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,
"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."
"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."