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

heroics.

Stephen sat motionless under the tree for an hour, deciding on some plan

of action.

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 to

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