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´╗┐Title: Rose O' the River
Author: Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith, 1856-1923
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rose O' the River" ***

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[Illustration: ROSE O' THE RIVER]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

ROSE O' THE RIVER
BY
KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN

ILLUSTRATED BY
GEORGE WRIGHT

NEW YORK
GROSSET & DUNLAP
PUBLISHERS

------------------------------------------------------------------------

COPYRIGHT 1905 BY THE CENTURY COMPANY
COPYRIGHT 1905 BY KATE DOUGLAS RIGGS
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

_Published September 1905_

------------------------------------------------------------------------

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Pine And The Rose                                              1
Old Kennebec                                                      13
The Edgewood "Drive"                                              28
"Blasphemious Swearin'"                                           40
The Game Of Jackstraws                                            50
Hearts And Other Hearts                                           67
The Little House                                                  81
The Garden Of Eden                                                93
The Serpent                                                      102
The Turquoise Ring                                               114
Gold And Pinchbeck                                               135
A Country Chevalier                                              145
Housebreaking                                                    160
The Dream Room                                                   168

------------------------------------------------------------------------

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Rose O' The River                                       Frontispiece
"She's Up!"                                                        6
"He's A Turrible Smart Driver"                                    20
He Had Certainly "Taken Chances"                                  32
In A Twinkling He Was In The Water                                64
"Rose, I'll Take You Safely"                                      76
Hiding Her Face As He Flung It Down The River-Bank               116
She Had Gone With Maude To Claude's Store                        128
"As Long As Stephen Waterman's Alive, Rose Wiley Can Have Him"   158
"Don't Speak, Stephen, Till You Hear What I Have To Say"         174

------------------------------------------------------------------------



THE PINE AND THE ROSE


It was not long after sunrise, and Stephen Waterman, fresh from his dip
in the river, had scrambled up the hillside from the hut in the
alder-bushes where he had made his morning toilet.

An early ablution of this sort was not the custom of the farmers along
the banks of the Saco, but the Waterman house was hardly a stone's throw
from the water, and there was a clear, deep swimming-hole in the Willow
Cove that would have tempted the busiest man, or the least cleanly, in
York County. Then, too, Stephen was a child of the river, born, reared,
schooled on its very brink, never happy unless he were on it, or in it,
or beside it, or at least within sight or sound of it.

The immensity of the sea had always silenced and overawed him, left him
cold in feeling. The river wooed him, caressed him, won his heart. It
was just big enough to love. It was full of charms and changes, of
varying moods and sudden surprises. Its voice stole in upon his ear with
a melody far sweeter and more subtle than the boom of the ocean. Yet it
was not without strength, and when it was swollen with the freshets of
the spring and brimming with the bounty of its sister streams, it could
dash and roar, boom and crash, with the best of them.

Stephen stood on the side porch, drinking in the glory of the sunrise,
with the Saco winding like a silver ribbon through the sweet loveliness
of the summer landscape.

And the river rolled on toward the sea, singing its morning song,
creating and nourishing beauty at every step of its onward path. Cradled
in the heart of a great mountain-range, it pursued its gleaming way,
here lying silent in glassy lakes, there rushing into tinkling little
falls, foaming great falls, and thundering cataracts. Scores of bridges
spanned its width, but no steamers flurried its crystal depths. Here and
there a rough little rowboat, tethered to a willow, rocked to and fro in
some quiet bend of the shore. Here the silver gleam of a rising perch,
chub, or trout caught the eye; there a pickerel lay rigid in the clear
water, a fish carved in stone: here eels coiled in the muddy bottom of
some pool; and there, under the deep shadows of the rocks, lay fat,
sleepy bass, old, and incredibly wise, quite untempted by, and wholly
superior to, the rural fisherman's worm.

The river lapped the shores of peaceful meadows; it flowed along banks
green with maple, beech, sycamore, and birch; it fell tempestuously over
dams and fought its way between rocky cliffs crowned with stately firs.
It rolled past forests of pine and hemlock and spruce, now gentle, now
terrible; for there is said to be an Indian curse upon the Saco,
whereby, with every great sun, the child of a paleface shall be drawn
into its cruel depths. Lashed into fury by the stony reefs that impeded
its progress, the river looked now sapphire, now gold, now white, now
leaden gray; but always it was hurrying, hurrying on its appointed way
to the sea.

After feasting his eyes and filling his heart with a morning draught of
beauty, Stephen went in from the porch and, pausing at the stairway,
called in stentorian tones: "Get up and eat your breakfast, Rufus! The
boys will be picking the side jams to-day, and I'm going down to work on
the logs. If you come along, bring your own pick-pole and peavey." Then,
going to the kitchen pantry, he collected, from the various shelves, a
pitcher of milk, a loaf of bread, half an apple-pie, and a bowl of
blueberries, and, with the easy methods of a household unswayed by
feminine rule, moved toward a seat under an apple-tree and took his
morning meal in great apparent content. Having finished, and washed his
dishes with much more thoroughness than is common to unsuperintended
man, and having given Rufus the second call to breakfast with the vigor
and acrimony that usually marks that unpleasant performance, he strode
to a high point on the river-bank and, shading his eyes with his hand,
gazed steadily down stream.

Patches of green fodder and blossoming potatoes melted into soft fields
that had been lately mown, and there were glimpses of tasseling corn
rising high to catch the sun. Far, far down on the opposite bank of the
river was the hint of a brown roof, and the tip of a chimney that sent a
slender wisp of smoke into the clear air. Beyond this, and farther back
from the water, the trees apparently hid a cluster of other chimneys,
for thin spirals of smoke ascended here and there. The little brown roof
could never have revealed itself to any but a lover's eye; and that
discerned something even smaller, something like a pinkish speck, that
moved hither and thither on a piece of greensward that sloped to the
waterside.

"She's up!" Stephen exclaimed under his breath, his eyes shining, his
lips smiling. His voice had a note of hushed exaltation about it, as if
"she," whoever she might be, had, in condescending to rise, conferred a
priceless boon upon a waiting universe. If she were indeed a "up" (so
his tone implied), then the day, somewhat falsely heralded by the
sunrise, had really begun, and the human race might pursue its appointed
tasks, inspired and uplifted by the consciousness of her existence. It
might properly be grateful for the fact of her birth; that she had grown
to woman's estate; and, above all, that, in common with the sun, the
lark, the morning-glory, and other beautiful things of the early day,
she was up and about her lovely, cheery, heart-warming business.

[Illustration: "SHE'S UP!"]

The handful of chimneys and the smoke spirals rising here and there
among the trees on the river-bank belonged to what was known as the
Brier Neighborhood. There were only a few houses in all, scattered along
a side road leading from the river up to Liberty Centre. There were no
great signs of thrift or prosperity, but the Wiley cottage, the only one
near the water, was neat and well cared for, and Nature had done her
best to conceal man's indolence, poverty, or neglect.

Bushes of sweetbrier grew in fragrant little forests as tall as the
fences. Clumps of wild roses sprang up at every turn, and over all the
stone walls, as well as on every heap of rocks by the wayside, prickly
blackberry vines ran and clambered and clung, yielding fruit and thorns
impartially to the neighborhood children.

The pinkish speck that Stephen Waterman had spied from his side of the
river was Rose Wiley of the Brier Neighborhood on the Edgewood side. As
there was another of her name on Brigadier Hill, the Edgewood minister
called one of them the climbing Rose and the other the brier Rose, or
sometimes Rose of the river. She was well named, the pinkish speck. She
had not only some of the sweetest attributes of the wild rose, but the
parallel might have been extended as far as the thorns, for she had
wounded her scores,--hearts, be it understood, not hands. The wounding
was, on the whole, very innocently done; and if fault could be imputed
anywhere, it might rightly have been laid at the door of the kind powers
who had made her what she was, since the smile that blesses a single
heart is always destined to break many more.

She had not a single silk gown, but she had what is far better, a figure
to show off a cotton one. Not a brooch nor a pair of earrings was
numbered among her possessions, but any ordinary gems would have looked
rather dull and trivial when compelled to undergo comparison with her
bright eyes. As to her hair, the local milliner declared it impossible
for Rose Wiley to get an unbecoming hat; that on one occasion, being in
a frolicsome mood, Rose had tried on all the headgear in the village
emporium,--children's gingham "Shakers," mourning bonnets for aged
dames, men's haying hats and visored caps,--and she proved superior to
every test, looking as pretty as a pink in the best ones and simply
ravishing in the worst. In fact, she had been so fashioned and finished
by Nature that, had she been set on a revolving pedestal in a
show-window, the bystanders would have exclaimed, as each new charm came
into view: "Look at her waist!" "See her shoulders!" "And her neck and
chin!" "And her hair!" While the children, gazing with raptured
admiration, would have shrieked, in unison, "I choose her for mine."

All this is as much as to say that Rose of the river was a beauty, yet
it quite fails to explain, nevertheless, the secret of her power. When
she looked her worst the spell was as potent as when she looked her
best. Hidden away somewhere was a vital spark which warmed every one who
came in contact with it. Her lovely little person was a trifle below
medium height, and it might as well be confessed that her soul, on the
morning when Stephen Waterman saw her hanging out the clothes on the
river bank, was not large enough to be at all out of proportion; but
when eyes and dimples, lips and cheeks, enslave the onlooker, the soul
is seldom subjected to a close or critical scrutiny. Besides, Rose Wiley
was a nice girl, neat as wax, energetic, merry, amiable, economical. She
was a dutiful granddaughter to two of the most irritating old people in
the county; she never patronized her pug-nosed, pasty-faced girl
friends; she made wonderful pies and doughnuts; and besides, small
souls, if they are of the right sort, sometimes have a way of growing,
to the discomfiture of cynics and the gratification of the angels.

So, on one bank of the river grew the brier rose, a fragile thing,
swaying on a slender stalk and looking at its pretty reflection in the
water; and on the other a sturdy pine tree, well rooted against wind and
storm. And the sturdy pine yearned for the wild rose; and the rose, so
far as it knew, yearned for nothing at all, certainly not for rugged
pine trees standing tall and grim in rocky soil. If, in its present
stage of development, it gravitated toward anything in particular, it
would have been a well-dressed white birch growing on an irreproachable
lawn.

And the river, now deep, now shallow, now smooth, now tumultuous, now
sparkling in sunshine, now gloomy under clouds, rolled on to the
engulfing sea. It could not stop to concern itself with the petty
comedies and tragedies that were being enacted along its shores, else it
would never have reached its destination. Only last night, under a full
moon, there had been pairs of lovers leaning over the rails of all the
bridges along its course; but that was a common sight, like that of the
ardent couples sitting on its shady banks these summer days, looking
only into each other's eyes, but exclaiming about the beauty of the
water. Lovers would come and go, sometimes reappearing with successive
installments of loves in a way wholly mysterious to the river. Meantime
it had its own work to do and must be about it, for the side jams were
to be broken and the boom "let out" at the Edgewood bridge.



OLD KENNEBEC


It was just seven o'clock that same morning when Rose Wiley smoothed the
last wrinkle from her dimity counterpane, picked up a shred of corn-husk
from the spotless floor under the bed, slapped a mosquito on the
window-sill, removed all signs of murder with a moist towel, and before
running down to breakfast cast a frowning look at her pincushion.
Almira, otherwise "Mite," Shapley had been in her room the afternoon
before and disturbed with her careless hand the pattern of Rose's pins.
They were kept religiously in the form of a Maltese cross; and if, while
she was extricating one from her clothing, there had been an alarm of
fire, Rose would have stuck the pin in its appointed place in the
design, at the risk of losing her life.

Entering the kitchen with her light step, she brought the morning
sunshine with her. The old people had already engaged in differences of
opinion, but they commonly suspended open warfare in her presence. There
were the usual last things to be done for breakfast, offices that
belonged to her as her grandmother's assistant. She took yesterday's
soda biscuits out of the steamer where they were warming and softening;
brought an apple pie and a plate of seed cakes from the pantry; settled
the coffee with a piece of dried fish skin and an egg shell; and
transferred some fried potatoes from the spider to a covered dish.

