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- Sara, a Princess - 10/43 -
West for some years, and have had some good hunting at odd times; but, to be honest, I don't know anything about your bird-shooting here, and I'm hankerin' after an experience!"
The homely native word pleased the old man, and he smiled leniently.
"Waal," he said, removing the pipe to knock out the ashes and put it in his pocket (much to the other's satisfaction), "waal, I guess we kin fix it. Mort, here, an' me, we was goin' out airly in the mornin'. Ef you kin turn out in time, ye mought go with us. I've got a gun for you, but you'll hev to pay fer the powder an' shot, an' give me my share o' the birds."
"We won't quarrel about terms," laughed the other. "I'll be on hand without fail, and am much obliged."
"Oh, ye're welcome; good-day. Remember, four sharp, naow!" as they turned to go.
"You see," said the young man to the boy, as soon as they were beyond ear-shot, "he didn't put me through the manual of arms, after all. I feel almost defrauded of my just rights. Do you suppose I knocked the conceit out of him with my talk of big game?"
"I don't know," said Morton, "but I guess he took a liking to you. He's queer about that. Sometimes he won't look at these fancy fellers that come down from the city, no matter how much they offer. He says he can't abide 'em--that a fool of a loon is too good to die at their hands!"
"And he isn't far wrong, I'm thinking. Are you going that way? Then you will pass near the yacht, won't you? Have you any objections to taking a look at it, to see if it is safe? Oh, and by the way, there's a basketful of eatables stowed away under the stern-seat that we won't need now; couldn't you dispose of them in some way?"
"I think I could, sir," said Morton demurely, dropping his lids, not to show too strongly the joy in his eyes, for if he had been hungry in the morning, he was ravenous now.
"All right, then; good-by, my little friend--or, rather, _au revoir_. I'll see you in the morning," and the two separated, mutually pleased with each other.
A few minutes later Morton entered the home kitchen, joy beaming from his countenance, and a large basket hanging from his arm.
"Sara," he cried, "have you been to dinner?"
"No, we waited for you; but how late you are. It's after two."
"All the better, for here's a dinner to match the biggest kind of an appetite! See here, and here!"
He spread out with intense satisfaction sandwiches, fried chicken, cakes, doughnuts, and cheese, besides jellies and fruit, while Molly fairly howled with delight, and even Sara's eyes shone happily; for, unless you have lived for a week on salt herring and potatoes, topped off by a long fast since breakfast, you cannot understand how good those things looked to the hungry children.
"But, Morton, you didn't tell Mrs. Norris, did you?" Sara asked in a distressed tone. "I didn't want"--
"Now, don't you worry, Sara! I sold her the goose, and got my money-- here it is; but this is another kind of game, and while we're eating, I'll tell you the whole story," which he at once proceeded to do, for, hungry as they were, they all fell to with scant ceremony.
The next morning the blond lady, being bereft of both escorts, started out for a stroll on her own account.
You have before this, doubtless, divined her to be the wife of that same little man Sara had met on the cliff; and we now formally introduce her as Madame Grandet, wife of Professor Leon Alphonse Grandet, of the Academie des Sciences at Paris, who was now prosecuting his geological studies in New England.
She herself was endowed with no mean artistic talent, her specialty being the painting of flowers in water colors, and, as she always sketched from nature, she had become almost as much of a botanical student as her husband was a mineralogical.
But this morning the quaintness and quiet of the village tempted her into a stroll down its long street, before she should seek the pine woods farther back, in search of hidden beauties, and one picture that she came upon held her spell bound for a moment. This was a small, poor cottage, painted only by the sun and rain, before which, on a tiny square of green, a baby was rolling about--a cunning little fellow with rings of silky light hair, while on the low doorstep sat a girl of such unusual appearance that the lady stared in undisguised admiration.
Her head was bent above a book, and the auburn shades of her luxuriant hair caught the sunlight in every wave and tendril; her eyes were cast down, but the dark lashes curled upward from the slightly flushed cheek thick and long, while the brows were as daintily perfect as if laid on with a camel's hair brush; the nose was straight and delicate; the mouth, now set with deep thought, firm and sweet, while the chin carried out this look of decision, and would have been almost too square but for the coquettish little cleft which gave it the needed touch of femininity.
