Helen Hunt Jackson.

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Who dream that never higher than the dole
Of its own source, its stream may rise?
Thus we
See often hearts of men that by love's glow
Are sudden lighted, lifted till they show
All semblances of true nobility;
The passion spent, they tire of purity,
And sink again to their own levels low!

The next time Willan Blaycke came to the Golden Pear he did not see
Victorine. This was by no device of hers, though if she had considered
beforehand she could not better have helped on the impression she had
made on him than by letting him go away disappointed, having come hoping
to see her. She was away on a visit at the home of Pierre Gaspard the
miller, whose eldest daughter Annette was Victorine's one friend in the
parish. There was an eldest son, also, Pierre second, on whom
Mademoiselle Victorine had cast observant glances, and had already
thought to herself that "if nothing else turned up - but there was time
enough yet." Not so thought Pierre, who was madly in love with
Victorine, and was so put about by her cold and capricious ways with him
that he was fast coming to be good for nothing in the mill or on the
farm. But he is of no consequence in this account of the career of
Mademoiselle, only this, - that if it had not been for him she had not
probably been away from the Golden Pear on the occasion of Willan
Blaycke's second visit. Pierre had not shown himself at the inn for some
weeks, and Victorine was uneasy about him. Spite of her plans about a
much finer bird in the bush, she was by no means minded to lose the bird
she had in hand. She was too clear-sighted a young lady not to perceive
that it would be no bad thing to be ultimately Mistress Gaspard of the
mill, - no bad thing if she could not do better, of which she was as yet
far from sure. So she had inveigled her aunt into taking the notion into
her head that she needed change, and the two had ridden over to
Gaspard's for a three days' visit, the very day before Willan arrived.

"I warrant me he was set aback when I did tell him as he alighted that I
feared me he would not be well served just at present, as there was no
woman about the house," said Victor, chuckling as he told Jeanne the
story. "He did give a little start, - not so little but that I saw it
well, though he fetched himself up with his pride in a trice, and said
loftily: 'I have no doubt all will be sufficient; it is but a bite of
supper and a bed that I require. I must go on at daybreak,' But Benoit
saw him all the evening pacing back and forth under the pear-tree, and
many times looking up at the shut casement of the window where he had
seen Victorine standing on the morning when he was last here."

"Did he ask aught about her?" said Jeanne.

"Bah!" said Victor, contemptuously. "Dost take him for a fool? He will
be farther gone than he is yet, ere he will let either thee or me see
that the girl is aught to him."

"I wish he had found her here," said Jeanne. "It was an ill bit of luck
that took her away; and that Pierre, he is like to go mad about her,
since these three days under one roof. I knew not he was so daft, or I
had not taken her there."

"She were well wed to Pierre Gaspard," said Victor; "mated with one's
own degree is best mated, after all. What shall we say if the lad come
asking her hand? He will not ask twice, I can tell you that of a

"Trust the girl to keep him from asking till she be ready to say him yea
or nay," replied Jeanne. "I know not wherever the child hath learnt such
ways with men; surely in the convent she saw none but priests."

"And are not priests men?" sneered Victor, with an evil laugh. "Faith,
and I think there is nought which other men teach which they do not
teach better!"

"Fie, father! thou shouldst not speak ill of the clergy; it is bad
luck," said Jeanne. Jeanne was far honester of nature than either her
father or her child; she was not entirely without reverence, and as far
as she could, without too much inconvenience, kept good faith with her

When Victorine heard that Willan Blaycke had been at the inn in their
absence, she shrugged her pretty shoulders, and said, laughingly, "Eh,
but that is good!"

"Why sayest thou so?" replied Jeanne. "I say it is ill."

"And I say it is good," retorted Victorine; and not another word could
Jeanne get out of her on the matter.

