Read CHAPTER XXXII  - THE DEMNITION GRIND of Uncle Terry A Story of the Maine Coast , free online book, by Charles Clark Munn, on

Life should not be all work, neither can it be all play and be enjoyable, as Frank Nason found to his sorrow. Whether a realizing sense of the scant respect Alice Page had for an idler, or his own experience in that rôle, opened his eyes first, is hard to say. It is likely that both had weight, and it is not to his discredit if the possible approbation of Alice was the sole cause of his changed ideas. That he wished her to feel it was, is certain, as the tone of his letters showed. In one which he wrote soon after his return to Boston he said, “My mother, and in fact all my people, seem to think so much more of me since I have set about fitting myself for a profession. Father says he is growing proud of me, and that pleases me best of all, for he is and always has been my best friend. Of course, I think the world of Blanch, and she seems to think I am the best fellow in the world. Little do any of them know or even guess that it is you for whom I am working, and always with the hope that you will deem me worthy of the great prize you well know I am striving for. How many times I recall every moment of that one short hour on the old mill-pond, and all that made it sacred to me, no one can tell. I go out little except to escort mother and the girls to the theatre once in a while, and so anxious am I to be able to pass an examination, I often go to the office and read law till midnight.”

When this effusion reached Alice the mountains around Sandgate were just putting on their autumn glory of color, and that night when she sat on the porch and heard the katydids in the fast thinning foliage of the elms she had what she called an old-fashioned fit of the blues. And how lonely it was there, too!

Aunt Susan, never a talkative person, sat close, but as dumb as a graven image; no house near, and only the twinkling lights of several the other side of the valley visible. On a knoll just below them she knew were a few score of white headstones, among them her mother’s, and when there was a moon she could see them plainly. It is during the lonely hours of our lives that we see ourselves best, and this quiet evening-no more quiet than many others, perhaps, but seemingly so to Alice-she saw herself and her possible future as it seemed to be. Every word of her lover’s letter had been an emissary of both joy and sorrow-joy that he was so devoted to her, and sorrow because she felt that an impassable barrier separated them. “He will forget me in a few months,” she said to herself, “and by the time he has won his coveted law degree his scheming mother will have some eligible girl all ready for him to fall in love with. As for me, she will never have the chance to frown at me, for even if Blanch begs I would never set foot in her house!” When her feelings had carried her up to this point she arose, and, going into the parlor, began playing. Her piano was the best and about the only companion she had, and quickly responded to her moods. And now what did it tell? She played; but every chord was a minor one, full of the pathos of tears and sorrow. She sang; but every song that came to her lips carried the same refrain, and told only of hungry hearts and unanswered love. And last and worst of all, almost insensibly her fingers strayed to the chords of one well-remembered song. One verse only she sang, and when the last pathetic line was ended she arose and with a “What a fool I am to care, anyway!” muttered to herself, went back to the porch where her aunt was sitting. And then, as the moon came up from behind the mountain, flooding the narrow valley with pale light, in spite of herself her eyes strayed to that little knoll where the white stones showed clear and distinct. It was the last straw, and going to her aunt and kneeling, she bowed her head in that good old soul’s lap, and burst into tears. It may be that the hand which stroked her fair head at this outbreak recalled her mother’s, for she only sobbed the harder. It did not last long, however, and when the storm was over she arose and said:

“There, auntie, I’ve been spoiling for a good cry all day, and now I’ve had it and feel better.”

But did she? Let those who can put themselves in her place, with her proud spirit and loving heart, answer the question.

And here it is time and fit to speak of her brother, toward whom her heart had always turned when in trouble, and not in vain. Of the jest that Frank had made regarding the island girl Albert had fallen in love with, she thought but little. That he might marry in due time she expected as a matter of course; that it would make any difference in his feelings towards her she did not for one moment consider. Now she fell to thinking what a void it would make in her life if his thoughts and affection were centred elsewhere. Then she began wondering why he had failed to write as often as usual during the past six weeks. She had known his plans for the yachting-trip and imagined his letter announcing its failure and his return to work an expression of disappointment. Since then he had written but once, telling her that he was overwhelmed with business and enclosing a check, but failing to enclose any but the briefest expression of love.

Life with Alice was at best a lonesome one, and Sunday, with its simple services in the village church, the singing in the choir, and pleasant nods from all she met, the only break in its monotony. Now during summer vacation time it was worse than ever, and she began counting the days until school opened again. Once, with Aunt Susan for company, she had visited the old mill-pond, and rowing the boat herself, had gathered an ample supply of lilies, only to come home so depressed she did not speak once during the four-mile drive. She had written Frank an account of the trip, but failed to mention that she had landed at a certain point and sat on the bank and shed a few tears while Aunt Susan waited in the boat and sorted the lilies. She had enclosed a wee little lily bud in this letter, but not a word by which he could infer that her heart was very hungry for-some one.

But all things, and all series of days, be they filled with joy or sorrow, come to an end, and so did the lonely vacation days of Alice. When the school gathered once more, and the daily round of simple recitations began, she realized as never before how blessed a thing it is in this world that we can have occupation. And even more blessed to Alice Page, whose proud heart was a little hungry for love.