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The Baldwin Library
Two LITTLE WOODEN
BY LOUISA DE LA RAMi
Illustrated by Ltheldred B. Barry
JOSEPH KNIGHT COMPANY
JOSEPH KNIGHT COMPANY
1ebee .. Frontispiece.
Headpiece to List of Illustrations v
Tailpiece to List of Illustrations vii
Headpiece to Chapter I I
" Old Antoine took it to his wife" 3
" Beb6e when it trotted no higher than the red carna-
tion heads" 4
"And there are a few cottages and cabins there near
the pretty water .. 5
" But there is nobody that has the right' said B6bbe 12
" My mother was a flower .15
Headpiece to Chapter II 20
" She had to be active amidst them .22
" The old man unlocked it with a trembling hand 26
A bit of the H8tel de Ville 30
"The bright little caf6s were thronged with pleasure-
" And all his spare time was taken up in digging his
cabbage plot and seeing to his beehives .33
"Or a Gothic arch yawns beneath a wool warehouse 35
Initial, The little cross woman with the pedler's tray 39
" Her little muslin cap blew back like the wings of a
white butterfly" 43
vi LIST OF ILLUS TRATIONS.
St. Gudule's .44
B6bee looked up with a smile 56
"Sitting on the edge of her stall 59
"And B6b6e would listen, the shell in her lap 72
In the little dark attic there was a very old woman" 74
"Old Ann6mie watched at the window" 80
You are of the people of Rubes' country, are you
not?'" ..... 87
"Against the dusky red sky, a young man with a pile
of brushwood on his back 96
As she sat on the edge of the roof" 102
"Then she went and kneeled down before the old
shrine in the wall of the garden 8
"As she also hung out her linen 23
" His beautiful Murillo head was dark 27
" In winter time drove a milk cart over the snow 134
"More than once he came and filled in more fully his
various designs in the little hut garden 7
"All the people are gone on a pilgrimage 148
"It was a pretty picture 55
"There was a sad darkling Calvary on the edge of
the harvest-field that looked black against the blue
sky" .. 165
" It was Gretchen, spinning, out in the open air" 70
" He answered her dreamily, and lay there in the
"Some one was playing a guitar 180
Initial "The shrine in the wall 186
"' You will come hack she moaned" .197
" In the lane by the swans' water 202
Tailpiece, "The Varnhart children 203
" The poor to pick up the broken, bare boughs 204
"The keeper of the stall chose good volumes for
her" .. 206
LIST OF ILL USTRA TIONS.
"And just the same was seen trudging to and fro 212
"And the Host was borne by on high 218
"She sat under a shrine in a by street a moment 230
"In the woods and fields about Alne she began to
breathe again" 234
"The barges dropping down, the sluggish streams 239
" Paris in all its glory was about her 243
"Jeannot, with Father Francis prayed before the
shrine of the Seven Sorrows" 252
Tailpiece, Two little wooden shoes" 255
Au ,,,~,~st ~
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
BEBEE sprang out of bed at daybreak.
She was sixteen.
It seemed a very wonderful thing to be as
much as that- sixteen- a woman quite.
A cock was crowing under her lattice. He
said how old you are! how old you are!
every time that he sounded his clarion.
She opened the lattice and wished him good
day, with a laugh. It was so pleasant to be
woke by him, and to think that no one in all
the world could ever call one a child any
There was a kid bleating in the shed. There
was a thrush singing in the dusk of the syca-
more leaves. There was a calf lowing to its
mother away there beyond the fence. There
were dreamy muffled bells ringing in the dis-
tance from many steeples and belfries where
the city was; they all said one thing, "How
good it is to be so old as that how good,
how very good "
Beb6e was very pretty.
No one in all Brabant ever denied that. To
..ook at her it seemed as if she had so lived
among the flowers that she had grown like
them, and only looked a bigger blossom--that
She wore two little wooden shoes and a little
cotton cap, and a gray kirtle-linen in summer,
serge in winter; but the little feet in the shoes
were like rose leaves, and the cap was as white
as a lily, and the gray kirtle was like the bark
of the bough that the apple-blossom parts, and
peeps out of, to blush in the sun.
The flowers had been the only godmothers
that she had ever had, and fairy godmothers too.
The marigolds and the sunflowers had given
her their ripe, rich gold to tint her hair; the
lupins and irises had lent their azure to her
eyes; the moss-rosebuds had made her pretty
mouth; the arum lilies had uncurled their soft-
ness for her skin; and the lime-blossoms had
given her their frank, fresh, innocent fragrance.
The winds had blown, and the rains had
rained, and the sun had shone on her, indeed,
and had warmed the whiteness of her limbs,
but they had only given to her body and her
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
soul a hardy, breeze-blown freshness like that
of a field cowslip.
She had never been called anything but
One summer day Antoine Maes -a French
subject, but a Belgian by adoption and habit,
an old man who got his meagre living by tilling
the garden plot about his hut and selling
flowers in the city squares -Antoine, going
into Brussels for his day's trade, had seen a
gray bundle floating among the water-lilies in
the bit of water near his hut and had hooked
it out to land, and found a year-old child in it,
left to drown, no doubt, but saved by the lilies,
and laughing gleefully at fate.
Some lace-worker, blind with the pain of toil,
or some peasant woman harder of heart than
the oxen in her yoke, had left it there to drift
away to death, not reckoning for the inward
ripple of the current or the toughness of the
lily leaves and sterns.
Old Antoine took it to his wife, and the
wife, a childless and aged soul, begged leave to
keep it; and the two poor lonely, simple folks
grew to care for the homeless, motherless
thing, and they and the people about all called
it B6bee- only Bebfe.
The church got at it and& added to it a saint's
name; but for all its little world it remained
B6bee Beb6e when it trotted no higher than
the red carnation
/ heads ; B6be
When its yellow
curls touched as high as
S\ B6bee on this proud day
-- \ when the thrush's song
and the cock's crow found
,I her sixteen years old.
Old Antoine's hut
Stood in a little patch of
garden ground with a brier hedge all round it,
in that byway which lies between Laeken and
Brussels, in the heart of flat, green Brabant,
where there are beautiful meadows and tall,
flowering hedges, and forest trees, and fern-
filled ditches, and a little piece of water, deep
and cool, where the swans sail all day long, and
the silvery willows dip and sway with the wind.
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
Turn aside from the highway, and there it
lies to-day, and all the place brims over with
grass, and boughs, and blossoms, and flowering
beans, and wild dog-roses; and there are a few
cottages and cabins there near the pretty water,
and farther there is an old church, sacred to St.
Guido; and beyond go the green level country
and the endless wheat-fields, and the old mills
with their red sails against the sun; and beyond
all these the pale blue, sea-like horizon of the
plains of Flanders.
It was a pretty little hut, pink all over like a
sea-shell, in the fashion that the Netherlanders
love; and its two little square lattices were dark
with creeping plants and big rose-bushes, and
its roof, so low that you could touch it, was
golden and green with all the lichens and stone-
worts that are known on earth.
Here Bebhe grew from year to year; and
.soon learned to be big enough and hardy
enough to tie up bunches of stocks and pinks
for the market, and then to carry a basket for
herself, trotting by Antoine's side along the
green roadway and into the white, wide streets;
and in the market the buyers-most often of
all when they were young mothers--would
seek out the little golden head and the beautiful
frank blue eyes, and buy B6b6e's lilies and car-
nations whether they wanted them or not.
So that old Mies used to cross himself and
say that, thanks to Our Lady, trade was thrice
as stirring since the little one had stretched out
her rosy fingers with the flowers.
All the same, however stirring trade might
be in summer, when the long winters came and
the Montagne de la Cour was a sharp slope of
ice, and the pinnacles of St. Gudule were all
frosted white with snow, and the hot-house
flowers alone could fill the market, and the
country gardens were bitter black wind-swept
desolations where the chilly roots huddled
themselves together underground like homeless
children in a cellar, -then the money gained
in the time of leaf and blossom was all needed
to buy a black loaf and fagot of wood; and
many a day in the little pink hut B6b6e rolled
herself up in her bed like a dormouse, to for-
get in sleep that she wag supperless and as cold
as a frozen robin.
So that when Antoine Maes grew sick and
died, more from age and weakness than any
real disease, there were only a few silver crowns
OR TWO LITTLE WOODENr SHOES.
in the brown jug hidden in the thatch; and the
hut itself, with its patch of ground, was all that
he could leave to B6bee.
Live in it, little one, and take nobody in it
to worry you, and be good to the bird and the
goat, and be sure to keep the flowers blowing,"
said the old man with his last breath; and
sobbing her heart out by his bedside, Beb6e
vowed to do his bidding.
She was not quite fourteen then, and when
she had laid her old friend to rest in the rough
green graveyard about St. Guido, she was
very sorrowful and lonely, poor little, bright
be6be, who had never hardly known a worse
woe than to run the thorns of the roses into her
fingers, or to cry because a thrush was found
starved to death in the snow.
Beb6e went home, and sat down in a corner
The hut was her own, and her own the little
green triangle just then crowded with its May-
day blossom in all the colors of the rainbow.
She was to live in it, and never let the flowers
die, so he had said; good, rough old ugly
Antoine Maes, who had been to her as father,
mother, country, king, and law.
The sun was shining.
Through the little square of the lattice she
could see the great tulips opening in the grass
and a bough of the apple-tree swaying in the
wind. A chaffinch clung to the bough, and
swung to and fro singing. The door stood
open, with the broad, bright day beaming
through; and B6b6e's little world came stream-
ing in with it, the world which dwelt in the
half-dozen cottages that fringed this green lane
of hers like beavers' nests pushed out under
the leaves on to the water's edge.
They came in, six or eight of them, all
women; trim, clean, plain Brabant peasants,
hard-working, kindly of nature, and shrewd in
their own simple matters; people who labored
in the fields all the day long, or worked them-
selves blind over the lace pillows in the city.
"You are too young to live alone, Beb6e,"
said the first of them. My old mother shall
come and keep house for you."
"Nay, better come and live with me,
B6bee," said the second. I will give you bit
and drop, and clothing, too, for the right to
your plot of ground."
"That is to cheat her," said the third.
"Hark, here, B6b6e: my sister, who is a lone
woman, as you know well, shall come and bide
with you, and ask you nothing -nothing at all
- only you shall just give her a crust, perhaps,
and a few flowers to sell sometimes."
No, no," said the fourth; that will not do.
You let me have the garden and the hut,
Beb6e, and my sons shall till the place for you;
and I will live with you myself, and leave the
boys the cabin, so you will have all the gain,
do you not see, dear little one? "
Pooh! said the fifth, stouter and better
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
clothed than the rest. You are all eager for
your own good, not for hers. Now I- Father
Francis says we should all do as we would be
done by-I will take B6b6e to live with me,
all for nothing; and we will root the flowers up
and plant it with good cabbages and potatoes
and salad plants. And I will stable my cows
in the hut to sweeten it after a dead man, and I
will take my chance of making money out of it,
and no one can speak more fair than that when
one sees what weather is, and thinks what
insects do; and all the year round, winter and
summer, B6b6e here will want for nothing, and
have to take no care for herself whatever."
