Stephen's big hand closed on Rose's little one she returned its pressure
softly and gave him the kiss that with her, as with him, meant a promise
for all the years to come. The truth and passion in the man had broken
the girl's bonds for the moment. Her vision was clearer, and, realizing
the treasures of love and fidelity that were being offered her, she
accepted them, half unconscious that she was not returning them in kind.
How is the belle of two villages to learn that she should "thank Heaven,
fasting, for a good man's love"?
And Stephen? He went home in the dusk, not knowing whether his feet were
touching the solid earth or whether he was treading upon rainbows.
Rose's pink calico seemed to brush him as he walked in the path that was
wide enough only for one. His solitude was peopled again when he fed the
cattle, for Rose's face smiled at him from the haymow; and when he
strained the milk, Rose held the pans.
His nightly tasks over, he went out and took his favorite seat under the
apple tree. All was still, save for the crickets' ceaseless chirp, the
soft thud of an August sweeting dropping in the grass, and the
swish-swash of the water against his boat, tethered in the Willow Cove.
He remembered when he first saw Rose, for that must have been when he
began to love her, though he was only fourteen and quite unconscious
that the first seed had been dropped in the rich soil of his boyish
[Illustration: "ROSE, I'LL TAKE YOU SAFELY"]
He was seated on the kerosene barrel in the Edgewood post-office, which
was also the general country store, where newspapers, letters, molasses,
nails, salt codfish, hairpins, sugar, liver pills, canned goods, beans,
and ginghams dwelt in genial proximity. When she entered, just a little
pink-and-white slip of a thing with a tin pail in her hand and a
sunbonnet falling off her wavy hair, Stephen suddenly stopped swinging
his feet. She gravely announced her wants, reading them from a bit of
paper,--1 quart molasses, 1 package ginger, 1 lb. cheese, 2 pairs shoe
laces, 1 card shirt buttons.
While the storekeeper drew off the molasses she exchanged shy looks with
Stephen, who, clean, well-dressed, and carefully mothered as he was,
felt all at once uncouth and awkward, rather as if he were some clumsy
lout pitchforked into the presence of a fairy queen. He offered her the
little bunch of bachelor's buttons he held in his hand, augury of the
future, had he known it,--and she accepted them with a smile. She
dropped her memorandum; he picked it up, and she smiled again, doing
still more fatal damage than in the first instance. No words were
spoken, but Rose, even at ten, had less need of them than most of her
sex, for her dimples, aided by dancing eyes, length of lashes, and curve
of lips, quite took the place of conversation. The dimples tempted,
assented, denied, corroborated, deplored, protested, sympathized, whileDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>