Part 2 out of 2
then not even these,--nothing but the beating of her own heart.
She sat down heavily, feeling as if she were wide awake for the
first time in many weeks. How had things come to this pass with
Claude Merrill had flattered her vanity and given her some
moments of restlessness and dissatisfaction with her lot; but he
had not until to-day really touched her heart or tempted her,
even momentarily, from her allegiance to Stephen. His eyes had
always looked unspeakable things; his voice had seemed to breathe
feelings that he had never dared put in words; but to-day he had
really stirred her, for although he had still been vague, it was
easy to see that his love for her had passed all bounds of
discretion. She remembered his impassioned farewells, his
despair, his doubt as to whether he could forget her by plunging
into the vortex of business, or whether he had better end it all
in the river, as so many other broken-hearted fellows had done.
She had been touched by his misery, even against her better
judgment; and she had intended to confess it all to Stephen
sometime, telling him that she should never again accept
attentions from a stranger, lest a tragedy like this should
happen twice in a lifetime.
She had imagined that Stephen would be his large-minded,
great-hearted, magnanimous self, and beg her to forget this
fascinating will-o'the-wisp by resting in his deeper, serener
love. She had meant to be contrite and faithful, praying nightly
that poor Claude might live down his present anguish, of which
she had been the innocent cause.
Instead, what had happened? She had been put altogether in the
wrong. Stephen had almost cast her off, and that, too, without
argument. He had given her her liberty before she had asked for
it, taking it for granted, without question, that she desired to
be rid of him. Instead of comforting her in her remorse, or
sympathizing with her for so nobly refusing to shine in Claude's
larger world of Boston, Stephen had assumed that she was disloyal
in every particular.
And pray how was she to cope with such a disagreeable and
It would not be long before the gossips rolled under their
tongues the delicious morsel of a broken engagement, and sooner
or later she must brave the displeasure of her grandmother.
And the little house--that was worse than anything. Her tears
flowed faster as she thought of Stephen's joy in it, of his
faithful labor, of the savings he had invested in it. She hated
and despised her self when she thought of the house, and for the
first time in her life she realized the limitations of her
nature, the poverty of her ideals.
What should she do? She had lost Stephen and ruined his life.
Now, in order that she need not blight a second career, must she
contrive to return Claude's love! To be sure, she thought, it
seemed indecent to marry any other man than Stephen, when they
had built a house together, and chosen wall-papers, and a kitchen
stove, and dining-room chairs; but was it not the only way to
evade the difficulties?
Suppose that Stephen, in a fit of pique, should ask somebody else
to share the new cottage?
As this dreadful possibility came into view, Rose's sobs actually
frightened the birds and the squirrels. She paced back and forth
under the trees, wondering how she could have been engaged to a
man for eight months and know so little about him as she seemed
to know about Stephen Waterman to-day. Who would have believed
he could be so autocratic, so severe, so unapproachable! Who
could have foreseen that she, Rose Wiley, would ever be given up
to another man,--handed over as coolly as if she had been a
bale of cotton? She wanted to return Claude Merrill's love
because it was the only way out of the tangle; but at the moment
she almost hated him for making so much trouble, for hurting
Stephen, for abasing her in her own eyes, and, above all, for
giving her rustic lover the chance of impersonating an injured
It did not simplify the situation to have Mite Shapley come in
during the evening and run upstairs, uninvited, to sit on the
toot of her bed and chatter.
Rose had closed her blinds and lay in the dark, pleading a
Mite was in high feather. She had met Claude Merrill going to
the station that afternoon. He was much too early for the train,
which the station agent reported to be behind time, so he had
asked her to take a drive. She didn't know how it happened, for
he looked at his watch every now and then; but, anyway, they got
to laughing and "carrying on," and when they came back to the
station the train had gone. Wasn't that the greatest joke of
the season? What did Rose suppose they did next?
Rose didn't know and didn't care; her head ached too badly.
Well, they had driven to Wareham, and Claude had hired a livery
team there, and had been taken into Portland with his trunk, and
she had brought Mrs. Brooks's horse back to Edgewood. Wasn't
that ridiculous? And hadn't she cut out Rose where she least
Rose was distinctly apathetic, and Mite Shapley departed after a
very brief call, leaving behind her an entirely new train of
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
ROSE SEES THE WORLD
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 bluntin 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
These foes to her peace of mind all came from within; but without
was the hourly reproach of her grandmother, whose scorching
tongue touched every sensitive spot in the girl's nature and
burned it like fire.
