Rose had gone to walk with Claude one evening when she first arrived. He
had shown her the State House and the Park Street Church, and sat with
her on one of the benches in the Common until nearly ten. She knew that
Mrs. Brooks had told her nephew of the broken engagement, but he made no
reference to the matter, save to congratulate her that she was rid of a
man who was so clumsy, so dull and behind the times, as Stephen
Waterman, saying that he had always marveled she could engage herself to
anybody who could insult her by offering her a turquoise ring.
Claude was very interesting that evening, Rose thought, but rather
gloomy and unlike his former self. He referred to his grave
responsibilities, to the frail health of Maude Arthurlena, and to the
vicissitudes of business. He vaguely intimated that his daily life in
the store was not so pleasant as it had been formerly; that there were
"those" (he would speak no more plainly) who embarrassed him with
undesired attentions, "those" who, without the smallest shadow of right,
vexed him with petty jealousies.
Rose dared not ask questions on so delicate a topic, but she remembered
in a flash Miss Dix's heavy eyebrows, snapping eyes, and high color.
Claude seemed very happy that Rose had come to Boston, though he was
surprised, knowing what a trial his aunt must be, now that she was so
helpless. It was unfortunate, also, that Rose could not go on excursions
without leaving his aunt alone, or he should have been glad to offer his
escort. He pressed her hand when he left her at her door, telling her
she could never realize what a comfort her friendship was to him; could
never imagine how thankful he was that she had courageously freed
herself from ties that in time would have made her wretched. His heart
was full, he said, of feelings he dared not utter; but in the near
future, when certain clouds had rolled by, he would unlock its
treasures, and then--but no more to-night: he could not trust himself.
Rose felt as if she were assuming one of the characters in a mysterious
romance, such as unfolded itself only in books or in Boston; but,
thrilling as it was, it was nevertheless extremely unsatisfactory.
Convinced that Claude Merrill was passionately in love with her, one of
her reasons for coming to Boston had been to fall more deeply in love
with him, and thus heal some, at least, of the wounds she had inflicted.
It may have been a foolish idea, but after three weeks it seemed still
worse,--a useless one; for after several interviews she felt herself
drifting farther and farther from Claude; and if he felt any burning
ambition to make her his own, he certainly concealed it with admirable
art. Given up, with the most offensive magnanimity, by Stephen, and not
greatly desired by Claude,--that seemed the present status of proud Rose
Wiley of the Brier Neighborhood.
It was June, she remembered, as she leaned out of the open window; atDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>