"Did you remember the meat, grandpa? We're all out," she said, as she
began buttoning a stiff collar around his reluctant neck.

"Remember? Land, yes! I wish't I ever could forgit anything! The butcher
says he's 'bout tired o' travelin' over the country lookin' for critters
to kill, but if he finds anything he'll be up along in the course of a
week. He ain't a real smart butcher, Cyse Higgins ain't.--Land, Rose,
don't button that dickey clean through my epperdummis! I have to sport
starched collars in this life on account o' you and your gran'mother
bein' so chock full o' style; but I hope to the Lord I shan't have to
wear 'em in another world!"

"You won't," his wife responded with the snap of a dish towel, "or if
you do, they'll wilt with the heat."

Rose smiled, but the soft hand with which she tied the neck-cloth about
the old man's withered neck pacified his spirit, and he smiled knowingly
back at her as she took her seat at the breakfast table spread near the
open kitchen door. She was a dazzling Rose, and, it is to be feared, a
wasted one, for there was no one present to observe her clean pink
calico and the still more subtle note struck in the green ribbon which
was tied round her throat,--the ribbon that formed a sort of calyx, out
of which sprang the flower of her face, as fresh and radiant as if it
had bloomed that morning.

"Give me my coffee turrible quick," said Mr. Wiley; "I must be down the
bridge 'fore they start dog-warpin' the side jam."

"I notice you're always due at the bridge on churnin' days," remarked
his spouse, testily.

"'Taint me as app'ints drivin' dates at Edgewood," replied the old man.
"The boys'll hev a turrible job this year. The logs air ricked up jest
like Rose's jackstraws; I never see'em so turrible ricked up in all my
exper'ence; an' Lije Dennett don' know no more 'bout pickin' a jam than
Cooper's cow. Turrible sot in his ways, too; can't take a mite of
advice. I was tellin' him how to go to work on that bung that's formed
between the gre't gray rock an' the shore,--the awfullest place to bung
that there is between this an' Biddeford,--and says he: 'Look here,
I've be'n boss on this river for twelve year, an' I'll be doggoned if
I'm goin' to be taught my business by any man!' 'This ain't no river,'
says I, 'as you'd know,' says I, 'if you'd ever lived on the Kennebec.'
'Pity you hedn't stayed on it,' says he. 'I wish to the land I hed,' says
I. An' then I come away, for my tongue's so turrible spry an' sarcustic
that I knew if I stopped any longer I should stir up strife. There's
some folks that'll set on addled aigs year in an' year out, as if there
wan't good fresh ones bein' laid every day; an' Lije Dennett's one of
'em, when it comes to river drivin'."

"There's lots o' folks as have made a good livin' by mindin' their own
business," observed the still sententious Mrs. Wiley, as she speared a
soda-biscuit with her fork.

"Mindin' your own business is a turrible selfish trade," responded her
husband loftily. "If your neighbor is more ignorant than what you
are,--partic'larly if he's as ignorant as Cooper's cow,--you'd ought,
as a Kennebec man an' a Christian, to set him on the right track, though
it's always a turrible risky thing to do."

Rose's grandfather was called, by the irreverent younger generation,
sometimes "Turrible Wiley" and sometimes "Old Kennebec," because of the
frequency with which these words appeared in his conversation. There
were not wanting those of late who dubbed him Uncle Ananias, for reasons
too obvious to mention. After a long, indolent, tolerably truthful, and
useless life, he had, at seventy-five, lost sight of the dividing line
between fact and fancy, and drew on his imagination to such an extent
that he almost staggered himself when he began to indulge in
reminiscence. He was a feature of the Edgewood "drive," being always
present during the five or six days that it was in progress, sometimes
sitting on the river-bank, sometimes leaning over the bridge, sometimes
reclining against the butt-end of a huge log, but always chewing
tobacco and expectorating to incredible distances as he criticized and
damned impartially all the expedients in use at the particular moment.

"I want to stay down by the river this afternoon," said Rose. "Ever so
many of the girls will be there, and all my sewing is done up. If
grandpa will leave the horse for me, I'll take the drivers' lunch to
them at noon, and bring the dishes back in time to wash them before
supper."

"I suppose you can go, if the rest do," said her grandmother, "though
it's an awful lazy way of spendin' an afternoon. When I was a girl there
was no such dawdlin' goin' on, I can tell you. Nobody thought o' lookin'
at the river in them days; there wasn't time."

"But it's such fun to watch the logs!" Rose exclaimed. "Next to dancing,
the greatest fun in the world."

"'Specially as all the young men in town will be there, watchin', too,"
was the grandmother's reply. "Eben Brooks an' Richard Bean got home
yesterday with their doctors' diplomas in their pockets. Mrs. Brooks
says Eben stood forty-nine in a class o' fifty-five, an' seemed
consid'able proud of him; an' I guess it is the first time he ever stood
anywheres but at the foot. I tell you when these fifty-five new doctors
git scattered over the country there'll be consid'able many folks
keepin' house under ground. Dick Bean's goin' to stop a spell with Rufe
an' Steve Waterman. That'll make one more to play in the river."

"Rufus ain't hardly got his workin' legs on yit," allowed Mr. Wiley, "but
Steve's all right. He's a turrible smart driver, an' turrible reckless,
too. He'll take all the chances there is, though to a man that's lived
on the Kennebec there ain't what can rightly be called any turrible
chances on the Saco."

"He'd better be 'tendin' to his farm," objected Mrs. Wiley.

[Illustration: "HE'S A TURRIBLE SMART DRIVER"]

"His hay is all in," Rose spoke up quickly, "and he only helps on the
river when the farm work isn't pressing. Besides, though it's all play
to him, he earns his two dollars and a half a day."

"He don't keer about the two and a half," said her grandfather. "He jest
can't keep away from the logs. There's some that can't. When I first
moved here from Gard'ner, where the climate never suited me"--

"The climate of any place where you hev regular work never did an' never
will suit you," remarked the old man's wife; but the interruption
received no comment: such mistaken views of his character were too
frequent to make any impression.

"As I was sayin', Rose," he continued, "when we first moved here from
Gard'ner, we lived neighbor to the Watermans. Steve an' Rufus was little
boys then, always playin' with a couple o' wild cousins o' theirn,
consid'able older. Steve would scare his mother pretty nigh to death
stealin' away to the mill to ride on the 'carriage,' 'side o' the log
that was bein' sawed, hitchin' clean out over the river an' then jerkin'
back 'most into the jaws o' the machinery."

"He never hed any common sense to spare, even when he was a young one,"
remarked Mrs. Wiley; "and I don't see as all the 'cademy education his
father throwed away on him has changed him much." And with this
observation she rose from the table and went to the sink.

"Steve ain't nobody's fool," dissented the old man; "but he's kind o'
daft about the river. When he was little he was allers buildin' dams in
the brook, an' sailin' chips, an' runnin' on the logs; allers choppin'
up stickins an' raftin' 'em together in the pond. I cal'late Mis'
Waterman died consid'able afore her time, jest from fright, lookin' out
the winders and seein' her boys slippin' between the logs an' gittin'
their daily dousin'. She couldn't understand it, an' there's a heap o'
things women-folks never do an' never can understand,--jest because they
air women-folks."

"One o' the things is men, I s'pose," interrupted Mrs. Wiley.

"Men in general, but more partic'larly husbands," assented Old Kennebec;
"howsomever, there's another thing they don't an' can't never take in,
an' that's sport. Steve does river drivin' as he would horseracin' or
tiger-shootin' or tight-rope dancin'; an' he always did from a boy.
When he was about twelve or fifteen, he used to help the river-drivers
spring and fall, reg'lar. He couldn't do nothin' but shin up an' down
the rocks after hammers an' hatchets an' ropes, but he was turrible
pleased with his job. 'Stepanfetchit,' they used to call him them
days,--Stephanfetchit Waterman."

"Good name for him yet," came in acid tones from the sink. "He's still
steppin' an' fetchin', only it's Rose that's doin' the drivin' now."

"I'm not driving anybody, that I know of," answered Rose, with
heightened color, but with no loss of her habitual self-command.

"Then, when he graduated from errants," went on the crafty old man, who
knew that when breakfast ceased, churning must begin, "Steve used to get
seventy-five cents a day helpin' clear up the river--if you can call
this here silv'ry streamlet a river. He'd pick off a log here an' there
an' send it afloat, an' dig out them that hed got ketched in the rocks,
and tidy up the banks jest like spring house-cleanin'. If he'd hed any
kind of a boss, an' hed be'n trained on the Kennebec, he'd 'a' made a
turrible smart driver, Steve would."

"He'll be drownded, that's what'll become o' him," prophesied Mrs.
Wiley; "'specially if Rose encourages him in such silly foolishness as
ridin' logs from his house down to ourn, dark nights."

"Seein' as how Steve built ye a nice pig pen last month, 'pears to me
you might have a good word for him now an' then, mother," remarked Old
Kennebec, reaching for his second piece of pie.

"I wa'n't a mite deceived by that pig pen, no more'n I was by Jed
Towle's hen coop, nor Ivory Dunn's well-curb, nor Pitt Packard's
shed-steps. If you hed ever kep' up your buildin's yourself, Rose's
beaux wouldn't hev to do their courtin' with carpenters' tools."

"It's the pigpen an' the hencoop you want to keep your eye on, mother,
not the motives of them as made 'em. It's turrible onsettlin' to inspeck
folks' motives too turrible close."

"Riding a log is no more to Steve than riding a horse, so he says,"
interposed Rose, to change the subject; "but I tell him that a horse
doesn't revolve under you, and go sideways at the same time that it is
going forwards."

"Log-ridin' ain't no trick at all to a man of sperit," said Mr. Wiley.
"There's a few places in the Kennebec where the water's too shaller to
let the logs float, so we used to build a flume, an' the logs would whiz
down like arrers shot from a bow. The boys used to collect by the side
o' that there flume to see me ride a log down, an' I've watched 'em drop
in a dead faint when I spun by the crowd; but land! you can't drownd
some folks, not without you tie nail-kags to their head an' feet an'
drop 'em in the falls; I 've rid logs down the b'ilin'est rapids o' the
Kennebec an' never lost my head. I remember well the year o' the gre't
freshet, I rid a log from"--

"There, there, father, that'll do," said Mrs. Wiley, decisively. "I'll
put the cream in the churn, an' you jest work off some o' your steam by
bringin' the butter for us afore you start for the bridge. It don't do
no good to brag afore your own women-folks; work goes consid'able
better'n stories at every place 'cept the loafers' bench at the
tavern."

And the baffled raconteur, who had never done a piece of work cheerfully
in his life, dragged himself reluctantly to the shed, where, before
long, one could hear him moving the dasher up and down sedately to his
favorite "churning tune" of--

    Broad is the road that leads to death,
      And thousands walk together there;
    But Wisdom shows a narrow path,
      With here and there a traveler.



THE EDGEWOOD "DRIVE"


Just where the bridge knits together the two little villages of Pleasant
River and Edgewood, the glassy mirror of the Saco broadens suddenly,
sweeping over the dam in a luminous torrent. Gushes of pure amber mark
the middle of the dam, with crystal and silver at the sides, and from
the seething vortex beneath the golden cascade the white spray dashes up
in fountains. In the crevices and hollows of the rocks the mad water
churns itself into snowy froth, while the foam-flecked torrent, deep,
strong, and troubled to its heart, sweeps majestically under the bridge,
then dashes between wooded shores piled high with steep masses of rock,
or torn and riven by great gorges.

There had been much rain during the summer, and the Saco was very high,
so on the third day of the Edgewood drive there was considerable
excitement at the bridge, and a goodly audience of villagers from both
sides of the river. There were some who never came, some who had no
fancy for the sight, some to whom it was an old story, some who were too
busy, but there were many to whom it was the event of events, a
never-ending source of interest.

Above the fall, covering the placid surface of the river, thousands of
logs lay quietly "in boom" until the "turning out" process, on the last
day of the drive, should release them and give them their chance of
display, their brief moment of notoriety, their opportunity of
interesting, amusing, exciting, and exasperating the onlookers by their
antics.

