Page:Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag, Volume 2.djvu/48

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tains or tanks by the way, scrubbing, slapping, singing, and gossiping, as they washed or spread their linen on the green hedges and daisied grass in the bright spring weather. One envied the cheery faces under the queer caps, the stout arms that scrubbed all day, and were not too tired to carry home some chubby Jean or little Marie when night came, and, most of all, the contented hearts in the broad bosoms under the white kerchiefs, for no complaint did one hear from these hard-working, happy women. The same brave spirit seems to possess them now as that which carried them heroically to their fate in the Revolution, when hundreds of mothers and children were shot at Nantes and died without a murmur.

But of all the friends the strangers made among them, they liked old Mère Oudon best,—a shrivelled leaf of a woman, who at ninety-two still supported her old husband of ninety-eight. He was nearly helpless, and lay in bed most of the time, smoking, while she peeled willows at a sou a day, trudged up and down with herbs, cresses, or any little thing she could find to sell. Very proud was she of her "master," his great age, his senses still quite perfect, and most of all his strength, for now and then the