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.

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

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