Heaps of logs had been cast up on the rocks below the dam, where they
lay in hopeless confusion, adding nothing, however, to the problem of
the moment, for they too bided their time. If they had possessed wisdom,
discretion, and caution, they might have slipped gracefully over the
falls and, steering clear of the hidden ledges (about which it would
seem they must have heard whispers from the old pine trees along the
river), have kept a straight course and reached their destination
without costing the Edgewood Lumber Company a small fortune. Or, if they
had inclined toward a jolly and adventurous career, they could have
joined one of the various jams or "bungs," stimulated by the thought
that any one of them might be a key-log, holding for a time the entire
mass in its despotic power. But they had been stranded early in the
game, and, after lying high and dry for weeks, would be picked off one
by one and sent down-stream.

In the tumultuous boil, the foaming hubbub and flurry at the foot of the
falls, one enormous peeled log wallowed up and down like a huge
rhinoceros, greatly pleasing the children by its clumsy cavortings. Some
conflict of opposing forces kept it ever in motion, yet never set it
free. Below the bridge were always the real battle-grounds, the scenes
of the first and the fiercest conflicts. A ragged ledge of rock,
standing well above the yeasty torrent, marked the middle of the river.
Stephen had been stranded there once, just at dusk, on a stormy
afternoon in spring. A jam had broken under the men, and Stephen, having
taken too great risks, had been caught on the moving mass, and, leaping
from log to log, his only chance for life had been to find a footing on
Gray Rock, which was nearer than the shore.

Rufus was ill at the time, and Mrs. Waterman so anxious and nervous that
processions of boys had to be sent up to the River Farm, giving the
frightened mother the latest bulletins of her son's welfare. Luckily,
the river was narrow just at the Gray Rock, and it was a quite possible
task, though no easy one, to lash two ladders together and make a narrow
bridge on which the drenched and shivering man could reach the shore.
There were loud cheers when Stephen ran lightly across the slender
pathway that led to safety--ran so fast that the ladders had scarce time
to bend beneath his weight. He had certainly "taken chances," but when
did he not do that? The logger's life is one of "moving accidents by
flood and field," and Stephen welcomed with wildqq exhilaration every
hazard that came in his path. To him there was never a dull hour from
the moment that the first notch was cut in the tree (for he sometimes
joined the boys in the lumber camp just for a frolic) till the later one
when the hewn log reached its final destination. He knew nothing of
"tooling" a four-in-hand through narrow lanes or crowded
thoroughfares,--nothing of guiding a horse over the hedges and through
the pitfalls of a stiff bit of hunting country; his steed was the
rearing, plunging, kicking log, and he rode it like a river god.

[Illustration: HE HAD CERTAINLY "TAKEN CHANCES"]

The crowd loves daring, and so it welcomed Stephen with braves, but it
knew, as he knew, that he was only doing his duty by the Company, only
showing the Saco that man was master, only keeping the old Waterman name
in good repute.

"Ye can't drownd some folks," Old Kennebec had said, as he stood in a
group on the shore; "not without you tie sand-bags to'em an' drop 'em in
the Great Eddy. I'm the same kind; I remember when I was stranded on
jest sech a rock in the Kennebec, only they left me there all night for
dead, an' I had to swim the rapids when it come daylight."

"We're well acquainted with that rock and them rapids," exclaimed one of
the river-drivers, to the delight of the company.

Rose had reason to remember Stephen's adventure, for he had clambered
up the bank, smiling and blushing under the hurrahs of the boys, and,
coming to the wagon where she sat waiting for her grandfather, had
seized a moment to whisper: "Did you care whether I came across safe,
Rose? Say you did!"

Stephen recalled that question, too, on this August morning; perhaps
because this was to be a red-letter day, and sometime, when he had a
free moment,--sometime before supper, when he and Rose were sitting
apart from the others, watching the logs,--he intended again to ask her
to marry him. This thought trembled in him, stirring the deeps of his
heart like a great wave, almost sweeping him off his feet when he held
it too close and let it have full sway. It would be the fourth time that
he had asked Rose this question of all questions, but there was no
perceptible difference in his excitement, for there was always the
possible chance that she might change her mind and say yes, if only for
variety. Wanting a thing continuously, unchangingly, unceasingly, year
after year, he thought,--longing to reach it as the river longed to
reach the sea,--such wanting might, in course of time, mean having.

Rose drove up to the bridge with the men's luncheon, and the under boss
came up to take the baskets and boxes from the back of the wagon.

"We've had a reg'lar tussle this mornin', Rose," he said. "The logs are
determined not to move. Ike Billings, that's the han'somest and
fluentest all-round swearer on the Saco, has tried his best on the side
jam. He's all out o' cuss-words and there hain't a log budged. Now, stid
o' dog-warpin' this afternoon, an' lettin' the oxen haul off all them
stubborn logs by main force, we're goin' to ask you to set up on the
bank and smile at the jam. 'Land! she can do it!' says Ike a minute ago.
'When Rose starts smilin',' he says, 'there ain't a jam nor a bung in me
that don't melt like wax and jest float right off same as the logs do
when they get into quiet, sunny water.'"

Rose blushed and laughed, and drove up the hill to Mite Shapley's, where
she put up the horse and waited till the men had eaten their luncheon.
The drivers slept and had breakfast and supper at the Billings house, a
mile down river, but for several years Mrs. Wiley had furnished the noon
meal, sending it down piping hot on the stroke of twelve. The boys
always said that up or down the whole length of the Saco there was no
such cooking as the Wileys', and much of this praise was earned by
Rose's serving. It was the old grandmother who burnished the tin plates
and dippers till they looked like silver; for crotchety and
sharp-tongued as she was--she never allowed Rose to spoil her hands with
soft soap and sand: but it was Rose who planned and packed, Rose who
hemmed squares of old white tablecloths and sheets to line the baskets
and keep things daintily separate, Rose, also, whose tarts and cakes
were the pride and admiration of church sociables and sewing societies.

Where could such smoking pots of beans be found? A murmur of ecstatic
approval ran through the crowd when the covers were removed. Pieces of
sweet home-fed pork glistened like varnished mahogany on the top of the
beans, and underneath were such deeps of fragrant juice as come only
from slow fires and long, quiet hours in brick ovens. Who else could
steam and bake such mealy leaves of brown bread, brown as plum-pudding,
yet with no suspicion of sogginess? Who such soda-biscuits, big,
feathery, tasting of cream, and hardly needing butter? And green-apple
pies! Could such candied lower crusts be found elsewhere, or more
delectable filling? Or such rich, nutty doughnuts?--doughnuts that had
spurned the hot fat which is the ruin of so many, and risen from its
waves like golden-brown Venuses.

"By the great seleckmen!" ejaculated Jed Towle, as he swallowed his
fourth, "I'd like to hev a wife, two daughters, and four sisters like
them Wileys, and jest set still on the river-bank an' hev 'em cook
victuals for me. I'd hev nothin' to wish for then but a mouth as big as
the Saco's."

"And I wish this custard pie was the size o' Bonnie Eagle Pond," said
Ike Billings. "I'd like to fall into the middle of it and eat my way
out!"

"Look at that bunch o' Chiny asters tied on t' the bail o' that
biscuit-pail!" said Ivory Dunn. "That's the girl's doin's, you bet
women-folks don't seem to make no bo'quets after they git married. Let's
divide 'em up an' wear 'em drivin' this afternoon; mebbe they'll ketch
the eye so't our rags won't show so bad. Land! it's lucky my hundred
days is about up! If I don't git home soon, I shall be arrested for
goin' without clo'es. I set up'bout all night puttin' these blue patches
in my pants an' tryin' to piece together a couple of old red-flannel
shirts to make one whole one. That's the worst o' drivin' in these
places where the pretty girls make a habit of comin' down to the bridge
to see the fun. You hev to keep rigged up jest so stylish; you can't git
no chance at the rum bottle, an' you even hev to go a leetle mite light
on swearin'."



"BLASPHEMIOUS SWEARIN'"


"Steve Waterman's an awful nice feller," exclaimed Ivory Dunn just then.
Stephen had been looking intently across the river, watching the
Shapleys' side door, from which Rose might issue at any moment; and at
this point in the discussion he had lounged away from the group, and,
moving toward the bridge, began to throw pebbles idly into the water.

"He's an awful smart driver for one that don't foiler drivin' the year
round," continued Ivory; "and he's the awfullest clean-spoken,
soft-spoken feller I ever see."

"There's be'n two black sheep in his family a'ready, an' Steve kind o'
feels as if he'd ought to be extry white," remarked Jed Towle. "You
fellers that belonged to the old drive remember Pretty Quick Waterman
well enough? Steve's mother brought him up."

Yes; most of them remembered the Waterman twins, Stephen's cousins, now
both dead,--Slow Waterman, so moderate in his steps and actions that you
had to fix a landmark somewhere near him to see if he moved; and Pretty
Quick, who shone by comparison with his twin.

"I'd kind o' forgot that Pretty Quick Waterman was cousin to Steve,"
said the under boss; "he never worked with me much, but he wa'n't cut
off the same piece o' goods as the other Watermans. Great hemlock! but
he kep' a cussin' dictionary, Pretty Quick did! Whenever he heard any
new words he must 'a' writ 'em down, an' then studied 'em all up in the
winter-time, to use in the spring drive."

"Swearin' 's a habit that hed ought to be practiced with turrible
caution," observed old Mr. Wiley, when the drivers had finished
luncheon and taken out their pipes. "There's three kinds o'
swearin',--plain swearin', profane swearin', an' blasphemious swearin'.
Logs air jest like mules: there's times when a man can't seem to rip up
a jam in good style 'thout a few words that's too strong for the infant
classes in Sunday-schools; but a man hedn't ought to tempt Providence.
When he's ridin' a log near the falls at high water, or cuttin' the
key-log in a jam, he ain't in no place for blasphemious swearin'; jest a
little easy, perlite 'damn' is 'bout all he can resk, if he don't want to
git drownded an' hev his ghost walkin' the river-banks till kingdom
come.

"You an' I, Long, was the only ones that seen Pretty Quick go, wa'n't
we?" continued Old Kennebec, glancing at Long Abe Dennett (cousin to
Short Abe), who lay on his back in the grass, the smoke-wreaths rising
from his pipe, and the steel spikes in his heavy, calked-sole boots
shining in the sun.

"There was folks on the bridge," Long answered, "but we was the only
ones near enough to see an' hear. It was so onexpected, an' so soon
over, that them as was watchin' upstream, where the men was to work on
the falls, wouldn't 'a' hed time to see him go down. But I did, an'
nobody ain't heard me swear sence, though it's ten years ago. I allers
said it was rum an' bravadder that killed Pretty Quick Waterman that
day. The boys hedn't give him a 'dare' that he hedn't took up. He seemed
like he was possessed, an' the logs was the same way; they was fairly
wild, leapin' around in the maddest kind o' water you ever see. The
river was b'ilin' high that spring; it was an awful stubborn jam, an'
Pretty Quick, he'd be'n workin' on it sence dinner."

"He clumb up the bank more'n once to have a pull at the bottle that was
hid in the bushes," interpolated Mr. Wiley.

"Like as not; that was his failin'. Well, most o' the boys were on the
other side o' the river, workin' above the bridge, an' the boss hed
called Pretty Quick to come off an' leave the jam till mornin', when
they'd get horses an' dog-warp it off, log by log. But when the boss got
out o' sight, Pretty Quick jest stood right still, swingin' his axe, an'
blasphemin' so 't would freeze your blood, vowin' he wouldn't move till
the logs did, if he stayed there till the crack o' doom. Jest then a
great, ponderous log that hed be'n churnin' up an' down in the falls for
a week, got free an' come blunderin' an' thunderin' down-river. Land! it
was chockfull o' water, an' looked 'bout as big as a church! It come
straight along, butt-end foremost, an' struck that jam, full force, so't
every log in it shivered. There was a crack,--the crack o' doom, sure
enough, for Pretty Quick,--an' one o' the logs le'p' right out an'
struck him jest where he stood, with his axe in the air, blasphemin'.
The jam kind o' melted an' crumbled up, an' in a second Pretty Quick
was whirlin' in the white water. He never riz,--at least where we could
see him,--an' we didn't find him for a week. That's the whole story, an'
I guess Steve takes it as a warnin'. Any way, he ain't no friend to rum
nor swearin', Steve ain't. He knows Pretty Quick's ways shortened his
mother's life, an' you notice what a sharp lookout he keeps on Rufus."

