Maggie Lee by
Mary J. Holmes
The usually quiet little village of Ellerton was, one June morning,
thrown into a state of great excitement by the news that the large
stone building on the hill, which, for several years had been shut up,
was at last to have an occupant, and that said occupant was no less a
personage than its owner, Graham Thornton, who, at the early age of
twenty-eight, had been chosen to fill the responsible office of judge
of the county. Weary of city life, and knowing that a home in the
country would not materially interfere with the discharge of his new
duties, particularly as Ellerton was within half an hour's ride of the
city, young Thornton had conceived the idea of fitting up the old
stone house, bequeathed to him by his grandfather, in a style suited
to his abundant means and luxurious taste. Accordingly, for several
weeks, the people of Ellerton were kept in a constant state of
anxiety, watching, wondering and guessing, especially Miss Olivia
Macey, who kept a small store in the outskirts of the village, and
whose fertile imagination supplied whatever her neighbors lacked in
actual knowledge of the proceedings at "Greystone Hall," as Judge
Thornton called his place of residence.
At last, every thing was completed and the day appointed for the
arrival of the Judge, who, disliking confusion, had never once been
near his house, but, after a few general directions, had left the
entire arrangement of the building and grounds to the management of
one whom he knew to be a connoisseur in such matters. As was very
natural, a great deal of curiosity was felt concerning the arrival of
the distinguished stranger, and as his mother, a proud, stately woman,
was to accompany him, Miss Olivia Macey, who boasted of having once
been a schoolmate of the haughty lady, resolved upon meeting them at
the depot, thinking she should thereby show them proper respect.
"So, Maggie," said she to her niece, a dark-haired, white-browed girl
of fifteen, who, at noon, came bounding in from school, "so Maggie,
you must watch the store, for there's no knowing how long I shall be
gone. Miss Thornton may ask me home with her, and it would not be
polite to refuse."
For an instant Maggie's dark brown eyes danced with mischief as she
thought how improbable it was that the lofty Mrs. Thornton would seek
to renew her acquaintance with one in Miss Macey's humble position,
but the next moment they filled with tears, and she said, "Oh, aunt,
must I stay from school again? It is the third time within a week. I
never shall know anything!"
"Never mind, Mag," shouted little Ben, tossing his cap across the room
and helping himself to the largest piece of pie upon the dinner-table.
"Never mind. I'll stay with you, for I don't like to go to school any
way. And we'll get our lessons at home."
Maggie knew how useless it would be to argue the point, so with a
dejected air she seated herself at the open window and silently
watched her aunt until she disappeared in the distance—then taking up
her book, she tired to study, but could not, for the heavy pain at her
heart which kept whispering of injustice done to her, unconsciously,
perhaps, by the only mother she had ever known. Very dear to Miss
Macey were the orphan children of her only sister, and faithfully did
she strive to fulfill her trust, but she could not conceal her
partiality for fun-loving, curly-haired Ben, nor the fact that the
sensitive and ambitious Maggie, who thirsted for knowledge, was wholly
unappreciated and misunderstood. Learning—learning was what Maggie
craved, and she sat there alone that bright June afternoon, holding
upon her lap the head of her sleeping brother, and watching the summer
shadows as they chased each other over the velvety grass in the meadow
beyond, she wondered if it would ever be thus with her—would there
never come a time when she could pursue her studies undisturbed, and
then, as the thought that this day made her fifteen years of age,
her mind went forward to the future, and she said aloud—"Yes—three
years from to-day and I shall be free—free as the air I breathe!"
But why that start, sweet Maggie Lee? Why that involuntary shudder as
you think of the long three years from now? She cannot tell, but the
shadows deepen on her fair, girlish face, and leaning her brow upon
her hand, she thinks long and earnestly of what the three years may
bring. A footstep on the floor—the first which has fallen there that
afternoon—and Maggie looks up to see before her a tall, fine-looking
man, who, the moment his eye fell upon her, checked the whistle,
intended for his dog, which was trembling on his lip, and lifting his
hat deferentially, he asked if "this were Miss Macey's store?"
"Yes, sir," answered Maggie, and laying Bennie gently down, she went
round behind the counter, while the young man, gazing curiously at
her, continued, "You surely are not Miss Macey?"
There was a most comical expression in the brown eyes which met the
black ones of the stranger, as Maggie answered, "No sir, I am nobody
but Maggie Lee."
There must have been something attractive either in the name or the
little maiden who bore it, for long after the gentleman had received
the articles for which he came, he lingered, asking the young girl
numberless questions and playing with little Ben, who now wide awake,
met his advances more than half way, and was on perfectly familiar
terms both with the stranger and the dog Ponto, who had stretched his
shaggy length before the door.
