Welsh Newspapers

Search 15 million Welsh newspaper articles

Hide Articles List

3 articles on this Page



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. OLD BABETTE. By C. M. HAWKSFORD. CHAPTER I. VILLEROI AND OLD BABETTE. Just look at that ugly old woman leaning of that window "so very artistically í -ined in vine leaves. To be in touch with her surroundings she ought, at least, to be I&ng and lovely I" The speaker was a young man who, whilst waking a. tour through .Normandy, was stay- 8 for a day or two with a college friend, lose people lived in the picturesque town 01 V illeroi. She was both young and lovely once, so f>eopie say," his friend replied; "the hand- fj°nieSK ^or m^es around, but time, my ^nie 'U!S no respect for persons." I only know, if I were a pretty onaan," the younger man said emphatically, Would pray never to live to be old and s he spoke they turned the corner of the \r -Horologe and disappeared. fcanwhile, old Bubette continued leaning of the window. It was a still, warm S^mng. Her arms rested against the low ^g which bounded the sill; her head as bent, her whole attitude was dejected. -Hi hot sue, which had baked the houses — g the day almost to fire-heat, had sunk llow. The green jalousies were mostly thrown tP-.f' c'1!ren sa^ ou the doorsteps eating 'r eyeaing meal of cabbage soup and black isaa out of little wooden bowls. A number or> ^eoP'e were Passing through the street °n 1 ,11- way to the Bocage, where the band ometimes played, and wijere the trees grew ose together and formed arcades as cool as cathedra I aisles. Babette seldom left her room in the Rue orologe, except for the market or church. le nad lived in this same house ever since ■ e was a child. Time, that lays such a proving hand on the human tabernacle, had t,. Materially altered the quaint old narrow r'-et. It looked just the same as it had U(Jiie whea Babette was young. in 4i a or^ 01 meaning is wrapped up |0 u won' young. It means hope, capacity ,renjoyment, expectancy—the tirst volume ill unread, with the fair pages all uncut, tiie last volume only waiting to be closed u the word •"Finis"' staring vou in the face. }vJ .M"as true, Babette had been a b-atl, She was seParatcd as much ni-v? time now by years of life as she ha 1 i-,UVe keen by years of death. Time, hor 'kd on, laying as it went a seam ]. -P a, ^"iiukle there, turning the brown elioi. Wlute> stealing the rose-pink from the dhs and the brilliancy from the eyes, tli- 8 f r Av'khered hands lay folded one over evo- i!8r' a su'^ escaP0d "er bps and her looked wistfully down the street. thpIrU+ry ?hu}.vs kept the past alive. It filled it T^ireet PsuP*e n<> longer familiar to sjj j ie sound of the footsteps for which fpr s<> °*ten listened seemed to echo the pavement below. «er body might grow old, but the heart Y always young. artc-i,,Itp-ast days Babette lived with an dav Sranclmother. The grandam sat all °orri 0n -1 tall-backed carved oak chair in a blini tiiG room'. knitting. She was nearly ^orl-' nn^ interfere with her it long habit of years had made of almost mechanical eifort. The click ? r^er ^eec*les came with the regularity of bainjlCa/lle" ?ie was rather deaf, besides a!I»ost blind, but she was quite con- & that state can be called contented learn"' + Knowin° lias nothing to expect, ye„ 0 to accept the inevitable. 1'hey were for tm-01"' fe!r & sufficed rooms r 'I1?3'11 nee^s th& rent of two bricl-pi°? second (ioor of the tall, rei- £ raCv T1,01^6 111 the Rue L'HoroIoge. The of «ftn,0uUej ll&<* 'JrouglJt up a large family ■8 a daughters, hit now her work bUj.s ,10na.' sp there ww nothing left for her fQ in the chimney corncr. No one u a!ne(l to her now of all her large family to °rand-daughter Babette. Tlie last i from her had been her youngest son, i0 «'as the pride of her heart, the Benjamin x her old age. .-it was in the days of the conscription rihKCrUitins"ser?eant cailie 4x> illeroi. Bright Wer'a^f ^eie fastened to his cap, drums Viiip,,063 ,an^ *e usually quiet town of lected01 ^'iS 1U^ ex-c't:mei)t. Crowds cul- Huincr -'ln market-place, and "Bon a hnn°. Was on evel7 ''I1 :• but it was not to (7Q a^neroi that Jacques erevr. He had sideVrl iS :'d^:as °f I1'3 country were con- Be m°re important than the tics of heme. sercr(1V'lf parched away hy the recrniting- fiK?>„tn b-ud still playing, the coloured he r.