"That comes apropos," said he. "I expect one proof more from thatquarter. Sergeant, send me the sentinel they arbittorrent file system host agee relieving."Sergeant La Croix soon came back, as pompous as a hen with onechick, predominating with a grand military air over a droll figurethat chattered with cold, and held its musket in hands clothed ingreat mittens. Dard.
This she did with such skill, taste, and good management that she returned a large portion of the sum he habitcoin jobs vancouverd given her, whereupon he laughingly remarked that she had already saved more than she owed him. He seemed disinclined to accompany her in the selection of their simple outfit, but professed himself so pleased with her choice of everything that she was gratified and happy in the thought of relieving him from trouble.Thus their married life began under what appeared to her the most promising and congenial circumstances. She soon insisted on having work again, and her busy fingers did much to increase his income.
Alida was not an exacting woman, and recognized from the beginning that her husband would naturally have peculiar ways of his own. Unlike Mrs. Mumpson, she never expatiated on "adaptation," but Ostrom soon learned, with much inward relief, that his wife would accept unquestioningly what appeared to be his habits and preferences. He went early to his place of work, taking the nice little lunch which she prepared, and returned in the dusk of the evening when he always found a warm dinner in readiness. After this, he was ready enough to walk with her, but, as before, chose the least frequented streets. Places of amusement and resort seemed distasteful. On Sundays he enjoyed a ramble in the country as long as the season permitted, and then showed a great disinclination to leave the fireside. For a time he went with her in the evening to church, but gradually persuaded her to remain at home and read or talk to him.His wife felt that she had little cause to complain of his quiet ways and methodical habits. He had exhibited them before marriage and they were conducive to her absolute sense of proprietorship in him--an assurance so dear to a woman's heart. The pleasures of his home and her society appeared to be all that he craved. At times she had wondered a little at a certain air of apprehensiveness in his manner when steps were heard upon the stairs, but as the quiet days and weeks passed, such manifestations of nervousness ceased. Occasionally, he would start violently and mutter strange words in his sleep, but noting disturbed the growing sense of security and satisfaction in Alida's heart. The charm of a regular, quiet life grows upon one who has a nature fitted for it, and this was true to an unusual degree of Alida Ostrom. Her content was also increased by the fact that her husband was able each month to deposit a goodly portion of their united earnings in a savings bank.Every day, every week, was so like the preceding ones that it seemed as if their happy life might go on forever. She was gladly conscious that there was more than gratitude and good will in her heart. She now cherished a deep affection for her husband and felt that he had become essential to her life."Oh, how happy mother would be if she knew how safe and protected I am!" she murmured one March evening, as she was preparing her husband's dinner. "Leaving me alone in the world was far worse to her than dying."At that very moment a gaunt-looking woman, with a child in her arms, stood in the twilight on the opposite side of the street, looking up at the windows.
Chapter 7 From Home to the StreetAs the shadows of the gloomy March evening deepened, Alida lighted the lamp, and was then a little surprised to hear a knock at the door. No presentiment of trouble crossed her mind; she merely thought that one of her neighbors on the lower floors had stepped up to borrow something.All the associations of the place were pleasant to Alida. It was here that her husband had shown patience as well as kindness in teaching her how to supplement his work until her own experience and judgment gave her a better skill than he possessed. Many pleasant, laughing words had passed between them in this cool, shadowy place, and on a former rainy morning he had brought a chair down that he might keep her company. She had not carried it back, nor was she very greatly surprised to see him saunter in and occupy it on the present occasion. She stood by the churn, her figure outlined clearly in the light from the open door, as she poured in cold water from time to time to hasten and harden the gathering butter. Her right sleeve was rolled well back, revealing a white arm that was becoming beautifully plump and round. An artist would have said that her attitude and action were unconsciously natural and graceful. Holcroft had scarcely the remotest idea of artistic effect, but he had a sensible man's perception of a charming woman when she is charming.
"Mr. Holcroft," she asked very gravely, "will you do something for me?""Yes, half a dozen things.""You promise?""Certainly! What's the trouble?"
"I don't mean there shall be any if I can help it," she answered with a light ripple of laughter. "Please go and put on your coat.""How you've humbugged me! It's too hot."
