Mary Jane Holmes.

Ethelyn's mistake : or, The home in the West ; a novel online

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maiden'3 heart, or keep it after it was won. If he was
awkward at love-making and only allowed himself to be
occasionally surprised into flashes of tenderness, he was
Btill more awkward in letter-writing; and Ethelyn always
indulged in a headache or in a fit of the blues after reeeiy*


ir>g one of his short, practical letters, which gave but little
sign of the strong, deep affection he cherished for her.
Those were hard days for Ethelyn, — the days which inter-
vened between her lover's bidding her adieu and his return
to claim her hand, — and only her deeply wounded pride,
and her great desire for a change of scene and a winter in
Washington kept her from asking a release from the en-
gagement she knew never ought to have been. There was
some gratification in knowing that she was an object of
envy to Susie Graham and Anna Thome and Carrie Bell,
either of whom would gladly have taken her place as bride-
elect of an M.C., while proud old Colonel Markham's fre-
quent mention of " my nephew in Congress, ahem ! " and
Mrs. Dr. Van Buren's constant exultation over the " splendid
match," helped to keep up the glamour of excitement, so
that her promise had never been revoked, and now he was
there to claim it. He had not gone at once to Miss
Bigelow's on his arrival in Chicopee, for the day was hot
and sultry, and he was very tired with his forty-eight hours'
constant travel ; and so he had rested a while in his cham-
ber, which looked toward Ethelyn's, and then sat upon the
piazza with his uncle till the heat of the day was past,
and the round red moon was showing itself above the
eastern hills as the sun disappeared in the west. Then, in
his new linen coat, cut and made by Mrs. Jones, mother
to Abigail deceased, he had started for the dwelling of his
betrothed. Ethelyn had seen him as he came from the
depot in Colonel Markham's carriage, and her cheek had
crimsoned and then grown pale at sight of the ancient-
.ooking hair trunk swinging behind the carriage, all uncon-
*c\ous of the indignation it was exciting, or of the vast dif-
ference between itself and the two huge Saratoga trunki


standing in Aunt Barbara Bigelow's upper hall, and looking
so clean and nice in their fresh coverings. Poor Ethelyn!
That hair trunk, which had done its owner such good ser-
vice in his journeys to and from Washington, and which
the mother had packed with so much care, never dreaming
Low very, very far it was behind the times, brought the hot
blood in torrents to her face, and made the white hands
clasp each other spasmodically, as she thought, "Had I
known of that hair trunk, I would certainly have told him

Even Abigail Jones faded into insignificance before this
indignity, and it was long before Ethelyn could recover her
composure or her pulse resume its regular beat. She was in
no haste to see him ; but such is the inconsistency of per-
verse girlhood that, because he delayed his coming, she felt
annoyed and piqued, and was half tempted to have a head-
ache and go to bed, and not see him at all. But he was com-
ing at last, linen coat and all ; and Susie Graham, who had
stopped for a moment by the gate to speak with Ethelyn,
pronounced him " a magnificent looking fellow," and said
to Ethelyn, " I should think you would feel so proud."

Susie did not observe the linen coat, and, if she had, she
would have thought it a very sensible arrangement for a day
when the thermometer stood ninety-five degrees in the
shade ; but Susie was not Boston-finished. She had been
educated at Mount Holyoke, which made a difference,
Ethelyn thought. Still, Susie's comment did much to-
wards reconciling her to the linen coat ; and as Richard
Markham came up the street, she did feel a thrill of pride
and even pleasure, for he had a splendid figure and carried
nimself like a prince, while his fine face beamed all ovei
with that joyous, happy expression which comes only from


a kind, true heart, as he drew near the house ai. I caught
the flutter of a white robe through the open door. Ethelyn
was very pretty, in her cool, cambric dress, with a bunch
of sweet English violets in her hair ; and at sight of her,
the man usually so grave, and quiet, and undemonstrative
with those of the opposite sex, felt all his reserve give way,
and there was a world of tenderness in his voice and a misty
look in his eye as he bent over her, giving her the second
kiss he had ever given to her, and asking, " How is my
darling: to-nio;ht ? "

