Jeanne had done. Romantic visions of herself as his favorite flitted
through her brain.
"Why didst thou not send for me sooner to come to thee, Aunt Jeanne,"
she said, "that I too might have seen the life in the great stone
A sudden flush covered Jeanne's face. Was she never to hear the end of
troublesome questions about the past?
"Wilt thou never have done with it?" she said, half angrily. "Has it
never been said in thy hearing how that my husband would not permit even
my father to come inside of his house, much less one no nearer than
thou?" And Jeanne eyed Victorine sharply, with a suspicion which was
wholly uncalled for. Nobody had ever been bold or cruel enough to
suggest to Victorine any doubts regarding her birth. The girl was
indignant. She had never known before that her grandfather had been thus
"What had grandfather done?" she cried. "Was he not thy husband's
father, too, being thine? How dared thy husband treat him so?"
Jeanne was silent for a few moments. A latent sense of justice to her
dead husband restrained her from assenting to Victorine's words.
"Nay," she said; "there are many things thou canst not understand. Thy
grandfather never complained. Willan Blaycke treated me most fairly
while he lived; and if it had not been for the boy, I would have had
thee in the stone house to-day, and had all my rights."
"Why did the boy hate thee?" asked Victorine. "What is he like?"
"As like to a magpie as one magpie is to another," said Jeanne,
bitterly; "with his fine French cloth of black, and his white ruffles,
and his long words in his mouth. Ah, but him I hate! It is to him we owe
"Dwells he now in the great house alone?" said Victorine.
"Ay, that he does, - alone with his books, of which he has about as many
as there are leaves on the trees; one could not so much as step or sit
for a book in one's way. I did hear that he has now with him another of
his own order, and that the two are riding all over the country,
marking out the lines anew of all the farms, and writing new bonds which
are so much harder on men than the old ones were. Bah! but he has the
soul of a miser in him, for all his handsome face!"
"Is he then so very handsome, Aunt Jeanne?" said Victorine, eagerly.
"Ay, ay, child. I'll give him his due for that, evilly as he has treated
me. He is a handsomer man than his father was; and when his father and I
were married there was not a woman in the provinces that did not say I
had carried off the handsomest man that ever strode a horse. I'd like to
have had thee see me, too, in that day, child. I was counted as handsome
as he, though thou'dst never think it now."
"But I would think it!" cried Victorine, hotly and loyally. "What ails
thee, Aunt Jeanne? Did I not hear Father Hennepin himself saying to thee
only yesterday that thou wert comelier to-day than ever? and he saw thee
married, he told me."
"Tut, tut, child!" replied Jeanne, looking pleased. "None know better
than the priests how to speak idle words to women. But what was he
telling thee? How came it that he spoke of the time when I was married?"
added Jeanne, again suspicious.
"It was I that asked him," replied Victorine. "I wish always so much
that I had been with thee instead of in the convent, dear aunt. Does
this son of thy husband, this handsome young man who is so like unto a
magpie, - does he never in his journeyings come this way?"
"Ay, often," replied Jeanne. "I know that he must, because a large part
of his estate lies beyond the border and joins on to this parish. It was
that which brought his father here, in the beginning, and there is no
other inn save this for miles up and down the border where he can tarry;
but it is likely that he will sooner lie out in the fields than sleep
under this roof, because I am here. I had looked to say my mind to him
as often as he came; and that it would be a sore thing to him to see his
father's wife in the bar, I know beyond a doubt. I have often said to
myself what a comfortable spleen I should experience when I might
courtesy to him and say, 'What would you be pleased to take, sir?' But
I think he is minded to rob me of that pleasure, for it is certain he
must have ridden this way before now."
"I have a mind to burn a candle to the Virgin," said Victorine, slowly,
"that he may come here. I would like for once to set my eyes on his
An unwonted earnestness in Victorine's tone and a still more unwonted
seriousness in her face arrested Jeanne's attention.
"What is it to thee to see him or not to see him, eh? What is it thou
hast in thy silly head. If thou thinkest thou couldst win him over to
take us back to live in his house again, - which is my own house, to be
sure, if I had my rights, - thy wits are wool-gathering, I can tell thee
that," cried Jeanne. "He has the pride of ten thousand devils in him.
There was that in his face when I drove away from the door, - and he
standing with his head uncovered too, - which I tell thee if I had been a
man I could have killed him for. He take us back! He! he!" And Jeanne
laughed a bitter laugh at the bare idea of the thing.
