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The Golden Road

XXV. The Love Story Of The Awkward Man
(Written by the Story Girl)
Jasper Dale lived alone in the old homestead which he had named Golden
Milestone. In Carlisle this giving one's farm a name was looked upon as a piece
of affectation; but if a place must be named why not give it a sensible name with
some meaning to it? Why Golden Milestone, when Pinewood or Hillslope or, if
you wanted to be very fanciful, Ivy Lodge, might be had for the taking?
He had lived alone at Golden Milestone since his mother's death; he had been
twenty then and he was close upon forty now, though he did not look it. But
neither could it be said that he looked young; he had never at any time looked
young with common youth; there had always been something in his appearance
that stamped him as different from the ordinary run of men, and, apart from his
shyness, built up an intangible, invisible barrier between him and his kind. He
had lived all his life in Carlisle; and all the Carlisle people knew of or about him--
although they thought they knew everything--was that he was painfully,
abnormally shy. He never went anywhere except to church; he never took part in
Carlisle's simple social life; even with most men he was distant and reserved; as
for women, he never spoke to or looked at them; if one spoke to him, even if she
were a matronly old mother in Israel, he was at once in an agony of painful
blushes. He had no friends in the sense of companions; to all outward
appearance his life was solitary and devoid of any human interest.
He had no housekeeper; but his old house, furnished as it had been in his
mother's lifetime, was cleanly and daintily kept. The quaint rooms were as free
from dust and disorder as a woman could have had them. This was known,
because Jasper Dale occasionally had his hired man's wife, Mrs. Griggs, in to
scrub for him. On the morning she was expected he betook himself to woods and
fields, returning only at night-fall. During his absence Mrs. Griggs was frankly
wont to explore the house from cellar to attic, and her report of its condition was
always the same--"neat as wax." To be sure, there was one room that was
always locked against her, the west gable, looking out on the garden and the hill
of pines beyond. But Mrs. Griggs knew that in the lifetime of Jasper Dale's
mother it had been unfurnished. She supposed it still remained so, and felt no
especial curiosity concerning it, though she always tried the door.
Jasper Dale had a good farm, well cultivated; he had a large garden where he
worked most of his spare time in summer; it was supposed that he read a great
deal, since the postmistress declared that he was always getting books and
magazines by mail. He seemed well contented with his existence and people let
him alone, since that was the greatest kindness they could do him. It was
unsupposable that he would ever marry; nobody ever had supposed it.
"Jasper Dale never so much as THOUGHT about a woman," Carlisle oracles
declared. Oracles, however, are not always to be trusted.
One day Mrs. Griggs went away from the Dale place with a very curious story,
which she diligently spread far and wide. It made a good deal of talk, but people,