Victorine was right. As Willan Blaycke rode away from the Golden Pear,
he was so vexed with the unexpected disappointment that he was in a mood
fit to do some desperate thing. He had tried with all his might to put
Victorine's face and voice and sweet little form out of his thoughts,
but it was beyond his power. She haunted him by day and by night, - worse
by night than by day, - for he dreamed continually of standing just the
other side of a window-sill across which Victorine reached snowy little
hands and laid them in his, and just as he was about to grasp them the
vision faded, and he waked up to find himself alone. Willan Blaycke had
never loved any woman. If he had, - if he had had even the least
experience in the way of passionate fancies, he could have rated this
impression which Victorine had produced on him for what it was worth and
no more, and taking counsel of his pride have waited till the discomfort
of it should have passed away. But he knew no better than to suppose
that because it was so keen, so haunting, it must last forever. He was
almost appalled at the condition in which he found himself. It more than
equalled all the descriptions which he had read of unquenchable love. He
could not eat; he could not occupy himself with any affairs: all
business was tedious to him, and all society irksome. He lay awake long
hours, seeing the arch black eyes and rosy cheeks and piquant little
mouth; worn out by restlessness, he slept, only to see the eyes and
cheeks and mouth more vividly. It was all to no purpose that he reasoned
with himself, - that he asked himself sternly a hundred times a day, -

"Wilt thou take the granddaughter of Victor Dubois to be the mother of
thy children? Is it not enough that thy father disgraced his name for
that blood? Wilt thou do likewise?"

The only answer which came to all these questions was Victorine's soft
whisper: "Oh, if thou didst but know, sir, how I wish myself safe back
in the convent!" and, "Thou seemest to me like the men of whom Sister
Clarice did tell me."

"Poor little girl!" he said; "she is of their blood, but not of their
sort. Her mother was doubtless a good and pure woman, even though she
had not good birth or breeding; and this child hath had good training
from the Sisters in the convent. She is of a most ladylike bearing, and
has a fine sense of all which is proper and becoming, else would she not
so dislike the ways of an inn, and have such fear of the men that gaze
on her there."

So touching is the blindness of those blinded by love! It is enough to
make one weep sometimes to see it, - to see, as in this instance of
Willan Blaycke, an upright, modest, and honest gentleman creating out of
the very virtues of his own nature the being whom he will worship, and
then clothing this ideal with a bit of common clay, of immodest and
ill-behaved flesh, which he hath found ready-made to his hand, and full
of the snare of good looks.

When Willan Blaycke rode away this time from the Golden Pear, he was, as
we say, in a mood ready to do some desperate thing, he was so vexed and
disappointed. What he did do, proved it; he turned his horse and rode
straight for Gaspard's mill. The artful Benoit had innocently dropped
the remark, as he was holding the stirrup for Willan to mount, that
Mistress Jeanne and her niece were at Pierre Gaspard's; that for his
part he wished them back, - there was no luck about a house without a
woman in it.

Willan Blaycke made some indifferent reply, as if all that were nothing
to him, and galloped off. But before he had gone five miles Benoit's
leaven worked, and he turned into a short-cut lane he knew which led to
the mill. He did not stop to ask himself what he should do there; he
simply galloped on towards Victorine. It was only a couple of leagues to
the mill, and its old tower and wheel were in sight before he thought of
its being near. Then he began to consider what errand he could make;
none occurred to him. He reined his horse up to a slow walk, and fell
into a reverie, - so deep a one that he did not see what he might have
seen had he looked attentively into a copse of poplars on a high bank
close to his road, - two young girls sitting on the ground peeling
slender willow stems for baskets. It was Annette Gaspard and Victorine;
and at the sound of a horse's feet they both leaned forward and looked
down into the road.

"Oh, see, Victorine!" Annette cried; "a brave rider goes there. Who can
he be? I wonder if he goes to the mill? Perhaps my father will keep him
to dinner."

At the first glance Victorine recognized Willan Blaycke, but she gave no
sign to her friend that she knew him.

"He sitteth his horse like one asleep," she said, "or in a dream. I call
him not a brave rider. He hath forgotten something," she added; "see, he
is turning about!" And with keen disappointment the girls saw the
horseman wheel suddenly, and gallop back on the road he had come. At the
last moment, by a mighty effort, Willan had wrenched his will to the
decision that he would not seek Victorine at the mill.

And this was why, when her aunt told her that he had been at the inn
during their absence, Victorine shrugged her shoulders, and said with so
pleased a laugh, "Eh! that is good." She understood by a lightning
intuition all which had happened, - that he had ridden towards the mill
seeking her, and had changed his mind at the last, and gone away. But
she kept her own counsel, told nobody that she had seen him, and said in
her mischievous heart, "He will be back before long."

