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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBebee; Or, Two Little Wooden Shoes - Chapter XXVI
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Bebee; Or, Two Little Wooden Shoes - Chapter XXVI Post by :jsypolt Category :Long Stories Author :Ouida Date :April 2012 Read :2464

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

Bebee; Or, Two Little Wooden Shoes - Chapter XXVI

One day in the May weather she sat within doors with a great book upon her table, but no sight for it in her aching eyes. The starling hopped to and fro on the sunny floor; the bees boomed in the porch; the tinkle of sheep's bells came in on the stillness. All was peaceful and happy except the little weary, breaking, desolate heart that beat in her like a caged bird's.

"He will come; I am sure he will come," she said to herself; but she was so tired, and it was so long--oh, dear God!--so very long.

A hand tapped at the lattice. The shrill voice of Reine, the sabot-maker's wife, broken with anguish, called through the hanging ivy,--

"Bebee, you are a wicked one, they say, but the only one there is at home in the village this day. Get you to town for the love of Heaven, and send Doctor Max hither, for my pet, my flower, my child lies dying, and not a soul near, and she black as a coal with choking--go, go, go!--and Mary will forgive you your sins. Save the little one, dear Bebee, do you hear? and I will pray God and speak fair the neighbors for you. Go!"

Bebee rose up, startled by the now unfamiliar sound of a human voice, and looked at the breathless mother with eyes of pitying wonder.

"Surely I will go," she said, gently; "but there is no need to bribe me. I have not sinned greatly--that I know."

Then she went out quickly and ran through the lanes and into the city for the sick child, and found the wise man, and sent him, and did the errand rather in a sort of sorrowful sympathetic instinct than in any reasoning consciousness of doing good.

When she was moving through the once familiar and happy ways as the sun was setting on the golden fronts of the old houses, and the chimes were ringing from the many towers, a strange sense of unreality, of non-existence, fell upon her.

Could it be she?--she indeed--who had gone there the year before the gladdest thing that the earth bore, with no care except to shelter her flowers from the wind, and keep the freshest blossoms for the burgomaster's housewife?

She did not think thus to herself; but a vague doubt that she could ever have been the little gay, laborious, happy Bebee, with troops of friends and endless joys for every day that dawned, came over her as she went by the black front of the Broodhuis.

The strong voice of Lisa, the fruit girl, jarred on her as she passed the stall under its yellow awning that was flapping sullenly in the evening wind.

"Oh he, little fool," the mocking voice cried, "the rind of the fine pine is full of prickles, and stings the lips when the taste is gone?--to be sure--crack common nuts like me and you are never wanting--hazels grow free in every copse. Prut, tut! your grand lover lies a-dying; so the students read out of this just now; and you such a simpleton as not to get a roll of napoleons out of him before he went to rot in Paris. I dare say he was poor as sparrows, if one knew the truth. He was only a painter after all."

Lisa tossed her as she spoke a torn sheet, in which she was wrapping gentians: it was a piece of newspaper some three weeks old, and in it there was a single line or so which said that the artist Flamen, whose Gretchen was the wonder of the Salon of the year, lay sick unto death in his rooms in Paris.

Bebee stood and read; the strong ruddy western light upon the type, the taunting laughter of the fruit girl on her ear.

A bitter shriek rang from her that made even the cruelty of Lisa's mirth stop in a sudden terror.

She stood staring like a thing changed to stone down on the one name that to her rilled all the universe.

"Ill--he is ill--do you hear?" she echoed piteously, looking at Lisa; "and you say he is poor?"

"Poor? for sure! is he not a painter?" said the fruit girl, roughly. She judged by her own penniless student lads; and she was angered with herself for feeling sorrow for this little silly thing that she had loved to torture.

"You have been bad and base to me; but now--I bless you, I love you, I will pray for you," said Bebee, in a swift broken breath, and with a look upon her face that startled into pain her callous enemy.

Then without another word, she thrust the paper in her bosom, and ran out of the square breathless with haste and with a great resolve.

He was ill--and he was poor! The brave little soul of her leaped at once to action. He was sick, and far away; and poor they said. All danger and all difficulty faded to nothing before the vision of his need.

Bebee was only a little foundling who ran about in wooden shoes; but she had the "dog's soul" in her--the soul that will follow faithfully though to receive a curse, that will defend loyally though to meet a blow, and that will die mutely loving to the last.

She went home, how she never knew; and without the delay of a moment packed up a change of linen, and fed the fowls and took the key of the hut down to old Jehan's cabin. The old man was only half-witted by reason of his affliction for his dead daughter, but he was shrewd enough to understand what she wanted of him, and honest enough to do it.

"I am going into the city," she said to him: "and if I am not back to-night, will you feed the starling and the hens, and water the flowers for me?"

Old Jehan put his head out of his lattice: it was seven in the evening, and he was going to bed.

"What are you after, little one?" he asked: going to show the fine buckles at a students' ball? Nay, fie; that is not like you."

"I am going to--pray--dear Jehan," she answered, with a sob in her throat and the first falsehood she ever had told. "Do what I ask you--do for your dead daughter's sake--or the birds and the flowers will die of hunger and thirst. Take the key and promise me."

He took the key, and promised.

"Do not let them see those buckles shine; they will rob you," he added.

Bebee ran from him fast; every moment that was lost was so precious and so terrible. To pause a second for fear's sake never occurred to her. She went forth as fearlessly as a young swallow, born in northern April days, flies forth on instinct to new lands and over unknown seas when autumn falls.

Necessity and action breathed new life into her. The hardy and brave peasant ways of her were awoke once more. She had been strong to wait silently with the young life in her dying out drop by drop in the heart-sickness of long delay. She was strong now to throw herself into strange countries and dim perils and immeasurable miseries, on the sole chance that she might be of service to him.

A few human souls here and there can love like dogs. Bebee's was one.

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It was dark. The May days are short in the north lands of the Scheldt.She had her little winter cloak of frieze and her wooden shoes and her little white cap with the sunny curls rippling out of it in their pretty rebellion. She had her little lantern too; and her bundle, and she had put a few fresh eggs in her basket, with some sweet herbs and the palm-sheaf that Father Francis had blessed last Easter; for who could tell, she thought, how ill he might not be, or how poor?She hardly gave a look to the hut as she
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The winter went by, and the snow-drops and crocus and pale hepatica smiled at her from the black clods. Every other springtime Bebee had run with fleet feet under the budding trees down into the city, and had sold sweet little wet bunches of violets and brier before all the snow was melted from the eaves of the Broodhuis."The winter is gone," the townspeople used to say; "look, there is Bebee with the flowers."But this year they did not see the little figure itself like a rosy crocus standing against the brown timbers of the Maison de Roi.Bebee had not heart
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