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with maternal pride; are you not afraid of committing a sin?"
I felt like laughing and crying at once. I felt my throat swell and my blood tingled.
"Besides," he murmured, shaking his head as if he were answering an unseen questioner, "It is natural that it should be so."
"Sweetness, patience, and one might add half-a-dozen more of your virtues! "You must think me very simple and You see I know them all; well, are not very silly?" those the qualities of your maid, what is her name, let us say Brigida, and of that excellent Pietro who opened the door for me, and who remembers to have seen me when I was a little boy?"
"Ursula and Pietro," I said, a little wounded at the touch of irony that seemed to strike at my old affections, "are certainly the best people that I know."
"Did I ever say anything to the contrary? Please remember that it is I who have just adorned them with this crown of virtue. Is not that so, yes or no?"
"Simple, yes, but not silly."
Why was it that this answer, which certainly did not contain anything in the least complimentary, which, in fact, was barely civil, should have filled me with a strange delight? Perhaps I had been waiting for him to come and tell me I was not silly!
At any rate I answered, "Simple people probably do not please you much." "You are right, not much." "Thank you."
"You need not say that; I wished to show you the perils of simplicity. Did you suppose I would not seize every opportunity to teach the little that I know, to people who interest me?"
"But," I answered quickly, "I decline to inspire you with the slightest interest in me."
"That does not depend on your permission."
"Because sympathy is entirely free; it is in your power to close your doors on me, you can give me your formal orders on the subject; but you cannot prevent me from thinking about you, and doing all I can for your happiness." "You seem to be an original."
"As you please; you see I do not quarrel easily. That is a good way to keep one's friends."
"As for me, if I were going to have a friend, I should like him to be, above all things, good, affectionate, devoted, and amiable too, willing to bear with my faults. Is not that the most valuable thing in friendship, mutual forbearance?"
yours. My dear cousin, your ideas are horribly old fashioned. It seems impossible that in such a charming little head there should be such a museum of antiquities."
"What! Goodness, devotion, fidelity, kindness__"}
"I am very sorry to be obliged to contradict you again. You will tell me that it is my fault, but all the same I shall continue to believe that it is
"And what then?"
"Then let us return to the subject. Do you desire your friends to have the same qualities as your servants?"
"Good qualities can belong to anybody, without distinction."
"Bear with me, and answer my question categorically. Do you desire your friends to have the good qualities of Ursula and Pietro?"
"It is, yes, then?"
"Well no, no, no! Observe that I agree perfectly that devotion, goodness, tolerance are indispensable in the relation between masters and servants, and that masters should appreciate their servants, but I ask a great deal more from a sentiment which unites two equals, who have no motive of money or sordid personal interest. What would become of the high ideals of friendship if it were limited to a gentle tolerance, or a benevolent amiability? I know very well that that is the way the world looks at it. Even you are contented with that view. A little gossip, a walk, a breakfast taken in company, the choice of
the same tailor, a preference for the
ing verses, and my master said that
"Madame was a great deal too young. Madame must have seen him, but could not recall it. Besides he was in the house very little; with the permission of my master he passed his time in the acacia wood."
My cousin's visit left an impression which, in the silence and solitude of the following days, grew rather stronger than fainter. He had excited in my mind a confusion of entirely new ideas; he had awakened as it were a hidden sense, something which had slept, which had seemed to be dead, which perhaps would have been dead, but for his powerful evocation.
"May I come again?" he asked, rising very slowly.
Before I could answer he interrupted, "I warn you I am not very indulgent, only tolerably good, gentle by fits and starts, and that I don't care much for constancy."
On Sunday, at church, Ursula, who always went with me, pointed out my
"Then you must do as you please," disagreeable relative, and whispered, said I, forcing a smile. "See what airs she puts on, the great fool!"
"Thank you for the permission."
But I answered, enlightened by a loftier vision, "Don't let us think about her, Ursula."
He bowed very ceremoniously, and was on the point of leaving, when Alexis stumbling on the carpet, fell and struck his forehead. The cries of the child made him come back, perhaps also my exclamations of distress and the vehement kisses and caresses I lavished on him to comfort him.
On coming out of church, I thought I had never seen the sun so brilliant, nor the groups of cottages along the road so picturesque, and-though this was doubtless the effect of my imagination,-much too early the sap seemed to be swelling the branches of the almond trees in the orchards.
"What is the matter?" he asked in his quiet voice, giving a rapid glance at the little boy. "Why do you cry?" he said, "a man should never cry."
The child stopped short and looked at him with his great eyes still wet with tears. He smiled, and said, turning to me, "Do not agitate yourself too much, my cousin, if you wish to remain strong."
