And pray how was she to cope with such a disagreeable and complicated

situation?

It would not be long before the gossips rolled under their tongues the

delicious morsel of a broken engagement, and sooner or later she must

brave the displeasure of her grandmother.

And the little house--that was worse than anything. Her tears flowed

faster as she thought of Stephen's joy in it, of his faithful labor, of

the savings he had invested in it. She hated and despised her self when

she thought of the house, and for the first time in her life she

realized the limitations of her nature, the poverty of her ideals.

What should she do? She had lost Stephen and ruined his life. Now, in

order that she need not blight a second career, must she contrive to

return Claude's love! To be sure, she thought, it seemed indecent to

marry any other man than Stephen, when they had built a house together,

and chosen wall-papers, and a kitchen stove, and dining-room chairs; but

was it not the only way to evade the difficulties?

Suppose that Stephen, in a fit of pique, should ask somebody else to

share the new cottage?

As this dreadful possibility came into view, Rose's sobs actually

frightened the birds and the squirrels. She paced back and forth under

the trees, wondering how she could have been engaged to a man for eight

months and know so little about him as she seemed to know about Stephen

Waterman to-day. Who would have believed he could be so autocratic, so

severe, so unapproachable! Who could have foreseen that she, Rose Wiley,

would ever be given up to another man,--handed over as coolly as if she

had been a bale of cotton? She wanted to return Claude Merrill's love

because it was the only way out of the tangle; but at the moment she

almost hated him for making so much trouble, for hurting Stephen, for

abasing her in her own eyes, and, above all, for giving her rustic lover

the chance of impersonating an injured emperor.

It did not simplify the situation to have Mite Shapley come in during

the evening and run upstairs, uninvited, to sit on the toot of her bed

and chatter.

Rose had closed her blinds and lay in the dark, pleading a headache.

Mite was in high feather. She had met Claude Merrill going to the

station that afternoon. He was much too early for the train, which the

station agent reported to be behind time, so he had asked her to take a

drive. She didn't know how it happened, for he looked at his watch every

now and then; but, anyway, they got to laughing and "carrying on," and

when they came back to the station the train had gone. Wasn't that the

greatest joke of the season? What did Rose suppose they did next?

Rose didn't know and didn't care; her head ached too badly.

Well, they had driven to Wareham, and Claude had hired a livery team

there, and had been taken into Portland with his trunk, and she had

brought Mrs. Brooks's horse back to Edgewood. Wasn't that ridiculous?

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