"Ah! you won't let me die. Curse you all! curse you! I never hadmy own way in anything. I was always a slave and a fool. I havemurdered the man I love--I love. Yes, my husband, do you hear? theman I love.""Hush! daughter, rebitcoin investment website githubspect my gray hairs.""Your gray hairs! You are not so old in years as I am in agony. Sothis is your love, Rose! Ah, you won't let me die--won't you? THENI'LL DO WORSE--I'LL TELL.""He who is dead; you have murdered him amongst you, and I'll followhim in spite of you all--he was my betrothed. He struggled wounded,bleeding, to my feet. He found me married. News came of myhusband's death; I married my betrothed.""Married him!" exclaimed the baroness.
"I will try," sabitcoin cash blockchain sizeid Riviere. "I'll tell you what they say of you:that you are too young to love.""So I am, much.""No, no, no! I made a mistake. I mean too young to be loved.""Oh, I am not too young for that, not a bit."This point settled, she suggested that, if he could not amuse her,he had better do THE NEXT BEST THING, and that was, talk sense.
"I think I had better not talk at all," said he, "for I am no matchfor such a nimble tongue. And then you are so remorseless. I'llhold my tongue, and make a sketch of this magnificent oak.""Ay, do: draw it as it appeared on a late occasion: with two ladiesflying out of it, and you rooted with dismay.""There is no need; that scene is engraved.""Where? in all the shops?""No; on all our memories.""Not on mine; not on mine. How terrified you were--ha, ha! and howterrified we should have been if you had not. Listen: once upon atime--don't be alarmed: it was long after Noah--a frightened hareran by a pond; the frogs splashed in the water, smit with awe. Thenshe said, 'Ah ha! there are people in the world I frighten in myturn; I am the thunderbolt of war.' Excuse my quoting La Fontaine:I am not in 'Charles the Twelfth of Sweden' yet. I am but a child.""And it's a great mercy, for when you grow up, you will be too muchfor me, that is evident. Come, then, Mademoiselle the Quizzer, comeand adorn my sketch.""Monsieur, shall I make you a confession? You will not be angry: Icould not support your displeasure. I have a strange inclination towalk up and down this terrace while you go and draw that tree in thePleasaunce.""Resist that inclination; perhaps it will fly from you.""No; you fly from me, and draw. I will rejoin you in a few minutes.""Thank you, I'm not so stupid. You will step indoors directly.""Do you doubt my word, sir?" asked she haughtily.He had learned to obey all her caprices; so he went and placedhimself on the west side of the oak and took out his sketch-book,and worked zealously and rapidly. He had done the outlines of thetree and was finishing in detail a part of the huge trunk, when hiseyes were suddenly dazzled: in the middle of the rugged bark,deformed here and there with great wart-like bosses, and wrinkled,seamed, and ploughed all over with age, burst a bit of variegatedcolor; bright as a poppy on a dungeon wall, it glowed and glitteredout through a large hole in the brown bark; it was Rose's facepeeping. To our young lover's eye how divine it shone! None of thehalf tints of common flesh were there, but a thing all rose, lily,sapphire, and soul. His pencil dropped, his mouth opened, he wasdownright dazzled by the glowing, bewitching face, sparkling withfun, in the gaunt tree. Tell me, ladies, did she know, even at thatage, the value of that sombre frame to her brightness? The momentshe found herself detected, the gaunt old tree rang musical with acrystal laugh, and out came the arch-dryad. "I have been there allthe time. How solemn you looked! Now for the result of suchprofound study." He showed her his work; she altered her tone."Oh, how clever!" she cried, "and how rapid! What a facility youhave! Monsieur is an artist," said she gravely; "I will be morerespectful," and she dropped him a low courtesy. "Mind you promisedit me," she added sharply."You will accept it, then?""That I will, now it is worth having: dear me, I never reckoned onthat. Finish it directly," cried this peremptory young person.
"First I must trouble you to stand out there near the tree.""Me? what for?""Because art loves contrasts. The tree is a picture of age andgradual decay; by its side then I must place a personification ofyouth and growing loveliness."She did not answer, but made a sort of defiant pirouette, and wentwhere she was bid, and stood there with her back to the artist."That will never do," said he; "you really must be so good as toturn round.""Oh, very well." And when she came round, behold her color hadrisen mightily. Flattery is sweet."Jane," said Mrs. Mumpson in severe tones, "you're an ignorant child. Don't presume to instruct ME! Besides, this case is entirely different. Mr. Holcroft must be made to understand from the start that I'm not a common woman--that I'm his equal, and in most respects his superior. If he aint made to feel this, it'll never enter his head--but law! There's things which you can't and oughtn't to understand."
"But I do," said the girl shortly, "and he won't marry you, nor keep you, if you talk him to death.""Jane!" gasped Mrs. Mumpson, as she sank into the chair and rocked violently.The night air was keen and soon drove Holcroft into the house. As he passed the kitchen window, he saw that Mrs. Mumpson was in his wife's rocking chair and that Jane was clearing up the table.He kindled a fire on the parlor hearth, hoping, but scarcely expecting, that he would be left alone.
