The sentinels shouldered their pieces sethereum digital identityharp, then dropped themsimultaneously with a clatter and ring upon the pavement.
"A marriage has been arranged - - "what does polygon coin doShe laid down the paper, looked at her uncle, started to speak, and checked herself. Her rather heavy features resumed their usual immobility. But it cannot be recorded that she looked pleased.
As to Professor Blinkwell, he took no notice at all. His mind had strayed erratically to the moment when he had struck a blow from behind at a man's neck hard enough to make silence certain, and from such an angle that there would be little risk of any bloodstain resulting upon a dinner-jacket which it would have been a pity to spoil.THE ENDChapter 1Towards the close of the last century the Baron de Beaurepaire livedin the chateau of that name in Brittany. His family was ofprodigious antiquity; seven successive barons had already flourishedon this spot when a younger son of the house accompanied hisneighbor the Duke of Normandy in his descent on England, and wasrewarded by a grant of English land, on which he dug a mote andbuilt a chateau, and called it Beaurepaire (the worthy Saxons turnedthis into Borreper without delay). Since that day more than twentygentlemen of the same lineage had held in turn the original chateauand lands, and handed them down to their present lord.Thus rooted in his native Brittany, Henri Lionel Marie St. Quentinde Beaurepaire was as fortunate as any man can be pronounced beforehe dies. He had health, rank, a good income, a fair domain, agoodly house, a loving wife, and two lovely young daughters, allveneration and affection. Two months every year he visited theFaubourg St. Germain and the Court. At both every gentleman andevery lacquey knew his name, and his face: his return to Brittanyafter this short absence was celebrated by a rustic fete.
Above all, Monsieur de Beaurepaire possessed that treasure oftreasures, content. He hunted no heart-burns. Ambition did nottempt him; why should he listen to long speeches, and court theunworthy, and descend to intrigue, for so precarious and equivocal aprize as a place in the Government, when he could be De Beaurepairewithout trouble or loss of self-respect? Social ambition could getlittle hold of him; let parvenus give balls half in doors, half out,and light two thousand lamps, and waste their substance battling andmanoeuvring for fashionable distinction; he had nothing to gain bysuch foolery, nothing to lose by modest living; he was the twenty-ninth Baron of Beaurepaire. So wise, so proud, so little vain, sostrong in health and wealth and honor, one would have said nothingless than an earthquake could shake this gentleman and his house.Yet both were shaken, though rooted by centuries to the soil; and byno vulgar earthquake."How did you come to get such a good education?"
"I wish I had a better one. Well, I did have good advantages up to the time I was seventeen. After I was old enough I went to school quite steadily, but it seems to me that I learned a little of everything and not much of anything. When father died and we lost our property, we had to take to our needles. I suppose I might have obtained work in a store, or some such place, but I couldn't bear to leave mother alone and I disliked being in public. I certainly didn't know enough to teach, and besides, I was afraid to try.""Well, well! You've stumbled into a quiet enough place at last.""That's what I like most about it, but I don't think I stumbled into it. I think I've been led and helped. That's what I meant when I said you didn't understand me," she added hesitatingly. "It doesn't take courage for me to go to God. I get courage by believing that he cares for me like a father, as the bible says. How could I ever have found so kind a friend and good a home myself?""I've been half inclined to believe there's a Providence in it myself--more and more so as I get acquainted with you. Your troubles have made you better, Alida; mine made me worse. I used to be a Christian; I aint any more."
She looked at him smilingly as she asked, "How do you know?""Oh! I know well enough," he replied gloomily. "Don't let's talk about it any more," and then he led her on to speak simply and naturally about her childhood home and her father and mother.
"Well," he said heartily, "I wish your mother was living for nothing would please me better than to have such a good old lady in the house."She averted her face as she said huskily, "I think it was better she died before--" But she did not finish the sentence.By the time dinner was over the sun was shining brightly, and he asked her if she would not like to go up the lane to his woodland to see the view. Her pleased look was sufficient answer. "But are you sure you are strong enough?" he persisted."Yes, it will do me good to go out, and I may find some wild flowers."
"I guess you can, a million or two."By the time he was through at the barn she was ready and they started up the lane, now green with late April grass and enlivened with dandelions in which bumblebees were wallowing. The sun had dried the moisture sufficiently for them to pass on dry-shod, but everything had the fresh, vernal aspect that follows a warm rain. Spring had advanced with a great bound since the day before. The glazed and glutinous cherry buds had expanded with aromatic odors and the white of the blossoms was beginning to show."By tomorrow," said Holcroft, "the trees will look as if covered with snow. Let me help you," and he put his hand under her arm, supporting and aiding her steps up the steep places.Her lips were parted, the pleased look was in her eyes as they rested on trees and shrubs which lined the half ruinous stone walls on either side. "Everything seems so alive and glad this afternoon," she remarked.
"Yes," replied the matter-of-fact farmer. "A rain such as we had this morning is like turning the water on a big mill-wheel. It starts all the machinery right up. Now the sun's out, and that's the greatest motor power of all. Sun and moisture make the farm go.""Mustn't the ground be enriched, too?"
"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."