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Lavender and Old Lace by Myrtle Reed

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are coming out of those little, baby seeds, but they come. Over
there are things that won't blossom till late--asters,
tiger-lilies and prince's feather. It's going to be a beautiful
garden, deary. Down by the gate are my sweet herbs and
simples--marjoram, sweet thyme, rosemary, and lavender. I love
the lavender, don't you?"

"Yes, I do," replied Ruth, "but I've never seen it growing."

"It's a little bush, with lavender flowers that yield honey, and
it's all sweet--flowers, leaves, and all. I expect you'll laugh
at me, but I've planted sunflowers and four-o'clocks and
foxglove."

"I won't laugh---I think it's lovely. What do you like best, Miss
Ainslie?"

"I love them all," she said, with a smile on her lips and her
deep, unfathomable eyes fixed upon Ruth, "but I think the
lavender comes first. It's so sweet, and then it has
associations--"

She paused, in confusion, and Ruth went on, quickly: "I think
they all have associations, and that's why we love them. I can't
bear red geraniums because a cross old woman I knew when I was a
child had her yard full of them, and I shall always love the
lavender," she added, softly, "because it makes me think of you."

Miss Ainslie's checks flushed and her eyes shone. "Now we'll go
into the house," she said, "and we'll have tea."

"I shouldn't stay any longer," murmured Ruth, following her,
"I've been here so long now."

"'T isn't long," contradicted Miss Ainslie, sweetly, "it's been
only a very few minutes."

Every moment, the house and its owner took on new beauty and
charm. Miss Ainslie spread a napkin of finest damask upon the
little mahogany tea table, then brought in a silver teapot of
quaint design, and two cups of Japanese china, dainty to the
point of fragility.

"Why, Miss Ainslie," exclaimed Ruth, in surprise, "where did you
get Royal Kaga?"

Miss Ainslie was bending over the table, and the white hand that
held the teapot trembled a little. "They were a present from--a
friend," she answered, in a low voice.

"They're beautiful," said Ruth, hurriedly.

She had been to many an elaborate affair, which was down on the
social calendar as a "tea," sometimes as reporter and often as
guest, but she had found no hostess like Miss Ainslie, no china
so exquisitely fine, nor any tea like the clear, fragrant amber
which was poured into her cup.

"It came from China," said Miss Ainslie, feeling the unspoken
question. "I had a whole chest of it, but it's almost all gone."

Ruth was turning her cup and consulting the oracle. "Here's two
people, a man and a woman, from a great distance, and, yes,
here's money, too. What is there in yours?"

"Nothing, deary, and besides, it doesn't come true."

When Ruth finally aroused herself to go home, the old
restlessness, for the moment, was gone. "There's a charm about
you," she said, "for I feel as if I could sleep a whole week and
never wake at all."

"It's the tea," smiled Miss Ainslie, "for I'm a very commonplace
body."

"You, commonplace?" repeated Ruth; "why, there's nobody like
you!"

They stood at the door a few moments, talking aimlessly, but Ruth
was watching Miss Ainslie's face, as the sunset light lay
caressingly upon it. "I've had a lovely time," she said, taking
another step toward the gate.

"So have I--you'll come again, won't you?" The sweet voice was
pleading now, and Ruth answered it in her inmost soul.
Impulsively, she came back, threw her arms around Miss Ainslie's
neck, and kissed her. "I love you," she said, "don't you know I
do?"

The quick tears filled Miss Ainslie's eyes and she smiled through
the mist. "Thank you, deary," she whispered, "it's a long time
since any one has kissed me--a long time!"

Ruth turned back at the gate, to wave her hand, and even at that
distance, saw that Miss Ainslie was very pale.

Winfield was waiting for her, just outside the hedge, but his
presence jarred upon her strangely, and her salutation was not
cordial.

"Is the lady a friend of yours?" he inquired, indifferently.

"She is," returned Ruth; "I don't go to see my enemies--do you?"

"I don't know whether I do or not," he said, looking at her
significantly.

Her colour rose, but she replied, sharply: "For the sake of
peace, let us assume that you do not."

"Miss Thorne," he began, as they climbed the hill, "I don't see
why you don't apply something cooling to your feverish temper.
You have to live with yourself all the time, you know, and,
occasionally, it must be very difficult. A rag, now, wet in cold
water, and tied around your neck--have you ever tried that? It's
said to be very good."

"I have one on now," she answered, with apparent seriousness,
"only you can't see it under my ribbon. It's getting dry and I
think I'd better hurry home to wet it again, don't you?"

Winfield laughed joyously. "You'll do," he said.

Before they were half up the hill, they were on good terms again.
"I don't want to go home, do you?" he asked.

"Home? I have no home--I'm only a poor working girl."

"Oh, what would this be with music! I can see it now! Ladies and
gentlemen, with your kind permission, I will endeavour to give
you a little song of my own composition, entitled:'Why Has the
Working Girl No Home!'"

"You haven't my permission, and you're a wretch."

"I am," he admitted, cheerfully, "moreover, I'm a worm in the
dust."

"I don't like worms."

"Then you'll have to learn."

Ruth resented his calm assumption of mastery. "You're dreadfully
young," she said; "do you think you'll ever grow up?"

"Huh!" returned Winfield, boyishly, "I'm most thirty."

"Really? I shouldn't have thought you were of age."

"Here's a side path, Miss Thorne," he said, abruptly, "that seems
to go down into the woods. Shall we explore? It won't be dark for
an hour yet."

They descended with some difficulty, since the way was not cleat,
and came into the woods at a point not far from the log across
the path. "We mustn't sit there any more," he observed, "or we'll
fight. That's where we were the other day, when you attempted to
assassinate me."

"I didn't!" exclaimed Ruth indignantly.

"That rag does seem to be pretty dry," he said, apparently to
himself. "Perhaps, when we get to the sad sea, we can wet it, and
so insure comparative calm."

She laughed, reluctantly. The path led around the hill and down
from the highlands to a narrow ledge of beach that lay under the
cliff. "Do you want to drown me?" she asked. "It looks very much
as if you intended to, for this ledge is covered at high tide."

"You wrong me, Miss Thorne; I have never drowned anything."

His answer was lost upon her, for she stood on the beach, under
the cliff, looking at the water. The shimmering turquoise blue
was slowly changing to grey, and a single sea gull circled
overhead.

He made two or three observations, to which Ruth paid no
attention. "My Lady Disdain," he said, with assumed anxiety,
"don't you think we'd better go on? I don't know what time the
tide comes in, and I never could look your aunt in the face if I
had drowned her only relative."

"Very well," she replied carelessly, "let's go around the other
way."

They followed the beach until they came to the other side of the
hill, but found no path leading back to civilisation, though the
ascent could easily be made.

"People have been here before," he said; "here are some initials
cut into this stone. What are they? I can't see."

Ruth stooped to look at the granite boulder he indicated. "J.
H.," she answered, "and J. B."

"It's incomplete," he objected; "there should be a heart with an
arrow run through it."

"You can fix it to suit yourself," Ruth returned, coolly, "I
don't think anybody will mind." She did not hear his reply, for
it suddenly dawned upon her that "J. H." meant Jane Hathaway.

They stood there in the twilight for some little time, watching
the changing colours on the horizon and then there was a faint
glow on the water from the cliff above. Ruth went out far enough
to see that Hepsey had placed the lamp in the attic window.

"It's time to go," she said, "inasmuch as we have to go back the
way we came."

They crossed to the other side and went back through the woods.
It was dusk, and they walked rapidly until they came to the log
across the path.

"So your friend isn't crazy," he said tentatively, as he tried to
assist her over it.

"That depends," she replied, drawing away from him; "you're
indefinite."

"Forgot to wet the rag, didn't we?" he asked. "I will gladly
assume the implication, however, if I may be your friend."

"Kind, I'm sure," she answered, with distant politeness.

The path widened, and he walked by her side. "Have you noticed,
Miss Thorne, that we have trouble every time we approach that
seemingly innocent barrier? I think it would be better to keep
away from it, don't you?"

"Perhaps."

"What initials were those on the boulder? J. H. and--"

"J. B."

"I thought so. 'J. B.' must have had a lot of spare time at his
disposal, for his initials are cut into the 'Widder' Pendleton's
gate post on the inner side, and into an apple tree in the back
yard."

"How interesting!"

"Did you know Joe and Hepsey were going out to-night?"

"No, I didn't--they're not my intimate friends."

"I don't see how Joe expects to marry on the income derived from
the village chariot."

"Have they got that far?"

"I don't know," replied Winfield, with the air of one imparting a
confidence. "You see, though I have been in this peaceful village
for some little time, I have not yet arrived at the fine
distinction between 'walking out, 'settin' up,' and 'stiddy
comp'ny.' I should infer that 'walking out' came first, for
'settin' up' must take a great deal more courage, but even 1,
with my vast intellect, cannot at present understand 'stiddy
comp'ny.'"

