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There certainly was no lack of bone and muscle in the big, red-faced, middle-aged woman who was so ready to preside at his heabitcoin drop causerth and glean from his diminished dairy a modicum of profit; but as he trudged home along the wintry road, he experienced strong feelings of disgust at the thought of such a creature sitting by the kitchen fire in the place once occupied by his wife.

"Tell my wife I love her more and more every day. I don't expect asmuch from her, but she will make me very happy if she can make shiftto like me as well as her family do."--"No danger! What husbanddeserves to be loved as he does? I long for his return, that hiswife, his mother, and his sister may all combine to teach this poorsoldier what happiness means. We owe him everything, Josephine, andif we did not love him, and make him happy, we should be monsters;now should we not?"Josephine stammered an assent.bittorrent free vpn"NOW you may read his letter: Jacintha and all," said the baronessgraciously.

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The letter circulated. Meantime, the baroness conversed withAubertin in quite an undertone."My friend, look at Josephine. That girl is ill, or else she isgoing to be ill.""Neither the one nor the other, madame," said Aubertin, looking hercoolly in the face."But I say she is. Is a doctor's eye keener than a mother's?""Considerably," replied the doctor with cool and enviable effrontery.The baroness rose. "Now, children, for our evening walk. We shallenjoy it now.""I trust you may: but for all that I must forbid the evening air toone of the party--to Madame Raynal."The baroness came to him and whispered, "That is right. Thank you.See what is the matter with her, and tell me." And she carried offthe rest of the party.

At the same time Jacintha asked permission to pass the rest of theevening with her relations in the village. But why that swift,quivering glance of intelligence between Jacintha and Rose deBeaurepaire when the baroness said, "Yes, certainly"?Time will show.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."In this and in other ways he showed kindly consideration, but his mind continually reverted to his work and outdoor plans with the preoccupation of one who finds that he can again give his thoughts to something from which they had been most reluctantly withdrawn. Thus Alida was left alone most of the time. When the dusk of evening came he was too tired to say much, and he retired early that he might be fresh for work again when the sun appeared. She had no regrets, for although she kept busy she was resting and her wounds were healing through the long, quiet days.

It was the essential calm after the storm. Caring for the dairy and working the butter into firm, sweet, tempting yellow rolls were the only tasks that troubled her a little, but Holcroft assured her that she was learning these important duties faster than he had expected her to. She had several hours a day in which to ply her needle, and thus was soon enabled to replenish her scanty wardrobe.One morning at breakfast she appeared in another gown, and although its material was calico, she had the appearance to Holcroft of being unusually well dressed. He looked pleased, but made no comment. When the cherry blossoms were fully out, an old cracked flower vase--the only one in the house--was filled with them, and they were placed in the center of the dinner table. He looked at them and her, then smilingly remarked, "I shouldn't wonder if you enjoyed those cherry blows more than anything else we have for dinner."

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"I want something else, though. My appetite almost frightens me.""That's famous! I needn't be ashamed of mine, then."One evening, before the week was over, he saw her busy with a rake about the door. Last year's leaves were still scattered about, with twigs and even small boughs wrested by the winds from the trees. He was provoked with himself that he had neglected the usual spring clearing away of litter, and a little irritated that she should have tried to do the work herself. He left the horses at the barn and came forward directly. "Alida," he said gravely, "there's no need of your doing such work; I don't like to see you do it.""Why," she replied, "I've heard that women in the country often milk and take care of the chickens."

"Yes, but that's very different from this work. I wouldn't like people to think I expected such things of you.""It's very easy work," she said smilingly, "easier than sweeping a room, though something like it. I used to do it at home when I was a girl. I think it does me good to do something in the open air."She was persisting, but not in a way that chafed him. Indeed, as he looked into her appealing eyes and face flushed with exercise, he felt that it would be churlish to say another word."Well," he said, laughing, "it makes you look so young and rosy I guess it does you good. I suppose you'll have to have your own way."

"You know I wouldn't do this or anything else if you really didn't want me to.""You are keen," he replied, with his good nature entirely restored. "You can see that you get me right under your thumb when you talk that way. But we must both be on our guard against your fault, you know, or pretty soon you'll be taking the whole work of the farm off my hands."

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"To be serious," she resumed, accompanying him to the barn for the first time, "I think YOU are working too hard. I'm not. Our meals are so simple that it doesn't take me long to get them. I'm through with the hurry in my sewing, the old dog does the churning, and you give me so much help in the dairy that I shall soon have time on my hands. Now it seems to me that I might soon learn to take entire care of the chickens, big and little, and that would be so much less for you to look after. I'm sure I would enjoy it very much, especially the looking after the little chickens.""So you really think you'd like to do that?" he asked, as he turned to her from unharnessing the horses.

