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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 139 pages of information about Queen Hildegarde.
saying a word, but just shaking his head over and over again.  ’What’s the matter, Jacob?’ I said.  ‘Matter?’ said he.  ‘Matter enough, Marm Lucy’ (he’s always called me Marm Lucy, my dear, since the very day we were married, though I wasn’t very much older than you then).  ‘Simon’s married,’ he said, ‘and I’ve seen his wife.’  Of course I was surprised, and I wanted to know all about it.  ‘What sort of a girl is she?’ I asked.  ’Is she pretty?  What color is her hair?’ But Jacob put up his hand and stopped me.  ‘Thar!’ he says, ’don’t ask no questions, and I’ll tell ye.  Fust place, she ain’t no gal, no more’n yer Aunt Saleny is!’ (that was a maiden aunt of mine, dear, and well over forty at that time.) ’And what does she look like?’ ’Wal!  D’ye ever see an old cedar fence-rail,—­one that had been chumped out with a blunt axe, and had laid out in the sun and the wind and the snow and the rain till ’twas warped this way, and shrunk that way, and twisted every way?  Wal!  Simon’s wife looks as if she had swallowed one o’ them fence-rails, and shrunk to it!  Dear, dear! how I laughed.  And ’twas true, my dear!  It was just the way she did look.  Poor soul! she led a sad life; for when Simon found he’d made a mistake about the money, there was no word too bad for him to fling at her.”

At this moment Farmer Hartley’s step was heard in the porch, and Nurse Lucy rose hurriedly.  “Don’t say anything to him, Hilda dear,” she whispered,—­“anything about Simon, I mean.  I’ll tell him to-morrow; but I don’t want to trouble him to-night.  This is our Faith’s birthday,—­seventeen year old she’d have been to-day; and it’s been a right hard day for Jacob!  I’ll tell him about it in the morning.”

Alas! when morning came it was too late.  The kitchen door was swinging idly open; the desk was broken open and rifled; and Simon Hartley was gone, and with him the savings of ten years’ patient labor.

CHAPTER XII.

THE OLD MILL.

It was a sad group that sat in the pleasant kitchen that bright September morning.  The good farmer sat before his empty desk, seeming half stupefied by the blow which had fallen so suddenly upon him, while his wife hung about him, reproaching herself bitterly for not having put him on his guard the night before.  Hildegarde moved restlessly about the kitchen, setting things to rights, as she thought, though in reality she hardly knew what she was doing, and had already carefully deposited the teapot in the coal-hod, and laid the broom on the top shelf of the dresser.  Her heart was full of wrath and sorrow,—­fierce anger against the miserable wretch who had robbed his benefactor; sympathy for her kind friends, brought thus suddenly from comfort to distress.  For she knew now that the money which Simon had stolen had been drawn from the bank only two days before to pay off the mortgage on the farm.

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