Fee by Margaret Vandegrift
"I am going," said the professor to his friend Miss Eldridge, "to marry
a young woman whose mind I can mould."
Somebody was uncharitable enough to say that he couldn't possibly make
it any mouldier than his own. This was a slander. In the high dry Greek
atmosphere which surrounded and enclosed his mind, mould, which requires
dampness before it can exist, was an impossibility.
When an engagement is announced, it is almost invariably followed by one
question, with a variable termination. The dear five hundred friends
exclaim, with uplifted hands,—
"What could have possessed him," or "her"?
In the present case the latter termination was adopted, with but one
dissenting voice: Miss Christina Eldridge said, in low, shocked tones,
"Alas that a man of his simply colossal mind should have been ensnared
by a pretty face, whose soulless beauty will depart in a few short
The professor would have been very indignant had any one ventured to
suggest to him that the pretty face had anything to do with it. He
imagined himself entirely above and beyond such flimsy considerations.
Yet it is sadly doubtful whether an example in long division, on a
smeared slate, brought to him with tears and faltering accents by Miss
Christina, would have produced the effect which followed when Miss
Rosamond May betrayed her shameful ignorance by handing him the slate
and saying forlornly, "I've done it seven times, and it comes out
differently wrong every time. Can you see what's the matter?" and two
wet blue eyes looked into his through his spectacles, with an expression
which said plainly, "You are my last and only hope."
She was standing by the massive marble-topped table which was the
central feature of the parlor of their boarding-house. One plump
hand—with dimples where the knuckles should have been—rested upon the
unresponsive marble, in the other she held the slate. She was a teacher
of some of the lowest classes in Miss Christina Eldridge's academy for
young ladies, and only Miss Christina knew the almost fathomless depths
of her ignorance.
But her father had been a professor, and a widower; and shortly before
he died he had manifested an appreciation of the stately principal
which, but for his untimely death,—he was only seventy,—might have
expanded into "that perfect union of souls" for which her disciplined
heart secretly pined.
So when it was first whispered, and then exclaimed, that Professor May
had left nothing, absolutely nothing, for his daughter but a very small
life-insurance premium and the furniture of their rented house, with a
little old-fashioned jewelry and silverware of the smallest possible
intrinsic value, Miss Christina called upon Miss May and told her that,
if she would accept it, there was a vacancy in the academy, with a
salary of two hundred dollars a year and board, but not lodging.
"And if you remain with me, my dear, as I hope you will, I can give you
a room next year, after the new wing is added; and, meanwhile, I know of
a vacant room, at two dollars a week, in a highly-respectable
"You are very kind," replied Rosamond, in a quivering voice. "But indeed
I am afraid I don't know enough to teach even the very little girls. So
I'm afraid you'd better get somebody else. Don't you think you had?"
"No," said Miss Christina, patting the useless little hand which lay on
her lap. "You will only be obliged to hear spelling- and reading-lessons,
and teach the class of little girls who have not gone beyond the first
four rules of arithmetic, and perhaps you will help them to play on
their holidays: you could impart an element of refinement to their
recreations more readily than an older teacher could."
"Is that all?" exclaimed Rosamond, almost cheerfully. "Oh, I can
easily do that much. I love little girls. I will be so good to all the
homesick ones. When shall I come?"
"As soon as you can, my dear," replied Miss Christina.
In a few weeks Rosamond had settled into the routine of her new
life,—going every morning to the academy, where she spent the day in
hearing lessons, binding up broken hearts, playing heartily with her
scholars in the intermissions, and being idolized by them in each of her
various capacities. She did not forget her father, but it was impossible
for her sweet and childlike nature to remain in mourning long.
Professor Silex had felt a profound pity for his old friend's daughter,
and had come down out of the clouds long enough to express it in
and to offer any assistance in his power. They met
sometimes on the stairs and in the dreary parlor, and his eyes beamed
with such a friendly light upon her over the top of his spectacles that
she began to tell him her small troubles and to ask his advice in a
manner which sometimes completely took his breath away. He had never had
a sister, his mother died before his remembrance, and he had been
brought up by two elderly aunts. Fancy, then, his consternation when he
was suddenly and beseechingly asked, "Oh, Professor Silex, would you
get a little felt bonnet, if you were me, or one of those lovely
wide-brimmed beaver hats? The hats are a dollar more; but they are so
lovely and so becoming!"
"My dear child," stammered the professor, "have you no female friend
with whom you can consult? I am profoundly ignorant. Miss Eldridge—"
"She says to get the felt," pouted the dear child; "just because it's
cheaper. And papa used always to advise me, when I asked him, to get
what I liked best." The blue eyes filled, as they still did at the
mention of her father.
"My dear," said the professor hurriedly,—they were standing on the
first landing, and he heard the feet of students coming down the
stairs,—"I should advise you, by all means, to get the—the one you
like best. Excuse my haste, but I—I have a class."
She was wearing the beaver when she next met him, and she beamed with
smiles as she called his attention to it. He looked at her more seeingly
than he had yet done, and a feeling like a very slight electric shock
penetrated his brain.
"See!" she cried gayly. "It is becoming, isn't it?"
"It is, indeed," he answered cordially. "And I should think it would be
quite—quite warm,—there is so much of it, and it looks so soft."
"I told Miss Eldridge you advised me to get it," continued she
triumphantly, "and she didn't say another word."
The professor was aghast. He felt a warm wave stealing over his face.