"I had not thought of any such thing, Aunt Jeanne," replied Victorine,
still speaking slowly, and still with a dreamy expression on her face,
as she leaned out of the window and began idly plucking the blossoms
from a bough of the big pear-tree, which was now all white with flowers
and buzzing with bees. "Dost thou not think the bees steal a little
sweet that ought to go into the fruit?" continued the artful girl, who
did not choose that her aunt should question her any further as to the
reason of her desire to see Willan Blaycke. "I remember that once Father
Anselmo at the convent said to me he thought so. There was a vine of the
wild grape which ran all over the wall between the cloister and the
convent; and when it was in bloom the air sickened one, and thou couldst
hardly go near the wall for the swarming bees that were drinking the
honey from the flowers. And Father Anselmo said one evening that they
were thieves; they stole sweet which ought to go into the grapes."
This was a clever diversion. It turned Jeanne's thoughts at once away
from Willan Blaycke, but it did not save Mademoiselle Victorine from a
catechising quite as sharp as she was in danger of on the other subject.
"And what wert thou doing talking with a priest in the garden at night?"
cried Jeanne, fiercely. "Is that the way maidens are trained in a
convent! Shame on thee, Victorine! what hast thou revealed?"
"The Virgin forbid," answered Victorine, piously, racking her brains
meanwhile for a ready escape from this dilemma, and trying in her fright
to recall precisely what she had just said. "I said not that he told it
to me in the garden; it was in the confessional that he said it. I had
confessed to him the grievous sin of a horrible rage I had been in when
one of the bees had stung me on the lip as I was gathering the cool vine
leaves to lay on the good Sister Clarice's forehead, who was ill with a
"Eh, eh!" said Jeanne, relieved; "was that it? I thought it could not be
thou wert in the garden in the evening hours, and with a priest."
"Oh no," said Victorine, demurely. "It was not permitted to converse
with the priests except in the chapel." And choking back an amused
little laugh she bounded to the ladder-like stairway and climbed up into
her own room.
"Saints! what an ankle the girl has, to be sure!" thought Jeanne, as she
watched Victorine's shapely legs slowly vanishing up the stair. "What
has filled her head so full of that upstart Willan, I wonder!"
A thought struck Jeanne; the only wonder was it had never struck her
before. In her sudden excitement she sprung from her chair, and began to
walk rapidly up and down the floor. She pressed her hand to her
forehead; she tore open the handkerchief which was crossed on her bosom;
her eyes flashed; her cheeks grew red; she breathed quicker.
"The girl's handsome enough to turn any man's head, and twice as clever
as I ever was," she thought.
She sat down in her chair again. The idea which had occurred to her was
over-whelming. She spoke aloud and was unconscious of it.
"Ah, but that would be a triumph!" she said. "Who knows? who knows?"
"Victorine!" she called; "Victorine!"
"Yes, aunt," replied Victorine.
"There's plenty of honey left in the flowers to keep pears sweet after
the bees are dead," said Jeanne, mischievously, and went downstairs
chuckling over her new secret thought. "I'll never let the child know
I've thought of such a thing," she mused, as she took her accustomed
seat in the bar. "I'll bide my time. Strange things have happened, and
may happen again."
"What a queer speech of Aunt Jeanne's!" thought Victorine at her
casement window. "What a fool I was to have said anything about Father
Anselmo! Poor fellow! I wonder why he doesn't run away from the
The south wind's secret, when it blows,
Oh, what man knows?
How did it turn the rose's bud
Into a rose?
What went before, no garden shows;
Only the rose!
What hour the bitter north wind blows,
The south wind knows.
Why did it turn the rose's bud
Into a rose?
Alas, to-day the garden shows
A dying rose!
Jeanne had not to wait long. It was only a few days after this
conversation with Victorine, - the big pear-tree was still snowy-white
with bloom, and the tireless bees still buzzed thick among its
boughs, - when Jeanne, standing in the doorway at sunset, saw two riders
approaching the inn. At her first glance she recognized Willan Blaycke.
Jeanne's mind moved quickly. In the twinkling of an eye she had sprung
back into the bar-room, and said to her father, -
"Father, father, be quick! Here comes Willan Blaycke riding; and
another, an old man, with him. Thou must tend the bar; for hand so much
as a glass of gin to that man will I never. I shut myself up till he is
"Nay, nay, Jeanne," replied Victor; "I'll turn him from my door. He's to
get no lodging under this roof, he nor his, - I promise you that." And
Victor was bustling angrily to the door.