She who spoke, Mere Krebs, was the best-to-
do woman in the little lane, having two cows of
her own and ear-rings of solid silver, and a green
cart, and a big dog that took the milk into
Brussels. She was heard, therefore, with re-
spect, and a short silence followed her words.
But it was very short; and a hubbub of
voices crossed each other after it as the
speakers grew hotter against one another and
more eager to convince each other of the disin-
terestedness and delicacy of their offers of aid.
Through it all Bebee sat quite quiet on the
edge of the little truckle-bed, with her eyes
fixed on the apple bough and the singing
She heard them all patiently.
They were all her good friends, friends old
and true. This one had given her cherries for
o1 BLB ,E,
many a summer. That other had bought her
a little waxen Jesus at the Kermesse. The old
woman in the blue linen skirt had taken her to
her first communion. She who wanted her
sister to have the crust and the flowers, had
brought her a beautiful painted book of hours
that had cost a whole franc. Another had given
her the solitary wonder, travel, and foreign feast
of her whole life, -a day fifteen miles away at
the fair at Mechlin. The last speaker of all had
danced her on her knee a hundred times in baby-
hood, and told her legends, and let her ride in
the green cart behind big curly-coated Tam-
B6bie did not doubt that these trusty old
friends meant well by her, and yet a certain
heavy sense fell on her that in all these counsels
there was not the same whole-hearted and
frank goodness that had prompted the gifts to
her of the waxen Jesus, and the Kermesse of
Bebde did not reason, because she was too
little a thing and too trustful; but she felt, in a
vague, sorrowful fashion, that they were all of
them trying to make some benefit out of her
poor little heritage, with small regard for her-
self at the root of their speculations.
B6b6e was a child, wholly a child; body
and soul were both as fresh in her as a golden
crocus just born out of the snows. But she
was not a little fool, though people sometimes.
called her so because she would sit in the mo-
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES. II
ments of her leisure with her blue eyes on the
far-away clouds like a thing in a dream.
She heard them patiently till the cackle of
shrill voices had exhausted itself, and the six
women stood on the sunny mud floor of the
hut eyeing each other with venomous glances;
for though they were good neighbors at all
times, each, in this matter, was hungry for the
advantages to be got out of old Antoine's plot
of ground. They were very poor; they toiled
in the scorched or frozen fields all weathers, or
spent from dawn to nightfall poring over their
cobweb lace; and to save a sou or gain a cab-
bage was of moment to them only second to
the keeping of their souls secure of heaven by
Lenten mass and Easter psalm.
Beb6e listened to them all, and the tears
dried on her cheeks, and her pretty rosebud
lips curled close in one another.
You are very good, no doubt, all of you,"
she said at last. But I cannot tell you that I
am thankful, for my heart is like a stone, and I
think it is not so very much for me as it is for
the hut that you are speaking. Perhaps it is
wrong in me to say so; yes, I am wrong, I
am sure,- you are all kind, and I am only
Bbe6e. But you see he told me to live here
and take care of the flowers, and I must do it,
that is certain. I will ask Father Francis, if
you wish; but if he tells me I am wrong, as
you do, I shall stay here all the same."
And in answer to their expostulations and
condemnation, she only said the same thing
over again always, in different words, but to the
same steadfast purpose. The women clamored
about her for an hour in reproach and rebuke;
she was a baby indeed, she was a little fool, she
was a naughty, obstinate child, she was an un-
grateful, wilful little creature, who ought to be
beaten till she was blue, if only there was any-
body that had the right to do it!
But there is nobody that has the right,"
said B6bc, getting angry and standing upright
on the floor, with Antoine's old gray cat in her
round arms. He told me to stay here, and
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
he would not have said so if it had been wrong;
and I am old enough to do for myself, and I
am not afraid, and who is there that would' hurt
me? Oh, yes; go and tell Father Francis, if
you like I do not believe he will blame me,
but if he do, I must bear it. Even if he shut
the church door on me, I will obey Antoine,
and the flowers will know I am right, and they
will let no evil spirits touch me, for the flowers
are strong for that; they talk to the angels in
What use was it to argue with a little idiot
like this? Indeed, peasants never do argue;
they use abuse.
It is their only form of logic.
They used it to b6be, rating her soundly, as
became people who were old enough to be her
grandmothers, and who knew that she had been
raked out of their own pond, and had no more
real place in creation than a water rat, as one
The women were kindly, and had never
thrown this truth against her before, and in fact,
to be a foundling was no sort of disgrace to
their sight; but anger is like wine, and makes
the depths of the mind shine clear, and all the
mud that is in the depths stink in the light;
and in their wrath at not sharing Antoine's
legacy, the good souls said bitter things that in
calm moments they would no more have ut-
tered than they would have taken up a knife to
slit her throat.
They talked themselves hoarse with impa-
tience and chagrin, and went backwards over
the threshold, their wooden shoes and their
shrill voices keeping a clattering chorus. By
this time it was evening; the sun had gone off
the floor, and the bird had done singing.
B6b6e stood in the same place, hardening
her little heart, whilst big and bitter tears
swelled into her eyes, and fell on the soft fur of
the sleeping cat.
She only very vaguely understood why it
was in any sense shameful to have been raked
out of the water-lilies like a drowning field
mouse, as they had said it was.
She and Antoine had often talked of that
summer morning when he had found her there
among the leaves, and Beb6e and he had
laughed over it gayly, and she had been quite
proud in her innocent fashion that she had had
a fairy and the flowers for her mother and god-
mothers, which Antoine always told her was
the case beyond any manner of doubt. Even
Father Francis, hearing the pretty harmless
fiction, had never deemed it his duty to disturb
her pleasure in it, being a good, cheerful old man,
who thought that woe and wisdom both come
soon enough to bow young shoulders and
to silver young curls without his interference.
B6b6e had always thought it quite a fine
thing to have been born of wate--lilies, with the
sun for her father, and when people in Brussels
had asked her of her parentage, seeing her
OR TWO LITTLE WOODE.V SHOES.
stand in the market with a certain look on her
that was not like other ,children, had always
gravely answered in the purest good faith, -
My mother was a flower."
"You are a flower, at any rate," they would
say in return; and B6b6e had been always
But now she was doubtful; she was rather
perplexed than sorrowful.
These good friends of hers seemed
to see some new sin about her. Per-
haps, after all, thought Bebee, it '
might have been better to have had -
a human mother who would have
taken care of her now that old '.
Antoine was dead, instead of those
beautiful, gleaming, cold water-lilies
which went to sleep on their green
velvet beds, and did not certainly
care when the thorns ran into her
fingers, or the pebbles got in her wooden shoes.
In some vague way, disgrace and envy-
the twin Discords of the world-touched her
innocent cheek with their hot breath, and as
the evening fell, B1b6e felt very lonely and a
She had been always used to run out in the
pleasant twilight-time among the flowers and
water them, Antoine filling the can from the
well; and the neighbors would come and lean
against the little low wall, knitting and gossip-
ing; and the big dogs, released from harness,
would poke their heads through the wicket lor
a crust; and the children would dance and
play Colin Maillard on the green by the water;
and she, when the flowers were no longer
thirsted, would join them, and romp and dance
and sing the gayest of them all.
But now the buckets hung at the bottom of
the well, and the flowers hungered in vain, and
the neighbors held aloof, and she shut to the
hut door and listened to the rain which began
to fall, and cried herself to sleep all alone in
her tiny kingdom.
When the dawn came the sun rose red and
warm; the grass and boughs' sparkled; a lark
sang; B6b6e awoke sad in heart, indeed, for
her lost old friend, but brighter and braver.
"Each of them wants to get something out
of me," thought the child. "Well, I, will live
alone, then, and do my duty, just as he said.
The flowers will never let any real harm come,
though they do look so indifferent and smiling
sometimes, and though not one of them hung
their heads when his coffin was carried through
That want of sympathy in the flower
The old man had loved them so well; and
they had all looked as glad as ever, and had
laughed saucily in the sun, and not even a rose-
bud turned the paler as the poor still stiffened
limbs went by in the wooden shell.
"I suppose God cares; but I wish they
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
did," said B6bee, to whom the garden was more
intelligible than Providence.
Why do you not care? she asked the pinks,
shaking the raindrops off their curled rosy petals.
The pinks leaned lazily against their sticks,
and seemed to say, "Why should we care for
anything, unless a slug be eating us?-that is
real woe, if you like."
B6b6e, without her sabots on, wandered
thoughtfully among the sweet wet sunlightened
labyrinths of blossom, her pretty bare feet
treading the narrow grassy paths with pleasure
in their coolness.
He was so good to you !"she said reproach-
fully to the great gaudy gillyflowers and the
painted sweet-peas. He never let you know
heat or cold, he never let the worm gnaw or
the snail harm you; he would get up in the
dark to see after your wants; and when the
ice froze over you, he was there to loosen your
chains. Why do you not care, anyone of you?"
"How silly you are!" said the flowers.
"You must be a butterfly or a poet, B6bee, to
be as foolish as that. Some one will do all he
did. We are of market value, you know.
Care, indeed when the sun is so warm, and there
is not an earwig in the place to trouble us."
The flowers were not always so selfish as
this; and perhaps the sorrow in B&b6e's heart
made their callousness seem harder than it
When we suffer very much ourselves, any-
thing that smiles in the sun seems cruel a
child, a bird, a dragon-fly--nay, even a flut-
tering ribbon, or a spear-grass that waves in the
There was a little shrine at the corner of the
garden, set into the wall; a niche with a bit of
glass and a picture of the Virgin, so battered
that no one could trace any feature of it.
It had been there for centuries, and was held
in great veneration; and old Antoine had al-
ways cut the choicest buds of his roses and set
them in a delf pot in front of it, every other
morning all the summer long. Bbebe, whose
religion was the sweetest, vaguest mingling of
Pagan and Christian myths, and whose faith in
fairies and in saints was exactly equal in
strength and in ignorance, -B6b6e filled the
delf pot anew carefully, then knelt down on the
turf in that little green corner, and prayed in
devout hopeful childish good faith to the awful
unknown Powers who were to her only as gentle
guides and kindly playmates.
Was she too familiar with the Holy Mother?
She was almost fearful that she was; but
then the Holy Mother loved flowers so well,
Bebee would not feel aloof from her, nor be
"When one cuts the best blossoms for her,
and tries to be good, and never tells a lie,"
thought B3bee, I am quite sure, as she loves
the lilies, that she will never altogether forget
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
So she said to the Mother of Christ fearlessly,
and nothing doubting; and then rose for her
daily work of cutting the flowers for the market
By the time her baskets were full, her fowls
fed, her goat foddered, her starling's cage
cleaned, her hut door locked, and her wooden
shoes clattering on the sunny road into the city,
Beb6e was almost content again, though ever
and again, as she trod the familiar ways, the
tears dimmed her eyes as she remembered that
old Antoine would never again hobble over the
stones beside her.
"You are a little wilful one, and too young
to live alone," said Father Francis, meeting her
in the lane.