This must be stopped, and at once. Fancy his class, his brother
professors, getting hold of such a rare bit of gossip! But he would not
hurt her feelings. She was so young, so innocent, and her frank blue
eyes were so like those of his dead friend.
"My child," he said softly, "you honor me by your confidence; but may
I—might I ask you, when you seek my advice upon subjects—ah—not
congruous to my age and profession, not to repeat the result of our
conferences? With thoughtless people it might in some slight measure be
considered derogatory to my professional dignity. Not that I think it
so," he hastily added. "All that concerns you is of great, of heartfelt
interest to me."
"I didn't tell anybody but Miss Eldridge," said the culprit penitently;
"and I know she won't repeat it; and I'll never do so any more, if
you'll let me come to you with my foolish little troubles. It seems
something like having papa again."
Now, why this touching tribute should have irritated the professor who
can say? He was startled, shocked, at the irritation, and he strove to
banish all trace of it from his voice and manner as he said, gravely and
kindly, "Continue to come to me with your troubles, my dear, if I can
afford you either help or comfort."
A few days passed, and she waylaid him again. Her pretty face was pale,
and her soft yellow hair was pushed back from her forehead, showing the
blue veins in her temples.
"I don't know what I shall do," she said, in a troubled voice. "Those
children have caught up with me in arithmetic, and by next week they'll
be ahead of me; and I feel as if I oughtn't to take Miss Eldridge's
money if I can't do all she engaged me for. What would you do if you
"Could you not prepare yourself by study, and so keep in advance of your
little pupils?" he inquired kindly.
"I don't believe I could," she replied despondently. "I tried to do the
that came next, last night, and they wouldn't come right, all I
could do; and I got a headache besides."
"I have an hour to spare," said the professor, pulling out his watch:
"perhaps, if you will bring me your book and slate, I can elucidate the
rule which is perplexing you."
"Oh, will you really?" she exclaimed, a radiant smile lighting up her
troubled face. "I'll bring them right away. How kind, how very kind
you are, to bother with my sums, when you have so much Greek in your
head!" And, obeying an impulse, as she so often did, she caught his hand
in both her own and kissed it heartily. Then she skimmed across the
parlor, and he heard her child's voice "lilting lightly up the" stairs
as he stood—in a position suggestive of Mrs. Jarley's wax-works—gazing
fixedly at the hand which she had kissed.
"She regards me as a father," he said to himself severely. "Am I going
mad? Or becoming childish? No; I am only sixty. But, even if it were
possible, it would be base, unmanly, to take advantage of her
loneliness, her gratitude. No, I will be firm."
So, when the offending "example" was handed to him, with the
above-quoted touching statement as to its total depravity, he looked
only at the slate. Gently and patiently, as if to a little child, he
pointed out the errors and expounded the rule, amply rewarded by her
joyful exclamation, "Oh, I see exactly how it's done, now! You do
explain things beautifully. I really think I could have learned a good
deal if I'd had a teacher like you when I went to school."
"Come to me whenever your lessons perplex you, my dear," he answered,
still looking at the slate; "come freely, as if—as if I were your
"Ah, how kind, how good you are to me!" she cried, seizing his slender,
wrinkled hand and holding it between her soft palms. "How glad papa must
be to know it! It almost seems like having him again. Must you go?
And, innocently, as if to her father, she held up her face for a kiss.
The professor turned red, turned pale, hesitated, faltered, and then
kissed her reverently on her forehead,—or, if the truth must be told,
on her soft, frizzled hair, which, according to the fashion of the day,
hung almost over her eyes.
Two evenings in the week after this were devoted to arithmetic. The
professor was firm—as a rule; but when her joyous "Oh, I see exactly
how it's done, now!" followed his patient reiteration of rules and
explanations, how could he help rewarding himself by a glance at the
glowing face? how could he keep his eyes permanently fixed upon that
So it went on through the winter and spring, till it was nearing the
time for the summer vacation. The professor knew only too well that
Rosamond had been invited to spend it with some distant
cousins,—distant in both senses of the word,—and that on her return
she would be swallowed up by the academy and would brighten the dingy
boarding-house no more. How could he bear it? His arid, silent life had
never had a song in it before. Must the song die out in silence?
When the last evening came, and when, realizing the long separation
before them, she once more held up her face for a kiss, with trembling
lips and blue eyes swimming in tears, as she told him how she should
miss him, how she did not see what she should do without him, his
hardly-won firmness was as chaff before the wind. He implored her to
marry him; he told her of the beautiful home he would make for her.
"For I am rich, Rosamond," he said hurriedly, before, in her surprise,
she could speak. "I have not cared for money, and I believe I have a
great deal. You shall do what you will with it, and with me. We will
travel: you shall see the Old World, with all its wonders. And I will
shield you: you shall never know a trouble or a care that I can take on
myself; for—I love you."
Then, as she remained silent, too
much astonished to speak, he said
"You do love me a little? You could not come to me as you do, with all
your little cares and perplexities, if you did not: could you?"
"But I came just so to papa," she said, finding voice at last; and her
childish face grew perplexed and troubled.
The professor had no answer for that. He hid his face in his hands. In a
moment her arms were about his neck, her kisses were falling on his
"You have been so good to me," she cried, "and I am making you unhappy,
ungrateful wretch that I am! Of course I love you; of course I will
marry you. Take away your hands and look at me—Paul!"
