At last the door opened, and another candle fired Jacintha's comelypeasant face in the doorway. She put down her candle outside thedoor, and started as crow flies for the other light. After glowinga bitcoin drop redditmoment in the doorway she dived into the shadow and emerged intolight again close to the table with napkins on her arm. She removedthe work-box reverentially, the doctor's manuscript unceremoniously,and proceeded to lay a cloth: in which operation she looked at Rosea point-blank glance of admiration: then she placed the napkins; andin this process she again cast a strange look of interest upon Rose.
"And, mademoiselle," said he, appealingly, "the day this epaulet wasput on my shoulder in Italy, she died in Paris. Ah! how could youhave the heart to do that, my old woman?"The soldier's mustache quivered, and he turned away brusquely, andtook several steps. Then he came back to Josephine, and to hisinfinite surprise saw that her purple eyes were thick with tears.solana solar farm"What? you are within an inch of crying for my mother, you who haveyour own trouble at this hour.""Monsieur, our situations are so alike, I may well spare some littlesympathy for your misfortune.""Thank you, my good young lady. Well, then, to business; while youwere praying to the Virgin, I was saying a word or two for my partto her who is no more.""Sir!""Oh! it was nothing beautiful like the things you said to the other.
Can I turn phrases? I saw her behind her little counter in the RueQuincampoix; for she is a woman of the people, is my mother. I sawmyself come to the other side of the counter, and I said, 'Lookhere, mother, here is the devil to pay about this new house. Theold woman talks of dying if we take her from her home, and the youngone weeps and prays to all the saints in paradise; what shall we do,eh?' Then I thought my old woman said to me, 'Jean, you are asoldier, a sort of vagabond; what do you want with a house inFrance? you who are always in a tent in Italy or Austria, or whoknows where. Have you the courage to give honest folk so much painfor a caprice? Come now,' says she, 'the lady is of my age, sayyou, and I can't keep your fine house, because God has willed itotherwise; so give her my place; so then you can fancy it is me youhave set down at your hearth: that will warm your heart up a bit,you little scamp,' said my old woman in her rough way. She was notwell-bred like you, mademoiselle. A woman of the people, nothingmore.""She was a woman of God's own making, if she was like that," criedJosephine, the tears now running down her cheeks."Ah, that she was, she was. So between her and me it is settled--what are you crying for NOW? why, you have won the day; the field isyours; your mother and you remain; I decamp." He whipped hisscabbard up with his left hand, and was going off without anotherword, if Josephine had not stopped him."But, sir, what am I to think? what am I to hope? it is impossiblethat in this short interview--and we must not forget what is due toyou. You have bought the estate.""True; well, we will talk over that, to-morrow; but being turned outof the house, that was the bayonet thrust to the old lady. So yourun in and put her heart at rest about it. Tell her that she maylive and die in this house for Jean Raynal; and tell her about theold woman in the Rue Quincampoix.""God bless you, Jean Raynal!" cried Josephine, clasping her hands."Are you going?" said he, peremptorily."Oh, yes!" and she darted towards the chateau.
But when she had taken three steps she paused, and seemed irresolute.She turned, and in a moment she had glided to Raynal again and hadtaken his hand before he could hinder her, and pressed two velvetlips on it, and was away again, her cheeks scarlet at what she haddone, and her wet eyes beaming with joy. She skimmed the grass likea lapwing; you would have taken her at this minute for Rose, or forVirgil's Camilla; at the gate she turned an instant and clasped herhands together, with such a look, to show Raynal she blessed himagain, then darted into the house."That wouldn't do any good."
"You'd like to go, I suppose?""No, not under the circumstances, unless you wished to. I'm cowardly enough to dread being stared at."He gave a deep sign of relief. "This thing has been troubling me," he said. "I feared you would want to go, and if you did, I should feel that you ought to go.""I fear I'm very weak about it, but I shrink so from meeting strangers. I do thank God for his goodness many times a day and ask for help. I'm not brave enough to do any more, yet."
His rugged features became very somber as he said, "I wish I had as much courage as you have.""You don't understand me--" she began gently.
"No, I suppose not. It's all become a muddle to me. I mean this church and religious business."She looked at him wistfully, as if she wished to say something, but did not venture to do so. He promptly gave a different turn to the conversation by quoting Mrs. Mumpson's tirade on churchgoing the first Sunday after her arrival. Alida laughed, but not in a wholly mirthful and satisfied way. "There!" he concluded, "I'm touching on things a little too sacred for you. I respect your feelings and beliefs, for they are honest and I wish I shared in 'em." Then he suddenly laughed again as he added, "Mrs. Mumpson said there was too much milking done on Sunday, and it's time I was breaking the Fourth Commandment, after her notion."Alida now laughed outright, without reservation."'By jocks!' as Watterly says, what a difference there is in women!" he soliloquized on his way to the barn. "Well, the church question is settled for the present, but if Alida should ask me to go, after her manner this morning, I'd face the whole creation with her."