"Mag cries, she does, when Aunt Livy makes her stay home from school,"
said Ben, at last, beginning to feel neglected and wishing to attract
Showing his white, handsome teeth, the gentleman playfully smoothed
the silken curls of little Ben, and turning to the blushing Maggie,
asked "if she were fond of books?"
"Oh, I love them so much," was the frank, impulsive answer, and ere
ten minutes had passed away, Judge Thornton, for he it was, understood
Maggie's character as well as if he had known her a lifetime.
Books, poetry, music, paintings, flowers, she worshiped them all, and
without the slightest means either of gratifying her taste.
"I have in my library many choice books, to which you are welcome at
any time when you will call at Greystone Hall," the stranger said at
"Greystone Hall!" gasped Maggie, the little red spots coming out all
over her neck and face—"Greystone Hall!—then you must be—-"
"Judge Thornton, and your friend hereafter," answered the gentleman,
offering his hand and bidding her good-by.
There are moments which leave their impress upon one's lifetime,
changing instantaneously, as it were, our thoughts and feelings, and
such an one had come to Maggie Lee, who was roused from a deep reverie
by the shrill voice of her aunt, exclaiming, "Well, I've been on a
Tom-fool's errand once in my life. Here I've waited in that hot depot
over two trains, and heard at the last minute that Mrs. Thornton and
her son came up last night, and I hain't seen them after all. It's too
Very quietly Maggie told of the judge's call, repeating all the
particulars of the interview; then stealing away to her chamber, she
thought again, wondering where and what she would be three years
from that day.
A year has passed away, and Graham Thornton, grown weary of his
duties, has resigned the office of judge, and turned school-teacher,
so the gossiping villagers say, and with some degree of truth, for
regularly each day Maggie Lee and Ben go up to Greystone Hall, where
they recite their lessons to its owner, though always in the presence
of its lady mistress, who has taken a strange fancy to Maggie Lee, and
whose white hand has more than once rested caressingly on the dark,
glossy hair of the young girl. To a casual observer, the Maggie of
sixteen is little changed from the Maggie of fifteen years; but to
him, her teacher, she is not the same, for while in some respects she
is more a woman and less a child, in everything pertaining to himself
she is far more a child than when first he met her one short year ago.
Then there was about her a certain self-reliance, which is now all
gone, and he who has looked so often into the thoughts and feelings of
that childish heart knows he can sway her at his will.
"But 'tis only a girlish friendship she feels for him," he says; "only
a brotherly interest he entertains for her;" and so day after day she
comes to his library, and on a low stool, her accustomed seat at his
side, she drinks in new inspirations with which to feed that girlish
friendship, while he, gazing down into her soft, brown, dreamy eyes,
feels more and more how necessary to his happiness is her daily
presence there. And if sometimes the man of the world asks himself
"where all this will end?" his conscience is quieted by the answer
that Maggie Lee merely feels toward him as she would toward any person
who had done her a like favor. So all through the bright summer days
and through the hazy autumn time, Maggie dreams on, perfectly happy,
though she knows not why, for never yet has a thought of love for
him entered her soul. She only knows that he to her is the dearest,
best of friends, and Greystone Hall the loveliest spot on earth, but
the wish that she might ever be its mistress has never been
With the coming of the holidays the lessons were suspended for a time,
for there was to be company at the hall, and its master would need all
"I shall miss you so much," he said to Maggie, as he walked with her
across the fields which led to her humble home. "I shall miss you, but
the claims of society must be met, and these ladies have long talked
of visiting us."
"Are they young and handsome?" Maggie asked involuntarily.
"Only one—Miss Helen Deane is accounted a beauty, She is an heiress,
too, and the best match in all the city of L—," answered Mr.
Thornton, more to himself than Maggie, who at the mention of Helen
Deane felt a cold shadow folding itself around her heart.
Alas, poor Maggie Lee. The world has long since selected the proud
Helen as the future bride of Graham Thornton, who, as he walks slowly
back across the snow-clad field, tramples upon the delicate footprints
you have made, and wishes it were thus easy to blot out from his heart
all memory of you! Poor, poor Maggie Lee, Helen Deane is beautiful,
far more beautiful than you, and when in her robes of purple velvet,
with her locks of golden hair shading her soft eyes of blue, she flits
like a sunbeam through the spacious rooms of Greystone Hall, waking
their echoes with her voice of richest melody, what marvel if Graham
Thornton does pay her homage, and reserves all thoughts of you for the
midnight hour, when the hall is still and Helen's voice is no longer
heard? He is but a man—a man, too, of the world, and so, though you,
Maggie Lee, are very dear to him, he does not think it possible that
he can raise you to his rank—make you the honored mistress of his
home, and still lower himself not one iota from the station he has
ever filled. And though his mother loves you, too, 'tis not with a
mother's love, and should children ever climb her knee calling her son
their sire, she would deem you a governess befitting such as they,
and nothing more. But all this Maggie does not know, and when the
visiting is over and Helen Deane is gone, she goes back to her old
place and sits again at the feet of Graham Thornton, never wondering
why he seems so often lost in thought, or why he looks so oft into her
eyes of brown, trying to read there that he has not wronged her.