Ah, well! they tell in fairy-stories of the fountain of youth, and even
amid the briers of this work-a-day world it is found sometimes, I think,
by the divining-rod of Love. But many students gnashed their teeth, and,
as we have said, Miss Christina Eldridge alone, of all the dear five
hundred, said, "What possessed him?"
The summer vacation was over, and students, more or less reluctantly,
had returned to college and academy. The professor came back in a
brand-new and very becoming suit of clothes; his hair and beard had been
trimmed by a fashionable barber, and his old-fashioned high "stock"
exchanged for a modern scarf, in the centre of which gleamed a modern
scarf-pin. He ran lightly up the steps of the academy and inquired for
Miss May. Courtesy, as his uneasy conscience told him, dictated an
inquiry for Miss Eldridge also, but he compounded with conscience: he
would ask to see her after he had seen Rosamond.
"Why, how very nice you look! You are really handsome!" And the
dignified professor was turned about, as if he had been a graven image,
by two soft little hands, which he caught in his own, and—so forth.
She was very sure now that she loved him, as in a certain sense she did.
But she would not consent to an immediate marriage, nor to the building
of a miniature palace for her reception. She owed it to Miss Eldridge,
she said, to fulfil her engagement and not to go away just as she was
beginning to be really useful. And as for a house, would it not be
pleasanter to live in lodgings and be free to come and go as they would?
So his wishes, as usual, were deferred to hers. The long fall evenings
began, and he brought, at her request, carefully-selected "improving"
books, to be interrupted, as he read, by earnest questions, such as,—
"Would you embroider this linen dress with its own color or a
contrasting one, if you were me?"
Spring came again, and the professor, looking ten years younger than he
had looked a year ago, brought to his "rose of all the world" a bunch of
the first May roses.
"Oh, the lovely, lovely things!" she exclaimed delightedly. "You shall
have two kisses for them, Paul. Where did they come from, so early in
"From the south side of the wall of an old garden which I used to weed
when I was a boy."
"Will you take me there? Is it near here?" she asked eagerly.
"I will take you there," he answered, "some day; but it is not near
here: it is more than a hundred miles away."
"And you sent all that way for them just for me? How good, how kind you
are! There, I will take two of the half-blown ones for my hat, and two
for my neck, and one for your button-hole—oh, yes, you shall! Hold
still till I pin it. Now just see how nice you look! And the rest I will
put in this glass, and then Miss Christina can enjoy them too; she's so
kind, and I can't do anything for her. Oh, that makes me think! I have
to go across the river this afternoon to hunt up a dress-maker she told
me about, a delightfully cheap and good one, and she said you would know
if there were any way of crossing anywhere near —— Street, the bridge
is so far from where I want to go. Is there?"
"Yes," he replied, "there's a rather uncertain way: an old fellow who
owns a boat lives close by there, and if he's at home he will be only
too glad to row you over for a few cents. It would not make your walk
much longer to go round that way first and see. I have often crossed in
his boat, and I like to talk with him: he's an original character."
"Oh, that is charming!" she said delightedly. "Can't you come too? You
can sit and talk with him while I'm talking to the dress-maker."
"I wish I could," he answered, "but I promised to meet the president in
the college library at four, and—bless me! it only wants ten minutes of
it now. Try to get back by sunset, dear: the evenings are chilly yet."
"Yes, I will; I'm going right away," she said, with the deference to his
least wish which so often gave him a heartache. "You'll be in this
evening? Of course you will. Thank you so very, very much for the
She watched him go down the steps, waving her hand to him as she closed
the door, and then, with the roses still in her hat and at her throat,
walked toward the river-bank, whispering a gay little song to herself.
It was such a bright day! she was so glad "the winter was over and
gone!" how good and kind everybody was! how grateful she ought to be!
"I wish," said Mr. Symington bitterly, "that I could find a commodious
desert island containing a first-class college and not a single girl. I
would have the island fortified, and death by slow torture inflicted
upon any woman who managed—as some of them would, in spite of all
precautions—to effect a landing."
"But the married girls are so stupid, my dear boy," ejaculated his
room-mate, Mr. Fielding. "You must admit that, if one must have either,
the single ones are decidedly preferable, or at least the young single
"Don't try to be funny," said Symington savagely: "you only succeed in
being weak. I have"—and he pulled out a note-book and glared at its
contents—"an engagement to take two to a concert this evening, other
two to a tennis-match on Saturday, and another one out rowing this
afternoon. And it's time for me to go now."
"It strikes me you've been pretty middling weak," commented Fielding.
"Either that, or you're yarning tremendously about its being a bore: you
can take your choice."
"I leave it with you," said Symington wearily. "That Glover girl is
probably cooling her heels on the bank, and I must go."
"Alas, my brother! it is long since one of those Glover girls captured
The victim was a little late for his engagement, but no indignant Glover
girl lay in wait for him. The bank, green with the first soft grass of
spring, was deserted. Had she come and gone? He arranged himself
comfortably in the boat and began to sing, the balmy air and the
surroundings suggesting his song,—
Oh, hoi-ye-ho, ho-ye-ho, who's for the ferry?
and went through the first verse, beginning softly, but unconsciously
raising his voice as he went on, until, as he came to the second, he was
singing very audibly indeed, and Rosamond, standing on the bank, looking
uncertainly about her for the old boatman, was in time to hear,
She'd a rose in her bonnet, and, oh, she looked sweet
As the little pink flower that grows in the wheat,
With her cheeks like a rose and her lips like a cherry,—
"And sure and you're welcome to Twickenham town."
