[Illustration: "DON'T SPEAK, STEPHEN, TILL YOU HEAR WHAT I HAVE TO SAY"]
"You don't know what you've done for me, Stephen," she whispered, with
her face hidden on his shoulder. "I was just a common little prickly
rosebush when you came along like a good gardener and 'grafted in'
something better; the something better was your love, Stephen dear, and
it's made everything different. The silly Rose you were engaged to long
ago has disappeared somewhere; I hope you won't be able to find her
under the new leaves."
"She was all I wanted," said Stephen.
"You thought she was," the girl answered, "because you didn't see the
prickles, but you'd have felt them sometime. The old Rose was a selfish
thing, not good enough for you; the new Rose is going to be your wife,
and Rufus's sister, and your mother's daughter, all in one."
Then such a breakfast was spread as Stephen, in his sorry years of
bachelor existence, had forgotten could exist; but before he broke his
fast he ran out to the wagon and served the astonished Alcestis with his
wedding refreshments then and there, bidding him drive back to the River
Farm and bring him a package that lay in the drawer of his
shaving-stand,--a package placed there when hot youth and love and longing
had inspired him to hurry on the marriage day.
"There's an envelope, Alcestis," he cried, "a long envelope way, way
back in the corner, and a small box on top of it. Bring them both, and
my wallet too, and if you find them all and get them to me safely you
shall be bridesmaid and groomsman and best man and usher and maid of
honor at a wedding, in less than an hour! Off with you! Drive straight
and use the whip on Dolly!"
When he reentered the kitchen, flushed with joy and excitement, Rose put
the various good things on the table and he almost tremblingly took his
seat, fearing that contact with the solid wood might wake him from this
"I'd like to put you in your chair like a queen and wait on you," he
said with a soft boyish stammer; "but I am too dazed with happiness to
be of any use."
"It's my turn to wait upon you, and I--Oh! how I love to have you
dazed," Rose answered. "I'll be at the table presently myself; but we
have been housekeeping only three minutes, and we have nothing but the
tin coffee-pot this morning, so I'll pour the coffee from the stove."
She filled a cup with housewifely care and brought it to Stephen's side.
As she set it down and was turning, she caught his look,--a look so full
of longing that no loving woman, however busy, could have resisted it;
then she stooped and kissed him fondly, fervently.
Stephen put his arm about her, and, drawing her down to his knee, rested
his head against her soft shoulder with a sigh of comfort, like that of
a tired child. He had waited for it ten years, and at last the
dream-room had come true.
End of Project Gutenberg's Rose O' the River, by Kate Douglas WigginDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>