But he did not scold her seriously, and she
kept to her resolve; and the women, who were
good at heart, took her back into favor again;
and so Beb6e had her own way, and the fairies,
or the saints, or both together, took care of her;
and so it came to pass that all alone she heard
the cock crow whilst it was dark, and woke to
the grand and amazing truth that this warm,
fragrant, dusky June morning found her full
sixteen years old.
THE two years had not been all playtime
any more than they had been all summer.
When one has not father, or mother, or
brother, and all one's friends have barely bread
enough for themselves, life cannot be very easy,
nor its crusts ve;y many at any time.
Bebbe had a cherub's mouth, and a dreamer's
eyes, and a poet's thoughts sometimes in her
own untaught and unconscious fashion.
But all the same she was a little hard-working
Brabant peasant girl; up whilst the birds twit-
tered in the dark; to bed when the red sun
sank beyond the far blue line of the plains;
she hoed, and dug, and watered, and planted
her little plot; she kept her cabin as clean as a
fresh-blossomed primrose; she milked her goat
and swept her floor; she sat, all the warm days,
in the town, selling her flowers, and in the
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
winter time, when her garden yielded her
nothing, she strained her sight over lace-mak-
ing in the city to get the small bit of food that
stood between her and that hunger which to the
poor means death.
A hard life; very hard when hail and snow
made the streets of Brussels like slopes of ice;
a little hard even in the gay summer time when
she sat under the awning fronting the Maison du
Roi; but all the time the child throve on it, and
was happy, and dreamed of many graceful and
gracious things whilst she was weeding among
her lilies, or tracing the threads to and fro on
her lace pillow.
Now when she woke to the full sense of
her wonderful sixteen years B6bee, standing
barefoot on the mud floor, was as pretty a sight
as was to be seen betwixt Scheldt and Rhine.
The sun had only left a soft warmth like an
apricot's on her white skin. Her limbs, though
strong as a mountain pony's, were slender and
well shaped. Her hair curled in shiny crum-
pled masses, and tumbled about her shoulders.
Her pretty round plump little breast was white
as the lilies in the grass without, and in this
blooming time of her little life, Beb6e, in her
way, was beautiful as a peach-bloom is beauti-
ful, and her innocent, courageous, happy eyes
had dreams in them underneath their laughter,
dreams that went farther than the green woods
of Laeken, farther even than the white clouds
She could not move among them idly as
poets and girls love to do; she had to be active
amidst them, else drought and rain, and worm
and snail, and blight and frost, would have made
havoc of their fairest hopes.
The loveliest love is that which dreams high
above all storms, unsoiled by all burdens; but
perhaps the strongest love is that which, whilst
it adores, drags its feet through mire, and burns
its brow in heat, for the thing beloved.
So Bebe dreamed in her garden; but all
the time for sake cf it hoed and dug, and hurt
OR TWO LITTLE TVOODEN SHOES.
her hands, and tired her limbs, and bowed
her shoulders under the great metal pails from
This wondrous morning, with the bright bur-
den of her sixteen years upon her, she dressed
herself quickly and fed her fowls, and, happy as
a bird, went to sit on her little wooden stool in
There had been fresh rain in the night: the
garden was radiant; the smell of the wet earth
was sweeter than all perfumes that are burned
The dripping rosebuds nodded against her
hair as she went out; the starling called to her,
" Beb6e, B6b'e bonjour, bonjour." These
were all the words it knew. It said the
same words a thousand times a week. But
to B6b6e it seemed that the starling -most
certainly knew that she was sixteen years old
Breaking her bread into the milk, she sat in
the dawn and thought, without knowing that she
thought it, How good it is to live when one
is young! "
Old people say the same thing often, but they
sigh when they say it. B6bee smiled.
Mere Krebs opened her door in the next cot-
tage, and nodded over the wall.
What a fine thing to be sixteen a merry
Marthe, the carpenter's wife, came out from
her gate, broom in hand.
"The Holy Saints keep you, BIbec; why,
you are quite a woman now! "
The little children of Varnhart, the charcoal-
burner, who were as poor as any mouse in the
old churches, rushed out of their little home up
the lane, bringing with them a cake stuck full
of sugar and seeds, and tied round with a blue
ribbon, that their mother had made that very
week, all in her honor.
Only see, B6be Such a grand cake! "
they shouted, dancing down the lane. "Jules
picked the plums, and Jeanne washed the
almonds, and Christine took the ribbon off her
own communion cap, all for you all for you;
but you will let us come and eat it too? "
Old Gran'mere Bishot, who was the oldest
woman about Laeken, hobbled through the
grass on her crutches and nodded her white
shaking head, and smiled at B6b6e.
I have nothing to give you, little one, ex-
cept my blessing, if you care for that."
Beb6e ran out, breaking from the children,
and knelt down in the wet grass, and bent her
pretty sunny head to the benediction.
Trine, the miller's wife, the richest woman of
them all, called to the child from the steps of
A merry year, and the blessing of Heaven,
Beibe Come up, and here is my first dish of
cherries for you; not tasted one myself; they
will make you a feast with Varnhart's cake,
though she should have known better, so poor
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
as she is. Charity begins at home, and these
children's stomachs are empty."
Bebee ran up and then down again gleefully,
with her lapful of big black cherries; Tambour,
the old white dog, who had used to drag her
about in his milk cart, leaping on her in sym-
pathy and congratulation.
"What a supper we will have she cried to
the charcoal-burner's children, who were turn-
ing somersaults in the dock leaves, while the
swans stared and hissed.
When one is sixteen, cherries and a cake
have a flavor of Paradise still, especially when
they are tasted twice, or thrice at most, in all
An old man called to her as she went by his
door. All these little cabins lie close together,
with only their apple-trees, or their tall beans,
or their hedges of thorn between them; you
may ride by and never notice them if you do
not look for them under the leaves closely, as
you would for thrushes' nests.
He, too, was very old; a lifelong neighbor
and gossip of Antoine's; he had been a day
laborer in these same fields all his years, and
had never travelled farther than where the red
mill-sails turned among the colza and the corn.
Come in, my pretty one, for a second," he
whispered, with an air of mystery that made
B6b6e's heart quicken with expectancy. "Come
in; I have something for you. They were my
dead daughter's -you have heard me talk of
her Lisette, who died forty year or more ago,
they say; for me I think it was yesterday.
Mere Krebs- she is a hard woman--heard
me talking of my girl. She burst out laugh-
ing, Lord's sake, fool, why, your girl would be
sixty now an she had lived.' Well, so it may
be; you see, the new mill was put up the week
she died, and you call the new mill old; but,
my girl, she is young to me. Always young.
Come here, Bebee."
B6bde went after him a little awed, into the
dusky interior, that smelt
of stored apples and of
dried herbs that hung
from the roof. There
was a walnut-wood press,
such as the peasants of
France and the low
countries keep their
homespun linen in and
their old lace that serves
for the nuptials and bap-
tisms of half a score of
'I The old man unlocked
it with a trembling hand,
and there came from it an odor of dead lavender
and of withered rose leaves.
On the shelves there were a girl's set of
clothes, and a girl's sabots, and a girl's com-
munion veil and wreath.
They are all hers," he whispered, -" all
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
hers. And sometimes in the evening time I
see her coming along the lane for them do
you not know? There is nothing changed;
nothing changed; the grass, and the trees, and
the huts, and the pond are all here; why
should she only be gone away? "
"Antoine is gone."
Yes. But he was old; my girl is young."
He stood a moment, with the press door
open, a perplexed trouble in his dim eyes; the
divine faith of love and the mule-like stupidity
of ignorance made him cling to this one thought
without power of judgment in it.
"They say she would be sixty," he said,
with a little dreary smile. But that is absurd,
you know. Why, she had cheeks like yours,
and she would run--no lapwing could fly
faster over corn. These are her things, you
see; yes--all of them. That is the sprig of
sweetbrier she wore in her belt the day before
the wagon knocked her down and killed her.
I have never touched the things. But look
here, Bebee, you are a good child and true,
and like her just a little. I mean to give you
her silver clasps. They were her great-great-
great-grandmother's before her. God knows
how old they are not. And a girl should have
some little wealth of that sort; and for An-
toine's sake- "
The old man stayed behind, closing the
press door upon the lavender-scented clothes,
and sitting down in the dull shadow of the hut
to think of his daughter, dead forty summers
B6b6e went out with the brave broad silver
clasps about her waist, and the tears wet on
her cheeks for a grief not her own.
To be killed just when one was young, and
was loved liked that, and all the world was in
its May-day flower! The silver felt cold to
her touch as cold as though it were the dead
girl's hands that held her.
The garlands that the children strung of
daisies and hung about her had never chilled
But little Jeanne, the youngest of the char-
coal-burner's little tribe, running to meet her,
screamed with glee, and danced in the gay
Oh, B6b6e! how you glitter! Did the
Virgin send you that off her own altar? Let
me see- let me touch! Is it made of the
stars or of the sun? "
And B6bde danced with the child, and the
silver gleamed and sparkled, and all the people
came running out to see, and the milk carts
were half an hour later for town, and the hens
cackled loud unfed, and the men even stopped
on their way to the fields and paused, with their
scythes on their shoulders, to stare at the
There is not such another set of clasps in
Brabant; old work you could make a fortune
of in the curiosity shops in the Montagne,"
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
said Trine Krebs, going up the steps of her
mill house. "But, all the same, you know,
B6bee, things off a dead body bring mischance
But B6bie danced with the child, and did
Whose fete day had ever begun like this one
She was a little poet at heart, and should not
have cared for such vanities; but when one is
only sixteen, and has only a little rough woollen
frock, and sits in the market place or the lace-
room, with other girls around, how should one
be altogether indifferent to a broad, embossed,.
beautiful shield of silver that sparkled with each
step one took?
A quarter of an hour idle thus was all, how-
ever, that B6b6e or her friends could spare at
five o'clock on a summer morning, when the
city was waiting for its eggs, its honey, its
flowers, its cream, and its butter, and Tambour
was shaking his leather harness in impatience
to be off with his milk-cans.
So Beb6e, all holiday though it was, and
heroine though she felt herself, ran indoors,
put up her cakes and cherries, cut her two
basketfuls out of the garden, locked her hut,
and went on her quick and happy little feet
along the grassy paths toward the city.
The sorting and tying up of the flowers she
always left until she was sitting under the awn-
ing in front of the Broodhuis; the same awning,
tawny as an autumn pear and weather-blown
as an old sail, which had served to shelter
Antoine Mies from heat and rain through all the
years of his life.
Go to the Madeleine; you will make
money there, with your pretty blue eyes,
Bebee," people had said to her of late: but
Beb6e had shaken her head.
Where she had sat in her babyhood at An-
toine's feet, she would sit so long as she sold
flowers in Brussels,-here,
jig underneath the shadow of the
Gothic towers that saw Egmont
Old Antoine had never gone
into the grand market that is
fashioned after the Madeleine
of Paris, and where in the cool,
wet, sweet-smelling halls, all the
flowers of Brabant are spread
Mi4, in bouquets fit for the bridal of
-;. Una, and large.as the shield of
the Red-Cross Knight.
