Being the only dwelling in the neighborhood sufficiently commodious for the purpose, its occupants, making a virtue of necessity, were in the habit of entertaining occasional travellers who happened to visit the region.
But, softly,—Mr. Norton has wakened. He was just beginning to dream of home and its dear delights, when a door-latch was lifted, and a young girl entering, began to make preparations for supper. She moved quickly towards the fire, and with a pair of iron tongs, deftly raided the ponderous cover of the Dutch oven, hanging over the blaze. The wheaten rolls it contained were nearly baked, and emitted a fragrant and appetizing odor.
She refitted the cover, and then opening a closet, took from it a lacquered Chinese tea-caddy and a silver urn, and proceeded to arrange the tea-table.
Mr. Norton, observing her attentively with his keen, gray eyes, asked, “How long has your father lived in this place, my child?”
The maiden paused in her employment, and glancing at the broad, stalwart form and shrewd yet honest face of the questioner, replied, “Nearly twenty years, sir”.
Mr. Norton’s quick ear immediately detected, in her words a delicate, foreign accent, quite unfamiliar to him. After a moment’s silence he spoke again.
“Dubois,—that is your name, is it not? A French name?”
“Yes, sir, my parents are natives of France”.
“Ah! indeed!” responded Mr. Norton, and the family in which he found himself was immediately invested with new interest in his eyes.
“Where is your father at the present time, my dear child?”
“He is away at Fredericton. He has gone to obtain family supplies. I hope he is not obliged to be out this stormy night, but I fear he is”.
She made the sign of the cross on her breast and glanced upward.
Mr. Norton observed the movement, and at the same time saw, what had before escaped his notice, a string of glittering, black beads upon her neck, with a black cross, half hidden by the folds in the waist of her dress. It was an instant revelation to hint of the faith in which she had been trained. He fell into a fit of musing.
In the mean time, Adele Dubois completed her preparations for the tea-table,—not one of her accustomed duties, but one which she sometimes took a fancy to perform.
She was sixteen years old,—tall already, and rapidly growing taller, with a figure neither large, nor slender. Her complexion was pure white, scarcely tinged with rose; her eyes were large and brown, now shooting out a bright, joyous light, then veiled in dreamy shadows. A rich mass of dark hair was divided into braids, gracefully looped up around her head. Her dress was composed of a plain red material of wool. Her only ornaments were the rosary and cross on her neck.
A mulatto girl now appeared from the adjoining kitchen and placed upon the table a dish of cold, sliced chicken, boiled eggs and pickles, together with the steaming wheaten rolls from the Dutch oven.