"I am out of all danger, thanks to your skill.""Colonel, at another time I should insist upon your staying a day ortwo longer; but nocardano price usdw I think it would be unadvisable to press you tostay. Ah, colonel, you came to a happy house, but you leave a sadone. Poor Madame Raynal!""Sir!""You saw the baroness draw her aside.""Y-yes.""By this time she knows it.""In Heaven's name what do you mean?" asked Camille.
"Perhaps. You will knbitcoin cash abc ecashow when I've put all on the table. What I've prepared is ready.""Well, this is famous. I'll go and wash and fix up a little and be right down."
When Holcroft returned, he looked at her curiously, for he felt that he, too, was getting acquainted. Her thin face was made more youthful by color; a pleased look was in her blue eyes, and a certain neatness and trimness about her dress to which he had not been accustomed. He scanned the table wonderingly, for things were not put upon it at haphazard; the light biscuits turned their brown cheeks invitingly toward him,--she had arranged that they should do that,--the ham was crisp, not sodden, and the omelet as russet as a November leaf. "This is a new dish," he said, looking at it closely. "What do you call it?""Omelet. Perhaps you won't like it, but mother used to be very fond of it.""No matter. We'll have it if you like it and it brings you pleasant thoughts of your mother." Then he took a good sip of coffee and set the cup down again as he had before under the Mumpson regime, but with a very different expression. She looked anxiously at him, but was quickly reassured. "I thought I knew how to make coffee, but I find I don't. I never tasted anything so good as that. How DO you make it?""Just as mother taught me.""Well, well! And you call this making a beginning? I just wish I could give Tom Watterly a cup of this coffee. It would set his mind at rest. 'By jocks!' he would say, 'isn't this better than going it alone?'"
She looked positively happy under this sweet incense to a housewifely heart. She was being paid in the coin that women love best, and it was all the more precious to her because she had never expected to receive it again.He did like the omelet; he liked everything, and, after helping her liberally, cleared the table, then said he felt equal to doing two men's work. Before going out to his work, he lighted a fire on the parlor hearth and left a good supply of fuel beside it. "Now, Alida," he remarked humorously, "I've already found out that you have one fault that you and I will have to watch against. You are too willing. I fear you've gone beyond your strength this morning. I don't want you to do a thing today except to get the meals, and remember, I can help in this if you don't feel well. There is a fire in the parlor, and I've wheeled the lounge up by it. Take it quietly today, and perhaps tomorrow I can begin to show you about butter-making.""I had thought of that about myself," she ventured. "I took a nap this afternoon, and a robin sang so near the window that he woke me up. It was a pleasant way to be waked."
"Took a nap, did you? That's famous! Well, well! This day's gone just to suit me, and I haven't had many such in a good while, I can tell you. I've got in a big strip of oats, and now, when I come in tired, here's a good supper. I certainly shall have to be on the watch to do Tom Watterly good turns for talking me into this business. That taking a nap was a first-rate idea. You ought to keep it up for a month.""No, indeed! There's no reason why you should work hard and I be idle. I've rested today, as you wished, and I feel better than I ever expected to again; but tomorrow I must begin in earnest. What use is there of your keeping your cows if good butter is not made? Then I must be busy with my needle.""Yes, that's true enough. See how thoughtless I am! I forgot you hadn't any clothes to speak of. I ought to take you to town to a dressmaker.""I think you had better get your oats in," she replied, smiling shyly. "Besides, I have a dressmaker that just suits me--one that's made my dresses a good many years."
"If she don't suit you, you're hard to be suited," said he, laughing. "Well, some day, after you are fixed up, I shall have to let you know how dilapidated I am.""Won't you do me a little favor?"
"Oh, yes! A dozen of 'em, big or little.""Please bring down this evening something that needs mending. I am so much better--""No, no! I wasn't hinting for you to do anything tonight.""But you've promised me," she urged. "Remember I've been resting nearly all day. I'm used to sewing, and earned my living at it. Somehow, it don't seem natural for me to sit with idle hands."
