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 nea'rer 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

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