She did not take his arm from her neck this time '. he
had a right to keep it there, and she suffered the caress,
feeling no greater inconvenience than that his big hand
was very warm and pressed a little too hard upon her
shoulder. He spoke to her of the errand on which
he had come, and the great, warm hand pressed more
heavily as he said, " It seems to me a dream that in a few
days you will be my own Ethie, my wife, from whom I
need not be parted;" and then he spoke of his mother
and his three brothers, James and John and Anderson, or
Andy, as he was called. Each of these had sent kindly mes-
sages to Richard's bride, the mother saying she should be
glad to have a daughter in her home, and the three brothers
promising to love their new sister so much as to rm%ke old
Dick jealous, if possible. These messages " old Dick "
delivered ; but he wisely refrained from telling how his
mother feared he had not chosen wisely, — that a young lady
with Boston notions was not the wife to make a Western
man very happy. Neither did he tell her of an interview
had with Mrs. Jones, who had always evinced a motherly
care over him since her daughter's death, and to whom he
had dutifully communicated the news of his intended


marriage. It was not what Mrs. Jones had expected. Sha
had watched Richard's upward progress with all the pride
of a mother-in-law, lamenting often to Mrs. Markham that
poor Abigail could not have lived to share his greatness ;
and during the term of his judgeship, when he stayed
mostly in Camden, the county seat, she had, on the occa-
sion of her going to town with butter and eggs and chick
ens, taken a mournful pleasure in perambulating the streets
and selecting the house where Abigail might perhaps have
resided, and where she could have had her cup of young
hyson after the fatigue of the day, instead of eating her dry
iunch of cheese and fried cakes in the rather comfortless de
pot while waiting for the train. Richard's long-continued
bachelorhood had given her peculiar pleasure, inasmuch as it
betokened a continual remembrance of her daughter ; and as
her youngest child, the blooming Melinda, who was as like the
departed Abigail as sisters ever are to each other, ripened
into womanhood, and the grave Richard spoke oftener to
her than to the other maidens of the village, she began to
speculate upon what might possibly be, and refused the
loan of her brass kettle to the neighbor whose husband did
not vote for Richard when he ran for member of Congress.
Melinda, too, had her little ambitions, her silent hopes and
aspirations, and even her vague longings for a winter in
Washington. As the Markham house and the Jones house
were distant from each other only half a mile, she was a
frequent visitor of Richard's mother, always assisting when
there was more work than usual on hand, and on the occa-
sion of Richard's first going to Washington she had ironed
his shirts and packed them in the hair trunk which had
called forth Ethelyn's ire. Though she did not remembei
much about " Abby," she knew that, had she lived, Richard


would have been her brother ; and for some reason he seemea
to her just like one now, she said to Mrs. Markham, as she
hemmed his pocket handkerchiefs and worked his initials
in the corner with pink floss. Many times during Richard's
absence she visited Mrs. Markham, inquiring always after
" the Judge," and making herself so agreeable and useful,
too, in clear-starching and doing up Mrs. Markham's caps, and
in giving receipts for sundry new and economical dishes, thsi
the good woman herself sometimes wondered if Richard
could do better than take the black- eyed Melinda ; and
when he told her of Ethelyn Grant, she experienced a feel-
ing of disappointment and regret, doubting much if a Bos-
ton girl, with Boston notions, would make her as happy as
the plainer Melinda, who knew all her ways. Something
of this she said to her son, omitting, of course, that por-
tion of her thoughts which referred to Melinda. With
Mrs. Jones, however, it was different. In her surprise and
disappointment she let fall some remarks which opened
Richard's eyes a little, and made him look at her half
amused and half sorry, as she " hoped the new bride would
not have many airs, and would put up with his mother's

" You'll excuse me, Richard, for speaking so plain, but
you seem like my own boy, and I can't help it. Your
mother is the best and cleverest woman in the world, but
she has some peculiarities which a Boston girl may not

put up with, not being used to them as Melin 1 mean,

as poor Abigail was."

