The Unhappiness of Miss Farquhar by Lucy
Frances Farquhar was a beauty and was sometimes called a society
butterfly by people who didn't know very much about it. Her father was
wealthy and her mother came of an extremely blue-blooded family.
Frances had been out for three years, and was a social favourite.
Consequently, it may be wondered why she was unhappy.
In plain English, Frances Farquhar had been jilted—just a
commonplace, everyday jilting! She had been engaged to Paul Holcomb;
he was a very handsome fellow, somewhat too evidently aware of the
fact, and Frances was very deeply in love with him—or thought herself
so, which at the time comes to pretty much the same thing. Everybody
in her set knew of her engagement, and all her girl friends envied
her, for Holcomb was a matrimonial catch.
Then the crash came. Nobody outside the family knew exactly what did
happen, but everybody knew that the Holcomb-Farquhar match was off,
and everybody had a different story to account for it.
The simple truth was that Holcomb was fickle and had fallen in love
with another girl. There was nothing of the man about him, and it did
not matter to his sublimely selfish caddishness whether he broke
Frances Farquhar's heart or not. He got his freedom and he married
Maud Carroll in six months' time.
The Farquhars, especially Ned, who was Frances's older brother and
seldom concerned himself about her except when the family honour was
involved, were furious at the whole affair. Mr. Farquhar stormed, and
Ned swore, and Della lamented her vanished role of bridemaid. As for
Mrs. Farquhar, she cried and said it would ruin Frances's future
The girl herself took no part in the family indignation meetings. But
she believed that her heart was broken. Her love and her pride had
suffered equally, and the effect seemed disastrous.
After a while the Farquhars calmed down and devoted themselves to the
task of cheering Frances up. This they did not accomplish. She got
through the rest of the season somehow and showed a proud front to the
world, not even flinching when Holcomb himself crossed her path. To be
sure, she was pale and thin, and had about as much animation as a
mask, but the same might be said of a score of other girls who were
not suspected of having broken hearts.
When the summer came Frances asserted herself. The Farquhars went to
Green Harbour every summer. But this time Frances said she would not
go, and stuck to it. The whole family took turns coaxing her and had
nothing to show for their pains.
"I'm going up to Windy Meadows to stay with Aunt Eleanor while you
are at the Harbour," she declared. "She has invited me often enough."
Ned whistled. "Jolly time you'll have of it, Sis. Windy Meadows is
about as festive as a funeral. And Aunt Eleanor isn't lively, to put
it in the mildest possible way."
"I don't care if she isn't. I want to get somewhere where people won't
look at me and talk about—that," said Frances, looking ready to cry.
Ned went out and swore at Holcomb again, and then advised his mother
to humour Frances. Accordingly, Frances went to Windy Meadows.
Windy Meadows was, as Ned had said, the reverse of lively. It was a
pretty country place, with a sort of fag-end by way of a little
fishing village, huddled on a wind-swept bit of beach, locally known
as the "Cove." Aunt Eleanor was one of those delightful people, so few
and far between in this world, who have perfectly mastered the art of
minding their own business exclusively. She left Frances in peace.
She knew that her niece had had "some love trouble or other," and
hadn't gotten over it rightly.
"It's always best to let those things take their course," said this
philosophical lady to her "help" and confidant, Margaret Ann Peabody.
"She'll get over it in time—though she doesn't think so now, bless
For the first fortnight Frances revelled in a luxury of unhindered
sorrow. She could cry all night—and all day too, if she
wished—without having to stop because people might notice that her
eyes were red. She could mope in her room all she liked. And there
were no men who demanded civility.
When the fortnight was over, Aunt Eleanor took crafty counsel with
herself. The letting-alone policy was all very well, but it would not
do to have the girl die on her hands. Frances was getting paler and
thinner every day—and she was spoiling her eyelashes by crying.
"I wish," said Aunt Eleanor one morning at breakfast, while Frances
pretended to eat, "that I could go and take Corona Sherwood out for a
drive today. I promised her last week that I would, but I've never had
time yet. And today is baking and churning day. It's a shame. Poor
"Who is she?" asked Frances, trying to realize that there was actually
someone in the world besides herself who was to be pitied.
"She is our minister's sister. She has been ill with rheumatic fever.
She is better now, but doesn't seem to get strong very fast. She ought
to go out more, but she isn't able to walk. I really must try and get
around tomorrow. She keeps house for her brother at the manse. He
isn't married, you know."
