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sight," she cried. "Thou canst come down. A man is asleep under the
pear-tree, but I think not he is one of them."

Jeanne ran quickly down the stairs, followed by Victorine, who, as she
entered the kitchen again, took up her position in one corner, and stood
leaning against the wall, tapping her pretty little black slippers with
their crimson bows impatiently on the floor. Jeanne drew her father to
one side, and whispered in his ear. He retorted angrily, in a louder
tone. Not a look or tone was lost on Victorine. Presently the old man,
shrugging his shoulders, went back to the pigeons, and began to turn the
spit, muttering to himself in French. Jeanne had conquered.

"Thy grandfather is in a rage," she said to Victorine, "because we must
give meat and drink to the man who has treated me so ill; that is why he
did not wish thee to serve. But I have persuaded him that it is needful
that we do all we can to keep Willan Blaycke well disposed to us. He
might withhold from me all my money if he so chose; and he is rich, and
we are but poor people. We could not find any redress. So do thou take
care and treat him as if thou hadst never heard aught against him from
me. It will lie with thee, child, to see that he goes not away angered;
for thy grandfather is in a mood when the saints themselves could not
hold his tongue if he have a mind to speak. Keep thou out of his sight
till supper be ready. I stay here till all is done."

Between the kitchen and the common living-room, which was also the
dining-room, was a long dark passage-way, at one end of which was a
small storeroom. Here Victorine took refuge, to wait till her aunt
should call her to serve the supper. The window of this storeroom was
wide open. The shutter had fallen off the hinges several days before,
and Benoit had forgotten to put it up. Victorine seated herself on a
cider cask close to the window, and leaning her head against the wall
began to sing again in a low tone. She had a habit of singing at all
times, and often hardly knew that she sang at all. The Proven√Іal melody
was still running in her head.

"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!"

she sang. Then suddenly breaking off she began singing a wild, sad
melody of another song: -

"The sad spring rain,
It has come at last.
The graves lie plain,
And the brooks run fast;
And drip, drip, drip,
Falls the sad spring rain;
And tears fall fresh,
In the sad spring air,
From lovers' eyes,
On the graves laid bare."

It was very dark in the storeroom; it was dark out of doors. The moon
had been up for an hour, but the sky was overcast thick with clouds.
Willan Blaycke was still asleep under the pear-tree. His head was only a
few feet from the storeroom window. The sound of Victorine's singing
reached his ears, but did not at first waken him, only blended
confusedly with his dreams. In a few seconds, however, he waked, sprang
to his feet, and looked about him in bewilderment. Out of the darkness,
seemingly within arm's reach, came the low sweet notes, -

"And drip, drip, drip,
Falls the sad spring rain;
And tears fall fresh,
In the sad spring air,
From lovers' eyes,
On the graves laid bare."

Groping his way in the direction from which the voice came, Willan
stumbled against the wall of the house, and put his hand on the
window-sill. "Who sings in here?" he cried, fumbling in the empty space.

"Holy Mother!" shrieked Victorine, and ran out of the storeroom, letting
the door shut behind her with all its force. The noise echoed through
the inn, and waked Willan's friend, who was also taking a nap in one of
the old leather-cushioned high-backed chairs in the bar-room. Rubbing
his eyes, he came out to look for Willan. He met him on the threshold.

"Ah!" he said, "where have you been all this time? I have slept in a
chair, and am vastly rested."

"The Lord only knows where I have been," answered Willan, laughing. "I
too have slept; but a woman with a voice like the voice of a wild bird
has been singing strange melodies in my ear."

The elder man smiled. "The dreams of young men," he said, "are wont to
have the sound of women's voices in them."

"This was no dream," retorted Willan. "She was so near me I heard the
panting breath with which she cried out and fled when I made a step
towards her."

"Gentlemen, will it please you to walk in to supper?" said Victor,
appearing in the doorway with a clean white apron on, and no trace, in
his smiling and obsequious countenance, of the rage in which he had been
a few minutes before.

A second talk with Jeanne after Victorine had left the kitchen had
produced a deep impression on Victor's mind. He was now as eager as
Jeanne herself for the meeting between Victorine and Willan Blaycke.

The pigeons were not burned, after all. Most savory did they smell, and
Willan Blaycke and his friend fell to with a will.

