She pushed open the picket-gate, and came into the room where her sister lay in bed.
“Eh, Anne Marie, my girl,” she called in her thick, pebbly voice, apparently made purposely to suit her rough Gascon accent; “this time we have caught it!”
[Illustration: “THIS TIME WE HAVE CAUGHT IT!”]
“Whose ticket?” asked Anne Marie, instantly.
In a flash all Anne Marie’s ill luck ran through Jeanne Marie’s mind; how her promised husband had proved unfaithful, and Jeanne Marie’s faithful; and how, ever since, even to the coming out of her lottery numbers, even to the selling of vegetables, even to the catching of the rheumatism, she had been the loser. But above all, as she looked at Anne Marie in the bed, all the misery came over Jeanne Marie of her sister’s not being able, in all her poor old seventy-five years of life, to remember the pressure of the arms of a husband about her waist, nor the mouth of a child on her breast.
As soon as Anne Marie had asked her question, Jeanne Marie answered it.
“But your ticket, Coton-Mai!"
[Footnote 1: Coton-Mai is an innocent oath invented by the good, pious priest as a substitute for one more harmful.]
“Where? Give it here! Give it here!”
The old woman, who had not been able to move her back for weeks, sat bolt upright in bed, and stretched out her great bony fingers, with the long nails as hard and black as rake-prongs from groveling in the earth.
Jeanne Marie poured the money out of her cotton handkerchief into them.
Anne Marie counted it, looked at it; looked at it, counted it; and if she had not been so old, so infirm, so toothless, the smile that passed over her face would have made it beautiful.
Jeanne Marie had to leave her to draw water from the well to water the plants, and to get her vegetables ready for next morning. She felt even happier now than if she had just had a child, happier even than if her husband had just returned to her.
“Ill luck! Coton-Mai! Ill luck! There’s a way to turn ill luck!” And her smile also should have beautified her face, wrinkled and ugly though it was.
She did not think any more of the spending of the money, only of the pleasure Anne Marie would take in spending it.
The water was low in the well, and there had been a long drought. There are not many old women of seventy-five who could have watered so much ground as abundantly as she did; but whenever she thought of the forty dollars and Anne Marie’s smile she would give the thirsting plant an extra bucketful.