"He needs it," Ike Billings commented tersely.

"Some men seem to lose their wits when they're workin' on logs,"
observed Mr. Wiley, who had deeply resented Long Dennett's telling of a
story which he knew fully as well and could have told much better. "Now,
nat'rally, I've seen things on the Kennebec "--

"Three cheers for the Saco! Hats off, boys!" shouted Jed Towle, and his
directions were followed with a will.

"As I was sayin'," continued the old man, peacefully, "I've seen things
on the Kennebec that wouldn't happen on a small river, an' I've be'n in
turrible places an' taken turrible resks--resks that would 'a' turned a
Saco River man's hair white; but them is the times when my wits work the
quickest. I remember once I was smokin' my pipe when a jam broke under
me. 'T was a small jam, or what we call a small jam on the
Kennebec,--only about three hundred thousand pine logs. The first thing
I knowed, I was shootin' back an' forth in the b'ilin' foam, hangin' on
t' the end of a log like a spider. My hands was clasped round the log,
and I never lost control o' my pipe. They said I smoked right along,
jest as cool an' placid as a pond-lily."

"Why'd you quit drivin'?" inquired Ivory.

"My strength wa'n't ekal to it," Mr. Wiley responded sadly. "I was all
skin, bones, an' nerve. The Comp'ny wouldn't part with me altogether,
so they give me a place in the office down on the wharves."

"That wa'n't so bad," said Jed Towle; "why didn't you hang on to it,
so's to keep in sight o' the Kennebec?"

"I found I couldn't be confined under cover. My liver give all out, my
appetite failed me, an' I wa'n't wuth a day's wages. I'd learned
engineerin' when I was a boy, an' I thought I'd try runnin' on the road
a spell, but it didn't suit my constitution. My kidneys ain't turrible
strong, an' the doctors said I'd have Bright's disease if I didn't git
some kind o' work where there wa'n't no vibrations."

"Hard to find, Mr. Wiley; hard to find!" said Jed Towle.

"You're right," responded the old man feelingly. "I've tried all kinds
o' labor. Some of 'em don't suit my liver, some disagrees with my
stomach, and the rest of 'em has vibrations; so here I set, high an'
dry on the banks of life, you might say, like a stranded log."

As this well-known simile fell upon the ear, there was a general stir in
the group, for Turrible Wiley, when rhetorical, sometimes grew tearful,
and this was a mood not to be encouraged.

"All right, boss," called Ike Billings, winking to the boys; "we'll be
there in a jiffy!" for the luncheon hour had flown, and the work of the
afternoon was waiting for them. "You make a chalk-mark where you left
off, Mr. Wiley, an' we'll hear the rest to-morrer; only don't you forgit
nothin'! Remember't was the Kennebec you was talkin' about."

"I will, indeed," responded the old man. "As I was sayin' when
interrupted, I may be a stranded log, but I'm proud that the mark o' the
Gard'ner Lumber Comp'ny is on me, so't when I git to my journey's end
they'll know where I belong and send me back to the Kennebec. Before I'm
sawed up I'd like to forgit this triflin' brook in the sight of a
good-sized river, an' rest my eyes on some full-grown logs, 'stead o'
these little damn pipestems you boys are playin' with!"



THE GAME OF JACKSTRAWS


There was a roar of laughter at the old man's boast, but in a moment all
was activity. The men ran hither and thither like ants, gathering their
tools. There were some old-fashioned pick-poles, straight, heavy levers
without any "dog," and there were modern pick-poles and peaveys, for
every river has its favorite equipment in these things. There was no
dynamite in those days to make the stubborn jams yield, and the dog-warp
was in general use. Horses or oxen, sometimes a line of men, stood on
the river-bank. A long rope was attached by means of a steel spike to
one log after another, and it was dragged from the tangled mass.
Sometimes, after unloading the top logs, those at the bottom would rise
and make the task easier; sometimes the work would go on for hours with
no perceptible progress, and Mr. Wiley would have opportunity to tell
the bystanders of a "turrible jam" on the Kennebec that had cost the
Lumber Company ten thousand dollars to break.

There would be great arguments on shore, among the villagers as well as
among the experts, as to the particular log which might be a key to the
position. The boss would study the problem from various standpoints, and
the drivers themselves would pass from heated discussion into long
consultations.

"They're paid by the day," Old Kennebec would philosophize to the
doctor; "an' when they're consultin' they don't hev to be doggin', which
is a turrible sight harder work."

Rose had created a small sensation, on one occasion, by pointing out to
the under boss the key-log in a jam. She was past mistress of the
pretty game of jackstraws, much in vogue at that time. The delicate
little lengths of polished wood or bone were shaken together and emptied
on the table. Each jackstraw had one of its ends fashioned in the shape
of some sort of implement,--a rake, hoe, spade, fork, or mallet. All the
pieces were intertwined by the shaking process, and they lay as they
fell, in a hopeless tangle. The task consisted in taking a tiny
pick-pole, scarcely bigger than a match, and with the bit of curved wire
on the end lifting off the jackstraws one by one without stirring the
pile or making it tremble. When this occurred, you gave place to your
opponent, who relinquished his turn to you when ill fortune descended
upon him, the game, which was a kind of river-driving and jam-picking in
miniature, being decided by the number of pieces captured and their
value. No wonder that the under boss asked Rose's advice as to the
key-log. She had a fairy's hand, and her cunning at deciding the pieces
to be moved, and her skill at extricating and lifting them from the
heap, were looked upon in Edgewood as little less than supernatural. It
was a favorite pastime; and although a man's hand is ill adapted to it,
being over-large and heavy; the game has obvious advantages for a lover
in bringing his head very close to that of his beloved adversary. The
jackstraws have to be watched with a hawk's eagerness, since the
"trembling" can be discerned only by a keen eye; but there were moments
when Stephen was willing to risk the loss of a battle if he could watch
Rose's drooping eyelashes, the delicate down on her pink cheek, and the
feathery curls that broke away from her hair.

He was looking at her now from a distance, for she and Mite Shapley were
assisting Jed Towle to pile up the tin plates and tie the tin dippers
together. Next she peered into one of the bean-pots, and seemed pleased
that there was still something in its depths; then she gathered the
fragments neatly together in a basket, and, followed by her friend,
clambered down the banks to a shady spot where the Boomshers, otherwise
known as the Crambry family, were "lined up" expectantly.

It is not difficult to find a single fool in any community, however
small; but a family of fools is fortunately somewhat rarer. Every
county, however, can boast of one fool-family, and York County is
always in the fashion, with fools as with everything else. The unique,
much-quoted, and undesirable Boomshers could not be claimed as
indigenous to the Saco valley, for this branch was an offshoot of a
still larger tribe inhabiting a distant township. Its beginnings were
shrouded in mystery. There was a French-Canadian ancestor somewhere, and
a Gipsy or Indian grandmother. They had always intermarried from time
immemorial. When one of the selectmen of their native place had been
asked why the Boomshers always married cousins, and why the habit was
not discouraged, he replied that he really didn't know; he s'posed they
felt it would be kind of odd to go right out and marry a stranger.

Lest "Boomsher" seem an unusual surname, it must be explained that the
actual name was French and could not be coped with by Edgewood or
Pleasant River, being something quite as impossible to spell as to
pronounce. As the family had lived for the last few years somewhere near
the Killick Cranberry Meadows, they were called--and completely
described in the calling--the Crambry fool-family. A talented and much
traveled gentleman who once stayed over night at the Edgewood tavern,
proclaimed it his opinion that Boomsher had been gradually corrupted
from Beaumarchais. When he wrote the word on his visiting card and
showed it to Mr. Wiley, Old Kennebec had replied, that in the judgment
of a man who had lived in large places and seen a turrible lot o' life,
such a name could never have been given either to a Christian or a
heathen family,--that the way in which the letters was thrown together
into it, and the way in which they was sounded when read out loud, was
entirely ag'in reason. It was true, he said, that Beaumarchais, bein'
such a fool name, might 'a' be'n invented a-purpose for a fool family,
but he wouldn't hold even with callin' 'em Boomsher; Crambry was well
enough for'em an' a sight easier to speak.

Stephen knew a good deal about the Crambrys, for he passed their
so-called habitation in going to one of his wood-lots. It was only a
month before that he had found them all sitting outside their
broken-down fence, surrounded by decrepit chairs, sofas, tables,
bedsteads, bits of carpet, and stoves.

"What's the matter?" he called out from his wagon. "There ain't nothin'
the matter," said Alcestis Crambry. "Father's dead, an we're dividin' up
the furnerchure."

Alcestis was the pride of the Crambrys, and the list of his attainments
used often to be on his proud father's lips. It was he who was the
largest, "for his size," in the family; he who could tell his brothers
Paul and Arcadus "by their looks;" he who knew a sour apple from a sweet
one the minute he bit it; he who, at the early age of ten, was bright
enough to point to the cupboard and say, "Puddin', dad!"

Alcestis had enjoyed, in consequence of his unusual intellectual powers,
some educational privileges, and the Killick schoolmistress well
remembered his first day at the village seat of learning. Reports of
what took place in this classic temple from day to day may have been
wafted to the dull ears of the boy, who was not thought ready for school
until he had attained the ripe age of twelve. It may even have been
that specific rumors of the signs, symbols, and hieroglyphics used in
educational institutions had reached him in the obscurity of his
cranberry meadows. At all events, when confronted by the alphabet chart,
whose huge black capitals were intended to capture the wandering eyes of
the infant class, Alcestis exhibited unusual, almost unnatural,
excitement.

"That is 'A,' my boy," said the teacher genially, as she pointed to the
first character on the chart.

"Good God, is that 'A'!" exclaimed Alcestis, sitting down heavily on
the nearest bench. And neither teacher nor scholars could discover
whether he was agreeably surprised or disappointed in the
letter,--whether he had expected, if he ever encountered it, to find it
writhing in coils on the floor of a cage, or whether it simply bore no
resemblance to the ideal already established in his mind.

Mrs. Wiley had once tried to make something of Mercy, the oldest
daughter of the family, but at the end of six weeks she announced that a
girl who couldn't tell whether the clock was going "forrards or
backwards," and who rubbed a pocket handkerchief as long as she did a
sheet, would be no help in her household.

The Crambrys had daily walked the five or six miles from their home to
the Edgewood bridge during the progress of the drive, not only for the
social and intellectual advantages to be gained from the company
present, but for the more solid compensation of a good meal. They all
adored Rose, partly because she gave them food, and partly because she
was sparkling and pretty and wore pink dresses that caught their dull
eyes.

The afternoon proved a lively one. In the first place, one of the
younger men slipped into the water between two logs, part of a lot
chained together waiting to be let out of the boom. The weight of the
mass higher up and the force of the current wedged him in rather
tightly, and when he had been "pried" out he declared that he felt like
an apple after it had been squeezed in the cider-mill, so he drove home,
and Rufus Waterman took his place.

Two hours' hard work followed this incident, and at the end of that time
the "bung" that reached from the shore to Waterman's Ledge (the rock
where Pretty Quick met his fate) was broken up, and the logs that
composed it were started down river. There remained now only the great
side-jam at Gray Rock. This had been allowed to grow, gathering logs as
they drifted past, thus making higher water and a stronger current on
the other side of the rock, and allowing an easier passage for the logs
at that point.

All was excitement now, for, this particular piece of work accomplished,
the boom above the falls would be "turned out," and the river would
once more be clear and clean at the Edgewood bridge.

Small boys, perching on the rocks with their heels hanging, hands and
mouths full of red Astrakhan apples, cheered their favorites to the
echo, while the drivers shouted to one another and watched the signs and
signals of the boss, who could communicate with them only in that way,
so great was the roar of the water.

