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Chapter 32 Two Stubborn People

  • Rosemary West, on her way home from a music lesson at Ingleside, turne_side to the hidden spring in Rainbow Valley. She had not been there al_ummer; the beautiful little spot had no longer any allurement for her. Th_pirit of her young lover never came to the tryst now; and the memorie_onnected with John Meredith were too painful and poignant. But she ha_appened to glance backward up the valley and had seen Norman Douglas vaultin_s airily as a stripling over the old stone dyke of the Bailey garden an_hought he was on his way up the hill. If he overtook her she would have t_alk home with him and she was not going to do that. So she slipped at onc_ehind the maples of the spring, hoping he had not seen her and would pass on.
  • But Norman had seen her and, what was more, was in pursuit of her. He ha_een wanting for some time to have talk with Rosemary, but she had always, s_t seemed, avoided him. Rosemary had never, at any time, liked Norman Dougla_ery well. His bluster, his temper, his noisy hilarity, had always antagonize_er. Long ago she had often wondered how Ellen could possibly be attracted t_im. Norman Douglas was perfectly aware of her dislike and he chuckled ove_t. It never worried Norman if people did not like him. It did not even mak_im dislike them in return, for he took it as a kind of extorted compliment.
  • He thought Rosemary a fine girl, and he meant to be an excellent, generou_rother-in-law to her. But before he could be her brother-in-law he had t_ave a talk with her, so, having seen her leaving Ingleside as he stood in th_oorway of a Glen store, he had straightway plunged into the valley t_vertake her.
  • Rosemary was sitting pensively on the maple seat where John Meredith ha_een sitting on that evening nearly a year ago. The tiny spring shimmered an_impled under its fringe of ferns. Ruby-red gleams of sunset fell through th_rching boughs. A tall clump of perfect asters grew at her side. The littl_pot was as dreamy and witching and evasive as any retreat of fairies an_ryads in ancient forests. Into it Norman Douglas bounced, scattering an_nnihilating its charm in a moment. His personality seemed to swallow th_lace up. There was simply nothing there but Norman Douglas, big, red-bearded,
  • complacent.
  • "Good evening," said Rosemary coldly, standing up.
  • "'Evening, girl. Sit down again—sit down again. I want to have a talk wit_ou. Bless the girl, what's she looking at me like that for? I don't want t_at you—I've had my supper. Sit down and be civil."
  • "I can hear what you have to say quite as well here," said Rosemary.
  • "So you can, girl, if you use your ears. I only wanted you to b_omfortable. You look so durned uncomfortable, standing there. Well, I'LL si_nyway."
  • Norman accordingly sat down in the very place John Meredith had once sat.
  • The contrast was so ludicrous that Rosemary was afraid she would go off into _eal of hysterical laughter over it. Norman cast his hat aside, placed hi_uge, red hands on his knees, and looked up at her with his eyes a-twinkle.
  • "Come, girl, don't be so stiff," he said, ingratiatingly. When he liked h_ould be very ingratiating. "Let's have a reasonable, sensible, friendly chat.
  • There's something I want to ask you. Ellen says she won't, so it's up to me t_o it."
  • Rosemary looked down at the spring, which seemed to have shrunk to the siz_f a dewdrop. Norman gazed at her in despair.
  • "Durn it all, you might help a fellow out a bit," he burst forth.
  • "What is it you want me to help you say?" asked Rosemary scornfully.
  • "You know as well as I do, girl. Don't be putting on your tragedy airs. N_onder Ellen was scared to ask you. Look here, girl, Ellen and I want to marr_ach other. That's plain English, isn't it? Got that? And Ellen says she can'_nless you give her back some tom-fool promise she made. Come now, will you d_t? Will you do it?"
  • "Yes," said Rosemary.
  • Norman bounced up and seized her reluctant hand.
  • "Good! I knew you would—I told Ellen you would. I knew it would only take _inute. Now, girl, you go home and tell Ellen, and we'll have a wedding in _ortnight and you'll come and live with us. We shan't leave you to roost o_hat hill-top like a lonely crow—don't you worry. I know you hate me, but,
  • Lord, it'll be great fun living with some one that hates me. Life'll have som_pice in it after this. Ellen will roast me and you'll freeze me. I won't hav_ dull moment."
  • Rosemary did not condescend to tell him that nothing would ever induce he_o live in his house. She let him go striding back to the Glen, oozing deligh_nd complacency, and she walked slowly up the hill home. She had known thi_as coming ever since she had returned from Kingsport, and found Norma_ouglas established as a frequent evening caller. His name was never mentione_etween her and Ellen, but the very avoidance of it was significant. It wa_ot in Rosemary's nature to feel bitter, or she would have felt very bitter.
  • She was coldly civil to Norman, and she made no difference in any way wit_llen. But Ellen had not found much comfort in her second courtship.
  • She was in the garden, attended by St. George, when Rosemary came home. Th_wo sisters met in the dahlia walk. St. George sat down on the gravel wal_etween them and folded his glossy black tail gracefully around his whit_aws, with all the indifference of a well-fed, well-bred, well-groomed cat.
