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Story of an Old French Town.
BY THE AUTHOR OF
“THE ROSE GARDEN," "A MADRIGAL," Goc.
Dreams fade, deeds fail, and day's depart,
And all is changed in time and place;
For only they shall see God's face.
Man's love from carth may lead to heaven :
-Hon. Robert Lytton.
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
UN AWARE S.
"Quaint old town of toil and traffic.”
“You might tell us something, Madame Angelin, since you
know so much !" “Yes, indeed. What is the good of knowing if you keep it all to yourself ?" cried a younger woman impatiently, placing, as she spoke, her basket of fresh herbs and vegetables upon the broad stone edge of the fountain around which a little group had gathered.
“ Was it a fit?”
“Holy Virgin ! and will the town have to bury Jim?"
The individual upon whom this volley of shrill questions was directed was a small, thin, pungent
faced Frenchwoman, who, having just filled her pitcher at the stone fountain, now stood with hands clasped over her waist, and with ineffable satisfaction in her twinkling black eyes, looking upon the excited questioners who crowded eagerly round her. It is not given to everybody every day to know more than their neighbours, nor, as Veuve Angelin shrewdly reflected, is it a privilege to be lightly parted with. There was something to her very enchanting in the eager attention with which her information was awaited, and she looked round upon them all with a patronising
à benignity, which was, to say the least, irritating. The May sun was shining brightly over old pointed roofs, the tiny streams, running out of three grim carved heads in the stone fountain, danced and sparkled in its light; the horse - chestnuts stiffly standing round the little “ Place” threw deep shadows on the glaring stones; from one side sounded the soft wash of an unseen river; old, dilapidated houses were jumbled together, irrespective of height and size ; behind the women, the town with its clustering houses rose abruptly on the side of a steep hill, crowned by the lovely spires of the Cathedral, and before them, only hidden from actual sight by the buildings of a straggling suburb, stretched the monotonous plains and sunny corn-fields of the granary of France.
Veuve Angelin smiled indulgently and shook her head. “You must hear everything. You young people think too much of gossip,” she said.
“ So they do, Marie, so they do,” responded an old woman, pushing her yellow wizened face through the shoulders of those in front of her. “In our day it is certain that things arranged themselves very differently; the world was not the magpie's nest it is now: then the young minded their elders, and conducted themselves sagely, instead of chattering and idling and going—the saints know whither!”
Veuve Angelin drew herself up to the full extent of her small height. She was by no means pleased with this ally. “All that may have been in your day, Nannon, I daresay,” she said spitefully, “but my time was very much the same as this time. Grandfather Owl always thinks the days grow darker.”
“Hear her !” cried the old woman shrilly. she forgotten the cherry-trees we used to shake together, the
One of the younger of the group interrupted her unceremoniously, “Ta, ta, Nannon, never mind that now! But tell us, Madame Angelin, whether it is all true which they say about the poor old gentleman and the beautiful young demoiselle. Ciel ! there is the clock striking noon, and I should have been back from the market at least an hour ago. Quick !