The autumn days flew past like shuttles in a loom. The river reflected the yellow foliage of the white birch and the scarlet of the maples. The wayside was bright with goldenrod, with the red tassels of the sumac, with the purple frost-flower and feathery clematis.
If Rose was not as happy as Stephen, she was quietly content, and felt that she had more to be grateful for than most girls, for Stephen surprised her with first one evidence and then another of thoughtful generosity. In his heart of hearts he felt that Rose was not wholly his, that she reserved, withheld something; and it was the subjugation of this rebellious province that he sought. He and Rose had agreed to wait a year for their marriage, in which time Rose's cousin would finish school and be ready to live with the old people; meanwhile Stephen had learned that his maiden aunt would be glad to come and keep house for Rufus. The work at the River Farm was too hard for a girl, so he had persuaded himself of late, and the house was so far from the village that Rose was sure to be lonely. He owned a couple of acres between his place and the Edgewood bridge, and here, one afternoon only a month after their engagement, he took Rose to see the foundations of a little house he was building for her. It was to be only a story-and-a-half cottage of six small rooms, the two upper chambers to be finished off later on. Stephen had placed it well back from the road, leaving space in front for what was to be a most wonderful arrangement of flower-beds, yet keeping a strip at the back, on the river-brink, for a small vegetable garden. There had been a house there years before-so many years that the blackened ruins were entirely overgrown; but a few elms and an old apple-orchard remained to shade the new dwelling and give welcome to the coming inmates.
Stephen had fifteen hundred dollars in bank, he could turn his hand to almost anything, and his love was so deep that Rose's plumb-line had never sounded bottom; accordingly he was able, with the help of two steady workers, to have the roof on before the first of November. The weather was clear and fine, and by Thanksgiving clapboards, shingles, two coats of brown paint, and even the blinds had all been added. This exhibition of reckless energy on Stephen's part did not wholly commend itself to the neighborhood.
"Steve's too turrible spry," said Rose's grandfather; "he'll trip himself up some o' these times."
"_You_ never will," remarked his better half, sagely.
"The resks in life come along fast enough, without runnin' to meet 'em," continued the old man. "There's good dough in Rose, but it ain't more'n half riz. Let somebody come along an' drop in a little more yeast, or set the dish a little mite nearer the stove, an' you'll see what 'll happen."
"Steve's kept house for himself some time, an' I guess he knows more about bread-makin' than you do."
"There don't nobody know more'n I do about nothin', when my pipe's drawin' real good an' nobody's thornin' me to go to work," replied Mr. Wiley; "but nobody's willin' to take the advice of a man that's seen the world an' lived in large places, an' the risin' generation is in a turrible hurry. I don' know how 't is: young folks air allers settin' the clock forrard an' the old ones puttin' it back."
"Did you ketch anything for dinner when you was out this mornin'?" asked his wife.
"No, I fished an' fished, till I was about ready to drop, an' I did git a few shiners, but land, they wa'n't as big as the worms I was ketchin' 'em with, so i pitched 'em back in the water an' quit."
During the progress of these remarks Mr. Wiley opened the door under the sink, and from beneath a huge iron pot drew a round tray loaded with a glass pitcher and half a dozen tumblers, which he placed carefully on the kitchen table. "This is the last day's option I've got on this lemonade-set," he said, "an' if I'm goin' to Biddeford tomorrer I've got to make up my mind here an' now."
Wiggin's Short Stories -by- Kate Douglas Wiggin