Homespun Tales HTML version

Rose O' The River
1. The Pine And The Rose
It was not long after sunrise, and Stephen Waterman, fresh from his dip in the river, had
scrambled up the hillside from the hut in the alder-bushes where he had made his
morning toilet.
An early ablution of this sort was not the custom of the farmers along the banks of the
Saco, but the Waterman house was hardly a stone's throw from the water, and there was a
clear, deep swimming-hole in the Willow Cove that would have tempted the busiest man,
or the least cleanly, in York County. Then, too, Stephen was a child of the river, born,
reared, schooled on its very brink, never happy unless he were on it, or in it, or beside it,
or at least within sight or sound of it.
The immensity of the sea had always silenced and overawed him, left him cold in feeling.
The river wooed him, caressed him, won his heart. It was just big enough to love. It was
full of charms and changes, of varying moods and sudden surprises. Its voice stole in
upon his ear with a melody far sweeter and more subtle than the boom of the ocean. Yet
it was not without strength, and when it was swollen with the freshets of the spring and
brimming with the bounty of its sister streams, it could dash and roar, boom and crash,
with the best of them.
Stephen stood on the side porch, drinking in the glory of the sunrise, with the Saco
winding like a silver ribbon through the sweet loveliness of the summer landscape.
And the river rolled on toward the sea, singing its morning song, creating and nourishing
beauty at every step of its onward path. Cradled in the heart of a great mountain-range, it
pursued its gleaming way, here lying silent in glassy lakes, there rushing into tinkling
little falls, foaming great falls, and thundering cataracts. Scores of bridges spanned its
width, but no steamers flurried its crystal depths. Here and there a rough little rowboat,
tethered to a willow, rocked to and fro in some quiet bend of the shore. Here the silver
gleam of a rising perch, chub, or trout caught the eye; there a pickerel lay rigid in the
clear water, a fish carved in stone: here eels coiled in the muddy bottom of some pool;
and there, under the deep shadows of the rocks, lay fat, sleepy bass, old, and incredibly
wise, quite untempted by, and wholly superior to, the rural fisherman's worm.
The river lapped the shores of peaceful meadows; it flowed along banks green with
maple, beech, sycamore, and birch; it fell tempestuously over dams and fought its way
between rocky cliffs crowned with stately firs. It rolled past forests of pine and hemlock
and spruce, now gentle, now terrible; for there is said to be an Indian curse upon the
Saco, whereby, with every great sun, the child of a paleface shall be drawn into its cruel
depths. Lashed into fury by the stony reefs that impeded its progress, the river looked