Antoine could not compete
with all those treasures of green-
i-= house and stove. He had
always had his little stall among
those which spread their tawny awnings and
their merry hardy blossoms undei the shadow
of the H6tel de Ville, in the midst of the buy-
ings and selling, the games and the quarrels,
the auctions and the Cheap Johns, the mounte-
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
bank and the marriage parties, that daily and
hourly throng the Grande Place.
Here Bebee, from three years old, had been
used to sit beside him. By nature she was as
gay as a lark. The people always heard her
singing as- they passed the garden. The chil-
dren never found their games so merry as when
she danced their rounds with them; and
though she dreamed so much out there in the
air among the carnations and the roses, or in
the long, low workroom in the town, high
against the crocketed pinnacles of the cathedral,
yet her dreams, if vaguely wistful, were all
bright of hue and sunny in their fantasies.
Still, B6bee had one sad unsatisfied desire:
she wanted to know so much, and she knew
She did not care for
the grand gay people.
When the band "'
played, and the
park filled, and the 7
bright little cafes
were thronged with
and the crowds i
flocked hither and
thither to the
woods, to the theatres, to the galleries, to the
guinguettes, B6b6e, going gravely along with
her emptied baskets homeward, envied none
When at Noel the little children hugged heir
loads of puppets and sugar-plums; when at
the Fete Dieu the whole people flocked out be-
ribboned and vari-colored like any bed of
spring anemones; when in the merry mid-
summer the chars-a-bancs trundled away into
the forest with laughing loads of students and
maidens; when in the rough winters the car-
riages left furred and jewelled women at the
doors of the operas or the palaces, Bb6e,
going and coming through the city to her
flower stall or lace work, looked at them all,
and never thought of envy or desire.
She had her little hut; she could get her
bread; she lived with the flowers; the neighbors
were good to her, and now and then, on. a
saint's day, she too got her day in the woods;
it never occurred to her that her lot could be
But sometimes sitting, looking at the dark
old beauty of the Broodhuis, or at the won-
drous carven fronts of other Spanish houses, or
at the painted stories of the cathedral windows,
or at the quaint colors of the shipping on the
quay, or at the long dark aisles of trees that
went away through the forest, where her steps
had never wandered, sometimes B1bee would
get pondering on all this unknown world that
lay before and behind and around her, and a
sense of her own utter ignorance wguld steal
on her; and she would say to herself, If only
I knew a little-just a very little "
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
But it is not easy to know even a veiy little
when you have to work for your bread from
sunrise 'to nightfall, and when none of your
friends know how to read or write, and even
your old priest is one of a family of peasants,
and can just teach you the alphabet, and that
is all. For Father Francis could do no more
than this; and all his spare time was taken up
in digging his cabbage plot and seeing to his
beehives; and the only books that Bebee ever
beheld were a few tattered lives of saints that
lay moth-eaten on a shelf of his cottage.
But Brussels has stones that are sermons, or
rather that are quaint, touching, illuminated
legends of the Middle Ages, which those who
run may read.
Brussels is a gay little city, that lies as bright
within its girdle of woodland as any butterfly
that rests upon moss.
The city has its ways and wiles of Paris. It
decks itself with white and gold. It has music
under its trees and soldiers in its streets, and
troops marching and countermarching along its
sunny avenues. It has blue and pink, and
yellow and green, on its awnings and on its
house fronts. It has a merry open-air life on
its pavements at little marble tables before
little gay-colored caf6s. It has gilded bal-
conies, and tossing flags, and comic operas, and
leisurely pleasure seekers, and tries always to
believe and make the world believe that it is
Paris in very truth.
But this is only the Brussels of the noblesse
and the foreigners.
There is a Brussels that is better than this -
a Brussels that belongs to the old burgher life,
to the artists and the craftsmen, to the master-
masons of the Moyen-age, to the same spirit
and soul that once filled the free men of Ghent
and the citizens of Bruges and the besieged of
Leyden, and the blood of Egmont and of
Down there by the water-side, where the old
quaint walls lean over the yellow sluggish stream,
and the green barrels of the Antwerp barges
swing against the dusky piles of the crumbling
In the gray square desolate courts of the
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
old palaces, where in cobweoocd galleries and
silent chambers the Flemish tapestries drop to
In the great populous square, where, above
the clamorous and rushing crowds, the majestic
front of the Maison du Roi frowns against the
sun, and the spires and pinnacles of the bur-
gomaster's gathering-halls tower into the sky
in all the fantastic luxuriance of Gothic fancy.
Under the vast shadowy wing of angels in
the stillness of the cathedral, across whose
sunny aisles some little child goes slowly all
alone, laden with lilies for the Feast of the
Assumption, till their white "glory hides its
In all strange quaint old-world
niches withdrawn from men in
silent grass-grown corners,
where a twelfth-century cor-
bel holds a pot of roses, or a
Gothic arch yawns beneath
a wool warehouse, or a water- i i
spout with a grinning faun's
head laughs in the grim
humor of the Moyen-age
above the bent head of a young lace-worker.
In all these, Brussels, though more worldly
than her sisters of Ghent and Bruges, and far
more worldly yet than her Teuton cousins of
Freiburg and Niirnberg, is still in her own way
like as a monkish 'story mixed up with the
Romaunt of the Rose; or rather like some gay
French vaudeville, all fashion and jest, illus-
trated in old Missal manner with helm and
hauberk, cope and cowl, praying knights and
fighting priests, winged griffins and nimbused
saints, flame-breathing dragons and enamoured
princes, all mingled together in the illuminated
colors and the heroical grotesque romance of
the Middle Ages.
And it was this side of the city that Be6be
knew; and she loved it well, and would not
leave it for the market of the Madeleine.
She had no one to tell her anything, and all
Antoine had ever been able to say to her con-
cerning the Broodhuis was that it had been
there in his father's time; and regarding St.
Gudule, that his mother had burned many a
candle before its altars for a dead brother who
hagd been drowned off the dunes.
But the child's mind, unled, but not mis-
led, had pondered on these things, and her
heart had grown to love them; and perhaps
no student of Spanish architecture, no anti-
quary of Moyen-age relics, loved St. Gudule
and the Broodhuis as little ignorant B6b6e
There had been a time when great dark,
fierce men had builded these things, and made
the place beautiful. So much she knew; and the
little wistful, untaught brain tried to project
itself into those unknown times, and failed, and
yet found pleasure in the effort. And Beb6e
would say to herself as she walked the streets,
OR TWO LITTLIZ WOODEN SHOES.
" Perhaps some one will come some day who
will tell me all those things."
Meanwhile, there were the flowers, and she
was quite content.
Besides, she knew all the people: the 'old
cobbler, who sat next her, and chattered all
day long like a magpie; the tinker, who had
come up many a summer night to drink a glass
with Antoinc; the Cheap John, who cheated
everybody else, but who had always given her
a toy or a trinket at every Fete Dieu all the
summers she had known; the little old woman,
sour as a crab, who sold rosaries and pictures
of saints, and little waxen Christs upon a tray;
the big dogs who pulled the carts in, and lay
panting all day under the rush-bottomed chairs
on which the egg-wives and the fruit sellers sat,
and knitted, and chaffered; nay, even the gor-
geous huissier and the frowning gendarme, who
marshalled the folks into order as they went up
for municipal registries, or for town misde-
meanors,-she knew them all; had known
them all ever since she had first trotted in like
a little dog at Antoine's heels.
So Bebde stayed there.
It is, perhaps, the most beautiful square in
all Northern Europe, with its black timbers, and
gilded carvings, and blazoned windows, and
majestic scutcheons, and fantastic pinnacles.
That B6bke did not know, but she loved it, and
she sat resolutely in front of the Broodhuis,
selling her flowers, smiling, chatting, helping
the old woman, counting her little gains, eating
her bit of bread at noonday like any other
market girl, but at times glancing up to the
stately towers and the blue sky, with a look on
her face that made the o,ld tinker and cobbler
whisper together, What does she see there?
-the dead people or the angels?"
The truth was that even B6b6e herself did
not know very surely what she saw -some-
thing that was still nearer to her than even this
kindly crowd that loved her. That was all she
could have said had anybody asked her.
But none did.
No one wanted to hear what the dead said;
and for the angels, the tinker and the cobbler
were of opinion that one had only too much
of them sculptured about everywhere, and
shining on all the casements-in reverence be
it spoken, of course.
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
SREMEMBERED it was your name-
day, child Here are half a dozen
eggs," said one of the hen wives;
and the little cross woman with the
Spedler's tray added a waxen St.
Agnes, colored red and yellow to
Sthe very life no doubt; and the old
Cheap John had saved her a cage
S for the starling; and the tinker had
S a cream cheese for her in a vine-leaf,
S and the sweetmeat seller brought her
a beautiful gilded horn of sugar-
plums, and the cobbler had made her
actually a pair of shoes- red shoes, beautiful
shoes to go to mass in and be a wonder in
to all the neighborhood. And they thronged
round her, and adored the silver waist buckles;
and when B6bee got fairly to her stall, and
traffic began, she thought once more that
nobody's feast day had ever dawned like hers.
When the chimes began to ring all over the
city, she could hardly believe that the carillon
was not saying its "Laus Deo" with some
special meaning in its bells of her.
The morning went by as usual; the noise of
the throngs about her like a driving of angry
winds, but no more hurting her than the angels
on the roof of St. Gudule are hurt by the
storm when it breaks.
Hard words, fierce passions, low thoughts,
evil deeds, passed by the child without resting
on her; her heart was in her flowers, and was
like one of them with the dew of daybreak
There were many strangers in the city, and
such are always sure to loiter in the Spanish
square; and she sold fast and well her lilacs
and her roses, and her knots of thyme and
She was always a little sorry to see them go,
her kindly pretty playmates that, nine times
out of ten no doubt, only drooped and died in
the hands that purchased them, as human souls
soil and shrivel in the grasp of the passions that
The day was a busy one, and brought in good
profit. B6b6e had no less than fifty sous in her
leather pouch when it was over, a sum of
magnitude in the green lane by Laeken.
A few of her moss-roses were still unsold,
that was all, when the Ave Maria began ringing
over the town and the people dispersed to their
homes or their pleasuring.
It was a warm gray evening: the streets were
full; there were blossoms in all the balconies,
and gay colors in all the dresses. The old
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
tinker put his tools together, and whispered to
B1bee, as it is your feast day, come and
stroll in St. Hubert's gallery, and I will buy
you a little gilt heart, or a sugar-apple stick, or
a ribbon, and we can see the puppet show
afterwards, eh? "
But the children were waiting at home: she
would not spend the evening in the city; she
only thought she would just kneel a moment in
the cathedral and say a little prayer or two for
a minute -the saints were so good in giving
her so many friends.
There is something very touching in the
Flemish peasant's relation with his Deity. It
is all very vague to him: a jumble of veneration
and familiarity, of sanctity and profanity, with-
out any thought of being familiar, or any idea
of being profane.
There is a homely poetry, an innocent affec-
tionateness in it, characteristic of the people.
He talks to his good angel Michael, and to his
friend that dear little Jesus, much as he would
talk to the shoemaker over the way, or the
cooper's child in the doorway.