"If I hadn't promised--""But you have.""I suppose I'm fairly caught," and he brought down a little of the most pressing of the mending."Now I'll reward you," she said, handing him his pipe, well filled. "You go in the parlor and have a quiet smoke. I won't be long in clearing up the kitchen."
"What! Smoke in the parlor?""Yes, why not? I assure you I don't mind it."
"Ha! Ha! Why didn't I think of it before--I might have kept the parlor and smoked Mrs. Mumpson out.""It won't be smoke that will keep me out."
"I should hope not, or anything else. I must tell you how I DID have to smoke Mrs. Mumpson out at last," and he did so with so much drollery that she again yielded to irrepressible laughter."Poor thing! I'm sorry for her," she said."I'm sorry for Jane--poor little stray cat of a child! I hope we can do something for her some day," and having lighted his pipe, he took up the county paper, left weekly in a hollow tree by the stage driver, and went into the parlor.After freshening up the fire he sat down to read, but by the time she joined him the tired man was nodding. He tried to brighten up, but his eyes were heavy."You've worked hard today," she said sympathetically."Well, I have," he answered. "I've not done such a good day's work in a year."
"Then why don't you go to sleep at once?""It don't seem polite--"
"Please don't talk that way," she interrupted. "I don't mind being alone at all. I shall feel a great deal more at home if you forget all about ceremony.""Well, Alida, I guess we had both better begin on that basis. If I give up when I'm tired, you must. You mustn't think I'm always such a sleepyhead. The fact is I've been more tired out with worry of late than with work. I can laugh about it now, but I've been so desperate over it that I've felt more like swearing. You'll find out I've become a good deal of a heathen."
"Very well; I'll wait till I find out.""I think we are getting acquainted famously, don't you?"
"Yes," she nodded, with a smile that meant more than a long speech. "Good night."Chapter 23 Between the Past and FutureHuman nature, in common with Mother Nature, has its immutable laws. The people who existed before the flood were, in their primal motives, like those of today. The conventionality of highly civilized society does not change the heart, but it puts so much restraint upon it that not a few appear heartless. They march through life and fight its battles like uniformed men, trained in a certain school of tactics. The monotony of character and action is superficial, in most cases, rather than real, and he who fathoms the eyes of others, who catches the subtle quality of tones and interprets the flexible mouth that utters them, will discover that the whole gamut of human nature exists in those that appear only like certain musical instruments, made by machinery to play a few well-known tunes. Conventional restraint often, no doubt, produces dwarfed and defective human nature. I suppose that if souls could be put under a microscope, the undeveloped rudiments of almost everything would be discovered. It is more satisfactory to study the things themselves than their suggestions; this we are usually better able to do among people of simple and untrammeled modes of life, who are not practiced in disguises. Their peculiar traits and their general and dominant laws and impulses are exhibited with less reserve than by those who have learned to be always on their guard. Of course there are commonplace yeomen as truly as commonplace aristocrats, and simple life abounds in simpletons.When a man in Holcroft's position has decided traits, they are apt to have a somewhat full expression; his rugged nature beside a tamer one outlines itself more vividly, just as a mountain peak is silhouetted against the horizon better than a rounded hill. It probably has been observed that his character possessed much simplicity and directness. He had neither the force nor the ambition to raise him above his circumstances; he was merely decided within the lines of his environment. Perhaps the current of his life was all the stronger for being narrow. His motives were neither complex nor vacillating. He had married to keep his home and to continue in the conditions of life dear from association and the strongest preference, and his heart overflowed with good will and kindness toward Alida because she promised to solve the hard problem of the future satisfactorily. Apart from the sympathy which her misfortune had evoked, he probably could have felt much the same toward any other good, sensible woman, had she rendered him a similar service. It is true, now that Alida was in his home, that she was manifesting agreeable traits which gave him pleasant little surprises. He had not expected that he would have had half so much to say to her, yet felt it his duty to be sociable in order to cheer up and mark the line between even a business marriage and the employment of a domestic. Both his interest and his duty required that he should establish the bonds of strong friendly regard on the basis of perfect equality, and he would have made efforts, similar to those he put forth, in behalf of any woman, if she had consented to marry him with Alida's understanding. Now, however, that his suddenly adopted project of securing a housekeeper and helper had been consummated, he would find that he was not dealing with a business partner in the abstract, but a definite woman, who had already begun to exert over him her natural influence. He had expected more or less constraint and that some time must elapse before his wife would cease to be in a sense company whom he, with conscious and deliberate effort, must entertain. On the contrary she entertained and interested him, although she said so little, and by some subtle power she unloosed his tongue and made it easy for him to talk to her. In the most quiet and unobtrusive way, she was not only making herself at home, but him also; she was very subservient to his wishes, but not servilely so; she did not assert, but only revealed her superiority, and after even so brief an acquaintance he was ready to indorse Tom Watterly's view, "She's out of the common run."