"Joe takes her out every Sunday in the carriage," volunteered
Ruth, when the silence became awkward.

"In the what?"

"Carriage--haven't you ridden in it?"

"I have ridden in them, but not in it. I walked to the
'Widder's,' but if it is the conveyance used by travellers, they
are both 'walking out' and 'settin' up.'"

They paused at the gate. "Thank you for a pleasant afternoon,"
said Winfield. "I don't have many of them."

"You're welcome," returned Ruth, conveying the impression of
great distance.

Winfield sighed, then made a last desperate attempt. "Miss
Thorne," he said, pleadingly, "please don't be unkind to me. You
have my reason in your hands. I can see myself now, sitting on
the floor, at one end of the dangerous ward. They'll smear my
fingers with molasses and give me half a dozen feathers to play
with. You'll come to visit the asylum, sometime, when you're
looking for a special, and at first, you won't recognise me. Then
I'll say: 'Woman, behold your work,' and you'll be miserable all
the rest of your life."

She laughed heartily at the distressing picture, and the
plaintive tone of his voice pierced her armour. "What's the
matter with you?" she asked.

"I don't know--I suppose it's my eyes. I'm horribly restless and
discontented, and it isn't my way."

Then Ruth remembered her own restless weeks, which seemed so long
ago, and her heart stirred with womanly sympathy. "I know," she
said, in a different tone, "I've felt the same way myself, almost
ever since I've been here, until this very afternoon. You're
tired and nervous, and you haven't anything to do, but you'll get
over it."

"I hope you're right. I've been getting Joe to read the papers to
me, at a quarter a sitting, but his pronunciation is so
unfamiliar that it's hard to get the drift, and the whole thing
exasperated me so that I had to give it up."

"Let me read the papers to you," she said, impulsively, "I
haven't seen one for a month."

There was a long silence. "I don't want to impose upon you," he
answered--"no, you mustn't do it."

Ruth saw a stubborn pride that shrank from the slightest
dependence, a self-reliance that would not failter, but would
steadfastly hold aloof, and she knew that in one thing, at least,
they were kindred.

"Let me," she cried, eagerly; "I'll give you my eyes for a little
while!"

Winfield caught her hand and held it for a moment, fully
understanding. Ruth's eyes looked up into his--deep, dark,
dangerously appealing, and alight with generous desire.

His fingers unclasped slowly. "Yes, I will," he said, strangely
moved. "It's a beautiful gift--in more ways than one. You are
very kind--thank you--good night!"

VII. The Man Who Hesitates

"Isn't fair'," said Winfield to himself, miserably, "no sir, 't
isn't fair!"

He sat on the narrow piazza which belonged to Mrs. Pendleton's
brown house, and took stern account of his inner self. The
morning paper lay beside him, unopened, though his fingers itched
to tear the wrapper, and his hat was pulled far down over his
eyes, to shade them from the sun.

"If I go up there I'm going to fall in love with her, and I know
it!"

That moment of revelation the night before, when soul stood face
to face with soul, had troubled him strangely. He knew himself
for a sentimentalist where women were concerned, but until they
stood at the gate together, he had thought himself safe. Like
many another man, on the sunny side of thirty, he had his ideal
woman safely enshrined in his inner consciousness.

She was a pretty little thing, this dream maiden--a blonde, with
deep blue eyes, a rosy complexion, and a mouth like Cupid's bow.
Mentally, she was of the clinging sort, for Winfield did not know
that in this he was out of fashion. She had a dainty, bird-like
air about her and a high, sweet voice--a most adorable little
woman, truly, for a man to dream of when business was not too
pressing.

In almost every possible way, Miss Thorne was different. She was
dark, and nearly as tall as he was; dignified, self-possessed,
and calm, except for flashes of temper and that one impulsive
moment. He had liked her, found her interesting in a tantalising
sort of way, and looked upon her as an oasis in a social desert,
but that was all.

Of course, he might leave the village, but he made a wry face
upon discovering, through laboured analysis, that he didn't want
to go away. It was really a charming spot--hunting and fishing to
be had for the asking, fine accommodations at Mrs. Pendleton's,
beautiful scenery, bracing air--in every way it was just what he
needed. Should he let himself be frightened out of it by a
newspaper woman who lived at the top of the hill? Hardly!

None the less, he realised that a man might firmly believe in
Affinity, and, through a chain of unfortunate circumstances,
become the victim of Propinquity. He had known of such instances
and was now face to face with the dilemma.

Then his face flooded with dull colour. "Darn it," he said to
himself, savagely, "what an unmitigated cad I am! All this is on
the assumption that she's likely to fall on my neck at any
minute! Lord!"

Yet there was a certain comfort in the knowledge that he was
safe, even if he should fall in love with Miss Thorne. That
disdainful young woman would save him from himself, undoubtedly,
when he reached the danger point, if not before.

"I wonder how a fellow would go about it anyway," he thought. "He
couldn't make any sentimental remarks, without being instantly
frozen. She's like the Boston girls we read about in the funny
papers. He couldn't give her things, either, except flowers or
books, or sweets, or music. She has more books than she wants,
because she reviews'em for the paper, and I don't think she's
musical. She doesn't look like the candy fiends, and I imagine
she'd pitch a box of chocolates into the sad sea, or give it to
Hepsey. There's nothing left but flowers--and I suppose she
wouldn't notice'em.

"A man would have to teach her to like him, and, on my soul, I
don't know how he'd do that. Constant devotion wouldn't have any
effect--I doubt if she'd permit it; and a fellow might stay away
from her for six months, without a sign from her. I guess she's
cold--no, she isn't, either--eyes and temper like hers don't go
with the icebergs.

"I--that is, he couldn't take her out, because there's no place
to go. It's different in the city, of course, but if he happened
to meet her in the country, as I've done--

"Might ask her to drive, possibly, if I could rent Alfred and
Mamie for a few hours--no, we'd have to have the day, for
anything over two miles, and that wouldn't be good form, without
a chaperone. Not that she needs one--she's equal to any
emergency, I fancy. Besides, she wouldn't go. If I could get
those two plugs up the hill, without pushing 'em, gravity would
take'em back, but I couldn't ask her to walk up the hill after
the pleasure excursion was over. I don't believe a drive would
entertain her.

"Perhaps she'd like to fish--no, she wouldn't, for she said she
didn't like worms. Might sail on the briny deep, except that
there's no harbour within ten miles, and she wouldn't trust her
fair young life to me. She'd be afraid I'd drown her.

"I suppose the main idea is to cultivate a clinging dependence,
but I'd like to see the man who could woo any dependence from
Miss Thorne. She holds her head like a thoroughbred touched with
the lash. She said she was afraid of Carlton, but I guess she was
just trying to be pleasant. I'll tell him about it--no, I won't,
for I said I wouldn't.

"I wish there was some other girl here for me to talk to, but
I'll be lucky if I can get along peaceably with the one already
here. I'll have to discover all her pet prejudices and be careful
not to walk on any of 'em. There's that crazy woman, for
instance--I mustn't allude to her, even respectfully, if I'm to
have any softening feminine influence about me before I go back
to town. She didn't seem to believe I had any letter from
Carlton--that's what comes of being careless.

"I shouldn't have told her that people said she had large feet
and wore men's shoes. She's got a pretty foot; I noticed it
particularly before I spoke--I suppose she didn't like that--most
girls wouldn't, I guess, but she took it as a hunter takes a
fence. Even after that, she said she'd help me be patient, and
last night, when she said she'd read the papers to me--she was
awfully sweet to me then.

"Perhaps she likes me a little bit--I hope so. She'd never care
very much for anybody, though--she's too independent. She
wouldn't even let me help her up the hill; I don't know whether
it was independence, or whether she didn't want me to touch her.
If we ever come to a place where she has to be helped, I suppose
I'll have to put gloves on, or let her hold one end of a stick
while I hang on to the other.

"Still she didn't take her hand away last night, when I grabbed
it. Probably she was thinking about something else, and didn't
notice. It's a particularly nice hand to hold, but I'll never
have another chance, I guess.

"Carlton said she'd take the conceit out of me, if I had any. I'm
glad he didn't put that in the letterstill it doesn't matter,
since I've lost it. I wish I hadn't, for what he said about me
was really very nice. Carlton is a good fellow.

"How she lit on me when I thought the crazy person might make a
good special! Jerusalem! I felt like the dust under her feet. I'd
be glad to have anybody stand up for me, like that, but nobody
ever will. She's mighty pretty when she's angry, but I'd rather
she wouldn't get huffy at me. She's a tremendously nice
girl--there's no doubt of that."

At this juncture, Joe came out on the porch, hat in hand.
"Mornin', Mr. Winfield."

"Good morning, Joe; how are your troubles this morning?"

