Mary Jane Holmes.

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

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in calling the brother whom Richard always spoke of as
Andy, she felt a little perplexed as to what would be appro-
priate, Richard had talked very little of him, — so little, ip
fact, that she knew nothing whatever of his tastes, excep 4
from the scrap of conversation she once accidentally ovei


hoard when the old Colonel was talking to Richard of his

" Does Andy like busts as well as ever ? " the captair
had asked, but Richard's reply was lost as Ethelyn walked

Still, she had heard enough to give her some inkling with
regard to the mysterious* Andy. Probably he was more
refined than either James or John, — at all events, he wag
evidently fond of statuary, and his tastes should be grati-
fied. Accordingly, Boston was ransacked by Mrs. Dr. Van
Buren for an exquisite head of Schiller, done in marble, and
costing thirty dollars. Richard did not see it. The pres-
ents were a secret from him, all except the handsome
point-lace coiffeur which Aunt Barbara sent to Mrs. Mark-
ham, together with a letter which she sat up till midnight
to write, and in which she touchingly commended her dar-
ling to the new mother's care and consideration.

"You will find my Ethie in some respects a spoiled
child," she wrote, " but it is more my fault than hers. I
have loved her so much, and petted her so much, that I
doubt if she knows what a harsh word or cross look means.
She has been carefully and delicately brought up, but has
repaid me well for all my pains by her tender love. Please,
dear Mrs. Markham, be very, very kind to her, and you
will greatly oblige, Your most obedient servant,

"Barbara Bigelow*.

" P.S. I dare say your ways out West are not exactly
like our ways at the East, and Ethie may not fall in with
them at once, but I am sure she will do what is right, as
she is a sensible girl. Again, yours with regret, B. B."

The writing this letter was not the wisest thing Aunt


Barbara could have done, but she was incited to it by what
her sister Sophie told her of the rumors ccncerning Mm
Markham, and her own fears lest Ethelyn should not be as
comfortable with the new mother-in-law as was wholly de-
sirable. To Richard himself she had said that she presumed
that his mother's ways were not like Ethie's — old people
were different from young ones — the world had improved
since their day, and instead of trying to bring young folks
altogether to their modes of thinking, it was well for both
to yield something. This was the third time Richard had
heard his mother's ways alluded to ; first by Mrs. Jones,
who called them queer; second, by Mrs. Dr. Van Buren,
who, for Ethie's sake, had also dropped a word of caution,
ninting that his mother's ways might possibly be a little
peculiar ; and lastly by good Aunt Barbara, who signalized
them as different from Ethelyn's.

What did it mean, and why had he never discovered
any thing amiss in his mother ? He trusted that Mrs. Jones,
uid Mrs. Dr. Yan Buren, and Aunt Barbara were mis-
taken. On the whole, he knew they were ; and even ii
they were not his mother could not do wrong to Ethie,
while Ethie would, of course, be willing to conform to
iny request made by a person so much older than herself
as his mother was. So Richard dismissed that subject
from his mind, and Ethelyn, — having never heard it agi-
tated, except that time when, with Mrs. Jones on his mind,
Richard had thought it proper to suggest the propriety of
her humoriug his mother, — felt no fears of Mrs. Markhaiu
Senior, whom she still associated in her mmd with heavy
black silk, gold-bowed spectacles, handsome lace and
fleecy crochet- work.

The October morning was clear and crisp and frosty


and the sun had not yet shown itself above the eastern
hills, when Captain Markham's carryall drove to Aunt
Barbara's gate, followed by the long, democrat-wagou
which was to take the baggage. Ethelyn's spoiled tra-
velling dress had been replaced by a handsome poplin,
which was made in the extreme fashion, and fitted her ad-
mirably, as did every portion of her dress, from her jaunty
hat and dotted lace veil to the Alexandre kids and fancy
little gaiters which encased her feet and hands. She was
prettier than on her bridal-day, Richard thought, as he
kissed away the tears which dropped so fast even after
the last good-by had been said to poor Aunt Barbara, who
watched the flutter of Ethie's veil and ribbons as far as
they could be seen, and then in the secrecy of her own
room knelt and prayed that God would bless and keep
her darling, and make her happy in the new home to
which she was going.

