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“Where did you put — ?" she began, and nodded in the direction of the customer, whose headgear—a huge black silk bonnet trimmed with violet ribbon--was just visible from where the worthy couple stood. With a glance that seemed to say, “Catch me leaving that about when there are so many hawks abroad !” the pastrycook dived into the depths of his back premises, and his wife trotted back to her perch, not a little puzzled by the old lady's corpse-like stillness and silence.
Pity blended with curiosity when she beheld the deadly pallor of the always wan and wasted features, with their air of high birth and breeding that savoured of the Old Court now for ever swept away. “ My lady," she began with forced respect, forgetting that “My lady" was now a forbidden phrase.
But the old dame sat mute and motionless, staring at the window, as if she there discerned some hideous bugtear.
“ What ails you, citizeness?” asked the pastrycook, hurrying into the shop and handing her a small cardboard box wrapped in blue paper, which she hastily slipped into her pocket.
“Nothing, my friend, nothing !” she quietly replied. Then, suddenly catching sight of his red “ Cap of Liberty," she cried, “Ah ! you have played me false !"
“Not we, indeed !” protested husband and wife in one breath. The old lady blushed either with shame or joy, or both; humbly craved their pardon, and handed the husband a louis d'or, saying, “ The bargained price !”.
There is a need which the needy can read at a glance. The old lady's hand trembled as she tendered the coin, and she eyed it, not greedily indeed, but wistfully. Hunger and want were stamped upon her brow in characters legible to all. Her very raiment, the gown of worn silk, the well-brushed but faded cloak, the carefully darned lace—the rags of opulence-spoke of pinching penury. The worthy shopkeepers exchanged a glance which meant, “ 'Tis her last louis," and straightway began to soothe their consciences, which pricked them for taking it, by accosting her with kindly words.
“Why, citizeness, you seem sadly feeble," said the husband. “Can I offer your ladyship any refreshment?” chimed in the wife. “We have some excellent broth,” added the pastrycook.
“'Tis so bitterly cold I fear your ladyship may have caught a chill as you came along. But you can stay here awhile and warm yourself a bit,” added his better half, while the good man clinched the business with a "We're not quite so black as the devil.”
Yielding to the kindly spirit which breathed in these words, the
lady confessed that some strange man had tracked her to the shop, and that she dreaded going home alone.
"Oh ! if that's all, just wait till I return,” replied he of the red cap ; and, handing the louis to his wife, he went and donned his national guardsman's uniform, and soon came back in full military rig. But meanwhile his wife had found time to reflect. And, as often happens, reflection closed the open hand of charity. Haunted by misgivings, and loth to see her husband entangled in some ugly scrape, she tried to stop him by tugging at his coat-tail. But, swayed by his better feelings, the worthy man forthwith volunteered to see the lady safe home.
Then up spoke the shrewd queen of the counter. “It seems, citizeness, that the man you're afraid of is still prowling about out yonder.”
“I fear so," replied the lady, guilelessly.
“He may be a spy—this may be a “plant'-don't you stir a stump, but get back that box !” These words, which his wife hissed into his ear, rather damped the pastrycook’s new-born courage. “Ah !” he exclaimed, “ I'll just tip him a word or two, and rid you of him in a trice.”
So saying out he popped, but soon returned with every trace of colour driven from his peony cheeks, legs quaking, eyes dilated and bursting from their sockets.
“Ah! so you'd send us to the block, would you, you wretch of an aristocrat !” he roared. “Come, take yourself off, and beware how I catch you here again seeking the means of working out your infernal plots !”
With that he made a grab at the old lady's pocket. But scarce had his fingers touched her dress when, goaded by the dread of losing her treasure, up she sprang with the nimbleness of sixteen, and, darting to the door, vanished from the eyes of the stunned and trembling pair. Once in the street, she stepped out briskly ; but her strength soon failed her when she heard the snow again crunching beneath the leaden foot of her ruthless pursuer. She felt that stop she must. Stop she did ; and he stopped, too. Speak to him, or even look at him, she durst not. She walked slowly on; he slackened his pace so as to keep her well within view. Thus he stuck to her like her shadow. And on fared the silent couple till they repassed St. Lawrence's church, when the belfry clock tolled nine.
All emotion—like all motion-is rhythmic. In every mind calm alternates with storm ; for though the feelings may be boundless in
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