Read CHAPTER XXVIII - WHERE THE LILIES GROW of Uncle Terry A Story of the Maine Coast , free online book, by Charles Clark Munn, on

Two days of Alice’s visitation passed like a summer breeze. The first day they drove to the old mill and spent the entire forenoon gathering lilies and watching the great wheel that dripped and clattered between its moss-grown walls. It was a curiosity to Blanch, for never in her life had she seen one of those old-time landmarks, now so rare. That afternoon they drove to the mountain’s top and saw the sunset, only to be late home to Aunt Susan’s tea biscuit and cold chicken, and having a surprising appetite. The next day they made a picnic trip to another mountain, leaving the horse half way up and walking the rest of the way. At noon they returned, and beside a cold spring that bubbled beneath a rock they opened their lunch baskets. Then they picked flowers, hunted for wintergreen, and decked the horse and wagon with ferns and wreaths of laurel,-only simple country pleasures, it is true, but they at least had the charm of newness for two of the party. That evening they sang all sorts of songs, from gospel hymns to comic operas, and Blanch showed in so many ways that she admired her new-found friend that there was no further restraint.

“I wish you would stay with me until my school begins, Blanch,” said Alice at the close of the evening. “If you knew how lonely I am, I am sure you would.”

“I might be persuaded to make a longer visit next summer,” was the answer, “if you will return this visit next winter; will you?”

“I won’t promise now,” answered Alice, “I am afraid I should be out of place in your society. I’m only a country girl, you know.”

“I shall feel hurt if you don’t,” responded Blanch.

When two girls who have known one another but four days begin using each other’s first names, it may be considered that they are growing fond of each other. It was so in this case, and the remark that Blanch had made the first evening to her brother was sincere.

In the goodness of her heart she had also refrained from wearing her best frocks, fearing that Alice might feel herself overshadowed, and that is an act of consideration of which few of the fair sex are capable.

“I should like to see that schoolhouse Frank has spoken of several times,” she said a little later, “and that barefoot girl he told about.”

It was the first allusion to his interest in her that Blanch had made, and Alice colored; a trifle that did not escape her friend’s eye.

“We will drive by where that girl lives to-morrow,” responded Alice, “and if you like, will call and see her. It would please her mother very much, and really the girl is worth it. She is the most original little old woman in my school.”

The next morning when Frank and his sister were alone for a few moments she said, “I am going to do you a good turn to-day, Sir Mahomet, and have a headache,” and, laughing a little, “if you are wise you will improve your opportunities and persuade your ‘Sweet Alice’ to go after pond lilies and leave me here. I noticed a most charming spot for a tete-a-tete on one side of that pond the other day, and I guess you can find it if you try. It’s a mossy bank under a big tree, and out of sight of the old mill.” Was ever brother blessed with a better sister!

But the wary Alice was not to be caught so easily.

“I could not think of going after lilies,” she replied when he proposed the trip, “and leaving your sister alone; and then it is almost too warm to be out in the sun this morning. If she feels better this afternoon we will go there when the sun gets part way down.”

When Blanch obtained a chance she said to her brother with a wise look, “Now I know why you couldn’t coax your pretty schoolma’am to come to Boston. She’s too keen to walk into any trap, and I like her all the better for it. But leave the matter to me. I’ll give you a chance, and when you see it, seize it quick, talk fast, and don’t be afraid. She won’t allow herself to be left long alone with you while I am here.”

True to her sisterly interest, Blanch kept quiet all the morning and after dinner was the first to propose another trip to the lily pond. “I am in love with that old mill,” she said, “and I want to see it when the sun gets down so it will be shady there.”

When they reached the spot she at once developed an unusual interest in the mill and began an animated conversation with the miller regarding it and all its history.

“You two go after the lilies,” she said when Frank had the boat ready, “and leave me here. I’m afraid the sun on the water will bring back my headache.”

A wee little frown crept over the face of Alice, for she saw through the plot, but she answered gayly, “All right, only your smiles will be wasted on the miller. He is too old to appreciate them. We won’t be gone long,” she added as she stepped into the boat. She surmised that Blanch’s headache was a ruse instigated by her admirer, and this sudden interest in the mill’s history only another, and, on guard ever, determined to check any and all serious words from him. And now what spirit of mischief had come over her? She joked and jested on all manner of subjects-the boat, his rowing, Blanch’s interest in the miller, and her blue eyes sparkled with roguish intent. She bared one round arm to the elbow, and pulling every bud and blossom she could reach, pelted her cavalier with them.