"Oh, you've got to do it; you promised. You can't stay here unless you do.""So you are going to take care of me as if I were a small boy?""You need care--sometimes."He soon came back and asked, "Now may I stay?"
"Yes. Please untie the dog. Butter's come.""I should think it would, or anything else at your coaxing.""Oh-h, what a speech! Hasn't that a pretty golden hue?" she asked, holding up a mass of the butter she was ladling from the churn into a wooden tray."Yes, you are making the gilt-edge article now. I don't have to sell it to Tom Watterly any more."
"I'd like to give him some, though."He was silent, and something like sudden rage burned in his heart that Mrs. Watterly would not permit the gift. That anyone should frown on his having such a helper as Alida was proving herself to be, made him vindictive. Fortunately her face was turned away, and she did not see his heavy frown. Then, to shield her from a disagreeable fact, he said quickly, "do you know that for over a year I steadily went behind my expenses . And that your butter making has turned the tide already? I'm beginning to get ahead again."
"I'm SO glad," and her face was radiant."Yes, I should know that from your looks. It's clearer every day that I got the best of our bargain. I never dreamed, though, that I should enjoy your society as I do--that we should become such very good friends. That wasn't in the bargain, was it?"
"Bargain!" The spirited way with which she echoed the word, as if thereby repudiating anything like a sordid side to their mutual relations, was not lost on her wondering and admiring partner. She checked herself suddenly. "Now let me teach YOU how to make butter," and with the tray in her lap, she began washing the golden product and pressing out the milk.He laughed in a confused delighted way at her piquant, half saucy manner as he watched her deft round arm and shapely hand."The farmers' wives in Oakville would say your hands were too little to do much.""They would?" and she raised her blue eyes indignantly to his. "No matter, you are the one to say about that.""I say they do too much. I shall have to get Jane to help you.""By all means! Then you'll have more society."
"That was a home shot. You know how I dote on everybody's absence, even Jane's.""You dote on butter. See how firm and yellow it's getting. You wouldn't think it was milk-white cream a little while ago, would you? Now I'll put in the salt and you must taste it, for you're a connoisseur."
"A what?""Judge, then."
"You know a sight more than I do, Alida.""I'm learning all the time."
"So am I--to appreciate you.""Listen to the sound of the rain and the water as it runs into the milk-cooler. It's like low music, isn't it?"Poor Holcroft could make no better answer than a sneeze."Oh-h," she exclaimed, "you're catching cold? Come, you must go right upstairs. You can't stay here another minute. I'm nearly through."
"I was never more contented in my life.""You've no right to worry me. What would I do if you got sick? Come, I'll stop work till you go."
"Well then, little boss, goodbye."With a half suppressed smile at his obedience Alida watched his reluctant departure. She kept on diligently at work, but one might have fancied that her thoughts rather than her exertions were flushing her cheeks.
It seemed to her that but a few moments elapsed before she followed him, but he had gone. Then she saw that the rain had ceased and that the clouds were breaking. His cheerful whistle sounded reassuringly from the barn, and a little later he drove up the lane with a cart.She sat down in the kitchen and began sewing on the fine linen they had jested about. Before long she heard a light step. Glancing up, she saw the most peculiar and uncanny-looking child that had ever crossed her vision, and with dismal presentiment knew it was Jane.
Chapter 28 Another WaifIt was indeed poor, forlorn little Jane that had appeared like a specter in the kitchen door. She was as wet and bedraggled as a chicken caught in a shower. A little felt hat hung limp over her ears; her pigtail braid had lost its string and was unraveling at the end, and her torn, sodden shoes were ready to drop from her feet. She looked both curiously and apprehensively at Alida with her little blinking eyes, and then asked in a sort of breathless voice, "Where's him?""Mr. Holcroft?"Jane nodded.
"He's gone out to the fields. You are Jane, aren't you?"Another nod.
"Oh, DEAR!" groaned Alida mentally; "I wish she hadn't come." Then with a flush of shame the thought crossed her mind, "She perhaps is a friendless and homeless as I was, and , and 'him' is also her only hope. "Come in, Jane," she said kindly, "and tell me everything.""Be you his new girl?"
"I'm his wife," said Alida, smiling.Jane stopped; her mouth opened and her eyes twinkled with dismay. "Then he is married, after all?" she gasped.