"Saidst thou not thou hadst some of thy famous pear cider left,
landlord?" asked Willan.

"Ay, sir, my granddaughter has gone to draw it; she will be here in a
trice."

As he spoke the door opened, and Victorine entered, bearing in her left
hand a tray with two curious old blue tankards on it; in her right hand
a gray stone jug with blue bands at its neck. Both the jug and the
tankards had come over from Normandy years ago. Victorine raised her
eyes, and looking first at Willan, then at his friend, went immediately
to the older man, and courtesying gracefully, set her tray down on the
table by his side, and filled the two tankards. The cider was like
champagne; it foamed and sparkled. The old man eyed it keenly.

"This looks like the cidre mousseux I drank at Littry," he said, and
taking up his tankard tossed it off at a draught. "Tastes like it, too,
by Jove!" he said. "Old man, out of what fruits in this bleak country
dost thou conjure such a drink?"

Victor smiled. Praise of the cider of the Golden Pear went to his heart
of hearts. "Monsieur has been in Calvados," he said. "It is kind of him
then to praise this poor drink of mine, which would be but scorned
there. There is not a warm enough sunshine to ripen our pears here to
their best, and the variety is not the same; but such as they are, I
have an orchard of twenty trees, and it is by reason of them that the
inn has its name."

Willan was not listening to this conversation. He held his fork, with a
bit of untasted pigeon on it, uplifted in one hand; with the other he
drummed nervously on the table. His eyes were riveted on Victorine, who
stood behind the old man's chair, her soft black eyes glancing quietly
from one thing to another on the table to see if all were right.
Willan's gaze did not escape the keen eyes of Victorine's grandfather.
Chuckling inwardly, he assumed an expression of great anxiety, and
coming closer to Willan's chair said in a deprecating tone, -

"Are not the pigeons done to your liking, sir? You do not eat."

Willan started, dropped his fork, then hastily took it up again.

"Yes, yes," he said, "that they are; done to a turn." And he fell to
eating again. But do what he would, he could not keep his eyes off the
face of the girl. If she moved, his gaze followed her about the room, as
straight as a steel follows on after a magnet; and when she stood still,
he cast furtive glances that way each minute. In very truth, he might
well be forgiven for so doing. Not often does it fall to the lot of men
to see a more bewitching face than the face of Victorine Dubois. Many a
woman might be found fairer and of a nobler cast of feature; but in the
countenance of Victorine Dubois was an unaccountable charm wellnigh
independent of feature, of complexion, of all which goes to the ordinary
summing up of a woman's beauty. There was in the glance of her eye a
something, I know not what, which no man living could wholly resist. It
was at once defiant and alluring, tender and mocking, artless and
mischievous. No man could make it out; no man might see it twice alike
in the space of an hour. No more was the girl herself twice alike in an
hour, or a day, for that matter. She was far more like some frolicsome
creature of the woods than like a mortal woman. The quality of wildness
which Willan had felt in her voice was in her nature. Neither her
grandfather nor her mother had in the least comprehended her during the
few months she had lived with them. A certain gentleness of nature,
which was far more physical than mental, far more an idle nonchalance
than recognition of relations to others, had blinded them to her real
capriciousness and selfishness. They rarely interfered with her, or
observed her with any discrimination. Their love was content with her
surface of good humor, gayety, and beauty; she was an ever-present
delight and pride to them both, and that she might only partially
reciprocate this fondness never crossed their minds. They did not
realize that during all these eighteen years that they had been caring,
planning, and plotting for her their names had represented nothing in
her mind except unseen, unknown relatives to whom she was indebted for
support, but to whom she also owed what she hated and rebelled
against, - her imprisonment in the convent. Why should she love them?
Blood tells, however; and when Victorine found herself free, and face to
face with the grandfather of whom she had so long heard and only once
seen, and the Aunt Jeanne who had been described to her as the loving
benefactress of her youth, she had a new and affectionate sentiment
towards them. But she would at any minute have calmly sacrificed them
both for the furtherance of her own interests; and the thoughts she was
thinking while Willan Blaycke gazed at her so ardently this night were
precisely as follows: -

"If I could only have a good chance at him, I could make him marry me. I
see it in his face. I suppose I'd never see Aunt Jeanne again, or
grandfather; but what of that? I'd play my cards better than Aunt Jeanne
did, I know that much. Let me once get to be mistress of that stone
house - " And the color grew deeper and deeper on Victorine's cheeks in
the excitement of these reflections.