Finally a way of escape opened. Mrs. Wealthy Brooks, who had
always been rheumatic, grew suddenly worse. She had heard of a
"magnetic" physician in Boston, also of one who used electricity
with wonderful effect, and she announced her intention of taking
both treatments impartially and alternately. The neighbors were
quite willing that Wealthy Ann Brooks should spend the deceased
Ezra's money in any way she pleased,--she had earned it,
goodness knows, by living with him for twenty-five years,--but
before the day for her departure arrived her right arm and knee
became so much more painful that it was impossible for her to
At this juncture Rose was called upon to act as nurse and
companion in a friendly way. She seized the opportunity hungrily
as a way out of her present trouble; but, knowing what Mrs.
Brooks's temper was in time of health, she could see clearly what
it was likely to prove when pain and anguish wrung the brow.
Rose had been in Boston now for some weeks, and she was sitting
in the Joy Street boarding-house,--Joy Street, forsooth! It
was nearly bedtime, and she was looking out upon a huddle of
roofs and back yards, upon a landscape filled with clothes-lines,
ash-barrels, and ill-fed cats. There were no sleek country
tabbies, with the memory in their eyes of tasted cream, nothing
but city-born, city-bred, thin, despairing cats of the pavement,
cats no more forlorn than Rose herself.
She had "seen Boston," for she had accompanied Mrs. Brooks in the
horse-cars daily to the two different temples of healing where
that lady worshipped and offered sacrifices. She had also gone
with Maude Arthurlena to Claude Merrill's store to buy pair of
gloves, and had overheard Miss Dir (the fashionable
"lady-assistant" before mentioned) say to Miss Brackett of the
ribbon department, that she thought Mr. Merrill must have worn
his blinders that time he stayed so long in Edgewood. This bit
of polished irony was unintelligible to Rose at first, but she
mastered it after an hour's reflection. She wasn't looking her
best that day, she knew; the cotton dresses that seemed so pretty
at home were common and countrified here, and her best black
cashmere looked cheap and shapeless beside Miss Dir's
brilliantine. Miss Dir's figure was her strong point, and her
dressmaker was particularly skillful in the arts of suggestion,
concealment, and revelation. Beauty has its chosen backgrounds.
Rose in white dimity, standing knee deep in her blossoming brier
bushes, the river running at her feet, dark pine trees behind her
graceful head, sounded depths and touched heights of harmony
forever beyond the reach of the modish Miss Dir, but she was out
of her element and suffered accordingly.
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
Rose dared not ask questions on so delicate a topic, but she
remembered in a flash Miss Dir'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
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; at least it was June in Edgewood, and she supposed for
convenience's sake they called it June in Boston. Not that it
mattered much what the poor city prisoners called it. How
beautiful the river would be at home, with the trees along the
banks in full leaf! How she hungered and thirsted for the river,
--to see it sparkle in the sunlight; to watch the moonglade
stretching from one bank to the other; to hear the soft lap of
the water on the shore, and the distant murmur of the falls at
the bridge! And the Brier Neighborhood would be at its
loveliest, for the wild roses were in blossom by now. And the
little house! How sweet it must look under the shade of the
elms, with the Saco rippling at the back! Was poor Rufus still
lying in a darkened room, and was Stephen nursing him,--
disappointed Stephen,--dear, noble old Stephen?
GOLD AND PINCHBECK
Just then Mrs. Brooks groaned in the next room and called Rose,
who went in to minister to her real needs, or to condole with her
fancied ones, whichever course of action appeared to be the more
agreeable at the moment.
Mrs. Brooks desired conversation, it seemed, or at least she
desired an audience for a monologue, for she recognized no
antiphonal obligations on the part of her listeners. The doctors
were not doing her a speck of good, and she was just squandering
money in a miserable boarding-house, when she might be enjoying
poor health in her own home; and she didn't believe her hens
were receiving proper care, and she had forgotten to pull down
the shades in the spare room, and the sun would fade the carpet
out all white before she got back, and she didn't believe Dr.
Smith's magnetism was any more use than a cat's foot, nor Dr.
Robinson's electricity any better than a bumblebee's buzz, and
she had a great mind to go home and try Dr. Lord from Bonnie
Eagle; and there was a letter for Rose on the bureau, which had
come before supper, but the shiftless, lazy, worthless landlady
had forgotten to send it up till just now.
