Presently off went Long Tom on the tuniswap coin news twitterop of the bastion, and the shotcame roaring over the heads of the speakers.
The baroness looked inquiringly towards Aubertin. He put on aninnocent face and said nothing.bitcoin mining energy"Very good," said the baroness. "It's plain I am to learn nothingfrom you two. But I know somebody who will be more communicative.
Yes: this uncomfortable smiling, and unreasonable crying, andinterminable whispering; these appearances of the absent, anddisappearances of the present; I shall know this very day what theyall mean.""Really, I do not understand you.""Oh, never mind; I am an old woman, and I am in my dotage. For allthat, perhaps you will allow me two words alone with my daughter.""I retire, madame," and he disappeared with a bow to her, and ananxious look at Rose. She did not need this; she clenched herteeth, and braced herself up to stand a severe interrogatory.Mother and daughter looked at one another, as if to measure forces,and then, instead of questioning her as she had intended, thebaroness sank back in her chair and wept aloud. Rose was allunprepared for this. She almost screamed in a voice of agony, "Omamma! mamma! O God! kill me where I stand for making my motherweep!""My girl," said the baroness in a broken voice, and with the mosttouching dignity, "may you never know what a mother feels who findsherself shut out from her daughters' hearts. Sometimes I think itis my fault; I was born in a severer age. A mother nowadays seemsto be a sort of elder sister. In my day she was something more.Yet I loved my mother as well, or better than I did my sisters. Butit is not so with those I have borne in my bosom, and nursed upon myknee."At this Rose flung herself, sobbing and screaming, at her mother'sknees. The baroness was alarmed. "Come, dearest, don't cry likethat. It is not too late to take your poor old mother into yourconfidence. What is this mystery? and why this sorrow? How comesit I intercept at every instant glances that were not intended forme? Why is the very air loaded with signals and secrecy? (Rosereplied only by sobs.) Is some deceit going on? (Rose sobbed.) AmI to have no reply but these sullen sobs? will you really tell menothing?""I've nothing to tell," sobbed Rose."Well, then, will you do something for me?"Such a proposal was not only a relief, but a delight to thedeceiving but loving daughter. She started up crying, "Oh, yes,mamma; anything, everything. Oh, thank you!" In the ardor of hergratitude, she wanted to kiss her mother; but the baroness declinedthe embrace politely, and said, coldly and bitterly, "I shall notask much; I should not venture now to draw largely on youraffection; it's only to write a few lines for me."Rose got paper and ink with great alacrity, and sat down allbeaming, pen in hand.The baroness dictated the letter slowly, with an eye gimleting herdaughter all the time.
"Dear--Monsieur--Riviere."The pen fell from Rose's hand, and she turned red and then pale."What! write to him?""Not in your own name; in mine. But perhaps you prefer to give methe trouble.""Cruel! cruel!" sighed Rose, and wrote the words as requested.Chapter 28 Another Waif
It 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."Yes, why not?"
"Mother said he'd never get anyone to take him.""Well, you see she was mistaken.""She's wrong about everything. Well, it's no use then," and the child turned and sat down on the doorstep.Alida was perplexed. From the way Jane wiped her eyes with her wet sleeve, she was evidently crying. Coming to her, Alida said, "What is no use, Jane? Why are you crying?"
"I thought--he--might--p'raps--let me stay and work for him."Alida was still more perplexed. What could be said by way of comfort, feeling sure as she did that Holcroft would be bitterly hostile to the idea of keeping the child? The best she could do was to draw the little waif out and obtain some explanation of her unexpected appearance. But first she asked, "Have you had any breakfast?"
Jane shook her head."Oh, then you must have some right away."
"Don't want any. I want to die. I oughtn' ter been born.""Tell me your troubles, Jane. Perhaps I can help you.""No, you'd be like the rest. They all hate me and make me feel I'm in the way. He's the only one that didn't make me feel like a stray cat, and now he's gone and got married," and the child sobbed aloud.Her grief was pitiful to see, for it was overwhelming. Alida stooped down, and gently lifting the child up, brought her in. Then she took off the wet hat and wiped the tear-stained face with her handkerchief. "Wait a minute, Jane, till I bring you something," and she ran to the dairy for a glass of milk. "You must drink it, she said, kindly but firmly.The child gulped it down, and with it much of her grief, for this was unprecedented treatment and was winning her attention."Say," she faltered, "will you ask him to let me stay?"
"Yes, I'll ask him, but I can't promise that he will.""You won't ask him 'fore my face and then tell him not to behind my back?" and there was a sly, keen look in her eyes which tears could not conceal.
"No," said Alida gravely, "that's not my way. How did you get here, Jane?""Run away."
Alida drew a quick breath and was silent a few moments. "Is--is your mother there?" she asked at length."Yes. They wouldn't let us visit round any longer.""Didn't your mother or anyone know you were coming?"Jane shook her head.