“Did you learn that stroke at college,” she asked, when one of his oars slipped and he nearly fell backwards, “or is that the way a yachtsman always rows?”

In response to all this he said but little, for he was thinking how best to say what was on his mind. He had resolved to declare himself at the first chance, and now that he had one his heart was like to fail him. When he reached the spot Blanch had referred to he headed the boat for the shore and as it came to a stop he said, “Let’s get out and sit on the bank, Miss Page. I want to rest.”

“Oh, we must not stop,” answered his tormentor; “it’s almost sundown, and besides, I want more lilies.”

She made no move to arise, but kept prodding a lily pad in the water beside her with one taper finger. By some chance, too, her broad sun-hat was well down over her face. Frank was silent while he looked at the piquant figure with half-hidden face and bare arm, sitting so near him. One little foot peeped out beneath her dress, one hand held fast to the boat while the other toyed with the green pad, and back of her lay the still pond dotted with countless blossoms. Only the tip of her nose could be seen, and beneath it two red lips about which lingered a roguish smile.

His heart beat a little faster, and almost did it fail him.

“Won’t you get out, Miss Page?” he asked at last, rather doggedly. “I’ve something I want to say to you and-and it’s nice to sit in the shade and talk.”

The break had come and she could evade him no longer. Without a word or even a look she arose and, taking his proffered hand, stepped out of the boat. And strange to say, he retained that moist hand as if to lead her to a seat. Only a few steps up a mossy bank offered its temptation, and with quick gallantry he drew his coat off and spread it for her to sit upon.

“It’s nice and cool here,” she said, “but we must not stay long. Blanch will be waiting.”

In a way it was an unwise speech, for it recalled his sister’s warning to talk fast and not be afraid. As is usual with most lovers, he had thought many times of what he would say, and how he would say it; but now that the critical moment had come, his well-chosen words vanished. He had remained standing, and for a moment looked at Alice as she sat with hat-hidden face, and then his heart-burst came.

“Miss Page,” he said in a low voice, “you must know what I want to say and-and I’ve come all the way from Maine to say it, and can you-is there any hope for me in your feelings? Is there just a little?”

He paused, but no answer came, only her head sank a trifle lower and now even the tip of her chin was invisible beneath the hat. It may be the movement emboldened him, for in an instant he was beside her on the ground and had one hand a prisoner.

“Tell me, Alice,” he pleaded, “is there any chance for me? Say just one word-only one! Say ’yes’!”

The prisoned hand was at his lips now, and then she raised her face and oh, divine sight! those blue eyes were filled with tears!

One instant flash of heaven only, and then a change came. Almost had she yielded, but not quite, for now she arose quickly and turning away said half petulantly, “Oh, please don’t speak of that now and spoil our visit. Let us go back to the mill.”

But still he held the little hand, and as she tried to draw it away he said pitifully: “Do you mean it, Alice? Is it no? Oh, don’t let me go away without one word of hope!”

Then she raised her one free arm, and resting it against a nearby tree pressed her face upon it and almost whispered, “Oh, don’t ask me now! I can’t say ‘yes’ and I can’t say ’no’!”

“I shall believe that your heart says ‘yes,’” he responded quickly, slipping one arm around her waist, “and until you do say ‘no’ I shall keep on loving you just the same.”

But he had not won her yet, for she drew herself away, and turning a piteous face toward him exclaimed, “Don’t, please, say another word now, or I shall hate myself as long as I live if you do!”

For one moment he stood dumfounded, and then it all dawned upon him. “Forgive me, sweet Alice,” he said softly, “for speaking too soon. I believe I know why you feel as you do, and I shall go away hoping that in time you will come to know my mother better. And since you have said that you can’t say ‘no,’ I shall anticipate that some time it will be ‘yes.’ Now we will go and gather lilies.”

Then as he led her to the boat once more his arm stole around her waist, and this time she did not try to escape its pressure.

When two days afterward the brother and sister were ready to depart, Blanch put one arm caressingly around Alice and whispered, “Now remember, you have promised to make me a visit next winter, and you must keep your promise.”

And poor Romeo, standing by, had to look the love that was in his heart while he envied his sister her parting kiss.