The letter was from Mite Shapley, but Rose could read only half
of it to Mrs. Brooks,--little beside the news that the Waterman
barn, the finest barn in the whole township, had been struck by
lightning and burned to the ground. Stephen was away at the
time, having taken Rufus to Portland, where an operation on his
eyes would shortly be performed at the hospital, and one of the
neighbors was sleeping at the River Farm and taking care of the
cattle; still the house might not have been saved but for one of
Alcestis Crambry's sudden bursts of common sense, which occurred
now quite regularly. He succeeded not only in getting the horses
out of the stalls, but gave the alarm so promptly that the whole
neighborhood was soon on the scene of action. Stephen was the
only man, Mite reminded Rose, who ever had any patience with, or
took any pains to teach, Alcestis, but he never could have
expected to be rewarded in this practical way. The barn was only
partly insured; and when she had met Stephen at the station next
day, and condoled with him on his loss, he had said: "Oh, well,
Mite, a little more or less doesn't make much difference just
"The rest wouldn't interest you, Mrs. Brooks," said Rose,
precipitately preparing to leave the room.
"Something about Claude, I suppose," ventured that astute lady.
"I think Mite kind of fancied him. I don't believe he ever gave
her any real encouragement; but he'd make love to a pump, Claude
Merrill would; and so would his father before him. How my sister
Abby made out to land him we never knew, for they said he'd
proposed to every woman in the town of Bingham, not excepting the
wooden Indian girl in front of the cigar store, and not one of
'em but our Abby ever got a chance to name the day. Abby was as
set as the everlastin' hills, and if she'd made up her mind to
have a man he couldn't wriggle away from her nohow in the world.
It beats all how girls do run after these slick-haired,
sweet-tongued, Miss Nancy kind o' fellers, that ain't but little
good as beaux an' worth less than nothing as husbands."
Rose scarcely noticed what Mrs. Brooks said, she was too anxious
to read the rest of Mite Shapley's letter in the quiet of her own
"Stephen looks thin and pale [so it ran on], but he does not
allow anybody to sympathize with him. I think you ought to know
something that I haven't told you before for fear of hurting your
feelings; but if I were in your place I'd like to hear
everything, and then you'll know how to act when you come home.
Just after you left, Stephen plowed up all the land in front of
your new house,--every inch of it, all up and down the road,
between the fence and the front door-step,--and then he planted
corn where you were going to have your flower-beds.
"He has closed all the blinds and hung a 'To Let' sign on the
large elm at the gate. Stephen never was spiteful in his life,
but this looks a little like spite. Perhaps he only wanted to
save his self-respect and let people know, that everything
between you was over forever. Perhaps he thought it would stop
talk once and for all. But you won't mind, you lucky girl,
staying nearly three months in Boston! [So Almira purled on in
violet ink, with shaded letters.] How I wish it had come my way,
though I'm not good at rubbing rheumatic patients, even when they
are his aunt. Is he as devoted as ever? And when will it be?
How do you like the theatre? Mother thinks you won't attend;
but, by what he used to say, I am sure church members in Boston
always go to amusements.
"Your loving friend,
"P.S. They say Rufus's doctor's bills here, and the operation
and hospital expenses in Portland, will mount up to five hundred
dollars. Of course Stephen will be dreadfully hampered by the
loss of his barn, and maybe he wants to let your house that was
to be, because he really needs money. In that case the dooryard
won't be very attractive to tenants, with corn planted right up
to the steps--and no path left! It's two feet tall now, and by
August (just when you were intending to move in) it will hide the
front windows. Not that you'll care, with a diamond on your
The letter was more than flesh and blood could stand, and Rose
flung herself on her bed to think and regret and repent, and, if
possible, to sob herself to sleep.
She knew now that she had never admired and respected Stephen so
much as at the moment when, under the reproach of his eyes, she
had given him back his ring. When she left Edgewood and parted
with him forever she had really loved him better than when she
had promised to marry him.
Claude Merrill, on his native Boston heath, did not appear the
romantic, inspiring figure he had once been in her eyes. A week
ago she distrusted him; to-night she despised him.
What had happened to Rose was the dilation of her vision. She
saw things under a wider sky and in a clearer light. Above all,
her heart was wrung with pity for Stephen--Stephen, with no
comforting woman's hand to help him in his sore trouble; Stephen,
bearing his losses alone, his burdens and anxieties alone, his
nursing and daily work alone. Oh, how she felt herself needed!
Needed! that was the magic word that unlocked her better nature.