„.f %'Qg* He said, "Au revoir." but of war61 ('ame '3ack- lliat was the fortune To i ma'' dl;>fc:tte was entrusted all tlie household tverv3°ment' and sl!e <hd it well. Early ^opoin10111'11^ S^e weQt to market, generally to tl'A V-°n- way there to say a prayer Ii°ujj \\ri°'n ^"ther at the Church of St. she _n ^iei\ marketing was completed c°oked l')11" straight home, arranged and ^as ov„ le midday meal, and when that dishes cLeaTed away, and the plates and out hor s^ie drfessed herself and took On s Worli-basket. old crriThfC'ai,s aafl Sunts' day she took the1 tioon dtircllurc'h' and in the after- the Bo-'a'a" sunimer they both went to time f ,r f was Babette's happiest joine'd ti 6!e »T°uno Andre de Bernicr always Under ,ancl whilst the old lady sat iiio-s t>. i R'lafle of the trees knitting stock- do°vn. d ts and Andre walked up and oWn. iiio-s t>. i R'lafle of the trees knitting stock- do°vn. d ts and Andre walked up and froin ^n(lre had known each other begun un l' °^' ancl their intimacy had It Q rat'iei' exceptional circumstance?, is abroad 'f& Cl!stoni at Videroi, as ft usually chiir(>i- °1' those who have graves in the as is not S i ten'^ them with a care such terv Vm •tood in E"oh'.nd. The oeme- aQd on flimm01 Was ^ust outside the town, Was over 6r eYeui^s- when their work God's mourners wended their way to aticl e.Vfn I carrying immortelles, flowers, Places nf ^k°^S on the last resting- ftiostlv ^le-v l°ved. The graves were by a sit 'TlP'e!l of mounds of turf, headed AtiHt.o'1 9 ac'l5: wooden or iron cross. Vil heroi Ji'°Vier' w^° was E°t a native of iad only ono grave to bUried for her kte husband was Was (ni:f there but the cemetery longinp, °^er-run with wooden crosses bo- Wa,s y^, ° Labette's grandmother, and she to Proud of this fact and the superiority lnotller Un,})er"s sJle could hold over Andre's stances' 1 re's m°ther was in better circum- the on the mutual ground of s^e was less importance than able 3ff^ran<lInotlier. though she might be °f ever^r '16r busb -d a bought couronne liar} ,n.~ flowers. When her one grare don,e .S'te,l and wept over, liar work was Gross' rri grahdam went from cross to On'f] Vln?.a; fresh lamentation to each. the cemetery Mad.ame <le and tho Vras always accompajiied by Andre, Carried1 ?]! an(?am by Babette. Andre usually bunch immortelles, and Babette some rally vj fl°wers. These latter were gene- a aiVlde<J and a flower put on each grave— th^re r^i5rite here a piece of white stock daj<t T^~ often Babette put some field Ir,lxo<l with srrass into little earthen VatererS' Andre would help to fill with • _a Performance that was not always ^.th access. Wdfvr^r R work was over, and whilst tlie ^"Ould saying their prayers, the children enjoy themselves. The cemetery was like a gardten to them and they ran about playing hide and seek among the tombs. As they grew up the affection between them developed into love. Andre was very proud of Babette's favour, for many othur yoiuig men in Villeroi would have liked to have been in his place and envied him, but Babette had no eyaa and no thought for anvone but Andre. There was no formal engagement, and Andre's mother pretended to ignore the intimacy she was quite well aware existed. The old g; an/dam, knew all about it, but could do no- thing to help. Andre's mother had beon left a widow soon after her son's birth. Her husband had been a cwth weaver, which, in the old days was the great trade at Villeroi, and she did not think Babette was good enough to be her son's wife. The hand loom still filled up the biggest room in La, Maisonette, the houso Madame de Bernier had occupied in her husband's lifetime and where she still con- tinued to live. The loom was never used now. Andre did not take to weaving. He had a restless spirit, and would not settle to any particular work. He was a handsome lad at twenty, with dark grey eyes shaded by black, curling lashes, and hair that grew in waves. He was lit lie and active, being well built, and his winning smile and easy, plea.sant manner made him many friends. HLs mother, it is almost needless to say, was inordinately proud of her son. She was, moreover, dreadfully afraid of not doing her Chity by liini. for her husband had bym above her in social life. Hi-s only brother had left Villeroi more than twenty years before this story opens, and he was now a successful silk merchant at Lyons. As lit, had bo children, his wife being a great invalid, she thought he would