"Yes, indeed, if you think I'm competent.""You are more so than I am. Somehow, little chickens don't thrive under a busy man's care. The mother hens mean well, but they are so confoundedly silly. I declare to you that last year I lost half the little chicks that were hatched out.""Well, then," she replied, laughing, "I won't be afraid to try, for I think I can beat you in raising chickens. Now, show me how much you feed them at night and how much I'm to give them in the morning, and let me take the whole care of them for a month, get the eggs, and all. If they don't do so well, then I'll resign. I can't break you in a month.""It looks more as if you'd make me. You have a good big bump of order, and I haven't any at all in little things. Tom Watterly was right. If I had tried to live here alone, things would have got into an awful mess. I feel ashamed of myself that I didn't clear up the yard before, but my whole mind's been on the main crops.""As it should be. Don't you worry about the little things. They belong to me. Now show me about the chickens, or they'll go to roost while we're talking.""But I, as well as the chickens, shall want some supper."

"I won't let either of you starve. You'll see.""Well, you see this little measure? You fill it from this bin with this mixture of corn and wheat screenings. That's the allowance, morning and evening. Then you go out to the barnyard there, and call 'kip, kip, kip.' That's the way my wife used--" He stopped in a little embarrassment.

"I'd be glad if I could do everything as she did," said Alida gently. "It has grown clearer every day how hard her loss was to you. If you'll tell me what she did and how she did things--" and she hesitated."That's good of you, Alida," he replied gratefully. Then, with his directness of speech, he added, "I believe some women are inclined to be jealous even of the dead."

"You need never fear to speak of your wife to me. I respect and honor your feelings--the way you remember her. There's no reason why it should be otherwise. I did not agree to one thing and expect another," and she looked him straight in the eyes.He dropped them, as he stood leaning against the bin in the shadowy old barn, and said, "I didn't think you or anyone would be so sensible. Of course, one can't forget quickly--"

"You oughtn't to forget," was the firm reply. "Why should you? I should be sorry to think you could forget.""I fear I'm not like to make you sorry," he replied, sighing. "To tell you the truth--" he added, looking at her almost commiseratingly, and then he hesitated."Well, the truth is usually best," she said quietly."Well, I'll tell you my thought. We married in haste, we were almost strangers, and your mind was so distracted at the time that I couldn't blame you if you forgot what--what I said. I feared--well, you are carrying out our agreement so sensibly that I want to thank you. It's a relief to find that you're not opposed, even in your heart, that I should remember one that I knew as a little child and married when I was young."

"I remember all you said and what I said," she replied, with the same direct, honest gaze. "Don't let such thoughts trouble you any more. You've been kinder and more considerate than I ever expected. You have only to tell me how she did--""No, Alida," he said quietly, obeying a subtle impulse. "I'd rather you would do everything your own way--as it's natural for you. There, we've talked so long that it's too late to feed the chickens tonight. You can begin in the morning."

"Oh!" she cried, "and you have all your other work to do. I've hindered rather than helped you by coming out.""No," he replied decidedly, "you've helped me. I'll be in before very long."

She returned to the house and busied herself in preparations for supper. She was very thoughtful, and at last concluded: "Yes, he is right. I understand. Although I may do WHAT his wife did, he don't wish me to do it AS she did. There could only be a partial and painful resemblance to his eyes. Both he and I would suffer in comparisons, and he be continually reminded of his loss. She was his wife in reality, and all relating to her is something sacred and past to him. The less I am like her, the better. He married me for the sake of his farm, and I can best satisfy him by carrying out his purpose in my own way. He's through with sentiment and has taken the kindest way he could to tell me that I've nothing to do with his past. He feared, yes, he FEARED, I should forget our businesslike agreement! I didn't know I had given him cause to fear; I certainly won't hereafter!" and the wife felt, with a trace of bitterness and shame, that she had been put on her guard; that her husband had wished to remind her that she must not forget his motive in marrying her, or expect anything not in consonance with that motive. Perhaps she had been too wifelike in her manner, and therefore he had feared. She was as sensitive to such a reproach as she would have been in her girlhood.For once her intuition was at fault, and she misjudged Holcroft in some respects. He did think he was through with sentiment; he could not have talked deliberately to Alida or to any other about his old life and love, and he truly felt that she had no part in that life. It had become a sad and sacred memory, yet he wished to feel that he had the right to dwell upon it as he chose. In his downright sincerity he wished her to know that he could not help dwelling on it; that for him some things were over, and that he was not to blame. He was profoundly grateful to her that she had so clearly accepted the facts of his past, and of their own present relations. He HAD feared, it is true, but she had not realized his fears, and he felt that it was her due that he should acknowledge her straightforward carrying out of the compact made under circumstances which might well excuse her from realizing everything fully.

