Ethelyn's Mistake (Chapter 3, page 1 of 9)


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Chapter 3

He preferred to be called Richard by his friends and Mr. Markham by
strangers--not that he was insensible to the prestige which the title of
Judge or Honorable gave him, but he was a plain, matter-of-fact man, who
had not been lifted off his balance, or grown dizzy by the rapidity with
which he had risen in public favor. At home he was simply Dick to his
three burly brothers, who were at once so proud and fond of him, while
his practical, unpretending mother called him Richard, feeling, however,
that it was very proper for the neighbors to give him the title of
Judge. Of Mrs. Markham we shall have occasion to speak hereafter, so now
we will only say that she saw no fault in her gifted son, and she was
ready to do battle with anyone who should suggest the existence of a
fault. Richard's wishes had never been thwarted, but rather deferred to
by the entire family, and, as a natural consequence, he had come to
believe that his habits and opinions were as nearly correct as they well
could be. He had never mingled much in society--he was not fond of it;
and the "quilting bees" and "sugar pulls" and "apple parings" which had
prevailed in his neighborhood were not at all to his taste. He greatly
preferred his books to the gayest of frolics, and thus he early earned
for himself the sobriquet of "the old bachelor who hated girls"; all but
Abigail Jones, the shoemaker's daughter, whose black eyes and bright red
cheeks had proved too much for the grave, sober Richard. His first act
of gallantry was performed for her, and even after he grew to be Judge
his former companions never wearied of telling how, on the occasion of
his first going home with the fair Abigail Jones from spelling school,
he had kept at a respectful distance from her, and when the lights from
her father's window became visible he remarked that "he guessed she
would not be afraid to go the rest of the way alone," and abruptly
bidding her good-night, ran back as fast as he could run. Whether this
story were true or not, he was very shy of the girls, though the
dark-eyed Abigail exerted over him so strong an influence that, at the
early age of twenty he had asked her to be his wife, and she had
answered yes, while his mother sanctioned the match, for she had known
the Joneses in Vermont, and knew them for honest, thrifty people, whose
daughter would make a faithful, economical wife for any man. But death
came in to separate the lovers, and Abigail's cheeks grew redder still,
and her eyes were strangely bright as the fever burned in her veins,
until at last when the Indian-summer sun was shining down upon the
prairies, they buried her one day beneath the late summer flowers, and
the almost boy-widower wore upon his hat the band of crape which Ethelyn
remembered as looking so rusty when, the year following, he came to
Chicopee. Richard Markham believed that he had loved Abigail truly when
she died, but he knew now that she was not the one he would have chosen
in his mature manhood. She was suitable for him, perhaps, as he was when
he lost her, but not as he was now, and it was long since he had ceased
to visit her grave, or think of her with the feelings of sad regret
which used to come over him when, at night, he lay awake listening to
the moaning of the wind as it swept over the prairies, or watching the
glittering stars, and wondering if she had found a home beyond them with
Daisy, his only sister. There was nothing false about Richard Markham,
and when he stood with Ethelyn upon the shore of Pordunk Pond, and asked
her to be his wife, he told her of Abigail Jones, who had been two years
older than himself, and to whom he was once engaged.

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