The jam refused to yield to ordinary measures. It was a difficult
problem, for the rocky river-bed held many a snare and pitfall. There
was a certain ledge under the water, so artfully placed that every log
striking under its projecting edges would wedge itself firmly there,
attracting others by its evil example.

"That galoot-boss ought to hev shoved his crew down to that jam this
mornin'," grumbled Old Kennebec to Alcestis Crambry, who was always his
most loyal and attentive listener. "But he wouldn't take no advice, not
if Pharaoh nor Boat nor Herod nor Nicodemus come right out o' the Bible
an' give it to him. The logs air contrary to-day. Sometimes they'll go
along as easy as an old shoe, an' other times they'll do nothin' but
bung, bung, bung! There's a log nestlin' down in the middle o' that jam
that I've be'n watchin' for a week. It's a cur'ous one, to begin with;
an' then it has a mark on it that you can reco'nize it by. Did ye ever
hear tell o' George the Third, King of England, Alcestis, or ain't he
known over to the crambry medders? Well, once upon a time men used to go
through the forests over here an' slash a mark on the trunks o' the
biggest trees. That was the royal sign, as you might say, an' meant that
the tree was to be taken over to England to make masts an' yard-arms for
the King's ships. What made me think of it now is that the King's mark
was an arrer, an' it's an arrer that's on that there log I'm showin' ye.
Well, sir, I seen it fust at Milliken's Mills a Monday. It was in
trouble then, an'it's be'n in trouble ever sence. That's allers the way;
there'll be one pesky, crooked, contrary, consarn'ed log that can't go
anywheres without gittin' into difficulties. You can yank it out an' set
it afloat, an' before you hardly git your doggin' iron off of it, it'll
be snarled up agin in some new place. From the time it's chopped down to
the day it gets to Saco, it costs the Comp'ny 'bout ten times its pesky
valler as lumber. Now they've sent over to Benson's for a team of
horses, an' I bate ye they can't git 'em. I wish I was the boss on this
river, Alcestis."

"I wish I was," echoed the boy.

"Well, your head-fillin' ain't the right kind for a boss, Alcestis, an'
you'd better stick to dry land. You set right down here while I go back
a piece an' git the pipe out o' my coat pocket. I guess nothin' ain't
goin' to happen for a few minutes."

The surmise about the horses, unlike most of Old Kennebec's, proved to
be true. Benson's pair had gone to Portland with a load of hay;
accordingly the tackle was brought, the rope was adjusted to a log, and
five of the drivers, standing on the river-bank, attempted to drag it
from its intrenched position. It refused to yield the fraction of an
inch. Rufus and Stephen joined the five men, and the augmented crew of
seven were putting all their strength on the rope when a cry went up
from the watchers on the bridge. The "dog" had loosened suddenly, and
the men were flung violently to the ground. For a second they were
stunned both by the surprise and by the shock of the blow, but in the
same moment the cry of the crowd swelled louder. Alcestis Crambry had
stolen, all unnoticed, to the rope and had attempted to use his feeble
powers for the common good. When then blow came he fell backward, and,
making no effort to control the situation, slid over the bank and into
the water.

[Illustration: IN A TWINKLING HE WAS IN THE WATER]

The other Crambrys, not realizing the danger, laughed, audibly, but
there was no jeering from the bridge.

Stephen had seen Alcestis slip, and in the fraction of a moment had
taken off his boots and was coasting down the slippery rocks behind him
in a twinkling he was in the water, almost as soon as the boy himself.

"Doggoned idjut!" exclaimed Old Kennebec, tearfully. "Wuth the hull fool
family! If I hedn't 'a' be'n so old, I'd 'a' jumped in myself, for you
can't drownd a Wiley, not without you tie nail-kegs to their head an'
feet an' drop 'em in the falls."

Alcestis, who had neither brains, courage, nor experience, had, better
still, the luck that follows the witless. He was carried swiftly down
the current; but, only fifty feet away, a long, slender, log, wedged
between two low rocks on the shore, jutted out over the water, almost
touching its surface. The boy's clothes were admirably adapted to the
situation, being full of enormous rents. In some way the end of the log
caught in the rags of Alcestis's coat and held him just seconds enough
to enable Stephen to swim to him, to seize him by the nape of the neck,
to lift him on the log, and thence to the shore. It was a particularly
bad place for a landing, and there was nothing to do but to lower ropes
and drag the drenched men to the high ground above.

Alcestis came to his senses in ten or fifteen minutes, and seemed as
bright as usual: with a kind of added swagger at being the central
figure in a dramatic situation.

"I wonder you hedn't stove your brains out, when you landed so turrible
suddent on that rock at the foot of the bank," said Mr. Wiley to him.

"I should, but I took good care to light on my head," responded
Alcestis; a cryptic remark which so puzzled Old Kennebec that he mused
over it for some hours.



HEARTS AND OTHER HEARTS


Stephen had brought a change of clothes, as he had a habit of being
ducked once at least during the day; and since there was a halt in the
proceedings and no need of his services for an hour or two, he found
Rose and walked with her to a secluded spot where they could watch the
logs and not be seen by the people.

"You frightened everybody almost to death, jumping into the river,"
chided Rose.

Stephen laughed. "They thought I was a fool to save a fool, I suppose."

"Perhaps not as bad as that, but it did seem reckless."

"I know; and the boy, no doubt, would be better off dead; but so should
I be, if I could have let him die."

Rose regarded this strange point of view for a moment, and then silently
acquiesced in it. She was constantly doing this, and she often felt that
her mental horizon broadened in the act; but she could not be sure that
Stephen grew any dearer to her because of his moral altitudes.

"Besides," Stephen argued, "I happened to be nearest to the river, and
it was my job."

"How do you always happen to be nearest to the people in trouble, and
why is it always your 'job'!"

"If there are any rewards for good conduct being distributed, I'm right
in line with my hand stretched out," Stephen replied, with meaning in
his voice.

Rose blushed under her flowery hat as he led the way to a bench under a
sycamore tree that overhung the water.

She had almost convinced herself that she was as much in love with
Stephen Waterman as it was in her nature to be with anybody. He was
handsome in his big way, kind, generous, temperate, well educated, and
well-to-do. No fault could be found with his family, for his mother had
been a teacher, and his father, though a farmer, a college graduate.
Stephen himself had had one year at Bowdoin, but had been recalled, as
the head of the house, when his father died. That was a severe blow; but
his mother's death, three years after, was a grief never to be quite
forgotten. Rose, too, was the child of a gently bred mother, and all her
instincts were refined. Yes; Stephen in himself satisfied her in all the
larger wants of her nature, but she had an unsatisfied hunger for the
world,--the world of Portland, where her cousins lived; or, better
still, the world of Boston, of which she heard through Mrs. Wealthy
Brooks, whose nephew Claude often came to visit her in Edgewood. Life on
a farm a mile and a half distant from post-office and stores; life in
the house with Rufus, who was rumored to be somewhat wild and
unsteady,--this prospect seemed a trifle dull and uneventful to the
trivial part of her, though to the better part it was enough. The better
part of her loved Stephen Waterman, dimly feeling the richness of his
nature, the tenderness of his affection, the strength of his character.
Rose was not destitute either of imagination or sentiment. She did not
relish this constant weighing of Stephen in the balance: he was too good
to be weighed and considered. She longed to be carried out of herself on
a wave of rapturous assent, but something seemed to hold her back,--some
seed of discontent with the man's environment and circumstances, some
germ of longing for a gayer, brighter, more varied life. No amount of
self-searching or argument could change the situation. She always loved
Stephen more or less: more when he was away from her, because she never
approved his collars nor the set of his shirt bosom; and as he
naturally wore these despised articles of apparel whenever he proposed
to her, she was always lukewarm about marrying him and settling down on
the River Farm. Still, to-day she discovered in herself, with positive
gratitude, a warmer feeling for him than she had experienced before. He
wore a new and becoming gray flannel shirt, with the soft turnover
collar that belonged to it, and a blue tie, the color of his kind eyes.
She knew that he had shaved his beard at her request not long ago, and
that when she did not like the effect as much as she had hoped, he had
meekly grown a mustache for her sake; it did seem as if a man could
hardly do more to please an exacting lady-love.

And she had admired him unreservedly when he pulled off his boots and
jumped into the river to save Alcestis Crambry's life, without giving a
single thought to his own.

And was there ever, after all, such a noble, devoted, unselfish fellow,
or a better brother? And would she not despise herself for rejecting him
simply because he was countrified, and because she longed to see the
world of the fashion-plates in the magazines?

"The logs are so like people!" she exclaimed, as they sat down. "I could
name nearly every one of them for somebody in the village. Look at Mite
Shapley, that dancing little one, slipping over the falls and skimming
along the top of the water, keeping out of all the deep places, and
never once touching the rocks."

Stephen fell into her mood. "There's Squire Anderson coming down
crosswise and bumping everything in reach. You know he's always buying
lumber and logs without knowing what he is going to do with them. They
just lie and rot by the roadside. The boys always say that a toad-stool
is the old Squire's 'mark' on a log."

"And that stout, clumsy one is Short Dennett.--What are you doing,
Stephen!"

"Only building a fence round this clump of harebells," Stephen replied.
"They've just got well rooted, and if the boys come skidding down the
bank with their spiked shoes, the poor things will never hold up their
heads again. Now they're safe.--Oh, look, Rose! There come the minister
and his wife!"

A portly couple of peeled logs, exactly matched in size, came
ponderously over the falls together, rose within a second of each other,
joined again, and swept under the bridge side by side.

"And--oh! oh! Dr. and Mrs. Cram just after them! Isn't that funny?"
laughed Rose, as a very long, slender pair of pines swam down, as close
to each other as if they had been glued in that position. Rose thought,
as she watched them, who but Stephen would have cared what became of the
clump of delicate harebells. How gentle such a man would be to a woman!
How tender his touch would be if she were ill or in trouble!

Several single logs followed,--crooked ones, stolid ones, adventurous
ones, feeble swimmers, deep divers. Some of them tried to start a small
jam on their own account; others stranded themselves for good and all,
as Rose and Stephen sat there side by side, with little Dan Cupid for an
invisible third on the bench.

"There never was anything so like people," Rose repeated, leaning
forward excitedly. "And, upon my word, the minister and doctor couples
are still together. I wonder if they'll get as far as the falls at
Union? That would be an odd place to part, wouldn't it--Union?" Stephen
saw his opportunity, and seized it.

"There's a reason, Rose, why two logs go down stream better than one,
and get into less trouble. They make a wider path, create more force
and a better current. It's the same way with men and women. Oh, Rose,
there isn't a man in the world that's loved you as long, or knows how to
love you any better than I do. You're just like a white birch sapling,
and I'm a great, clumsy fir tree; but if you'll only trust yourself to
me, Rose, I'll take you safely down river."

Stephen's big hand closed on Rose's little one she returned its pressure
softly and gave him the kiss that with her, as with him, meant a promise
for all the years to come. The truth and passion in the man had broken
the girl's bonds for the moment. Her vision was clearer, and, realizing
the treasures of love and fidelity that were being offered her, she
accepted them, half unconscious that she was not returning them in kind.
How is the belle of two villages to learn that she should "thank Heaven,
fasting, for a good man's love"?

And Stephen? He went home in the dusk, not knowing whether his feet were
touching the solid earth or whether he was treading upon rainbows.

Rose's pink calico seemed to brush him as he walked in the path that was
wide enough only for one. His solitude was peopled again when he fed the
cattle, for Rose's face smiled at him from the haymow; and when he
strained the milk, Rose held the pans.

His nightly tasks over, he went out and took his favorite seat under the
apple tree. All was still, save for the crickets' ceaseless chirp, the
soft thud of an August sweeting dropping in the grass, and the
swish-swash of the water against his boat, tethered in the Willow Cove.

He remembered when he first saw Rose, for that must have been when he
began to love her, though he was only fourteen and quite unconscious
that the first seed had been dropped in the rich soil of his boyish
heart.