Frances didn't know, nor did she in the least degree care. But even
the luxury of unlimited grief palls, and Frances was beginning to feel
this vaguely. She offered to go and take Miss Sherwood out driving.
"I've never seen her," she said, "but I suppose that doesn't matter. I
can drive Grey Tom in the phaeton, if you like."
It was just what Aunt Eleanor intended, and she saw Frances drive off
that afternoon with a great deal of satisfaction.
"Give my love to Corona," she told her, "and say for me that she isn't
to go messing about among those shore people until she's perfectly
well. The manse is the fourth house after you turn the third corner."
Frances kept count of the corners and the houses and found the manse.
Corona Sherwood herself came to the door. Frances had been expecting
an elderly personage with spectacles and grey crimps; she was
surprised to find that the minister's sister was a girl of about her
own age and possessed of a distinct worldly prettiness. Corona was
dark, with a different darkness from that of Frances, who had ivory
outlines and blue-black hair, while Corona was dusky and piquant.
Her eyes brightened with delight when Frances told her errand.
"How good of you and Miss Eleanor! I am not strong enough to walk far
yet—or do anything useful, in fact, and Elliott so seldom has time to
take me out."
"Where shall we go?" asked Frances when they started. "I don't know
much about this locality."
"Can we drive to the Cove first? I want to see poor little Jacky Hart.
He has been so sick—"
"Aunt Eleanor positively forbade that," said Frances dubiously. "Will
it be safe to disobey her?"
"Miss Eleanor blames my poor shore people for making me sick at first,
but it was really not that at all. And I want to see Jacky Hart so
much. He has been ill for some time with some disease of the spine and
he is worse lately. I'm sure Miss Eleanor won't mind my calling just
to see him."
Frances turned Grey Tom down the shore road that ran to the Cove and
past it to silvery, wind-swept sands, rimming sea expanses crystal
clear. Jacky Hart's home proved to be a tiny little place overflowing
with children. Mrs. Hart was a pale, tired-looking woman with the
patient, farseeing eyes so often found among the women who watch sea
and shore every day and night of their lives for those who sometimes
She spoke of Jacky with the apathy of hopelessness. The doctor said he
would not last much longer. She told all her troubles unreservedly to
Corona in her monotonous voice. Her "man" was drinking again and the
mackerel catch was poor.
When Mrs. Hart asked Corona to go in and see Jacky, Frances went too.
The sick boy, a child with a delicate, wasted face and large, bright
eyes, lay in a tiny bedroom off the kitchen. The air was hot and
heavy. Mrs. Hart stood at the foot of the bed with her tragic face.
"We have to set up nights with him now," she said. "It's awful hard on
me and my man. The neighbours are kind enough and come sometimes, but
most of them have enough to do. His medicine has to be given every
half hour. I've been up for three nights running now. Jabez was off to
the tavern for two. I'm just about played out."
She suddenly broke down and began to cry, or rather whimper, in a
Corona looked troubled. "I wish I could come tonight, Mrs. Hart, but
I'm afraid I'm really not strong enough yet."
"I don't know much about sickness," spoke up Frances firmly, "but if
to sit by the child and give him his medicine regularly is all that is
necessary, I am sure I can do that. I'll come and sit up with Jacky
tonight if you care to have me."
Afterwards, when she and Corona were driving away, she wondered a good
deal at herself. But Corona was so evidently pleased with her offer,
and took it all so much as a matter of course, that Frances had not
the courage to display her wonder. They had their drive through the
great green bowl of the country valley, brimming over with sunshine,
and afterwards Corona made Frances go home with her to tea.
Rev. Elliott Sherwood had got back from his pastoral visitations, and
was training his sweet peas in the way they should go against the
garden fence. He was in his shirt sleeves and wore a big straw hat,
and seemed in nowise disconcerted thereby. Corona introduced him, and
he took Grey Tom away and put him in the barn. Then he went back to
his sweet peas. He had had his tea, he said, so that Frances did not
see him again until she went home. She thought he was a very
indifferent young man, and not half so nice as his sister.
But she went and sat up with Jacky Hart that night, getting to the
Cove at dark, when the sea was a shimmer of fairy tints and the boats
were coming in from the fishing grounds. Jacky greeted her with a
wonderful smile, and later on she found herself watching alone by his
bed. The tiny lamp on the table burned dim, and outside, on the rocks,
there was loud laughing and talking until a late hour.
