Mrs. March's Revenge by Lucy Maud Montgomery
"I declare, it is a real fall day," said Mrs. Stapp, dropping into a
chair with a sigh of relief as Mrs. March ushered her into the cosy
little sitting-room. "The wind would chill the marrow in your bones;
winter'll be here before you know it."
"That's so," assented Mrs. March, bustling about to stir up the fire.
"But I don't know as I mind it at all. Winter is real pleasant when it
does come, but I must say, I don't fancy these betwixt-and-between
days much. Sit up to the fire, Theodosia. You look real blue."
"I feel so too. Lawful heart, but this is comfort. This chimney-corner
of yours, Anna, is the cosiest spot in the world."
"When did you get home from Maitland?" asked Mrs. March. "Did you
have a pleasant time? And how did you leave Emily and the children?"
Mrs. Stapp took this trio of interrogations in calm detail.
"I came home Saturday," she said, as she unrolled her knitting. "Nice
wet day it was too! And as for my visit, yes, I enjoyed myself pretty,
well, not but what I worried over Peter's rheumatism a good deal.
Emily is well, and the children ought to be, for such rampageous young
ones I never saw! Emily can't do no more with them than an old hen
with a brood of ducks. But, lawful heart, Anna, don't mind about my
little affairs! The news Peter had for me about you when I got home
fairly took my breath. He came down to the garden gate to shout it
before I was out of the wagon. I couldn't believe but what he was
joking at first. You should have seen Peter. He had an old red shawl
tied round his rheumatic shoulder, and he was waving his arms like a
crazy man. I declare, I thought the chimney was afire! Theodosia,
Theodosia!' he shouted. 'Anna March has had a fortune left her by her
brother in Australy, and she's bought the old Carroll place, and is
going to move up there!' That was his salute when I got home. I'd have
been over before this to hear all about it, but things were at such
sixes and sevens in the house that I couldn't go visiting until I'd
straightened them out a bit. Peter's real neat, as men go, but, lawful
heart, such a mess as he makes of housekeeping! I didn't know you had
a brother living."
"No more did I, Theodosia. I thought, as everyone else did, that poor
Charles was at the bottom of the sea forty years ago. It's that long
since he ran away from home. He had a quarrel with Father, and he was
always dreadful high-spirited. He went to sea, and we heard that he
had sailed for England in the Helen Ray. She was never heard of
after, and we all supposed that my poor brother had perished with her.
And four weeks ago I got a letter from a firm of lawyers in Melbourne,
Australia, saying that my brother, Charles Bennett, had died and left
all his fortune to me. I couldn't believe it at first, but they sent
me some things of his that he had when he left home, and there was an
old picture of myself among them with my name written on it in my own
hand, so then I knew there was no mistake. But whether Charles did
sail in the Helen Ray, or if he did, how he escaped from her and got
to Australia, I don't know, and it isn't likely I ever will."
"Well, of all wonderful things!" commented Mrs. Stapp.
"I was glad to hear that I was heir to so much money," said Mrs. March
firmly. "At first I felt as if it were awful of me to be glad when it
came to me by my brother's death. But I mourned for poor Charles forty
years ago, and I can't sense that he has only just died. Not but what
I'd rather have seen him come home alive than have all the money in
the world, but it has come about otherwise, and as the money is
lawfully mine, I may as well feel pleased about it."
"And you've bought the Carroll place," said Mrs. Stapp, with the
freedom of a privileged friend. "Whatever made you do it? I'm sure you
are as cosy here as need be, and nobody but yourself. Isn't this house
big enough for you?"
"No, it isn't. All my life I've been hankering for a good, big, roomy
house, and all my life I've had to put up with little boxes of places,
not big enough to turn round in. I've been contented, and made the
best of what I had, but now that I can afford it, I mean to have a
house that will suit me. The Carroll house is just what I want, for
all it is a little old-fashioned. I've always had a notion of that
house, although I never expected to own it any more than the moon."
"It's a real handsome place," admitted Mrs. Stapp, "but I expect it
will need a lot of fixing up. Nobody has lived in it for six years.
When are you going to move in?"
"In about three weeks, if all goes well. I'm having it all painted and
done over inside. The outside can wait until the spring."
"It's queer how things come about," said Mrs. Stapp meditatively. "I
guess old Mrs. Carroll never imagined her home was going to pass into
other folks' hands as it has. When you and I were girls, and Louise
Carroll was giving herself such airs over us, you didn't much expect
to ever stand in her shoes, did you? Do you remember Lou?"
"Yes, I do," said Mrs. March sharply. A change came over her sonsy,
smiling face. It actually looked hard and revengeful, and a cruel
light flickered in her dark brown eyes. "I'll not forget Lou Carroll
as long as I live. She is the only person in this world I ever hated.
I suppose it is sinful to say it, but I hate her still, and always
"I never liked her myself," admitted Mrs. Stapp. "She thought herself
above us all. Well, for that matter I suppose she was—but she needn't
have rubbed it in so."