"They're ill right, I guess," he replied, pleased with the air of
comradeship. "Want me to read the paper to yer?"

"No, thank you, Joe, not this morning."

The tone was a dismissal, but Joe lingered, shifting from one
foot to the other. "Ain't I done it to suit yer?"

"Quite so," returned Winfield, serenely.

"I don't mind doin' it," Joe continued, after a long silence. "I
won't charge yer nothin'."

"You're very kind, Joe, but I don't care about it to-day."
Winfield rose and walked to the other end of the porch. The apple
trees were in bloom, and every wandering wind was laden with
sweetness. Even the gnarled old tree in Miss Hathaway's yard,
that had been out of bearing for many a year, had put forth a
bough of fragrant blossoms. He saw it from where he stood; a mass
of pink and white against the turquoise sky, and thought that
Miss Thorne would make a charming picture if she stood beneath
the tree with the blown petals drifting around her.

He lingered upon the vision till Joe spoke again. "Be you goin'
up to Miss Hathaway's this mornin'?"

"Why, I don't know," Winfield answered somewhat resentfully,
"why?"

"'Cause I wouldn't go--not if I was in your place."

"Why?" he demanded, facing him.

"Miss Hathaway's niece, she's sick."

"Sick!" repeated Winfield, in sudden fear, "what's the matter!"

"Oh,'t ain't nothin' serious, I reckon, cause she's up and
around. I've just come from there, and Hepsey said that all night
Miss Thorne was a-cryin', and that this mornin' she wouldn't eat
no breakfast. She don't never eat much, but this mornin' she
wouldn't eat nothin', and she wouldn't say what was wrong with
her."

Winfield's face plainly showed his concern.

"She wouldn't eat nothin' last night, neither," Joe went on.
"Hepsey told me this mornin' that she thought p'raps you and her
had fit. She's your girl, ain't she?"

"No," replied Winfield, "she isn't my girl, and we haven't 'fit.'
I'm sorry she isn't well."

He paced back and forth moodily, while Joe watched him in
silence. "Well," he said, at length, "I reckon I'll be movin'
along. I just thought I'd tell yer."

There was no answer, and Joe slammed the gate in disgust. "I
wonder what's the matter," thought Winfield. "'T isn't a letter,
for to-day's mail hasn't come and she was all right last night.
Perhaps she isn't ill--she said she cried when she was angry.
Great Heavens! I hope she isn't angry at me!

"She was awfully sweet to me just before I left her," he
continued, mentally, "so I'm not to blame. I wonder if she's
angry at herself because she offered to read the papers to me?"

All unknowingly he had arrived at the cause of Miss Thorne's
unhappiness. During a wakeful, miserable night, she had wished a
thousand times that she might take back those few impulsive
words.

"That must be it," he thought, and then his face grew tender.
"Bless her sweet heart," he muttered, apropos of nothing, "I'm
not going to make her unhappy. It's only her generous impulse,
and I won't let her think it's any more."

The little maiden of his dreams was but a faint image just then,
as he sat down to plan a course of action which would assuage
Miss Thorne's tears. A grey squirrel appeared on the gate post,
and sat there, calmly, cracking a nut.

He watched the little creature, absently, and then strolled
toward the gate. The squirrel seemed tame and did not move until
he was almost near enough to touch it, and then it scampered only
a little way.

"I'll catch it," Winfield said to himself, "and take it up to
Miss Thorne. Perhaps she'll be pleased."

It was simple enough, apparently, for the desired gift was always
close at hand. He followed it across the hill, and bent a score
of times to pick it up, but it was a guileful squirrel and
escaped with great regularity.

Suddenly, with a flaunt of its bushy tail and a daring, backward
glance, it scampered under the gate into Miss Ainslie's garden
and Winfield laughed aloud. He had not known he was so near the
other house and was about to retreat when something stopped him.

Miss Ainslie stood in the path just behind the gate, with her
face ghastly white and her eyes wide with terror, trembling like
a leaf. There was a troubled silence, then she said, thickly,
"Go!"

"I beg your pardon," he answered, hurriedly, "I did not mean to
frighten you."

"Go!" she said again, her lips scarcely moving, "Go!"

"Now what in the mischief have I done;" he thought, as he crept
away, feeling like a thief. "I understood that this was a quiet
place and yet the strenuous life seems to have struck the village
in good earnest.

"What am I, that I should scare the aged and make the young weep?
I've always been considered harmless, till now. That must be Miss
Thorne's friend, whom I met so unfortunately just now. She's
crazy, surely, or she wouldn't have been afraid of me. Poor
thing, perhaps I startled her."

He remembered that she had carried a basket and worn a pair of
gardening gloves. Even though her face was so changed, for an
instant he had seen its beauty--the deep violet eyes, fair skin,
and regular features, surmounted by that wonderful crown of
silvered hair.

Conflicting emotions swayed him as he wended his way to the top
of the hill, with the morning paper in his pocket as an excuse,
if he should need one. When he approached the gate, he was seized
by a swift and unexplainable fear, and would have turned back,
but Miss Hathaway's door was opened.

Then the little maiden of his dreams vanished, waving her hand in
token of eterna1 farewell, for as Ruth came down the path between
the white and purple plumes of lilac, with a smile of welcome
upon her lips, he knew that, in all the world, there was nothing
half so fair.

VIII. Summer Days

The rumble of voices which came from the kitchen was not
disturbing, but when the rural lovers began to sit on the piazza,
directly under Ruth's window, she felt called upon to
remonstrate.

"Hepsey," she asked, one morning, "why don't you and Joe sit
under the trees at the side of the house? You can take your
chairs out there."

"Miss Hathaway allerss let us set on the piazzer," returned
Hepsey, unmoved.

"Miss Hathaway probably sleeps more soundly than I do. You don't
want me to hear everything you say, do you?"

Hepsey shrugged her buxom shoulders. "You can if you like, mum."

"But I don't like," snapped Ruth. "It annoys me."

There was an interval of silence, then Hepsey spoke again, of her
own accord. "If Joe and me was to set anywheres but in front, he
might see the light."

"Well, what of it?"

"Miss Hathaway, she don't want it talked of, and men folks never
can keep secrets," Hepsey suggested.

"You wouldn't have to tell him, would you?"

"Yes'm. Men folks has got terrible curious minds. They're all
right if they don't know there's nothin', but if they does, why
they's keen."

"Perhaps you're right, Hepsey," she replied, biting her lips.
"Sit anywhere you please."

There were times when Ruth was compelled to admit that Hepsey's
mental gifts were fully equal to her own. It was unreasonable to
suppose, even for an instant, that Joe and Hepsey had not
pondered long and earnestly upon the subject of the light in the
attic window, yet the argument was unanswerable. The matter had
long since lost its interest for Ruth--perhaps because she was
too happy to care.

Winfield had easily acquired the habit of bringing her his
morning papers, and, after the first embarrassment, Ruth settled
down to it in a businesslike way. Usually, she sat in Miss
Hathaway's sewing chair, under a tree a little way from the
house, that she might at the same time have a general supervision
of her domain, while Winfield stretched himself upon the grass at
her feet. When the sun was bright, he wore his dark glasses,
thereby gaining an unfair advantage.

After breakfast, which was a movable feast at the "Widder's," he
went after his mail and brought hers also. When he reached the
top of the hill, she was always waiting for him.

"This devotion is very pleasing," he remarked, one morning.

"Some people are easily pleased," she retorted. "I dislike to
spoil your pleasure, but my stern regard for facts compels me to
say that it is not Mr. Winfield I wait for, but the postman."

"Then I'll always be your postman, for I 'do admire' to be waited
for, as they have it at the 'Widder's.' Of course, it's more or
less of an expense--this morning, for instance, I had to dig up
two cents to get one of your valuable manuscripts out of the
clutches of an interested government."

"That's nothing," she assured him, "for I save you a quarter
every day, by taking Joe's place as reader to Your Highness, not
to mention the high tariff on the Sunday papers. Besides, the
manuscripts are all in now."

"I'm glad to hear that," he replied, sitting down on the piazza.
"Do you know, Miss Thorne, I think there's a great deal of joyous
excitement attached to the pursuit of literature. You send out a
story, fondly believing that it is destined to make you famous.
Time goes on, and you hear nothing from it. You can see your name
'featured' on the advertisements of the magazine, and hear the
heavy tread of the fevered mob, on the way to buy up the edition.
In the roseate glow of your fancy, you can see not only your
cheque, but the things you're going to buy with it. Perhaps you
tell your friends, cautiously, that you're writing for such and
such a magazine. Before your joy evaporates, the thing comes back
from the Dead Letter Office, because you hadn't put on enough
postage, and they wouldn't take it in. Or, perhaps they've
written 'Return' on the front page in blue pencil, and all over
it are little, dark, four-fingered prints, where the office pup
has walked on it."