And so he was; but not even Victorine, with all her confidence in the
strength of the hold she had so suddenly acquired on him, could have
imagined how soon and with what purpose he would return. On the evening
of the sixth day, just at sunset, he appeared, walking with his
saddle-bags on his shoulders and leading his horse. The beast limped
badly, and had evidently got a sore hurt. Old Benoit was standing in the
arched entrance of the courtyard as they approached.

"Marry, but that beast is in a bad way!" he exclaimed, and went to meet
them. Benoit loved a horse; and Willan Blaycke's black stallion was a
horse to which any man's heart might well go out, so knowing, docile,
proud, and swift was the creature, and withal most beautifully made. The
poor thing went haltingly enough now, and every few minutes stopped and
looked around piteously into his master's face.

"And the man doth look as distressed as the beast," thought Benoit, as
he drew near; "it is a good man that so loves an animal." And Benoit
warmed toward Willan as he saw his anxious face.

If Benoit had only known! No wonder Willan's face was sorrow-stricken!
It was he himself that had purposely lamed the stallion, that he might
have plain and reasonable excuse for staying at the Golden Pear some
days. He had not meant to hurt the poor creature so much, and his
conscience pricked him horribly at every step the horse took. He patted
him on his neck, spoke kindly to him, and did all in his power to atone
for his cruelty. That all was very little, however, for each step was
torture to the beast; his fore feet were nearly bleeding. This was what
Willan had done: the day before he had taken off two of the horse's
shoes, and then galloped fast over miles of rough and stony road. The
horse had borne himself gallantly, and shown no fatigue till nightfall,
when he suddenly went lame, and had grown worse in the night, so that
Willan had come very near having to lie by at an inn some leagues to the
north, where he had no mind to stay. A heavy price he was paying for the
delight of looking on Victorine's face, he began to think, as he toiled
along on foot, mile after mile, the saddle-bags on his shoulders, and
the hot sun beating down on his head; but reach the Golden Pear that day
he would, and he did, - almost as footsore as the stallion. Neither
master nor beast was wonted to rough ways.

"My horse is sadly lame," Willan said to Benoit as he came up. "He cast
two shoes yesterday, and I was forced to ride on, spite of it, for there
was no blacksmith on the road I came. I fear me thou canst not shoe him
to-night, his feet have grown so sore!"

"No, nor to-morrow nor the day after," cried Benoit, taking up the
inflamed feet and looking at them closely. "It was a sin, sir, to ride
such a creature unshod; he is a noble steed."

"Nay, I have not ridden a step to-day," answered Willan, "and I am
wellnigh as sore as he. We have come all the way from the north
boundary, - a matter of some six leagues, I think, - from the inn of Jean

"But he is a farrier himself!" cried Benoit. "How let he the beast go
out like this?"

"It was I forbade him to touch the horse," replied the wily Willan. "He
did lame a good mare for me once, driving a nail into the quick. I
thought the horse would be better to walk this far and get thy more
skilful handling. There is not a man in this country, they tell me, can
shoe a horse so well as thou. Dost thou not know some secret of
healing," he continued, "by which thou canst harden the feet, so that
they will be fit to shoe to-morrow?"

Benoit shook his head. "Thy horse hath been too tenderly reared," he
said. "A hurt goes harder with him than with our horses. But I will do
my best, sir. I doubt not it will inconvenience thee much to wait here
till he be well. If thou couldst content thee with a beast sorry to look
at, but like the wind to go, we have a nag would carry thee along, and
thou couldst leave the stallion till thy return."

"But I come not back this way," replied Willan, strangely ready with his
lies, now he had once undertaken the r√іle of a manoeuvrer. "I go far
south, even down to the harbors of the sound. I must bide the beast's
time now. He hath made time for me many a day, and I do assure you, good
Benoit, I love him as if he were my brother."

"Ay," replied the ostler; "so thought I when I saw thee bent under thy
saddle-bags and leading the horse by the rein. It's an evil man likes
not his beast. We say in Normandy, sir, -

"'Evil master to good beast,
Serve him ill at every feast!'"

"So he deserves," replied Willan, heartily; and in his heart he added,
"I hope I shall not get my deserts."