Her complexion, unblemished, except for the sun-tinge which showed an out-of-doors life, was of that peculiar tint, neither blond nor brunette, which is usually found with hair of that coppery hue, and the whole artistic head but crowned a form whose grace and roundness not even her ill-fitting gown could conceal.
"One of nature's gems!" whispered the on-looker in her native tongue. "And what a cherub of a baby! I must make their acquaintance."
She took an orange from the satin bag hanging on her arm, and held it towards the little one, who had now toddled to the open gate, and was gazing shyly at her.
He looked at the tempting yellow apple, then back at sister, oblivious in the door-way, then once more at the coveted fruit, and was conquered.
As Madame Grandet stepped towards him, he did not retreat, but reached up his dimpled, dirty little hands (he had been making sand-pies) and caught the fruit she dropped into them.
Then he gave a delighted little laugh, which roused Sara, who raised her large eyes, now dreamy with far-away thoughts, but which flashed into pleasure at sight of the two.
"Pray pardon me," said madame with a gracious little nod; "I would not deesturb you, but the babee, he ees so sweet! You will let me give to him the orange?"
"Oh, certainly; thank you! It will be a great treat for him," rising and coming forward, with her book in her hand. "Won't you come in and rest a moment? The sun is warm this morning."
"Thank you, mooch; it ees indeed most warm! May I not here sit on the step of the door by yourself?"
"Oh, let me bring you a chair," running to get one. "There, this will be more comfortable," placing it just within the open door.
"That is true; t'anks! Come, mine babee, let me to you show how an orange is to eat, when one has no care for the appearance--it is nature's own way." She cut a tiny hole through the thick rind with her pearl-handled penknife, then put it to the child's lips and bade him suck out the juice, as the little bees suck honey from the lily-buds.
Sara watched her delightedly. How graceful, fair, and easy she was! What a beautiful dress she wore--perfectly simple, yet with an air of taste and style even her unaccustomed eyes could note. How delicate her features, how refined her voice, and with what a small white hand she managed the little knife!
She felt at once that here was a woman different from any she had ever seen before--perhaps the first one for whom she felt the word "lady" was no misnomer.
Her admiration showed so plainly in her honest eyes that the madame was inwardly amused, as well as pleased, yet not at all discomfited, for she had been used to admiration all her life.
"What is the book you read, my dear young lady, may I ask?" she said presently.
"It is Hugh Miller's 'Testimony of the Rocks,'" answered Sara.
"So?" It was the French lady's turn to look undisguised astonishment. "And does it for you have interest then?"
"Yes, indeed; did you ever read it? Don't you think it is wonderful how those long-buried veins of rock are made to tell us God's own plans and workings? I can never see a cliff that I don't begin to wonder how it was formed, and what secrets it may contain. I am like baby with his toys," smiling till her dimples deepened, "I want to break it in pieces and find out how it was made!"
"But that is joost like my Leon! Always he goes about with his hammer tapping, tapping, at every bit of stone. Is it then that you, too, are a geologist?"
"Oh, no, not that! I do not know enough, only sometimes I find a specimen; I have a few inside, if you would care to see them?"
"Indeed I care," rising at once; and when she stood before the well- filled shelves we have before mentioned, she cried out in astonishment,--
"But, surely, my Leon must see these. You have here some greatly rare bits. Ah, what a beautiful pink rubellite! I have not seen ever a finer. And this geode is most perfect. Did you yourself find them?"
"Yes, nearly all, except what my brother has brought me, and in this neighborhood too; I've never been more than twenty miles away in my life."
"And I do see you have them labelled and classed so neat as my Leon could do. You must indeed let me bring him to see you. He is my husband, and a--a--I forget now your English word how to say--but he eats and sleeps and dreams over dose minerals, and he would almost forget of me, the wife whom he adores, for one fine new piece of old rock with the print of a bird's toes therein!" Sara laughed with a merrier sound than she had known lately; and the lady, delighted to have pleased her, joined in.
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