Eustacie, recovering from her anger, and recollecting his services, gave him her hand to kiss, and bade him farewell with a sudden effusion of gratitude and affection that warmed the honest fellow’s heart. Rewards could not be given, lest they should become a clue for her uncle; and perhaps they would have wounded both him and their kind hosts, who did their best to assist her in their departure. A hasty meal was provided by Nanon, and a basket so stored as to obviate the need of entering a village, on that day at least, to purchase provisions; Eustacie’s money and jewels again formed the nucleus of the bundle of clothes and spare swaddling-banks of her babe; her peasant dress was carefully arranged—a stout striped cloth skit and black bodice, the latter covered by a scarlet Chollet kerchief. The winged white cap entirely hid her hair; a gray cloak with a hood could either fold round her and her child or be strapped on her shoulders. Her sabots were hung on her shoulder, for she had learnt to go barefoot, and walked much more lightly thus; and her little bundle was slung on a staff on the back of Maitre Gardon, who in his great peasant’s hat and coat looked so like a picture of St. Joseph, that Eustacie, as the light of the rising sun fell on his white beard and hair, was reminded of the Flight into Egypt, and came close to him, saying shyly, ’Our Blessed Lady will bless and feel for my baby. She knows what this journey is.’
‘The Son of the Blessed Mary assuredly knows and blesses,’ he answered.
CHAPTER XIX. LA RUE DES TROIS FEES
And round the baby fast and close
Her trembling grasp she folds.
And with a strong convulsive grasp
The little infant holds.—SOUTHEY.
A wild storm had raged all the afternoon, hail and rain had careered on the wings of the wind along the narrow street of the Three Fairies, at the little Huguenot bourg of La Sablerie; torrents of rain had poached the unpaved soil into a depth of mud, and thunder had reverberated over the chimney-tops, and growled far away over the Atlantic, whose angry waves were tossing on the low sandy coast about two miles from the town.
The evening had closed in with a chill, misty drizzle, and, almost May though it were, the Widow Noemi Laurent gladly closed the shutters of her unglazed window, where small cakes and other delicate confections were displayed, and felt the genial warmth of the little fire with which she heated her tiny oven. She was the widow of a pastor who had suffered for his faith in the last open persecution, and being the daughter of a baker, the authorities of the town had permitted her to support herself and her son by carrying on a trade in the more delicate ‘subtilties’ of the art, which were greatly relished at the civic feasts. Noemi was a grave, sad woman, very lonely ever since she had saved enough to send her son to