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Love, the Fiddler   By: (1868-1947)

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Frank Rignold had never been the favoured suitor, not at least so far as anything definite was concerned; but he had always been welcome at the little house on Commonwealth Street, and amongst the neighbours his name and that of Florence Fenacre were coupled as a matter of course and every old lady within a radius of three miles regarded the match as good as settled. It was not Frank's fault that it was not, for he was deeply in love with the widow's daughter and looked forward to such an end to their acquaintance as the very dearest thing fate could give him. But in these affairs it is necessary to carry the lady with you and the lady, though she had never said "no," had not yet been prevailed upon to say "yes." In fact she preferred to leave the matter as it was, and boldly forestalling a set proposal, had managed to convey to Frank Rignold that it was her wish he should not make one.

"Let us be good friends," she would say, "and as for anything else, Frank, there's plenty of time to consider that by and by. Isn't it enough already that we like each other?"

Frank did not think it was enough, but he was not without intuition and willing to accept the little offered him and be grateful rather than risk all, and almost certainly lose all, by too exigent a suit. For Florence Fenacre was the acknowledged beauty of the town, with a dozen eligible men at her feet, and was more courted and sought after than any girl in the place. The place, to give it its name, was Bridgeport, one of those dead alive little ports on the Atlantic seaboard, with a dozen factories and some decaying wharves and that tranquil air of having had a past.

The widow and her pretty daughter lived in a low roofed, red brick house that faced the street and sheltered a long deep shady garden in the rear. Land and house had been bought with whale oil. Their little income, derived from the rent of three barren and stony farms and amounting to not more than sixty dollars a month, represented a capitalisation of whale oil. Even the old grey church whither they went twice of a Sunday, was whale oil too, and had been built in bygone days by the sturdy captains who now lay all around it under slabs of stone. There amongst them was Florence's father and her grandfather and her great grandfather, together with the Macys and the Coffins and the Cabotts with whom they had sailed and quarrelled and loved and intermarried in the years now gone. The wide world had not been too wide for them to sail it round and reap the harvests of far off seas; but in death they lay side by side, their voyages done, their bones mingling in the New England earth.

Frank Rignold too was a son of Bridgeport, and the sea which ran in that blood for generations bade him in manhood to rise and follow it. He had gone into the engine room, and at thirty was the chief engineer of a cargo boat running to South American ports. He was a fine looking man with earnest grey eyes; a reader, a student, an observer; self taught in Spanish, Latin, and French; a grave, quiet gentlemanly man, whose rare smile seemed to light his whole face, and who in his voyages South had caught something of Spanish grace and courtliness. He returned as regularly to Bridgeport as his ship did to New York; and when he stepped off the train his eager steps took him first to the Fenacres' house, his hands never empty of some little present for his sweetheart.

On the occasion of our story his step was more buoyant than ever and his heart beat high with hope, for she had cried the last time he went away, and though no word of love had yet been spoken between them, he was conscious of her increasing inclination for him and her increasing dependence. Having already won so much it seemed as though his passionate devotion could not fail to turn the scale and bring her to that admission he felt it was on her lips to make... Continue reading book >>

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