Madame Delphine looked down, twining her handkerchief among her fingers.
He repeated his proposition.
“You will come firz by you’se’f?” she asked.
“Iv you wand.”
She lifted up once more her eye of faith. That was her answer.
“Come,” he said, gently, “I wan’ sen’ some bird ad you’ lill’ gal.”
And they went away, Madame Delphine’s spirit grown so exaltedly bold that she said as they went, though a violent blush followed her words:
“Miche Vignevielle, I thing Pere Jerome mighd be ab’e to tell you someboddie.”
FACE TO FACE.
Madame Delphine found her house neither burned nor rifled.
“Ah! ma, piti sans popa! Ah I my little fatherless one!” Her faded bonnet fell back between her shoulders, hanging on by the strings, and her dropped basket, with its “few lill’ becassines-de-mer” dangling from the handle, rolled out its okra and soup-joint upon the floor. “Ma piti! kiss!—kiss!—kiss!”
“But is it good news you have, or bad?” cried the girl, a fourth or fifth time.
“Dieu sait, ma cere; mo pas conne!”—God knows, my darling; I cannot tell!
The mother dropped into a chair, covered her face with her apron, and burst into tears, then looked up with an effort to smile, and wept afresh.
“What have you been doing?” asked the daughter, in a long-drawn, fondling tone. She leaned forward and unfastened her mother’s bonnet-strings. “Why do you cry?”
“For nothing at all, my darling; for nothing—I am such a fool.”
The girl’s eyes filled. The mother looked up into her face and said:
“No, it is nothing, nothing, only that”—turning her head from side to side with a slow, emotional emphasis, “Miche Vignevielle is the best—best man on the good Lord’s earth!”
Olive drew a chair close to her mother, sat down and took the little yellow hands into her own white lap, and looked tenderly into her eyes. Madame Delphine felt herself yielding; she must make a show of telling something:
“He sent you those birds!”
The girl drew her face back a little. The little woman turned away, trying in vain to hide her tearful smile, and they laughed together, Olive mingling a daughter’s fond kiss with her laughter.
“There is something else,” she said, “and you shall tell me.”
“Yes,” replied Madame Delphine, “only let me get composed.”
But she did not get so. Later in the morning she came to Olive with the timid yet startling proposal that they would do what they could to brighten up the long-neglected front room. Olive was mystified and troubled, but consented, and thereupon the mother’s spirits rose.
The work began, and presently ensued all the thumping, the trundling, the lifting and letting down, the raising and swallowing of dust, and the smells of turpentine, brass, pumice and woollen rags that go to characterize a housekeeper’s emeute; and still, as the work progressed, Madame Delphine’s heart grew light, and her little black eyes sparkled.