The curious feeling which makes one aware of being looked at caused him
to turn and look up as he finished the verse, and he longed for the
self-possession of his room-mate as he vainly struggled to think of
something to say which should not be utterly inane. He felt himself
blushing, but he was well aware that a blush on his sunburned face was
not so charmingly becoming as it was to the vision on the bank. It was
she who spoke at last, with the ghost of a smile accompanying her
"I beg your pardon," she said, "but I was told that I should probably
find an old man here who would row me across. Do you know where he's
"He is—that is—I think—I believe he's gone to dinner," stammered this
usually inflexible advocate of truth.
And it did not occur to Rosamond to suggest that between four and five
in the afternoon was an unusual dinner-hour for a ferryman.
She looked very much disappointed, and turned as if to go.
"Won't you—may I—" eagerly stammered the youth, and added desperately,
"I'm here in his place," mentally explaining to an outraged conscience
that this was literally true, for was not his boat tied to a stake, and
must not that stake have been driven by the old man for his boat? Dr.
Watts has told us that
Sinners who grow old in sin
Are hardened in their crimes,
and the hardening process must sometimes take place with fearful
rapidity, for when Rosamond, having guilelessly accepted the statement
and allowed the ferryman to help her to the broad cushioned seat in the
stern of the boat, asked innocently, "How much is it—for both ways, I
mean? for I want to come back, if you don't mind waiting a little," he
answered, with a look of becoming humility, "It is five cents, please."
"You mean for one way?" she inquired, as she fished a very small purse
up from the depths of her pocket.
And he, reflecting that two and a half cents for one way would have an
air of improbability about it, answered promptly, "Yes, if you please."
She opened her purse and introduced a thumb and finger, but she withdrew
them with a promptness and a look of horror upon her face which
suggested the presence of some noxious insect.
"You'll have to take me back, please," she said faintly. "I forgot to
put any money in my purse, and I've only just found it out."
"It is not of the least consequence," he began hurriedly, adding, in
business-like tones, "You can make it all right the next time, you know.
I suppose it will not be long before you cross again?"
"I don't know," she replied. "That depends upon whether or not I find—"
and then, remembering that the professor had gently cautioned her about
talking over her small affairs with any one but himself, she changed the
end of her sentence into "I have to. But I will bring you the money
to-morrow afternoon, if you will be here," she went on. "I am so ashamed
that I forgot it; and you're very kind to trust me, when I'm such a
perfect stranger to you. Don't people ever cheat you?"
"Sometimes," replied the ferryman; "and I don't trust everybody. I go a
good deal by people's faces."
It did not seem to Rosamond that this remark required an answer, so she
sat silent, while his vigorous strokes sent the little boat swiftly
across the river, when he beached it, and, giving her his hand, helped
her to spring to dry ground. Then she said,—
"That's where I'm going,—that white house across the first street; and
I shall only be a few minutes."
"Don't hurry," he said, as she turned away. "I've nothing more to do
this evening after I take you back."
He really did forget for the moment the "other two" and the concert.
The blissful meditation which enwrapped him made the fifteen minutes of
her absence seem as five. She came down the bank, blushing and smiling.
"'And, oh, she looked sweet!'" mentally ejaculated the ferryman.
"Did I keep you long?" she said, as he helped her in. "I hurried as much
as I could. And if you, or the old man, will be here to-morrow at
half-past four, I should like to cross again: it saves me such a long
walk. And I'll be sure to bring the money."
"You didn't keep me—that is, waiting—at
all," he answered dreamily;
"and I'll be here at half-past four, sharp, to-morrow. You may depend on
"Very well," she said contentedly, as she settled herself among the
cushions, which in her absence he had arranged for her greater comfort,
adding, "What a very nice boat you have! I don't see how you keep it so
neat and fresh, taking so many people across, and being out, as I
suppose you must be, in all sorts of weather."
"It's a new boat," he said hurriedly, "and you're my first passenger.
Would you mind telling me your name?—your first name I mean, of
course?"—for the horrible idea occurred to him that she might think he
was anxious about his fare. "I haven't named her yet, and I thought,
perhaps, as you're my first fare, you'd let me name her after
you,—for luck, you know."
"Is that considered lucky?" she asked innocently, "If it is, of course
you may. My name is Rosamond; but it seems to me that's rather long for
a boat. Suppose you call her the Rose. Papa—my father, I mean—used to
call me that oftener than Rosamond, and—one or two other people do
"I don't think Rosamond would be too long," he said thoughtfully, "but
it shall be as you wish, of course. I will have 'Rose' painted on the
stern, and I can call her Rosamond to myself. May I have one of your
roses, just to—to remember it by, till I can see the painter?"
"Why, yes, I suppose so." And she unfastened one of the two at her
throat, and handed it to him.
He placed it carefully in his pocket-book, which, as she observed with
some surprise, was of the finest Russia leather. Ferrying must be
profitable work, to provide the ferryman with such boats and
There was a brief silence, and then she said, "You were singing as I
came down the bank. Would you mind singing again? It sounds so pretty on
He made no answer in words, but presently his voice arose, softly at
first,and then with passionate fervor, and this time his song was,
"Oh, wert thou in the cauld blast!"
"Thank you; that was beautiful," said Rosamond calmly, as he finished
and the boat grazed the bank at one and the same moment. "What a good
voice you have! And you must have taken lessons, to sing so correctly:
"Yes,—a few," he answered, springing from the boat and drawing it up on
the bank. She rose to follow him, but stopped short, with a little
exclamation of dismay.