It was the first time it had occurred to Richard that
his mother had peculiarities, and even now he did not
know what they were. Taking her all in al 1 , she was aa
acarly perfect, he thought, as a woman well could be, and


on his way home from his interview with Mrs. Jones 1 e pc a
dered in his mind what she could mean, and then wonder-
ed if for the asking he could have taken Melinda Jones to
the fireside where he was going to install Ethelyn Grant.
There was a comical smile about his mouth as he thought
how litttle either Melinda or Abigail would suit him now ;
and then, by way of making amends for what seemed dis-
respect to the dead, he went round to the sunken grave
where Abigail had slept for so many years, and stood
again just where he had stood that day when he fancied the
light from his heart had gone out forever. But he could
not bring back the olden feeling, or wish that Abigail had

" She is happy now, — happier than I could have made
her. It is better as it is," he said, as he walked away
to Daisy's grave, where his tears dropped just as they
always did when he stood by the sod which covered the
fairest, brightest, purest being he had ever known, except
his Ethie.

She was just as pure and gentle and good as blue-eyed
Daisy had been, and on the manly face turned so wistfully
to the eastward there was a world of love and tender-
ness for the Ethie who, alas ! did not deserve it then,
and to whom a few weeks later he gave his mother's kind-
ly message. Then, remembering what Mrs. Jones had said,
he felt in duty bound to add :

" Mother has some peculiarities, I believe, — most old
people have; but I trust to your good sense to humor
them as much as possible. She has had her own way a
long time ; and though you will virtually be mistress of the
house, inasmuch as it belongs to me, it will be better fo!
mother to take the lead, as heretofore."


There was a curl on Ethelyn's Jp as she received hei
first lesson with regard to her behavior as daughter-in-law '
but she made no reply, not even to ask what the pecu-
liarities were which she was to humor. She really did
not care what they were, as she fully intended having
an establishment of her own in the thriving village, just
half a mile from her husband's home. She should proba
bly spend a few weeks with Mrs. Markham senior, who
she fancied was a tall, stately woman, wearing heavy black
silk dresses and thread-lace caps on great occasions, and
having always on hand some fine lamb's-wool knitting
work when she sat in the parlor where Daisy's picture
hung. Ethelyn could not tell why it was that she always
saw Richard's mother thus, unless it were what Mrs. Col.
Markham once said with regard to her Western sister-in-
law, who had sent to Boston for a black shk which cost
three dollars per yard, — a great price for those days, — and
for two yards of handsome thread-lace, which she, the
Mrs. Colonel, had run all over the city to get, " John's
wife was so particular to have it just the pattern and
width she described in her letter."

This was Richard's mother as Ethelyn saw her, while the
house on the prairie presented a very respectable appearance
to her mind's eye, being large and fashioned something after
the new house across the Common, which had a bay win-
dow at the side, and a kind of cupola on the roof. It
would be quite possible to spend a few weeks comfortably
there, especially as she would have the Washington gaye-
ties in prospect ; but in the spring, when, after a winter
of dissipation she returned to the prairies, she shoulc go
to her own home, either in Olney or Camden ; the latter,
perhaps, as Richard jould as well live there as elsewhere,


This was Ethelyn's plan, but she kept it to herself, and
changing the conversation from Richard's mother and he*
peculiarities, she talked instead of the places they were to
visit, — Quebec, and Montreal, the seaside and the moun-
tains, and lastly that great Babel of fashion, Saratoga, foi
which place several of her dresses had been expressly made,

Ethetyn had planned this trip herself; and Richard,
though knowing how awfully he should be bored before the
summer was over, had assented to all that she proposed,
secretly hoping the while that the last days of August
would find him safe at home in Olney among his books,
his horses, and his farming pursuits. He was very tired
that night, and he did not tarry longer than ten, though a
word from Ethelyn would have kept him for hours at her
side, so intoxicated was he with her beauty, and so quiet
and happy he felt with her ; but the word was not spoken,
and he left her standing on the piazza, where he could see
the gleaming of her white robes when he looked back, as
he more than once did ere reaching his uncle's door.

The next three days passed rapidly, bringing at last the
eventful one for which all others were made, it seemed to
him, as he looked out upon the early, dewy morning,
thinking how pleasant it was there in that quiet New
England town, and trying to fight back the I unwelcome
headache which finally drove him to his bed, from which
he wrote the little note to Ethelyn, who might think
strange at his non-appearance, when he had been accus-
tomed to go to her immediately after breakfast. He nevei
dreamed of the relief it was to her not to have him come,
as he lay flushed and heated upon his pillow, the vema
upon his forehead swelling with their pressure of hot
blood, and his ear strained to iatch the first sound of thf


geivant's returning steps. Ethelyn would eithei come hei^
self to see him, or send some cheering message, he was
sure. How, then, was he disappointed to find his own note
returned, with the assurance that " it did not matter, as ho
would only be in the way."