"You seem to be speaking from experience."

"You have guessed it, fair lady, with your usual wonderful
insight. Now let's read the paper--do you know, you read much
better than Joe does?"

"Really?" Ruth was inclined to be sarcastic, but there was a
delicate colour in her cheeks, which pleased his aesthetic sense.

At first, he had had an insatiable thirst for everything in the
paper, except the advertisements. The market reports were
sacrificed inside of a week, and the obituary notices, weather
indications, and foreign despatches soon followed. Later, the
literary features were eliminated, but the financial and local
news died hard. By the end of June, however, he was satisfied
with the headlines.

"No, thank you, I don't want to hear about the murder," he said,
in answer to Ruth's ironical question, "nor yet the Summer styles
in sleeves. All that slop on the Woman's Page, about making home
happy, is not suited to such as I, and I'll pass."

"There's a great deal here that's very interesting," returned
Ruth, "and I doubt if I myself could have crammed more solid
knowledge into one Woman's Page. Here's a full account of a
wealthy lady's Summer home, and a description of a poor woman's
garden, and eight recipes, and half a column on how to keep a
husband at home nights, and plans for making a china closet out
of an old bookcase."

"If there's anything that makes me dead tired," remarked
Winfield, "it's that homemade furniture business."

"For once, we agree," answered Ruth. "I've read about it till I'm
completely out of patience. Shirtwaist boxes from soap boxes,
dressing tables from packing boxes, couches from cots, hall lamps
from old arc light globes, and clothes hampers from barrels--all
these I endured, but the last straw was a 'transformed kitchen.'"

"Tell me about it," begged Winfield, who was enjoying himself
hugely.

"The stove was to be set into the wall," began Ruth, "and
surrounded with marble and white tiling, or, if this was too
expensive, it was to be hidden from view by a screen of Japanese
silk. A nice oak settle, hand carved, which 'the young husband
might make in his spare moments,' was to be placed in front of
it, and there were to be plate racks and shelves on the walls, to
hold the rare china. Charming kitchen!"

Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes shone like stars. "You're an
awfully funny girl," said Winfield, quietly, "to fly into a
passion over a 'transformed kitchen' that you never saw. Why
don't you save your temper for real things?"

She looked at him, meaningly, and he retreated in good order. "I
think I'm a tactful person," he continued, hurriedly, "because I
get on so well with you. Most of the time, we're as contented as
two kittens in a basket."

"My dear Mr. Winfield," returned Ruth, pleasantly, "you're not
only tactful, but modest. I never met a man whose temperament so
nearly approached the unassuming violet. I'm afraid you'll never
be appreciated in this world--you're too good for it. You must
learn to put yourself forward. I expect it will be a shock to
your sensitive nature, but it's got to be done."

"Thank you," he laughed. "I wish we were in town now, and I'd
begin to put myself forward by asking you out to dinner and
afterward to the theatre."

"Why don't you take me out to dinner here?" she asked.

"I wouldn't insult you by offering you the 'Widder's' cooking. I
mean a real dinner, with striped ice cream at the end of it."

"I'll go," she replied, "I can't resist the blandishments of
striped ice cream."

"Thank you again; that gives me courage to speak of something
that has lain very near my heart for a long time."

"Yes?" said Ruth, conventionally. For the moment she was
frightened.

"I've been thinking fondly of your chafing-dish, though I haven't
been allowed to see it yet, and I suppose there's nothing in the
settlernent to cook in it, is there?"

"Nothing much, surely."

"We might have some stuff sent out from the city, don't you think
so?"

"Canned things?"

"Yes--anything that would keep."

Aided and abetted by Winfield, she made out a list of articles
which were unknown to the simple-minded inhabitants of the
village.

"I'll attend to the financial part of it," he said, pocketing the
list, "and then, my life will be in your hands."

After he went away, Ruth wished she knew more about the gentle
art of cooking, which, after all, is closely allied to the other
one--of making enemies. She decided to dispense with Hepsey's
services, when Winfield came up to dinner, and to do everything
herself.

She found an old cook book of Aunt Jane's and turned over its
pages with new interest. It was in manuscript form, and seemed to
represent the culinary knowledge of the entire neighbourhood.
Each recipe was duly accredited to its original author, and there
were many newspaper clippings, from the despised "Woman's Page"
in various journals.

Ruth thought it would be an act of kindness to paste the loose
clippings into Aunt Jane's book, and she could look them over as
she fastened them in. The work progressed rapidly, until she
found a clipping which was not a recipe. It was a perfunctory
notice of the death of Charles Winfield, dated almost eighteen
years ago.

She remembered the various emotions old newspapers had given her
when she first came to Aunt Jane's. This was Abigail Weatherby's
husband--he had survived her by a dozen years. "I'm glad it's
Charles Winfield instead of Carl," thought Ruth, as she put it
aside, and went on with her work.

"Pantry's come," announced Winfield, a few days later; "I didn't
open it, but I think everything is there. Joe's going to bring it
up."

"Then you can come to dinner Sunday," answered Ruth, smiling.

"I'll be here," returned Winfield promptly. "What time do we
dine?"

"I don't know exactly. It's better to wait, I think, until Hepsey
goes out. She always regards me with more or less suspicion, and
it makes me uncomfortable."

Sunday afternoon, the faithful Joe drove up to the gate, and
Hepsey emerged from her small back room, like a butterfly from a
chrysalis. She was radiant in a brilliant blue silk, which was
festooned at irregular intervals with white silk lace. Her hat
was bending beneath its burden of violets and red roses, starred
here and there with some unhappy buttercups which had survived
the wreck of a previous millinery triumph. Her hands were encased
in white cotton gloves, which did not fit.

With Joe's assistance, she entered the vehicle and took her place
proudly on the back seat, even while he pleaded for her to sit
beside him.

"You know yourself that I can't drive nothin' from the back
seat," he complained.

"Nobody's askin' you to drive nothin' from nowhere," returned
Hepsey, scornfully. "If you can't take me out like a lady, I
ain't a-goin'."

Ruth was dazzled by the magnificence of the spectacle and was
unable to take her eyes away from it, even after Joe had turned
around and started down hill. She thought Winfield would see them
pass his door and time his arrival accordingly, so she was
startled when he came up behind her and said, cheerfully:

"They look like a policeman's, don't they?"

"What--who?"

"Hepsey's hands--did you think I meant yours?"

"How long have you been here?"

"Nearly thirty years."

"That wasn't what I meant," said Ruth, colouring. "How long have
you been at Aunt Jane's?"

"Oh, that's different. When Joe went out to harness his fiery
steeds to his imposing chariot, I went around through the woods,
across the beach, climbed a vertical precipice, and came up this
side of the hill. I had to wait some little time, but I had a
front seat during the show."

He brought out her favourite chair, placing it under the maple
tree, then sat down near her. "I should think you'd get some
clothes like Hepsey's," he began. "I'll wager, now, that you
haven't a gown like that in your entire wardrobe."

"You're right--I haven't. The nearest approach to it is a
tailored gown, lined with silk, which Hepsey thinks I should wear
wrong side out."

"How long will the coast be clear?"

"Until nine o'clock, I think. They go to church in the evening."

"It's half past three now," he observed, glancing at his watch.
"I had fried salt pork, fried eggs, and fried potatoes for
breakfast. I've renounced coffee, for I can't seem to get used to
theirs. For dinner, we had round steak, fried, more fried
potatoes, and boiled onions. Dried apple pie for dessert--I think
I'd rather have had the mince I refused this morning."

"I'll feed you at five o'clock," she said, smiling.

"That seems like a long time," he complained.

"It won't, after you begin to entertain me."

It was after five before either realised it. "Come on," she said,
"you can sit in the kitchen and watch me."

He professed great admiration while she put on one of Hepsey's
white aprons, and when she appeared with the chafing-dish, his
emotion was beyond speech. He was allowed to open the box and to
cut up some button mushrooms, while she shredded cold chicken.
"I'm getting hungry every minute," he said, "and if there is
undue postponement, I fear I shall assimilate all the raw
material in sight--including the cook."

Ruth laughed happily. She was making a sauce with real cream,
seasoned delicately with paprika and celery salt. "Now I'll put
in the chicken and mushrooms," she said, "and you can stir it
while I make toast."

They were seated at the table in the dining-room and the fun was
at its height, when they became aware of a presence. Hepsey stood
in the door, apparently transfixed with surprise, and with
disapproval evident in every line of her face. Before either
could speak, she was gone.

Though Ruth was very much annoyed, the incident seemingly served
to accentuate Winfield's enjoyment. The sound of wheels on the
gravel outside told them that she was continuing her excursion.

"I'm going to discharge her to-morrow," Ruth said.

"You can't--she is in Miss Hathaway's service, not yours.
Besides, what has she done? She came back, probably, after
something she had forgotten. You have no reasonable ground for
discharging her, and I think you'd be more uncomfortable if she
went than if she stayed."

