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

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