Benoit led the poor horse away toward the stables, and Willan entered
the house. No one was to be seen. Benoit had forgotten to tell him that
no one was at home except Victorine. It was a market-day at St. Urban's;
and Victor and Jeanne had gone for the day, and would not be back till
late in the evening.

Willan roamed on from room to room, - through the bar-room, the
living-room, the kitchen; all were empty, silent. As he retraced his
steps he stopped for a second at the foot of the stairs which led from
the living-room to the narrow passage-way overhead.

Victorine was in her aunt's room, and heard the steps. "Who is there?"
she called. Willan recognized her voice; he considered a second what he
should reply.

"Benoit! is it thou?" Victorine called again impatiently; and the next
minute she bounded down the stairway, crying, "Why dost thou terrify me
so, thou bad Benoit, not answering me when I - " She stopped, face to
face with Willan Blaycke, and gave a cry of honest surprise.

"Ah! but is it really thou?" she said, the rosy color mounting all over
her face as she recollected how she was attired. She had been asleep
all the warm afternoon, and had on only a white petticoat and a short
gown of figured stuff, red and white. Her hair was falling over her
shoulders. Willan's heart gave a bound as he looked at her. Before he
had fairly seen her, she had turned to fly.

"Yes, it is I, - it is I," he called after her. "Wilt thou not come

"Nay," answered Victorine, from the upper stair; "that I may not do, for
the house is alone." Victorine was herself now, and was wise enough not
to go quite out of sight. She looked entrancing between the dark wooden
balustrades, one slender hand holding to them, and the other catching up
part of her hair. "When my aunt returns, if she bids me to wait at
supper I shall see thee." And Victorine was gone.

"Then sing for me at thy window," entreated Willan.

"I know not the whole of any song," cried Victorine; but broke, as she
said it, into a snatch of a carol which seemed to the poor infatuated
man at the foot of the stairway like the song of an angel. He hurried
out, and threw himself down under the pear-tree where he had lain
before. The blossoms had all fallen from the pear-tree now, and through
the thinned branches he could see Victorine's window distinctly. She
could see him also.

"It would be no hard thing to love such a man as he, methinks," she said
to herself as she went on leisurely weaving the thick braids of her
hair, and humming a song just low enough for Willan to half hear and
half lose the words.

"Once in a hedge a bird went singing,
Singing because there was nobody near.
Close to the hedge a voice came crying,
'Sing it again! I am waiting to hear.
Sing it forever! 'T is sweet to hear.'

"Never again that bird went singing
Till it was surer that no one was near.
Long in that hedge there was somebody waiting,
Crying in vain, 'I am waiting to hear.
Sing it again! It was sweet to hear.'"

"I wonder if Sister Clarice's lover had asked her to sing, as Willan
Blaycke just now asked me, that she did make this song," thought
Victorine. "It hath a marvellous fitness, surely." And she repeated the
last three lines.

"Long in that hedge there was somebody waiting,
Crying in vain, 'I am waiting to hear.
Sing it again! It was sweet to hear.'"

"But I should be silent like the bird, and not sing," she reflected, and
paused for a while. Willan listened patiently for a few moments. Then
growing impatient, he picked up a handful of turf and flung it up at the
window. Victorine laughed to herself as she heard it, but did not sing.
Another soft thud against the casement; no reply from Victorine. Then in
a moment more, in a rich deep voice, and a tune far sweeter than any
Victorine had sung, came these words: -

"Faint and weary toiled a pilgrim,
Faint and weary of his load;
Sudden came a sweet bird winging
Glad and swift across his road.

"'Blessed songster!' cried the pilgrim,
'Where is now the load I bore?
I forget it in thy singing;
Hearing thee, I faint no more,'

"While he spoke the bird went winging
Higher still, and soared away;
'Cruel songster!' cried the pilgrim,
'Cruel songster not to stay!'

"Was the songster cruel? Never!
High above some other road
Glad and swift he still was singing,
Lightening other pilgrims' load!"

Victorine bent her head and listened intently to this song. It touched
the best side of her nature.

"Indeed, that is a good song," she said to herself, "but it fitteth not
my singing. I make choice for whom I sing; I am not minded so to give
pleasure to all the world."

