Barton Cottage Chapter 1 by A.P. Maddox

Barton Pic 1 copy 2

Barton Cottage  By  A.P. Maddox

© A.P. Maddox 2017

Barton Cottage is an adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s most beautiful and beloved classics—Sense and Sensibility—reimagined and set in the picturesque Piedmont of modern-day North Carolina. Follow Caroline & Ashelynn Hathcock as they leave their family home, lose their hearts and navigate their way through life’s challenges. 

A few of you may remember this story originally published a few years back under a different title by this author. Contract canceled by the author, it has been reworked and retitled to be shared here. 

Barton Cottage will be posted on the Little CAB Press blog—one chapter at a time—in 28 parts, from now until December 21, the end of which culminates in the Christmas season!  

(YA/NA fiction/romance, Reading level: grade 7, Words: 2262)

 

Volume 1 Leaving Northland

Chapter 1 The Hathcock Family

Tears filled the Hathcock sisters eyes as they watched their father’s casket being lowered into the ground.

Eighteen-year-old Ashelynn held tightly to their mother’s right arm as Maggie, eleven, clung to her left. Maggie’s sobs grew louder the lower the casket went. Caroline, the oldest at twenty, stooped, pulling Maggie into a hug so her mother could wipe the tears streaming down her own face.

Their older, half-brother, Frank, shoveled some dirt onto the casket, and put his arm around his stepmother, guiding her to the waiting car. Frank wasn’t usually so attentive, but on this occasion, he couldn’t reasonably refrain.

The limo ride home started out solemnly. Maggie, sat next to her mother, facing Frank and her older sisters. She stared out the window, tears rolling down her cheeks, using her palms to wipe tears away. Finally stomping her feet on the floor, she burst out, “I hate you, Frank!”

Frank, was taken aback by the outburst. He glanced at his stepmother and other two sisters with a puzzled stare before looking back at Maggie to plead, “Whatever for? What did I do?”

Scarcely before his inquiry could be muttered out, Maggie was out of her seat, banging on Frank’s chest and shouting through sobs, “Now that Father is gone, you’re going to take our home away and kick us out without anywhere to go. I know you are!”

Caroline and Ashelynn—seated on either side of Frank—grabbed Maggie’s arms attempting to stop her while Mrs. Hathcock wrapped her arms around Maggie’s waist, pulled her back into her seat and called for Maggie to calm herself.

“Dearest little sister,” Frank said, straightening his tie. “I could never kick any of you out! Northland is still your home. I’m not even planning to move my family there; we will continue to live in our own home.”

Frank was a tall, slender, attorney, who owned a successful law firm in Charlotte. He and his wife, Dottie, had an elegant home there, which had proudly graced many local magazines and society pages.

“But I heard people say everything belongs to you now and we get nothing,” Maggie said between sniffles.

“Yes,” Frank went on, defensively explaining, “Father was only the trustee of the Northland Estate. Grand Uncle James made it clear in the will that upon Father’s passing, I was to become the sole heir.” He paused, looking at Maggie’s face, wet with tears. Through a softened gaze and a more tender voice he continued, “However, I could never displace my sisters. You must all continue to think of Northland as your home.”

 

Their father, Thomas Hathcock and his family came to live at Northland when the children were young. Thomas’s elderly uncle, James Hathcock had decided to take a less active role in the family business. And since James was a bachelor and did not want to be alone in his later years, he invited Thomas and his family to come live with him. Thomas had been working at his uncle’s side for years, so moving in and taking over care of the home was an easy transition.

Once the family moved in, James came to love his grandnephew Frank and grandnieces, like he might have loved his own grandchildren, if he’d had any. And they in return came to love him like a grandfather.

The years went by and as Grand Uncle James became older and bedridden, he appointed Thomas as the trustee of the estate with the condition that upon Thomas’s death, Frank, the only male heir, would inherit everything—keeping the estate in the Hathcock name as it had been for over one hundred fifty years.