"Darkness is the time for making roots and establishing plants,
whether of the soil or of the soul," and all at once Rose had
become a woman: a little one, perhaps, but a whole woman--and
a bit of an angel, too, with healing in her wings. When and how
had this metamorphosis come about? Last summer the fragile
brier-rose had hung over the river and looked at its pretty
reflection in the placid surface of the water. Its few buds and
blossoms were so lovely, it sighed for nothing more. The changes
in the plant had been wrought secretly and silently. In some
mysterious way, as common to soul as to plant life, the roots had
gathered in more nourishment from the earth, they had stored up
strength and force, and all at once there was a marvelous
fructifying of the plant, hardiness of stalk, new shoots
everywhere, vigorous leafage, and a shower of blossoms.
But everything was awry: Boston was a failure; Claude was a
weakling and a flirt; her turquoise ring was lying on the
riverbank; Stephen did not love her any longer; her flower-beds
were plowed up and planted in corn; and the cottage that Stephen
had built and she had furnished, that beloved cottage, was to
She was in Boston; but what did that amount to, after all? What
was the State House to a bleeding heart, or the Old South Church
to a pride wounded like hers?
At last she fell asleep, but it was only by stopping her ears to
the noises of the city streets and making herself imagine the
sound of the river rippling under her bedroom windows at home.
The back yards of Boston faded, and in their place came the banks
of the Saco, strewn with pine needles, fragrant with wild
flowers. Then there was the bit of sunny beach, where Stephen
moored his boat. She could hear the sound of his paddle. Boston
lovers came a-courting in the horse-cars, but hers had floated
down stream to her just at dusk in a birch-bark canoe, or
sometimes, in the moonlight, on a couple of logs rafted together.
But it was all over now, and she could see only Stephen's stern
face as he flung the despised turquoise ring down the river bank.
A COUNTRY CHEVALIER
It was early in August when Mrs. Wealthy Brooks announced her
speedy return from Boston to Edgewood.
"It's jest as well Rose is comin' back," said Mr. Wiley to his
wife. "I never favored her goin' to Boston, where that rosyposy
Claude feller is. When he was down here he was kep' kind o' tied
up in a boxstall, but there he's caperin' loose round the
"I should think Rose would be ashamed to come back, after the way
she's carried on," remarked Mrs. Wiley, "but if she needed
punishment I guess she's got it bein' comp'ny-keeper to Wealthy
Ann Brooks. Bein' a church member in good an' reg'lar standin',
I s'pose Wealthy Ann'll go to heaven, but I can only say that it
would be a sight pleasanter place for a good many if she didn't."
"Rose has be'n foolish an' flirty an' wrong-headed," allowed her
grandfather; "but it won't do no good to treat her like a
hardened criminile, same's you did afore she went away. She
ain't hardly got her wisdom teeth cut, in love affairs! She
ain't broke the laws of the State o' Maine, nor any o' the ten
commandments; she ain't disgraced the family, an' there's a
chance for her to reform, seein' as how she ain't twenty year old
yet. I was turrible wild an' hot-headed myself afore you ketched
me an' tamed me down."
"You ain't so tame now as I wish you was," Mrs. Wiley replied
"If you could smoke a clay pipe 'twould calm your nerves, mother,
an' help you to git some philosophy inter you; you need a little
philosophy turrible bad."
"I need patience consid'able more," was Mrs. Wiley's withering
"That's the way with folks," said Old Kennebec reflectively, as
he went on peacefully puffing. "If you try to indoose 'em to
take an int'rest in a bran'-new virtue, they won't look at it;
but they'll run down a side street an' buy half a yard more o'
some turrible old shopworn trait o' character that they've kep'
in stock all their lives, an' that everybody's sick to death of.
There was a man in Gard'ner"--
But alas! the experiences of the Gardiner man, though told in the
same delightful fashion that had won Mrs. Wiley's heart many
years before, now fell upon the empty air. In these years of Old
Kennebec's "anecdotage," his pipe was his best listener and his
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
and 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, t'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 flowerbeds 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 dust settle on the
furniture that he and Rose had chosen together; and whenever he
locked the door and went back to the River Farm, he thought of a
verse in the Bible: "Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from
the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken."
It was now Friday of the last week in August. The river was full
of logs, thousands upon thousands of them covering the surface of
the water from the bridge almost up to the Brier Neighborhood.