Nor was he very long, for the widow soon opened the door and entered, carrying the chair. "Oh, you are here," she said sweetly. "I heard the fire crackling, and I do so love open wood fires. They're company in themselves, and they make those who bask in the flickering blaze inclined to be sociable. To think of how many long, lonely evenings you have sat here when you had persons in your employ with whom you could have no affinity whatever! I don't see how you stood it. Under such circumstances life must cloud up into a dreary burden." It never occurred to Mrs. Mumpson that her figures of speech were often mixed. She merely felt that the sentimental phase of conversation must be very flowery. But during the first evening she had resolved on prudence. "Mr. Holcroft shall have time," she thought, "for the hope to steal into his heart that his housekeeper may become something more to him than housekeeper--that there is a nearer and loftier relation."Meanwhile she was consumed with curiosity to know something about the "persons" previously employed and his experiences with them. With a momentary, and, as she felt, a proper pause before descending to ordinary topics, she resumed, "My dear Mr. Holcroft, no doubt it will be a relief to your overfraught mind to pour into a symperthetic ear the story of your troubles with those--er--those peculiar females that--er--that--"
"Mrs. Mumpson, it would be a much greater relief to my mind to forget all about 'em," he replied briefly."INDEED!" exclaimed the widow. "Was they as bad as that? Who'd 'a' thought it! Well, well, well; what people there is in the world! And you couldn't abide 'em, then?""No, I couldn't.""Well now; what hussies they must have been! And to think you were here all alone, with no better company! It makes my heart bleed. They DO say that Bridget Malony is equal to anything, and I've no doubt but that she took things and did things."
"Well, she's taken herself off, and that's enough." Then he groaned inwardly, "Good Lord! I could stand her and all her tribe bettern'n this one.""Yes, Mr. Holcroft," pursued Mrs. Mumpson, sinking her voice to a loud, confidential whisper, "and I don't believe you've any idea how much she took with her. I fear you've been robbed in all these vicissitudes. Men never know what's in a house. They need caretakers; respecterble women, that would sooner cut out their tongues than purloin. How happy is the change which has been affected! How could you abide in the house with such a person as that Bridget Malony?""Well, well, Mrs. Mumpson! She abode with herself. I at least had this room in peace and quietness.""Of course, of course! A person so utterly unrespecterble would not think of entering THIS apartment; but then you had to meet her, you know. You could not act as if she was not, when she was, and there being so much of her, too. She was a monstrous-looking person. It's dreadful to think that such persons belong to our sex. I don't wonder you feel as you do about it all. I can understand you perfectly. All your senserbleness was offended. You felt that your very home had become sacrilegious. Well, now, I suppose she said awful things to you?"
Holcroft could not endure this style of inquisition and comment another second longer. He rose and said, "Mrs. Mumpson, if you want to know just what she said and did, you must go and ask her. I'm very tired. I'll go out and see that the stock's all right, and then go to bed.""Oh, certainly, certainly!" ejaculated the widow. "Repose is nature's sweet rester, says the poet. I can see how recalling those dreadful scenes with those peculiar females--" But he was gone.
In passing out, he caught sight of Jane whisking back into the kitchen. "She's been listening," he thought. "Well, I'll go to town tomorrow afternoon, get a stove for my room upstairs, and stuff the keyhole."He went to the barn and looked with envy at the placid cows and quiet horses. At last, having lingered as long as he could, he returned to the kitchen. Jane had washed and put away the supper dishes after a fashion, and was now sitting on the edge of a chair in the farthest corner of the room.
"Take this candle and go to your mother," he said curtly. Then he fastened the doors and put out the lamp. Standing for an instant at the parlor entrance, he added, "Please rake up the fire and put out the light before you come up. Good night.""Oh, certainly, certainly! We'll look after everything just as if it was our own. The sense of strangeness will soon pass--" But his steps were halfway up the stairs.Mother and daughter listened until they heard him overhead, then, taking the candle, they began a most minute examination of everything in the room.Poor Holcroft listened also; too worried, anxious, and nervous to sleep until they came up and all sounds ceased in the adjoining apartment.Chapter 5 Mrs. Mumpson Takes Up Her BurdensThe next morning Holcroft awoke early. The rising sun flooded his plain little room with mellow light. It was impossible to give way to dejection in that radiance, and hope, he scarcely knew why, sprung up in his heart. He was soon dressed, and having kindled the kitchen fire, went out on the porch. There had been a change in the wind during the night, and now it blew softly from the south. The air was sweet with the indefinable fragrance of spring. The ethereal notes of bluebirds were heard on every side. Migratory robins were feeding in the orchard, whistling and calling their noisy congratulations on arriving at old haunts. The frost was already oozing from the ground, but the farmer welcomed the mud, knowing that it indicated a long advance toward plowing and planting time.