"Well, she might have been above me," said Mrs. March bitterly, "but
she wasn't above twitting and snubbing me every chance she got. She
always had a spite at me from the time we were children together at
school. When we grew up it was worse. I couldn't begin to tell you all
the times that girl insulted me. But there was once in particular—I'll
never forgive her for it. I was at a party, and she was there too, and
so was that young Trenham Manning, who was visiting the Ashleys. Do you
remember him, Dosia? He was a handsome young fellow, and Lou had a
liking for him, so all the girls said. But he never looked at her that
night, and he kept by me the whole time. It made Lou furious, and at
last she came up to me with a sneer on her face, and her black eyes
just snapping, and said, 'Miss Bennett, Mother told me to tell you to
tell your ma that if that plain sewing isn't done by tomorrow night
she'll send for it and give it to somebody else; if people engage to
have work done by a certain time and don't keep their word, they
needn't expect to get it.' Oh, how badly I felt! Mother and I were
poor, and had to work hard, but we had feelings just like other
people, and to be insulted like that before Trenham Manning! I just
burst out crying then and there, and ran away and hid. It was very
silly of me, but I couldn't help it. That stings me yet. If I was ever
to get a chance to pay Lou Carroll out for that, I'd take it without
"Oh, but that is unchristian!" protested Mrs. Stapp feebly.
"Perhaps so, but it's the way I feel. Old Parson Jones used to say
that people were marbled good and bad pretty even, but that in
everybody there were one or two streaks just pure wicked. I guess Lou
Carroll is my wicked streak. I haven't seen or heard of her for
years—ever since she married that worthless Dency Baxter and went
away. She may be dead for all I know. I don't expect ever to have a
chance to pay her out. But mark what I say, Theodosia, if I ever have,
Mrs. March snipped off her thread, as if she challenged the world.
Mrs. Stapp felt uncomfortable over the unusual display of feeling she
had evoked, and hastened to change the subject.
In three weeks' time Mrs. March was established in her new home, and
the "old Carroll house" blossomed out into renewed splendour.
Theodosia Stapp, who had dropped in to see it, was in a rapture of
"You have a lovely home now, Anna. I used to think it fine enough in
the Carrolls' time, but it wasn't as grand as this. And that reminds
me, I have something to tell you, but I don't want you to get as
excited as you did the last time I mentioned her name. You remember
the last day I was to see you we were talking of Lou Carroll? Well,
next day I was downtown in a store, and who should sail in but Mrs.
Joel Kent, from Oriental. You know Mrs. Joel—Sarah Chapple that was?
She and her man keep a little hotel up at Oriental. They're not very
well off. She is a cousin of old Mrs. Carroll, but, lawful heart, the
Carrolls didn't used to make much of the relationship! Well, Mrs. Joel
and I had a chat. She told me all her troubles—she always has lots of
them. Sarah was always of a grumbling turn, and she had a brand-new
stock of them this time. What do you think, Anna March? Lou
Carroll—or Mrs. Baxter, I suppose I should say—is up there at Joel
Kent's at Oriental, dying of consumption; leastwise, Mrs. Joel says
"Lou Carroll dying at Oriental!" cried Mrs. March.
"Yes. She came there from goodness knows where, about a month
ago—might as well have dropped from the clouds, Mrs. Joel says, for
all she expected of it. Her husband is dead, and I guess he led her a
life of it when he was alive, and she's as poor as second skimmings.
She was aiming to come here, Mrs. Joel says, but when she got to
Oriental she wasn't fit to stir a step further, and the Kents had to
keep her. I gather from what Mrs. Joel said that she's rather touched
in her mind too, and has an awful hankering to get home here—to this
very house. She appears to have the idea that it is hers, and all
just the same as it used to be. I guess she is a sight of trouble, and
Mrs. Joel ain't the woman to like that. But there! She has to work
most awful hard, and I suppose a sick person doesn't come handy in a
hotel. I guess you've got your revenge, Anna, without lifting a finger
to get it. Think of Lou Carroll coming to that!"
The next day was cold and raw. The ragged, bare trees in the old
Carroll grounds shook and writhed in the gusts of wind. Now and then a
drifting scud of rain dashed across the windows. Mrs. March looked out
with a shiver, and turned thankfully to her own cosy fireside again.
Presently she thought she heard a low knock at the front door, and
went to see. As she opened it a savage swirl of damp wind rushed in,
and the shrinking figure leaning against one of the fluted columns of
the Grecian porch seemed to cower before its fury. It was a woman who
stood there, a woman whose emaciated face wore a piteous expression,
as she lifted it to Mrs. March.
"You don't know me, of course," she said, with a feeble attempt at
dignity. "I am Mrs. Baxter. I—I used to live here long ago. I thought
I'd walk over today and see my old home."