[Illustration: "ROSE, I'LL TAKE YOU SAFELY"]

He was seated on the kerosene barrel in the Edgewood post-office, which
was also the general country store, where newspapers, letters, molasses,
nails, salt codfish, hairpins, sugar, liver pills, canned goods, beans,
and ginghams dwelt in genial proximity. When she entered, just a little
pink-and-white slip of a thing with a tin pail in her hand and a
sunbonnet falling off her wavy hair, Stephen suddenly stopped swinging
his feet. She gravely announced her wants, reading them from a bit of
paper,--1 quart molasses, 1 package ginger, 1 lb. cheese, 2 pairs shoe
laces, 1 card shirt buttons.

While the storekeeper drew off the molasses she exchanged shy looks with
Stephen, who, clean, well-dressed, and carefully mothered as he was,
felt all at once uncouth and awkward, rather as if he were some clumsy
lout pitchforked into the presence of a fairy queen. He offered her the
little bunch of bachelor's buttons he held in his hand, augury of the
future, had he known it,--and she accepted them with a smile. She
dropped her memorandum; he picked it up, and she smiled again, doing
still more fatal damage than in the first instance. No words were
spoken, but Rose, even at ten, had less need of them than most of her
sex, for her dimples, aided by dancing eyes, length of lashes, and curve
of lips, quite took the place of conversation. The dimples tempted,
assented, denied, corroborated, deplored, protested, sympathized, while
the intoxicated beholder cudgeled his brain for words or deeds which
should provoke and evoke more and more dimples.

The storekeeper hung the molasses pail over Rose's right arm and tucked
the packages under her left, and as he opened the mosquito netting door
to let her pass out she looked back at Stephen, perched on the kerosene
barrel. Just a little girl, a little glance, a little dimple, and
Stephen was never quite the same again. The years went on, and the boy
became man, yet no other image had ever troubled the deep, placid waters
of his heart. Now, after many denials, the hopes and longings of his
nature had been answered, and Rose had promised to marry him. He would
sacrifice his passion for logging and driving in the future, and become
a staid farmer and man of affairs, only giving himself a river holiday
now and then. How still and peaceful it was under the trees, and how
glad his mother would be to think that the old farm would wake from its
sleep, and a woman's light foot be heard in the sunny kitchen!

Heaven was full of silent stars, and there was a moonglade on the water
that stretched almost from him to Rose. His heart embarked on that
golden pathway and sailed on it to the farther shore. The river was free
of logs, and under the light of the moon it shone like a silver mirror.
The soft wind among the fir branches breathed Rose's name; the river,
rippling against the shore, sang, "Rose;" and as Stephen sat there
dreaming of the future, his dreams, too, could have been voiced in one
word, and that word "Rose."



THE LITTLE HOUSE


The autumn days flew past like shuttles in a loom. The river reflected
the yellow foliage of the white birch and the scarlet of the maples. The
wayside was bright with goldenrod, with the red tassels of the sumac,
with the purple frost-flower and feathery clematis.

If Rose was not as happy as Stephen, she was quietly content, and felt
that she had more to be grateful for than most girls, for Stephen
surprised her with first one evidence and then another of thoughtful
generosity. In his heart of hearts he felt that Rose was not wholly his,
that she reserved, withheld something; and it was the subjugation of
this rebellious province that he sought. He and Rose had agreed to wait
a year for their marriage, in which time Rose's cousin would finish
school and be ready to live with the old people; meanwhile Stephen had
learned that his maiden aunt would be glad to come and keep house for
Rufus. The work at the River Farm was too hard for a girl, so he had
persuaded himself of late, and the house was so far from the village
that Rose was sure to be lonely. He owned a couple of acres between his
place and the Edgewood bridge, and here, one afternoon only a month
after their engagement, he took Rose to see the foundations of a little
house he was building for her. It was to be only a story-and-a-half
cottage of six small rooms, the two upper chambers to be finished off
later on. Stephen had placed it well back from the road, leaving space
in front for what was to be a most wonderful arrangement of flower-beds,
yet keeping a strip at the back, on the river-brink, for a small
vegetable garden. There had been a house there years before--so many
years that the blackened ruins were entirely overgrown; but a few elms
and an old apple-orchard remained to shade the new dwelling and give
welcome to the coming inmates.

Stephen had fifteen hundred dollars in bank, he could turn his hand to
almost anything, and his love was so deep that Rose's plumb-line had
never sounded bottom; accordingly he was able, with the help of two
steady workers, to have the roof on before the first of November. The
weather was clear and fine, and by Thanksgiving clapboards, shingles,
two coats of brown paint, and even the blinds had all been added. This
exhibition of reckless energy on Stephen's part did not wholly commend
itself to the neighborhood.

"Steve's too turrible spry," said Rose's grandfather; "he'll trip
himself up some o' these times."

"You never will," remarked his better half, sagely.

"The resks in life come along fast enough, without runnin' to meet 'em,"
continued the old man. "There's good dough in Rose, but it ain't more'n
half riz. Let somebody come along an' drop in a little more yeast, or
set the dish a little mite nearer the stove, an' you'll see what'll
happen."

"Steve's kept house for himself some time, an' I guess he knows more
about bread-makin' than you do."

"There don't nobody know more'n I do about nothin', when my pipe's
drawin' real good an' nobody's thornin' me to go to work," replied Mr.
Wiley; "but nobody's willin' to take the advice of a man that's seen the
world an' lived in large places, an' the risin' generation is in a
turrible hurry. I don' know how 't is: young folks air allers settin'
the clock forrard an' the old ones puttin' it back."

"Did you ketch anything for dinner when you was out this mornin'?" asked
his wife. "No, I fished an' fished, till I was about ready to drop, an'
I did git a few shiners, but land, they wa'n't as big as the worms I was
ketchin' 'em with, so I pitched 'em back in the water an' quit."

During the progress of these remarks Mr. Wiley opened the door under the
sink, and from beneath a huge iron pot drew a round tray loaded with a
glass pitcher and half a dozen tumblers, which he placed carefully on
the kitchen table.

"This is the last day's option I've got on this lemonade-set," he said,
"an' if I'm goin'to Biddeford to-morrer I've got to make up my mind here
an' now."

With this observation he took off his shoes, climbed in his stocking
feet to the vantage ground of a kitchen chair, and lifted a stone china
pitcher from a corner of the highest cupboard shelf where it had been
hidden.

"This lemonade's gittin' kind o' dusty," he complained, "I cal'lated to
hev a kind of a spree on it when I got through choosin' Rose's weddin'
present, but I guess the pig'll he v to help me out."

The old man filled one of the glasses from the pitcher, pulled up the
kitchen shades to the top, put both hands in his pockets, and walked
solemnly round the table, gazing at his offering from every possible
point of view.

There had been three lemonade sets in the window of a Biddeford crockery
store when Mr. Wiley chanced to pass by, and he had brought home the
blue and green one on approval.

To the casual eye it would have appeared as quite uniquely hideous until
the red and yellow or the purple and orange ones had been seen; after
that, no human being could have made a decision, where each was so
unparalleled in its ugliness, and Old Kennebec's confusion of mind would
have been perfectly understood by the connoisseur.

"How do you like it with the lemonade in, mother?" he inquired eagerly.
"The thing that plagues me most is that the red an' yaller one I hed
home last week lights up better'n this, an' I believe I'll settle on
that; for as I was thinkin' last night in bed, lemonade is mostly an
evenin' drink an' Rose won't be usin' the set much by daylight. Root
beer looks the han'somest in this purple set, but Rose loves lemonade
better'n beer, so I guess I'll pack up this one an' change it to-morrer.
Mebbe when I get it out o' sight an' give the lemonade to the pig I'll
be easier in my mind."

In the opinion of the community at large Stephen's forehandedness in the
matter of preparations for his marriage was imprudence, and his desire
for neatness and beauty flagrant extravagance. The house itself was a
foolish idea, it was thought, but there were extenuating circumstances,
for the maiden aunt really needed a home, and Rufus was likely to marry
before long and take his wife to the River Farm. It was to be hoped in
his case that he would avoid the snares of beauty and choose a good
stout girl who would bring the dairy back to what it was in Mrs.
Waterman's time.

All winter long Stephen labored on the inside of the cottage, mostly by
himself. He learned all trades in succession, Love being his only
master. He had many odd days to spare from his farm work, and if he had
not found days he would have taken nights. Scarcely a nail was driven
without Rose's advice; and when the plastering was hard and dry, the
wall-papers were the result of weeks of consultation.

Among the quiet joys of life there is probably no other so deep, so
sweet, so full of trembling hope and delight, as the building and making
of a home,--a home where two lives are to be merged in one and flow on
together, a home full of mysterious and delicious possibilities, hidden
in a future which is always rose-colored.

Rose's sweet little nature broadened under Stephen's influence; but she
had her moments of discontent and unrest, always followed quickly by
remorse.

At the Thanksgiving sociable some one had observed her turquoise
engagement ring,--some one who said that such a hand was worthy of a
diamond, that turquoises were a pretty color, but that there was only
one stone for an engagement ring, and that was a diamond. At the
Christmas dance the same some one had said her waltzing would make her
"all the rage" in Boston. She wondered if it were true, and wondered
whether, if she had not promised to marry Stephen, some splendid being
from a city would have descended from his heights, bearing diamonds in
his hand. Not that she would have accepted them; she only wondered.
These disloyal thoughts came seldom, and she put them resolutely away,
devoting herself with all the greater assiduity to her muslin curtains
and ruffled pillow-shams. Stephen, too, had his momentary pangs. There
were times when he could calm his doubts only by working on the little
house. The mere sight of the beloved floors and walls and ceilings
comforted his heart, and brought him good cheer.

The winter was a cold one, so bitterly cold that even the rapid water at
the Gray Rock was a mass of curdled yellow ice, something that had only
occurred once or twice before within the memory of the oldest
inhabitant.

It was also a very gay season for Pleasant River and Edgewood. Never had
there been so many card-parties, sleigh rides and tavern dances, and
never such wonderful skating. The river was one gleaming, glittering
thoroughfare of ice from Milliken's Mills to the dam at the Edgewood
bridge. At sundown bonfires were built here and there on the mirror like
surface, and all the young people from the neighboring villages gathered
on the ice; while detachments of merry, rosy-cheeked boys and girls,
those who preferred coasting, met at the top of Brigadier Hill, from
which one could get a longer and more perilous slide than from any other
point in the township.

Claude Merrill, in his occasional visits from Boston, was very much in
evidence at the Saturday evening ice parties. He was not an artist at
the sport himself, but he was especially proficient in the art of
strapping on a lady's skates, and murmuring--as he adjusted the last
buckle,--"The prettiest foot and ankle on the river!" It cannot be
denied that this compliment gave secret pleasure to the fair village
maidens who received it, but it was a pleasure accompanied by electric
shocks of excitement. A girl's foot might perhaps be mentioned, if a
fellow were daring enough, but the line was rigidly drawn at the ankle,
which was not a part of the human frame ever alluded to in the polite
society of Edgewood at that time.

Rose, in her red linsey-woolsey dress and her squirrel furs and cap, was
the life of every gathering, and when Stephen took her hand and they
glided up stream, alone together in the crowd, he used to wish that they
might skate on and on up the crystal ice-path of the river, to the moon
itself, whither it seemed to lead them.



THE GARDEN OF EDEN


But the Saco all this time was meditating of its surprises. The snapping
cold weather and the depth to which the water was frozen were aiding it
in its preparation for the greatest event of the season. On a certain
gray Saturday in March, after a week of mild temperature, it began to
rain as if, after months of snowing, it really enjoyed a new form of
entertainment. Sunday dawned with the very flood-gates of heaven
opening, so it seemed. All day long the river was rising under its miles
of unbroken ice, rising at the threatening rate of four inches an hour.

Edgewood went to bed as usual that night, for the bridge at that point
was set too high to be carried away by freshets, but at other villages
whose bridges were in less secure position there was little sleep and
much anxiety.

