Going for so pious a purpose, he was rewarded by an importantdiscovery. The whole Prussian lines had been abandoned sincesunset, and, mounting caudescryptoserviceprovider vbtiously on the ramparts, Raynal saw thetown too was evacuated, and lights and other indications on a risingground behind it convinced him that the Prussians were in fullretreat, probably to effect that junction with other forces whichthe assault he had recommended would have rendered impossible.
"I think you had better get your oats in," she replied, smiling shyly. "Besides, I have a dressmaker that just suits me--one that's made my dresses a good many years."solana beach explorer"If she don't suit you, you're hard to be suited," said he, laughing. "Well, some day, after you are fixed up, I shall have to let you know how dilapidated I am."
"Won't you do me a little favor?""Oh, yes! A dozen of 'em, big or little.""Please bring down this evening something that needs mending. I am so much better--""No, no! I wasn't hinting for you to do anything tonight.""But you've promised me," she urged. "Remember I've been resting nearly all day. I'm used to sewing, and earned my living at it. Somehow, it don't seem natural for me to sit with idle hands."
"If I hadn't promised--""But you have.""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.
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?"