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   Chapter 2 — MADELINE CLYDE.

Aikenside By Mary Jane Holmes Characters: 13906

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

Madge her schoolmates called her, because the name suited her, they said; but Maddy they called her at home, and there was a world of unutterable tenderness in the voices of the old couple, her grandparents, when they said that name, while their dim eyes lighted up with pride and joy when they rested upon the young girl who answered to the name of Maddy. Their only daughter's only child, she had lived with them since her mother's death, for her father was a sea captain, who never returned from his last voyage to China, made two months before she was born. Very lonely and desolate would the home of Grandfather Markham have been without the presence of Madeline, but with her there, the old red farmhouse seemed to the aged couple like a paradise.

Forty years they had lived there, tilling the rather barren soil of the rocky homestead, and, saving the sad night when they heard that Richard Clyde was lost at sea, and the far sadder morning when their daughter died, bitter sorrow had not come to them; and, truly thankful for the blessings so long vouchsafed them, they had retired each night in peace with God and man, and risen each morning to pray. But a change was coming over them. In an evil hour Grandpa Markham had signed a note for a neighbor and friend, who failed to pay, and so it all fell on Mr. Markham, who, to meet the demand, mortgaged his homestead; the recreant neighbor still insisting that long before the mortgage should be due, he certainly would be able himself to meet it. This, however, he had not done, and, after twice begging off a foreclosure, poor old Grandfather Markham found himself at the mercy of a grasping, remorseless man, into whose hands the mortgage had passed. It was vain to hope that Silas Slocum would wait. The money must either be forthcoming, or the red farmhouse be sold, with its few acres of land. Among his neighbors there was not one who had the money to spare, even if they had been willing to do so. And so he must look among strangers.

"If I could only help," Madeline had said one evening when they sat talking over their troubles; "but there's nothing I can do, unless I apply for our school this summer. Mr. Green is committeeman; he likes us, and I don't believe but what he'll let me have it. I mean to go and see;" and, ere the old people had recovered from their astonishment, Madeline had caught her bonnet and shawl, and was flying down the road.

Madeline was a favorite with all, especially with Mr. Green, and as the school would be small that summer, the plan struck him favorably. Her age, however, was an objection, and he must take time to see what others thought of a child like her becoming a schoolmistress. Others thought well of it, and so before the close of the next day it was generally known through Honedale, as the southern part of Devonshire was called, that pretty little Madge Clyde had been engaged as teacher, she receiving three dollars a week, with the understanding that she must board herself. It did not take Madeline long to calculate that twelve times three were thirty-six, more than a tenth of what her grandfather must borrow. It seemed like a little fortune, and blithe as a singing bird she flitted about the house, now stopping a moment to fondle her pet kitten, while she whispered the good news in its very appreciative ear, and then stroking her grandfather's silvery hair, as she said:

"You can tell them that you are sure of paying thirty-six dollars in the fall, and if I do well, maybe they'll hire me longer. I mean to try my very best. I wonder if ever anybody before me taught a school when they were only fourteen and a half. Do I look as young as that?" and for an instant the bright; childish face scanned itself eagerly in the old-fashioned mirror, with the figure of an eagle on the top.

She did look very young, and yet there was something womanly, too, in the expression of the face, something which said that life's realities were already beginning to be understood by her.

"If my hair were not short I should do better. What a pity I cut it the last time; it would have been so long and splendid now," she continued, giving a kind of contemptuous pull at the thick, beautiful brown hair on whose glossy surface there was in certain lights a reddish tinge, which added to its beauty.

"Never mind the hair, Maddy," the old man said, gazing fondly at her with a half sigh as he remembered another brown head, pillowed now beneath the graveyard turf. "Maybe you won't pass muster, and then the hair will make no difference. There's a new committee-man, that Dr. Holbrook, from Boston, and new ones are apt to be mighty strict."

Instantly Maddy's face flushed all over with nervous dread, as she thought: "What if I should fail?" fancying that to do so would be an eternal disgrace. But she should not. She was called by everybody the very best scholar in school, the one whom the teachers always put forward when desirous of showing off, the one whom Mr. Tiverton, and Squire Lamb, and Lawyer Whittemore always noticed so much. Of course she should not fail, though she did dread Dr. Holbrook, wondering much what he would ask her first, and hoping it would be something in arithmetic, provided he did not stumble upon decimals, where she was apt to get bewildered. She had no fears of grammar. She could pick out the most obscure sentence and dissect a double relative with perfect ease; then, as to geography, she could repeat whole pages of that, while in the spelling-book, the foundation of a thorough education, as she had been taught, she had no superiors, and but a very few equals. Still she would be very glad when it was over, and she appointed Monday, both because it was close at hand, and because that was the day her grandfather had set in which to ride to Aikenside, in an adjoining town, and ask its young master for the loan of three hundred dollars.

He could hardly tell why he had thought of applying to Guy Remington for help, unless it were that he once had saved the life of Guy's father, who, as long as he lived, had evinced a great regard for his benefactor, frequently asserting that he meant to do something for him. But the something was never done, the father was dead, and in his strait the old man turned to the son, whom he knew to be very rich, and who he had been told was exceedingly generous.

"How I wish I could go with you clear up to Aikenside! They say it's so beautiful," Madeline had said, as on Saturday evening they sat discussing the expected events of the following Monday. "Mrs. Noah, the housekeeper, had Sarah Jones there once, to sew, and she told me all about it. There are graveled walks, and nice green lawns, and big, tall trees, and flowers-oh! so many!-and marble fountains, with gold fishes in the basin; and statues, big as folks, all over the yard, with two brass lions on the gateposts. But the house is finest of all. There's a drawing-r

oom bigger than a ballroom, with carpets that let your feet sink in so far; pictures and mirrors clear to the floor-think of that, grandpa! a looking-glass so tall that one can see the very bottom of their dress and know just how it hangs. Oh, I do so wish I could have a peep at it! There are two in one room, and the windows are like doors, with lace curtains; but what is queerest of all, the chairs and sofas are covered with real silk, just like that funny, gored gown of grandma's up in the oak chest. Dear me! I wonder if I'll ever live in such a place as Aikenside?"

