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 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 timeDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>