Page:A chambermaid's diary.djvu/367

This page needs to be proofread.


ffer you, my



little one, — why, it is a fortune; better than a fortune, it is a family! "

Louise was shaken. Certainly, the old lady's words caused unknown hopes to sing in her head. With her peasant's rapacity, she had visions of strong-boxes filled with gold, and fabulous wills. And life in common, with this good mistress, the table shared, frequent trips to the squares and the suburban woods, — these things seemed marvelous to her. And they frightened her also, for doubts, an unconquerable and native mistrust, dimmed the brilliancy of these promises. She knew not what to say or do; she knew not what course to take. I felt a desire to cry out to her: " Do not accept." For I could see this hermit-like life, the exhausting tasks, the bitter reproaches, the disputed food, and the stripped bones and spoiled meat thrown to- her hunger, and the eternal, patient, torturing exploita- tion of a poor, defenceless being. "No, do not listen to her; go away! " But I repressed this cry, which was on my lips.

" Come a little nearer, my little one," ordered the old lady. ' ' One would think that you were afraid of me. Come, do not be afraid of me; come nearer. How curious it is ! Already you seem less ugly. Already I am getting used to your face."

Louise approached slowly, with stiffened mem- bers, trying hard not to run against the ch