"Why, this isn't where we ought to have landed!" she exclaimed. "It's a
place a mile farther down the river."
He looked very much confused.
"I have made some stupid blunder," he stammered. "I owe you a thousand
apologies, but I was singing, and I suppose I passed the landing without
noticing it. I will not keep you long, though. I can row back in ten
"I oughtn't to have asked you to sing when you were rowing," she said
remorsefully. "I'm so sorry you should have all that extra work."
"Oh, I don't mind that," he said, trying to speak coolly, "if the delay
won't incommode you."
"No," she said. "We shall be back before dark, and that will be time
enough. I shouldn't like to have to walk home after dark."
Eager words rose to the ferryman's lips, but he wisely suppressed them,
bending to his oars till the little boat sprang through the water.
The sun dropped into the river, allowing the faintly-traced sickle of
the new moon to show, as the boat once more touched land,—at the right
place this time.
Rosamond tripped up the bank, with a friendly "Good-evening," and at the
top she met the professor. "Oh, how nice of you to come and meet me!"
she cried, slipping her hand through his arm. "It grows dark so quickly
after the sun goes down that I was beginning to be just a little
"I would have been here an hour ago," he said, "but the president kept
me. I called at Miss Eldridge's, thinking to find you returned, and
then, when she said you were still absent, I hurried down here, feeling
unaccountably disquieted. It was absurd, of course. But were you not
detained longer than you anticipated?"
"No, it wasn't absurd," she said, clasping her other hand over his arm
and giving it a little squeeze. The spring dusk had fallen around them
like a veil by this time, and they were still a little way from any
"It wasn't absurd at all," she repeated "there's nobody but you to
care whether I come in or go out, and I like you to be worried,—just a
little, I mean,—not enough to make you, really wretched. I've had the
funniest time! The old man wasn't there, and I was turning back, quite
disappointed, when a young man,—quite young, and very nice
looking,—who was singing in a foolish sort of way in a pretty little
boat tied to a stake, said he was there in the old boatman's place, and
asked me to go with him; and I went. At first I was puzzled, for he
looked like a gentleman in most respects, and I didn't think he could be
the son of the old man you told me about; but the longer I was with him
the more I saw that there was something queer about him. He was very
kind and polite, but had a sort of abrupt, startled manner, as if he
were afraid of something, and I came to the conclusion that he must be a
harmless insane person, and that they let him have the ferry because
there isn't anything else much that he could do. He had a most lovely
little boat, all cushioned at one end, and he rowed beautifully."
"But it was not safe," said the professor, in alarm. "If a man be ever
so slightly insane, there is no telling what form his insanity will
take: he might have imagined you to be inimical to him, and have thrown
you overboard." And Rosamond felt a nervous tremor through the arm upon
which she leaned. She laughed heartily.
"You'd not feel that way if you could see him, dear," she said. "He's
as gentle as a lamb, and a little sheepish into the bargain. And I
promised to let him row me over to-morrow afternoon at half-past four.
Indeed, there's no danger. The only really queer thing he did was to
carry me a mile down the river; and that was my fault, for I asked him
to sing again. He has a delightful voice, and he sang that song you like
so much,—'Oh, wert thou in the cauld blast!'—and while he was singing
he missed the landing. But he apologized, and rowed me back like
lightning: so it really didn't matter,—especially as you met me, like
the dear that you are."
If a member of the professor's class had used the figures of speech too
frequently employed by Rosamond, he would have received a dignified
rebuke for "hyperbolical and inelegant language;" but it never occurred
to the deluded man that anything but pearls of thought and diamonds of
speech could fall from those rosy lips.
"I prefer, however, that you should run no risk, however slight, my
Rose," said the professor, so gently that the words were more an
entreaty than a command.
"But I don't see how I can help it," she said, in dismayed tones, "for I
did such a dreadful thing that I shouldn't tell you of it if I hadn't
firmly made up my mind to tell you everything. I think
engaged—and—and—married people always ought to do that. I forgot to
take any money, and it was ten cents there and back, you know; and he
was so kind and polite about trusting me. I wanted him to take me back
as soon as I found it out, but he said he would trust me, that I could
bring it to him next time; and I promised to go to-morrow and pay him
for both trips at once: so, you see, I must."
"Very well," said the professor, after a moment's thought. "I do not
wish you to break your word, of course: so I will go with you. I can
have a little talk with this unfortunate young man while you are engaged
with your dress-maker,
and perhaps his condition may be ameliorated. He
could surely engage in some more remunerative occupation than that which
he is at present pursuing; and there are institutions, you know, where
much light has been thrown upon darkened minds."
"How good, how kind you are!" she cried, her sweet eyes filling with
happy tears, unseen in the gathering darkness. "You're sure you've made
up your mind not to be disappointed when you find out just how foolish
and trifling I really am?" she asked timidly.
The professor's answer need not be recorded. It was satisfactory.
It is a curious thing that the "sixth sense," which draws our thoughts
to long-forgotten friends just before we hear from them, which leads our
eyes to meet other eyes fixed earnestly upon them, which enables people
to wake other people by staring at them, and does a variety of similar
things, admitted, but not accounted for, fails to warn the victims of
approaching fate. Serenely, blissfully, did Mr. Symington wend his way
to the bank on that golden afternoon. It had occurred to him to exchange
his faultless and too expensive boating-costume for a cheap jersey and
trousers; but he feared that this might excite suspicion: he had still
sense enough left to be aware that there had been no shadow of this in
the sweet blue eyes yesterday.
