in the river, as so many other broken-hearted fellows had done.
She had been touched by his misery, even against her better
judgment; and she had intended to confess it all to Stephen
sometime, telling him that she should never again accept
attentions from a stranger, lest a tragedy like this should
happen twice in a lifetime.
She had imagined that Stephen would be his large-minded,
great-hearted, magnanimous self, and beg her to forget this
fascinating will-o'the-wisp by resting in his deeper, serener
love. She had meant to be contrite and faithful, praying nightly
that poor Claude might live down his present anguish, of which
she had been the innocent cause.
Instead, what had happened? She had been put altogether in the
wrong. Stephen had almost cast her off, and that, too, without
argument. He had given her her liberty before she had asked for
it, taking it for granted, without question, that she desired to
be rid of him. Instead of comforting her in her remorse, or
sympathizing with her for so nobly refusing to shine in Claude's
larger world of Boston, Stephen had assumed that she was disloyal
in every particular.
And pray how was she to cope with such a disagreeable and
It would not be long before the gossips rolled under their
tongues the delicious morsel of a broken engagement, and sooner
or later she must brave the displeasure of her grandmother.
And the little house--that was worse than anything. Her tears
flowed faster as she thought of Stephen's joy in it, of his
faithful labor, of the savings he had invested in it. She hated
and despised her self when she thought of the house, and for the
first time in her life she realized the limitations of her
nature, the poverty of her ideals.
What should she do? She had lost Stephen and ruined his life.
Now, in order that she need not blight a second career, must she
contrive to return Claude's love! To be sure, she thought, it
seemed indecent to marry any other man than Stephen, when they
had built a house together, and chosen wall-papers, and a kitchen
stove, and dining-room chairs; but was it not the only way to
evade the difficulties?
Suppose that Stephen, in a fit of pique, should ask somebody else
to share the new cottage?
As this dreadful possibility came into view, Rose's sobs actually
frightened the birds and the squirrels. She paced back and forth
under the trees, wondering how she could have been engaged to a
man for eight months and know so little about him as she seemed
to know about Stephen Waterman to-day. Who would have believed
he could be so autocratic, so severe, so unapproachable! Who
could have foreseen that she, Rose Wiley, would ever be given up
to another man,--handed over as coolly as if she had been a
bale of cotton? She wanted to return Claude Merrill's love
because it was the only way out of the tangle; but at the momentDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>