7. The Little House
The autumn days flew past like shuttles in a loom. The river reflected the yellow foliage
of the white birch and the scarlet of the maples. The wayside was bright with goldenrod,
with the red tassels of the sumac, with the purple frost-flower and feathery clematis.
If Rose was not as happy as Stephen, she was quietly content, and felt that she had more
to be grateful for than most girls, for Stephen surprised her with first one evidence and
then another of thoughtful generosity. In his heart of hearts he felt that Rose was not
wholly his, that she reserved, withheld something; and it was the subjugation of this
rebellious province that he sought. He and Rose had agreed to wait a year for their
marriage, in which time Rose's cousin would finish school and be ready to live with the
old people; meanwhile Stephen had learned that his maiden aunt would be glad to come
and keep house for Rufus. The work at the River Farm was too hard for a girl, so he had
persuaded himself of late, and the house was so far from the village that Rose was sure to
be lonely. He owned a couple of acres between his place and the Edgewood bridge, and
here, one afternoon only a month after their engagement, he took Rose to see the
foundations of a little house he was building for her. It was to be only a story-and-a-half
cottage of six small rooms, the two upper chambers to be finished off later on. Stephen
had placed it well back from the road, leaving space in front for what was to be a most
wonderful arrangement of flower-beds, yet keeping a strip at the back, on the river-brink,
for a small vegetable garden. There had been a house there years before-so many years
that the blackened ruins were entirely overgrown; but a few elms and an old apple-
orchard remained to shade the new dwelling and give welcome to the coming inmates.
Stephen had fifteen hundred dollars in bank, he could turn his hand to almost anything,
and his love was so deep that Rose's plumb-line had never sounded bottom; accordingly
he was able, with the help of two steady workers, to have the roof on before the first of
November. The weather was clear and fine, and by Thanksgiving clapboards, shingles,
two coats of brown paint, and even the blinds had all been added. This exhibition of
reckless energy on Stephen's part did not wholly commend itself to the neighborhood.
"Steve's too turrible spry," said Rose's grandfather; "he'll trip himself up some o' these
"_You_ never will," remarked his better half, sagely.
"The resks in life come along fast enough, without runnin' to meet 'em," continued the old
man. "There's good dough in Rose, but it ain't more'n half riz. Let somebody come along
an' drop in a little more yeast, or set the dish a little mite nearer the stove, an' you'll see
what 'll happen."