Thenceforth too, and until the hour when at nightfall she drove away from Sweetwater Farm, she was their goddess: and as, while Phoebus served shepherd to Admetus, his fellow swains noted that never had harvest been so heavy or life so full of sweet and healthy rivalries, so these young men, who but once or twice saw Ruth Josselin after the hour of her departure, talked in scattered homesteads all their days of that good time at Sweetwater, and of the season’s wonderful bearings. Undoubtedly the winter was a genial one—so genial that scarcely a day denied Ruth a bracing ride: the spring that followed seemed to rain and shine almost in obedience to Farmer Cordery’s evening prayer (and it never left the Almighty in doubt of his exact wishes). Summer came, and the young men, emulous but no longer bickering, scythed down prodigious swathes; harvest-fall, and they put in their sickles among tall stalk and full ear.
Sir Oliver and Ruth watched the harvest. When all was gathered, the young men begged that she would ride home on the last load. They escorted her back to the farmstead, walking two-by-two before the cart, under the young moon.
Next evening at the same hour she bade them farewell and climbed into a light waggon that stood ready, its lamps throwing long shafts of light. Horses had been sent on ahead, with two servants for escort, and would await her at dawn, far on the road; but to-night she would sleep in the waggon, upon a scented bed of hay. The reason for this belated start Sir Oliver kept a secret from her. There was a certain hill upon the way, and he would not have her pass it by daylight. He had returned that morning to Boston; Miss Quiney with him.
Ruth’s eyes were moist to leave these good folk. Farmer Cordery cleared his throat and blessed her in parting. She blessed them in return.
The waggon, after following the Boston road for a while, turned northward, bearing her by strange ways and through the night towards Port Nassau.
The breakers boomed up the beach, and in the blown spray Old Josselin pottered, bareheaded and barefoot. His eyesight had grown dimmer, but otherwise his bodily health had improved, for nowadays he ate food enough: and, as for purblindness, why there was no real need to keep watch on the sea. He did it from habit.
Ruth came on him much as Sir Oliver had come on him three years before; the roar of the breakers swallowing all sound of Madcap’s hoofs until she was close at his shoulder. Now as then he turned about with a puzzled face, peered, and lifted his hand a little way as if to touch his forehead.
“Your ladyship—” he mumbled, noting only her fine clothes.
She slipped down from saddle and kissed him, in sight of the grooms, who had reined up fifty yards away.