"Could anything be more lovely than those descryptoserviceprovider namespacechanging tints? It seems to me I could have stood there an hour," she said quietly.
('This is something like a battle, this one.') Also the Pasha ofethereum blockchain rollbackNatolie. ('Ah! the Pasha of Natolie; an important personage, nodoubt, though I never had the honor of hearing of him. Do youhear?--you on the sofa. My son has captured the Pasha of Natolie.He is as brave as Caesar.') But this success is not one of thosethat lead to important results ('Never mind, a victory is avictory'), and I should not wonder if Bonaparte was to dash home anyday. If so, I shall go with him, and perhaps spend a whole day withyou, on my way to the Rhine."At this prospect a ghastly look passed quick as lightning betweenRose and Josephine.
The baroness beckoned Josephine to come close to her, and read herwhat followed in a lower tone of voice."Tell my wife I love her more and more every day. I don't expect asmuch from her, but she will make me very happy if she can make shiftto like me as well as her family do."--"No danger! What husbanddeserves to be loved as he does? I long for his return, that hiswife, his mother, and his sister may all combine to teach this poorsoldier what happiness means. We owe him everything, Josephine, andif we did not love him, and make him happy, we should be monsters;now should we not?"Josephine stammered an assent."NOW you may read his letter: Jacintha and all," said the baronessgraciously.The letter circulated. Meantime, the baroness conversed withAubertin in quite an undertone."My friend, look at Josephine. That girl is ill, or else she isgoing to be ill.""Neither the one nor the other, madame," said Aubertin, looking hercoolly in the face.
"But I say she is. Is a doctor's eye keener than a mother's?""Considerably," replied the doctor with cool and enviable effrontery.The baroness rose. "Now, children, for our evening walk. We shallenjoy it now.""I trust you may: but for all that I must forbid the evening air toone of the party--to Madame Raynal."The baroness came to him and whispered, "That is right. Thank you."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.""I don't know," she ventured. "Seems to me you might get some good ideas out of papers, and your experience would teach you whether they were useful ideas or not. If you'll take one, I'll read it to you.""I will, then, for the pleasure of hearing you read, if nothing else. That's something I hadn't bargained for," he added, laughing.
She answered in the same spirit by saying, "I'll throw that in and not call it square yet.""I think I've got the best of you," he chuckled; "and you know nothing makes a Yankee farmer happier than to get the best of a bargain."
"I hope you'll continue to think so. Can I sit down a few moments?""Why, certainly! How forgetful I am! Your talk is too interesting for me to think of anything else," and he placed her on a flat rock by the side of the lane while he leaned against the wall.Bees and other insects were humming around them; a butterfly fluttered over the fence and alighted on a dandelion almost at her feet; meadow larks were whistling their limpid notes in the adjoining fields, while from the trees about the house beneath them came the songs of many birds, blending with the babble of the brook which ran not far away."Oh, how beautiful, how strangely beautiful it all is!"
"Yes, when you come to think of it, it is real pretty," he replied. "It's a pity we get so used to such things that we don't notice 'em much. I should feel miserable enough, though, if I couldn't live in just such a place. I shouldn't wonder if I was a good deal like that robin yonder. I like to be free and enjoy the spring weather, but I suppose neither he nor I think or know how fine it all is.""Well, both you and the robin seem a part of it," she said, laughing."Oh, no, no!" he replied with a guffaw which sent the robin off in alarm. "I aint beautiful and never was."She joined his laugh, but said with a positive little nod, "I'm right, though. The robin isn't a pretty bird, yet everybody likes him."
"Except in cherry time. Then he has an appetite equal to mine. But everybody don't like me. In fact, I think I'm generally disliked in this town.""If you went among them more they wouldn't dislike you."
"I don't want to go among them.""They know it, and that's the reason they dislike you."
"Would you like to go out to tea-drinkings, and all that?""No, indeed; and I don't suppose I'd be received," she added sadly."So much the worse for them, then, blast 'em!" said Holcroft wrathfully."Oh no! I don't feel that way and you shouldn't. When they can, people ought to be sociable and kind.""Of course I'd do any of my neighbors, except Lemuel Weeks, a good turn if it came in my way, but the less I have to do with them the better I'm satisfied.""I'm rested enough to go on now," said Alida quietly.
They were not long in reaching the edge of the woodland, from which there was an extended prospect. For some little time they looked at the wide landscape in silence. Alida gave to it only partial attention for her mind was very busy with thoughts suggested by her husband's alienation from his neighbors. It would make it easier for her, but the troubled query would arise, "Is it right or best for him? His marrying me will separate him still more."Holcroft's face grew sad rather than troubled as he looked at the old meeting house and not at the landscape. He was sitting near the spot where he spent that long forenoon a few Sundays before, and the train of thought came back again. In his deep abstraction, he almost forgot the woman near him in memories of the past.