It is a very unreasonable, foolish, clumsy sort
of religion, this theology in wooden shoes; it is
half grotesque, half pathetic; the grandmothers
pass it on to the grandchildren as they pass the
bowl of potatoes round the stove in the long
winter nights; it is as silly as possible, but it
comforts them as they carry fagots over the
frozen canals or wear their eyes blind over the
squares of lace; and it has in it the supreme
pathos of any perfect confidence, of any utterly
childlike and undoubting trust.
This had been taught to B6bee, and she went
to sleep every night in the firm belief that the
sixteen little angels of the Flemish prayer kept
watch and ward over her bed. For the rest,
being poetical, as these north folks are not,
and having in her -wherever it came from,
poor little soul-a warmth of fancy and a
spirituality of vision not at all northern, she
had mixed up her religion with the fairies of
Antoine's stories, and the demons in which the
Flemish folks are profound believers, and the
flowers into which she put all manner of sentient
life, until her religion was a fantastic medley,
so entangled that poor Father Francis had
given up in despair any attempt to arrange it
more correctly. Indeed, being of the peasantry
himself, he was not so very full sure in his own
mind that demons were not bodily presence,
quite as real and often much more tangible than
saints. Anyway, he let her alone; and she
believed in the goodness of God as she believed
in the shining of the sun.
People looked after her as she went through
the twisting, picture-like streets, where sunlight
fell still between the peaked high roofs, and
lamps were here and there lit in the bric-a-brac
shops and the fruit stalls.
Her little muslin cap blew back like the wings
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
of a white butterfly. Her sunny hair caught
the last sun-rays. Her feet were fair in the
brown wooden shoes. Under the short woollen
skirts the grace of her pretty limbs moved
freely. Her broad silver
clasps shone like a shield,
and she was utterly uncon- !
scious that any one looked;
she was simply and
gravely intent on reaching
St. Gudule to say her one
prayer and not keep the
Some one leaning idly
over a balcony in the
street that is named after
Mary of Burgundy saw her
going thus. He left the
balcony and went down his
stairs and followed her.
The sun-dazzle on the
silver had first caught his
sight; and then he had
looked downward at the
These are the chances women call Fate.
B6b6e entered the cathedral. It was quite
empty. Far away at the west end there was an
old custodian asleep on a bench, and a woman
kneeling. That was all.
Bebde made her salutations to the high altar,
and stole on into the chapel of the Saint
Sacrament; it was that one that she loved
She said her prayer and thanked the saints
for all their gifts and goodness, her clasped
hand against her silver shield, her basket on
the pavement by her, abovehead the sunset
rays streaming purple and crimson and golden
through the painted windows that are-the won-
der of the world.
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
When her prayer was done she still kneeled
there; her head thrown back to watch the
light, her hands clasped still, and on her
upturned face the look that made the people
say, What does she see?- the angels or the
She forgot everything. She forgot the
cherries at home, and the children even. She
was looking upward at the stories of the painted
panes; she was listening to the message of the
dying sun-rays; she was feeling vaguely, wist-
fully, unutterably the tender beauty of the sacred
place and the awful wonder of the world in
which she with her sixteen years was all alone,
like a little blue corn-flower among the wheat
that goes for grist and the barley that makes
For she was alone, though she had so many
friends. Quite alone sometimes; for God had
been cruel to her, and had made her a lark
When the sun faded and the beautiful case-
ments lost all glow and meaning, B6b6e rose
with a startled look-had she been dreaming?
-was it night?-would the children be sorry,
and go supperless to bed?
"Have you a rosebud left to sell to me?" a
man's voice said not far off; it was low and
sweet, as became the Sacrament Chapel.
Bb6e looked up; she did not quite know
what she saw: only dark eyes smiling into
By the instinct of habit she sought in her
basket and found three moss-roses. She held
them out to him.
"I do not sell flowers here, but I will give
them to you," she said, in her pretty grave
"I often want flowers," said the stranger, as
he took the buds. "Where do you sell yours?
-in the market?"
In the Grande Place."
Will you tell me your name, pretty one?"
I am B6bee."
There were people coming into the church.
The bells were booming abovehead for vespers.
There was a shuffle of chairs and a stir of feet.
Boys in white went to and fro, lighting the
candles. Great clouds of shadow drifted up
into the roof and hid the angels.
She nodded her little head to him.
"Good night; I cannot stay. I have a cake
at home to-night, and the children are wait-
Ah! that is important, no doubt, indeed.
Will you buy some more cakes for the children
from me? "
He slid a gold piece in.. her hand She
looked at it in amaze. In the green lanes by
Laeken no one ever saw gold. Then she gave
it him back.
I will not take money in church, nor any-
where, except what the flowers are worth.
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
He followed her, and held back the heavy
oak door for her, and went out into the air with
It was dark already, but in the square there
was still the cool bright primrose-colored even-
Beb6e's wooden shoes went pattering down
the sloping and uneven stones. Her little gray
figure ran quickly through the deep shade cast
from the towers and walls. Her dreams had
drifted away. She was thinking of the children
and the cake.
"You are in such a hurry because of the
cake? said her new customer, as he followed
Beb6e looked back at him with a smile in
her blue eyes.
"Yes, they will be waiting, you know, and
there are cherries too."
It is a grand day with you, then? "
It is my fete day: I am sixteen."
She was proud of this. She told it to the
very dogs in the street.
Ah, you feel old, I dare say?"
"Oh, quite old! They cannot call me a
child any more."
Of course not, it would be ridiculous. Are
those presents in your basket? "
Yes, every one of them." She paused a
moment to lift the dead vine-leaves, and show
him the beautiful shining red shoes. Look !
old Gringoire gave me these. I shall wear
them at mass next Sunday. I never had a
pair of shoes in my life."
But how will you wear shoes without stock-
It was a snake cast into her Eden.
She had never thought of it.
Perhaps I can save money and buy some,"
she answered after a sad little pause. But
that I could not do till next year. They would
cost several francs, I suppose."
Unless a good fairy gives them to you?"
Beb6e smiled; fairies were real things to her
- relations indeed. She did not imagine that
he spoke in jest.
Sometimes I pray very much and things
come," she said softly. When the Gloire de
Dijon was cut back too soon one summer, and
never blossomed, and we all thought it was
dead, I prayed all day long for it, and never
thought of anything else; and by autumn it was
all in new leaf, and now its flowers are finer than
"But you watered it whilst you prayed, I
The sarcasm escaped her.
She was wondering to herself whether it
would be vain and wicked to pray for a pair of
stockings: she thought she would go and ask
By this time they were in the Rue Royale,
and half-way down it. The lamps were lighted.
A regiment was marching up it with a band
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
playing. The windows were open, and people
were laughing and singing in some of them.
The light caught the white and gilded fronts
of the houses. The pleasure-seeking crowds
loitered along in the warmth of the evening.
B6bee, suddenly roused from her thoughts
by the loud challenge of the military music,
looked round on the stranger, and motioned
"Sir,- I do not know you, why should
you come with me? Do not do it, please.
You make me talk, and that makes me late."
And she pushed her basket farther on her
arm, and nodded to him and ran off- as fleetly
as a hare through fern- among the press of
To-morrow, little one," he answered her
with a careless smile, and let her go unpursued.
Above, from the open casement of a caf6, some
young men and some painted women leaned
out, and threw sweetmeats at him, as in carni-
"A new model,-that pretty peasant?"
they asked him.
He laughed in answer, and went up the steps
to join them; he dropped the moss-roses as he
went, and trod on them, and did not wait.
BEBEE ran home as fast as her feet would
The children were all gathered about her
gate in the dusky dewy evening; they met her
with shouts of welcome and reproach inter-
mingled; they had been watching for her since
first the sun had grown low and red, and now
the moon was risen.
But they forgave her when they saw the
splendor of her presents, and she showered out
among them Pere Melchior's horn of comfits.
They dashed into the hut; they dragged the
one little table out among the flowers; the
cherries and cake were spread on it; and the
miller's wife had given a big jug of milk, and
Father Francis himself had sent some honey-
The early roses were full of scent in the dew;
the great gillyflowers breathed out fragrance in
the dusk; the goat came and nibbled the sweet-
brier unrebuked; the children repeated the
Flemish bread-grace, with clasped hands and
reverent eyes, "Oh, dear little Jesus, come
and sup with us, and bring your beautiful
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
Mother, too; we will not forget you are God."
Then, that said, they ate, and drank, and
laughed, and picked cherries from each other's
mouths like little blackbirds; the big white
dog gnawed a crust at their feet; old Krebs
who had a fiddle, and could play it, came out
and trilled them rude and ready Flemish tunes,
such as Teniers or Mieris might have jumped
to before an alehouse at the Kermesse; B6b6e
and the children joined hands, and danced
round together in the broad white moonlight,
on the grass by the water-side; the idlers came
and sat about, the women netting or spinning,
and the men smoking a pipe before bedtime;
the rough hearty Flemish bubbled like a brook
in gossip, or rung like a horn over a jest;
Bebde and the children, tired of their play,
grew quiet, and chanted together the "Ave
Maria Stella Virginis"; a nightingale among
the willows sang to the sleeping swans.
All was happy, quiet, homely; lovely also
in its simple way.
They went early to their beds, as people
must do who rise at dawn.
B6b6e leaned out a moment from her own
little casement ere she too went to rest.
Through an open lattice there sounded the
murmur of some little child's prayer; the wind
sighed among the willows; the nightingales
sang on in the dark- all was still.
Hard work awaited her on the morrow, and
on all the other days of the year.
She was only a little peasant, -she must
sweep, and spin, and dig, and delve, to get
daily her bit of black bread, but that night
she was as happy as a little princess in a fairy
tale; happy in her playmates, in her flowers,
in her sixteen years, in her red shoes, in her
silver buckles, because she was half a woman;
happy in the dewy leaves, in the singing birds,
in the hush of the night, in the sense of rest, in
the fragrance of flowers, in the drifting changes
of moon and cloud; happy because she was
half a woman, because she was half a poet, be-
cause she was wholly a poet.
Oh, dear swans, how good it is to be six-
teen -how good it is to live at all do you
not tell the willows so? said B6b6e to the
gleam of silver under the dark leaves by the
water's side, which showed her where her
friends were sleeping, with their snowy wings
closed over their stately heads, and the veiled
gold and ruby of their eyes.
The swans did not awake to answer.
Only the nightingale answered from the
willows, with Desdemona's song.
But Bbebe had never heard of Desdemona,
and the willows had no sigh for her.
Good night! she said, softly, to all the
green dewy sleeping world, and then she lay
down and slept herself.-The nightingale sang
on, and the willows trembled.
OR TWO LITTLE WVOODEN SHOES.
" F I could save a centime a day, I could
I buy a pair of stockings this time next
year," thought B16be, locking her shoes with
her other treasures in her drawer the next morn-
ing, and taking her broom and pail to wash
down her little palace.
