also a part of "Catherine's setting out," and was made from feathers she picked herself, showing him as proof a mark upon her arm, left there by the gray goose, which had proved a little refractory when she tried to draw a stocking over its head.