"Poor girl!" Willan Blaycke was thinking. "I must not gaze at her so
constantly. The color in her cheeks betrays that I distress her." And
the honest gentleman tried his best to look away and bear good part in
conversation with his friend. It was a doubly good stroke on the part of
the wily Victorine to take her place behind the elder man's chair. It
looked like a proper and modest preference on her part for age; and it
kept her out of the old man's sight, and in the direct range of Willan's
eyes as he conversed with his friend. When she had occasion to hand
anything to Willan she did so with an apparent shyness which was
captivating; and the tone of voice in which she spoke to him was low and
timid.

Old Victor could hardly contain himself. He went back and forth between
the dining-room and kitchen far oftener than was necessary, that he
might have the pleasure of saying to Jeanne: "It works! it works! He
doth gaze the eyes out of his head at her. The girl could not do better.
She hath affected the very thing which will snare him the quickest."

"Oh no, father! Thou mistakest Victorine. She hath no plan of snaring
him; it was with much ado I got her to consent to serve him at all. It
was but for my sake she did it."

Victor stared at Jeanne when she said this. "Thou hast not told her,
then?" he said.

"Nay, that would have spoiled all; if the girl herself had it in her
head, he would have seen it."

Victor walked slowly back into the dining-room, and took further and
closer observations of Mademoiselle Victorine's behavior and
expressions. When he went next to the kitchen he clapped Jeanne on the
shoulder, and said with a laugh: "'Tis a wise mother knows her own
child. If that girl in yonder be not bent on turning the head of Willan
Blaycke before she sleeps to-night, may the devil fly away with me!"

"Well, likely he may, if thou prove not too heavy a load," retorted the
filial Jeanne. "I tell thee the girl's heart is full of anger against
Willan Blaycke. She is but doing my bidding. I charged her to see to it
that he was pleased, that he should go away our friend."

"And so he will go," replied Victor, dryly; "but not for thy bidding or
mine. The man is that far pleased already that he shifteth as if the
very chair were hot beneath him. A most dutiful niece thou hast,
Mistress Jeanne!"

When supper was over Willan Blaycke walked hastily out of the house. He
wanted to be alone. The clouds had broken away, and the full moon shone
out gloriously. The great pear-tree looked like a tree wrapped in cloud,
its blossoms were so thick and white. Willan paced back and forth
beneath it, where he had lain sleeping before supper. He looked toward
the window from whence he had heard the singing voice. "It must have
been she," he said. "How shall I bring it to pass to see her again? for
that I will and must." He went to the window and looked in. All was
dark. As he turned away the door at the farther end opened, and a ray of
light flashing in from the hall beyond showed Victorine bearing in her
hand the jug of cider. She had made this excuse to go to the storeroom
again, having observed that Willan had left the house.

"He might seek me again there," thought she.

Willan heard the sound, turned back, and bounding to the window
exclaimed, "Was it thou who sang?"

Victorine affected not to hear. Setting down her jug, she came close to
the window and said respectfully: "Didst thou call? What can I fetch,
sir?"

Willan Blaycke leaned both his arms on the window-sill, and looking into
the eyes of Victorine Dubois replied: "Marry, girl, thou hast already
fetched me to such a pass that thy voice rings in my ears. I asked thee
if it were thou who sang?"

Retreating from the window a step or two, Victorine said sorrowfully: "I
did not think that thou hadst the face of one who would jest lightly
with maidens." And she made as if she would go away.

"Pardon, pardon!" cried Willan. "I am not jesting; I implore thee, think
it not. I did sleep under this tree before supper, and heard such
singing! I had thought it a bird over my head except that the song had
words. I know it was thou. Be not angry. Why shouldst thou? Where didst
thou learn those wild songs?"

"From Sister Clarice, in the convent," answered Victorine. "It is only
last Easter that my grandfather fetched me from the convent to live with
him and my aunt Jeanne."

"Thy aunt Jeanne," said Willan, slowly. "Is she thy aunt?"