Another year has passed, and with the light of the full moon shining
down upon him, Graham Thornton walks again with Maggie Lee across the
fields where now the summer grass is growing. The foot-prints in last
winter's snow have passed away just as the light will go out from
Maggie's heart when Graham Thornton shall have told the tale he has
come with her to tell. With quivering lips and bloodless cheek she
listened while he told her indifferently, as if it were a piece of
news she had probably heard before, that when the next full moon
should shine on Greystone Hall, Helen Deane would be there—his bride!
"This, of course, will effectually break up our pleasant meetings," he
continued, looking everywhere save in Maggie's face. "And this I
regret—but my books are still at your disposal. You will like Helen,
I think, and will call on her of course."
They had reached the little gate, and taking Maggie's hand, he would
have detained her for a few more parting words, but she broke away,
and in reply to his last question, hurriedly answered, "Yes, yes."
The next moment he was alone—alone in the bright moonlight. The door
was shut. There was a barrier between himself and Maggie Lee, a
barrier his own hands had built, and never again, so long as he lived,
would Graham Thornton's conscience be at rest. Amid all the pomp of
his bridal day—at the hour when, resplendent with beauty, Helen stood
by his side at the holy altar, and breathed the vows which made her
his forever—amid the gay festivities which followed, and the noisy
mirth which for days pervaded his home, there was ever a still, small
voice which whispered to him of the great wrong he had done to Maggie
Lee, who never again was seen at Greystone Hall.
Much the elder Mrs. Thornton marveled at her absence, and once when
her carriage was rolling past the door of the little store, she bade
her coachman stop, while she herself went in to ask if her favorite
were ill. Miss Olivia's early call at Greystone Hall had never been
returned, and now she bowed coldly and treated her visitor with marked
reserve, until she learned why she had come; then, indeed, her manner
changed, but she could not tell her how, on the night when Graham
Thornton had cruelly torn the veil from Maggie's heart, leaving it
crushed and broken, she had found her long after midnight out in the
tall, damp grass, where, in the wild abandonment of grief she had
thrown herself; nor how, in a calmer moment she had told her sad
story, exonerating him from wrong, and blaming only herself for not
having learned sooner how much she loved one so far above her, so she
simply answered, "Yes, she took a violent cold and has been sick for
weeks. Her mother died of consumption; I am afraid Maggie will
"Poor girl, to die so young," sighed Mrs. Thornton, as she returned to
her carriage and was driven back to Greystone Hall, where, in a recess
of the window Graham sat, his arm around his wife, and his fingers
playing with the curls of her golden hair.
But the hand dropped nervously at his side when his mother startled
him with the news that "Maggie Lee was dying." Very wonderingly the
large blue eyes of Helen followed him, as, feigning sudden faintness,
he fled out into the open air, which, laden though it was with the
perfume of the summer flowers, had yet no power to quiet the voice
within which told him that if Maggie died, he alone was guilty of her
death. "But whatever I can do to atone for my error shall be done," he
thought at last, and until the chill November wind had blasted the
last bud, the choicest fruit and flowers which grew at Greystone Hall
daily found entrance to the chamber of the sick girl, who would
sometimes push them away, as if there still lingered among them the
atmosphere they had breathed.
"They remind me so much of the past that I cannot endure them in my
presence," she said one day when her aunt brought her a beautiful
bouquet, composed of her favorite flowers, and the hot tears rained
over the white, wasted face, as she ordered them from the room.
Much she questioned both her aunt and Bennie of her rival, whose
beauty was the theme of the whole village, and once, when told that
she was passing, she hastened to the window, but her cheek grew whiter
still, and her hands clasped each other involuntarily as she saw by
the side of the fair Helen the form of Graham Thornton. They both were
looking toward her window, and as Helen met the burning gaze, she
exclaimed, "Oh, Graham, it is terrible. It makes me faint," and
shudderingly she drew nearer to her husband, who, to his dying hour,
never forgot the wild, dark eyes which looked down so reproachfully
upon him that memorable wintry day.
Three years have passed away since the time when first we met with
Maggie Lee—three years which seemed so long to her then, and which
have brought her so much pain. She has watched the snow and ice as
they melted from off the hill-side. She has seen the grass spring up
by the open door—has heard the robin singing in the old oak tree—has
felt the summer air upon her cheek. She, has reached her eighteenth
birthday, and ere another sun shall rise will indeed be free.
"Oh, I cannot see her die," cried poor little Ben, when he saw the
pallor stealing over her face, and running out into the yard he threw
himself upon the grass, sobbing bitterly, "My sister, oh, my sister."
"Is she worse?" said the voice of Graham Thornton. He was passing in
the street and had heard the wailing cry. Ben knew that in some way
Judge Thornton was connected with his grief, but he answered
respectfully. "She is dying. Oh, Maggie, Maggie. What shall I do
"You shall live with me," answered Mr. Thornton.
'Twas a sudden impulse, and thinking the assurance that her brother
should be thus provided for would be a comfort to the dying girl, he
glided noiselessly into the sick room. But she did not know him, and
falling on his knees by her side, he wept like a little child. "She
was sleeping," they said, at last, and lifting up his head he looked
upon her as she slept, while a fear, undefined and terrible, crept
over him, as she lay so still and motionless. At length rising to his
feet, he bent him down so low that his lips touched hers, and then,
without a word, he went out from her presence, for he knew that
Maggie Lee was dead!
The next day, at sunset, they buried her in the valley where the mound
could always be seen from the window of Graham Thornton's room, and,
as with folded arms and aching heart he stood by, while they lowered
the coffin to its resting-place, he felt glad that it was so. "It will
make me a better man," he thought," for when evil passions rise, and I
am tempted to do wrong, I have only to look across the fields toward
the little grave which but for me would not have been made so soon,
and I shall be strengthened to do what is right."
Slowly and sadly he walked away, going back to his home, where, in a
luxuriously furnished chamber, on a couch whose silken hangings swept
the floor, lay his wife, and near her his infant daughter, that day
four weeks of age. As yet she had no name, and when the night had
closed upon them, and it was dark within the room, Graham Thornton
drew his chair to the side of his wife, and in low, subdued tones,
told her of the fair young girl that day buried from his sight. Helen
was his wife, a gentle, faithful wife, and he could not tell her how
much he had loved Maggie Lee, and that but for his foolish pride she
would perhaps at that moment have been where Helen was, instead of
sleeping in her early grave.—No, he could not tell her this, but he
told her that Maggie had been very dear to him, and he feared it was
for the love of him that she had died. "I wronged her. Nellie,
darling," he said smoothing the golden tresses which lay on the
pillow. "I broke her heart, and now that she is gone I would honor
her memory by calling our first-born daughter 'MAGGIE LEE.' 'Tis a
beautiful name," he continued, "and you will not refuse my request."
There was much of pride in Helen Thornton's nature, and she did
refuse, for days and even weeks; but when she saw the shadows deepened
on the brow of her husband, who would stand for hours looking out
through the open window toward the valley where slept the village
dead, and when the mother in pity for her son, joined also in the
request, she yielded; and, as if the sacrifice were accepted and the
atonement good, the first smile which ever dimpled the infant's cheek,
played on its mouth, as with its large, strange, bright eyes fixed
upon its father's face, it was baptized "Maggie Lee."
Four years of sunshine and storm have fallen upon Maggie's grave,
where now a costly marble stands, while the handsome iron fence and
the well-kept ground within show that some hand of love is often busy
there. In a distant city Ben is striving to overcome his old dislike
for books, and seeking to make himself what he knows his sister would
wish him to be. At home, the little store has been neatly fitted up,
and Miss Olivia sits all day long in her pleasant parlor, feeling sure
that the faithful clerk behind the counter will discharge his duties
well. Greystone Hall is beautiful as ever, with its handsome rooms,
its extensive grounds, its winding walks, its bubbling fountains and
its wealth of flowers, but there is a shadow over all—a plague-spot
which has eaten into the heart of Graham Thornton, and woven many a
thread of silver among his raven locks. It has bent the stately form
of his lady mother, and his once gay-hearted wife wanders with a
strange unrest from room to room, watching over the uncertain
footsteps of their only child, whose large, dark eyes, so much like
those which, four long years ago flashed down on Helen their
scrutinizing gaze, are darkened forever, for little Maggie Lee is
They are getting somewhat accustomed to it now—accustomed to calling
her their "poor, blind bird," but the blow was crushing when first it
came, and on the grave in the valley, Graham Thornton more than once
laid his forehead in the dust, and cried, "My punishment is greater
than I can bear,"
But He "who doeth all things well," has in a measure healed the wound,
throwing so much of sunshine and of joy around her, who never saw the
glorious light of day, that with every morning's dawn and every
evening's shade, the fond parents bless their little blind girl, the
angel of their home.