  • "Did you ever see such dahlias?" demanded Ellen proudly. "They are just th_inest we've ever had."
  • Rosemary had never cared for dahlias. Their presence in the garden was he_oncession to Ellen's taste. She noticed one huge mottled one of crimson an_ellow that lorded it over all the others.
  • "That dahlia," she said, pointing to it, "is exactly like Norman Douglas.
  • It might easily be his twin brother."
  • Ellen's dark-browed face flushed. She admired the dahlia in question, bu_he knew Rosemary did not, and that no compliment was intended. But she dare_ot resent Rosemary's speech—poor Ellen dared not resent anything just then.
  • And it was the first time Rosemary had ever mentioned Norman's name to her.
  • She felt that this portended something.
  • "I met Norman Douglas in the valley," said Rosemary, looking straight a_er sister, "and he told me you and he wanted to be married—if I would giv_ou permission."
  • "Yes? What did you say?" asked Ellen, trying to speak naturally and off-
  • handedly, and failing completely. She could not meet Rosemary's eyes. Sh_ooked down at St. George's sleek back and felt horribly afraid. Rosemary ha_ither said she would or she wouldn't. If she would Ellen would feel s_shamed and remorseful that she would be a very uncomfortable bride-elect; an_f she wouldn't—well, Ellen had once learned to live without Norman Douglas,
  • but she had forgotten the lesson and felt that she could never learn it again.
  • "I said that as far as I was concerned you were at full liberty to marr_ach other as soon as you liked," said Rosemary.
  • "Thank you," said Ellen, still looking at St. George.
  • Rosemary's face softened.
  • "I hope you'll be happy, Ellen," she said gently.
  • "Oh, Rosemary," Ellen looked up in distress, "I'm so ashamed—I don'_eserve it—after all I said to you—"
  • "We won't speak about that," said Rosemary hurriedly and decidedly.
  • "But—but," persisted Ellen, "you are free now, too—and it's not to_ate—John Meredith—"
  • "Ellen West!" Rosemary had a little spark of temper under all her sweetnes_nd it flashed forth now in her blue eyes. "Have you quite lost your senses i_VERY respect? Do you suppose for an instant that I am going to go to Joh_eredith and say meekly, 'Please, sir, I've changed my mind and please, sir, _ope you haven't changed yours.' Is that what you want me to do?"
  • "No—no—but a little—encouragement—he would come back—"
  • "Never. He despises me—and rightly. No more of this, Ellen. I bear you n_rudge—marry whom you like. But no meddling in my affairs."
  • "Then you must come and live with me," said Ellen. "I shall not leave yo_ere alone."
  • "Do you really think that I would go and live in Norman Douglas's house?"
  • "Why not?" cried Ellen, half angrily, despite her humiliation.
  • Rosemary began to laugh.
  • "Ellen, I thought you had a sense of humour. Can you see me doing it?"
  • "I don't see why you wouldn't. His house is big enough—you'd have you_hare of it to yourself—he wouldn't interfere."
  • "Ellen, the thing is not to be thought of. Don't bring this up again."
  • "Then," said Ellen coldly, and determinedly, "I shall not marry him. _hall not leave you here alone. That is all there is to be said about it."
  • "Nonsense, Ellen."
  • "It is not nonsense. It is my firm decision. It would be absurd for you t_hink of living here by yourself—a mile from any other house. If you won'_ome with me I'll stay with you. Now, we won't argue the matter, so don't try"
  • "I shall leave Norman to do the arguing," said Rosemary.
  • "I'LL deal with Norman. I can manage HIM. I would never have asked you t_ive me back my promise—never—but I had to tell Norman why I couldn't marr_im and he said HE would ask you. I couldn't prevent him. You need not suppos_ou are the only person in the world who possesses self-respect. I neve_reamed of marrying and leaving you here alone. And you'll find I can be a_etermined as yourself."
  • Rosemary turned away and went into the house, with a shrug of he_houlders. Ellen looked down at St. George, who had never blinked an eyelas_r stirred a whisker during the whole interview.
  • "St. George, this world would be a dull place without the men, I'll admit,
  • but I'm almost tempted to wish there wasn't one of 'em in it. Look at th_rouble and bother they've made right here, George—torn our happy old lif_ompletely up by the roots, Saint. John Meredith began it and Norman Dougla_as finished it. And now both of them have to go into limbo. Norman is th_nly man I ever met who agrees with me that the Kaiser of Germany is the mos_angerous creature alive on this earth—and I can't marry this sensible perso_ecause my sister is stubborn and I'm stubborner. Mark my words, St. George,
  • the minister would come back if she raised her little finger. But she won'_eorge— she'll never do it—she won't even crook it—and I don't dare meddle,
  • Saint. I won't sulk, George; Rosemary didn't sulk, so I'm determined I won'_ither, Saint; Norman will tear up the turf, but the long and short of it is,
  • St. George, that all of us old fools must just stop thinking of marrying.
  • Well, well, 'despair is a free man, hope is a slave,' Saint. So now come int_he house, George, and I'll solace you with a saucerful of cream. Then ther_ill be one happy and contented creature on this hill at least."