It was very quiet and lonely in the Bigelow house that
day, Aunt Barbara walking softly, and speaking slowly, as if
the form of some one dead had been borne from her side ;
while on the bed which the housemaid Betty had made
up so plump and round there was a cavity made by Aunt
Barbara's head, which hid itself there many times as the
good woman went repeatedly to God with the pain gnaw-
ing so at her heart. But in the evening, wheu a cheerful
wood-fire was kindled on the hearth of her pleasant sit-
ting-room, and Mrs. Colonel Markham came in with hei
knitting-work, to sit until the Colonel called for her on his
leturn from the meeting where he was to oppose with
all his might the building of a new school-house, to pay
for which he would be heavily taxed, she felt better, and
could talk composedly of the travellers, who by that time


were neanng Rochester, where they would spend iht

Although very anxious to reach home, Richard had
promised that Ethelyn should only travel through the day,
as she was not as strong as before her illness. And to this
promise he adhered, so that it was near the middle of tha
afternoon of the fifth day that the last change was made,
and they took the train that would in two hours' time de-
posit them at Olney. At Camden, the county seat, they
waited for a few moments. There was always a crowd of
people here going out to different parts of the country, and
as one after another came into the car Richard seemed to
know them all, while the cordial and rather noisy greeting
which they gave " the Judge " struck Ethelyn a little oddly,
— it was so different from the quiet, undemonstrative man-
ners to which she had been accustomed. With at least a
dozen men in shaggy overcoats and slouched hats she shook
hands with a tolerably good grace, but when there ap-
peared a tall, lauk, bearded young giant of a fellow, with a
dare-devil expression in his black eyes, and a stain of to-
bacco about his mouth, she drew back, and to his hearty
" How are ye, Miss Markham ? Considerable tuckered out.
I reckon ? " she merely responded with a cool bow and a
haughty stare, intended to put down the young man, whom
Richard introduced as " Tim Jones," and who, taking the
scat directly in front of her, poured forth a volley of con-
versation, calling Richard sometimes "Dick," sometimes
"Markham," but oftener " Square," as he had learned to do
when Richard was Justice of the Peace in Olney. Melinda,
too, or " Melind," was mentioned as having been over to
the " Square's house helping the old lady fix up a little,"
and then Ethulyn knew that the " savage " was no othe?

MRS. makkham's ways. 81

than brother to Abigail Jones deceased. The discover?
was not a pleasant one, and did not tend to smooth hei
ruffled spirits or lessen the feeling of contempt for Western
people in general, and Richard's friends in particular, which
had been growing in her heart ever since the Eastern
world was left behind and she had been fairly launched
upon the great prairies of the Mississippi Valley. Richard
was a prince compared with the specimens she had seen t
though she did wonder that he should be so familiar with
them, calling them by their first names, and even bandying
jokes with the terrible Tim Jones spitting his tobacco-juice
all over the car floor and laughing so loudly at all the
" Square " said. It was almost too dreadful to endure, and
Ethelyn's head was beginning to ache frightfully when the
long train came to a pause, and the conductor, who also
knew Judge Markham, and called him " Dick," screamed
through the open door " O-l-ney ! "
Ethelyn was at home at last.



HEY were very peculiar, and no one Knew this
better than Mrs. Jones and her daugMer Melinda,
il sister and mother to the deceased Abigail and
the redoubtable Tim. Naturally bright and quick-witted,
Melinda caught readily at any new improver* ent, and the
consequence was that the Jones house bore »inmistal ible
signs of having in it a grown-up daughter who** 4 , new i 'eai


of things kept the old ideas from rusting. After Melindi
came home from boarding-school the Joneses did not set
the table in the kitchen close to the hissing cook-stove, but
in the pleasant dining-room, where there gradually came
tc be crochetted tidies on the backs of the rocking-chairs,
hi d crayon sketches on the wall, and a pot of geraniums
m the window, with a canary bird singing in his cage near
by. At first, Mrs. Markham, who felt a greater interest in
the Joneses than in any other family, looked askance at
these " new-fangled notions," wondering how " Miss Jones
expected to keep the flies out of her house if she had al 1
the doors a flyin' three times a day," and fearing lest
Melinda was getting " stuck-up notions in her head, which
woaild make her fit for nothing."