But a centime a day is a great deal in Bra-
bant, when one has not always enough for bare
bread, and when, in the long chill winter, one
must weave thread lace all through the short
daylight for next to nothing at all; for there
are so many women in Brabant, and every one
of them, young or old, can make lace, and if
one do not like the pitiful wage, one may leave
it and go and die, for what the master lace-
makers care or know; there will always be
enough, many more than enough, to twist the
thread round the bobbins, and weave the bridal
veils, and the trains for the courts.
And besides, if I can save a centime, the
Varnhart children ought to have it," thought
B6b6e, as she swept the dust together. It was
so selfish of her to be dreaming about a pair of
stockings, when those little things often went
for days on a stew of nettles.
So she looked at her own pretty feet, -
pretty and slender, and arched, rosy, and fair,
and uncramped by the pressure of leather,-
and resigned her day-dream with a brave heart,
as she put up her broom and went out to weed,
and hoe, and trim, and prune the garden that
had been for once neglected the night before.
One could not move half so easily in stock-
ings," she thought with true philosophy as she
worked among the black, fresh, sweet-smelling
mould, and kissed a rose now and then as she
When she got into the city that day, her
rush-bottomed chair, which was always left up-
side down in case rain should fall in the night,
was set ready for her, and on its seat was a gay,
gilded box, such as rich people give away full
B6bee stood and looked from the box to the
Broodhuis, from the Broodhuis to the box; she
glanced around, but no one had come there so
early as she, except the tinker, who was busy
quarrelling with his wife and letting his smelting
fire burn a hole in his breeches.
The box was certainly for her, since it was
set upon her chair? -B&bee pondered a mo-
ment; then little by little opened the lid.
Within, on a nest of rose-satin, were two pair
of silk stockings real silk -with the pret-
tiest clocks worked up their sides in color!
Bebee gave a little scream, and stood still,
the blood hot in her cheeks; no one heard her,
CR TIWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
the tinker's wife, who alone was near, having
just wished Heaven to send a judgment on her
husband, was busy putting out his smoking
smallclothes. It is away that women and wives
have, and they never see the bathos of it.
The place filled gradually.
The customary crowds gathered. The busi-
ness of the day began underneath the multitu-
dinous tones of the chiming bells. B6bee's
business began too; she put the box behind
her with a beating heart, and tied up her
It was the fairies, of course! but they had
never set a rush-bottomed chair on its legs be-
fore, and this action of theirs frightened her.
It was rather an empty morning. She sold
little, and there was the more time to think.
About an hour after noon a voice addressed
Have ydu more moss-roses for me? "
B6b6e looked up with a smile, and found
some. It was her companion of the cathedral.
She had thought much of the red shoes and
the silver clasps, but she had thought nothing
at all of him.
You are not too proud to be paid to-day?"
he said, giving her a silver franc; he would
not alarm her with any more gold; she thanked
him, and slipped it in her little leather pouch,
and went on sorting some clove-pinks.
You do not seem to remember me?" he
said, with a little sadness.
"Oh, I remember you," said 6b6bc, lifting
her frank eyes. "But you know I speak to so
many people, and they are all nothing to me."
Who is anything to you? It was softly
and insidiously spoken, but it awoke no echo.
"Varnhart's children," she answered him, in-
stantly. "And old Annemie by the wharfside
- and Tambour and Antoine's grave and
the starling-and, of course, above all, the
And the fairies, I suppose? -though they
do nothing for you."
She looked at him eagerly,-
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
They have done something to-day. I have
found a box, and some stockings- such beauti-
ful stockings! Silk ones! Is it not very odd ? "
It is more odd they should have forgotten
you so long. May I see them? "
"I cannot show them to you now. Those
ladies are going to buy. But you can see them
later if you wait."
I will wait and paint the Broodhuis."
So many people do that; you are a painter
Yes in a way."
He sat down on an edge of the stall, and
spread his things there, and sketched, whilst
the traffic went on around them. He was very
many years older than she; handsome, with a
dark, and changeful, and listless face; he wore
brown velvet, and had a red ribbon at his
throat; he looked a little as Egmont might
have done. when wooing Claire.
B6bee, as she sold the flowers and took the
change fifty times in the hour, glanced at him
now and then, and watched the movements of
his hands, she could not have told why.
Always among men and women, always in
the crowds of the streets, people were nothing
to her; she went through them as through a
field of standing corn, only in the field she
would have tarried for poppies, and in the
town she tarried for no one.
She dealt with men as with women, simply,
truthfully, frankly, with the innocent fearlessness
of a child. Whc: they told her she was
pretty, she smiled; it was just as they said that
her flowers were sweet.
But this man's hands moved so swiftly; and
as she saw her Broodhuis growing into color
and form beneath them, she could not choose
but look now and then, and twice she gave her
He spoke to her rarely, and sketched on and
on in rapid bold strokes the quaint graces and
massive richness of the Maison du Roi.
There is no crowd so busy in Brabant that it
will not find leisure to stare. The Fleming or
the Walloon has nothing of the Frenchman's
courtesy; he is rough and rude; he remains a
peasant even when town bred, and the surly in-
solence of the Gueux" is in him still. He is
kindly to his fellows, though not to beasts; he
is shrewd, patient, thrifty, industrious, and good
in very many ways, but civil never.
A good score of them left off their occupa-
tions and clustered round the painter, staring,
chattering, pushing, pointing, as though a brush
had never been seen in all the land of Rubens.
BWbee, ashamed of her people, got up from
her chair and rebuked them.
Oh, men of Brussels; fie then for shame "
she called to them as clearly as a robin sings.
Did never you see a drawing before? and are
there not saints and martyrs enough to look at
in the galleries? and have you never some
better thing to do than to gape wide-mouthed
OR TWO LITTLE IWOODE.V SHOES.
at a stranger? What laziness-ah! just
worthy of a people who sleep and smoke while
their dogs work for them! Go away, all of
you; look, there comes the gendarme it will
be the worse for you. Sir, sit under my stall;
they will not dare trouble you then."
He moved under the awning, thanking her
with a smile; and the people, laughing, shuffled
unwillingly aside and let him paint on in peace.
It was only little Bhbee, but they had spoilt the
child from her infancy, and were used to obey her.
The painter took a long time. He set about
it with the bold ease of one used to all the in-
tricacies of form and color, and he had the
skill of a master. But he spent
more than half the time looking
idly at the humors of the popu-
lace or watching how the
treasures of B1b6e's garden
went away one by one in
the hands of strangers.
Meanwhile, ever and .
again, sitting on the
edge of her stall, with
his colors and brushes
tossed out on the board,
he talked to her, and,
with the soft imperceptible skill of long practice
in those arts, he drew out the detail; of her
little simple life.
There were not always people to buy, and
whilst she rested and sheltered the flowers from
the sun, she answered him willingly, and in one
of her longer rests showed him the wonderful
Do you think it could be the fairies?" she
asked him a little doubtfully.
It was easy to make her believe any fantas-
tical nonsense; but her fairies were ethereal
divinities. She could scarcely believe that they
had laid that box on her chair.
Impossible to doubt it! he replied, un-
hesitatingly. "Given a belief in fairies at all,
why should there be any limit to what they can
do? It is the same with the saints is it not?"
Yes," said Beb6e, thoughtfully.
The saints were mixed up in her imagination
with the fairies in an intricacy that would
have defied the best reasoning of Father
"Well, then, you will wear the stockings,
will you not? Only, believe me, your feet are
far prettier without them."
B6b6e laughed happily, and took another
peep in the cosy rose-satin nest. But her little
face had a certain perplexity. Suddenly she
turned on him.
"Did not you put them there? "
I? never "
Are you quite sure? "
Quite; but why ask?"
Because," said Bebde, shutting the box res-
olutely and pushing it a little away, because
I would not take it if you did. You are a
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
stranger, and a present is a debt, so Antoine
Why take a present then from the Varnhart
children, or your old friend who gave you the
"Ah, that is very different. When people
are very, very poor, equally poor, the one with
the other, little presents that they save for and
make with such a difficulty are just things that
are a pleasure; sacrifices; like your sitting up
with a sick person at night, and then she sits up
with you another year when you want it. Do
you not know? "
"I know you talk very prettily. But why
should you not take any one else's present,
though he may not be poor? "
Because I could not return it."
"Could you not? "
The smile in his eyes dazzled her a little; it
was so strange, and yet had so much light
in it; but she did not understand him one
"No; how could I?" she said earnestly.
" If I were to save for two years, I could not get
francs enough to buy anything worth giving
back; and I should be so unhappy, thinking of
the debt of it always. Do tell me if you put
those stockings there? "
No"; he looked at her, and the trivial lie
faltered and died away; the eyes, clear as crys-
tal, questioned him so innocently. "Well, if I
did? he said, frankly; you wished for them;
what harm was there? Will you be so cruel as
to refuse them from me? "
The tears sprang into Bebee's eyes. She was
sorry to lose the beautiful box, but more sorry
he had lied to her.
It was very kind and good," she said, re-
gretfully. But I cannot think why you should
have done it, as you had never known me at
all. And, indeed, I could not take them, be-
cause Antoine would not let me if he were
alive; and if I gave you a flower every day all
the year round I should not pay you the worth
of them, it would be quite impossible; and
why should you tell me falsehoods about such
a thing? A falsehood is never a thing for a
She shut the box and pushed it towards him,
and turned to the selling of her bouquets. Her
voice shook a little as she tied up a bunch of
mignonette and told the price of it.
Those beautiful stockings why had she ever
seen them, and why had he told her a lie?
It made her heart heavy. For the first time
in her brief life the Broodhuis seemed to frown
between her and the sun.
Undisturbed, he painted on and did not look
The day was nearly done. The people bc-
gan to scatter. The shadows grew very long.
He painted, not glancing once elsewhere than
at his study. B3bee's baskets were quite
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN. SHOES.
She rose, and lingered, and regarded him
wistfully: he was angered; perhaps she had
been rude? Her little heart failed her.
If he would only look up !
But he did not look up; he kept his hand-
some dark face studiously over the canvas of
the Broodhuis. She would have seen a smile
in his eyes if he had lifted them; but he never
raised his lids.
Beb6e hesitated: take the stockings she
would not; but perhaps she had refused them
too roughly. She wished so that he would
look up and save her speaking first; but he
knew what he was about too warily and well to
help her thus.
She waited awhile, then took one little red
moss-rosebud that she had saved all day in a
corner of her basket, and held it out to him
frankly, shyly, as a peace offering.
"Was I rude? I did not mean to be. But
I cannot take the stockings; and why did you
tell me that falsehood? "
He took the rosebud and rose too, and smiled;
but he did not meet her eyes.
"Let us forget the whole matter; it is not
worth a sou. If you do not take the box, leave
it; it's of no use to me."
I cannot take it."
She knew she was doing right. How was it
that he could make her feel as though she were
Leave it then, I say. You are not the first
woman, my dear, who has quarrelled with a wish
fulfilled. It is a way your sex has of reward-
ing gods and men.-Here, you old witch,
here is a treasure-trove for you. You can sell
it for ten francs in the town anywhere."
As he spoke he tossed the casket and the
stockings in it to an old decrepit woman,who was
passing bywith a baker's cart drawn by a dog;
and, not staying to heed her astonishment,
gathered his colors and easel together.
