"Mrs. Mumpson, I have told her tbittorrent coin donde compraro help Mrs. Wiggins in the necessary work," Holcroft interposed.
"What is it?""Excuse me," said Edouard, sullenly.gdex price calculator"No, monsieur, I cannot. This neglect, succeeding to a somewhatardent pursuit of my daughter, is almost an affront. You shall, ofcourse, withdraw yourself altogether, if you choose. But notwithout an explanation. This much is due to me; and, if you are agentleman, you will not withhold it from me.""If he is a gentleman!" cried Rose; "O mamma, do not you affront agentleman, who never, never gave you nor me any ground of offence.
Why affront the friends and benefactors we have lost by our ownfault?""Oh, then, it is all your fault," said the baroness. "I feared asmuch.""All my fault, all," said Rose; then putting her pretty palmstogether, and casting a look of abject supplication on Edouard, shemurmured, "my temper!""Do not you put words into his mouth," said the shrewd old lady."Come, Monsieur Riviere, be a man, and tell me the truth. What hasshe said to you? What has she done?"By this time the abject state of terror the high-spirited Rose wasin, and her piteous glances, had so disarmed Edouard, that he hadnot the heart to expose her to her mother."Madame," said he, stiffly, taking Rose's hint, "my temper andmademoiselle's could not accord.""Why, her temper is charming: it is joyous, equal, and gentle.""You misunderstand me, madame; I do not reproach Mademoiselle Rose.It is I who am to blame.""For what?" inquired the baroness dryly."For not being able to make her love me.""Oh! that is it! She did not love you?""Ask herself, madame," said Edouard, bitterly.
"Rose," said the baroness, her eye now beginning to twinkle, "wereyou really guilty of such a want of discrimination? Didn't you lovemonsieur?"Rose flung her arms round her mother's neck, and said, "No, mamma, Idid not love Monsieur Edouard," in an exquisite tone of love, thatto a female ear conveyed the exact opposite of the words.But Edouard had not that nice discriminating ear. He sighed deeply,and the baroness smiled. "You tell me that?" said she, "and you arecrying!""She is crying, madame?" said Edouard, inquiringly, and taking astep towards them."Well, sir," she replied, "after showin' you the way to 'im, you oughter not grudge me seein' the fun."
"But it isn't nice for little girls to see such things.""Never saw anything nicer in my life. You're the kind of man I believe in, you are. Golly! Only wished SHE'D seen you. I've seen many a rough and tumble 'mong farm hands, but never anything like this. It was only his pistol I was 'fraid of.""Will you do exactly what I say now?"She nodded.
"Well, go home across the fields and don't by word or manner let Mrs. Holcroft know what you've seen or heard, and say nothing about meeting me. Just make her think you know nothing at all and that you only watched the man out of sight. Do this and I'll give you a new dress.""I'd like somethin' else 'sides that."
"Well, what?""I'd like to be sure I could stay right on with you.""Yes, Jane, after today, as long as you're a good girl. Now go, for I must get back to my team before this scamp goes by."She darted homeward as the farmer returned to his wagon. Ferguson soon appeared and seemed much startled as he saw his Nemesis again. "I'll keep my word," he said, as he drove by.
"You'd better!" called the farmer. "You know what to expect now."Alida was so prostrated by the shock of the interview that she rallied slowly. At last she saw that it was getting late and that she soon might expect the return of her husband. She dragged herself to the door and again called Jane, but the place was evidently deserted. Evening was coming on tranquilly, with all its sweet June sounds, but now every bird song was like a knell. She sunk on the porch seat and looked at the landscape, already so dear and familiar, as if she were taking a final farewell of a friend. Then she turned to the homely kitchen to which she had first been brought. "I can do a little more for him," she thought, "before I make the last sacrifice which will soon bring the end. I think I could have lived--lived, perhaps, till I was old, if I had gone among strangers from the almshouse, but I can't now. My heart is broken. Now that I've seen that man again I understand why my husband cannot love me. Even the thought of touching me must make him shudder. But I can't bear up under such a load much longer, and that's my comfort. It's best I should go away now; I couldn't do otherwise," and the tragedy went on in her soul as she feebly prepared her husband's meal.At last Jane came in with her basket of peas. Her face was so impassive as to suggest that she had no knowledge of anything except that there had been a visitor, and Alida had sunk into such depths of despairing sorrow that she scarcely noticed the child.
Chapter 33 ＂Shrink from YOU?＂Holcroft soon came driving slowly up the lane as if nothing unusual was on his mind. Having tied his horses, he brought in an armful of bundles and said kindly, "Well, Alida, here I am again, and I guess I've brought enough to last well through haying time."