"Yes," said Victorine, sadly; "she that was thy father's wife, whom thou
wilt not have in thy house."

This was a bold stroke on Victorine's part. To tell truth, she had had
no idea one moment before of saying any such thing; but a sudden emotion
of resentment got the better of her, and the words were uttered before
she knew it.

Willan was angry. "All alike," he thought to himself, - "a bad lot. I
dare say the woman has set the girl here for nothing else than to try to
play on my feelings." And it was in a very cold tone that he replied to
Victorine, -

"Thou art not able to judge of such matters at thy age. Thy aunt is
better here than there. Thou knowest," he added in a gentler tone,
seeing Victorine's great black eyes swimming in sudden tears, "that she
was never as mother to me. I had never seen her till I returned a man
grown."

Victorine was sobbing now. "Oh," she cried, "what ill luck is mine! I
have angered thee; and my aunt did especially charge me that I was to
treat thee well. She doth never speak an ill word of thee, sir, never!
Do not thou charge my hasty words to her." And Victorine leaned out of
the window, and looked up in Willan Blaycke's face with a look which she
had had good reason to know was well calculated to move a man's heart.

Willan Blaycke had led a singularly pure life. He was of a reticent and
partly phlegmatic nature; though he looked so like his father, he
resembled him little in temperament. This calmness of nature, added to a
deep-seated pride, had stood him in stead of firmly rooted principles of
virtue, and had carried him safe through all the temptations of his
unprotected and lonely youth. He had the air and bearing, and had had in
most things the experience, of a man of the world; and yet he was as
ignorant of the wily ways of a wily woman as if he had never been out of
the wilderness. Victorine's tears smote on him poignantly.

"Thou poor child!" he said most kindly, "do not weep. Thou hast done no
harm. I bear no ill will to thine aunt, and never did; and if I had,
thou wouldst have disarmed it. This inn seems to me no place for a young
maiden like thee."

Victorine glanced cautiously around her, and whispered: "It were
ungrateful in me to say as much; but oh, sir, if thou didst but know how
I wish myself back in the convent! I like not the ways of this place;
and I fear so much the men who are often here. When thou didst speak at
first I did think thou wert like them; but now I perceive that thou art
quite different. Thou seemest to me like the men of whom Sister Clarice
did tell me." Victorine stopped, called up a blush to her cheeks, and
said: "But I must not stay talking with thee. My aunt will be looking
for me."

"Stay," said Willan. "What did the Sister Clarice tell thee of men? I
thought not that nuns conversed on such matters."

"Oh!" replied Victorine, innocently, "it was different with the Sister
Clarice. She was a noble lady who had been betrothed, and her betrothed
died; and it was because there were none left so noble and so good as
he, she said, that she had taken the veil and would die in the convent.
She did talk to me whole nights about this young lord whom she was to
have wed, and she did think often that she saw his face look down
through the roof of the cell."

Clever Victorine! She had invented this tale on the spur of the instant.
She could not have done better if she had plotted long to devise a
method of flattering Willan Blaycke. It is strange how like inspiration
are the impulses of artful women at times. It would seem wellnigh
certain that they must be prompted by malicious fiends wishing to lure
men on to destruction in the surest way.

Victorine had talked with Willan perhaps five minutes. In that space of
time she had persuaded him of four things, all false, - that she was an
innocent, guileless girl; that she had been seized with a sudden and
reverential admiration for him; that she had no greater desire in life
than to be back again in the safe shelter of the convent; and that her
aunt Jeanne had never said an ill-word of him.

"Victorine! Victorine!" called a sharp loud voice, - the voice of
Jeanne, - who would have bitten her tongue out rather than have broken
in on this interview, if she had only known. "Victorine, where art thou
loitering?"

"Oh, for heaven's sake, sir, do not thou tell my grandfather that I have
talked with thee!" cried Victorine, in feigned terror. "Here I am, aunt;
I will be there in one second," she cried aloud, and ran hastily down
the storeroom. At the door she stopped, hesitated, turned back, and
going towards the window said wistfully: "Thou hast never been here
before all these three months. I suppose thou travellest this way very
seldom."

The full moon shone on Victorine's face as she said this. Her expression
was like that of a wistful little child. Willan Blaycke did not quite
know what he was doing. He reached his hand across the window-sill
towards Victorine; she did not extend hers. "I will come again sooner,"
he said. "Wilt thou not shake hands?"