When at last he came in and threw off his waterproof coat, the kitchen was in order and his wife was sitting by the parlor fire with Thomson's "Land and the Book" in her hand."Are you fond of reading?" he asked."Yes, very.""Well, I am, too, sort of; but I've let the years slip by without doing half as much as I ought."
"Light your pipe and I'll read to you, if you wish me to.""Oh, come now! I at least believe in Sunday as a day of rest, and you need it. Reading aloud is about as hard work as I can do."
"But I'm used to it. I read aloud to mother a great deal," and then there passed over her face an expression of deep pain."What is it, Alida? Don't you feel well?"
"Yes, oh, yes!" she replied hastily, and her pale face became crimson.It was another stab of memory recalling the many Sundays she had read to the man who had deceived her. "Shall I read?" she asked."Alida," he said very kindly, "it wasn't the thought of your mother that brought that look of pain into your face."She shook her head sadly, with downcast eyes. After a moment or two, she raised them appealingly to him as she said simply, "There is so much that I wish I could forget.""Poor child! Yes, I think I know. Be patient with yourself, and remember that you were never to blame."Again came that quick, grateful glance by which some women express more than others can ever put in words. Her thought was, "I didn't think that even he was capable of that. What a way of assuring me that he'll be patient with me!" Then she quietly read for an hour descriptions of the Holy Land that were not too religious for Holcroft's mind and which satisfied her conscience better than much she had read in former days to satisfy a taste more alien to hers than that of her husband.
Holcroft listened to her correct pronunciation and sweet, natural tones with a sort of pleased wonder. At last he said, "You must stop now.""Are you tired?" she asked.
"No, but you are, or ought to be. Why, Alida, I didn't know you were so well educated. I'm quite a barbarous old fellow compared with you.""I hadn't thought of that before," she said with a laugh.
"What a fool I was, then, to put it into your head!""You must be more careful. I'd never have such thoughts if you didn't suggest them."
"How did you come to get such a good education?""I wish I had a better one. Well, I did have good advantages up to the time I was seventeen. After I was old enough I went to school quite steadily, but it seems to me that I learned a little of everything and not much of anything. When father died and we lost our property, we had to take to our needles. I suppose I might have obtained work in a store, or some such place, but I couldn't bear to leave mother alone and I disliked being in public. I certainly didn't know enough to teach, and besides, I was afraid to try.""Well, well! You've stumbled into a quiet enough place at last.""That's what I like most about it, but I don't think I stumbled into it. I think I've been led and helped. That's what I meant when I said you didn't understand me," she added hesitatingly. "It doesn't take courage for me to go to God. I get courage by believing that he cares for me like a father, as the bible says. How could I ever have found so kind a friend and good a home myself?"
"I've been half inclined to believe there's a Providence in it myself--more and more so as I get acquainted with you. Your troubles have made you better, Alida; mine made me worse. I used to be a Christian; I aint any more."She looked at him smilingly as she asked, "How do you know?"
"Oh! I know well enough," he replied gloomily. "Don't let's talk about it any more," and then he led her on to speak simply and naturally about her childhood home and her father and mother."Well," he said heartily, "I wish your mother was living for nothing would please me better than to have such a good old lady in the house."
She averted her face as she said huskily, "I think it was better she died before--" But she did not finish the sentence.By the time dinner was over the sun was shining brightly, and he asked her if she would not like to go up the lane to his woodland to see the view. Her pleased look was sufficient answer. "But are you sure you are strong enough?" he persisted.
"Yes, it will do me good to go out, and I may find some wild flowers.""I guess you can, a million or two."By the time he was through at the barn she was ready and they started up the lane, now green with late April grass and enlivened with dandelions in which bumblebees were wallowing. The sun had dried the moisture sufficiently for them to pass on dry-shod, but everything had the fresh, vernal aspect that follows a warm rain. Spring had advanced with a great bound since the day before. The glazed and glutinous cherry buds had expanded with aromatic odors and the white of the blossoms was beginning to show."By tomorrow," said Holcroft, "the trees will look as if covered with snow. Let me help you," and he put his hand under her arm, supporting and aiding her steps up the steep places.
Her lips were parted, the pleased look was in her eyes as they rested on trees and shrubs which lined the half ruinous stone walls on either side. "Everything seems so alive and glad this afternoon," she remarked."Yes," replied the matter-of-fact farmer. "A rain such as we had this morning is like turning the water on a big mill-wheel. It starts all the machinery right up. Now the sun's out, and that's the greatest motor power of all. Sun and moisture make the farm go."
"Mustn't the ground be enriched, too?""Yes, yes indeed; I suppose that's where we all fail. But it's no easy matter to keep a farm in good heart. That's another reason why I'm so glad I won't have to sell my stock. A farm run without stock is sure to grow poor, and if the farm grows poor, the owner does as a matter of course. But what put enriching the ground into your head? Do you know anything about farming?"
"No, but I want to learn. When I was a girl, father had a garden. He used to take papers about it, and I often read them aloud to him evenings. Now I remember there used to be much in them about enriching the ground. Do you take any such paper?""No, I haven't much faith in book-farming."