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- The Right of Way, Volume 3. - 12/12 -


"You think he has nothing to hide, then?"

"Have not we all something to hide--with or without shame?" she asked simply.

"You have more sense than any woman in Chaudiere, Mademoiselle."

She shook her head, yet she raised her eyes gratefully to him.

"I put faith in what you say," he continued. "Now listen. My brother, the Abbe, chaplain to the Archbishop, is coming here. He has heard of 'the infidel' of our parish. He is narrow and intolerant--the Abbe. He is going to stir up trouble against the tailor. We are a peaceful people here, and like to be left alone. We are going on very well as we are. So I wanted to talk to Monsieur to-day. I must make up my own mind how to act. The tailor-shop is the property of the Church. An infidel occupies it, so it is said; the Abbe does not like that. I believe there are other curious suspicions about Monsieur: that he is a robber, or incendiary, or something of the sort. The Abbe may take a stand, and the Cure's position will be difficult. What is more, my brother has friends here, fanatics like himself. He has been writing to them. They are men capable of doing unpleasant things--the Abbe certainly is. It is fair to warn the tailor. Shall I leave it to you? Do not frighten him. But there is no doubt he should be warned--fair play, fair play! I hear nothing but good of him from those whose opinions I value. But, you see, every man's history in this parish and in every parish of the province is known. This man, for us, has no history. The Cure even admits there are some grounds for calling him an infidel, but, as you know, he would keep the man here, not drive him out from among us. I have not told the Cure about the Abbe yet. I wished first to talk with you. The Abbe may come at any moment. I have been away, and only find his letters to-day."

"You wish me to tell Monsieur?" interrupted Rosalie, unable to hold silence any longer. More than once during the Seigneur's disclosure she had felt that she must cry out and fiercely repel the base insinuations against the man she loved.

"You would do it with discretion. You are friendly with him, are you not?--you talk with him now and then?"

She inclined her head. "Very well, Monsieur. I will go to Vadrome Mountain to-morrow," she said quietly. Anger, apprehension, indignation, possessed her, but she held herself firmly. The Seigneur was doing a friendly thing; and, in any case, she could have no quarrel with him. There was danger to the man she loved, however, and every faculty was alive.

"That's right. He shall have his chance to evade the Abbe if he wishes," answered M. Rossignol.

There was silence for a moment, in which she was scarcely conscious of his presence; then he leaned over the counter towards her, and spoke in a low voice.

"What I said the other day I meant. I do not change my mind--I am too old for that. Yet I'm young enough to know that you may change yours."

"I cannot change, Monsieur," she said tremblingly.

"But you will change. I knew your mother well, I know how anxious she was for your future. I told her once that I should keep an eye on you always. Her father was my father's good friend. I knew you when you were in the cradle--a little brown-haired babe. I watched you till you went to the convent. I saw you come back to take up the duties which your mother laid down, alas!--"

"Monsieur--!" she said choking, and with a troubled little gesture.

"You must let me speak, Rosalie. We got your father this post-office. It is a poor living, but it keeps a roof over your head. You have never failed us you have always fulfilled our hopes. But the best years of your life are going, and your education and your nature have not their chance. Oh, I've not watched you all these years for nothing. I never meant to ask you to marry me. It came to me, though, all at once, and I know that it has been in my mind all these years--far back in my mind. I don't ask you for my own sake alone. Your father may grow very ill-- who can tell what may happen!"

"I should be postmistress still," she said sadly.

"As a young girl you could not have the responsibility here alone. And you should not waste your life it is a fine, full spirit; let the lean, the poor-spirited, go singly. You should be mated. You can't marry any of the young farmers of Chaudiere. 'Tis impossible. I can give you enough for any woman's needs--the world may be yours to see and use to your heart's content. I can give, too"--he drew himself up proudly--" the unused emotions of a lifetime." This struck him as a very fine and important thing to say.

"Ah, Monsieur, that is not enough," she responded. "What more can you want?"

She looked up with a tearful smile. "I will tell you one day, Monsieur."

"What day?"

"I have not picked it out in the calendar."

"Fix the day, and I will wait till then. I will not open my mouth again till then."

"Michaelmas day, then, Monsieur," she answered mechanically and at haphazard, but with an urged gaiety, for a great depression was on her.

"Good. Till Michaelmas day, then!" He pulled his long nose, laughing silently. . . . "I leave the tailor in your hands. Give every man his chance, I say. The Abbe is a hard man, but our hearts are soft--eh, eh, very soft!" He raised his hat and turned to the door.

ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Always hoping the best from the worst of us Have not we all something to hide--with or without shame? In all secrets there is a kind of guilt Pathetically in earnest Things that once charmed charm less

*END THE SMALL PRINT! FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN EBOOKS*Ver.02/11/02*END*


The Right of Way, Volume 3. - 12/12

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