"Perhaps you're right," she admitted.

"I know how you feel about it," he went on, "but I hope you won't
let her distress you. It doesn't make a bit of difference to me;
she's only amusing. Please don't bother about it."

"I won't," said Ruth, "that is, I'll try not to."

They piled the dishes in the sink, "as a pleasant surprise for
Hepsey," he said, and the hours passed as if on wings. It was
almost ten o'clock before it occurred to Winfield that his
permanent abode was not Miss Hathaway's parlour.

As they stood at the door, talking, the last train came in. "Do
you know," said Winfield, "that every night, just as that train
comes in, your friend down there puts a candle in her front
window?"

"Well," rejoined Ruth, sharply, "what of it? It's a free country,
isn't it?"

"Very. Untrammelled press and highly independent women. Good
night, Miss Thorne. I'll be up the first thing in the morning."

She was about to speak, but slammed the door instead, and was
displeased when she heard a smothered laugh from outside.

IX. By Humble Means

As lightly as a rose petal upon the shimmering surface of a
stream, Summer was drifting away, but whither, no one seemed to
care. The odour of printer's ink upon the morning paper no longer
aroused vain longings in Winfield's breast, and Ruth had all but
forgotten her former connection with the newspaper world.

By degrees, Winfield had arranged a routine which seemed
admirable. Until luncheon time, he was with Ruth and, usually,
out of doors, according to prescription. In the afternoon, he
went up again, sometimes staying to dinner, and, always, he spent
his evenings there.

"Why don't you ask me to have my trunk sent up here?" he asked
Ruth, one day.

"I hadn't thought of it," she laughed. "I suppose it hasn't
seemed necessary."

"Miss Hathaway would be pleased, wouldn't she, if she knew she
had two guests instead of one?"

"Undoubtedly; how could she help it?"

"When do you expect her to return?"

"I don't know--I haven't heard a word from her. Sometimes I feel
a little anxious about her." Ruth would have been much concerned
for her relative's safety, had she known that the eccentric lady
had severed herself from the excursion and gone boldly into
Italy, unattended, and with no knowledge of the language.

Hepsey inquired daily for news of Miss Hathaway, but no tidings
were forthcoming. She amused herself in her leisure moments by
picturing all sorts of disasters in which her mistress was
doubtless engulfed, and in speculating upon the tie between Miss
Thorne and Mr. Winfield.

More often than not, it fell to Hepsey to light the lamp in the
attic window, though she did it at Miss Thorne's direction. "If I
forget it, Hepsey," she had said, calmly, "you'll see to it,
won't you?"

Trunks, cedar chests, old newspapers, and long hidden letters
were out of Ruth's province now. Once in two or three weeks, she
went to see Miss Ainslie, but never stayed long, though almost
every day she reproached herself for neglect.

Winfield's days were filled with peace, since he had learned how
to get on with Miss Thorne. When she showed herself stubborn and
unyielding, he retreated gracefully, and with a suggestion of
amusement, as a courtier may step aside gallantly for an angry
lady to pass. Ruth felt his mental attitude and, even though she
resented it, she was ashamed.

Having found that she could have her own way, she became less
anxious for it, and several times made small concessions, which
were apparently unconscious, but amusing, nevertheless. She had
none of the wiles of the coquette; she was transparent, and her
friendliness was disarming. If she wanted Winfield to stay at
home any particular morning or afternoon, she told him so. At
first he was offended, but afterward learned to like it, for she
could easily have instructed Hepsey to say that she was out.

The pitiless, unsympathetic calendar recorded the fact that July
was near its end, and Ruth sighed--then hated herself for it.

She had grown accustomed to idleness, and, under the
circumstances, liked it far too well.

One morning, when she went down to breakfast, Hepsey was
evidently perplexed about something, but Ruth took no outward
note of it, knowing that it would be revealed ere long.

"Miss Thorne," she said, tentatively, as Ruth rose from the
table.

"Yes?"

"Of course, Miss Thorne, I reckon likely't ain't none of my
business, but is Mr. Winfield another detective, and have you
found anything out yet?"

Ruth, inwardly raging, forced herself to let the speech pass
unnoticed, and sailed majestically out of the room. She was
surprised to discover that she could be made so furiously angry
by so small a thing.

Winfield was coming up the hill with the mail, and she tried to
cool her hot cheeks with her hands. "Let's go down on the side of
the hill," she said, as he gave her some letters and the paper;
"it's very warm in the sun, and I'd like the sea breeze."

They found a comparatively level place, with two trees to lean
against, and, though they were not far from the house, they were
effectually screened by the rising ground. Ruth felt that she
could not bear the sight of Hepsey just then.

After glancing at her letters she began to read aloud, with a
troubled haste which did not escape him. "Here's a man who had a
little piece of bone taken out of the inside of his skull," she
said. "Shall I read about that? He seems, literally, to have had
something on his mind."

"You're brilliant this morning," answered Winfield, gravely, and
she laughed hysterically.

"What's the matter with you?" he asked. "You don't seem like
yourself."

"It isn't nice of you to say that," she retorted, "considering
your previous remark."

There was a rumble and a snort on the road and, welcoming the
diversion, he went up to reconnoitre. "Joe's coming; is there
anything you want in the village?"

"No," she answered, wearily, "there's nothing I want--anywhere."

"You're an exceptional woman," returned Winfield, promptly, "and
I'd advise you to sit for your photograph. The papers would like
it--'Picture of the Only Woman Who Doesn't Want Anything'--why,
that would work off an extra in about ten minutes!"

Ruth looked at him for a moment, then turned her eyes away. He
felt vaguely uncomfortable, and was about to offer atonement when
Joe's deep bass voice called out:

"Hello!"

"Hello yourself!" came in Hepsey's highest tones, from the
garden.

"Want anything to-day?"

"Nope!"

There was a brief pause, and then Joe shouted again: "Hepsey!"

"Well?"

"I should think they'd break their vocal cords," said Winfield.

"I wish they would," rejoined Ruth, quickly.

"Come here!" yelled Joe. "I want to talk to yer."

"Talk from there," screamed Hepsey.

"Where's yer folks?"

"D'know."

"Say, be they courtin'?"

Hepsey left her work in the garden and came toward the front of
the house. "They walk out some," she said, when she was halfway
to the gate, "and they set up a good deal, and Miss Thorne told
me she didn't know as she'd do better, but you can't rightly say
they're courtin''cause city ways ain't like our'n."

The deep colour dyed Ruth's face and her hands twitched
nervously. Winfield very much desired to talk, but could think of
nothing to say. The situation was tense.

Joe clucked to his horses. "So long," he said. "See yer later."

Ruth held her breath until he passed them, and then broke down.
Her self control was quite gone, and she sobbed bitterly, in
grief and shame. Winfield tucked his handkerchief into her cold
hands, not knowing what else to do.

"Don't!" he said, as if he, too, had been hurt. "Ruth, dear,
don't cry!"

A new tenderness almost unmanned him, but he sat still with his
hands clenched, feeling like a brute because of her tears.

The next few minutes seemed like an hour, then Ruth raised her
head and tried to smile. "I expect you think I'm silly," she
said, hiding her tear stained face again.

"No!" he cried, sharply; then, with a catch in his throat, he put
his hand on her shoulder.

"Don't!" she sobbed, turning away from him, "what--what they
said--was bad enough!"

The last words ended in a rush of tears, and, sorely distressed,
he began to walk back and forth. Then a bright idea came to him.

"I'll be back in a minute," he said.

When he returned, he had a tin dipper, freshly filled with cold
water. "Don't cry any more," he pleaded, gently, "I'm going to
bathe your face."

Ruth leaned back against the tree and he knelt beside her. "Oh,
that feels so good," she said, gratefully, as she felt his cool
fingers upon her burning eyes. In a little while she was calm
again, though her breast still heaved with every fluttering
breath.

"You poor little woman," he said, tenderly, "you're just as
nervous as you can be. Don't feel so about it. just suppose it
was somebody who wasn't!"

"Who wasn't what?" asked Ruth, innocently.

Winfield crimsoned to the roots of his hair and hurled the dipper
into the distance.

"What--what--they said," he stammered, sitting down awkwardly.
"Oh, darn it!" He kicked savagely at a root, and added, in
bitterest self accusation, "I'm a chump, I am!"

"No you're not," returned Ruth, with sweet shyness, "you're nice.
Now we'll read some more of the paper."

He assumed a feverish interest in the market reports, but his
thoughts were wandering. Certainly, nothing could have been
worse. He felt as if a bud, which he had been long and eagerly
watching, was suddenly torn open by a vandal hand. When he first
touched Ruth's eyes with his finger tips, he had trembled like a
schoolboy, and he wondered if she knew it.