The Edgewood drive was late, owing to a long drought and low
water; but it was to begin on the following Monday, and Lije
Dennett and his under boss were looking over the situation and
planning the campaign. As they leaned over the bridge-rail they
saw Mr. Wiley driving down the river road. When he caught sight
of them he hitched the old white horse at the corner and walked
toward them, filling his pipe the while in his usual leisurely
"We're not busy this forenoon," said Lije Dennett. "S'pose we
stand right here and let Old Kennebec have his say out for once.
We've never heard the end of one of his stories, an' he's be'n
talkin' for twenty years."
"All right," rejoined his companion, with a broad grin at the
idea. "I'm willin', if you are; but who's goin' to tell our
fam'lies the reason we've deserted 'em! I bate yer we sha'n't
budge till the crack o' doom. The road commissioner'll come
along once a year and mend the bridge under our feet, but Old
Kennebec'll talk straight on till the day o' jedgment."
Mr. Wiley had one of the most enjoyable mornings of his life, and
felt that after half a century of neglect his powers were at last
appreciated by his fellow-citizens.
He proposed numerous strategic movements to be made upon the
logs, whereby they would move more swiftly than usual. He
described several successful drives on the Kennebec, when the
logs had melted down the river almost by magic, owing to his
generalship; and he paid a tribute, in passing, to the docility
of the boss, who on that occasion had never moved a single log
without asking his advice.
From this topic he proceeded genially to narrate the
life-histories of the boss, the under boss, and several Indians
belonging to the crew,--histories in which he himself played a
gallant and conspicuous part. The conversation then drifted
naturally to the exploits of river-drivers in general, and Mr.
Wiley narrated the sorts of feats in log-riding,
pickpole-throwing, and the shooting of rapids that he had done in
his youth. These stories were such as had seldom been heard by
the ear of man; and, as they passed into circulation
instantaneously, we are probably enjoying some of them to this
They were still being told when a Crambry child appeared on the
bridge, bearing a note for the old man.
Upon reading it he moved off rapidly in the direction of the
"Bless my soul! I clean forgot that saleratus, and mother's
settin' at the kitchen table with the bowl in her lap, waitin'
for it! Got so int'rested in your list'nin' I never thought o'
The connubial discussion that followed this breach of discipline
began on the arrival of the saleratus, and lasted through supper;
and Rose went to bed almost immediately afterward for very
dullness and apathy. Her life stretched out before her in the
most aimless and monotonous fashion. She saw nothing but
heartache in the future; and that she richly deserved it made it
none the easier to bear.
Feeling feverish and sleepless, she slipped on her gray Shaker
cloak and stole quietly downstairs for a breath of air. Her
grandfather and grandmother were talking on the piazza, and good
humor seemed to have been restored.
"I was over to the tavern to-night," she heard him say, as she
sat down at a little distance. "I was over to the tavern
to-night, an' a feller from Gorham got to talkin' an' braggin'
'bout what a stock o' goods they kep' in the store over there.
'An','says I, 'I bate ye dollars to doughnuts that there hain't
a darn thing ye can ask for at Bill Pike's store at Pleasant
River that he can't go down cellar, or up attic, or out in the
barn chamber an' git for ye.' Well, sir, he took me up, an' I
borrered the money of Joe Dennett, who held the stakes, an' we
went right over to Bill Pike's with all the boys follerin' on
behind. An' the Gorham man never let on what he was goin' to ask
for till the hull crowd of us got inside the store. Then says
he, as p'lite as a basket o' chips, 'Mr. Pike, I'd like to buy a
pulpit if you can oblige me with one.'
"Bill scratched his head an' I held my breath. Then says he,
'Pears to me I'd ought to hev a pulpit or two, if I can jest
remember where I keep 'em. I don't never cal'late to be out o'
pulpits, but I'm so plagued for room I can't keep 'em in here with
the groc'ries. Jim (that's his new store boy), you jest take a
lantern an' run out in the far corner o' the shed, at the end
o' the hickory woodpile, an' see how many pulpits we've got in
stock!' Well, Jim run out, an' when he come back he says, 'We've
got two, Mr. Pike. Shall I bring one of 'em in?'
"At that the boys all bust out laughin' an' hollerin' an'
tauntin' the Gorham man, an' he paid up with a good will, I tell
"I don't approve of bettin'," said Mrs. Wiley grimly, "but I'll
try to sanctify the money by usin' it for a new wash-boiler."
"The fact is," explained old Kennebec, somewhat confused, "that
the boys made me spend every cent of it then an' there."