"Yes," she replied with averted face. This did not trouble him any now, but her extreme pallor did and he added, "You don't look well. I wouldn't mind getting much supper tonight. Let Jane do the work.""I'd rather do it," she replied.
"Oh, well!" laughing pleasantly, "you shall have your own way. Who has a better right than you, I'd like to know?""Don't speak that way," she said, almost harshly, under the tension of her feelings. "I--I can't stand it. Speak and look as you did before you went away.""Jane," said the farmer, "go and gather the eggs."As soon as they were alone, he began gently, "Alida--""Please don't speak so to me today. I've endured all I can. I can't keep up another minute unless you let things go on as they were. Tomorrow I'll try to tell you all. It's your right.""I didn't mean to say anything myself till after supper, and perhaps not till tomorrow, but I think I'd better. It will be better for us both, and our minds will be more at rest. Come with me into the parlor, Alida."
"Well, perhaps the sooner it's over the better," she said faintly and huskily.She sunk on the lounge and looked at him with such despairing eyes that tears came into his own.
"Alida," he began hesitatingly, "after I left you this noon I felt I must speak with and be frank with you.""No, no!!" she cried, with an imploring gesture, "if it must be said, let me say it. I couldn't endure to hear it from you. Before you went away I understood it all, and this afternoon the truth has been burned into my soul. That horrible man has been here--the man I thought my husband--and he has made it clearer, if possible. I don't blame you that you shrink from me as if I were a leper. I feel as if I were one."
"I shrink from YOU!" he exclaimed."Yes. Can you think I haven't seen the repugnance growing in spite of yourself? When I thought of that man--especially when he came today--I understood WHY too well. I cannot stay here any longer. You'd try to be kind and considerate, but I'd know how you felt all the time. It would not be safe for you and it would not be right for me to stay, either, and that settles it. Be--be as kind to me--as you can a few--a few hours longer, and then let me go quietly." Her self-control gave way, and burying her face in her hands, she sobbed convulsively.
In a moment he was on his knees beside her, with his arm about her waist. "Alida, dear Alida!" he cried, "we've both been in the dark about each other. What I resolved to do, when I started for town, was to tell you that I had learned to love you and to throw myself on your mercy. I thought you saw I was loving you and that you couldn't bear to think of such a thing in an old, homely fellow like me. That was all that was in my mind, so help me God!""But--but HE'S been here," she faltered; "you don't realize--""I don't believe I do or can, yet, Alida, dear, but that blessed Jane's spying trait has served me the best turn in the world. She heard every brave word you said and I shed tears of joy when she told me; and tears are slow coming to my eyes. You think I shrink from you, do you?" and he kissed her hands passionately. "See," he cried, "I kneel to you in gratitude for all you've been to me and are to me.""Oh, James! Please rise. It's too much."
"No, not till you promise to go with me to a minister and hear me promise to love, cherish--yes, in your case I'll promise to obey."She bowed her head upon his shoulder in answer. Springing up, he clasped her close and kissed away her tears as he exclaimed, "No more business marriage for me, if you please. There never was a man so in love with his wife."
Suddenly she looked up and said fearfully, "James, he threatened you. He said you'd never be safe a moment as long as I stayed here."His answer was a peal of laughter. "I've done more than threaten him. I've whipped him within an inch of his life, and it was the thought of you that led me, in my rage, to spare his life. I'll tell you all--I'm going to tell you everything now. How much trouble I might have saved if I had told you my thoughts! What was there, Alida, in an old fellow like me that led you to care so?"
Looking up shyly, she replied, "I think it was the MAN in you--and--then you stood up for me so.""Well, love is blind, I suppose, but it don't seem to me that mine is. There never was a man so taken in at his marriage. You were so different from what I expected that I began loving you before I knew it, but I thought you were good to me just as you were to Jane--from a sense of duty--and that you couldn't abide me personally. So I tried to keep out of your way. And, Alida, dear, I thought at first that I was taken by your good traits and your education and all that, but I found out at last that I had fallen in love with YOU. Now you know all. You feel better now, don't you?"
"Yes," she breathed softly."You've had enough to wear a saint out," he continued kindly. "Lie down on the lounge and I'll bring your supper to you.""No, please! It will do me more good to go on and act as if nothing had happened.""Well, have your own way, little wife. You're boss now, sure enough."
She drew him to the porch, and together they looked upon the June landscape which she had regarded with such despairing eyes an hour before."Happiness never kills, after all," she said.
"Shouldn't be alive if it did," he replied. "The birds seem to sing as if they knew."Jane emerged from the barn door with a basket of eggs, and Alida sped away to meet her. The first thing the child knew the arms of her mistress were about her neck and she was kissed again and again.
"What did you do that for?" she asked."You'll understand some day."