If she did, she made no sign. Her cheeks were flushed, the lids
of her downcast eyes were pink, and her voice had lost its crisp,
incisive tones, but she read rapidly, without comment or pause,
until the supply of news gave out. Then she began on the
advertisements, dreading the end of her task and vainly wishing
for more papers, though in her heart there was something sweet,
which, even to herself, she dared not name.

"That'll do," he said, abruptly, "I'm not interested in the
'midsummer glove clearing.' I meant to tell you something when I
first came--I've got to go away."

Ruth's heart throbbed painfully, as if some cold hand held it
fast. "Yes," she said, politely, not recognising her own voice.

"It's only for a week--I've got to go to the oculist and see
about some other things. I'll be back before long."

"I shall miss you," she said, conventionally. Then she saw that
he was going away to relieve her from the embarrassment of his
presence, and blessed him accordingly.

"When are you going?" she asked.

"This afternoon. I don't want to go, but it's just as well to
have it over with. Can I do anything for you in the city?"

"No, thank you. My wants are few and, at present, well supplied."

"Don't you want me to match something for you? I thought women
always had pieces of stuff that had to be matched immediately."

"They made you edit the funny column, didn't they?" she asked,
irrelevantly.

"They did, Miss Thorne, and, moreover, I expect I'll have to do
it again."

After a little, they were back on the old footing, yet everything
was different, for there was an obtruding self consciousness on
either side. "What time do you go?" she asked, with assumed
indifference.

"Three-fifteen, I think, and it's after one now."

He walked back to the house with her, and, for the second time
that day, Hepsey came out to sweep the piazza.

"Good bye, Miss Thorne," he said.

"Good bye, Mr. Winfield."

That was all, but Ruth looked up with an unspoken question and
his eyes met hers clearly, with no turning aside. She knew he
would come back very soon and she understood his answer--that he
had the right.

As she entered the house, Hepsey said, pleasantly: "Has he gone
away, Miss Thorne?"

"Yes," she answered, without emotion. She was about to say that
she did not care for luncheon, then decided that she must seem to
care.

Still, it was impossible to escape that keen-eyed observer. "You
ain't eatin' much," she suggested.

"I'm not very hungry."

"Be you sick, Miss Thorne?"

"No--not exactly. I've been out in the sun and my head aches,"
she replied, clutching at the straw.

"Do you want a wet rag?"

Ruth laughed, remembering an earlier suggestion of Winfield's.
"No, I don't want any wet rag, Hepsey, but I'll go up to my room
for a little while, I think. Please don't disturb me."

She locked her door, shutting out all the world from the nameless
joy that surged in her heart. The mirror disclosed flushed,
feverish cheeks and dark eyes that shone like stars. "Ruth
Thorne," she said to herself, "I'm ashamed of you! First you act
like a fool and then like a girl of sixteen!"

Then her senses became confused and the objects in the room
circled around her unsteadily. "I'm tired," she murmured. Her
head sank drowsily into the lavender scented pillow and she slept
too soundly to take note of the three o'clock train leaving the
station. It was almost sunset when she was aroused by voices
under her window.

"That feller's gone home," said Joe.

"Do tell!" exclaimed Hepsey. "Did he pay his board?"

"Yep, every cent. He's a-comin' back."

"When?"

"D'know. Don't she know?" The emphasis indicated Miss Thorne.

"I guess not," answered Hepsey. "They said good bye right in
front of me, and there wa'n't nothin' said about it."

"They ain't courtin', then," said Joe, after a few moments of
painful thought, and Ruth, in her chamber above, laughed happily
to herself.

"Mebbe not," rejoined Hepsey. "It ain't fer sech as me to say
when there's courtin' and when there ain't, after havin' gone
well nigh onto five year with a country loafer what ain't never
said nothin'." She stalked into the house, closed the door, and
noisily bolted it. Joe stood there for a moment, as one struck
dumb, then gave a long, low whistle of astonishment and walked
slowly down the hill.

X. Love Letters

"A week!" Ruth said to herself the next morning. "Seven long
days! No letter, because he mustn't write, no telegram, because
there's no office within ten miles--nothing to do but wait!"

When she went down to breakfast, Hepsey did not seem to hear her
cheery greeting, but was twisting her apron and walking about
restlessly. "Miss Thorne," she said, at length, "did you ever get
a love letter?"

"Why, yes, of course," laughed Ruth. "Every girl gets love
letters."

Hepsey brightened visibly, then inquired, with great seriousness:
"Can you read writin', Miss Thorne?"

"That depends on the writing."

"Yes'm, it does so. I can read some writin'--I can read Miss
Hathaway's writin', and some of the furrin letters she's had, but
I got some this mornin' I can't make out, nohow."

"Where did you find 'writing' this morning? It's too early for
the mail, isn't it?"

"Yes'm. It was stuck under the kitchen winder." Hepsey looked up
at the ceiling in an effort to appear careless, and sighed. Then
she clutched violently at the front of her blue gingham dress,
immediately repenting of her rashness. Ruth was inwardly amused
but asked no helpful questions.

Finally, Hepsey took the plunge. "Would you mind tryin' to make
out some writin' I've got, Miss Thorne?"

"Of course not--let me see it."

Hepsey extracted a letter from the inmost recesses of her attire
and stood expectantly, with her hands on her hips.

"Why, it's a love letter!" Ruth exclaimed.

"Yes'm. When you get through readin' it to yourself, will you
read it out loud?"

The letter, which was written on ruled note paper, bore every
evidence of care and thought. "Hepsey," it began, and, on the
line below, with a great flourish under it, "Respected Miss"
stood, in large capitals.

"Although it is now but a short interval," Ruth read, "since my
delighted eyes first rested on your beautiful form--"

"Five year!" interjected Hepsey.

"--yet I dare to hope that you will receive graciously what I am
about to say, as I am assured you will, if you reciprocate the
sentiments which you have aroused in my bosom.

"In this short time, dear Miss, brief though it is, yet it has
proved amply sufficient for my heart to go out to you in a
yearning love which I have never before felt for one of your sex.
Day by day and night by night your glorious image has followed
me."

"That's a lie," interrupted Hepsey, "he knows I never chased him
nowheres, not even when he took that red-headed Smith girl to the
Sunday-school picnic over to the Ridge, a year ago come August."

"Those dark tresses have entwined my soul in their silken meshes,
those deep eyes, that have borrowed their colour from Heaven's
cerulean blue, and those soft white hands, that have never been
roughened by uncongenial toil, have been ever present in my
dreams."

Ruth paused for a moment, overcome by her task, but Hepsey's face
was radiant. "Hurry up, Miss Thorne," she said, impatiently.

"In short, Dear Miss, I consider you the most surpassingly lovely
of your kind, and it is with pride swelling in my manly bosom
that I dare to ask so peerless a jewel for her heart and hand.

"My parentage, birth, and breeding are probably known to you, but
should any points remain doubtful, I will be pleased to present
references as to my character and standing in the community.

"I await with impatience, Madam, your favourable answer to my
plea. Rest assured that if you should so honour me as to accept
my proposal, I will endeavour to stand always between you and the
hard, cruel world, as your faithful shield. I will also endeavour
constantly to give you a happiness as great as that which will
immediately flood my bing upon receipt of your blushing
acceptance.

"I remain, Dear Miss, your devoted lover and humble servant,

"JOSEPH PENDLETON, ESQ."

"My! My!" ejaculated Hepsey. "Ain't that fine writin'!"

"It certainly is," responded Miss Thorne, keeping her face
straight with difficulty.

"Would you mind readin' it again?"

She found the second recital much easier, since she was partially
accustomed to the heavy punctuation marks and shaded flourishes.
At first, she had connected Winfield with the effusion, but
second thought placed the blame where it belonged--at the door of
a "Complete Letter Writer."

"Miss Thorne," said Hepsey, hesitating.

"Yes?"

"Of course, I'd like my answer to be as good writin' as his'n."

"Naturally."

"Where d'you s'pose he got all that lovely grammar?"

"Grammar is a rare gift, Hepsey."

"Yes'm,'t is so. Miss Thorne, do you guess you could write as
good as that?"

"I'd be willing to try," returned Ruth, with due humility.

Hepsey thought painfully for a few moments. "I'd know jest what
I'd better say. Now, last night, I give Joe a hint, as you may
say, but I wouldn't want him to think I'd jest been a-waitin' for
him."

"No, of course not."

"Ain't it better to keep him in suspense, as you may say?"

"Far better, Hepsey; he'll think more of you."

"Then I'll jest write that I'm willin' to think it over, and if
you'll put it on a piece of paper fer me, I'll write it out with
ink. I've got two sheets of paper jest like this, with nice blue
lines onto it,that I've been a-savin' fer a letter, and Miss
Hathaway, she's got ink."

Ruth sat down to compose an answer which should cast a shadow
over the "Complete Letter Writer." Her pencil flew over the rough
copy paper with lightning speed, while Hepsey stood by in
amazement.