Rose heard her grandmother's caustic reply, and then paid no
further attention until her keen ear caught the sound of
Stephen's name. It was a part of her unhappiness that since her
broken engagement no one would ever allude to him, and she longed
to hear him mentioned, so that perchance she could get some
inkling of his movements.
"I met Stephen to-night for the first time in a week," said Mr.
Wiley. "He kind o' keeps out o' my way lately. He's goin' to
drive his span into Portland tomorrow mornin' and bring Rufus
home from the hospital Sunday afternoon. The doctors think
they've made a success of their job, but Rufus has got to be
bandaged up a spell longer. Stephen is goin' to join the drive
Monday mornin' at the bridge here, so I'll get the latest news o'
the boy. Land! I'll be turrible glad if he gets out with his
eyesight, if it's only for Steve's sake. He's a turrible good
fellow, Steve is! He said something to-night that made me set
more store by him than ever. I told you I hedn't heard an unkind
word ag'in' Rose sence she come home from Boston, an' no more I
hev till this evenin: There was two or three fellers talkin' in
the post-office, an' they didn't suspicion I was settin' on the
steps outside the screen door. That Jim Jenkins, that Rose so
everlastin'ly snubbed at the tavern dance, spoke up, an' says he:
'This time last year Rose Wiley could 'a' hed the choice of any
man on the river, an' now I bet ye she can't get nary one.'
"Steve was there, jest goin' out the door, with some bags o'
coffee an' sugar under his arm.
"'I guess you're mistaken about that,' he says, speakin' up jest
like lightnin'; 'so long as Stephen Waterman's alive, Rose Wiley
can have him, for one; and that everybody's welcome to know.'
"He spoke right out, loud an' plain, jest as if he was readin'
the Declaration of Independence. I expected the boys would
everlastin'ly poke fun at him, but they never said a word. I
guess his eyes flashed, for he come out the screen door, slammin'
it after him, and stalked by me as if he was too worked up to
notice anything or anybody. I didn't foiler him, for his long
legs git over the ground too fast for me, but thinks I, 'Mebbe
I'll hev some use for my lemonade-set after all.'"
"I hope to the land you will," responded Mrs. Wiley, "for I'm
about sick o' movin' it round when I sweep under my bed. And I
shall be glad if Rose an' Stephen do make it up, for Wealthy Ann
Brooks's gossip is too much for a Christian woman to stand."
Where was the pale Rose, the faded Rose, that crept noiselessly
down from her room, wanting neither to speak nor to be spoken to!
Nobody ever knew. She vanished forever, and in her place a thing
of sparkles and dimples flashed up the stairway and closed the
door softly. There was a streak of moonshine lying across the
bare floor, and a merry ghost, with dressing-gown held prettily
away from bare feet, danced a gay fandango among the yellow
moonbeams. There were breathless flights to the open window, and
kisses thrown in the direction of the River Farm. There were
impressive declamations at the looking-glass, where a radiant
creature pointed to her reflection and whispered, "Worthless
little pig, he loves you, after all!"
Then, when quiet joy had taken the place of mad delight, there
was a swoop down upon the floor, an impetuous hiding of brimming
eyes in the white counterpane, and a dozen impassioned promises
to herself and to something higher than herself, to be a better
The mood lasted, and deepened, and still Rose did not move. Her
heart was on its knees before Stephen's faithful love, his
chivalry, his strength. Her troubled spirit, like a frail boat
tossed about in the rapids, seemed entering a quiet harbor, where
there were protecting shores and a still, still evening star.
Her sails were all torn and drooping, but the harbor was in
sight, and the poor little weather-beaten craft could rest in
A period of grave reflection now ensued,--under the bedclothes,
where one could think better. Suddenly an inspiration seized
her,--an inspiration so original, so delicious, and above all
so humble and praiseworthy, that it brought her head from her
pillow, and she sat bolt upright, clapping her hands like a
"The very thing!" she whispered to herself gleefully. "It will
take courage, but I'm sure of my ground after what he said before
them all, and I'll do it. Grandma in Biddeford buying church
carpets, Stephen in Portland--was ever such a chance?"