He had not sung
She'd a rose in her bonnet, and, oh, she looked sweet!
more than five hundred times since the previous evening: so, by way of
variety, he was humming it softly to himself as he approached the bank.
He was a little early, of course. She had not come yet. So he dusted the
cushions, and sponged up a few drops of water from the bottom of the
boat, and then sat down to wait. He was not kept waiting long. He heard
voices approaching, then a clear, soft laugh, and she was there;
but—oh, retribution!—with her, supporting her on his arm, was
Professor Silex! Wild thoughts of leaping into the river and
swimming—under water—to the opposite bank passed through the brain of
this victim of his own duplicity; but he checked himself sternly,—he
was proposing to himself to act the part of a coward, and before her, of
all the world. No, he would face the music, were it the "Rogue's March"
itself. And then a faint, a very faint hope sprang up in his heart: the
professor was noted for his absent-mindedness: perhaps there would be no
recognition. Vain delusion.
"Your boatman has not kept his appointment," said the professor,
advancing inexorably down the bank; "but I see a member of my class—an
unusually promising young man—with whom I wish to speak. Will you
excuse me for a moment?"
Rosamond turned her puzzled face from one to the other, finally
ejaculating, "Why, that's the ferryman!"
"There is some mistake here," said the professor, unaware of the
sternness of his tones.
They had continued to advance as they spoke, and the ferryman could not
avoid hearing the last words. He sprang from the boat and up the bank
with the expression of a whole forlorn hope storming an impregnable
fortress, and spoke before the professor could ask a question.
"I beg your pardon, Professor Silex," he said; "there is no mistake.
Miss—this lady, who is, I imagine, Miss May" (the professor bowed
gravely), "was looking yesterday for the old man who acts as ferryman
here sometimes. He was absent, and, seeing that Miss May seemed
disturbed, I volunteered to take his place. It gave me great pleasure to
be of even that small amount of use."
The professor's grave face relaxed into a smile. Memories of his youth
had of late been very present with him, and to them were added those of
Rosamond's estimate of the amateur boatman. He waved his hand
graciously; but, before he could speak, Rosamond indignantly exclaimed,
"But you told me it was ten cents, and that people sometimes cheated
you, and that you
were here in that poor old man's place, and—oh, I
can't think of all the—things you told me."
A burning blush scorched the face of the ferryman. This was speedy
judgment indeed. But his courage rose to the emergency. He met the blue
eyes steadily with his dark-brown ones as he said, "I told you no
untruths, Miss May. My boat was, literally speaking, in the place of
that which the old man actually keeps here: I knew it must be, because
there was only one stake. I have been cheated, frequently and
egregiously: few men of my age, I imagine, have not. And I have great
faith in physiognomy. You were my first fare; and I meant to accept
the ten cents,—I assure you I did. If you can think of any of the other
'things,' I shall be happy to explain them."
"It's all sophistry," she began, with something very like a pout.
But the professor gently interrupted her: "Let us not judge a kind
action harshly. Mr. Symington meant only to relieve you from an annoying
dilemma, and he naturally concluded that this would be impossible should
he disclose his real name and position. It seems that he merely allowed
your inferences to go uncontradicted, and was, practically, most kind.
An introduction between you is now scarcely necessary; but I am glad
that you have met. But for the fact that a selection would have looked
invidious, I should have asked you ere this to permit me to bring Mr.
Symington to see you."
"And will you—may I?" asked the culprit eagerly, glancing from one to
"That must be as Miss May says," replied the professor, with a kind
And Rosamond, ashamed of her unwonted outburst, gave Mr. Louis Symington
her hand, saying penitently, "I was very rude just now, and unjust
besides: will you forgive me and come with the professor to see me?"
"With pleasure,—with the greatest pleasure," he answered eagerly. "And
you will let me row you across? You will not make me miserable by
Rosamond glanced at the professor.
"To be sure we will," he said cheerfully. "I shall be glad of the
opportunity for a little conversation with you while Miss May is
executing her errand."
So he rowed them across; and then, while Rosamond discussed plaits and
gores with the new dress-maker, he discoursed his best eloquence and
learning to the professor, with such good effect that the latter said to
Rosamond, as they walked home through the twilight, having been
persuaded to extend the row a little, "I am glad, dear, that this
opportunity of presenting young Symington to you without apparent
favoritism has arisen. He is a most promising young man, but a little
inclined, I fear, from what I hear of him in his social capacity, to be
frivolous. We may together exercise a restraining influence over him."
"I thought he talked most dreadfully sensibly," said Rosamond, laughing;
"but I like him, and I hope we shall see him often."
They did. He called at first with the professor, afterward, at odd
times,—never in the evening,—without him. He persuaded Rosamond to
continue her patronage of his boat. Sometimes the professor went,
sometimes he did not. Mr. Symington was frequently induced to sing when
they were upon the water, and once or twice Rosamond joined her voice to
The 30th of June had at last been appointed for the wedding-day. They
were to go to Europe at once, and spend the vacation travelling wherever
Rosamond's fancy should dictate. All through the winter she had
discussed their journey with the liveliest interest, sometimes making
and rejecting a dozen plans in one evening. But of late she had ceased
to speak of it unless the professor spoke first; and this, with the
gentle tact which he had always possessed, but which had wonderfully
developed of late, he soon ceased to do.
