Read CHAPTER XVI - SWEET ALICE of Uncle Terry A Story of the Maine Coast , free online book, by Charles Clark Munn, on

“Oh, don’t you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt?
Sweet Alice whose hair was so brown,
Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile,
And trembled with fear at your frown?”
Old Song.

Every person we meet in life makes an impression on us, varying from the faintest shadow that soon vanishes to a vivid one that lasts as long as memory.

Alice Page’s first impression of Frank Nason did not do him justice. She thought him a big, good-natured, polite boy, rather conscious that he was likely to be sought after, and disposed to sulk if he wasn’t. His plea for sympathy on the score that his life of idleness was a bore, which he made the day they went sleighing, only provoked her derision, and as she was disposed to judge all men by the standard of her self-reliant brother, he came near awakening contempt on her part. It was not until the last evening of his visit that she discovered her mistake and realized that he had more depth of character than she had thought. It is likely the keen enjoyment which he seemed to feel when she sang for him had weight, for we are prone to like those who like us, and it was natural also that she should feel a little gratitude for what he had done for her brother.

Her life, hidden away as she was in a by-way corner of a country town, and seeing no one all the week except her small band of pupils, gave her plenty of time for thought, and there was no young man in the village whose company she would tolerate if she could help it. Once a week, usually on Saturday, she received a letter from her brother, and that, together with the mild excitement of Sunday church-going, was all that broke the monotony of her life.

A week after the Christmas visit she received a package containing a new book, three of the latest popular songs, and a box of candy, and pinned to the candy Frank Nason’s card, on the back of which was written: “For the girl who wanted to kiss her teacher.”

She wrote a polite note of thanks, and then, feeling that she would soon be forgotten by him, and not caring much whether she was or not, settled down to the unvarying round of her daily life. It was mid-winter, and two weeks after her brother wrote that Frank had begun studying law in his office, when she received a letter from that young man that surprised her. He wrote:

My dear miss page: I trust you will pardon me for intruding myself upon you, but I wish you to know that a few pointed words spoken by you while I was enjoying your hospitality have not been forgotten, and have influenced me to make an effort to be something better than an idler in the world. Your brother kindly consented to let me read law in his office, and I am now hard at it. I do not imagine this will interest you, but I felt that you had scant respect for useless people, and as you could rightly so regard me, I wanted you to know that I am capable of rising above my aimless life.

I have recalled so many times all the little incidents of my visit to your home, and lived over those evenings graced by your presence, and lit by a cheerful fire, time and again. Do not think me insincere when I assure you they were the most delightful ones I ever passed. If you find time to write a line to one who is now a worker in the hive instead of a drone, it will be gratefully received by me.

To a girl with Alice Page’s sympathetic nature and tender feelings, words like these made her feel she was what she most enjoyed being-an inspiration and help to others. In this respect Frank Nason had read her better than she had read him, or else some fortunate intuition had led him aright. She answered the letter at once, thanking him for his flattering words, but forbidding him to use any more of them.

“I do not like flattery,” she wrote, “because no one ever can feel quite sure it is sincere. I will answer all your letters if you will promise not to tell Bert we are corresponding. Not that I am ashamed of it by any means, but he is inclined to tease me and I love him so dearly I can’t bear to have him do so. The little girl you sent the candy to was both astonished and grateful. I did not tell her who sent it, for the fact would have been all over town in a week if I had, and I do not like to be gossiped about. I merely told her a good fairy had sent it, which was better.”

Once a week thereafter Alice received a long letter from Frank and as regularly answered it. It is needless to say that she soon began to anticipate them and that they added much to her monotonous life. Frank wisely refrained from any expression of love, though Alice felt sure he was likely to make such expression in person if ever he had an opportunity to do so. No woman, much less a keenly sensitive young woman like her, is ever long in doubt as to a man’s feelings, and Alice Page, whose heart had never felt a stronger emotion than love for her brother, knew the moment she read her admirer’s first letter that its well-considered words were really inspired by Cupid. More than that, she felt sure that his commendable efforts to become a useful professional man, instead of a badly bored idler, were due to the hope that the effort would find favor in her eyes. In all these surmises it is needless to say her feminine intuition was quite correct.

That her brother also surmised the truth is quite likely, though he wisely kept these thoughts to himself for good and sufficient reasons.

“Frank is getting along nicely,” he wrote Alice, in the early spring; “I believe he has the making of a capable lawyer in him. He grinds away harder than I ever did when reading law, and has never yet complained of how dry and dull it all is. He is a big, warm-hearted fellow, too, and I am growing more fond of him every day. He is more devoted to me than a brother, and we have made a lot of plans for a month’s outing on the ‘Gypsy’ this coming summer. I like his family very much, and Mrs. Nason and both her daughters have invited me to bring you down when your school closes to make them a visit. I think I shall run up in June, and stay over Sunday, and bring Frank with me. I imagine he would like to come, for once in a while I overhear him humming ‘Ben Bolt.’”

“A very nicely worded little plot; but don’t you imagine, my dear Bert, I do not see through it!” was the mental comment of Alice when she read the letter. “The young gentleman has bravely set to work to become a man instead of a cipher; my brother likes him; he whistles ‘Ben Bolt;’ my brother is to bring him up here again; I am expected to fall in love with Mr. Cipher that was, and help him spend his money, and I am to be barely tolerated by mamma and both sisters! A most charming plot, surely, but it takes two to make a bargain. I think I know just the sort of people mamma and sisters are. He told me she read him a lecture every time he danced twice with a poor girl, and now I am expected to walk into the same trap, and cringe to her ladyship, for the sin of being poor. I guess not! I’ll teach school till I die first, and he can think of me as having a ‘slab of granite so gray’ to keep me in place.”

But this diplomatic “Sweet Alice” wrote to her brother: “I am delighted that you are coming up, for I am so lonesome, and the weeks drag so hard! Bring your friend up, by all means, and I’ll sing ‘Ben Bolt’ until he hates the name of Sweet Alice. The country will be looking finely then, and he can go over to the cemetery, and select the corner I am to occupy. Pardon the joke, and don’t tell him I uttered it.”

To Frank she wrote: “Be sure to come up with Bert. I will sing all the old songs, and the new ones you have sent me, as well. If you come up on a Thursday you may visit my school Friday afternoon, if you will behave, and then you can see the girl you sent the candy to. She wears a calico pinafore, and comes to school barefooted.”

Consistency, thy name is woman!

From all this it may be inferred that Alice was just a little coquettish, and that verdict is no doubt true. Like all her charming sex who are blessed with youth and beauty, she was perfectly conscious of it, and quite willing to exert its magic power on a susceptible young man with dark curly hair and earnest brown eyes. Neither was she impervious to the fact that this said young man was a possible heir to plenty of money. She never had much lavished on her, and, while not having suffered for the necessaries of life, she had had to deny herself all luxuries, and, most vexatious denial of all, a new gown and hat many times when she needed them. Her tactful reply to her brother’s letter, coupled with his own sincere affection for her, brought her a response by return mail in the form of a check for one hundred dollars, with explicit orders to spend every cent of it before he came.

Whether she did or not we will leave to the imagination of all young ladies so situated.