At midnight a cry was heard from the men watching at Milliken's Mills.
The great ice jam had parted from Rolfe's Island and was swinging out
into the open, pushing everything before it. All the able-bodied men in
the village turned out of bed, and with lanterns in hand began to clear
the stores and mills, for it seemed that everything near the river banks
must go before that avalanche of ice.

Stephen and Rufus were there helping to save the property of their
friends and neighbors; Rose and Mite Shapley had stayed the night with a
friend, and all three girls were shivering with fear and excitement as
they stood near the bridge, watching the never-to-be-forgotten sight. It
is needless to say that the Crambry family was on hand, for whatever
instincts they may have lacked, the instinct for being on the spot when
anything was happening, was present in them to the most remarkable
extent. The town was supporting them in modest winter quarters somewhat
nearer than Killick to the centre of civilization, and the first alarm
brought them promptly to the scene, Mrs. Crambry remarking at intervals:
"If I'd known there'd be so many out I'd ought to have worn my bunnit;
but I ain't got no bunnit, an' if I had they say I ain't got no head to
wear it on!"

By the time the jam neared the falls it had grown with its
accumulations, until it was made up of tier after tier of huge ice
cakes, piled side by side and one upon another, with heaps of trees and
branches and drifting lumber holding them in place. Some of the blocks
stood erect and towered like icebergs, and these, glittering in the
lights of the twinkling lanterns, pushed solemnly forward, cracking,
crushing, and cutting everything in their way. When the great mass
neared the planing mill on the east shore the girls covered their eyes,
expecting to hear the crash of the falling building; but, impelled by
the force of some mysterious current, it shook itself ponderously, and
then, with one magnificent movement, slid up the river bank, tier
following tier in grand confusion. This left a water way for the main
drift; the ice broke in every direction, and down, down, down, from
Bonnie Eagle and Moderation swept the harvest of the winter freezing. It
came thundering over the dam, bringing boats, farming implements, posts,
supports, and every sort of floating lumber with it; and cutting under
the flour mill, tipped it cleverly over on its side and went crashing on
its way down river. At Edgewood it pushed colossal blocks of ice up the
banks into the roadway, piling them end upon end ten feet in air. Then,
tearing and rumbling and booming through the narrows, it covered the
intervale at Pleasant Point and made a huge ice bridge below Union
Falls, a bridge so solid that it stood there for days, a sight for all
the neighboring villages.

This exciting event would have forever set apart this winter from all
others in Stephen's memory, even had it not been also the winter when he
was building a house for his future wife. But afterwards, in looking
back on the wild night of the ice freshet, Stephen remembered that
Rose's manner was strained and cold and evasive, and that when he had
seen her talking with Claude Merrill, it had seemed to him that that
whippersnapper had looked at her as no honorable man in Edgewood ever
looked at an engaged girl. He recalled his throb of gratitude that
Claude lived at a safe distance, and his subsequent pang of remorse at
doubting, for an instant, Rose's fidelity.

So at length April came, the Saco was still high, turbid, and angry, and
the boys were waiting at Limington Falls for the "Ossipee drive" to
begin. Stephen joined them there, for he was restless, and the river
called him, as it did every spring. Each stubborn log that he
encountered gave him new courage and power of overcoming. The rush of
the water, the noise and roar and dash, the exposure and danger, all
made the blood run in his veins like new wine. When he came back to the
farm, all the cobwebs had been blown from his brain, and his first
interview with Rose was so intoxicating that he went immediately to
Portland, and bought, in a kind of secret penitence for his former
fears, a pale pink-flowered wall-paper for the bedroom in the new home.
It had once been voted down by the entire advisory committee. Mrs. Wiley
said pink was foolish and was always sure to fade; and the border, being
a mass of solid roses, was five cents a yard, virtually a prohibitive
price. Mr. Wiley said he "should hate to hev a spell of sickness an' lay
abed in a room where there was things growin' all over the place." He
thought "rough-plastered walls, where you could lay an' count the spots
where the roof leaked, was the most entertainin' in sickness." Rose had
longed for the lovely pattern, but had sided dutifully with the prudent
majority, so that it was with a feeling of unauthorized and illegitimate
joy that Stephen papered the room at night, a few strips at a time.

On the third evening, when he had removed all signs of his work, he
lighted two kerosene lamps and two candles, finding the effect, under
this illumination, almost too brilliant and beautiful for belief. Rose
should never see it now, he determined, until the furniture was in
place. They had already chosen the kitchen and bedroom things, though
they would not be needed for some months; but the rest was to wait until
summer, when there would be the hay-money to spend.

Stephen did not go back to the River Farm till one o'clock that night;
the pink bedroom held him in fetters too powerful to break. It looked
like the garden of Eden, he thought. To be sure, it was only fifteen
feet square; Eden might have been a little larger, possibly, but
otherwise the pink bedroom had every advantage. The pattern of roses
growing on a trellis was brighter than any flower-bed in June; and the
border--well, if the border had been five dollars a foot Stephen would
not have grudged the money when he saw the twenty running yards of rosy
bloom rioting under the white ceiling.

Before he blew out the last light he raised it high above his head and
took one fond, final look. "It's the only place I ever saw," he thought,
"that is pretty enough for her. She will look just as if she was growing
here with all the other flowers, and I shall always think of it as the
garden of Eden. I wonder, if I got the license and the ring and took her
by surprise, whether she'd be married in June instead of August? I
could be all ready if I could only persuade her."

At this moment Stephen touched the summit of happiness; and it is a
curious coincidence that as he was dreaming in his garden of Eden, the
serpent, having just arrived at Edgewood, was sleeping peacefully at the
house of Mrs. Brooks.

It was the serpent's fourth visit that season, and he explained to
inquiring friends that his former employer had sold the business, and
that the new management, while reorganizing, had determined to enlarge
the premises, the three clerks who had been retained having two weeks'
vacation with half pay.

It is extraordinary how frequently "wise serpents" are retained by the
management on half, or even full, salary, while the services of the
"harmless doves" are dispensed with, and they are set free to flutter
where they will.



THE SERPENT


Rose Wiley had the brightest eyes in Edgewood. It was impossible to look
at her without realizing that her physical sight was perfect. What
mysterious species of blindness is it that descends, now and then, upon
human creatures, and renders them incapable of judgment or
discrimination?

Claude Merrill was a glove salesman in a Boston fancy-goods store. The
calling itself is undoubtedly respectable, and it is quite conceivable
that a man can sell gloves and still be a man; but Claude Merrill was a
manikin. He inhabited a very narrow space behind a very short counter,
but to him it seemed the earth and the fullness thereof.

When, irreproachably neat and even exquisite in dress, he gave a
Napoleonic glance at his array of glove-boxes to see if the female
assistant had put them in proper order for the day; when, with that
wonderful eye for detail that had wafted him to his present height of
power, he pounced upon the powder-sprinklers and found them, as he
expected, empty; when, with masterly judgment, he had made up and
ticketed a basket of misfits and odd sizes to attract the eyes of women
who were their human counterparts, he felt himself bursting with the
pride and pomp of circumstance. His cambric handkerchief adjusted in his
coat with the monogram corner well displayed, a last touch to the
carefully trained lock on his forehead, and he was ready for his
customers.

"Six, did you say, miss? I should have thought five and three
quarters--Attend to that gentleman, Miss Dix, please; I am very busy.

"Six-and-a-half gray suede? Here they are, an exquisite shade. Shall I
try them on? The right hand, if you will. Perhaps you'd better remove
your elegant ring; I shouldn't like to have anything catch in the
setting."

"Miss Dix! Six-and-a-half black glace--upper shelf, third box--for this
lady. She's in a hurry. We shall see you often after this, I hope,
madam."

"No; we don't keep silk or lisle gloves. We have no call for them; our
customers prefer kid."

Oh, but he was in his element, was Claude Merrill; though the glamour
that surrounded him in the minds of the Edgewood girls did not emanate
wholly from his finicky little person: something of it was the glamour
that belonged to Boston,--remote, fashionable, gay, rich, almost
inaccessible Boston, which none could see without the expenditure of
five or six dollars in railway fare, with the added extravagance of a
night in a hotel, if one would explore it thoroughly and come home
possessed of all its illimitable treasures of wisdom and experience.

When Claude came to Edgewood for a Sunday, or to spend a vacation with
his aunt, he brought with him something of the magic of a metropolis.
Suddenly, to Rose's eye, Stephen looked larger and clumsier, his shoes
were not the proper sort, his clothes were ordinary, his neckties were
years behind the fashion. Stephen's dancing, compared with Claude's, was
as the deliberate motion of an ox to the hopping of a neat little robin.
When Claude took a girl's hand in the "grand right-and-left," it was as
if he were about to try on a delicate glove; the manner in which he
"held his lady" in the polka or schottische made her seem a queen. Mite
Shapley was so affected by it that when Rufus attempted to encircle her
for the mazurka she exclaimed, "Don't act as if you were spearing logs,
Rufus!"

Of the two men, Stephen had more to say, but Claude said more. He was
thought brilliant in conversation; but what wonder, when one considered
his advantages and his dazzling experiences! He had customers who were
worth their thousands; ladies whose fingers never touched dish-water;
ladies who wouldn't buy a glove of anybody else if they went bare-handed
to the grave. He lived with his sister Maude Arthurlena in a house where
there were twenty-two other boarders who could be seated at meals all at
the same time, so immense was the dining-room. He ate his dinner at a
restaurant daily, and expended twenty-five cents for it without
blenching. He went to the theatre once a week, and was often accompanied
by "lady friends" who were "elegant dressers."

In a moment of wrath Stephen had called him a "counter-jumper," but it
was a libel. So short and rough a means of exit from his place of power
was wholly beneath Claude's dignity. It was with a "Pardon me, Miss
Dix," that, the noon hour having arrived, he squeezed by that slave and
victim, and raising the hinged board that separated his kingdom from
that of the ribbon department, passed out of the store, hat in hand,
serene in the consciousness that though other clerks might nibble
luncheon from a brown paper bag, he would speedily be indulging in an
expensive repast; and Miss Dix knew it, and it was a part of his almost
invincible attraction for her.

It seemed flying in the face of Providence to decline the attentions of
such a gorgeous butterfly of fashion simply because one was engaged to
marry another man at some distant day.

All Edgewood femininity united in saying that there never was such a
perfect gentleman as Claude Merrill; and during the time when his
popularity was at its height Rose lost sight of the fact that Stephen
could have furnished the stuff for a dozen Claudes and have had enough
left for an ordinary man besides.

April gave place to May, and a veil hung between the lovers,--an
intangible, gossamer-like thing, not to be seen with the naked eye, but,
oh! so plainly to be felt. Rose hid herself thankfully behind it, while
Stephen had not courage to lift a corner. She had twice been seen
driving with Claude Merrill--that Stephen knew; but she had explained
that there were errands to be done, that her grandfather had taken the
horse, and that Mr. Merrill's escort had been both opportune and
convenient for these practical reasons. Claude was everywhere present,
the centre of attraction, the observed of all observers. He was
irresistible, contagious, almost epidemic. Rose was now gay, now silent;
now affectionate, now distant, now coquettish; in fine, everything that
was capricious, mysterious, agitating, incomprehensible.

One morning Alcestis Crambry went to the post-office for Stephen and
brought him back the newspapers and letters. He had hung about the River
Farm so much that Stephen finally gave him bed and food in exchange for
numberless small errands. Rufus was temporarily confined in a dark room
with some strange pain and trouble in his eyes, and Alcestis proved of
use in many ways. He had always been Rose's slave, and had often brought
messages and notes from the Brier Neighborhood, so that when Stephen saw
a folded note among the papers his heart gave a throb of anticipation.

The note was brief, and when he had glanced through it he said: "This is
not mine, Alcestis; it belongs to Miss Rose. Go straight back and give
it to her as you were told; and another time keep your wits about you,
or I'll send you back to Killick."

Alcestis Crambry's ideas on all subjects were extremely vague. Claude
Merrill had given him a letter for Rose, but his notion was that
anything that belonged to her belonged to Stephen, and the Waterman
place was much nearer than the Wileys', particularly at dinner-time!