She was sometimes unwarrantably irritable with him now, but each little
of petulance was always followed by a disproportionate penitence
and remorse. At such times she hovered about him, eagerly anxious to
render him some of the small services which he found so sweet. But she
was paler and thinner than she had ever been, and Miss Christina
noticed, with a kindly anxiety which did her credit, that Rosamond ate
less and less.
May was gone. It was the first day of June,—and such a day! Trees and
shrubs were in that loveliest of all states,—that of a half-fulfilled
promise of loveliness. Rosamond felt the spell, and, in spite of all
that was in her heart, an unreasoning gladness took possession of her.
She danced down the path of the long garden behind the seminary and
danced back again, stopping to pick a handful of the first June roses.
It was early morning, and the professor stopped—as he often did—for a
moment's sight of her on his way from the dreary boarding-house to the
equally dreary college. She caught both his hands and held up her face
for a kiss. Then she fastened a rosebud in his button-hole.
"You are not to take that out until it withers, Paul," she said,
laughing and shaking a threatening finger at him. "Do you know what it
means,—a rosebud? I don't believe you do, for all your Greek. It means
'confession of love;' and I do love you,—I do, I do."
"I know you do, my darling," he said gently; "and it shall stay
there—till it withers. But that will not be long. I stopped to tell you
that I cannot go with you this afternoon; but you must not disappoint
Mr. Symington. I met him just now, and told him I should be detained,
but that you would go."
"You had no right to say so without asking me first," she said sharply.
"I don't wish to go. I won't go without you. There!"
He was silent, but his deep, kind eyes were fixed pityingly upon her
flushed, excited face.
She dropped it on his arm and burst into tears, and he stroked her hair
gently, as if she had been a little child and he a patient, loving
father. She raised her face presently, smiling, though her lips still
"Do you really and truly wish me to go with—this afternoon?"
It seemed to him that for a full minute he could not speak, but in
reality the pause was so brief that she did not notice it.
"Yes," he said quietly, "I really and truly do. It would not be fair to
disappoint Mr. Symington, after making the engagement."
"And can't you possibly go, dear?" she asked entreatingly.
I think only one man was ever known to pull the cord which set in motion
a guillotine that took off his own head. But there is much unknown, as
well as unwritten, history.
"Not without neglecting some work which I ought to do to-day," he said.
"I think you care more for your work sometimes than you do for me."
There was a little quaver in her voice as she spoke. "And I wish you'd
stop behaving as if I were your daughter. I don't know what ails you
this morning; but if you go on this way I shall call you Professor Silex
all the time. How would you like that?"
A passionate exclamation rose to his lips, and died there. A spasm of
bitter pain made his face for a moment hard and stern. Then he smiled,
and said gently, "I should not like it at all, as you know very well.
But I must go now, or I shall be late for my class. Good-by, dear
child." And, parting her soft, curling hair, he pressed a fatherly kiss
upon her forehead.
She threw her arms about his neck, crying, "No!—on my lips." And,
pressing an eager kiss upon his mouth, she added, "There! that is a
sealing, a fresh sealing, of our engagement; and I wish—oh, how I
wish!—that we were to be married to-morrow—to-day!"
The professor gently disengaged himself from her clinging arms, saying,
still with a smile, "But I thought the wedding-gown was still to make?
Good-by. I will come early this evening and hear all about the enchanted
For the expedition which had been planned by the three for that
afternoon was to explore a little island far down the river, farther
than any of them had yet gone.
Rosamond wore no roses when she went slowly down the bank that day,—not
even in her cheeks.
And when Louis Symington saw her coming alone, only the sunbrown on his
face concealed the sudden rush of blood from it to his heart.
"The professor could not come," she said hurriedly, "so he made me come
without him; that is—I mean—" And she stopped, confused.
"If you prefer to wait until he can go with us, pray do not hesitate to
say so," he replied stiffly, and pausing—with her hand in his—in the
act of helping her into the boat.
"Oh, I did not mean to say anything rude," she exclaimed penitently; and
she stepped across the seats to the cushioned end of the boat. "Of
course we will go; but perhaps—would you mind—couldn't we just take a
little row to-day, and save the island until the professor can go?"
"Certainly," he said, still in the same constrained tone; and, without
another word, he helped her to her place and arranged the cushions about
The silence lasted so long that she felt she could bear it no longer.
"Will you please sing something?" she said at last, desperately, "You
know you sang that first day; and it sounded so lovely on the water. Do
He looked at her fixedly for a moment. Then he said simply, "Yes, I
remember," and began at once to sing. But he did not sing "Twickenham
Ferry" to day. He would have given all he was worth, when he had sung
one line, if he could have changed it into a college song, a negro
melody,—anything. For this was what he found himself singing:
"How can I bear to leave thee?
One parting kiss I give thee,
And then, whate'er befalls me,
I go where Honor calls me."
She would not hide her face in her hands, but she might turn it away:
how was he to know that she was not watching with breathless interest
the young couple straying along the bank, arm closely linked in arm, in
the sweet June sunshine?
"Thank you," she said faintly, when the last trembling note had died
away: "that was—very pretty."
"I am glad you liked it," he said, with quiet irony in his tones.
And then there was another alarming pause. Anything was better than
that, and she began to talk almost at random, telling of various
laughable things which had occurred among her scholars, laughing
herself, somewhat shrilly, at the places where laughter was due.
