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Master of the Vineyard

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The Hill of the Muses From the Top of the Hill

The girl paused among the birches and drew a long breath of relief. It was good to be outdoors after the countless annoyances of the day; to feel the earth springing beneath her step, the keen, crisp air bringing the colour to her cheeks, and the silence of the woods ministering to her soul.

From the top of the hill she surveyed her little world. Where the small white houses clustered in the valley, far below her, she had spent her five-and-twenty years, shut in by the hills, and, more surely, by the iron bars of circumstance. To her the heights had always meant escape, for in the upper air and in solitude she found detachment—a sort of heavenly perspective upon the affairs of the common day.

Down in the bare, brown valley the river lay asleep. Grey patches of melting snow still filled the crevices along its banks, and fragments of broken crystal moved slowly toward the ultimate sea. The late afternoon sun touched the sharp edges, here and there to a faint iridescence. "The river-god dreams of rainbows," thought Rosemary, with a smile.

The Valley

Only one house was near the river; the others were set farther back. The one upon the shore was the oldest and largest house in the valley, severely simple in line and with a certain air of stateliness. The broad, Colonial porch looked out upon the river and the hills beyond it, while all around, upon the southern slope between the opposite hills and the valley, were the great vineyards of the Marshs', that had descended from father to son during the century that had elapsed since the house was built.

The gnarled and twisted vines scarcely showed now, upon the grey-brown background of the soil, but in a few places, where the snow had not yet melted, the tangled black threads were visible. Like the frame surrounding a tapestry, great pines bordered the vineyard save on the side nearest the valley, for the first of the Marshs, who had planted the vineyard and built the house, had taken care to protect his vines from the north-east storms.

The clanging notes of a bell, mellowed by distance, came faintly from the valley below. Rosemary took out the thin, old watch that had been her mother's and her mother's mother's before her, and set the hands at four upon the pale gold dial. Then she drew up the worn gold chain that hung around her neck, under her gown, and, with the key that dangled from it, wound the watch. In an hour or so, probably, it would stop, but it was pleasant to hear the cheerful little tick while she waited.

The Red Ribbon

The doors of the white schoolhouse in the valley burst open and the tide of exuberant youth rushed forth. Like so many ants, the children swarmed and scattered, their shrill voices sounding afar. Rosemary went to a hollow tree, took out a small wooden box, opened it, and unwound carefully a wide ribbon of flaming scarlet, a yard or more in length. Digging her heels into the soft earth, she went down to the lowest of the group of birches, on the side of the hill that overlooked the valley, and tied the ribbon to a drooping bough....