JBut when she found there were no more flies in farmer
Jones' kitchen than in her own, and that Melinda worked
as much as ever, and was just as willing to lend a helping
hand when there was need of haste at the Markham house,
her anxiety subsided, and the Joneses were welcome to eat
wherever they chose, or even to have to wait upon the
table, when there was company, the little black boy Pete,
whom Tim had bought at a slave auction in New Orleans,
whithur he had gone on a flat-boat expedition two or three
years before. But she never thought of introducing any
of Melinda's notions into her own household. She " could
not fuss " to keep so many rooms clean. If in winter time
6he had a fire in the front room, where in one corner her
own bed was curtained off, and if in summer she always
sat there when her work was done, it was all that could be
required of her, and was just as they used to do at her
father's, in Vermont, thirty years ago. Her kitchen was
larger than Mrs. Jones', which was rather uncomfortable on

mrs. markham's ways. 83

ft Lot day when there was washing to be doi.e ; the odol
of the soap-suds was a little sickening then, she admitted,
but in her kitchen it was different ; she had had an eye to
comfort when they were building, and had seen that the
kitchen was the largest, airiest, lightest room in the house,
with fom windows, two outside doors, and a fire-place,
where, although they had a stove, she dearly loved to cook
just as her mother had done in Vermont, and where hung
an old-fashioned crane, with iron hooks suspended from it.
Here she washed, and ironed, and ate, and performed her
ablutions in the bright tin basin which stood in the sink
near to the pail, with the gourd swinging on the top, and
wiped her on the rolling towel near by, and combed her
hair before the clock, which served the double purpose of
looking-glass and time-piece both. When company came,
— and Mrs. Markham was not inhospitable, — the east room,
where the bed stood, was opened ; and if the company, as
was sometimes the case, chanced to be Richard's friends,
she used the west room across the hall, where the choco-
late-colored paper and Daisy's picture hung, and where,
upon the high mantel, there was a plaster image of little
Samuel, and two plaster vases filled with colored fruit.
The carpet was a very pretty Brussels, but it did not quite
cover the floor on either side. It was a small pattern, and
on this account had been offered a shilling cheaper a yard,
and so the economical Mrs. Markham had bought it, in-
tending to eke out the deficiency wi h drugget of a cor-
responding shade ; but the merchant did not bring the
drugget, and the carpet was put down, and time weut on,
and the strips of painted board were still uncovered, save
by the straight row of hair-cloth chairs, whbh stood upon
one side, and the old-fashioned sofa, which had cost fiftj

84 mrs. markham's ways.

dollars, and ought to last at least as many years. Theis
was a Boston rocker, and a centre-table, with the family
bible on it, and a volume of Scott's Commentaries, and
frosted candlesticks on the mantel and two sperm candles
m them, with colored paper, pink and green, all fancifully
notched and put around them, and a bureau in the corner,
which held the boys' Sunday shirts and Mrs. Markham's
black silk dress, with Daisy's clothes in the bottom drawer,
and the silver plate taken from her coffin. There was a
gilt-framed looking-glass on the wall, and blue paper cur-
tains at the windows, which were further ornamented with
muslin drapery. This was the great room, — the parlor, —
where Daisy had died, and which, on that account, was a
sacred place to those who held the memory of that sweet
little prairie blossom as the dearest memory of their lives.
Had she lived, with her naturally refined tastes, and her
nicety of perceptions, there was no guessing what that
farm-house might have been, for a young girl makes a deal
of difference in any family. But she died, and so the house,
which, when she died, was not quite finished, remained
much as it was, — a large, square building, minus blinds,
with a wide hall in the centre, opening in front upon a
broad piazza, and opening back upon a stoop, the side
entrance to the kitchen. There was a picket fence in
front ; but the yard was bare of ornament, if we except
the lilac bushes under the parlor windows, the red peony
in the corner, and the clumps of violets and daisies, which
grew in what was intended for borders to the walk, from
the front gate to the door. Sometimes the summer showed
Here a growth of marigolds, with sweet peas and china
asters, for Andy was fond of flowers, and when he had
leisure he did a little floral gardening ; but this year, owing

mrs. markham's ways. 95

lo Richard's absence, there had been more to dc m the
farm, consequently the ornamental had been neglected, and
the late autumn flowers which, in honor of Ethelyn's ar-
rival, were standing in vases on the centre-table and the
mantei, were contributed by Melinda Jones, who had beet?
vei} busy in other portions of the house working for the