Moreover, direct and matter of fact as he was, he had felt vaguely the inevitable difficulties of their relationship. The very word "wife" might suggest to her mind an affection which he believed it was not in his power to bestow. They had agreed to give an arbitrary and unusual meaning to their marriage, and, while thinking it could have no other meaning for him, his mind was haunted, and he feared that hers might be, by the natural significance of the rite. So far from meaning to hint that she had been too wifelike, he had meant to acknowledge her simple and natural fulfillment of his wishes in a position far more difficult to fill than even he imagined. That she succeeded so well was due to the fact that she entertained for him all the kind feelings possible except the one supreme regard which, under ordinary circumstances, would have accounted for the marriage. The reason that all promised to go so well in their relationship of mere mutual help was the truth that this basis of union had satisfied their mutual need. As the farmer had hoped, they had become excellent friends, supplementing each other's work in a way that promised prosperity.Without the least intention on the part of either, chance words had been spoken which would not be without effect. He had told her to do everything in her own way because the moment he thought of it he knew he liked her ways. They possessed a novelty and natural grace which interested him. There are both a natural and a conventional grace, and the true lady learns to blend the one with the other so as to make a charming manner essentially her own--a manner which makes a woman a lady the world over. Alida had little more than natural grace and refinement, unmodified by society. This the plain farmer could understand, and he was already awakening to an appreciation of it. It impressed him agreeably that Alida should be trim and neat while about her work, and that all her actions were entirely free from the coarse, slovenly manner, the limp carriage, and slatternly aspect of the whole tribe which had come and gone during the past year. They had all been so much alike in possessing disagreeable traits that he felt that Alida was the only peculiar one among them. He never thought of instituting comparisons between her and his former wife, yet he did so unconsciously. Mrs. Holcroft had been too much like himself, matter of fact, materialistic, kind, and good. Devoid of imagination, uneducated in mind, her thoughts had not ranged far from what she touched and saw. She touched them with something of their own heaviness, she saw them as objects--just what they were--and was incapable of obtaining from them much suggestion or enjoyment. She knew when the cherry and plum trees were in blossom just as she knew it was April. The beautiful sounds and changes in nature reminded her that it was time to do certain kinds of work, and with her, work was alpha and omega. As her mother had before her, she was inclined to be a house drudge rather than a housewife. Thrift, neatness, order, marked the limits of her endeavor, and she accomplished her tasks with the awkward, brisk directness learned in her mother's kitchen. Only mind, imagination, and refinement can embroider the homely details of life. Alida would learn to do all that she had done, but the woman with a finer nature would do it in a different way. Holcroft already knew he liked this way although he could not define it to himself. Tired as he was when he came home in the evening, his eyes would often kindle with pleasure at some action or remark that interested him from its novelty. In spite of his weariness and preoccupation, , in spite of a still greater obstacle--the inertia of a mind dulled by material life--he had begun to consider Alida's personality for its own sake. He liked to watch her, not to see what she did to his advantage, but how she did it. She was awakening an agreeable expectancy, and he sometimes smilingly said to himself, "What's next?""Oh, no!" he thought as he was milking the last cow, "I'd much rather she'd take her own natural way in doing things. It would be easier for her and it's her right and--and somehow I like her way just as I used to like Bessie's ways. She isn't Bessie and never can be, and for some reason I'd like her to be as different as possible."Unconsciously and unintentionally, however, he had given Alida's sensitive nature a slight wound. She felt that she had been told in effect, "You can help me all you please, and I would rather you would do this in a way that will not awaken associations, but you must not think of me or expect me to think of you in any light that was not agreed upon." That he had feared the possibility of this, that he might have fancied he saw indications of this, hurt her pride--that pride and delicacy of feeling which most women shield so instinctively. She was now consciously on her guard, and so was not so secure against the thoughts she deprecated as before. In spite of herself, a restraint would tinge her manner which he would eventually feel in a vague, uncomfortable way.

But he came in at last, very tired and thoroughly good-natured. "I'm going to town tomorrow," he said, "and I thought of taking a very early start so as to save time. Would you like to go?""There's no need of my going."

"I thought perhaps you'd enjoy the drive.""I would have to meet strangers and I'm so entirely content in being alone--I won't go this time unless you wish it."

"Well, if you don't care about it, I'll carry out my first plan and take a very early start. I want to sell the butter and eggs on hand, repay Tom Watterly, and get some seeds. We need some things from the store, too, I suppose?""Yes, you are such a coffee drinker--" she began, smiling.

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC#

Mark Suster

Written by

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster

Mark Suster

Written by

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster