Ethelyn's Mistake (Chapter 1, page 2 of 15)


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Chapter 1

Aunt Barbara's prayers were always to the point. She said what she had
to say in the fewest possible words, wasting no time in repetition, and
on this occasion she was briefer than usual, for the good woman had many
things upon her mind this morning. First, there was Betty to rouse and
get into a state of locomotion, a good half hour's work, as Aunt Barbara
knew from a three years' experience. There was the "sponge" put to rise
the previous night. She must see if that had risen, and with her own
hands mold the snowy breakfast rolls which Ethelyn liked so much. There
were the chambers to be inspected a second time, to ascertain if
everything was in its place, and dinner to be prepared for the "Van
Buren set" expected up from Boston, while last, though far from least,
there was Ethelyn herself to waken when the clock should chime the hour
of six, and this was a pleasure which good Aunt Barbara would not for
the world have foregone. Every morning for the last sixteen years, when
Ethelyn was at home, she had gone to the pleasant, airy chamber where
her darling slept, and bending over her had kissed her fair, glowing
cheek, and so called her back from the dreamless slumber which otherwise
might have been prolonged to an indefinite time, for Ethelyn did not
believe in the maxim, "Early to bed and early to rise," and always
begged for a little more indulgence, even after the brown eyes unclosed
and flashed forth a responsive greeting to the motherly face bending
above them.

This morning, however, it was not needful that Aunt Barbara should waken
her, for long before the robin sang, or the white-fringed curtain had
been pushed aside from Aunt Barbara's window, she was awake, and the
brown eyes, which had in them a strange expression for a bride's eyes to
wear, had scanned the eastern horizon wistfully, aye, drearily it may
be, to see if it were morning, and when the clock in the kitchen struck
four, the quivering lip had whispered, oh, so sadly, "Sixteen hours
more, only sixteen," and with a little shiver the bed-clothes had been
drawn more closely around the plump shoulders, and the troubled face had
nestled down among the pillows to smother the sigh which never ought to
have come from a maiden's lips upon her wedding day. The chamber of the
bride-elect was a pleasant one, large and airy and high, with windows
looking out upon the Chicopee hills, and from which Ethelyn had many a
time watched the fading of the purplish twilight as, girl-like, she
speculated upon the future and wondered what it might have in store for
her. One leaf of the great book had been turned and lay open to her
view, but she shrank away from what was written there, and wished so
much that the record were otherwise. Upon the walls of Ethelyn's chamber
many pictures were hung, some in water colors, which she had done
herself in the happy schooldays which now seemed so far away, and some
in oil, mementos also of those days. Pictures, too, there were of
people, one of dear Aunt Barbara, whose kindly face was the first to
smile on Ethelyn when she woke, and whose patient, watchful eyes seemed
to keep guard over her while she slept. Besides Aunt Barbara's picture
there was another one, a fair, boyish face, with a look not wholly
unlike Ethelyn, herself, save that it lacked the firmness and decision
which were so apparent in the proud curve of her lip and the flash of
her brown eyes. Fair-haired and blue-eyed, with something feminine in
every feature, it seemed preposterous that the original could ever make
a young girl's heart ache as Ethelyn Grant's was aching that June
morning, when, taking the small oval frame from the wall, she kissed it
passionately, and then thrust it away into the bureau drawer, which held
other relics than the oval frame. It was, in fact, the grave of
Ethelyn's buried hopes--the tomb she had sworn never to unlock again;
but now, as her fingers lingered a moment amid the mementos of the years
when, in her girlish ignorance, she had been so happy, she felt her
resolution giving way, and sitting down upon the floor, with her long
hair unfastened and falling loosely about her, she bowed her head over
buried treasures, and dropped into their grave the bitterest tears she
had ever shed. Then, as there swept over her some better impulse,
whispering of the wrong she was doing to her promised husband, she said: "I will not leave them here to madden me again some other day. I will
burn them, every one."

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