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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBebee; Or, Two Little Wooden Shoes - Chapter XI
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Bebee; Or, Two Little Wooden Shoes - Chapter XI Post by :raymond Category :Long Stories Author :Ouida Date :April 2012 Read :2599

Click below to download : Bebee; Or, Two Little Wooden Shoes - Chapter XI (Format : PDF)

Bebee; Or, Two Little Wooden Shoes - Chapter XI

The next day she had her promised book hidden under the vine-leaves of her empty basket as she went homeward, and though she had not seen him very long or spoken to him very much, she was happy.

The golden gates of knowledge had just opened to her; she saw a faint, far-off glimpse of the Hesperides gardens within; of the dragon she had never heard, and had no fear.

"Might I know your name?" she had asked him wistfully, as she had given him the rosebud, and taken the volume in return that day.

"They call me Flamen."

"It is your name?"

"Yes, for the world. You must call me Victor, as other women do. Why do you want my name?"

"Jeannot asked it of me."

"Oh, Jeannot asked it, did he?"

"Yes; besides," said Bebee, with her eyes very soft and very serious, and her happy voice hushed,--"besides, I want to pray for you of course, every day; and if I do not know your name, how can I make Our Lady rightly understand? The flowers know you without a name, but she might not, because so very many are always beseeching her, and you see she has all the world to look after."

He had looked at her with a curious look, and had bade her farewell, and let her go home alone that night.

Her work was quickly done, and by the light of the moon she spread her book on her lap in the porch of the hut and began her new delight.

The children had come and pulled at her skirts and begged her to play. But Bebee had shaken her head.

"I am going to learn to be very wise, dear," she told them; "I shall not have time to dance or to play."

"But people are not merry when they are wise, Bebee," said Franz, the biggest boy.

"Perhaps not," said Bebee: "but one cannot be everything, you know, Franz."

"But surely, you would rather be merry than anything else?"

"I think there is something better, Franz. I am not sure; I want to find out; I will tell you when I know."

"Who has put that into your head, Bebee?"

"The angels in the cathedral," she told them; and the children were awed and left her, and went away to play blind-man's-buff by themselves, on the grass by the swan's water.

"But for all that the angels have said it," said Franz to his sisters, "I cannot see what good it will be to her to be wise, if she will not care any longer afterwards for almond gingerbread and currant cake."

It was the little tale of "Paul and Virginia" that he had given her to begin her studies with: but it was a grand copy, full of beautiful drawings nearly at every page.

It was hard work for her to read at first, but the drawings enticed and helped her, and she soon sank breathlessly into the charm of the story. Many words she did not know; many passages were beyond her comprehension; she was absolutely ignorant, and had nothing but the force of her own fancy to aid her.

But though stumbling at every step, as a lame child through a flowery hillside in summer, she was happy as the child would be, because of the sweet, strange air that was blowing about her, and the blossoms that she could gather into her hand, so rare, so wonderful, and yet withal so familiar, because they _were blossoms.

With her fingers buried in her curls, with her book on her knee, with the moon rays white and strong on the page, Bebee sat entranced as the hours went by; the children's play shouts died away; the babble of the gossip at the house doors ceased; people went by and called good night to her; the little huts shut up one by one, like the white and purple convolvulus cups in the hedges.

Bebee did not stir, nor did she hear them; she was deaf even to the singing of the nightingales in the willows, where she sat in her little thatch above, and the wet garden-ways beyond her.

A heavy step came tramping down the lane. A voice called to her,--

"What are you doing, Bebee, there, this time of the night? It is on the strike of twelve."

She started as if she were doing some evil thing, and stretched her arms out, and looked around with blinded, wondering eyes, as if she had been rudely wakened from her sleep.

"What are you doing up so late?" asked Jeannot; he was coming from the forest in the dead of night to bring food for his family; he lost his sleep thus often, but he never thought that he did anything except his duty in those long, dark, tiring tramps to and fro between Soignies and Laeken.

Bebee shut her book and smiled with dreaming eyes, that saw him not at all.

"I was reading--and, Jeannot, his name is Flamen for the world, but I may call him Victor."

"What do I care for his name?"

"You asked it this morning."

"More fool I. Why do you read? Reading is not for poor folk like you and me."

Bebee smiled up at the white clear moon that sailed above the woods.

She was not awake out of her dream. She only dimly heard the words he spoke.

"You are a little peasant," said Jeannot roughly, as he paused at the gate. "It is all you can do to get your bread. You have no one to stand between you and hunger. How will it be with you when the slug gets your roses, and the snail your carnations, and your hens die of damp, and your lace is all wove awry, because your head runs on reading and folly, and you are spoilt for all simple pleasures and for all honest work?"

She smiled, still looking up at the moon, with the dropping ivy touching her hair.

"You are cross, dear Jeannot. Good night."

A moment afterwards the little rickety door was shut, and the rusty bolt drawn within it; Jeannot stood in the cool summer night all alone, and knew how stupid he had been in his wrath.

He leaned on the gate a minute; then crossed the garden as softly as his wooden shoes would let him. He tapped gently on the shutter of the lattice.

"Bebee--Bebee--just listen. I spoke roughly, dear--I know I have no right. I am sorry. Will you be friends with me again?--do be friends again."

She opened the shutter a little way, so that he could see her pretty mouth speaking, "we are friends--we will always be friends, of course--only you do not know. Good night."

He went away with a heavy heart and a long-drawn step. He would have preferred that she should have been angry with him.

Bebee, left alone, let the clothes drop off her pretty round shoulders and her rosy limbs, and shook out her coils of hair, and kissed the book, and laid it under her head, and went to sleep with a smile on her face.

Only, as she slept, her ringers moved as if she were counting her beads, and her lips murmured,--

"Oh, dear Holy Mother, you have so much to think of--yes. I know--all the poor, and all the little children. But take care of _him_; he is called Flamen, and he lives in the street of Mary of Burgundy; you cannot miss him; and if you will look for him always, and have a heed that the angels never leave him, I will give you my great cactus glower--my only one--on your Feast of Roses this very year. Oh, dear Mother, you will not forget!"

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