And hadn't she cut out Rose where she least expected?

Rose was distinctly apathetic, and Mite Shapley departed after a very

brief call, leaving behind her an entirely new train of thought.

If Claude Merrill were so love-blighted that he could only by the

greatest self-control keep from flinging himself into the river, how

could he conceal his sufferings so completely from Mite Shapley,--little

shallow-pated, scheming coquette?

"So that pretty Merrill feller has gone, has he, mother?" inquired Old

Kennebec that night, as he took off his wet shoes and warmed his feet at

the kitchen oven. "Well, it ain't a mite too soon. I allers distrust

that pink-an'-white, rosy-posy kind of a man. One of the most turrible

things that ever happened in Gard'ner was brought about by jest sech a

feller. Mothers hedn't hardly ought to name their boy babies Claude

without they expect 'em to play the dickens with the girls. I don' know

nothin' 'bout the fust Claude, there ain't none of 'em in the Bible,

air they, but whoever he was, I bate ye he hed a deceivin' tongue. If it

hedn't be'n for me, that Claude in Gard'ner would 'a' run away with my

brother's fust wife; an' I'll tell ye jest how I contrived to put a

spoke in his wheel."

But Mrs. Wiley, being already somewhat familiar with the circumstances,

had taken her candle and retired to her virtuous couch.


Was this the world, after all? Rose asked herself; and, if so, what was

amiss with it, and where was the charm, the bewilderment, the

intoxication, the glamour?

She had been glad to come to Boston, for the last two weeks in Edgewood

had proved intolerable. She had always been a favorite heretofore, from

the days when the boys fought for the privilege of dragging her sled up

the hills, and filling her tiny mitten with peppermints, down to the

year when she came home from the Wareham Female Seminary, an

acknowledged belle and beauty. Suddenly she had felt her popularity

dwindling. There was no real change in the demeanor of her

acquaintances, but there was a certain subtle difference of atmosphere.

Everybody sympathized tacitly with Stephen, and she did not wonder, for

there were times when she secretly took his part against herself. Only a

few candid friends had referred to the rupture openly in conversation,

but these had been blunt in their disapproval.

It seemed part of her ill fortune that just at this time Rufus should be

threatened with partial blindness, and that Stephen's heart, already

sore, should be torn with new anxieties. She could hardly bear to see

the doctor's carriage drive by day after day, and hear night after night

that Rufus was unresigned, melancholy, half mad; while Stephen, as the

doctor said, was brother, mother, and father in one, as gentle as a

woman, as firm as Gibraltar.

These foes to her peace of mind all came from within; but without was

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