Victorine advanced, hesitated, advanced again; it was inimitably done.
"The next time, if I know thee better, I might dare," she whispered, and
fled like a deer.

"Where hast thou been?" said Jeanne, angrily. "The supper dishes are
yet all to wash."

Victorine danced gayly around the kitchen floor. "Talking with the son
of thy husband," she said. "He seems to me much cleverer than a magpie."

Jeanne burst out laughing. "Thou witch!" she said, secretly well
pleased. "But where didst thou fall upon him? Thou hast not been in the
bar-room?"

"Nay, he fell upon me, the rather," replied Victorine, artlessly, "as I
was resting me at the window of the long storeroom. He heard me singing,
and came there."

"Did he praise thy voice?" asked Jeanne. "He is a brave singer himself."

"Is he?" said Victorine, eagerly. "He did not tell me that. He said my
voice was like the voice of a wild bird. And there be birds and birds
again, I was minded to tell him, and not all birds make music; but he
seemed to me not one to take jests readily."

"So," said Jeanne; "that he is not. Leaves he early in the morning?"

"I think so," replied Victorine. "He did not tell me, but I heard the
elder man say to Benoit to have the horses ready at earliest light."

"Thou must serve them again in the morning," said Jeanne. "It will be
but the once more."

"Nay," answered Victorine, "I will not."

Something in the girl's tone arrested her aunt's attention. "And why?"
she said sharply, looking scrutinizingly at her.

Victorine returned the gaze with one as steady. It was as well, she
thought, that there should be an understanding between her aunt and
herself soon as late.

"Because he will come again the sooner, Aunt Jeanne, if he sees me no
more after to-night." And Victorine gave a little mocking nod with her
head, turned towards the dresser piled high with dishes, and began to
make a great clatter washing them.

Jeanne was silent. She did not know how to take this.

Victorine glanced up at her mischievously, and laughed aloud. "Better a
grape for me than two figs for thee. Dost know the old proverb, Aunt
Jeanne? Thou hadst thy figs; I will e'en pluck the grape."

"Bah, child! thou talkest wildly," said Jeanne; "I know not what thou
'rt at."

But she did know very well; only she did not choose to seem to
understand. However, as she thought matters over later in the evening,
in the solitude of her own room, one thing was clear to her, and that
was that it would probably be safe to trust Mademoiselle Victorine to
row her own boat; and Jeanne said as much to her father when he inquired
of her how matters had sped.

In spite of Victorine's refusal to serve at the breakfast, she had not
the least idea of letting Willan go away in the morning without being
reminded of her presence. She was up before light, dressed in a pretty
pink and white flowered gown, which set off her black hair and eyes
well, and made her look as if she were related to an apple-blossom. She
watched and listened till she heard the sound of voices and the horses'
feet in the courtyard below; then throwing open her casement she leaned
out and began to water her flowers on the stairway roof. At the first
sound Willan Blaycke looked up and saw her. It was as pretty a picture
as a man need wish to see, and Willan gazed his fill at it. The window
was so high up in the air that the girl might well be supposed not to
see anything which was going on in the courtyard; indeed, she never once
looked that way, but went on daintily watering plant after plant,
picking off dead leaves, crumpling them up in her fingers and throwing
them down as if she were alone in the place; singing, too, softly in a
low tone snatches of a song, the words of which went floating away
tantalizingly over Willan's head, in spite of all his efforts to hear.

It was a great tribute to Victorine's powers as an actress that it never
once crossed Willan's mind that she could possibly know he was looking
at her all this time. It was equally a token of another man's estimate
of her, that when old Benoit, hearing the singing, looked up and saw her
watering her flowers at this unexampled hour, he said under his breath,
"Diable!" and then glancing at the face of Willan, who stood gazing up
at the window utterly unconscious of the old ostler's presence, said
"Diable!" again, but this time with a broad and amused smile.



III.


The fountain leaps as if its nearest goal
Were sky, and shines as if its life were light.
No crystal prism flashes on our sight
Such radiant splendor of the rainbow's whole
Of color. Who would dream the fountain stole
Its tints, and if the sun no more were bright
Would instant fade to its own pallid white?


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