A fit of coughing interrupted her words, and she trembled like a leaf.
"Gracious me!" exclaimed Mrs. March blankly. "You don't mean to tell
me that you have walked over from Oriental today—and you a sick
woman! For pity's sake, come in, quick. And if you're not wet to the
She fairly pulled her visitor into the hall, and led her to the
"Sit down. Take this big easy-chair right up to the fire—so. Let me
take your bonnet and shawl. I must run right out to tell Hannah to get
you a hot drink."
"You are very kind," whispered the other. "I don't know you, but you
look like a woman I used to know when I was a girl. She was a Mrs.
Bennett, and she had a daughter, Anna. Do you know what became of her?
I forget. I forget everything now."
"My name is March," said Mrs. March briefly, ignoring the question. "I
don't suppose you ever heard it before."
She wrapped her own warm shawl about the other woman's thin shoulders.
Then she hastened to the kitchen and soon returned, carrying a tray of
food and a steaming hot drink. She wheeled a small table up to her
visitor's side and said, very kindly,
"Now, take a bite, my dear, and this raspberry vinegar will warm you
right up. It is a dreadful day for you to be out. Why on earth didn't
Joel Kent drive you over?"
"They didn't know I was coming," whispered Mrs. Baxter anxiously.
"I—I ran away. Sarah wouldn't have let me come if she had known. But
I wanted to come so much. It is so nice to be home again."
Mrs. March watched her guest as she ate and drank. It was plain enough
that her mind, or rather her memory, was affected. She did not
realize that this was no longer her home. At moments she seemed to
fancy herself back in the past again. Once or twice she called Mrs.
Presently a sharp knock was heard at the hall door. Mrs. March excused
herself and went out. In the porch stood Theodosia Stapp and a woman
whom Mrs. March did not at first glance recognize—a tall,
aggressive-looking person, whose sharp black eyes darted in past Mrs.
March and searched every corner of the hall before anyone had time to
"Lawful heart!" puffed Mrs. Stapp, as she stepped in out of the biting
wind. "I'm right out of breath. Mrs. March, allow me to introduce Mrs.
Kent. We're looking for Mrs. Baxter. She has run away, and we thought
perhaps she came here. Did she?"
"She is in my sitting-room now," said Mrs. March quietly.
"Didn't I say so?" demanded Mrs. Kent, turning to Mrs. Stapp. She
spoke in a sharp, high-pitched tone that grated on Mrs. March's
nerves. "Doesn't she beat all! She slipped away this morning when I
was busy in the kitchen. And to think of her walking six miles over
here in this wind! I dunno how she did it. I don't believe she's half
as sick as she pretends. Well, I've got my wagon out here, Mrs. March,
and I'll be much obliged if you'll tell her I'm here to take her home.
I s'pose we'll have a fearful scene."
"I don't see that there is any call for a scene," said Mrs. March
firmly. "The poor woman has just got here, and she thinks she has got
home. She might as well think so if it is of any comfort to her. You'd
better leave her here."
Theodosia gave a stifled gasp of amazement, but Mrs. March went
"I'll take care of the poor soul as long as she needs it—and that
will not be very long in my opinion, for if ever I saw death in a
woman's face, it is looking out of hers. I've plenty of time to look
after her and make her comfortable."
Mrs. Joel Kent was voluble in her thanks. It was evident that she was
delighted to get the sick woman off her hands. Mrs. March cut her
short with an invitation to stay to tea, but Mrs. Kent declined.
"I've got to hurry home straight off and get the men's suppers. Such a
scamper to have over that woman! I'm sure I'm thankful you're willing
to let her stay, for she'd never be contented anywhere else. I'll send
over what few things she has tomorrow."
When Mrs. Kent had gone, Mrs. March and Mrs. Stapp looked at each
"And so this is your revenge, Anna March?" said the latter solemnly.
"Do you remember what you said to me about her?"
"Yes, I do, Theodosia, and I thought I meant every word of it. But I
guess my wicked streak ran out just when I needed it to depend on.
Besides, you see, I've thought of Lou Carroll all these years as she
was when I knew her—handsome and saucy and proud. But that poor
creature in there isn't any more like the Lou Carroll I knew than you
are—not a mite. The old Lou Carroll is dead already, and my spite is
dead with her. Will you come in and see her?"
"Well, no, not just now. She wouldn't know me, and Mrs. Joel says
strangers kind of excite her—a pretty bad place the hotel would be
for her at that rate, I should think. I must go and tell Peter about
it, and I'll send up some of my black currant jam for her."
When Mrs. Stapp had gone, Mrs. March went back to her guest. Lou
Baxter had fallen asleep with her head pillowed on the soft plush back
of her chair. Mrs. March looked at the hollow, hectic cheeks and the
changed, wasted features, and her bright brown eyes softened with
"Poor Lou," she said softly, as she brushed a loose lock of grey hair
back from the sleeping woman's brow.