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The Ferryman's Fee by Margaret Vandegrift

I.

"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 years!"

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 lodging-house."

"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 scholarly terms 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 were me?"

"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 sums 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 father."

"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? Good-night."

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 stony-hearted slate?

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 beseechingly,—

"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 hands.

"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?"

II.

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 May?"

"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 roses."

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!

III.

"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 ones."

"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 me!"

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 speech.

"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 gone?"

"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 me."

"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 yet."

"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 pocket-books.

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 the water."

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: haven't you?"

"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 minutes."

"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 scared." "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 much-travelled street.

"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 the other.

"That must be as Miss May says," replied the professor, with a kind smile.

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 refusing?"

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 his.

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 fit 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 quivered.

"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 island." 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 her.

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 you remember?"

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.

IV.

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 union."

"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 society—"

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 am!"

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 as possible."

A startled look came into her eyes, and she was about to speak, when he continued:

"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 father."

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 darkness.

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.