Afterwards a silence fell, through which the lap of the waves on the
sands and the far-off moan of the Atlantic surges came sonorously.
Jacky was restless and wakeful, but did not suffer, and liked to talk.
Frances listened to him with a new-born power of sympathy, which she
thought she must have caught from Corona. He told her all the tragedy
of his short life, and how bad he felt, about Dad's taking to drink
and Mammy's having to work so hard.
The pitiful little sentences made Frances's heart ache. The maternal
instinct of the true woman awoke in her. She took a sudden liking to
the child. He was a spiritual little creature, and his sufferings had
made him old and wise. Once in the night he told Frances that he
thought the angels must look like her.
"You are so sweet pretty," he said gravely. "I never saw anyone so
pretty, not even Miss C'rona. You look like a picture I once saw on
Mr. Sherwood's table when I was up at the manse one day 'fore I got
so bad I couldn't walk. It was a woman with a li'l baby in her arms
and a kind of rim round her head. I would like something most awful
"What is it, dear?" said Frances gently. "If I can get or do it for
you, I will."
"You could," he said wistfully, "but maybe you won't want to. But I do
wish you'd come here just once every day and sit here five minutes and
let me look at you—just that. Will it be too much trouble?"
Frances stooped and kissed him. "I will come every day, Jacky," she
said; and a look of ineffable content came over the thin little face.
He put up his hand and touched her cheek.
"I knew you were good—as good as Miss C'rona, and she is an angel. I
When morning came Frances went home. It was raining, and the sea was
hidden in mist. As she walked along the wet road, Elliott Sherwood
came splashing along in a little two-wheeled gig and picked her up. He
wore a raincoat and a small cap, and did not look at all like a
minister—or, at least, like Frances's conception of one.
Not that she knew much about ministers. Her own minister at home—that
is to say, the minister of the fashionable uptown church which she
attended—was a portly, dignified old man with silvery hair and
gold-rimmed glasses, who preached scholarly, cultured sermons and was
as far removed from Frances's personal life as a star in the Milky
But a minister who wore rubber coats and little caps and drove about
in a two-wheeled gig, very much mud-bespattered, and who talked about
the shore people as if they were household intimates of his, was
absolutely new to Frances.
She could not help seeing, however, that the crisp brown hair under
the edges of the unclerical-looking cap curled around a remarkably
well-shaped forehead, beneath which flashed out a pair of very fine
dark-grey eyes; he had likewise a good mouth, which was resolute and
looked as if it might be stubborn on occasion; and, although he was
not exactly handsome, Frances decided that she liked his face.
He tucked the wet, slippery rubber apron of his conveyance about her
and then proceeded to ask questions. Jacky Hart's case had to be
reported on, and then Mr. Sherwood took out a notebook and looked over
its entries intently.
"Do you want any more work of that sort to do?" he asked her abruptly.
Frances felt faintly amused. He talked to her as he might have done to
Corona, and seemed utterly oblivious of the fact that her profile was
classic and her eyes delicious. His indifference piqued Frances a
little in spite of her murdered heart. Well, if there was anything she
could do she might as well do it, she told him briefly, and he, with
equal brevity, gave her directions for finding some old lady who lived
on the Elm Creek road and to whom Corona had read tracts.
"Tracts are a mild dissipation of Aunt Clorinda's," he said. "She
fairly revels in them. She is half blind and has missed Corona very
There were other matters also—a dozen or so of factory girls who
needed to be looked after and a family of ragged children to be
clothed. Frances, in some dismay, found herself pledged to help in all
directions, and then ways and means had to be discussed. The long, wet
road, sprinkled with houses, from whose windows people were peering to
see "what girl the minister was driving," seemed very short. Frances
did not know it, but Elliott Sherwood drove a full mile out of his
way that morning to take her home, and risked being late for a very
important appointment—from which it may be inferred that he was not
quite so blind to the beautiful as he had seemed.
Frances went through the rain that afternoon and read tracts to Aunt
Clorinda. She was so dreadfully tired that night that she forgot to
cry, and slept well and soundly.
In the morning she went to church for the first time since coming to
Windy Meadows. It did not seem civil not to go to hear a man preach
when she had gone slumming with his sister and expected to assist him
with his difficulties over factory girls. She was surprised at Elliott
Sherwood's sermon, and mentally wondered why such a man had been
allowed to remain for four years in a little country pulpit. Later on
Aunt Eleanor told her it was for his health.
