hours. The moment her back was turned, she, Dolores, would tie on her hat, and run down by the other longer road to the town, and take the train for Paris. She did not quite know where the station was, but she had heard Marcelline say it was somewhere beyond the barracks. And for money, there was gold her mother had left in Marcelline's work-box, and she always kept the key for safety at the bottom of the old china vase in the salon. Whatif it were stealing! She would never cost them any more money after that, and there was a frightened sob in her voice as she spoke the words half aloud. Should she write and leave a letter to say what she had done ? No! for once, a long time ago, she had read in a book how a young girl had left her home and pinned a letter of farewell on the pincushion ; and through it had been traced, and brought home, and shut in her room for whole years without speaking to a soul. Her mother was a harsh woman, quite capable of that.

Dolores went about quite blithe when her resolve was taken. Poor child! had she been able to realise the nature of the step she contemplated, her mind would have been full of terror and misgiving; but she felt no doubts or fears yet, and Marcelline, noting the sudden alteration in her manner, said to herself,

“Ah! she begins to forget, as I forgot my caporal. Truly one need not trouble one's head for the tears of children."

Dolores did not sleep that night; and when, the next morning, she came downstairs wide-eyed, with dilated pupils, and wandered nervously from room to room, a kind of repressed excitement in her manner, Marcelline was uneasy, and said,

"What hast thou, my child ? Thou

hast eaten nothing, and lookst as if thou hadst not slept.”

“Oh yes, ma bonne, I have slept all night,” said Dolores, eagerly," and nothing ails me."

“Thou art triste, little one; thou shalt. come with me to the market to-day."

“No, no,” exclaimed Dolores. Then, fearful of betraying herself, she added“I care not for the market; it wearies me to stand while you gossip with the people in the shop."

"I gossip, Mademoiselle !" cried Marcelline, indignantly. “If everyone minded their business as I mind mine, the town would not be set by the ears.”

“Don't be angry, Marcelline; I did not mean to offend you-only I don't want to go."

Never had a morning appeared so long before. The hands on the gilt clock seem


ed to the girl's impatient eyes not to move at all as she wandered twenty times in and out of the salon during an hour. She tried to play and sing, but voice and fingers refused theiroffice in her tremulous nervousness; she sauntered into the garden to pluck flowers for the vases, but stopped before she had gathered a handful, thinking,

A quoi bon? To-morrow I shall not be here.” She bid adieu a hundred times to her furry cat and the French poodle. "I shall never see you any more-nevernever!" And she squeezed them in her arms and cried a little.

Puss, responsive, emitted a great roll of purs, and the poodle walked across the room on his hind legs after her without being told. But at last the clock stood on the stroke of four, and Marcelline, who was punctuality itself, appeared on the threshold.

“Good-bye, Marcelline,” said the child, throwing her arms round the woman's neck, hardly able to keep from betraying herself.

“Why, I am not going on a journey, chérie, that you should make me such an adieu," responded Marcelline, pleased, nevertheless, at the demonstration; "in two hours I shall be back.”

The moment she was gone Dolores flew to her room, donned her best grey barége and hat, and set off for the station. She was in too hot haste to feel any nervousness or trepidation until she reached the railway, and then the noise and bustle frightened her-the shouting of porters, the luggage being flung about-all the turmoil that seems quite regular and in order to the accustomed traveller, filled her with terror. It was some time before she found courage to ask how soon the

« ElőzőTovább »