While all this was true, the farmer's heart was as untouched as that of a child who simply and instinctively likes a person. He was still quietly and unhesitatingly loyal to his former wife. Apart from his involuntary favor, his shrewd, practical reason was definite enough in its grounds of approval. Reason assured him that she promised to do and to be just what he had married her for, but this might have been true of a capable, yet disagreeable woman whom he could not like, to save himself.Both in regard to himself and Alida, Holcroft accepted the actual facts with the gladness and much of the unquestioning simplicity of a child. This rather risky experiment was turning out well, and for a time he daily became more and more absorbed in his farm and its interests. Alida quietly performed her household tasks and proved that she would not need very much instruction to become a good butter maker. The short spring of the North required that he should be busy early and late to keep pace with the quickly passing seedtime. His hopefulness, his freedom from household worries, prompted him to sow and plant increased areas of land. In brief, he entered on just the business-like honeymoon he had hoped for.
Alida was more than content with the conditions of her life. She saw that Holcroft was not only satisfied, but also pleased with her, and that was all she had expected and indeed all that thus far she had wished or hoped. She had many sad hours; wounds like hers cannot heal readily in a true, sensitive woman's heart. While she gained in cheerfulness and confidence, the terrible and unexpected disaster which had overtaken her rendered impossible the serenity of those with whom all has gone well. Dread of something, she knew not what, haunted her painfully, and memory at times seemed malignantly perverse in recalling one whom she prayed to forget.Next to her faith and Holcroft's kindness her work was her best solace, and she thanked God for the strength to keep busy.
On the first Sunday morning after their marriage the farmer overslept, and breakfast had been ready some time when he came down. He looked with a little dismay at the clock over the kitchen mantel and asked, "Aren't you going to scold a little?"She shook her head, nor did she look the chiding which often might as well be spoken.
"How long have I kept breakfast waiting, or you rather?""What difference does it make? You needed the rest. The breakfast may not be so nice," was her smiling answer."No matter. You are nice to let a man off in that way." Observing the book in her lap, he continued, "So you were reading the old family Bible to learn lessons of patience and forbearance?"Again she shook her head. She often oddly reminded him of Jane in her employment of signs instead of speech, but in her case there was a grace, a suggestiveness, and even a piquancy about them which made them like a new language. He understood and interpreted her frankly. "I know, Alida," he said kindly; "you are a good woman. You believe in the Bible and love to read it."
"I was taught to read and love it," she replied simply. Then her eyes dropped and she faltered, "I've reproached myself bitterly that I rushed away so hastily that I forgot the Bible my mother gave me.""No, no," he said heartily, "don't reproach yourself for that. It was the Bible in your heart that made you act as you did."
She shot him a swift, grateful glance through her tears, but made no other response.Having returned the Bible to the parlor, she put the breakfast on the table and said quietly, "It looks as if we would have a rainy day."
"Well," said he, laughing, "I'm as bad as the old woman--it seems that women can run farms alone if men can't. Well, this old dame had a big farm and employed several men, and she was always wishing it would rain nights and Sundays. I'm inclined to chuckle over the good this rain will do my oats, instead of being sorry to think how many sinners it'll keep from church. Except in protracted-meeting times, most people of this town would a great deal rather risk their souls than be caught in the rain on Sunday. We don't mind it much week days, but Sunday rain is very dangerous to health.""I'm afraid I'm as bad as the rest," she said, smiling. "Mother and I usually stayed home when it rained hard."