have the right to bla.m<t her if Andre did not do credit to the. family. She hdly belivsd his father had not ris&n in the wr>-Vf a« his brother had done, because ho had Bi =r*:ed her with no fortune and no position. She had not beard of Mo-nsieur de Bernier fo-r years, except indirectly, but the fact that Andre had a rich uncle made all the difference in her views for him. She did not dare to oppose Andre, for lie had a. quick temper, and opposition had always, even from a child, rathe'' a. strengthening than a deterring effect I upon him There was nothing to say against Babette, so Madame de Bernier said nothing, but she waited. CHAPTER II. LOVE'S YOrKG DREAM. Babette's life was full of sunshine, partly because she was young and strong, but more probably because she was gifted with a naturally bright and happy disposition. She naturally bright and happy disposition. She sang as she went about her daily duties; she sang as she sat at her sewing. There was an old oak press in the corner of the sitting- room that must have known all about it, for Babette was so constantly on her knees before it, hiding away in the deep drawers, carefully folded, bundles of linen sheets, table cloths, and under-garments. She sat at her spinning wheel and spun the flax, and took it to a friend, who was a weaver, and he wove Babette's thread into strong pieces of linen, hanging them out on the hillside to bleach. When they were white enough Babette fetched them back. and began this labour of love, the preparations for her mar- riage with Andre. Even the old grandam was working for this same object. She knitted squares, which Babette was to sew together into a counter- pane—-a counterpane to be used in her own home—hers and Andre's. Everything when it was finished went into the oak press, and Babette saw with pride the shelves, as well as the drawers, were filling. When the light faded, and she could no longer see to work, siie sat listening for Andre's familiar step coming up the stairs, and then she would run and open the door for him, a glad light in her eyes, a smile on her UP": She did not always bring out the lamp, but she and Andre would sit down and talk in whispers. Sometimes, when the moon rose and threw the reflection of the latticed window panes upon the dark, unearpeted floor, the lengthening shadows would show that Babette's head rested on her lover's shoulder, and that his arm was round her waist. Though the old grandam could neither hear nor see, she knew they were there, and nodded her head, for she had been young once, and, though the olick of her needles went on perpetually, perhaps she was thinking of the long ago years. When Andre went away Babette would lean her head out of the vine- trellissed window and watch him till he was out of sight. Sometimes, as he passed' under the window, she would throw him the little bouquet she had been wearing at her breast. Just at tlie corner of the street he always turned and raised his cap. with a long last look at the girl framed in vine leaves. CHAPTER III. PRIESTLY PLOTTING AT THE CHA- TEAU. The only house of any importance at Ville- roi was the Chateau, and there was a romance attached to it—a romance which the people still liked to talk about, though it had all happened ten years ago. The Chateau stood on the heights just above the town, and its conical tourei.es towered above the trees that surrounded it. Monsieur Leon, to whom it belonged, was a banker; he had a bank in Paris and a branch bank at Villeroi. He had been married, but his wife no longer lived with him, and whether he was a widower or not remained a mystery upon which Mon- sieur Leon did not choose to throw any light'. He had not been a young man when he married, but lie had been absolutely devoted to his wife. He had met her in Paris, and was married there. His wife's mother, the Baroness de Courcelles, was a. widow, still comparatively young and very good-looking. Gabrielle was her only child. The Baroness, for her position, was frightfully poor; con- sequently, that Gabrielle should marry well became a necessity. Madame de Courcelles had found some diffi- cultv in arranging what she considered, a suitable alliance for her young daugther, who, although a very quiet girl, possessed a deter- mined"spirit: "but, on the other hand, she had a great friend and supporter in the Abbe Godard. He was a Jesuit priest, only a little past