This did not suit Mistress Jeanne at all. In great dismay inwardly, but
outwardly with slow and smooth-spoken accents, as if reflecting
discreetly, she replied, "He might do me great mischief if he were
angered, father. All the moneys go through his hand. I think it is safer
to speak him fair. He hath the devil's own temper if he be opposed in
the smallest thing. It has cost him sore enough, I'll be bound, to find
himself here at sundown, and beholden to thee for shelter; it is none of
his will to come, I know that well enough. Speak him fair, father, speak
him fair; it is a silly fowl that pecks at the hand which holds corn. I
will hide myself till he is away, though, for I misgive me that I should
be like to fly out at him."
"But, Jeanne - " persisted Victor. But Jeanne was gone.
"Speak him fair, father; take no note that aught is amiss," she called
back from the upper stair, from which she was vanishing into her
chamber. "I will send Victorine to wait at the supper. He hath never
seen her, and need not to know that she is of our kin at all,"
"Humph!" muttered Victor. "Small doubt to whom the girl is kin, if a man
have eyes in his head." And he would have argued the point longer with
Jeanne, but he had no time left, for the riders had already turned into
the courtyard, and were giving their horses in charge to the
white-headed ostler Benoit. Benoit had served in the Golden Pear for a
quarter of a century. He had served Victor Dubois's father in Normandy,
had come with his young master to America, and was nominally his servant
still. But if things had gone by their right names at the Golden Pear,
old Benoit would not have been called servant for many a year back. Not
a secret in that household which Benoit had not shared; not a plot he
had not helped on. At Jeanne's marriage he was the only witness except
Father Hennepin; and there were some who recollected still with what
extraordinary chuckles of laughter Benoit had walked away from the
chapel after that ceremony had been completed. To the young Victorine
Benoit had been devoted ever since her coming to the inn. Whenever she
appeared in sight the old man came to gaze on her, and stood lingering
and admiring as long as she remained.
"Thou art far handsomer than thy mother ever was," he had said to her
one morning soon after her arrival.
"Oh, didst thou know my mother, then, when she was young?" cried
Victorine. "She is not handsome now, though she is newly wed; when she
came to see me in the convent, I thought her very ugly. When didst thou
know her, Benoit?"
Benoit was very red in the face, and began to toss straw vigorously as
he looked away from Victorine and answered: "It was but once that I had
sight of her, when Master Jean brought her here after they were married.
Thou dost not favor her in the least. Thou art like Master Jean."
"And the saints know that that last is the holy truth, whatever the
rest may be," thought Benoit, as he bustled about the courtyard.
"But thy tongue is the tongue of an imbecile," said Victor, following
him into the stable.
"Ay, that it is, sir," replied Benoit, humbly. "I had like to have
bitten it off before I had finished speaking; but no harm came."
"Not this time," replied Victor; "but the next thou might not be so well
let off. The girl has a sharper wit than she shows ordinarily. She hath
learned too well the ways of convents. I trust her not wholly, Benoit.
Keep thy eyes open, Benoit. We'll not have her go the ways of her mother
if it can be helped." And the worldly and immoral old grandfather turned
on his heel with a wicked laugh.
Benoit had never seen young Willan Blaycke, but he knew him at his first
"The son!" he muttered under his breath, as he saw him alight. "Is he to
be lodged here? I doubt." And Benoit looked about for Victor, who was
nowhere to be seen. Slowly and with a surly face he came forward to
take the horses.
"What're you about, old man? Wear you shoes of lead? Take our horses,
and see you to it they are well rubbed down before they have aught to
eat or drink. We have ridden more than ten leagues since the noon,"
cried the elder of the two travellers.
"And ought to have ridden more," said the younger in an undertone. It
was, as Jeanne had said, a sore thing to Willan Blaycke to be forced to
seek a night's shelter in the Golden Pear.
"Tut, tut!" said the other, "what odds! It is a whimsey, a weakness of
yours, boy. What's the woman to you?"
Victor Dubois, who had come up now, heard these words, and his swarthy
cheek was a shade darker. Benoit, who had lingered till he should
receive a second order from the master of the inn as to the strangers'
horses, exchanged a quick glance with Victor, while he said in a
respectful tone, "Two horses, sir, for the night." The glance said, "I
know who the man is; shall we keep him?"