The tears swam in Bb6ee's eyes as she saw
the box whirled through the air.
She had done right; she was sure she had
He was a stranger, and she could never have
repaid him; but he made her feel herself way-
ward and ungrateful, and it was hard to see the
beautiful fairy gift borne away forever by the
chuckling, hobbling, greedy old baker's woman.
If he had only taken it himself, she would have
been glad then to have been brave and to have
done her duty.
But it was not in his design that she* should
He saw her tears, but he seemed not to see
Good night, Bebee," he said carelessly, as
he sauntered aside from her. Good night,
my dear. To-morrow I will finish my paint-
ing; but I will not offend you by any more
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
Bbebe lifted her drooped head, and looked him
in the eyes eagerly, with a certain sturdy resolve
and timid wistfulness intermingled in her look.
Sir, see, you speak to me quite wrongly,"
she said with a quick accent, that had pride as
well as pain in it. Say it was kind to bring
me what I wished for; yes, it was kind I know;
but you never saw me till last night, and I can-
not tell even your name; and it is very wrong
to lie to any one, even to a little thing like me;
and I am only Bb6ee, and cannot give you any-
thing back, because I have only just enough to
feed myself and the starling, and not always
that in winter. I thank you very much for
what you wished to do; but if I had taken
those things, I think you would have thought
me very mean and full of greed; and Antoine
always said, Do not take what you cannot
pay- not ever what you cannot pay -that
is the way to walk with pure feet.' Perhaps I
spoke ill, because they spoil me, and they say
I am too swift to say my mind. But I am not
thankless not thankless, indeed--it is only
I could not take what I cannot pay. That is
all. You are angry still not now- no ? "
There was anxiety in the pleading. What
did it matter to her what a stranger thought?
And yet Beb6e's heart was heavy as he
laughed a little coldly, and bade her good day,
and left her alone to go out of the city home-
wards. A sense of having done wrong weighed
on her; of having been rude and ungrateful.
She had no heart for the children that even-
ing. Mere Krebs was sitting out before her
door shelling peas, and called to her to come
in. and have a drop of coffee. Krebs had come
in from Vilv6orde fair, and brought a stock of
rare good berries with him. But B6bce thanked
her, and went on to her own garden to work.
She had always liked to sit out on the quaint
wooden steps of the mill and under the red
shadow of the sails, watching the swallows
flutter to and fro in the sunset, and hearing the
droll frogs croak in the rushes, while the old
people told her tales of the time of how in
their babyhood they had run out, fearful yet
fascinated, to see the beautiful Scots Grays
flash by in the murky night, and the endless
line of guns and caissons crawl black as a
snake through the summer dust and the
trampled corn, going out past the woods to
But to-night she had no fancy for it: she
wanted to be alone with the flowers.
Though, to be sure, they had been very
heartless when Antoine's coffin had gone past
them, still they had sympathy; the daisies
smiled at her with their golden eyes, and the
roses dropped tears on her hand, just as her
mood might be; the flowers were closer friends,
after all, than any human souls; and besides,
she could say so much to them!
Flowers belong to fairyland; the flowers
and the birds and the butterflies are all that
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
the world has kept of its Golden Age; the
only perfectly beautiful things on earth, joyous,
innocent, half divine, useless, say they who are
wiser than God.
B6b6e went home and worked among her
A little laborious figure, with her petti-
coats twisted high, and her feet wet with the night
dews, and her back bowed to the hoeing and
clipping and raking among the blossoming plants.
How late you are working to-night, Be-
bee !" one or two called out, as they passed
the gate. She looked up and smiled; but
went on working while the white moon rose.
She did not know what ailed her.
She went to bed without supper, leaving her
bit of bread and bowl of goat's milk to make
a meal for the fowls in the morning.
"Little ugly, shameful, naked feet!" she
said to them, sitting on the edge of her mat-
tress, and looking at them in the moonlight.
They were very pretty feet, and would not have
been half so pretty in silk hose and satin shoon;
but she did not know that: he had told her
she wanted those vanities.
She sat still a long while, her rosy feet sway-
ing to and fro like two roses that grow on one
stalk and hang down in the wind. The little
lattice was open; the sweet and dusky garden
was beyond; there was a hand's breadth of sky,
in which a single star was shining; the leaves
of the vine hid all the rest.
But for once she saw none of it.
She only saw the black Broodhuis; the red
and gold sunset overhead; the gray stones,
with the fallen rose leaves and crushed fruits;
and in the shadows two dark, reproachful eyes,
that looked at hers.
Had she been ungrateful?
The little tender, honest heart of her was
troubled and oppressed. For once, that night
she slept ill.
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
ALL the next day she sat under the yellow
awning, but she sat alone.
It was market day; there were many
strangers. Flowers were in demand. The
copper pieces were ringing against one another
all the hours through in her leather bag.
The cobbler was in such good humor that he
forgot to quarrel with his wife. The fruit was
in such plenty that they gave her a leaf-full of
white and red currants for her noonday dinner.
And the people split their sides at the Cheap
John's jokes; he was so droll. No one saw
the leaks in his kettles or the hole in his bel-
lows, or the leg that was lacking to his milking
Everybody was gay and merry that day.
But Beb6e's eyes looked wistfully over the
throng, and did not find what they sought.
Somehow the day seemed dull, and the square
The stones and the timbers around seemed
more than ever full of a thousand stories that
they would not tell her because she knew
nothing, and was only Be6be.
She had never known a dull hour before.
She, a little bright, industrious, gay thing,
whose hands were always full of work, and
whose head was always full of fancies, even in
the grimmest winter time, when she wove the
lace in the gray, chilly workroom, with
the frost on the casements, and the mice
running out in their hunger over the bare brick
That bare room was a sad enough place
sometimes, when the old women would bewail
how they starved on the pittance they gained,
and the young women sighed for their aching
heads and their failing eyesight, and the chil-
dren dropped great tears on the bobbins, be-
cause they had come out without a crust to
break their fast.
She had been sad there often for others, but
she had never been dull--not with this un-
familiar, desolate, dreary dulness, that seemed
to take all the mirth out of the busy life around
her, and all the color out of the blue sky above.
Why, she had no idea herself. She wondered
if she were going to be ill; she had never been
ill in her life, being strong as a little bird that
has never known cage or captivity.
When the day was done, B6b6e gave a quick
sigh as she looked across the square. She had
so wanted to tell him that she was not ungrate-
ful; and she had a little moss-rose ready, with
a sprig of sweetbrier, and a tiny spray of
maidenhair fern that grew under the willows,
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
which she had kept covered up with a leaf of
sycamore all the day long.
No one would have it now.
The child went out of the place sadly as the
carillon rang. There was only the moss-rose
in her basket, and the red and white currants
that had been given her for her dinner.
She went along the twisting, many-colored,
quaintly fashioned streets, till she came to the
It is very ancient there still, there are all
manner of old buildings, black and brown and
gray, peaked roofs, gabled windows, arched
doors, crumbling bridges, twisted galleries lean-
ing to touch the dark surface of the canal,
dusky wharves crowded with barrels, and bales,
and cattle, and timber, and all the various
freightage that the good ships come and go
with all the year round, to and from the Zuyder-
Zee, and the Baltic water, and the wild Nor-
thumbrian shores, and the iron-bound Scottish
headlands, and the pretty gray Norman- sea-
ports, and the white sandy dunes of Holland,
with the toy towns and the straight poplar-
B6bie was fond of watching the brigs and
barges, that looked so big to her, with their
national flags flying, and their tall masts stand-
ing thick as grass, and their tawny sails flapping
in the wind, and about them the sweet, strong
smell of that strange, unknown thing, the
Sometimes the sailors would talk with her;
sometimes some old salt, sitting astride of a
cask, would tell her a mariner's tale of far-away
lands and mysteries of the deep; sometimes
some curly-headed cabin-boy would give her a
shell or a plume of seaweed, and try and
make her understand what the wonderful wild
water was like, which was not quiet and slug-
gish and dusky as this canal was, but was for-
ever changing and moving, and curling and
leaping, and making itself now blue as her
eyes, now black as that thunder-cloud, now
white as the snow that the winter wind tossed,
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
now pearl hued and opaline as the convolvulus
that blew in her own garden.
And Bebde would listen, with the shell in
her lap, and try to understand, and gaze at the
ships and then at the sky beyond them, and
try to figure to herself those strange countries
to which these ships were always going, and
saw in fancy all the blossoming orchard'prov-
ince of green France, and all the fir-clothed
hills and rushing rivers of the snow-locked
Swedish shore, and saw too, doubtless, many
lands that had no place at all except in dream-
land, and were more beautiful even than the
beauty of the earth, as poets' countries are, to
their own sorrow, oftentimes.
But this dull day B6b6e did not go down
upon the wharf; she did not want the sailors'
tales; she saw the masts and the bits of bunt-
ing that streamed from them, and they made
her restless, which they had never done
Instead she went in at a dark old door and
climbed up a steep staircase that went up and
up, as though she were mounting St. Gudule's
belfry towers; and at the top of it entered a
little chamber in the roof, where one square
unglazed hole that served for light looked out
upon the canal, with all its crowded craft, from
the dainty schooner yacht, fresh as gilding and
holystone could make her, that was running
for pleasure to the Scheldt, to the rude, clumsy
coal barge, black as night, that bore the rough
diamonds of Belgium to the snow-buried roofs
of Christiania and Stromstad.
In the little dark attic there was a very old
woman in a red petticoat and a high cap, who
sat against the window, and pricked out lace
patterns with a pin on thick paper.
She was eighty-five years old, and
could hardly keep body and soul
SBebe, running to her, kissed her.
\ Oh, mother Annemie, look
here Beautiful red and white
a\i currants, and a roll; I saved
them for you. They are the
first currants we have seen this
year. Me? oh, for me, I have
eaten more than are good!
You know I pick fruit like a sparrow, always.
Dear mother Annemie, are you better? Are
you quite sure you are better to-day? "
The little old withered woman, brown as a
walnut and meagre as a rush, took the currants,
and smiled with a childish glee, and began to
eat them, blessing the child with each crumb
she broke off the bread.
"Why had you not a grandmother of your
own, my little one?" she mumbled. "How
good you would have been to her, B6bee "
"Yes," said Beb'e seriously, but her mind
could not grasp the idea. It was easier for her
to believe the fanciful lily parentage of An-
toine's stories. How much work have you
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
done, Annemie? Oh, all that? all that? But
there is enough for a week. You work too
early and too late, you dear Annemie."
"Nay, B6bee, when one has to get one's
bread that cannot be. But I am afraid my
eyes are failing. That rose now, is it well
Beautifully done. Would the BaEs take
them if they were not? You know he is one
that cuts every centime in four pieces."
"Ah! sharp enough, sharp enough, that
is true. But I am always afraid of my eyes.
I do not see the flags out there so well as I used
"Because the sun is so bright, Annemie;
that is all. I myself, when I have been sitting
all day in the place in the light, the flowers
look pale to me. And you know it is not age
with me, Ann6mie? "
The old woman and the young girl laughed
together at that droll idea.