"He was not strong when he left college, so he came here. But he is as
well as ever now, and I expect he will soon be gobbled up by some of
your city churches. He preached in Castle Street church last winter,
and I believe they were delighted with him."
This was all of a month later. During that time Frances thought that
she must have been re-created, so far was her old self left behind.
She seldom had an idle moment; when she had, she spent it with Corona.
The two girls had become close friends, loving each other with the
intensity of exceptional and somewhat exclusive natures.
Corona grew strong slowly, and could do little for her brother's
people, but Frances was an excellent proxy, and Elliott Sherwood kept
her employed. Incidentally, Frances had come to know the young
minister, with his lofty ideals and earnest efforts, very well. He
had got into a ridiculous habit of going to her—her, Frances
Farquhar!—for advice in many perplexities.
Frances had nursed Jacky Hart and talked temperance to his father and
read tracts to Aunt Clorinda and started a reading circle among the
factory girls and fitted out all the little Jarboes with dresses and
coaxed the shore children to go to school and patched up a feud
between two 'longshore families and done a hundred other things of a
Aunt Eleanor said nothing, as was her wise wont, but she talked it
over with Margaret Ann Peabody, and agreed with that model domestic
when she said: "Work'll keep folks out of trouble and help 'em out of
it when they are in. Just as long as that girl brooded over her own
worries and didn't think of anyone but herself she was miserable. But
as soon as she found other folks were unhappy, too, and tried to help
'em out a bit, she helped herself most of all. She's getting fat and
rosy, and it is plain to be seen that the minister thinks there isn't
the like of her on this planet."
One night Frances told Corona all about Holcomb. Elliott Sherwood was
away, and Frances had gone up to stay all night with Corona at the
manse. They were sitting in the moonlit gloom of Corona's room, and
Frances felt confidential. She had expected to feel badly and cry a
little while she told it. But she did not, and before she was half
through, it did not seem as if it were worth telling after all. Corona
was deeply sympathetic. She did not say a great deal, but what she did
say put Frances on better terms with herself.
"Oh, I shall get over it," the latter declared finally. "Once I
thought I never would—but the truth is, I'm getting over it now. I'm
very glad—but I'm horribly ashamed, too, to find myself so fickle."
"I don't think you are fickle, Frances," said Corona gravely,
"because I don't think you ever really loved that man at all. You only
imagined you did. And he was not worthy of you. You are so good, dear;
those shore people just worship you. Elliott says you can do anything
you like with them."
Frances laughed and said she was not at all good. Yet she was pleased.
Later on, when she was brushing her hair before the mirror and smiling
absently at her reflection, Corona said: "Frances, what is it like to
be as pretty as you are?"
"Nonsense!" said Frances by way of answer.
"It is not nonsense at all. You must know you are very lovely,
Frances. Elliott says you are the most beautiful girl he has ever
For a girl who has told herself a dozen times that she would never
care again for masculine admiration, Frances experienced a very odd
thrill of delight on hearing that the minister of Windy Meadows
thought her beautiful. She knew he admired her intellect and had
immense respect for what he called her "genius for influencing
people," but she had really believed all along that, if Elliott
Sherwood had been asked, he could not have told whether she was a whit
better looking than Kitty Martin of the Cove, who taught a class in
Sunday school and had round rosy cheeks and a snub nose.
The summer went very quickly. One day Jacky Hart died—drifted out
with the ebb tide, holding Frances's hand. She had loved the patient,
sweet-souled little creature and missed him greatly.
When the time to go home came Frances felt dull. She hated to leave
Windy Meadows and Corona and her dear shore people and Aunt Eleanor
and—and—well, Margaret Ann Peabody.
Elliott Sherwood came up the night before she went away. When
Margaret Ann showed him reverentially in, Frances was sitting in a
halo of sunset light, and the pale, golden chrysanthemums in her hair
shone like stars in the blue-black coils.
Elliott Sherwood had been absent from Windy Meadows for several days.
There was a subdued jubilance in his manner.
"You think I have come to say good-bye, but I haven't," he told her.
"I shall see you again very soon, I hope. I have just received a call
to Castle Street church, and it is my intention to accept. So Corona
and I will be in town this winter."
Frances tried to tell him how glad she was, but only stammered.
Elliott Sherwood came close up to her as she stood by the window in
the fading light, and said—
But on second thoughts I shall not record what he said—or what she
said either. Some things should be left to the imagination.