"Ay, Benoit," Victor answered; "see that Jean gives them a good rubbing
at once. They have been hard ridden, poor beasts!" While Victor was
speaking these words his eyes said to Benoit, "Bah! It is even so; but
we dare not do otherwise than treat him fair."
"Will you be pleased to walk in, gentlemen; and what shall I have the
honor of serving for your supper?" he continued. "We have some young
pigeons, if your worships would like them, fat as partridges, and still
a bottle or two left of our last autumn's cider."
"By all means, landlord, by all means, let us have them, roasted on a
spit, man, - do you hear? - roasted on a spit, and let your cook lard them
well with fat bacon; there is no bird so fat but a larding doth help it
for my eating," said the elder man, rubbing his hands and laughing more
and more cheerily as his companion looked each moment more and more
"No, I'll not go in," said Willan, as Victor threw open the door into
the bar-room. "It suits me better to sit here under the trees until
supper is ready." And he threw himself down at the foot of the great
pear-tree. He feared to see Jeanne sitting in the bar, as she had
threatened. The ground was showered thick with the soft white petals of
the blossoms, which were now past their prime. Willan picked up a
handful of them and tossed them idly in the air. As he did so, a shower
of others came down on his face, thick, fast; they half blinded him for
a moment. He sprung to his feet and looked up. It was like looking into
a snowy cloud. He saw nothing. "Some bird flying through," he thought,
and lay down again.
"Ah! luck for the bees,
The flowers are in flower;
Luck for the bees in spring.
Ah me, but the flowers, they die in an hour;
No summer is fair as the spring.
Ah! luck for the bees;
The honey in flowers
Is highest when they are on wing!"
came in a gay Proven√Іal melody from the pear-tree above Willan's head,
and another shower of white petals fell on his face.
"Good God!" said Willan Blaycke, under his breath, "what witchcraft is
going on here? what girl's voice is that?" And he sprang again to his
The voice died slowly away; the singer was moving farther off, -
"Ah! woe for the bees,
The flowers are dead;
No summer is fair as the spring.
Ah me, but the honey is thick in the comb;
'Tis a long time now since spring.
Ah, woe for the bees
That honey is sweet,
Is sweeter than anything!"
"Sweeter than anything, - sweeter than anything!" the voice, grown faint
now, repeated this refrain over and over, as the syllables of sound died
It was Victorine going very slowly down the staircase from her room into
Jeanne's. And it was Victorine who had accidentally brushed the
pear-tree boughs as she watered her plants on the roof of the outside
stairway. She did not see Willan lying on the ground underneath, and she
did not think that Willan might be hearing her song; and yet was her
head full of Willan Blaycke as she went down the staircase, and not a
little did she quake at the thought of seeing him below.
Jeanne had come breathless to her room, crying, "Victorine! Victorine!
That son of my husband's of whom we were talking, young Willan Blaycke,
is at the door, - he, and an old man with him; and they must perforce
stay here all night. Now, it would be a shame I could in no wise bear to
stand and serve him at supper. Wilt thou not do it in my stead? there
are but the two." And the wily Jeanne pretended to be greatly
distressed, as she sank into a chair and went on: "In truth, I do not
believe I can look on his face at all. I will keep my room till he have
gone his way, - the villain, the upstart, that I may thank for all my
trouble! Oh, it brings it all back again, to see his face!" And Jeanne
actually brought a tear or two into her wily eyes.
The no less wily Victorine tossed her head and replied: "Indeed, then,
and the waiting on him is no more to my liking than to thine own, Aunt
Jeanne! I did greatly desire to see his face, to see what manner of man
he could be that would turn his father's widow out of her house; but I
think Benoit may hand the gentleman his wine, not I." And Victorine
sauntered saucily to the window and looked out.
"A plague on all their tempers!" thought Jeanne, impatiently. Her plans
seemed to be thwarted when she least expected it. For a few moments she
was silent, revolving in her mind the wisdom of taking Victorine into
her counsels, and confiding to her the motive she had for wishing her to
be seen by Willan Blaycke. But she dreaded lest this might defeat her
object by making the girl self-conscious. Jeanne was perplexed; and in
her perplexity her face took on an expression as if she were grieved.