"Listen," she said, at length, "how do you like this?"

"MR. JOSEPH PENDLETON--

"Respected Sir: Although your communication of recent date was a
great surprise to me, candour compels me to confess that it was
not entirely disagreeable. I have observed, though with true
feminine delicacy, that your affections were inclined to settle
in my direction, and have not repelled your advances.

"Still, I do not feel that as yet we are sufficiently acquainted
to render immediate matrimony either wise or desirable, and since
the suddenness of your proposal has in a measure taken my breath
away, I must beg that you will allow me a proper interval in
which to consider the matter, and, in the meantime, think of me
simply as your dearest friend.

"I may add, in conclusion, that your character and standing in
the community are entirely satisfactory to me. Thanking you for
the honour you have conferred upon me, believe me, Dear Sir,

"Your sincere friend,

"HEPSEY."

"My!" exclaimed Hepsey, with overmastering pride; "ain't that
beautiful! It's better than his'n, ain't it?"

"I wouldn't say that," Ruth replied, with proper modesty, "but I
think it will do."

"Yes'm. 'Twill so. Your writin' ain't nothin' like Joe's," she
continued, scanning it closely, "but it's real pretty." Then a
bright idea illuminated her countenance. "Miss Thorne, if you'll
write it out on the note paper with a pencil, I can go over it
with the ink, and afterward, when it's dry, I'll rub out the
pencil. It'll be my writin' then, but it'll look jest like
yours."

"All right, Hepsey."

She found it difficult to follow the lines closely, but at length
achieved a respectable result. "I'll take good care of it,"
Hepsey said, wrapping the precious missive in a newspaper, "and
this afternoon, when I get my work done up, I'll fix it. Joe'll
be surprised, won't he?"

Late in the evening, when Hepsey came to Ruth, worn with the
unaccustomed labours of correspondence, and proudly displayed the
nondescript epistle, she was compelled to admit that unless Joe
had superhuman qualities he would indeed "be surprised."

The next afternoon Ruth went down to Miss Ainslie's. "You've been
neglecting me, dear," said that gentle soul, as she opened the
door.

"I haven't meant to," returned Ruth, conscience-stricken, as she
remembered how long it had been since the gate of the old-
fashioned garden had swung on its hinges for her.

A quiet happiness had settled down upon Ruth and the old
perturbed spirit was gone, but Miss Ainslie was subtly different.
"I feel as if something was going to happen," she said.

"Something nice?"

"I--don't know." The sweet face was troubled and there were fine
lines about the mouth, such as Ruth had never seen there before.

"You're nervous, Miss Ainslie--it's my turn to scold now."

"I never scolded you, did I deary?"

"You couldn't scold anybody--you're too sweet. You're not
unhappy, are you, Miss Ainslie?"

"I? Why, no! Why should I be unhappy?" Her deep eyes were fixed
upon Ruth.

"I--I didn't know," Ruth answered, in confusion.

"I learned long ago," said Miss Ainslie, after a little, "that we
may be happy or not, just as we choose. Happiness is not a
circumstance, nor a set of circumstances; it's only a light, and
we may keep it burning if we will. So many of us are like
children, crying for the moon, instead of playing contentedly
with the few toys we have. We're always hoping for something, and
when it does n't come we fret and worry ; when it does, why
there's always something else we'd rather have. We deliberately
make nearly all of our unhappiness, with our own unreasonable
discontent, and nothing will ever make us happy, deary, except
the spirit within."

"But, Miss Ainslie," Ruth objected, "do you really think
everybody can be happy?"

"Of course--everybody who wishes to be. Some people are happier
when they're miserable. I don't mean, deary, that it's easy for
any of us, and it's harder for some than for others, all because
we never. grow up. We're always children--our playthings are a
little different, that's all."

"'Owning ourselves forever children,' quoted Ruth, "'gathering
pebbles on a boundless shore.'"

"Yes, I was just thinking of that. A little girl breaks her doll,
and though the new one may be much prettier, it never wholly
fills the vacant place, and it's that way with a woman's dream."
The sweet voice sank into a whisper, followed by a lingering
sigh.

"Miss Ainslie," said Ruth, after a pause, "did you know my
mother?"

"No, I didn't, deary--I'm sorry. I saw her once or twice, but she
went away, soon after we came here."

"Never mind," Ruth said, hurriedly, for Mrs. Thorne's family had
never forgiven her runaway marriage.

"Come into the garden," Miss Ainslie suggested, and Ruth followed
her, willingly, into the cloistered spot where golden lilies
tinkled, thrushes sang, and every leaf breathed peace.

Miss Ainslie gathered a bit of rosemary, crushing it between her
white fingers. "See," she said, "some of us are like that it
takes a blow to find the sweetness in our souls. Some of us need
dry, hard places, like the poppies "--pointing to a mass of
brilliant bloom--"and some of us are always thorny, like the
cactus, with only once in a while a rosy star.

"I've always thought my flowers had souls, dear," she went on;
"they seem like real people to me. I've seen the roses rubbing
their cheeks together as if they loved each other, and the
forget-me-nots are little blue-eyed children, half afraid of the
rest.

"Over there, it always seems to me as if the lavender was a
little woman in a green dress, with a lavender bonnet and a white
kerchief. She's one of those strong, sweet, wholesome people, who
always rest you, and her sweetness lingers long after she goes
away. I gather all the flowers, and every leaf, though the
flowers are sweetest. I put the leaves away with my linen and the
flowers among my laces. I have some beautiful lace, deary."

"I know you have--I've often admired it."

"I'm going to show it to you some day," she said, with a little
quiver in her voice, "and some other day, when I can't wear it
any more, you shall have some of it for your own."

"Don't, Miss Ainslie," cried Ruth, the quick tears coming to her
eyes, "I don't want any lace--I want you!"

"I know," she answered, but there was a far-away look in her
eyes, and something in her voice that sounded like a farewell.

"Miss Thorne," called Joe from the gate, "here's a package for
yer. It come on the train."

He waited until Ruth went to him and seemed disappointed when she
turned back into the garden. "Say," he shouted, "is Hepsey to
home?"

Ruth was busy with the string and did not hear. "Oh, look!" she
exclaimed, "what roses!"

"They're beautiful, deary. I do not think I have ever seen such
large ones. Do you know what they are?"

"American Beauties--they're from Mr. Winfield. He knows I love
them."

Miss Ainslie started violently. "From whom, dear?" she asked, in
a strange tone.

"Mr. Winfield--he's going to be on the same paper with me in the
Fall. He's here for the Summer, on account of his eyes."

Miss Ainslie was bending over the lavender.

"It is a very common name, is it not?" she asked.

"Yes, quite common," answered Ruth, absently, taking the roses
out of the box.

"You must bring him to see me some time, dear; I should like to
know him."

"Thank you, Miss Ainslie, I will."

They stood at the gate together, and Ruth put a half blown rose
into her hand. "I wouldn't give it to anybody but you," she said,
half playfully, and then Miss Ainslie knew her secret. She put
her hand on Ruth's arm and looked down into her face, as if there
was something she must say.

"I don't forget the light, Miss Ainslie."

"I know," she breathed, in answer. She looked long and
searchingly into Ruth's eyes, then whispered brokenly, "God bless
you, dear. Good bye!"

XI. The Rose of all the World

"He didn't forget me! He didn't forget me!" Ruth's heart sang in
time with her step as she went home. Late afternoon flooded all
the earth with gold, and from the other side of the hill came the
gentle music of the sea.

The doors were open, but there was no trace of Hepsey. She put
the roses in her water pitcher, and locked her door upon them as
one hides a sacred joy. She went out again, her heart swelling
like the throat of a singing bird, and walked to the brow of the
cliff, with every sense keenly alive. Upon the surface of the
ocean lay that deep, translucent blue which only Tadema has dared
to paint.

"I must go down," she murmured.

Like a tawny ribbon trailed upon the green, the road wound down
the hill. She followed it until she reached the side path on the
right, and went down into the woods. The great boughs arched over
her head like the nave of a cathedral, and the Little People of
the Forest, in feathers and fur, scattered as she approached.
Bright eyes peeped at her from behind tree trunks, or the safe
shelter of branches, and rippling bird music ended in a
frightened chirp,

"Oh," she said aloud, "don't be afraid!"

Was this love, she wondered, that lay upon her eyes like the dew
of a Spring morning, that made the air vocal with rapturous song,
and wrought white magic in her soul? It had all the mystery ind
freshness of the world's beginning; it was the rush of waters
where sea and river meet, the perfume of a flower, and the far
light trembling from a star. It was sunrise where there had been
no day, the ecstasy of a thousand dawns; a new sun gleaming upon
noon. All the joy of the world surged and beat in her pulses,
till it seemed that her heart had wings.