The same glowing Rose came downstairs, two steps at a time, next
morning, bade her grandmother good-by with suspicious pleasure,
and sent her grandfather away on an errand which, with attendant
conversation, would consume half the day. Then bundles after
bundles and baskets after baskets were packed into the wagon,--
behind the seat, beneath the seat, and finally under the
lap-robe. She gave a dramatic flourish to the whip, drove across
the bridge, went through Pleasant River village, and up the leafy
road to the little house, stared the "To Let" sign scornfully in
the eye, alighted, and ran like a deer through the aisles of
waving corn, past the kitchen windows, to the back door.
"If he has kept the big key in the old place under the stone,
where we both used to find it, then he hasn't forgotten me--or
anything," thought Rose.
The key was there, and Rose lifted it with a sob of gratitude.
It was but five minutes' work to carry all the bundles from the
wagon to the back steps, and another five to lead old Tom across
the road into the woods and tie him to a tree quite out of the
sight of any passer-by.
When, after running back, she turned the key in the lock, her
heart gave a leap almost of terror, and she started at the sound
of her own footfall. Through the open door the sunlight streamed
into the dark room. She flew to tables and chairs, and gave a
rapid sweep of the hand over their surfaces.
"He has been dusting here,--and within a few days, too," she
The kitchen was perfection, as she always knew it would be, with
one door opening to the shaded road and the other looking on the
river; windows, too, framing the apple-orchard and the elms. She
had chosen the furniture, but how differently it looked now that
it was actually in place! The tiny shed had piles of split wood,
with great boxes of kindlings and shavings, all in readiness for
the bride, who would do her own cooking. Who but Stephen would
have made the very wood ready for a woman's home-coming; and why
had he done so much in May, when they were not to be married
until August? Then the door of the bedroom was stealthily
opened, and here Rose sat down and cried for joy and shame and
hope and fear. The very flowered paper she had refused as too
expensive! How lovely it looked with the white chamber set! She
brought in her simple wedding outfit of blankets, bed-linen, and
counterpanes, and folded them softly in the closet; and then for
the rest of the morning she went from room to room, doing all
that could remain undiscovered, even to laying a fire in the new
This was the plan. Stephen must pass the house on his way from
the River Farm to the bridge, where he was to join the
riverdrivers on Monday morning. She would be out of bed by the
earliest peep of dawn, put on Stephen's favorite pink calico,
leave a note for her grandmother, run like a hare down her side
of the river and up Stephen's, steal into the house, open blinds
and windows, light the fire, and set the kettle boiling. Then
with a sharp knife she would cut down two rows of corn, and thus
make a green pathway from the front kitchen steps to the road.
Next, the false and insulting "To Let" sign would be forcibly
tweaked from the tree and thrown into the grass. She would then
lay the table in the kitchen, and make ready the nicest breakfast
that two people ever sat down to. And oh, would two people sit
down to it; or would one go off in a rage and the other die of
grief and disappointment?
Then, having done all, she would wait and palpitate, and
palpitate and wait, until Stephen came. Surely no property-owner
in the universe could drive along a road, observe his corn
leveled to the earth, his sign removed, his house open, and smoke
issuing from his chimney, without going in to surprise the rogue
and villain who could be guilty of such vandalism.
And when he came in?
Oh, she had all day Sunday in which to forecast, with mingled
dread and gladness and suspense, that all-important, all-decisive
first moment! All day Sunday to frame and unframe penitent
speeches. All day Sunday! Would it ever be Monday? If so, what
would Tuesday bring? Would the sun rise on happy Mrs. Stephen
Waterman of Pleasant River, or on miserable Miss Rose Wiley of
the Prier Neighborhood?
THE DREAM ROOM
Long ago, when Stephen was a boy of fourteen or fifteen, he had
gone with his father to a distant town to spend the night. After
an early breakfast next morning his father had driven off for a
business interview, and left the boy to walk about during his
absence. He wandered aimlessly along a quiet side street, and
threw himself down on the grass outside a pretty garden to amuse
himself as best he could.
After a few minutes he heard voices, and, turning, peeped through
the bars of the gate in idle, boyish curiosity. It was a small
brown house; the kitchen door was open, and a table spread with a
white cloth was set in the middle of the room. There was a
cradle in a far corner, and a man was seated at the table as
though he might be waiting for his breakfast.
There is a kind of sentiment about the kitchen in New England, a
kind of sentiment not provoked by other rooms. Here the farmer
drops in to spend a few minutes when he comes back from the barn
or field on an errand. Here, in the great, clean, sweet,
comfortable place, the busy housewife lives, sometimes rocking
the cradle, sometimes opening and shutting the oven door,
sometimes stirring the pot, darning stockings, paring vegetables,
or mixing goodies in a yellow bowl. The children sit on the
steps, stringing beans, shelling peas, or hulling berries; the
cat sleeps on the floor near the wood-box; and the visitor feels
exiled if he stays in sitting-room or parlor, for here, where the
mother is always busy, is the heart of the farm-house.