She could do this now without a single pang of jealousy
for she was a sensible girl, and after a night and a day of
heaviness, and a vague sense of disappointment, she had
sung as merrily as ever, and no one was more interested in
the arrival of Richard's bride than she, from the time when
Richard started eastward for her. Between herself and her
mother there had been a long, confidential conversation,
touching Mrs. Markhani's ways and the best means of cir
cumventing them, so that the new wife might not be utterly
crushed with home-sickness and surprise when she first
arrived. No one could manage Mrs. Markham as well as
Melinda, and it was owing to her influence that the large >
pleasant chamber, which had been Richard's ever since he
became a growing man, was renovated and improved until
it presented a very inviting appearance. Tne rag carpet
which for years had done duty, and bore many traces of
Richard's muddy boots, had been exchanged for a new in-
grain, — not very pretty in design, or very stylish either, but
possessing the merit of being fresh and clean. To get the
carpet Melinda had labored assiduously, and had enlisted
all three of the brothers, James, and John, and Andy, in
the cause before the economical mother consented to the
pui chase. The rag carpet, if cleaned and mended, was as
good as ever, she insisted ; and even if it were not, bhe
could put down one that had not seen so much actual sri

86 mrs. markham's ways.

vice. It was Andy who finally decided her 1 3 indulge in
the extravagance urged by Melinda Jones. There were
reasons why Andy was very near to his mother's heart, and
when he offered to sell his brown pony, which he loved
as he did his eyes, his mother yielded the point, and taking 1
with her both Mrs. Jones and Melinda, went to Camden,
and sat two hours upon rolls of carpeting while she decided
which to take.

Mrs. Markham was not stingy with regard to her table ,
that was always loaded with the choicest of everything,
while many a poor family blessed her as an angel. But
the articles she ate were mostly the products of their large,
well cultivated farm ; they did not cost money directly out
of her hand, and it was the money she disliked parting
with, so she talked, and beat the Camden merchant down five
cents on a yard, and made him cut it a little short, to save
a waste, and made him throw in the thread and binding,
and swear when she was gone, wondering who " the stingy
old woman was." And yet the very day after her return
from Camden " the stingy old woman " sent to her minis-
ter a loaf of bread and a pail of butter, and to a poor sick
woman, who lived in a leaky cabin off the prairie, a nice
warm blanket for her bed, with a basket of delicacies to
tempt her capricious appetite.

In due time the carpet was made, Melinda Jones sewing
up throe of the seams, w r hile Andy, who knew how to use
the needle almost as well as a girl, claimed the privilege of
Bewing at least half a seam on the new sister's carpet.
Adjoining Richard's chamber was a little room where Mrs.
Markham 's flour, and meal, and corn, were kept, but which,
with a \ittle fitting up, would answer nicely for a bed-room
and after an amount of engineering, which would have done

mrs. maekham's ways. 87

eredit to the general of an army, Melinda succeeded in
coaxing Mrs. Markham to move her barrels and bags, an* 3
give up the room for Ethelyn's bed, which looked very
nice and inviting, notwithstanding that the pillows were
small, and the bedstead a high poster, which had been in
use for twenty years. Mrs. Markham knew all about the
boxes, as she called them. There was one in Mrs. Jones'
front chamber, but she had never bought one, for what
then would she do with her old ones, — " with the laced
cords," so greatly preferable to the hard slats, which nearh
broke her back the night she slept on some at a friend's
bouse in Olney.

Richard was fond of books, and had collected from time
to time a well-selected library, which was the only ornament
in his room when Melinda first took it in hand ; but when
she had finished her work, — when the carpet was down, and
the neat, white shades were up at the windows ; when the
books which used to be on the floor, and table, and chairs,
and mantel, and window sills, and anywhere, were neatly
arranged in the very respectable shelves which Andy made
and James painted ; when the little sewing chair designed
for Ethelyn was put before one window, and Richard's arm-
chair before the other, and the drab lounge was drawn a
little into the room, and the bureau stood corner-ways, with
a bottle of cologne upon it, which John had bought, and a
pot of pomade Andy had made, and two little pink and
while mats Melinda had crocheted, the room was very pre-
sentable. Great, womanish Andy was sure Ethelyn would
be pleased, and rubbed his hands jubilantly over the result
of his labors, while Melinda was certainly pardonable foi
feeling that in return for what she had done for Richard's
wife she might venture to suggest that the huge box f

88 mrs. markham's ways.

