“I may be a poor judge,” acknowledged Farr. “I have never yet taken root in the soil of any one place.”
“And I think, mebbe, the girl you do not understand! Is it to stay in the home and hear every day about you love the pig of a Leroux, bah? No, no, m’sieu’! That’s too proud, is Zelie Dionne. And so is Zelie Dionne too proud to take a son from a home that do not want her. So they wait.”
“It’s a tough old world, Uncle Etienne,” said Farr. “Why, even I, lord of my own affairs as I am, don’t know where I’m going to sleep to-night. Do you have a boarding-place?”
“I have my little room on the block up there—my room and my place at the big table. It is not grand. But there is place for you—and anodder little room. If you like you shall come and I will speak good for you.”
“All right, Etienne! Take me along and speak good for me.”
It was another such place as Block Ten. It was a crowded and stuffy warren, and the basement kitchen advertised itself with stale odors in all the corridors. But Farr was glad to stretch himself upon the narrow bed. He owned up to himself that he was a very weary bird of passage and confessed to his own heart, just as frankly, that he was a captive in the frail grasp of a little girl—and he did not try to understand.
POISON FOR THE POOR
It proved to be an amicable and satisfactory partnership between Etienne Provancher and Walker Farr and dark-eyed Zelie Dionne.
When the days were pleasant the old man kept the little girl with him out of doors on the canal bank. She did not trouble him by running about. Her long days of confinement in the attic room had accustomed her to remain quietly in one place. She sat contentedly in the shade and watched the bugs in the grass and the birds in the tree above her. In the cool of the evening she trudged along the canal bank with Farr and the play-mamma until eyes grew heavy and little feet stumbled with weariness and it was time for bed. Rainy evenings they studied the alphabet or he read to her from picture-books in blazing colors, and after a time she remembered all the stories and made believe read them to him.
He worked in the trench and looked forward impatiently to Saturday nights when the clerk came along with the pay-envelopes; there were so many things in the stores that would delight the heart of a little girl who had never had any toys except a rag doll and a broken flower-basket. Then there were pretty dresses to buy. The taste of Zelie Dionne took charge of that shopping. When he bought the first one—one that was white and fluffy—and Rosemarie walked out with him she displayed such feminine pride in fine feathers that he looked forward to future Saturdays nights and new dresses with anticipatory gusto. If one had questioned him he could have told weeks ahead just what his plans of purchases were, for he canvassed all the possibilities with the play-mamma who knew so well how to get value for a dollar—who knew the places to buy and whose needle helped to much.