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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBebee; Or, Two Little Wooden Shoes - Chapter IX
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Bebee; Or, Two Little Wooden Shoes - Chapter IX Post by :arbid Category :Long Stories Author :Ouida Date :April 2012 Read :743

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Bebee; Or, Two Little Wooden Shoes - Chapter IX

But Bebee, who only saw in the sun the sign of daily work, the brightness of the face of the world, the friend of the flowers, the harvest-man of the poor, the playmate of the birds and butterflies, the kindly light that the waking birds and the ringing carillon welcomed,--Bebee, who was not at all afraid of him, smiled at his rays and saw in them only fairest promise of a cloudless midsummer day as she gave her last crumb to the swallows, dropped down off the thatch, and busied herself in making bread that Mere Krebs would bake for her, until it was time to cut her flowers and go down into the town.

When her loaves were made and she had run over with them to the mill-house and back again, she attired herself with more heed than usual, and ran to look at her own face in the mirror of the deep well-water--other glass she had none.

She was used to hear herself called pretty; bat she had never thought about it at all till now. The people loved her; she had always believed that they had only said it as a sort of kindness, as they said, "God keep you." But now--

"He told me I was like a flower," she thought to herself, and hung over the well to see. She did not know very well what he had meant; but the sentence stirred in her heart as a little bird under tremulous leaves.

She waited ten minutes full, leaning and looking down, while her eyes, that were like the blue iris, smiled back to her from the brown depths below. Then she went and kneeled down before the old shrine in the wall of the garden.

"Dear and holy Mother of Jesus, I do thank you that you made me a little good to look at," she said, softly. "Keep me as you keep the flowers, and let my face be always fair, because it is a pleasure to _be a pleasure. Ah, dear Mother, I say it so badly, and it sounds so vain, I know. But I do not think you will be angry, will you? And I am going to try to be wise."

Then she murmured an ave or two, to be in form as it were, and then rose and ran along the lanes with her baskets, and brushed the dew lightly over her bare feet, and sang a little Flemish song for very joyousness, as the birds sing in the apple bough.

She got the money for Annemie and took it to her with fresh patterns to prick, and the new-laid eggs.

"I wonder what he meant by a dog's heart?" she thought to herself, as she left the old woman sitting by the hole in the roof pricking out the parchment in all faith that she earned her money, and looking every now and then through the forests of masts for the brig with the hank of flax flying,--the brig that had foundered fifty long years before in the northern seas, and in the days of her youth.

"What is the dog's heart?" thought Bebee; she had seen a dog she knew--a dog which all his life long had dragged heavy loads under brutal stripes along the streets of Brussels--stretch himself on the grave of his taskmaster and refuse to eat, and persist in lying there until he died, though he had no memory except of stripes, and no tie to the dead except pain and sorrow. Was it a heart like this that he meant?

"Was her sailor, indeed, so good to her?" she asked an old gossip of Annemie's, as she went down the stairs.

The old soul stopped to think with difficulty of such a far-off time, and resting her brass flagon of milk on the steep step.

"Eh, no; not that I ever saw," she answered at length. "He was fond of her--very fond; but he was a wilful one, and he beat her sometimes when he got tired of being on land. But women must not mind that, you know, my dear, if only a man's heart is right. Things fret them, and then they belabor what they love best; it is a way they have."

"But she speaks of him as of an angel nearly!" said Bebee, bewildered.

The old woman took up her flagon, with a smile flitting across her wintry face.

"Ay, dear; when the frost kills your brave rose-bush, root and bud, do you think of the thorns that pricked you, or only of the fair, sweet-smelling things that flowered all your summer?"

Bebee went away thoughtfully out of the old crazy water-washed house by the quay; life seemed growing very strange and intricate and knotted about her, like the threads of lace that a bad fairy has entangled in the night.

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Her stranger from Rubes' land was a great man in a certain world. He had become great when young, which is perhaps a misfortune. It indisposes men to be great at their maturity. He was famous at twenty, by a picture hectic in color, perfect in drawing, that made Paris at his feet. He became more famous by verses, by plays, by political follies, and by social successes. He was faithful, however, to his first love in art. He was a great painter, and year by year proved afresh the cunning of his hand. Purists said his pictures had no soul
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"Can I do any work for you, Bebee?" said black Jeannot in the daybreak, pushing her gate open timidly with one hand."There is none to do, Jeannot. They want so little in this time of the year--the flowers," said she, lifting her head from the sweet-peas she was tying up to their sticks.The woodman did not answer; he leaned over the half-open wicket, and swayed it backwards and forwards under his bare arm. He was a good, harmless, gentle fellow, swarthy as charcoal and simple as a child, and quite ignorant, having spent all his days in the great Soignies forests
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