Alida felt that it would be useless to burden the unhappy child with misgivings as to the result, and her heart softened toward her as one who in her limited way had known the bitterness and dread which in that same almshouse had overwhelmed her own spirit. She could only say gently, "Well, wait till Mr. Holcroft comes, and then we'll see what he says." She herself was both curious and anxious as to his course. "It will be a heavy cross," she thought, "but I should little deserve God's goodness to me if I did not befriend this child."Every moment added weight to this unexpected burden of duty. Apart from all consideration of Jane's peculiarities, the isolation with Holcroft had been a delight in itself. Their mutual enjoyment of each other's society had been growing from day to day, and she, more truly than he, had shrunk from the presence of another as an unwelcome intrusion. Conscious of her secret, Jane's prying eyes were already beginning to irritate her nerves. Never had she seen a human face that so completely embodied her idea of inquisitiveness as the uncanny visage of this child. She saw that she would be watched with a tireless vigilance. Her recoil, however, was not so much a matter of conscious reasoning and perception as it was an instinctive feeling of repulsion caused by the unfortunate child. It was the same old story. Jane always put the women of a household on pins and needles just as her mother exasperated the men. Alida had to struggle hard during a comparatively silent hour to fight down the hope that Holcroft would not listen to Jane's and her own request.
As she stepped quickly and lightly about in her preparations for dinner, the girl watched her intently. At last she gave voice to her thoughts and said, "If mother'd only worked round smart as you, p'raps she'd hooked him 'stid er you."Alida's only reply was a slight frown, for the remark suggested disagreeable images and fancies. "Oh, how can I endure it?" she sighed. She determined to let Jane plead her own cause at first, thinking that perhaps this would be the safest way. If necessary, she would use her influence against a hostile decision, let it cost in discomfort what it might.
At a few moments before twelve the farmer came briskly toward the house, and was evidently in the best of spirits. When he entered and saw Jane, his countenance indicated so much dismay that Alida could scarcely repress a smile. The child rose and stood before him like a culprit awaiting sentence. She winked hard to keep the tears back, for there was no welcome in his manner. She could not know how intensely distasteful was her presence at this time, nor had Holcroft himself imagined how unwelcome a third person in his house could be until he saw the intruder before him. He had only felt that he was wonderfully contented and happy in his home, and that Jane would be a constant source of annoyance and restraint. Moreover, it might lead to visitation from Mrs. Mumpson, and that was the summing up of earthly ills. But the child's appearance and manner were so forlorn and deprecating that words of irritation died upon his lips. He gravely shook hands with her and then drew out the story which Alida had learned."Why, Jane," he exclaimed, frowning, "Mr. Watterly will be scouring the country for you. I shall have to take you back right after dinner."
"I kinder hoped," she sobbed, "that you'd let me stay. I'd stay in the barn if I couldn't be in the house. I'd just as soon work outdoors, too.""I don't think you'd be allowed to stay," said the farmer, with a sinking heart; "and then--perhaps your mother would be coming here.""I can't stand mother no more'n you can" said the girl, through her set teeth. "I oughtn'ter been born, for there's no place for me in the world."Holcroft looked at his wife, his face expressive of the utmost annoyance, worry, and irresolution. Her glance was sympathetic, but she said nothing, feeling that if he could make the sacrifice from his own will he should have the chance. "You can't begin to know how much trouble this may lead to, Jane," he resumed. "You remember how your other threatened to take the law upon me, and it wouldn't be possible for you to stay here without her consent."
"She oughter consent; I'll make her consent!" cried the child, speaking as if driven to desperation. "What's she ever done for me but teach me mean ways? Keep me or kill me, for I must be in some place where I've a right to be away from mother. I've found that there's no sense in her talk, and it drives me crazy."Although Jane's words and utterance were strangely uncouth, they contained a despairing echo which the farmer could not resist. Turning his troubled face to his wife, he began, ""If this is possible, Alida, it will be a great deal harder on you than it will on me. I don't feel that I would be doing right by you unless you gave your consent with full knowledge of--"
"Then please let her stay, if it is possible. She seems to need a friend and home as much as another that you heard about.""There's no chance of such a blessed reward in this case," he replied, with a grim laugh. Then, perplexed indeed, he continued to Jane, "I'm just as sorry for you as I can be, but there's no use of getting my wife and self in trouble which in the end will do you no good. You are too young to understand all that your staying may lead to."
"It won't lead to mother's comin' here, and that's the worst that could happen. Since she can't do anything for me she's got to let me do for myself.""Alida, please come with me in the parlor a moment. You stay here, Jane." When they were alone, he resumed, "Somehow, I feel strangely unwilling to have that child live with us. We were enjoying our quiet life so much. Then you don't realize how uncomfortable she will make you, Alida."