Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Women's Genre Fiction Project

The Cromptons, an electronic edition

by Mrs. Mary J. Holmes [Holmes, Mary Jane, 1825-1907]

date: 1902
source publisher: P. F. Collier & Son
collection: Genre Fiction

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It did not take long for all Crompton to know that Colonel had left a paper to that effect, which Mr. Howard had found, and that Eloise had also found the marriage certificate, proving her mother's legitimacy beyond a doubt, and making her sole heir to the Crompton estate. It was Friday night when the travellers returned from the South, and on Saturday morning, Mrs. Biggs's washing day, she heard the news. Leaving her clothes in the suds, and her tubs of rinsing and bluing water upon the floor, she started for the Crompton House, which she reached breathless with haste and excitement, and eager to congratulate Amy and Eloise.

"I swan, it 'most seem's if I was your relation," she said, shaking Eloise's hand, and telling her she always mistrusted she was somebody more than common, "and I hope we shall be neighborly. I s'pose you'll live here?"

Eloise received her graciously, and said she should never forget her kindness, and told her some incidents of her journey, and, as Mrs. Biggs reported to Tim, "treated me as if I was just as good as she, if she is a Crompton."

Ruby Ann came later in the day, genuinely glad | | 380 for Eloise, and sure that nothing would ever change the young girl's friendship for herself, no matter what her position might be. Many others called that day and the following Monday, and Eloise received them with a dignity of which she was herself unconscious, and which they charged to the Crompton blood. Howard, who was still suffering from a severe cold, kept his room until Jack returned. Then he came out with a feeling of humiliation, not so much that he had lost the estate, as that he had thought to burn the paper which took it from him. This feeling, however, gradually wore off under Jack's geniality and Eloise's friendliness, and Amy's sweetness of manner as she called him Cousin Howard, and said she hoped he would look upon Crompton as his home. Then he was to have twenty thousand dollars when matters were adjusted, and that was something to one who, when he came to Crompton, had scarcely a dollar. His visit had paid, and, though he was not the master, he was the favored guest and cousin, who, at Eloise's request, took charge of affairs after Jack went home to New York.

Early in December Jake came from the South, and was welcomed warmly by Amy and Eloise. To the servants he was a great curiosity, with his negro dialect and quaint ways, but no one could look at the old man's honest face without respecting him. Even Peter, who detected about him an ordor of the bad tobacco which had so offended his nostrils in the letters to his master, and who on general principles disliked negroes, was disarmed of his prejudices by Jake's confiding simplicity and thorough goodness. Taking him one day for a drive around the country | | 381 and through the village, he bought him some first-class cigars with the thought "Maybe they'll take that smell out of his clothes."

"Thankee, Mas'r Peter, thankee," Jake said, smacking his lips with his enjoyment of the flavor of the Havanas. "Dis yer am mighty fine, but I s'pecks I or'to stick to my backy. I done brought a lot wid me."

He smoked the Havanas as long as they lasted, with no special diminution of odor as Peter could discover, and then returned to his backy and his clay pipe.

In the love and tender care with which she was surrounded, Amy's mind recovered its balance to a great extent, with an occasional lapse when anything reminded her of her life in California as a public singer, or when she was very tired. She was greatly interested in Eloise's wedding, which was fixed for the 10th of January, her twentieth birthday. Jack, who came from New York every week, would have liked what he called a blow-out, but the recent death of the Colonel and Amy's mourning precluded that, and only a very few were bidden to the ceremony, which took place in the drawing-room of the Crompton House, instead of the church. Amy gave the bride away, and a stranger would never have suspected that she was what Jakey called quar. After Eloise left for her bridal trip she began to assume some responsibility as mistress of the house and to understand Mr. Ferris a little when he talked to her on business. Jake was a kind of ballast to her during Eloise's absence, but a Northern winter did not agree with the old man, who wore nearly as much | | 382 clothing to keep him warm as Harry Gill, and then complained of the cold.

"Florida suits me best, and I've a kind of hankerin' for de ole place whar deys all buried," he said, and in the spring he returned to his Lares and Penates, leaving Amy a little unsettled with his loss, but she soon recovered her spirits in the excitement of going abroad.

It was Jack who suggested this trip, which he thought would benefit them all, and early in May they sailed for Europe, taking Ruby with them, not in any sense as a waiting maid, as some ill-natured ones suggested, but as a companion to Amy, and as the friend who had been so kind to Eloise in her need.

That summer Howard was a conspicuous figure at a fashionable watering place with his fast horse and stylish buggy, and every other appearance of wealth and luxury. He had received his twenty thousand dollars and more, too, for Eloise was disposed to be very generous toward him, and Amy assented to whatever she suggested.

I'll have one good time and spend a whole year's interest if I choose," he said, and he had a good time and made love to a little Western heiress, whose eyes were like those of Eloise, and first attracted him to her, and who before the season was over promised to be his wife.

Just before she left for Europe Eloise brought her grandmother, Mrs. Smith, from Mayville, and established her in Crompton Place as its mistress, but that good woman had little to say, and allowed the servants to have their way in everything. The change from her quiet home to all the grandeur and ceremony of the Crompton House did not suit her, | | 383 and she returned, like Jakey, to her household gods when the family came back in the spring.

Several years have passed since then, and Crompton Place is just as lovely as it was when we first saw it on the day of the lawn party. Three children are there now; two girls, Dora and Lucy, and a sturdy boy, who was christened James Harris Crompton, but is called Harry. The doll-house has been brought to light, with Mandy Ann and Judy, to the great delight of the little girls, and Amy is never brighter than when playing with the children, and telling them of the palms and oranges, alligators and negroes in Florida, which she speaks of as home.

Eloise is very happy, and if a fear of the Harris taint ever creeps into her mind, it is dissipated at once in the perfect sunshine which crowns her life. Nearly every year Jakey comes to visit "chile Dory an' her lil ones," and once Mandy Ann spent a summer in Crompton as cook in place of Cindy, who was taking a vacation. But Northern ways of regularity and promptness did not suit her.

"'Clar for't," she said, "I jess can't git use't to de Yankee Doodle quickstep nohow. At Miss Perkinses dey wasn't partic'lar ef things was half an hour behime."

Her mind dwelt a good deal on what she had seen at Miss Perkins's, more than forty years before, and on her children and Ted, and when Cindy returned in the autumn she went back to him and the twins, laden with gifts from Amy and Eloise, the latter of whom saw that her mother gave more judiciously than she would otherwise have done. Both Amy and Eloise are fond of driving, and nearly every day | | 384 the carriage goes out, but the coachman is no longer Sam. He is married and lives in the village, and his place is filled by Tom Walker, who wears a brown livery, and fills the position with a dignity one would scarcely expect in the tall, lank boy, once the bully in school and the blackguard of the town.

There have been three or four different teachers in District No. 5,--all normal graduates, and all during their term of office boarding with Mrs. Biggs, who is never tired of boasting of her intimacy with the Cromptons, and Eloise in particular. Every detail of the accident is repeated again and again, with many incidents of Amy's girlhood. Then she takes up the Colonel and his private marriage, and with his introduction we end our story and leave her to tell hers in her own way.

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