Several times he read it over, trying to extract some
comfort from it, and finding it at last in the fact that
Ethelyn had a headache too. This was the reason for her
seeming indifference ; and in wishing himself able to go
to her, Richard forgot in part his own pain, and fell into a
quiet sleep, which did him untold good. It was three
o'clock when at last he rose, knowing pretty well all that
had been doing during the hours of his seclusion in the
darkened room. The " Van Buren set " he knew had come,
and he overheard Mrs. Markham's Esther saying to Aunt
Barbara's Betty, when she came for the silver cake-basket,
that "Mr. Frank seemed in mighty fine spirits, considering
all the flirtations he used to have with Miss Ethelyn."

This was the first intimation Richard had received of a
flirtation, and even now it did not strike him unpleasantly.
Frank and Ethelyn were cousins, he reflected, and as
such had undoubtedly been very familiar with each other.
[t was natural, and nothing for which he need care ; and
he deliberately began to make his wedding toilet, think-
ing, when it was completed, that he was looking un
usually well in the entire new suit which his cousin,
Mrs, Woodhull, had insisted upon his getting in New York,
when on his way home in April he had gone that way, and
told her of his approaching marriage. It was a splendid
suit, made after the most approved style, and costing a sum
which he had kept secret from his mother, who, neverthe-

.ess, guessed somewhere near the truth, and thought the


Olney tailor would have suited him quite as well it a quartcj
the price, or even Mrs. Jones, who, having been a tailoresi
when a young girl in Vermont, still kept up her profession
to a limited extent, retaining her "press-board" and
" goose," and the mammoth shears which had cut Rich«
ard's linen coat after a Chicago pattern of not the most
recent date. Richard thought very little about his per-
sonal appearance, but he felt a glow of satisfaction now
as he contemplated himself in the glass, and felt only that
Ethelyn would be pleased to see him thus.

And Ethelyn was pleased. She had half expected the
old coat of she did not know how many years' make, and
there was a fierce pang of shame in her heart as she imag-
ined Frank's cool criticisms, and saw, in fancy, the contrast
between the two men. So when Judge Markham alighted
at the gate, and from her window she took in at a glance
his tout ensemble, the revulsion of feeling was so great that
the glad tears sprang to her eyes, and a brighter, happier
look broke over her face than had been there for many
weeks. She was not present when Frank was introduced
to him ; but when next she met her cousin, he said to her,
hi his usual off-hand way, " I say Ethie, he is pretty well
got up for a Westerner. But for his eyes and teeth I should
never have known him for the chap who wore the short
pants and stove-pipe hat with the butternut-colored crape.
Who was he in mourning for, anyway ? "

It was too bad to be reminded of Abigail Jones, just a?
she was beginning to feel more comfortable ; but Ethelyn
bore it very well, and laughingly answered, "For his sweet-
heart, I dare say," her cheeks flushing very red as Frank
whispered slyly, " You are even, then, on that score."

No man of any delicacy of feeling or true refinemen!


would have made this allusion to the past, with his first
love within a few hours of her bridal, and his own betrothed
standing near. But Frank had neither delicacy of feeling
noi genuine refinement* and he even felt a secret gratifica-
tion in seeing the blood mount to Ethelyn's cheeks as he
thus referred to the past.

» ♦ »



HERE was a great dea of sincere and tender in-
terest in Richard's manner when, in reply to hia
inquiries for Ethelyn's headache, Aunt Barbara
told him of the almost fainting fit in the morning and her
belief that Ethelyn was not as strong this summer as she
used to be.

" The mountain air will do her good, I trust," he said,
lasting wistful glances up the stairs and toward the door
of the chamber, where girlish voices were heard, Nettie
Hudson and Susie Granger chatting gayly and uttering ex-
clamations of delight as they arranged and adjusted Ethe-
lyn's bridal robes.

