The little inn at the Sign
of the Rose,—ah, who can forget the place
Where Titania danced with the children small and lent them her elfin
And wherever they go and whatever they do in the years that turn them
They never forget the charm she said when she stole their hearts away!
THE GARDENS OF HELENE
“Is there not any saint of the kitchen, at all?” asked the serious-eyed little demoiselle sorting herbs under the pear-tree. Old Jacqueline, gathering the tiny fagots into her capacious apron, chuckled wisely.
“There should be, if there isn’t. Perhaps the good God thinks that the men will take care that there are kitchens, without His help.” She hobbled briskly into the house. Helene sat for a few minutes with hands folded, her small nose alert as a rabbit’s to the marvelous blend of odors in the hot sunshiny air.
It was a very agreeable place, that old French garden. There had been a kitchen-garden on that very spot for more than five hundred years; at least, so said Monsieur Lescarbot the lawyer, and he knew all about the history of the world. A part of the old wall had been there in the days of the First Crusade, and the rest looked as if it had. When Henry of Navarre dined at the Guildhall, before Ivry, they had come to Jacqueline for poultry and seasoning. She could show you exactly where she gathered the parsley, the thyme, the marjoram, the carrots and the onion for the stuffing, and from which tree the selected chestnuts came. A white hen proudly promenading the yard at this moment was the direct descendant of the fowl chosen for the King’s favorite dish of poulet en casserole.
But the common herbs were far from being all that this garden held. Besides the dozen or more herbs and as many vegetables which all cooks used, there were artichokes, cucumbers, peppers of several kinds, marigolds, rhubarb, and even two plants of that curious Peruvian vegetable with the golden-centered creamy white flowers, called po-te-to. Jacqueline’s husband, who had been a sea-captain, had brought those roots from Brazil, and she,—Helene,—who was very little then, had disgraced herself by gathering the flowers for a nosegay. It was after that that Jacqueline had begun to teach her what each plant was good for, and how it must be fed and tended. Helene had grown to feel that every plant, shrub or seedling was alive and had thoughts. In the delightful fairy tales that Monsieur Marc Lescarbot told her they were alive, and talked of her when they left their places at night and held moonlight dances.
Lescarbot’s thin keen face with the bald forehead and humorous eyes appeared now at the grille in the green door. He swept off his beret and made a deep bow. “Mademoiselle la bien-aimee de la bonne Sainte Marthe,” he said gravely, “may I come in?”