There might, he admitted to himself in a mind that was not usually hasty in decision. be some possible explanation, some extenuation which Snacklit might be able to urge, in which idea his logical faculty came suniswap eth to dogeomewhat near to the fact. But, if so, he must know, not guess. The position called imperatively for his control, and it was fortunate that he had already provided himself with an explanation for the police. He was on an errand of rescue on their behalf. That was, if he should be in time, and should decide that Irene should be saved; and, in any case, if they should learn where he was about to go, as they might not do.
And she whispered to Rose, "Only think, YOuniswap api swapUR Edouard to be OURreferee!"Rose blushed and bent over her work; and wondered how Edouard woulddischarge so grave an office.The matter approached a climax; for, as the reader is aware, Edouardwas hourly expected at Beaurepaire.
He did not come; but it was not his fault. On receiving Rose'sletter he declined to stay another hour at his uncle's.He flung himself on his horse; and, before he was well settled onthe stirrups, the animal shied violently at a wheelbarrow some foolhad left there; and threw Edouard on the stones of the courtyard.He jumped up in a moment and laughed at Marthe's terror; meantime afarm-servant caught the nag and brought him back to his work.But when Edouard went to put his hand on the saddle, he found itwould not obey him. "Wait a minute," said he; "my arm is benumbed.""Let me see!" said the farmer, and examined the limb himself;"benumbed? yes; and no wonder. Jacques, get on the brute and ridefor the surgeon.""Are you mad, uncle?" cried Edouard. "I can't spare my horse, and Iwant no surgeon; it will be well directly.""It will be worse before it is better.""I don't know what you mean, uncle; it is only numbed, ah! it hurtswhen I rub it.""It is worse than numbed, boy; it is broken.""Broken? nonsense:" and he looked at it in piteous bewilderment:"how can it be broken? it does not hurt except when I touch it.""It WILL hurt: I know all about it. I broke mine fifteen years ago:
fell off a haystack.""Oh, how unfortunate I am!" cried Edouard, piteously. "But I willgo to Beaurepaire all the same. I can have the thing mended there,as well as here.""You will go to bed," said the old man, quietly; "that is whereYOU'LL go.""I'll go to blazes sooner," yelled the young one.The old man made a signal to his myrmidons, whom Marthe's cries hadbrought around, and four stout fellows took hold of Edouard by thelegs and the left shoulder and carried him up-stairs raging andkicking; and deposited him on a bed."Certainly! What's the trouble?"
"I don't mean there shall be any if I can help it," she answered with a light ripple of laughter. "Please go and put on your coat.""How you've humbugged me! It's too hot.""Oh, you've got to do it; you promised. You can't stay here unless you do.""So you are going to take care of me as if I were a small boy?"
"You need care--sometimes."He soon came back and asked, "Now may I stay?"
"Yes. Please untie the dog. Butter's come.""I should think it would, or anything else at your coaxing.""Oh-h, what a speech! Hasn't that a pretty golden hue?" she asked, holding up a mass of the butter she was ladling from the churn into a wooden tray."Yes, you are making the gilt-edge article now. I don't have to sell it to Tom Watterly any more."
"I'd like to give him some, though."He was silent, and something like sudden rage burned in his heart that Mrs. Watterly would not permit the gift. That anyone should frown on his having such a helper as Alida was proving herself to be, made him vindictive. Fortunately her face was turned away, and she did not see his heavy frown. Then, to shield her from a disagreeable fact, he said quickly, "do you know that for over a year I steadily went behind my expenses . And that your butter making has turned the tide already? I'm beginning to get ahead again.""I'm SO glad," and her face was radiant."Yes, I should know that from your looks. It's clearer every day that I got the best of our bargain. I never dreamed, though, that I should enjoy your society as I do--that we should become such very good friends. That wasn't in the bargain, was it?"
"Bargain!" The spirited way with which she echoed the word, as if thereby repudiating anything like a sordid side to their mutual relations, was not lost on her wondering and admiring partner. She checked herself suddenly. "Now let me teach YOU how to make butter," and with the tray in her lap, she began washing the golden product and pressing out the milk.He laughed in a confused delighted way at her piquant, half saucy manner as he watched her deft round arm and shapely hand.
"The farmers' wives in Oakville would say your hands were too little to do much.""They would?" and she raised her blue eyes indignantly to his. "No matter, you are the one to say about that."
"I say they do too much. I shall have to get Jane to help you.""By all means! Then you'll have more society.""That was a home shot. You know how I dote on everybody's absence, even Jane's.""You dote on butter. See how firm and yellow it's getting. You wouldn't think it was milk-white cream a little while ago, would you? Now I'll put in the salt and you must taste it, for you're a connoisseur.""A what?""Judge, then."
"You know a sight more than I do, Alida.""I'm learning all the time."
"So am I--to appreciate you.""Listen to the sound of the rain and the water as it runs into the milk-cooler. It's like low music, isn't it?"
Poor Holcroft could make no better answer than a sneeze."Oh-h," she exclaimed, "you're catching cold? Come, you must go right upstairs. You can't stay here another minute. I'm nearly through."
"I was never more contented in my life.""You've no right to worry me. What would I do if you got sick? Come, I'll stop work till you go.""Well then, little boss, goodbye."With a half suppressed smile at his obedience Alida watched his reluctant departure. She kept on diligently at work, but one might have fancied that her thoughts rather than her exertions were flushing her cheeks.
It seemed to her that but a few moments elapsed before she followed him, but he had gone. Then she saw that the rain had ceased and that the clouds were breaking. His cheerful whistle sounded reassuringly from the barn, and a little later he drove up the lane with a cart.She sat down in the kitchen and began sewing on the fine linen they had jested about. Before long she heard a light step. Glancing up, she saw the most peculiar and uncanny-looking child that had ever crossed her vision, and with dismal presentiment knew it was Jane.
Chapter 28 Another WaifIt 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.