messages and notes from the Brier Neighborhood, so that when Stephen saw
a folded note among the papers his heart gave a throb of anticipation.
The note was brief, and when he had glanced through it he said: "This is
not mine, Alcestis; it belongs to Miss Rose. Go straight back and give
it to her as you were told; and another time keep your wits about you,
or I'll send you back to Killick."
Alcestis Crambry's ideas on all subjects were extremely vague. Claude
Merrill had given him a letter for Rose, but his notion was that
anything that belonged to her belonged to Stephen, and the Waterman
place was much nearer than the Wileys', particularly at dinner-time!
When the boy had slouched away, Stephen sat under the apple tree, now a
mass of roseate bloom, and buried his face in his hands.
It was not precisely a love-letter that he had read, nevertheless it
blackened the light of the sun for him. Claude asked Rose to meet him
anywhere on the road to the station and to take a little walk, as he was
leaving that afternoon and could not bear to say good-by to her in the
presence of her grandmother. "Under the circumstances," he wrote, deeply
underlining the words, "I cannot remain a moment longer in Edgewood,
where I have been so happy and so miserable!" He did not refer to the
fact that the time limit on his return-ticket expired that day, for his
dramatic instinct told him that such sordid matters have no place in
Stephen sat motionless under the tree for an hour, deciding on some plan
He had work at the little house, but he did not dare go there lest he
should see the face of dead Love looking from the windows of the pink
bedroom; dead Love, cold, sad, merciless. His cheeks burned as he
thought of the marriage license and the gold ring hidden away upstairs
in the drawer of his shaving stand. What a romantic fool he had been, to
think he could hasten the glad day by a single moment! What a piece of
boyish folly it had been, and how it shamed him in his own eyes!
When train time drew near he took his boat and paddled down stream. If
for the Finland lover's reindeer there was but one path in all the
world, and that the one that led to Her, so it was for Stephen's canoe,
which, had it been set free on the river by day or by night, might have
floated straight to Rose.
He landed at the usual place, a bit of sandy shore near the Wiley house,
and walked drearily up the bank through the woods. Under the shade of
the pines the white stars of the hepatica glistened and the pale
anemones were coming into bloom. Partridge-berries glowed red under
their glossy leaves, and clumps of violets sweetened the air. Squirrels
chattered, woodpeckers tapped, thrushes sang; but Stephen was blind and
deaf to all the sweet harbingers of spring.
Just then he heard voices, realizing with a throb of delight that, at
any rate, Rose had not left home to meet Claude, as he had asked her toDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>