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 woreDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>