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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBebee; Or, Two Little Wooden Shoes - Chapter VIII
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Bebee; Or, Two Little Wooden Shoes - Chapter VIII Post by :Troy_McDonald Category :Long Stories Author :Ouida Date :April 2012 Read :3514

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

Bebee; Or, Two Little Wooden Shoes - Chapter VIII

"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 making fagots when he was a little lad, and hewing down trees or burning charcoal as he grew to manhood.

"Who was that seigneur with you last night, Bebee?" he asked, after a long silence, watching her as she moved.

Bebee's eyes grew very soft, but they looked up frankly.

"I am not sure--I think he is a painter--a great painter prince, I mean--as Rubes was in Antwerpen; he wanted roses the night before last in the cathedral."

"But he was walking with you?"

"He was in the lane as I came home last night--yes."

"What does he give you for your roses?"

"Oh! he pays me well. How is your mother this day, Jeannot?"

"You do not like to talk of him?"

"Why should you want to talk of him? He is nothing to you."

"Did you really see him only two days ago, Bebee?"

"Oh, Jeannot! did I ever tell a falsehood? You would not say that to one of your little sisters."

The forester swayed the gate to and fro drearily under his folded arms.

Bebee, not regarding him, cut her flowers, and filled her baskets, and did her other work, and set a ladder against the hut and climbed on its low roof to seek for eggs, the hens having green tastes sometimes for the rushes and lichens of its thatch. She found two eggs, which she promised herself to take to Annemie, and looking round as she sat on the edge of the roof, with one foot on the highest rung of the ladder, saw that Jeannot was still at the gate.

"You will be late in the forest, Jeannot," she cried to him. "It is such a long, long way in and out. Why do you look so sulky? and you are kicking the wicket to pieces."

"I do not like you to talk with strangers," said Jeannot, sullenly and sadly.

Bebee laughed as she sat on the edge of the thatch, and looked at the shining gray skies of the early day, and the dew-wet garden, and the green fields beyond, with happy eyes that made the familiar scene transfigured to her.

"Oh, Jeannot, what nonsense! As if I do not talk to a million strangers every summer! as if I could ever sell a flower if I did not! You are cross this morning; that is what it is."

"Do you know the man's name?" said Jeannot, suddenly.

Bebee felt her cheeks grow warm as with some noonday heat of sunshine. She thought it was with anger against blundering Jeannot's curiosity.

"No! and what would his name be to us, if I did know it? I cannot ask people's names because they buy my roses."

"As if it were only roses!"

There was the length of the garden between them, and Bebee did not hear as she sat on the edge of her roof with that light dreamful enjoyment of air and sky and coolness, and all the beauty of the dawning day, which the sweet vague sense of a personal happiness will bring with it to the dullest and the coldest.

"You are cross, Jeannot, that is what it is," she said, after a while. "You should not be cross; you are too big and strong and good. Go in and get my bowl of bread and milk for me, and hand it to me up here. It is so pleasant. It is as nice as being perched on an apple-tree."

Jeannot went in obediently and handed up her breakfast to her, looking at her with shy, worshipping eyes. But his face was overcast, and he sighed heavily as he took up his hatchet and turned away; for he was the sole support of his mother and sisters, and if he did not do his work in Soignies they would starve at home.

"You will be seeing that stranger again?" he asked her.

"Yes!" she answered with a glad triumph in her eyes; not thinking at all of him as she spoke. "You ought to go, Jeannot, now; you are so late. I will come and see your mother to-morrow. And do not be cross, you dear big Jeannot. Days are too short to snip them up into little bits by bad temper; it is only a stupid sheep-shearer that spoils the fleece by snapping at it sharp and hard; that is what Father Francis says."

Bebee, having delivered her little piece of wisdom, broke her bread into her milk and ate it, lifting her face to the fresh wind and tossing crumbs to the wheeling swallows, and watching the rose-bushes nod and toss below in the breeze, and thinking vaguely how happy a thing it was to live.

Jeannot looked up at her, then went on his slow sad way through the wet lavender-shrubs and the opening buds of the lilies.

"You will only think of that stranger, Bebee, never of any of us--never again," he said; and wearily opened the little gate and went through it, and down the daybreak stillness of the lane. It was a foolish thing to say; but when were lovers ever wise?

Bebee did not heed; she did not understand herself or him; she only knew that she was happy; when one knows that, one does not want to seek much further.

She sat on the thatch and took her bread and milk in the gray clear air, with the swallows circling above her head, and one or two of them even resting a second on the edge of the bowl to peck at the food from the big wooden spoon; they had known her all the sixteen summers of her life, and were her playfellows, only they would never tell her anything of what they saw in winter over the seas. That was her only quarrel with them. Swallows do not tell their secrets They have the weird of Procne on them all.

The sun came and touched the lichens of the roof into gold.

Bebee smiled at it gayly as it rose above the tops of the trees, and shone on all the little villages scattered over the plains.

"Ah, dear Sun!" she cried to it. "I am going to be wise. I am going into great Rubes' country. I am going to hear of the Past and the Future. I am going to listen to what the Poets say. The swallows never would tell me anything; but now I shall know as much as they know. Are you not glad for me, O Sun?"

The Sun came over the trees, and heard and said nothing. If he had answered at all he must have said,--

"The only time when a human soul is either wise or happy is in that one single moment when the hour of my own shining or of the moon's beaming seems to that single soul to be past and present and future, to be at once the creation and the end of all things. Faust knew that; so will you."

But the Sun shone on and held his peace. He sees all things ripen and fall. He can wait. He knows the end. It is always the same.

He brings the fruit out of the peach-flower, and rounds it and touches it into ruddiest rose and softest gold: but the sun knows well that the peach must drop--whether into the basket to be eaten by kings, or on to the turf to be eaten by ants. What matter which very much after all?

The Sun is not a cynic; he is only wise because he is Life and he is Death, the creator and the corrupter of all things.

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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,
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As she got clear of the city and out on her country road, a shadow Fell across her in the evening light."Have you had a good day, little one?" asked a voice that made her stop with a curious vague expectancy and pleasure."It is you!" she said, with a little cry, as she saw her friend of the silk stockings leaning on a gate midway in the green and solitary road that leads to Laeken."Yes, it is I," he answered, as he joined her. "Have you forgiven me, Bebee?"She looked at him with frank, appealing eyes, like those of a child
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