She racked her brains to recall some song which would be as pertinent a
reply to Willan's song as his had been to hers; but she could think of
none. She was vexed; for the romance of this conversing by means of
songs pleased her mightily. At last, half in earnest and half in fun,
she struck boldly into a measure on which she would hardly have ventured
could she have seen the serious and tender expression on the face of her
listener under the pear-tree. As Willan caught line after line of the
rollicking measure, his countenance changed.

"An elfish mood is upon her," he thought. "She doth hold herself so safe
in her chamber that she may venture on words she had not sung nearer at
hand. She is not without mischief in her blood, no doubt." And Willan's
own look began to grow less reverential and more eager as he listened.

"The bee is a fool in the summer;
He knows it when summer is flown:
He might, for all good of his honey,
As well have let flowers alone.

"The butterfly, he is the wiser;
He uses his wings when they 're grown;
He takes his delight in the summer,
And dies when the summer is done.

"A heart is a weight in the bosom;
A heart can be heavy as stone:
Oh, what is the use of a lover?
A maiden is better alone."

Victorine was a little frightened herself, as she sang this last stanza.
However, she said to herself: "I will bear me so discreetly at supper
that the man shall doubt his very ears if he have ever heard me sing
such words or not. It is well to perplex a man. The more he be
perplexed, the more he meditateth on thee; and the more he meditateth on
thee, the more his desire will grow, if it have once taken root."

A very wise young lady in her generation was this graduate of a convent
where no men save priests ever came!

Just as Victorine had sung the last verse of her song, she heard the
sound of wheels and voices on the road. Victor and Jeanne were coming
home. Willan heard the sounds also, and slowly arose from the ground and
sauntered into the courtyard. He had an instinct that it would be better
not to be seen under the pear-tree.

Great was the satisfaction of Victor and Jeanne when they found that
Willan Blaycke was a guest in the inn; still greater when they learned
that he would be kept there for at least two days by the lameness of his

"Thou need'st not make great haste with the healing of the beast," said
Victor to Benoit; "it might be a good turn to keep the man here for a
space." And the master exchanged one significant glance with his man,
and saw that he need say no more.

There was no such specific understanding between Jeanne and Victorine.
From some perverse and roguish impulse the girl chose to take no counsel
in this game she had begun to play; but each woman knew that the other
comprehended the situation perfectly.

When Victorine came into the dining-room to serve Willan Blaycke's
supper, she looked, to his eyes, prettier than ever. She wore the same
white gown and black silk apron with crimson lace she had worn before.
Her cheeks and her eyes were bright from the excitement of the
serenading and counter-serenading in which she had been engaged. Her
whole bearing was an inimitable blending of shyness and archness,
tempered by almost reverential respect. Willan Blaycke would have been
either more or less than mortal man if he had resisted it. He did
not, - he succumbed then and there and utterly to his love for Victorine;
and the next morning when breakfast was ready he electrified Victor
Dubois by saying, with a not wholly successful attempt at jocularity, -

"Look you! your man tells me I am like to be kept here a matter of some
three days or more, before my horse be fit to bear me. Now, it irks me
to be the cause of so much trouble, seeing that I am the only traveller
in the house. I pray you that I may sit down with you all at meal-times,
as is your wont, and that you make no change in the manner of your
living by reason of my being in the house. I shall be better pleased

There was about as much command as request in Willan's manner; and after
some pretended hesitancy Victor yielded, only saying, by way of
breaking down the last barrier, -

"My daughter hath desired not to see thee. I know not how she may take
this request of thine; it seemeth but reasonable unto me, and it will be
that saving of work for her. I think she may consent."

Nothing but her love for Victorine would have induced Jeanne to sit
again at meat with her stepson, but for Victorine's sake Jeanne would
have done much harder things; and indeed, after the first few moments of
awkwardness had passed by, she found that she was much less
uncomfortable in Willan's presence than she had anticipated.

Willan's own manner did much to bring this about. He was so deeply in
love with Victorine that it had already transformed his sentiments on
most points, and on none more than in regard to Jeanne. He thought no
better of her character than he had thought before; but he found himself
frequently recollecting, as he had never done before, or at least had
never done in a kindly way, that, after all, she had been his father's
wife for ten years, and it would perhaps have been a more dignified
thing in him to have attempted to make her continue in a style of living

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