Sunset came upon the water, the colour on the horizon reflecting
soft iridescence upon the blue. Slow sapphire surges broke at her
feet, tossing great pearls of spray against the cliff. Suddenly,
as if by instinct, she turned--and faced Winfield.

"Thank you for the roses," she cried, with her face aglow.

He gathered her into his arms. "Oh, my Rose of All the World," he
murmured, "have I found you at last?"

It was almost dusk when they turned to go home, with their arms
around each other, as if they were the First Two, wandering
through the shaded groves of Paradise, before sin came into the
world.

"Did you think it would be like this?" she asked, shyly.

"No, I didn't, darling. I thought it would be very prim and
proper. I never dreamed you'd let me kiss you--yes, I did, too,
but I thought it was too good to be true."

"I had to--to let you," she explained, crimsoning, "but nobody
ever did before. I always thought--" Then Ruth hid her face
against his shoulder, in maidenly shame.

When they came to the log across the path, they sat down, very
close together. "You said we'd fight if we came here," Ruth
whispered.

"We're not going to, though. I want to tell you something, dear,
and I haven't had the words for it till now."

"What is it?" she asked, in alarm.

"It's only that I love you, Ruth," he said, holding her closer,
"and when I've said that, I've said all. It isn't an idle word;
it's all my life that I give you, to do with as you will. It
isn't anything that's apart from you, or ever could be; it's as
much yours as your hands or eyes are. I didn't know it for a
little while--that's because I was blind. To think that I should
go up to see you, even that first day, without knowing you for my
sweetheart--my wife!"

"No, don't draw away from me. You little wild bird, are you
afraid of Love? It's the sweetest thing God ever let a man dream
of, Ruth--there's nothing like it in all the world. Look up,
Sweet Eyes, and say you love me!"

Ruth's head drooped, and he put his hand under her chin, turning
her face toward him, but her eyes were downcast still. "Say it,
darling," he pleaded.

"I--I can't," she stammered.

"Why, dear?"

"Because--because--you know."

"I want you to say it, sweetheart. Won't you?"

"Sometime, perhaps."

"When?"

"When--when it's dark."

"It's dark now."

"No it isn't. How did you know?"

"How did I know what, dear?"

"That I--that I--cared."

"I knew the day you cried. I didn't know myself until then, but
it all came in a minute."

"I was afraid you were going to stay away a whole week."

"I couldn't, darling--I just had to come."

"Did you see everybody you wanted to see?"

"I couldn't see anything but your face, Ruth, with the tears on
it. I've got to go back to-morrow and have another try at the
oculist."

"Oh!" she exclaimed, in acute disappointment.

"It's the last time, sweetheart; we'll never be separated again."

"Never?"

"Never in all the world--nor afterward."

"I expect you think I'm silly," she said, wiping her eyes, as
they rose to go home, "but I don't want you to go away."

"I don't want to go, dearest. If you're going to cry, you'll have
me a raving maniac. I can't stand it, now."

"I'm not going to," she answered, smiling through her tears, "but
it's a blessed privilege to have a nice stiff collar and a new
tie to cry on."

"They're at your service, dear, for anything but that. I suppose
we're engaged now, aren't we?"

"I don't know," said Ruth, in a low tone; "you haven't asked me
to marry you."

"Do you want me to?"

"It's time, isn't it?"

Winfield bent over and whispered to her.

"I must think about it," said Ruth, very gravely, "it's so
sudden."

"Oh, you sweet girl," he laughed, "aren't you going to give me
any encouragement?"

"You've had some."

"I want another," he answered, purposely misunderstanding her,
"and besides, it's dark now."

The sweet-scented twilight still lingered on the hillside, and a
star or two gleamed through the open spaces above. A moment
later, Ruth, in her turn, whispered to him. It was only a word or
two, but the bright-eyed robins who were peeping at them from the
maple branches must have observed that it was highly
satisfactory.

XII. Bride and Groom

Though Winfield had sternly determined to go back to town the
following day, he did not achieve departure until later. Ruth
went to the station with him, and desolation came upon her when
the train pulled out, in spite of the new happiness in her heart.

She had little time to miss him, however, for, at the end of the
week, and in accordance with immemorial custom, the Unexpected
happened.

She was sitting at her window one morning, trying to sew, when
the village chariot stopped at the gate and a lady descended. Joe
stirred lazily on the front seat, but she said, in a clear,
high-pitched voice: "You needn't trouble yourself, Joe. He'll
carry the things."

She came toward the house, fanning herself with a certain
stateliness, and carrying her handkerchief primly, by the exact
centre of it. In her wake was a little old gentleman, with a huge
bundle, surrounded by a shawl-strap, a large valise, much the
worse for wear, a telescope basket which was expanded to its full
height, and two small parcels. A cane was tucked under one arm
and an umbrella under the other. He could scarcely be seen behind
the mountain of baggage.

Hepsey was already at the door. "Why, Miss Hathaway!" she cried,
in astonishment.

"'T ain't Miss Hathaway," rejoined the visitor, with some
asperity, "it's Mrs. Ball, and this is my husband. Niece Ruth, I
presume," she added, as Miss Thorne appeared. "Ruth, let me
introduce you to your Uncle James."

The bride was of medium height and rather angular. Her eyes were
small, dark, and so piercingly brilliant that they suggested jet
beads. Her skin was dark and her lips had been habitually
compressed into a straight line. None the less, it was the face
that Ruth had seen in the ambrotype at Miss Ainslie's, with the
additional hardness that comes to those who grow old without
love. Her bearing was that of a brisk, active woman, accustomed
all her life to obedience and respect.

Mr. Ball was two or three inches shorter than his wife, and had a
white beard, irregularly streaked with brown. He was baldheaded
in front, had scant, reddish hair in the back, and his faded blue
eyes were tearful. He had very small feet and the unmistakable
gait of a sailor. Though there was no immediate resemblance, Ruth
was sure that he was the man whose picture was in Aunt Jane's
treasure chest in the attic. The daredevil look was gone,
however, and he was merely a quiet, inoffensive old gentleman,
for whom life had been none too easy.

"Welcome to your new home, James," said his wife, in a crisp,
businesslike tone, which but partially concealed a latent
tenderness. He smiled, but made no reply.

Hepsey still stood in the parlour, in wide mouthed astonishment,
and it was Ruth's good fortune to see the glance which Mrs. Ball
cast upon her offending maid. There was no change of expression
except in the eyes, but Hepsey instantly understood that she was
out of her place, and retreated to the kitchen with a flush upon
her cheeks, which was altogether foreign to Ruth's experience.

"You can set here, James," resumed Mrs. Ball, "until I have taken
off my things."

The cherries on her black straw bonnet were shaking on their
stems in a way which fascinated Ruth. "I'll take my things out of
the south room, Aunty," she hastened to say.

"You won't, neither," was the unexpected answer; "that's the
spare room, and, while you stay, you'll stay there."

Ruth was wondering what to say to her new uncle and sat in
awkward silence as Aunt Jane ascended the stairs. Her step
sounded lightly overhead and Mr. Ball twirled his thumbs
absently. "You--you've come a long way, haven't you?" she
asked.

"Yes'm, a long way." Then, seemingly for the first time, he
looked at her, and a benevolent expression came upon his face.
"You've got awful pretty hair, Niece Ruth," he observed,
admiringly; "now Mis' Ball, she wears a false front."

The lady of the house returned at this juncture, with the false
front a little askew. "I was just a-sayin'," Mr. Ball continued,
"that our niece is a real pleasant lookin' woman."

"She's your niece by marriage," his wife replied, "but she ain't
no real relative."

"Niece by merriage is relative enough," said Mr.Ball, "and I say
she's a pleasant lookin' woman, ain't she, now?"

"She'll do, I reckon. She resembles her Ma." Aunt Jane looked at
Ruth, as if pitying the sister who had blindly followed the
leadings of her heart and had died unforgiven.

"Why didn't you let me know you were coming, Aunt Jane?" asked
Ruth. "I've been looking for a letter every day and I understood
you weren't coming back until October."

"I trust I am not unwelcome in my own house," was the somewhat
frigid response.

"No indeed, Aunty--I hope you've had a pleasant time."

"We've had a beautiful time, ain't we, James? We've been on our
honeymoon."

"Yes'm, we hev been on our honeymoon, travellin' over strange
lands an' furrin wastes of waters. Mis' Ball was terrible sea
sick comin' here."

"In a way," said Aunt Jane, "we ain't completely married. We was
married by a heathen priest in a heathen country and it ain't
rightfully bindin', but we thought it would do until we could get
back here and be married by a minister of the gospel, didn't we,
James?"

"It has held," he said, without emotion, "but I reckon we will
hev to be merried proper."

"Likewise I have my weddin' dress," Aunt Jane went on, "what
ain't never been worn. It's a beautiful dress--trimmed with pearl

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