His old love and lost faith were inseparable from that little white spire in the distance.Alida stole a glance at him and thought, "He's thinking of her," and she quietly strolled away to look for wild flowers.
"Yes," muttered Holcroft, at last. "I hope Bessie knows. She'd be the first one to say it was right and best for me, and she'd be glad to know that in securing my own home and comfort I had given a home to the homeless and sorrowful--a quiet, good woman, who worships God as she did."He rose and joined his wife, who held toward him a handful of trailing arbutus, rue anemones, bloodroot, and dicentras. "I didn't know they were so pretty before," he said with a smile.
His smile reassured her for it seemed kinder than any she had yet received, and his tone was very gentle. "His dead wife will never be my enemy," she murmured. "He has made it right with her in his own thoughts."Chapter 24 Given Her Own WayOn Monday the absorbing work of the farm was renewed, and every day brought to Holcroft long and exhausting hours of labor. While he was often taciturn, he evidently progressed in cheerfulness and hope. Alida confirmed his good impressions. His meals were prompt and inviting; the house was taking on an aspect of neatness and order long absent, and his wardrobe was put in as good condition as its rather meager character permitted. He had positively refused to permit his wife to do any washing and ironing. "We will see about it next fall," he said. "If then you are perfectly well and strong, perhaps, but not in the warm weather now coming on." Then he added, with a little nod, "I'm finding out how valuable you are, and I'd rather save you than the small sum I have to pay old Mrs. Johnson."In this and in other ways he showed kindly consideration, but his mind continually reverted to his work and outdoor plans with the preoccupation of one who finds that he can again give his thoughts to something from which they had been most reluctantly withdrawn. Thus Alida was left alone most of the time. When the dusk of evening came he was too tired to say much, and he retired early that he might be fresh for work again when the sun appeared. She had no regrets, for although she kept busy she was resting and her wounds were healing through the long, quiet days.
It was the essential calm after the storm. Caring for the dairy and working the butter into firm, sweet, tempting yellow rolls were the only tasks that troubled her a little, but Holcroft assured her that she was learning these important duties faster than he had expected her to. She had several hours a day in which to ply her needle, and thus was soon enabled to replenish her scanty wardrobe.One morning at breakfast she appeared in another gown, and although its material was calico, she had the appearance to Holcroft of being unusually well dressed. He looked pleased, but made no comment. When the cherry blossoms were fully out, an old cracked flower vase--the only one in the house--was filled with them, and they were placed in the center of the dinner table. He looked at them and her, then smilingly remarked, "I shouldn't wonder if you enjoyed those cherry blows more than anything else we have for dinner."
"I want something else, though. My appetite almost frightens me.""That's famous! I needn't be ashamed of mine, then."
One evening, before the week was over, he saw her busy with a rake about the door. Last year's leaves were still scattered about, with twigs and even small boughs wrested by the winds from the trees. He was provoked with himself that he had neglected the usual spring clearing away of litter, and a little irritated that she should have tried to do the work herself. He left the horses at the barn and came forward directly. "Alida," he said gravely, "there's no need of your doing such work; I don't like to see you do it.""Why," she replied, "I've heard that women in the country often milk and take care of the chickens."
"Yes, but that's very different from this work. I wouldn't like people to think I expected such things of you.""It's very easy work," she said smilingly, "easier than sweeping a room, though something like it. I used to do it at home when I was a girl. I think it does me good to do something in the open air."She was persisting, but not in a way that chafed him. Indeed, as he looked into her appealing eyes and face flushed with exercise, he felt that it would be churlish to say another word."Well," he said, laughing, "it makes you look so young and rosy I guess it does you good. I suppose you'll have to have your own way."
"You know I wouldn't do this or anything else if you really didn't want me to.""You are keen," he replied, with his good nature entirely restored. "You can see that you get me right under your thumb when you talk that way. But we must both be on our guard against your fault, you know, or pretty soon you'll be taking the whole work of the farm off my hands."
"To be serious," she resumed, accompanying him to the barn for the first time, "I think YOU are working too hard. I'm not. Our meals are so simple that it doesn't take me long to get them. I'm through with the hurry in my sewing, the old dog does the churning, and you give me so much help in the dairy that I shall soon have time on my hands. Now it seems to me that I might soon learn to take entire care of the chickens, big and little, and that would be so much less for you to look after. I'm sure I would enjoy it very much, especially the looking after the little chickens.""So you really think you'd like to do that?" he asked, as he turned to her from unharnessing the horses.
"Yes, indeed, if you think I'm competent.""You are more so than I am. Somehow, little chickens don't thrive under a busy man's care. The mother hens mean well, but they are so confoundedly silly. I declare to you that last year I lost half the little chicks that were hatched out."