He bared his head to the sweet, warm air and took long, deep breaths. "If this weather holds," he muttered, "I can soon put in some early potatoes on that warm hillside yonder. Yes, I can stand even her for the sake of being on the old place in mornings like this. The weather'll be getting better every day and I can be out of doors more. I'll have a stove in my room tonight; I would last night if the old air-tight hadn't given out completely. I'll take it to town this afternoon and sell it for old iron. Then I'll get a bran'-new one and put it up in my room. They can't follow me there and they can't follow me outdoors, and so perhaps I can live in peace and work most of the time."Thus he was muttering to himself, as lonely people so often do, when he felt that someone was near. Turning suddenly, he saw Jane half-hidden by the kitchen door. Finding herself observed, the girl came forward and said in her brief monotonous way:
"Mother'll be down soon. If you'll show me how you want the coffee and things, I guess I can learn.""I guess you'll have to, Jane. There'll be more chance of your teaching your mother than of her teaching you, I fear. But we'll see, we'll see; it's strange people can't see what's sensible and best for 'em when they see so much."
The child made no reply, but watched him intently as he measured out and then ground half a cup of coffee."The firs thing to do," he began kindly, "is to fill the kettle with water fresh drawn from the well. Never make coffee or tea with water that's been boiled two or three times. Now, I'll give the kettle a good rinsing, so as to make sure you start with it clean."
Having accomplished this, he filled the vessel at the well and placed it on the fire, remarking as he did so, "Your mother can cook a little, can't she?""I s'pose so," Jane replied. "When father was livin' mother said she kept a girl. Since then, we've visited round. But she'll learn, and if she can't, I can.""What on earth--but there's no use of talking. When the water boils--bubbles up and down, you know--call me. I suppose you and your mother can get the rest of the breakfast? Oh, good morning, Mrs. Mumpson! I was just showing Jane about the coffee. You two can go on and do all the rest, but don't touch the coffee till the kettle boils, and then I'll come in and show you my way, and, if you please, I don't wish it any other way.""Oh, certainly, certainly!" began Mrs. Mumpson, but Holcroft waited to hear no more.
"She's a woman," he muttered, "and I'll say nothing rude or ugly to her, but I shan't listen to her talk half a minute when I can help myself; and if she won't do any thing but talk--well, we'll see, we'll see! A few hours in the dairy will show whether she can use anything besides her tongue."As soon as they were alone Jane turned sharply on her mother and said, "Now you've got to do something to help. At Cousin Lemuel's and other places they wouldn't let us help. Anyhow, they wouldn't let me. He 'spects us both to work, and pays you for it. I tell you agin, he won't let us stay here unless we do. I won't go visitin' round any more, feelin' like a stray cat in every house I go to. You've got to work, and talk less."
"Why, Jane! How YOU talk!""I talk sense. Come, help me get breakfast."
"Do you think that's a proper way for a child to address a parent?""No matter what I think. Come and help. You'll soon know what he thinks if we keep breakfast waitin'."
"Well, I'll do such menial work until he gets a girl, and then he shall learn that he can't expect one with such respecterble connections--""Hope I may never see any of 'em agin," interrupted Jane shortly, and then she relapsed into silence while her mother rambled on in her characteristic way, making singularly inapt efforts to assist in the task before them.As Holcroft rose from milking a cow he found Jane beside him. A ghost could not have come more silently, and again her stealthy ways gave him an unpleasant sensation. "Kettle is boilin'," she said, and was gone.He shook his head and muttered, "Queer tribe, these Mumpsons! I've only to get an odd fish of a girl to help, and I'll have something like a menagerie in the house." He carried his pails of foaming milk to the dairy, and then entered the kitchen.
"I've only a minute," he began hastily, seeking to forestall the widow. "Yes, the kettle's boiling all right. First scald out the coffeepot--put three-quarters of a cup of ground coffee into the pot, break an egg into it, so; pour on the egg and coffee half a cup of cold water and stir it all up well, this way. Next pour in about a pint of boiling water from the kettle, set the pot on the stove and let it--the coffee, I mean--cook twenty minutes, remember, not less than twenty minutes. I'll be back to breakfast by that time. Now you know just how I want my coffee, don't you?" looking at Jane.Jane nodded, but Mrs. Mumpson began, "Oh certainly, certainly! Boil an egg twenty minutes, add half a cup of cold water, and--"
"I know," interrupted Jane, "I can always do as you did."Holcroft again escaped to the barn, and eventually returned with a deep sigh. "I'll have to face a good deal of her music this morning," he thought, "but I shall have at least a good cup of coffee to brace me."
Mrs. Mumpson did not abandon the suggestion that grace should be said,--she never abandoned anything,--but the farmer, in accordance with his purpose to be civil, yet pay no attention to her obtrusive ways, gave no heed to her hint. He thought Jane looked apprehensive, and soon learned the reason. His coffee was at least hot, but seemed exceedingly weak."I hope now that it's just right," said Mrs. Mumpson complacently, "and feeling sure that it was made just to suit you, I filled the coffeepot full from the kettle. We can drink what we desire for breakfast and then the rest can be set aside until dinner time and warmed over. Then you'll have it just to suit you for the next meal, and we, at the same time, will be practicing econermy. It shall now be my great aim to help you econermize. Any coarse, menial hands can work, but the great thing to be considered is a caretaker; one who, by thoughtfulness and the employment of her mind, will make the labor of others affective."