the prime of life, though he gave the impression of being many years older than lie really was. He was tall, slight, and austere looking, with a firm mouth and deep- sct piercing grey eyes. He was tne Baroness's friend, her confessor and adviser in things temporal as well as spiritual. He ruled her with a rod of iron, and she kissed the rod. One morning the Baroness was sitting be- fore the fire in her own particular sanctum in her house in Paris. She held a fire screen in her hand. which was delicately gloved In pearl grey kid, and the Abbe was leaning against the mantelpiece. The Baroness held the screen so as to shade her face from the blaze of the wooden logs, and her voice when she spoke w&s deeply agitated. The Abbe, on the contrary, was cool and collected. He looked down on the Baroness with an air of marked superiority, whilst he listened attentively to her communications. „ "I don't know what to do about Gabrielle, she was saying. "I am afraid she has formed an attachment for her cousin Gaspard. In her convent seclusion she had no one else to think about, and her mind has evidently been full of him." "Have they been much together lately? the Abbe asked. "Yes, at intervals, from childhood. My husband, unfortunately, was left sole guardian of his brother's son. Gaspard spent most of his holidays with us in the country. He and Gabrielle were playmates, but till quite lately I had not the remotest suspicion any feeling existed between them beyond cousinly regard, or I should certainly have told you." The Abbe was silent for some seconds; then he said: "Where is the young man now ? In Paris?" "No. He is on leave, and has gone to some friends near Orleans for shooting. The Chasseurs D'Afrique are quartered at Orleans. but Gaspard has been a good deal in Paris since Gabrielle came home." "We must find a, more suitable match for Gabrielle," the Abbe said, meditatively. "Her cousin is, of course, out of the question." "Yes, quite out of the question, for he has no means; but Gabrielle is difficult to manage. She inherits her father's determina- tion—his obstinacy." "You must leave her to me, the Abbe said, with an air of authority. "Visible coercion would be a mistake. Mademoiselle Gabriel has a nature that may be guided, though not driven—anyhow, the reins must be concealed." A few days after this conversation had taken place the Abbe asked permission to bring to the Baroness's Thursday "At Home" in the Rue St. Jean a gentleman of his acquaintance. The permission was, of course, granted, and Monsieur Leon was formaPy presented to the Baroness and her daughter. Monsieur Leon had seen Gabrielle at the theatre and at one or two salons. He was immensely struck with her beauty-a fact which had accidentally come to the Abbe's ears, and of which he was not slow to take advantage. The Baroness received Monsieur Leon with that charming courtesy which made her social popularity, and at once introduced him to Gabrielle. Gabrielle took no notice of the visitor bevond what civility demanded and she was not aware that Monsieur Leon's eyes followed her every movement. She possessed the refined beauty he admired, and to which lie was not accustomed. Her olive-tinted oval-shaped face was devoid of colour, except for the lips. Her eyes were dark blue, the eyebrows delicately pencilled. She wore her hair, which was almost jet black, simply coiled up at the back of her well shaped head. Tall and slender, her movements nere full of natural grace, and she had the un- mistakable high-bred air that belongs to the old noblesse of France. Every time Monsieur Leon saw Gabrielle his attachment, his infatuation, grew stronger. He did not think himself good enough for her, though lie knew that the Abbe desired the marriage. He placed himself, however, entirely in his hands, and took no step un- advised. One day the Abbe intimated to him lie was to bo allowed a private interview with the Baroness de Courcelles. Monsieur Leon asked the Baroness for her permission to come to her house as a possible suitor for her daughter's hand, and the request was immediately granted. Nothing was said to Gabrielle, but Monsieur Leon, instead cf only appearing at the Thursday receptions— open to all friends—was invited to little dinners in the Rue St. Jean, joined the Baroness and Gabrielle in the Bois de Bou- logne, accompanied them to the theatres or opera. (To be continued.)