Their chief resort, however, was the brook which babbled down among the hills, and flowed into the river between the settlement and the point. About a mile back the brook was broken by a mass of huge rocks over which the water poured in torrents during the spring and after every heavy rain. But in the summer the rocks were bare, and only one great wreath of water slipped through a narrow crevice, and fell with a roar and a splash to the level below. Nearby father and daughter liked to sit in the shade of the trees and listen to the music of the falling water.
Jean always remembered the last time they were thus together. It was the final Sunday in August, and a most perfect afternoon. The Colonel had worked hard during the week and was very tired. He was strangely silent and depressed as he sat leaning against a rock, gazing off into space. It was so unlike his usual buoyant, cheery manner that Jean was quite anxious.
“Is anything the matter, daddy?” she at length asked. “Are you feeling sick?”
The Colonel started, and a slight forced laugh escaped his lips.
“No, no, not at all,” he replied. “Do I look sick?”
“Then you must be worrying about something, daddy,” and the girl’s right hand stole sympathetically into his as she spoke.
“Not worrying, dear; only somewhat lost in thought. I have strange fancies this afternoon, suggested by those rocks which break the brook’s steady course. There have been three such breaks in my life, and of them I have been thinking.”
“I believe I know of two, daddy,” Jean replied, as her father paused. “One was dear mother’s death, and another the terrible war. But I do not remember the third.”
“I told you once, dear, though you have forgotten, which is only natural. It was the loss of a very dear friend, Thomas Norman.”
“Oh, yes, I remember now, daddy. He was the man who suddenly disappeared, and has never been heard from since.”
“The very same, Jean. Next to your mother he was the best friend I had on earth. We had been boys together, and were inseparable. He was well educated, and held an important position in the King’s service. When he lost it, as he believed through intrigue and treachery, his whole life was embittered. He became a changed man, and he brooded over it so much that I really believe it affected his mind. Anyway, he suddenly left with his wife and family, and I have never heard from him since. That was a long time ago when you were a mere child. But I can never forget him, and the happy years we spent together. What a joy it would be to have him here with me now as in the days of old. But that cannot be. As that brook flows on, notwithstanding the break in its course, so must my life. However, I have much to be thankful for. I have you, dear, and you are a great comfort. If anything should happen to you, I do not believe I could endure life any longer.”