Victorine, who was much dismayed by her aunt's seeming acquiescence in
her refusal to serve the supper, exclaimed now, -
"Nay, nay, Aunt Jeanne, do not look grieved. I will indeed go down and
serve the supper, if thou takest it so to heart. The man is nothing to
me, that I need fear to see him."
"Thou art a good girl," replied Jeanne, much relieved, and little
dreaming how she had been gulled by Mademoiselle Victorine, - "thou art a
good girl, and thou shalt have my lavender-colored paduasoy gown if
thou wilt lay thyself out to see that all is at its best, both in the
bedrooms and for the supper. I would have Willan Blaycke perceive that
one may live as well outside of his house as in it. And, Victorine," she
added, with an attempt at indifference in her tone, "wear thy white gown
thou hadst on last Sunday. It pleased me better than any gown thou hast
worn this year, - that, and thy black silk apron with the red lace; they
So Victorine had arrayed herself in the white gown; it was of linen
quaintly woven, with a tiny star thrown up in the pattern, and shone
like damask. The apron was of heavy black silk, trimmed all around with
crimson lace, and crimson lace on the pockets. A crimson rose in
Victorine's black hair and crimson ribbons at her throat and on her
sleeves completed the toilet. It was ravishing; and nobody knew it
better than Mademoiselle Victorine herself, who had toiled many an hour
in the convent making the crimson lace for the precise purpose of
trimming a black apron with it, if ever she escaped from the convent,
and who had chosen out of fifty rose-bushes at the last Parish Fair the
one whose blossoms matched her crimson lace. There is a picture still to
be seen of Victorine in this costume; and many a handsome young girl,
having copied the costume exactly for a fancy ball, has looked from the
picture to herself and from herself to the picture, and gone to the ball
dissatisfied, thinking in her heart, -
"After all, I don't look half as well in it as that French girl did."
As Victorine came leisurely down the stairs, half singing, half
chanting, her little song, Jeanne looked at her in admiration.
"Well, and if either of the men have an eye for a pretty girl clad in
attire that becomes her, they can look at thee, my Victorine. That black
apron will go well with the lavender paduasoy also."
"That it will, Aunt Jeanne," answered Victorine, her face glowing with
pleasure. "I can never thank thee enough. I did not think ever to have
the paduasoy for my own."
"All my gowns are for thee," said Jeanne, in a voice of great
tenderness. "I shall presently take to the wearing of black; it better
suits my years. Thou canst be young; it is enough. I am an old woman."
Victorine bent over and kissed her aunt, and whispered: "Fie on thee,
Aunt Jeanne! The Father Hennepin does not think thee an old woman;
neither Pierre Gaspard from the mill. I hear the men when they are
talking under my window of thee. Thou knowest thou mightest wed any day
if thou hadst the mind."
Jeanne shook her head. "That I have not, then," she said. "I keep the
name of Willan Blaycke for all that of any man hereabouts which can be
offered to me. Thou art the one to wed, not I. But far off be that day,"
she added hastily; "thou art young for it yet."
"Ay," replied the artful young maiden, "that am I, and I think I will be
old before any man make a drudge of me. I like my freedom better. And
now will I go down and serve thy stepson, - the handsome magpie, the
reader of books." And with a mocking laugh Victorine bounded down the
staircase and went into the kitchen. Her grandfather was running about
there in great confusion, from dresser to fireplace, to table, to
pantry, back and forth, breathless and red in the face. The pigeons were
sputtering before the fire, and the odor of the frying bacon filled the
"Diable! Girl, out of this!" he cried; "this is no place for thee. Go to
"She did bid me come and serve the supper for the strangers," replied
Victorine. "She herself will not come down."
"Go to the devil! Thou shalt not, and it is I that say it," shouted
Victor; and Victorine, terrified, fled back to Jeanne, and reported her
Poor Jeanne was at her wit's end now. "Why said he that?" she asked.
"I know not," replied Victorine, demurely. "He was in one of his great
rages, and I do think that the pigeons are fast burning, by the smell."
"Bah!" cried Jeanne, in disgust. "Is this a house to live in, where one
cannot be let down from one's chamber except in sight of the highway?
Run, Victorine! Look over and see if the strangers be in sight. I must
go down to the kitchen. I would a witch were at hand with a broom or a
tail of a mare. I'd mount and down the chimney, I warrant me!"
Laughing heartily, Victorine ran to reconnoitre. "There is none in