The doctor is gone, his object is accomplished, and at the Mansion House near by he sleeps quietly and well. But the lady, Maude Glendower, oh, who shall tell what bitter tears she wept, or how in her in-most soul she shrank from the man she had chosen. And yet there was nothing repulsive in him, she knew. He was fine-looking,-- he stood well in the world,--he was rich while she was poor. But not for this alone had she promised to be his wife. To hold Maude Remington within her arms, to look into her eyes, to call his daughter child, this was the strongest reason of them all. And was it strange that when at last she slept she was a girl again, looking across the college green to catch a glimpse of one whose indifference had made her what she was, a selfish, scheming, cold- hearted woman.
There was another interview next morning, and then the doctor left her, but not until with her soft hand in his, and her shining eyes upon his face, she said to him, "You think your home is not a desirable one for me. Can't you fix it up a little? Are there two parlors, and do the windows come to the floor? I hope your carriage horses are in good condition, for I am very fond of driving. Have you a flower garden? I anticipate much pleasure in working among the plants. Oh, it will be so cool and nice in the country. You have an ice-house, of course."
Poor doctor! Double parlors, low windows, ice-house, and flower garden he had none, while the old carryall had long since ceased to do its duty, and its place was supplied by an open buggy, drawn by a sorrel nag. But Maude Glendower could do with him what Katy and Matty could not have done, and after his return to Laurel Hill he was more than once closeted with Maude, to whom he confided his plan of improving the place, asking her if she thought the profits of next year's crop of wheat and wool would meet the whole expense. Maude guessed at random that it would, and as money in prospect seems not quite so valuable as money in hand, the doctor finally concluded to follow out Maude Glendower's suggestions, and greatly to the surprise of the neighbors, the repairing process commenced.
The October sun had painted the forest trees with the gorgeous tints of autumn and the November winds had changed them to a more sober hue ere J.C. De Vere came again to Laurel Hill. Very regularly he wrote to Maude--kind, loving letters, which helped to cheer her solitary life. Nellie still remained with Mrs. Kelsey, and though she had so far forgiven her stepsister as to write to her occasionally, she still cherished toward her a feeling of animosity for having stolen away her lover.
On his return to Rochester J.C. De Vere had fully expected that his engagement would be the theme of every tongue, and he had prepared himself for the attack. How, then, was he surprised to find that no one had the least suspicion of it, though many joked him for having quarreled with Nellie as they were sure he had done, by his not returning when she did.
Mrs. Kelsey had changed her mind and resolved to say nothing of an affair which she was sure would never prove to be serious, and the result showed the wisdom of her proceeding. No one spoke of Maude to J.C., for no one knew of her existence, and both Mrs. Kelsey, and Nellie, whom he frequently met, scrupulously refrained from mentioning her name. At first he felt annoyed, and more than once was tempted to tell of his engagement, but as time wore on and he became more and more interested in city gayeties, he thought less frequently of the dark-eyed Maude, who, with fewer sources of amusement, was each day thinking more and more of him. Still, he was sure he loved her, and one morning near the middle of November, when he received a letter from her saying, "I am sometimes very lonely, and wish that you were here," he started up with his usual impetuosity, and ere he was fully aware of his own intentions he found himself ticketed for Canandaigua, and the next morning Louis Kennedy, looking from his window and watching the daily stage as it came slowly up the hill, screamed out, "He's come--he's come!"
A few moments more and Maude was clasped in J.C.'s arms. Kissing her forehead, her cheek, and her lips, he held her off and looked to see if she had changed. She had, and he knew it. Happiness and contentment are more certain beautifiers than the most powerful cosmetics, and under the combined effects of both Maude was greatly improved. She was happy in her engagement, happy in the increased respect it brought her from her friends, and happy, too, in the unusual kindness, of her stepfather. All this was manifest in her face, and for the first time in his life J.C. told her she was beautiful.
"If you only had more manner, and your clothes were fashionably made, you would far excel the city girls," he said, a compliment which to Maude seemed rather equivocal.