The next moment Alexis and I, drawing aside the red silk curtains, saw him disappear along the road. Then Pietro who came in to announce dinner, said to me: "What a man he has grown!" "You knew him, Pietro?"
"Oh! very well. When he was a little fellow he used to come to the house. He had a strange liking for the little acacia wood at the end of the garden. He would stay there whole hours writ
"Ursula," I said, with an outburst from the bottom of my heart, "Is not life beautiful?"
"Madame, life is neither beautiful nor ugly; it is just life."
I should have liked Ursula to continue her remarks and to develop her thought, but she confined herself to saying, as she whisked the dust off her new shoes with her pockethandkerchief, "How dusty it is!"
When I was at home again, the day did not seem so splendid. Perhaps the sun had gone under a cloud; the red curtains of my room did not glow with that soft flame-color which gave it the aspect of a temple prepared for mys
terious rites. Something was wanting skin. All sorts of things of which I in my parlor. On Sunday in winter had never thought before, came into my head; I detected myself listening for gay, mysterious voices in the air, like a choir of enchanting hours which stepped along before me; I was in such communion with an invisible world, that at times I felt as if flowers were blossoming in my hands and in my hair.
I was in the habit of playing with Alexis, or chattering with Pietro and Ursula, until the season when the rose trees were pruned and one began to think of fresh seed, but this afternoon seemed interminable.
"Pietro," I said every now and then, "I think some one is ringing at the gate. Go and see."
Pietro would go and come back, "There is no one there, Madame."
I told Alexis a long story; the story of the prince who was turned into a beast and must stay so, until a beautiful young girl should fall in love with him.
"That was impossible," said Alexis. "Why was it impossible? Suppose that the young girl knew that underneath the beast there was a prince?"
But Alexis was not interested in this problem, which to-day, possessed a beauty which I had never discovered before. What misery for a noble being oppressed by such an inhuman fate! And what a joy in its deliverance! And how he must have loved the girl who had loved him so much!
Before dinner Ursula came in great distress, to tell me that the pear sweetmeat had moulded. I remembered that on such occasions I had always shared Ursula's annoyance, but now I seemed to care nothing about it. I even tried to persuade Ursula that this was of no consequence.
"And what shall we give the little one to eat with his bread this evening?"
Ursula went on lamenting and turning the sweetmeat pot about in her hands.
"Don't you think we could give him a little honey, Ursula, and if we have no honey don't you think some butter would do?"
"God bless you, Madame! To-day everything seems good and right to Madame."
In truth I felt as if a spring were bubbling up in me, a spring of youth and life. From my heart it rushed through my veins, it spread under my
One day being at the window, I saw my cousin pass by. He raised his hat and bowed very amiably, and the next day he came to pay me a visit. "You have put it off a long time," said I.
"I wanted to see you again, to be sure I was not intruding upon you; that is the reason I walked up and down before the house several times yesterday. Your house is forty paces long in front, and thirty-two on the side. Perhaps the Palace of the Sleeping Beauty in the Wood was not so large."
His language was natural and he spoke of the gravest things as well as of the most insignificant, with the same simplicity, the same decided and persuasive accent. He glanced all round the room, and asked, "Where is the little fellow?"
Alexis crawled out from under a fauteuil with a Polichinelle in his hand and his face streaked with molasses. "What a curious face he has."
"Ursula says he looks like me, but Pietro thinks he looks like his father." "Another proof of the perspicacity of your advisers."
As I washed Alexis' face I was thinking that when he was born, nis father was in Paris as usual; that to my ardent entreaties he only responded that his affairs,-Mon Dieu and what affairs!-kept him there: that he had never seen his son but once, and that it had been two months since we had had news of him. "You look sad." "Solitude is sad." "How is that, when you have Ursula and Pietro?"
O how ill-natured that was! Yes, it was ill-natured and showed a want of heart. I took up my embroidery and
threaded a needle without answering. Perhaps I had longed for this visit from my cousin, and now my rosecolored hopes were turned into bitter realities. I decided not to open my mouth again, and it was he who continued, twisting a skein of blue silk round his fingers:
“I found la Querciaia in indescribable disorder. Esthetically I love the old building with its fortress-like walls covered with a profusion of climbing roses; and besides I am full of sentiment. I hear mysterious voices in the corners of the old house where my ancestors were born and died. Still, frankly speaking, there are too many spiders' webs, too many rats, and too many doors that won't shut. I spent six days, as long as it took to make the world, in putting the books in order on their shelves. The pictures in the garret will give me no end of trouble. I did not know I had so many ancestors in such poor lodgings. I am especially filled with remorse on account of a charming great-grandmother with wonderful white arms and handshands like yours. A rat has carried off the handkerchief that she held between two fingers. O how willingly I would put my heart in its place,
but the oak was broken by the thunderbolt and overthrown."