He sat silent, unsmiling, through it all until they stepped from the
boat. Then he said, "It is really refreshing to see you in such good
spirits. I had always understood that even the happiest fiancée was
somewhat pensive and melancholy as the day of fate drew near."
"You have no right to speak to me in that way,—in that tone," she
cried, with sudden heat.
He bowed low, saying, "Pardon me; I am only too well aware that I have
no rights of any kind so far as you are concerned. But it is impossible
to efface one's self entirely."
"Now you are angry with me," she said forlornly; "and I don't know what
I have done."
"I angry with you!" he cried. "Oh, Rosamond! Rosamond!"
"I am glad if you are not," she said,—"very glad; but I must go—the
professor—" And she sped up the bank before he could speak again.
The professor came early to the seminary that evening, but Rosamond was
ready for him, dressed in a gown of some soft white fabric which he had
noticed and praised. She had roses in her hair, at her throat, in her
belt, but the bright, soft color in her cheeks out-shone them all.
She began, almost as soon as they had
exchanged greetings, to talk
about her father, asking the professor how long he had known him, and
what Dr. May had been like as a young man.
"Very shy and retiring," he replied. "I think that was the first link in
our friendship: we both disliked society, and finally made an agreement
with each other to decline all invitations and give up visiting. We
found that everything of the kind interfered materially with advancement
in our studies. But your father had already met your mother several
times when we made this agreement. Their tastes were very similar, and
her quiet, tranquil manner was extremely pleasant to him,—for, as you
know, he was somewhat nervous and excitable,—so he claimed an exception
in her favor; and, after two years of most pleasing intellectual
companionship, they were married. It was a rarely complete and happy
"And I suppose," said Rosamond, with a curious touch of resentment in
her voice, "that because he had never been like other young people, had
never cared for young friends and pleasant times, it did not occur to
him that I ought to have them? Oh, I don't see how he dared to rob me of
my rights,—of my youth, which could only come once, of all life and
pleasure and sunshine!"
"My dear," said the professor, looking very much startled and shocked,
"he had no thought of robbing you: he loved you far too tenderly for
that. You always seemed happy and bright, and you were very young when
he died. No doubt, had he lived until you were of an age to enter
But here she interrupted him with bitter self-reproaches.
"Oh, what have I said?" she cried. "He was all goodness, all love to me,
and I have dared to find fault with him! Oh, what a base, wicked girl I
A choking sob stopped her, but only one. She conquered the rest, and
made a forlorn attempt to change the subject.
"I had something to tell you to-night, dear child," said the professor,
when she was quiet again: "you seem tired, so I will make it as brief
A startled look came into her eyes, and she was about to speak, when he
"Let me first say what is upon my mind, and then you shall have your
turn. I wished to tell you that I think we—I—have made a mistake. I am
too confirmed an old bachelor to fall into home ways and make a good
husband. I shall always love you as a dear young daughter, I shall ask
you to let me take in every way your father's place, but I think, if you
will let me off, that we will not have that wedding on the 30th of June,
my little girl."
She raised her eyes in wondering incredulity to his face. He was
smiling! He was speaking playfully! He was giving her back her freedom
with a light heart and a good will. Plainly, the relief would be as
great for him as for her. Laughing and crying in a breath, she clasped
her arms about his neck.
"Ah, how good you are! How I love you now!" she said, as soon as she
could speak. "All the time we have been engaged,—yes, even
before,—from the first I have longed to tell you that I would so much
rather be your daughter than your wife; but I thought it would be so
ungracious, after all your kindness to me. Now we shall be happy; you
will see how happy I shall make you. And, oh, how good, how noble you
are to tell me, when, if you had not spoken,—yes, I should have married
you, dear father. I shall always call you father now: papa will not mind
it, I know."
The professor had nothing more to do or say after that until he rose to
go. But when she held up her glowing, sparkling face for his good-night
kiss, he once more parted the curls and kissed her on her forehead,
whereat she pouted a little, saying, with half-pretended displeasure,
"Papa didn't kiss my forehead: he kissed me right."
The professor passed his hand, which trembled a little, over her shining
hair, saying, with a paternal smile, "I shall kiss my daughter in the
way that best
pleases me. I am going to be a very strict and exacting
She laughed gleefully, as if it were the best joke in the world, and her
merry "Good-night, dear father," followed him as he went out into the
He held Mr. Symington to his engagement to row Rosamond and himself to
the island, but he took with him a large canvas bag and a geological
hammer. And how, pray, could any one talk to, or even stand very near,
him, when he was pounding off bits of rock for specimens with such
energy that fragments flew in all directions? The sound of the hammer
ceased as soon as his companions had disappeared among the trees; they
were going to look for a spring, but, strangely enough, they did not
notice this. No need now for him to school his face, his voice, his
trembling hands. They found the spring.
And did my professor die of a broken heart, and leave a lock of
Rosamond's hair and a thrilling heart-history, in the shape of a
neatly-written journal, to proclaim to the world his sacrifice? No; that
was not his idea of a sacrifice. He burnt that very night each
token—and there were many—which he had so jealously cherished,—each
little, crookedly-written, careless note, and, last, the long bright
curl which, before her heart awoke, she had so freely given him.
It is true that there was a gradual but very perceptible change in him.
He had been indifferent formerly to the members of his class, excepting
from an intellectual stand point. Now he began to take an interest in
that part of their lives which lay outside his jurisdiction, to ask them
to his rooms of an evening, to walk with them and win their confidence.
Not one of them ever regretted that it had been bestowed.