There was an open back door to this kitchen, a door framed in
morning-glories, and the woman (or was she only girl?) standing
at the stove was pretty,--oh, so pretty in Stephen's eyes! His
boyish heart went out to her on the instant. She poured a cup of
coffee and walked with it to the table; then an unexpected,
interesting thing happened--something the boy ought not 'to
have seen, and never forgot. The man, putting out his hand to
take the cup, looked up at the pretty woman with a smile, and she
stooped and kissed him.
Stephen was fifteen. As he looked, on the instant he became a
man, with a man's hopes, desires, ambitions. He looked eagerly,
hungrily, and the scene burned itself on the sensitive plate of
his young heart, so that, as he grew older, he could take the
picture out in the dark, from time to time, and look at it again.
When he first met Rose, he did not know precisely what she was to
mean to him; but before long, when he closed his eyes and the old
familiar picture swam into his field of vision, behold, by some
spiritual chemistry, the pretty woman's face had given place to
that of Rose!
All such teasing visions had been sternly banished during this
sorrowful summer, and it was a thoughtful, sober Stephen who
drove along the road on this mellow August morning. The dust was
deep; the goldenrod waved its imperial plumes, making the humble
waysides gorgeous; the river chattered and sparkled till it met
the logs at the Brier Neighorhood, and then, lapsing into
silence, flowed steadily under them till it found a vent for its
spirits in the dashing and splashing of the falls.
Haying was over; logging was to begin that day; then harvesting;
then wood-cutting; then eternal successions of plowing, sowing,
reaping, haying, logging, harvesting, and so on, to the endless
end of his days. Here and there a red or a yellow branch,
painted only yesterday, caught his eye and made him shiver. He
was not ready for winter; his heart still craved the summer it
Hello! What was that? Corn-stalks prone on the earth? Sign
torn down and lying flat in the grass? Blinds open, fire in the
He leaped from the wagon, and, hinging the reins to Alcestis
Crambry, said, "Stay right here out of sight, and don't you move
till I call you!" and striding up the green pathway, hung open
the kitchen door.
A forest of corn waving in the doorway at the back,
morning-glories clambering round and round the window-frames,
table with shining white cloth, kettle humming and steaming,
something bubbling in a pan on the stove, fire throwing out sweet
little gleams of welcome through the open damper. All this was
taken in with one incredulous, rapturous twinkle of an eye; but
something else, too: Rose of all roses, Rose of the river, Rose
of the world, standing behind a chair, her hand pressed against
her heart, her lips parted, her breath coming and going! She was
glowing like a jewel, glowing with the extraordinary brilliancy
that emotion gives to some women. She used to be happy in a gay,
sparkling way, like the shallow part of the stream as it chotters
over white pebbles and bright sands. Now it was a broad, steady,
full happiness like the deeps of the river under the sun.
"Don't speak, Stephen, till you hear what I have to say. It
takes a good deal of courage for a girl to do as I am doing; but
I want to show how sorry I am, and it's the only way." She was
trembling, and the words came faster and faster. "I've been
very wrong and foolish, and made you very unhappy, but I haven't
done what you would have hated most. I haven't been engaged to
Claude Merrill; he hasn't so much as asked me. I am here to beg
you to forgive me, to eat breakfast with me, to drive me to the
minister's and marry me quickly, quickly, before anything happens
to prevent us, and then to bring me home here to live all the
days of my life. Oh, Stephen dear, honestly, honestly, you haven't
lost anything in all this long, miserable summer. I've
suffered, too, and I'm better worth loving than I was. Will you
take me back?"
Rose had a tremendous power of provoking and holding love, and
Stephen of loving. His was too generous a nature for revilings
and complaints and reproaches.
The shores of his heart were strewn with the wreckage of the
troubled summer, but if the tide of love is high enough, it
washes such things out of remembrance. He just opened his arms
and took Rose to his heart, faults and all, with joy--and
gratitude; and she was as happy as a child who has escaped the
scolding it richly deserved, and who determines, for very
thankfulness' sake, never to be naughty again.
"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
"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, package placed there when hot
youth and love and longing had inspired him to hurry on the
"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 entrancing vision.
"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.