« AnkstesnisTęsti »
There had been fresh rain in the night; the garden was radiant; the smell of the wet earth was sweeter than all perfumes that are burned in palaces. The dripping rosebuds nodded against her hair as she went out; the starling called to her “Bébée, Bébée-good-day, good-day!"
These were all the words it knew. It said the same thing a thousand times a week. But to Bébée it seemed that the starling most certainly knew that she was sixteen years old that day.
Breaking her bread into the milk, she sat in the dawn and thought, without knowing that she thought it, "How good it is to live when one is young!
Mother Krebs opened her door in the next cottage, and nodded over the wall:
"What a fine thing to be sixteen!-a merry year, Bébée!"
Marthe, the carpenter's wife, came out from her gate, broom in hand :
"The Holy Saints keep you, Bébée; why, you are quite a woman now!"
The little children of Varnhart, the charcoal burner, who were as poor as any mouse in the old churches, rushed out of their little home up the lane, bringing a cake stuck full of sugar and seeds, and tied round with a blue ribbon, that their mother had made that very week, all in honor of Bébée.
"Only see, Bébée! Such a grand cake!" they shouted, dancing down the lane. "Jules picked the plums, and Jeanne washed the almonds, and Christine took the ribbon off her own cap- all for you, all for you. But you will let us come and eat it too?"
Old grandmother Bishot, who was the oldest woman about Laeken, hobbled through the grass on her crutches and nodded her white shaking head, and smiled at Bébée.
Bébée ran out, breaking from the children, and knelt down in the wet grass, and bent her pretty sunny head to the benediction.
Trine, the miller's wife, the richest woman of them all, called to the child from the steps of the mill, "A merry year, and the blessing of Heaven, Bébée! Come up, and here is my first dish of cherries for you. They will make you a feast with the cake."
Bébée ran up and then down again gleefully, with her lap full of big black cherries. Tambour, the old white dog, who had used to drag her about in his milk cart, leaping upon her in sympathy and congratulation.
"What a supper we will have!" she cried to the charcoal burner's children, who were turning somersaults in the dock leaves, while the swans stared and hissed.
An old man called to her as she went by his door. He was very old. He had been a day laborer in these
same fields all his years, and had never traveled farther than where the red mill sails turned among the colza and the corn.
"Come in, my pretty one, for a second," he whispered, with an air of mystery that made Bébée's heart quicken with expectancy. "Come in; I have something for you. They were my dead daughter's you have heard me talk of her- Lisette, who died forty years ago, they say; for me, I think it was yesterday. The new mill was put up the week she died, and you call the new mill old; but my girl is young to me. Always young. Come here, Bébée."
Bébée went after him, a little awed, into the dusky interior, that smelt of stored apples and dried herbs that hung from the roof. There was a walnut-wood press, such as the peasants of France and the low countries keep their homespun linen in and their old lace that serves for the nuptials and baptisms of half a score of generations. The old man unlocked it with a trembling hand, and there came from it an odor of dead lavender and of withered rose leaves. On the shelves there were a set of girl's clothes, and a girl's shoes, and a girl's communion veil and wreath.
They are all hers," he whispered; "all hers. And sometimes in the evening time I see her coming along the lane for them - do you not know? There is nothing changed; nothing changed.
"The grass, and the trees, and the huts, and the pond are all here. Why should she only be gone away?"
"Antoine is gone."
"Yes. But he was old; my girl is young."
He stood a moment, with the press door open, a perplexed trouble in his dim eyes.
These are her
They say she would be sixty," he said, with a dreary little smile. "But that is absurd, you know. Why, she had cheeks like yours; and she would run— no lapwing could fly faster over corn. things, you see; yes, all of them. sprig of sweetbrier she wore in her belt the day before the wagon knocked her down and killed her. I have never touched the things.
There is the
"But look here, Bébée; you are a good child, and true; and like her, just a little. I mean to give you her silver clasps. They were her great-great-grand
mother's before her."
Bébée went out with the brave broad silver clasps about her waist, and the tears wet on her cheeks for a grief not her own.
But little Jean, the youngest of the charcoal burner's little tribe, running to meet her, screamed with glee, and danced in the gay morning.
Let me see
"Oh, Bébée! how you glitter! let me touch. Is it made of the stars or of the