At last he went to the barn and began his work, doing everything slowly, and getting all the solace he could from the tasks. The horses whinnied their welcome and he rubbed their noses caressingly as he fed them. The cows came briskly to the rack in which he foddered them in pleasant weather, and when he scratched them between the horns they turned their mild, Juno-like eyes upon him with undisguised affection. The ctron price inr coinbasehickens, clamoring for their breakfast, followed so closely that he had to be careful where he stepped. Although he knew that all this good will was based chiefly on the hope of food and the remembrance of it in the past, nevertheless it soothed and pleased him. He was in sympathy with this homely life; it belonged to him and was dependent on him; it made him honest returns for his care. Moreover, it was agreeably linked with the past. There were quiet cows which his wife had milked, clucking biddies which she had lifted from nests with their downy broods. He looked at them wistfully, and was wondering if they ever missed the presence that he regretted so deeply, when he became conscious that Jane's eyes were upon him. How long she had been watching him he did not know, but she merely said, "Breakfast's ready," and disappeared.
Frejus was a long way off. But this was not all.bittorrent connection status no incoming connections Rose's lastletter was dated from Beaurepaire, yet it must have been written atFrejus. He went to Jacintha, and demanded an explanation of this.The ready Jacintha said it looked as if she meant to be homedirectly; and added, with cool cunning, "That is a hint for me toget their rooms ready.""This letter must have come here enclosed in another," said Edouard,sternly.
"Like enough," replied Jacintha, with an appearance of sovereignindifference.Edouard looked at her, and said, grimly, "I will go to Frejus.""So I would," said Jacintha, faltering a little, but notperceptibly; "you might meet them on the road, if so be they comethe same road; there are two roads, you know."Edouard hesitated; but he ended by sending Dard to the town on hisown horse, with orders to leave him at the inn, and borrow a freshhorse. "I shall just have time," said he. He rode to Frejus, andinquired at the inns and post-office for Mademoiselle deBeaurepaire. They did not know her; then he inquired for MadameRaynal. No such name known. He rode by the seaside upon the chanceof their seeing him. He paraded on horseback throughout the place,in hopes every moment that a window would open, and a fair faceshine at it, and call him. At last his time was up, and he wasobliged to ride back, sick at heart, to Beaurepaire. He told thebaroness, with some natural irritation, what had happened. She wasas much surprised as he was."I write to Madame Raynal at the post-office, Frejus," said she."And Madame Raynal gets your letters?""Of course she does, since she answers them; you cannot haveinquired at the post.""Why, it was the first place I inquired at, and neither Mademoisellede Beaurepaire nor Madame Raynal were known there."Jacintha, who could have given the clew, seemed so puzzled herself,that they did not even apply to her. Edouard took a sorrowful leaveof the baroness, and set out on his journey home.Oh! how sad and weary that ride seemed now by what it had beencoming. His disappointment was deep and irritating; and ere he hadridden half way a torturer fastened on his heart. That torture issuspicion; a vague and shadowy, but gigantic phantom that oppressesand rends the mind more terribly than certainty. In this state ofvague, sickening suspicion, he remained some days: then came anaffectionate letter from Rose, who had actually returned home. Inthis she expressed her regret and disappointment at having missedhim; blamed herself for misleading him, but explained that theirstay at Frejus had been prolonged from day to day far beyond herexpectation. "The stupidity of the post-office was more than shecould account for," said she. But, what went farthest to consoleEdouard, was, that after this contretemps she never ceased to invitehim to come to Beaurepaire. Now, before this, though she said manykind and pretty things in her letters, she had never invited him tovisit the chateau; he had noticed this. "Sweet soul," thought he,"she really is vexed. I must be a brute to think any more about it.
Still"--So this wound was skinned over.At last, what he called his lucky star ordained that he should betransferred to the very post his Commandant Raynal had onceoccupied. He sought and obtained permission to fix his quarters inthe little village near Beaurepaire, and though this plan could notbe carried out for three months, yet the prospect of it was joyfulall that time--joyful to both lovers. Rose needed this consolation,for she was very unhappy: her beloved sister, since their returnfrom Frejus, had gone back. The flush of health was faded, and sowas her late energy. She fell into deep depression and languor,broken occasionally by fits of nervous irritation."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."During this speech, Holcroft could only stare at the woman. The rapid motion of her thin jaw seemed to fascinate him, and he was in perplexity over not merely her rapid utterance, but also the queries. Had she maliciously spoiled the coffee? Or didn't she know any better? "I can't make her out," he thought, "but she shall learn that I have a will of my own," and he quietly rose, took the coffeepot, and poured its contents out of doors; then went through the whole process of making his favorite beverage again, saying coldly, "Jane, you had better watch close this time. I don't wish anyone to touch the coffeepot but you."Even Mrs. Mumpson was a little abashed by his manner, but when he resumed his breakfast she speedily recovered her complacency and volubility. "I've always heard," she said, with her little cackling laugh, "that men would be extravergant, especially in some things. There are some things they're fidgety about and will have just so. Well, well, who has a better right than a well-to-do, fore-handed man? Woman is to complement the man, and it should be her aim to study the great--the great--shall we say reason, for her being? Which is adaptation," and she uttered the word with feeling, assured that Holcroft could not fail of being impressed by it. The poor man was bolting such food as had been prepared in his haste to get away.
"Yes," continued the widow, "adaptation is woman's mission and--""Really, Mrs. Mumpson, your and Jane's mission this morning will be to get as much butter as possible out of the cream and milk on hand. I'll set the old dog on the wheel, and start the churn within half an hour," and he rose with the thought, "I'd rather finish my breakfast on milk and coffee by and by than stand this." And he said, "Please let the coffee be until I come in to show you about taking out and working the butter."
The scenes in the dairy need not be dwelt upon. He saw that Jane might be taught, and that she would probably try to do all that her strength permitted. It was perfectly clear that Mrs. Mumpson was not only ignorant of the duties which he had employed her to perform, but that she was also too preoccupied with her talk and notions of gentility ever to learn. He was already satisfied that in inducing him to engage her, Lemuel Weeks had played him a trick, but there seemed no other resource than to fulfill his agreement. With Mrs. Mumpson in the house, there might be less difficulty in securing and keeping a hired girl who, with Jane, might do the essential work. But the future looked so unpromising that even the strong coffee could not sustain his spirits. The hopefulness of the early morning departed, leaving nothing but dreary uncertainty.Mrs. Mumpson was bent upon accompanying him to town and engaging the girl herself. "There would be great propriety in my doing so," she argued at dinner, "and propriety is something that adorns all the human race. There would be no danger of my getting any of the peculiar females such as you have been afflicted with. As I am to superintend her labors, she will look up to me with respect and humility if she learns from the first to recognize in me a superior on whom she will be dependent for her daily bread. No shiftless hussy would impose upon ME. I would bring home--how sweet the word sounds!--a model of industry and patient endurance. She would be deferential, she would know her place, too. Everything would go like clockwork in our home. I'll put on my things at once and--"
"Excuse me, Mrs. Mumpson. It would not be right to leave Jane here alone. Moreover, I'd rather engage my own help.""But my dear Mr. Holcroft, you don't realize--men never do realize--that you will have a long, lonely ride with a female of unknown--unknown antercedents. It will be scarcely respecterble, and respecterbility should be man and woman's chief aim. Jane is not a timid child, and in an emergency like this, even if she was, she would gladly sacrifice herself to sustain the proprieties of life. Now that your life has begun under new and better auspices, I feel that I ought to plead with you not to cloud your brightening prospects by a thoughtless unregard of what society looks upon as proper. The eyes of the community will now be upon us--"