The grand Northland home was a Greek-revival-style antebellum house situated on the western outskirts of Asheville, North Carolina. Six grand columns graced the front of the white two-story home. Over its one hundred fifty-year history it had been remodeled and modernized as it passed from one generation to the next until it fell into the hands of James Hathcock, who did not make many more updates or improvements upon what he believed was an already grand-enough home. “Northland has electricity, phone jacks, and hot and cold running water—and that is all the modernizing she needs,” Uncle James would say.

 

The limo turned down the long drive leading to Northland. Majestic oak trees lined the way, creating an archway of outstretched branches and hanging moss. Near the end of the drive was a large front lawn surrounded by a circular driveway, offering a full view of the front of the house.

A catered luncheon was held in the garden for the funeral guests. Maggie sat on a brick half-wall lining the edge of a flower bed at the far end. She and her father had a tradition of planting flowers each spring. She touched the delicate new blossoms and remembered planting these flowers just one month earlier as her ailing father watched from his wheelchair. She wondered who would plant flowers with her now that Father was gone.

Caroline and Ashelynn stood with their mother and brother near an archway leading to the garden while guests filed past to offer their condolences.

Mrs. Hathcock’s eyes misted as well-meaning friends and neighbors expressed how much they had always loved and would miss her departed husband.

Caroline listened to stories from guests about her father. She had heard many of them before, but some were new to her ears, and each brought comfort as they told of what a kind and generous man Thomas had been.

After greeting the guests Ashelynn turned quietly from the crowd and went inside. She made her way to the parlor to sit at the grand piano. It had been a birthday gift from Grand Uncle James; his encouragement of her talent had helped her become an accomplished pianist. She gently touched the keys and remembered how her father would sit in a chair nearby and listen to her play. He often said, “There are few greater joys in life than hearing you play.” She put her hands in her lap, bowing her head as tears fell.

After a little more than an hour, the guests departed, the caterers cleaned up, and the Hathcocks found themselves alone in mournful quiet for the remainder of the day.

 

In the evening, Caroline and Ashelynn found Maggie moping on a swing in the garden, her wavy brown hair covering a tear-stained face. They took a seat in the grass near the swing and Maggie wondered aloud, “Why didn’t Uncle James leave the house to us instead of Frank? Didn’t he love us?”

Caroline offered a sympathetic look and answered, “Of course he loved us. You mustn’t think otherwise. I suppose he was determined to keep everything in the Hathcock name, leaving Frank to inherit everything. I’m sure Uncle James figured we would all be grown and married by the time father passed and probably didn’t want any part of the business or estate being parted out to other families. He couldn’t have imagined Father would get cancer and pass away before we were grown and gone.”

“And I suspect,” Ashelynn interjected with a little bitterness, “it’s because four years ago Dottie gave birth to a son, whom they named James after Uncle James. Do you remember how much Uncle James doted on little James? He left everything to Frank for the sake of little James—another James Hathcock one day over the entire estate.”

“Yes,” Caroline said, nodding. “Uncle James spent countless hours with his namesake, watching him toddle around the garden, play with his toys in the parlor and reading to him in the library. It did seem Uncle James thought of little James as the son he never had.”

Maggie groaned regretfully. “I guess I never realized he loved little James more than us.”

“Oh, I don’t think we should look at it as though he loved little James more,” their mother said, approaching. “He loved us all.”

She brushed Maggie’s hair out of her face before continuing. “Now, before he died, your father told me there was a provision in the estate giving us each an allowance of five hundred dollars per month to live on, and he asked Frank to promise to help us with anything more we might need. I heard Frank agree to the promise, and since he has said we should continue to think of Northland as our home, I don’t think we have a thing to worry about!”

Her words and warm smile were encouraging. She changed the subject to sharing good memories of their father, and soon the mood had lifted, and all were smiling through bittersweet tears.

They returned to the parlor, where Mrs. Hathcock encouraged Ashlynn to sit at the piano and play their father’s favorite hymn, “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. The other girls sang along, as best they could through choked up emotion.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
 

Glory, Glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on. 

Glory, Glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

They bowed their heads and offered evening prayers. After saying “Amen” Caroline spoke up. “Do you remember that photograph we had taken of our family in front of the house two years ago?”

“The one before dad got sick?” Maggie asked.

“The one which offended Dottie because she, Frank and James weren’t in it?” Ashelynn said, with a scoffing laugh.

Caroline nodded. “Well, I painted it and had it framed.”

She stepped over and pulled something from behind the sofa. She removed the brown paper covering the painting to gasps from the others.

“It’s breathtaking,” their mother said, wiping a tear. “You must hang it over the fireplace.”

Caroline attended to hanging the painting, and the four women hugged and kissed each other’s cheeks before Mrs. Hathcock shooed her daughters off to bed.

 

Caroline had been studying at UNC Asheville on a partial art scholarship, which paid for art classes but not the generals. She would have been a sophomore by now but had taken a year off to help her mother care for her father while he was ill. She was a quiet—but not shy—person who usually kept her feelings to herself spending most of her time listening to others rather than asserting her own opinions.

Ashelynn was quite the opposite of Caroline and gave her opinions more readily, whether they were solicited or not. She would be graduating high school at the end of the current school year and would be joining Caroline at the college in the fall on a similar music performance scholarship.

If the Hathcock girls were regarded as beautiful—Caroline with brilliant blue eyes and sunlit blonde hair and Ashelynn with long auburn locks and Irish green eyes—one didn’t have to look far to know whence their beauty came. Their mother, Sarah Hathcock, was a gracefully beautiful and youthful looking woman. She was often mistaken as an older sister to her daughters—rather than their mother—which tickled her with delight on each occasion.

 

After the women retired to bed, Frank sat in the office downloading the financial files of the Northland Estate onto his laptop computer. Finding nothing dissatisfying, he happily mumbled, “Good, good.”

File after file, he marveled at the orderly way the finances were kept and the sound frugality of his late father’s business practices, which had helped the company weather many economic storms.

The Hathcock fortune had been built over a century and a half upon agriculture, textiles, and furniture.

“Let’s see,” he muttered, “the estate will grant my stepmother and sisters twenty-four thousand dollars a year for their care.”

Frank recalled the promise to his dying father, to take care of his stepmother and sisters. He pondered the amount and groaned. “That’s poverty level.” He sighed and reasoned. “But if they continue to live here they will not have to pay any rent, so twenty-four thousand a year should be sufficient for their necessities.”

He thought longer and grumbled. “But what of the girls’ educations? A proper education is costly and Father would want me to take care of those needs. Should I add to the amount?”

He continued to pore over the records. “It looks as though the estate should be able to part with double that amount to support the girls.”

Frank began to smile, pleased with his generosity. “Yes, it’s not an inconvenience to my family and it will make the girls completely comfortable. And what a surprise it will be to them!” He smiled, determined to fulfill the promise.

He sat back in his chair, put his feet on the desk and laced his fingers behind his head with a self-congratulatory grin. “I’ll drive to the office tomorrow, make it official on the books and surprise Mother and my sisters tomorrow night at dinner.”

Up next in Chapter 2: An unexpected guest descends on Northland like a tornado—upheaving and relocating everything in their wake.   

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7 Responses to Barton Cottage Chapter 1 by A.P. Maddox

  1. Pingback: Barton Cottage Chapter 2 | Little CAB Press

  2. Greg Van Keugel says:

    Well Annette, your writing style is smooth and clean. This sort of tale is not my usual “cup of tea” but your clean concise style and impressions are a treat to read. I’ll be looking forward to the rest of the tale and enjoying your crafty use of words. Congratulations! Nicely done!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Greg! I appreciate your kind words. 🙂 This story is targeted more to the teen/young adult/female audience, but we have stories in the works which may appeal to a more masculine audience as well. Fun things to come!

    Like

  4. Pingback: Barton Cottage Chapter 3 | Little CAB Press

  5. Pingback: Barton Cottage Chapter 3 Part II | Little CAB Press

  6. Pingback: Barton Cottage Chapter 4 | Little CAB Press

  7. Pingback: Barton Cottage Chapter 5 Part 1 | Little CAB Press

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