"Because he was too proud," cried Alexis triumphantly.
"I see that my fable is not new." "I often tell fables to Alexis." "That is a good plan; great lessons in an humble form, if the ground be even tolerably favorable, bring forth unhoped-for results. When I have children, my system of education shall be very simple and patriarchal, but penetrated with the free modern spirit. Many people complicate education witn a great number of useless and sometimes injurious practices; it would be so easy to bring up children in the knowledge of the true and the beautiful."
"I am going to look for a good tutor for Alexis soon."
"Where will you find him? A good mother is rare, a good father rarer still, a good tutor, almost unheard of. I advise you to choose the lesser evil." "Which in this case is myself?" "Exactly. But such a slight one!" He said this with a gentleness that touched me.
"It is true, I am too ignorant." "It is not necessary to have a great deal of erudition in order to bring up a child and make a man of him. When one has a heart like yours, one can succeed in anything by the strength of love alone."
He said, "When one has a heart like yours." Did he know my heart? This troubled me, but only for a moment. My confidence returned at the sound of his loyal voice, at the touch of his ideas, which were always noble though they were not always kind. "You ought to read a little." "I should be very glad," I said with enthusiasm.
He was silent, thinking, and twisting his moustache between his finger and thumb. He seemed to have forgotten where he was, and I took care not to recall him to himself, for I knew that his company was valuable, even when he did not speak. At last he said, "I will send you some books." Then he rose to take his leave.
"Please do not be so long again before you come back."
"That must depend upon the chaos in which I am plunged. Do you fancy I can leave a thing half-done? Querciaia needs repairing, and must be repaired. In this country the work men only come when they choose, and often one has to set one's own wits to work. By the way do you know of a good carpenter?"
As we talked I had gone with him to the threshold; the sun shone through the open door, and Alexis began to clap his hands.
"My sweet Mentor, I bow before your wisdom, but do not be afraid to let your little boy run as much as he wants to; it is a preparation for life."
He took off his hat to salute me, and as I was seeking something to say before I could persuade myself to say good-bye, I looked at his uncovered head in an aureole of light, and his hair, that the breezes lifted gently as with a friendly hand. I do not know why it was, but I found a strange pleasure in seeing him before me in that attitude of respect, so that I pro
"Do you know that you have a splen- longed it, giving him too, perhaps, a did exposure here?" vague feeling of pleasure, that 1
"Yes, it is very good; we even have thought I saw reflected in his eyes. too much sun."
"Before two weeks are over, all these buds will be open; at la Querciaia it is very backward. Ah, here are these chattering trees which tell people's secrets."
We were near the acacias, and we began to laugh a little with a feeling of intimacy which had a great charm. "When the trees are green again, you must come back and seek inspiration here."
"The spring has come," said he, "are there any flowers in your garden yet?” "Only a few hyacinths; come and
any harm, or are you not subject to the idea which women have instinctively, that they must be constantly doing something with their children? They have not enough strength of character to find out what is really good for them, so they seize upon the first lesson that is convenient and near at hand."
"Oh, near at hand, or far away, is not everything that concerns our children, our duty?"
We all three went down the steps to gether, and on the path my cousin stopped to look at the garden, still naked and empty, but where the beds were already spaded and prepared for the new seeds.
And again, as at the first time, his visit left a reflexion of joy behind it, a plenitude of ideas, and new horizons. I had once before experienced something like it in my girlhood, when I recovered from a serious illness. That in the same way was an awakening of all my sensibilities, an affluence of strength and desire for a new life or rather a life that was just beginning
It was in vain I searched among my earliest recollections. I had never known any one who reminded me of my cousin, nobody had ever made me talk as he did. And in fact, whom had I ever known except my poor father, almost an invalid, our peasants, some friends whom I rarely saw, the doctor, the curé, and my husband?
"I have no time now to write verses." "But you can be a poet! I always thought one could be a poet without writing verses."
He fixed on me an intense, scrutinizing glance, pleased and perhaps surprised at what I had just said, as if I had realized in that moment a secret hope of his. The air around us was enchanting; light waves of fragrance from the beds of hyacinths floated through it. Alexis ran up and down the paths. "Alexis, don't run so; you will do yourself harm."
Far back on my childish mind was imprinted the remembrance of an old gentleman, who sometimes came to see and whom my father called a superior man. These words were im
"Do you really think that will do him pressed upon me because I once heard