When the boy had slouched away, Stephen sat under the apple tree, now a
mass of roseate bloom, and buried his face in his hands.

It was not precisely a love-letter that he had read, nevertheless it
blackened the light of the sun for him. Claude asked Rose to meet him
anywhere on the road to the station and to take a little walk, as he was
leaving that afternoon and could not bear to say good-by to her in the
presence of her grandmother. "Under the circumstances," he wrote, deeply
underlining the words, "I cannot remain a moment longer in Edgewood,
where I have been so happy and so miserable!" He did not refer to the
fact that the time limit on his return-ticket expired that day, for his
dramatic instinct told him that such sordid matters have no place in
heroics.

Stephen sat motionless under the tree for an hour, deciding on some plan
of action.

He had work at the little house, but he did not dare go there lest he
should see the face of dead Love looking from the windows of the pink
bedroom; dead Love, cold, sad, merciless. His cheeks burned as he
thought of the marriage license and the gold ring hidden away upstairs
in the drawer of his shaving stand. What a romantic fool he had been, to
think he could hasten the glad day by a single moment! What a piece of
boyish folly it had been, and how it shamed him in his own eyes!

When train time drew near he took his boat and paddled down stream. If
for the Finland lover's reindeer there was but one path in all the
world, and that the one that led to Her, so it was for Stephen's canoe,
which, had it been set free on the river by day or by night, might have
floated straight to Rose.

He landed at the usual place, a bit of sandy shore near the Wiley house,
and walked drearily up the bank through the woods. Under the shade of
the pines the white stars of the hepatica glistened and the pale
anemones were coming into bloom. Partridge-berries glowed red under
their glossy leaves, and clumps of violets sweetened the air. Squirrels
chattered, woodpeckers tapped, thrushes sang; but Stephen was blind and
deaf to all the sweet harbingers of spring.

Just then he heard voices, realizing with a throb of delight that, at
any rate, Rose had not left home to meet Claude, as he had asked her to
do. Looking through the branches, he saw the two standing together, Mrs.
Brooks's horse; with the offensive trunk in the back of the wagon, being
hitched to a tree near by. There was nothing in the tableau to stir
Stephen to fury, but he read between the lines and suffered as he
read--suffered and determined to sacrifice himself if he must, so that
Rose could have what she wanted, this miserable apology for a man. He
had never been the husband for Rose; she must take her place in a larger
community, worthy of her beauty and charm.

Claude was talking and gesticulating ardently. Rose's head was bent and
the tears were rolling down her cheeks. Suddenly Claude raised his hat,
and with a passionate gesture of renunciation walked swiftly to the
wagon, and looking back once, drove off with the utmost speed of which
the Brooks's horse was capable,--Rose waving him a farewell with one
hand and wiping her eyes with the other.



THE TURQUOISE RING


Stephen stood absolutely still in front of the opening in the trees, and
as Rose turned she met him face to face. She had never dreamed his eyes
could be so stern, his mouth so hard, and she gave a sob like a child.

"You seem to be in trouble," Stephen said in a voice so cold she thought
it could not be his.

"I am not in trouble, exactly," Rose stammered, concealing her
discomfiture as well as possible. "I am a little unhappy because I have
made some one else unhappy; and now that you know it, you will be
unhappy too, and angry besides, I suppose, though you've seen everything
there was to see."

"There is no occasion for sorrow," Stephen said. "I didn't mean to break
in on any interview; I came over to give you back your freedom. If you
ever cared enough for me to marry me, the time has gone by. I am willing
to own that I over-persuaded you, but I am not the man to take a girl
against her inclinations, so we will say good-by and end the thing here
and now. I can only wish"--here his smothered rage at fate almost choked
him--"that, when you were selecting another husband, you had chosen a
whole man!"

Rose quivered with the scorn of his tone. "Size isn't everything!" she
blazed.

"Not in bodies, perhaps; but it counts for something in hearts and
brains, and it is convenient to have a sense of honor that's at least as
big as a grain of mustard-seed."

"Claude Merrill is not dishonorable," Rose exclaimed impetuously; "or at
least he isn't as bad as you think: he has never asked me to marry him."

"Then he probably was not quite ready to speak, or perhaps you were not
quite ready to hear," retorted Stephen, bitterly; "but don't let us have
words,--there'll be enough to regret without adding those. I have seen,
ever since New Year's, that you were not really happy or contented; only
I wouldn't allow it to myself: I kept hoping against hope that I was
mistaken. There have been times when I would have married you, willing
or unwilling, but I didn't love you so well then; and now that there's
another man in the case, it's different, and I'm strong enough to do the
right thing. Follow your heart and be happy; in a year or two I shall be
glad I had the grit to tell you so. Good-by, Rose!"

Rose, pale with amazement, summoned all her pride, and drawing the
turquoise engagement ring from her finger, handed it silently to
Stephen, hiding her face as he flung it vehemently down the river-bank.
His dull eyes followed it and half uncomprehendingly saw it settle and
glisten in a nest of brown pine-needles. Then he put out his hand for a
last clasp and strode away without a word.

[Illustration: HIDING HER FACE AS HE FLUNG IT DOWN THE RIVER-BANK]

Presently Rose heard first the scrape of his boat on the sand, then the
soft sound of his paddles against the water, then nothing but the
squirrels and the woodpeckers and the thrushes, 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 her?

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 complicated
situation?

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 emperor.

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 headache.

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 expected?

Rose was distinctly apathetic, and Mite Shapley departed after a very
brief call, leaving behind her an entirely new train of thought.

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 couch.



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 blunt in 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 as Gibraltar.

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
travel alone.

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.

[Illustration: SHE HAD GONE WITH MAUDE TO CLAUDE'S STORE]

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 Dix (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 Dix's brilliantine. Miss
Dix'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 Dix, 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 jealousies.

Rose dared not ask questions on so delicate a topic, but she remembered
in a flash Miss Dix's heavy eyebrows, snapping eyes, and high color.
Claude seemed very happy that Rose had come to Boston, though he was
surprised, knowing what a trial his aunt must be, now that she was so
helpless. It was unfortunate, also, that Rose could not go on excursions
without leaving his aunt alone, or he should have been glad to offer his
escort. He pressed her hand when he left her at her door, telling her
she could never realize what a comfort her friendship was to him; could
never imagine how thankful he was that she had courageously freed
herself from ties that in time would have made her wretched. His heart
was full, he said, of feelings he dared not utter; but in the near
future, when certain clouds had rolled by, he would unlock its
treasures, and then--but no more to-night: he could not trust himself.

Rose felt as if she were assuming one of the characters in a mysterious
romance, such as unfolded itself only in books or in Boston; but,
thrilling as it was, it was nevertheless extremely unsatisfactory.

Convinced that Claude Merrill was passionately in love with her, one of
her reasons for coming to Boston had been to fall more deeply in love
with him, and thus heal some, at least, of the wounds she had inflicted.
It may have been a foolish idea, but after three weeks it seemed still
worse,--a useless one; for after several interviews she felt herself
drifting farther and farther from Claude; and if he felt any burning
ambition to make her his own, he certainly concealed it with admirable
art. Given up, with the most offensive magnanimity, by Stephen, and not
greatly desired by Claude,--that seemed the present status of proud Rose
Wiley of the Brier Neighborhood.

It was June, she remembered, as she leaned out of the open window; 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 now."

"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 room.

    "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,
                                                       "Almira Shapley.

    "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 engagement finger!"

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 river-bank; 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 let.

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 rosy-posy 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 pastur'."

"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 testily.

"If you could smoke a clay pipe 't would 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 retort.

"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 truest confidant.

Mr. Wiley's constant intercessions with his wife made Rose's home-coming
somewhat easier, and the sight of her own room and belongings soothed
her troubled spirit, but the days went on, and nothing happened to
change the situation. She had lost a lover, that was all, and there were
plenty more to choose from, or there always had been; but the only one
she wanted was the one who made no sign. She used to think that she
could twist Stephen around her little finger; that she had only to
beckon to him and he would follow her to the ends of the earth. Now fear
had entered her heart. She no longer felt sure, because she no longer
felt worthy, of him, and feeling both uncertainty and unworthiness, her
lips were sealed and she was rendered incapable of making any bid for
forgiveness.

So the little world of Pleasant River went on, to all outward seeming,
as it had ever gone. On one side of the stream a girl's heart was
longing, and pining, and sickening, with hope deferred, and growing,
too, with such astonishing rapidity that the very angels marveled! And
on the other, a man's whole vision of life an duty was widening and
deepening under the fructifying influence of his sorrow.

The corn waved high and green in front of the vacant riverside cottage,
but Stephen sent no word or message to Rose. He had seen her once, but
only from a distance. She seemed paler and thinner, he thought,--the
result; probably, of her metropolitan gayeties. He heard no rumor of any
engagement, and he wondered if it were possible that her love for Claude
Merrill had not, after all, been returned in kind. This seemed a wild
impossibility. His mind refused to entertain the supposition that any
man on earth could resist falling in love with Rose, or, having fallen
in, that he could ever contrive to climb out. So he worked on at his
farm harder than ever, and grew soberer and more careworn daily. Rufus
had never seemed so near and dear to him as in these weeks when he had
lived under the shadow of threatened blindness. The burning of the barn
and the strain upon their slender property brought the brothers
together shoulder to shoulder.

"If you lose your girl, Steve," said the boy, "and I lose my eyesight,
and we both lose the barn, why, it'll be us two against the world, for a
spell!"

The "To Let" sign on the little house was an arrant piece of hypocrisy.
Nothing but the direst extremity could have caused him to allow an alien
step on that sacred threshold. The plowing up of the flower-beds and
planting of the corn had served a double purpose. It showed the too
curious public the finality of his break with Rose and her absolute
freedom; it also prevented them from suspecting that he still entered
the place. His visits were not many, but he could not bear to let the
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 manner.

"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 day.

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 store,
ejaculating:

"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 time."

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 ye!"

"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.

[Illustration: "AS LONG AS STEPHEN WATERMAN'S ALIVE, ROSE WILEY CAN HAVE
HIM"]

"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."



HOUSEBREAKING


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 girl.

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 peace.

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 child.

"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 thought
triumphantly.

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 kitchen stove.

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 river-drivers 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 Brier 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 had missed.

Hello! What was that? Corn-stalks prone on the earth? Sign torn down and
lying flat in the grass? Blinds open, fire in the chimney?

He leaped from the wagon, and, flinging 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, flung 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 chatters 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.

[Illustration: "DON'T SPEAK, STEPHEN, TILL YOU HEAR WHAT I HAVE TO SAY"]

"You don't know what you've done for me, Stephen," she whispered, with
her face hidden on his shoulder. "I was just a common little prickly
rosebush when you came along like a good gardener and 'grafted in'
something better; the something better was your love, Stephen dear, and
it's made everything different. The silly Rose you were engaged to long
ago has disappeared somewhere; I hope you won't be able to find her
under the new leaves."

"She was all I wanted," said Stephen.

"You thought she was," the girl answered, "because you didn't see the
prickles, but you'd have felt them sometime. The old Rose was a selfish
thing, not good enough for you; the new Rose is going to be your wife,
and Rufus's sister, and your mother's daughter, all in one."

Then such a breakfast was spread as Stephen, in his sorry years of
bachelor existence, had forgotten could exist; but before he broke his
fast he ran out to the wagon and served the astonished Alcestis with his
wedding refreshments then and there, bidding him drive back to the River
Farm and bring him a package that lay in the drawer of his
shaving-stand,--a package placed there when hot youth and love and longing
had inspired him to hurry on the marriage day.

"There's an envelope, Alcestis," he cried, "a long envelope way, way
back in the corner, and a small box on top of it. Bring them both, and
my wallet too, and if you find them all and get them to me safely you
shall be bridesmaid and groomsman and best man and usher and maid of
honor at a wedding, in less than an hour! Off with you! Drive straight
and use the whip on Dolly!"

When he reentered the kitchen, flushed with joy and excitement, Rose put
the various good things on the table and he almost tremblingly took his
seat, fearing that contact with the solid wood might wake him from this
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.





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