marked piano, which for ten days had been standing on the
front piazza, be opened, and the piano set up, so that she
could try its tone. This box had cost Andy a world of
trouble, keeping him awake nights, and taking him from
his bed more than once, as he fancied he heard a mys-
terious sound, and feared some one might be stealing thf
ponderous thing, which it took four men to lift. Witt
the utmost alacrity he helped in the unpacking, nearly
bursting a blood-vessel as he tugged at the heaviest end,
and then running to the village with all his speed, to borrow
Mrs. Crandall's piano-key, which fortunately fitted Ethe-
lyn's, so that Melinda Jones was soon seated in state, and
running her fingers over the superb five-hundred-dollai
instrument, Ethelyn's gift from Aunt Barbara on her birth-

Melinda's fingers were stained and cut with carpet thread,
and pricked with carpet tacks, and red with washing dishes,
but they moved nimbly over the keys, striking out with a
will the few tunes she had learned during her two quarters'
instruction. She had acquired a great deal of knowledge
in a short time, for she was passionately fond of music, and
every spare moment had been devoted to it, so that she had
mastered the scales with innumerable exercises, besides
learning several pieces, of which Moneymusk was one.
This she now played with a sprightliness and energy which
brought Andy to his feet, while his cowhides moved to the
stirring music in a fashion which would have utterly confound-
ed poor Ethelyn could she have seen them. But Ethelyn
was miles and miles away. She was not coming for a week
or more, and in that time Andy tried his hand at Yankee
Doodle, playing with one finger, and succeeding far beyond
his most sanguine expectations. Andy was delighted with


the piano, and so was Eunice, the hired gir , who left hei
ironing and her dishes, and stood with wiping towel or flat
iron in hand, humming an accompaniment to Andy's play«
ing, and sometimes helping mid the proper key to touch

Eunice was not an Irish girl, nor a German, nor a Scotch;
but a full-blooded American, and "just as good as her em
ployers," with whom she always ate and sat. It was not
Mrs. Markharn's custom to keep a girl the year round, but
when she did it was Eunice Plympton, the daughter of the
drunken fiddler who earned his livelihood by playing for
the dances the young people of Olney sometimes got up.
He was anticipating quite a windfall from the infair it was
confidently expected would be given by Mrs. Markham in
honor of her son's marriage ; and Eunice herself had washed
and starched and ironed the white waist she intended to
wear on the same occasion. Of course she knew she would
have to wait and tend and do the running, she said to Me-
linda, to whom she confided her thoughts, but after the
supper was over she surely might have one little dance, if
with nobody "but Andy.

This was Eunice, and she had been with Mrs. Markham
during the past summer ; but her time was drawing to a
close. All the heavy work was over, the harvests were
gathered in, the soap was made, the cleaning done, the
house made ready for Richard's wife, and it was the under-
standing that when that lady came and was somewhat
domesticated, Miss Eunice was to leave. There was not
much to do in the winter, Mrs. Markham said, and with
Richard's wife's help she should get along. Alas ! how
little Ethelyn was prepared for the home which awaited
her, and for the really good woman, who, on the afternoon


of her son s arrival, saw into the oven the young torkej
which Andy had been feeding for so long with a view t€
this very day, and then helped Eunice set the table for thtf
expected guests.

It did occur to Mrs. Markham that there might be a
great propriety in Eunice's waiting for once, inasmuch as
there were plates to change, and custard pie and minced,
and pudding, to be brought upon the table ; but the good
woman did not dare hint at such a thing, so the seven
plates were put upon the table, and the china cups brought
from the little cupboard at the side of the chimney, and
the silver teapot, which was a family heir-loom, and had
been given Mrs. Markham by her mother, was brought also
and rubbed up ; and the pickles, and preserves, and honey,
and cheese, and jellies, and white raised biscuit, and fresh,
brown bread, and shredded cabbage, and cranberry sauce,
with golden butter, and pitchers of cream, were all arranged
according to Eunice's ideas. The turkey was browning
nicely, and the vegetables were cooking upon the stove.
Eunice was grinding the coffee, and the clock said it wanted
but half an hour of car-time, when Mrs. Markham finally
left the kitchen, and proceeded to make her toilet.

Eunice's had been made some time ago, and the large-

Online LibraryMary Jane HolmesEthelyn's mistake : or, The home in the West ; a novel → online text (page 6 of 27)