Once daring the period of his judgeship Richard had at-
tended a Urge and fashionable bridal party ; but when, on
his return to Olney, Melinda Jones questioned him with
regard to the dresses of the bride and the guests, he found
himself utterly unable to remember either fabric, fashion,
or even color, so little attention had he given to the subject.
He never noticed such things, he said, but he believed some


of the dresses were made of something flimsy, for he could
■see through them, and he knew they were very long, for
he had stepped on some half dozen. And this was all the
information the inquisitive Melinda could obtain. Dresa
was of little consequence, he thought, so it was clean and

This was his theory ; but when, as the twilight deepened
on the Chicopee hills, and the lamps were lighted in Aunt
Barbara's parlors, and old Col. Markham began to wonder
" why the plague the folks did not come," as he stalked up
and down the piazza in all the pride and pomposity of one
who felt himself to all intents and purposes the village aris-
tocrat, — and when the mysterious door of Ethie's room,
which had been closed so long, was opened, and the bride-
groom told that he might go in, he started in surprise at
the beautiful tableau presented to his view as he stepped
across the threshold. As was natural, he fancied that
nevei before had he seen three young girls so perfectly
beautiful as the three before him, — Ethie, and Susie, and

As a matter of course, he gave the preference to Ethelyn,
who was very, very lovely in her bridal robes, with the
orange wreath resting like a coronet upon her marble brow.
There were pearls upon her neck and pearls upon her arms,
the gift of Mrs. Dr. Van Bur en, who had waited till the
very last, hoping the Judge would have forethought enough
to buy them himself. But the Judge had not. He knew
something of diamonds, for they had been Daisy's favorites ;
but pearls were novelties to him, and Ethelyn's pale cheeks
would have Durned crimson had she known that he wai
thinking " how becoming those white beads were to hei."

Poor, ignorant Richard ! He would know more by and by


of what constitutes a fashionable lady's toilet ; b it now he
was in blissful ignorance of minutiae, and saw only the tout
ensemble, which he pronounced perfect. He was half afraid
of her, though, she seemed so cold, so passive, so silent ;
and when in the same breath Susie Granger asked if he
e\ er saw any one so lovely as Ethelyn, and bade him kiss
her quick, he hesitated, and finally kissed Susie instead.
He might, perhaps, have done the same with Ethelyn if she
had not stepped backward to avoid it, her long train sweep-
ing across the hearth where that morning she had knelt in
such utter desolation, and where now was lying a bit of
blackened paper, which the housemaid's broom had not
found when, early in the day, the room was swept and
ousted. So Ethelyn's white satin brushed against the gos-
samer thing, which floated upward for a moment, and then
settled back upon the heavy, shining folds. It was Richard
who saw it first, and Richard's hand which brushed away
the skeleton of Frank's letter from the skirts of his bride,
leaving a soiled, yellowish stain, which Susie Granger
loudly deplored, while Ethelyn only drew her drapery
around her, saying coldly, that " it did not matter in the
least. She would as soon have it there as not."

It was meet, she thought, that the purity of her bridal
garments should be tarnished ; for was not her heart all
stained, and black, and crisp with cruel deception ? That
little incident, however, affected her strangely, bringing
back so vividly the scene on the ledge of rocks beneath tho
New England laurels, where Frank had sat beside her and
poured words of boyish passion into her ear. There was
for a moment a pitiful look of anguish in her eyes as they
went out into the summer night toward the huckleberry
hills, where lay that ledge of massy rock, and then came


back to the realities about her. Frank saw the look cf
pain, and it awoke in his own breast an answeiing throb as
he wondered if, after all, Ethie wonld not have preferred
that he were standing by her instead of the grave Judge,
fitting on his gloves with an awkwardness which said that
such articles were comparatively strangers to his .arge red

It was time now to go down. The guests had all ar-
rived, the clergyman was waiting, and Col. Markhara had
grown very red in the face with his impatience, which his
irife tried in vain to quiet. If at this last moment there
irose in Ethelyn's bosom any wild impulse to break away
from the dreadful scene, and rush out into the darkness
jvhich lay so softly upon the hills, she put it aside, with
me thought, " too late now, — forever too late ;" and taking
the arm which Richard offered her, she went mechanically
down the btaircase into the large parlor where the wed-
ling guests were assembled. Surely, she did not know
*rhat she was doing, or realize the solemn words, " I charge
4nd require you both, as ye shall answer at the great day,
when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if
either of you know any impediment why ye may not be

Online LibraryMary Jane HolmesEthelyn's mistake : or, The home in the West ; a novel → online text (page 4 of 27)