now fell upon the empty air. In these years of Old Kennebec's

"anecdotage," his pipe was his best listener and his truest confidant.

Mr. Wiley's constant intercessions with his wife made Rose's home-coming

somewhat easier, and the sight of her own room and belongings soothed

her troubled spirit, but the days went on, and nothing happened to

change the situation. She had lost a lover, that was all, and there were

plenty more to choose from, or there always had been; but the only one

she wanted was the one who made no sign. She used to think that she

could twist Stephen around her little finger; that she had only to

beckon to him and he would follow her to the ends of the earth. Now fear

had entered her heart. She no longer felt sure, because she no longer

felt worthy, of him, and feeling both uncertainty and unworthiness, her

lips were sealed and she was rendered incapable of making any bid for

forgiveness.

So the little world of Pleasant River went on, to all outward seeming,

as it had ever gone. On one side of the stream a girl's heart was

longing, and pining, and sickening, with hope deferred, and growing,

too, with such astonishing rapidity that the very angels marveled! And

on the other, a man's whole vision of life an duty was widening and

deepening under the fructifying influence of his sorrow.

The corn waved high and green in front of the vacant riverside cottage,

but Stephen sent no word or message to Rose. He had seen her once, but

only from a distance. She seemed paler and thinner, he thought,--the

result; probably, of her metropolitan gayeties. He heard no rumor of any

engagement, and he wondered if it were possible that her love for Claude

Merrill had not, after all, been returned in kind. This seemed a wild

impossibility. His mind refused to entertain the supposition that any

man on earth could resist falling in love with Rose, or, having fallen

in, that he could ever contrive to climb out. So he worked on at his

farm harder than ever, and grew soberer and more careworn daily. Rufus

had never seemed so near and dear to him as in these weeks when he had

lived under the shadow of threatened blindness. The burning of the barn

and the strain upon their slender property brought the brothers

together shoulder to shoulder.

"If you lose your girl, Steve," said the boy, "and I lose my eyesight,

and we both lose the barn, why, it'll be us two against the world, for a

spell!"

The "To Let" sign on the little house was an arrant piece of hypocrisy.

Nothing but the direst extremity could have caused him to allow an alien

step on that sacred threshold. The plowing up of the flower-beds and

planting of the corn had served a double purpose. It showed the too

curious public the finality of his break with Rose and her absolute

freedom; it also prevented them from suspecting that he still entered

the place. His visits were not many, but he could not bear to let the

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