It is a romance book. IT was past four o'clock on a sunny October day, when a stranger, who had ridden over the 'corduroy' road between Applegate and Old Church, dismounted near the cross-roads before the small public house known to its frequenters as Bottom's Ordinary. Standing where the three roads meet at the old turnpike-gate of the county, the square brick building, which had declined through several generations from a chapel into a tavern, had grown at last to resemble the smeared face of a clown under a steeple hat which was worn slightly awry. Originally covered with stucco, the walls had peeled year by year until the dull red of the bricks showed like blotches of paint under a thick coating of powder. Over the wide door two little oblong windows, holding four damaged panes, blinked rakishly from a mat of ivy, which spread from the rotting eaves to the shingled roof, where the slim wooden spire bent under the weight of creeper and of innumerable nesting sparrows in spring. After pointing heavenward for half a century, the steeple appeared to have swerved suddenly from its purpose, and to invite now the attention of the wayfarer to the bar beneath.