"No, no, Maddy, no. Be satisfied with the lot where God has put you, and don't be longing after something higher, Our Father in heaven knows just what is best for us; as He didn't see fit to put you up at Aikenside, 'tain't noways likely you'll ever live in the like of it."

"Not unless I should happen to marry a rich man. Poor girls like me have sometimes done that, haven't they?" was Maddy's demure reply.

Grandpa Markham shook his head.

"They have, but it's mostly their ruination; so don't build castles in the air about this Guy Remington."

"Me! Oh, grandpa, I never dreamed of Mr. Guy!" and Madeline blushed half indignantly. "He's too rich, too aristocratic, though Sarah said he didn't act one bit proud, and was so pleasant, the servants all worship him, and Mrs. Noah thinks him good enough for the Queen of England. I shall think so, too, if he lets you have the money. How I wish it was Monday night, so we could know sure!"

"Perhaps we both shall be terribly disappointed," suggested grandpa, but Maddy was more hopeful.

She, at least, would not fail, while what she had heard of Guy Remington, the heir of Aikenside, made her believe that he would accede at once to her grandpa's request.

All that night she was working to pay the debt, giving the money herself into the hands of Guy Remington, whom she had never seen, but who came up in her dreams the tall, handsome-looking man she had so often heard described by Sarah Jones after her return from Aikenside. Even the next day, when, by her grandparent's side, Maddy knelt reverently in the small, time-worn church at Honedale, her thoughts, it must be confessed, were wandering more to the to-morrow and Aikenside, than to the sacred words her lips were uttering. She knew it was wrong, and with a nervous start would try to bring her mind back from decimal fractions to what the minister was saying; but Maddy was mortal, and right in the midst of the Collect, Aikenside and its owner would rise before her, together with the wonder how she and her grandfather would feel one week from that Sabbath day. Would the desired certificate be hers? or would she be disgraced forever and ever by a rejection? Would the mortgage be paid and her grandfather at ease, or would his heart be breaking with the knowing he must leave what had been his home for so many years? Not thus was it with the aged disciple beside her-the good old man, whose white locks swept the large lettered book over which his wrinkled face was bent, as he joined in the responses, or said the prayers whose words had over him so soothing an influence, carrying his thoughts upward to the house not made with hands, which he felt assured would one day be his. Once or twice, it is true, thoughts of losing the dear old red cottage flitted across his mind with a keen, sudden pang, but he put it quickly aside, remembering at the same instant how the Father he loved doeth all things well to such as are His children. Grandpa Markham was old in the Christian course, while Maddy could hardly be said to have commenced as yet, and so to her that April Sunday was long and wearisome. How she did wish she might just look over the geography, by way of refreshing her memory, or see exactly how the rule for extracting the cube root did read, but Maddy forebore, reading only the Pilgrim's Progress, the Bible, and the book brought from the Sunday school.

With the earliest dawn, however, she was up, and her grandmother heard her repeating to herself much of what she dreaded Dr. Holbrook might question her upon. Even when bending over the washtub, for there were no servants at the red cottage, a book was arranged before her so that she could study with her eyes, while her small, fat hands and dimpled arms were busy in the suds. Before ten o'clock everything was done, the clothes, white as the snowdrops in the garden beds, were swinging on the line, the kitchen floor was scrubbed, the windows washed, the best room swept, the vegetables cleaned for dinner, and then Maddy's work was finished. "Grandma could do all the rest," she said, and Madeline was free "to put her eyes out over them big books if she liked."

Swiftly flew the hours until it was time to be getting ready, when again the short hair was deplored, as before her looking-glass Madeline brushed and arranged her shining, beautiful locks. Would Dr. Holbrook think of her age? Suppose he should ask it. But no, he wouldn't. If Mr. Green thought her old enough, surely it was not a matter with which the doctor need trouble himself; and, somewhat at ease on that point, Madeline donned her longest frock, and, standing in a chair, tried to discover how much of her pantalets was visible.

"I could see splendidly in Mr. Remington's mirrors," she said to herself, with a half sigh of regret that her lot had not been cast in some such place as Aikenside, instead of there beneath the hill in that wee bit of a cottage, whose rear slanted back until it almost touched the ground. "After all, I guess I'm happier here," she thought. "Everybody likes me, while if I were Mr. Guy's sister and lived at Aikenside, I might be proud and wicked, and-"

She did not finish the sentence, but somehow the story of Dives and Lazarus, read by her grandfather that morning, recurred to her mind, and feeling how much rather she would rest in Abraham's bosom than share the fate of him who once was clothed in purple and fine linen she pinned on her little neat plaid shawl, and, tying the blue ribbons of her coarse straw hat, glanced once more at the formidable cube root, and then hurried down to where her grandfather and old Sorrel wore waiting for her.

"I shall be so happy when I come back, because it will then be over, just like having a tooth out, you know," she said to her grandmother, who bent down for the good-by kiss without which Maddy never left her. "Now, grandpa, drive on; I was to be there at three," and chirruping herself to Sorrel, the impatient Madge went riding from the cottage door, chatting cheerily until the village of Devonshire was reached; then, with a farewell to her grandfather, who never dreamed that the man whom he was seeking was so near, she tripped up the flagging walk, and, as we have seen, soon stood in the presence of not only Dr. Holbrook, but also of Guy Remington.

Poor, poor little Madge!

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