You have a merry heart, dear little one,"
said old Annemie. "The saints keep it to you
May I tidy the room a little? "
To be sure, dear, and thank you too. I
have not much time, you see; and somehow
my back aches badly when I stoop."
"And it is so damp here for you, over all
that water!" said B6bie as she swept and
dusted and set to rights the tiny place, and
put in a little broken pot a few sprays of
honeysuckle and rosemary that she had brought
with her. It is so damp here. You should
have come and lived in myhutwith me, Ann6mie,
and sat out under the vine all day, and looked
after the chickens for me when I was in the
town. They are such mischievous little souls;
as soon as my back is turned one or other is
sure to push through the roof, and get out
among the flower-beds. Will you never change
your mind, and live with me, Ann6mie? I am
sure you would be happy, and the starling says
your name quite plain, and he is such a funny
bird to talk to; you never would tire of him.
Will you never come? It is so bright there,
and green and sweet smelling; and to think
you never even have seen it! -and the swans
and all,- it is a shame."
"No, dear," said old Annemie, eating her
last bunch of currants. "You have said so so
often, and you are good and mean it, that I
know. But I could not leave the water.
It would kill me. Out of this window you
know I saw my Jeannot's brig go away-
away-away-till the masts were lost in the
mists. Going with iron to Norway; the 'Fleur
d'Epine' of this town, a good ship, and a sure,
and her mate; and as proud as might be, and
with a little blest Mary in lead round his throat.
She was to be back in port in eight months,
bringing timber. Eight months--that brought
Easter time. But she never came. Never,
never, never, you know. I sat here watching
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
them come and go, and my child sickened and
died, and the summer passed, and the autumn,
and all the while I looked looked looked;
for the brigs are all much alike; and only
her I always saw as soon as she hove in
sight (because he tied a hank of flax to her
mi7zen-mast); and when he was home safe and
sound I spun the hank into hose for him; that
was a fancy of his, and for eleven voyages, one
on another, he had never missed to tie the flax
nor I to spin the hose. But the hank of flax I
never saw this time; nor the brave brig; nor
my good man with his sunny blue eyes. Only
one day in winter, when the great blocks of ice
were smashing hither and thither, a coaster
came in and brought tidings of how off in the
Danish waters they had come on a water-logged
brig, and had boarded her, and had found her
empty, and her hull riven in two, and her crew
all drowned and dead beyond any manner of
doubt. And on her stern there was her name
painted white, the Fleur d'Epine,' of Brussels,
as plain as name could be; and that was all we
ever knew: what evil had struck her, or how
they had perished, nobody ever told. Only the
coaster brought that bit of beam away, with the
'Fleur d'Epine' writ clear upon it. But you
see I never know my man is dead. Any day
-who can say?-any one of those ships may
bring him aboard of her, and he may leap out
on the wharf there, and come running up the
stairs as he used to do, and cry, in his merry
voice, 'Annemie, Annemie, here is more flax
to spin, here is more hose to weave! For that
was always his homeward word; no matter
whether he had had fair weather or foul, he
always knotted the flax to his masthead. So
you see, dear, I could not leave here. For
what if he came and found me away? He
would say it was an odd fashion of mourning for
him. And I could not do without the window,
you know. I can watch all the brigs come in;
and I can smell the shipping smell that I have
loved all the days of my life; and I can see the
lads heaving, and climbing, and furling, and
mending their bits of canvas, and hauling their
flags up and down. And then who can say?-
the sea never took him, I think I think I
shall hear his voice before I die. For they do
say that God is good."
B6bee, sweeping very noiselessly, listened, and
her eyes grew wistful and wondering. She had
heard the story a thousand times; always in
different words, but always the same little tale,
and she knew how old Annemie was deaf to all
the bells that tolled the time, and blind to all
the whiteness of her hair and all the wrinkles of
her face, and only thought of her sea-slain
lover as he had been in the days of her youth.
But this afternoon the familiar history had a
new patheticalness for her, and as the old soul
put aside with her palsied hand the square of
canvas that screened the casement, and looked
out, with her old dim sad eyes strained in the
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
longing that God never answered, B6bee felt a
strange chill at her own heart, and wondered
to herself, -
What can it be to care for another creature
like that? It must be so terrible, and yet it
must be beautiful- too. Does every one suffer
She did not speak at all as she finished
sweeping the.bricks, and went down-stairs for a
metal cruche full of water, and set over a little
charcoal on the stove the old woman's brass
soup kettle with her supper of stewing cabbage.
Annemie did not hear or notice; she was
still looking out of the hole in the wall on to
the masts, and the sails, and the water.
It was twilight.
From the barges and brigs there came the
smell of the sea. The sailors were shouting to
each other. The craft were crowded close, and
lost in the growing darkness. On the other side
of the canal the belfries were ringing for vespers.
Eleven voyages one and another, and he
never forgot to tie the flax to the mast," An-
n6mie murmured, with her old wrinkled face
leaning out into the gray air. It used to
fly there,-one could see it coming up half a
mile off, -just a pale yellow flake on the wind,
like a tress of my hair, he would say. No, no,
I could not go away; he may come to-night,
to-morrow, any time; he is not drowned, not
my man; he was all I had, and God is good,
B1b6e listened and looked; then kissed the old
shaking hand and took up the lace patterns and
went softly out of the room without speaking.
When old Ann6mie watched at the window
it was useless to seek for any word or sign of
her; people said that she had never been quite
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
right in her brain since that fatal winter noon
sixty years before, when the coaster had
brought into port the broken beam of the good
brig Fleur d'Epine."
B6b6e did not know about that, nor heed
whether her wits were right or not.
She had known the old creature in the lace-
room where Ann6mie pricked out designs, and
she had conceived a great regard and sorrow
for her; and when Ann6mie had become too
ailing and aged to go herself any longer to the
lace-maker's place, B6bie had begged leave for
her to have the patterns at home, and had
carried them to and fro for her for the last three
or four years, doing many other little useful
services for the lone old soul as well, -services
which Ann6mie hardly perceived, she had
grown so used to them, and her feeble intelli-
gence was so sunk in the one absorbing idea
that she must watch all the days through and
all the years through for the coming of the
dead man and the lost brig.
Bebee put the lace patterns in her basket,
and trotted home, her sabots clattering on the
What it must be to care for any one like
that!" she thought, and by some vague asso-
ciation of thought that she could not have pur-
sued, she lifted the leaves and looked at the
It was quite dead.
AS she got clear of the city and out on her
country road, a shadow fell across her
in the evening light.
"Have you had a good day, little one?"
asked a voice that made her stop with a curious
vague expectancy and pleasure.
"It is you she said, with a little cry, as
she saw her friend of the silk stockings leaning
on a gate midway in the green and solitary
road that leads to Laeken.
"Yes, it is I," he answered, as he joined her.
" Have you forgiven me, Bebe ? "
She looked at him with frank, appealing
eyes, like those of a child in fault.
Oh, I did not sleep all night! she said,
simply. "I thought I had been rude and un-
grateful, and I could not be sure I had done
right, though to have done otherwise would
certainly have beon wrong."
Well, that is a clearer deduction than is to
be drawn from most moral uncertainties. Do
not think twice about the matter, my dear. I
have not, I assure you."
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
She was a little disappointed. It seemed
such an immense thing to her; and she had
lain awake all the night, turning it about in her
little brain, and appealing vainly for help in it
to the sixteen sleep-angels.
No, indeed. And where are you going so
fast, as if those wooden shoes of yours were
sandals of Mercury? "
Mercury-is that a shoemaker? "
No, my dear. He did a terrible bit of cob-
bling once, when he made Woman. But he did
not shoe her feet with swiftness that I know of;
she only runs away to be run after, and if you
do not pursue her, she comes back- always."
B6bee did not understand at all.
I thought God made women," she said, a
You call it God. People three thousand
years ago called it Mercury or Hermes. Both
mean the same thing,-mere words to desig-
nate an unknown quality. Where are you
going? Does your home lie here?"
Yes, onward, quite far onward," said Bebee,
.wondering that he had forgotten all she had
told him the day before about her hut, her
garden, and her neighbors. "You did not
come and finish your picture to-day: why was
that? I had a rosebud for you, but it is dead
"I went to Anvers. You looked for me a
little, then? "
Oh, all day long. For I was so afraid I
had been ungrateful."
"That is very pretty of you. Women are
never grateful, my dear, except when they are
very ill-treated. Mercury, whom we were talk-
ing of, gave them, among other gifts, a dog's
B6b6e felt bewildered; she did not reason
about it, but the idle, shallow, cynical tone
pained her by its levity and its unlikeness to
the sweet, still, gray summer evening.
"Why are you in such a hurry?" he pur-
sued, The night is cool, and it is only seven
o'clock. I will walk part of the way with
I am in a hurry because I have Annemie's
patterns to do," said B6bee, glad that he spoke
of a thing that she knew how to answer. "You
see, Ann6mie's hand shakes and her eyes are
dim, and she pricks the pattern all awry and
never perceives it; it would break her heart if
one showed her so, but the Baes would not
take them as they are; they are of no use at
all. So I prick them out myself on fresh
paper, and the Bais thinks it is all her doing,
and pays her the same money, and she is quite
content. And as I carry the patterns to and fro
for her, because she cannot walk, it is easy to
cheat her like that; and it is no harm to cheat
so, you know." He was silent.
"You are a good little girl, B6b6e, I can
see," he said at last, with a graver sound in his
OR TWO LITTLE IJOODEN SHOES.
voice. "And who is this Annemie for whom
you do so much? an old woman, I suppose."
Oh, yes, quite old; incredibly old. Her
man was drowned at sea sixty years ago, and
she watches for his brig still, night and morn-
"The dog's heart. No doubt he beat her,
and had a wife in fifty other ports."
Oh, no said B6b6e, with a little cry, as
though the word against the dead man hurt
her. "She has told me so much of him. He
was as good as good could be, and loved her
so, and between the voyages they were so
happy. Surely that must have been sixty years
now, and she is so sorry still, and still will not
believe that he was drowned."
He looked down on her with a smile that
had a certain. pity in it.
Well, yes; there are women like that, I be-
lieve. But be very sure, my dear, he beat her.
Of the two, one always holds the whip and uses
it, the other crouches."
I do not understand," said B6bee.
"No; but you will."
I will?- when? "
He smiled again.
Oh to-morrow, perhaps, or next year-
or when Fate fancies."
Or rather, when I choose," he thought to
himself, and let his eyes rest with a certain
pleasure on the little feet, that went beside him
in the grass, and the pretty fair bosom that
showed ever and again, as the frills of her linen
bodice were blown back by the wind and her
own quick motion.
Beb6e looked also up at him; he was very
handsome, and looked so to her, after the
broad, blunt, characterless faces of the Walloon
peasantry around her. He walked with an
easy grace, he was clad in picture-like velvets, he
had a beautiful poetic head, and eyes like deep
brown waters, and a face like one of Jordaens'
or Rembrandt's cavaliers in the galleries where
she used to steal in of a Sunday, and look up at
the paintings, and dream of what that world
could be in which those people had lived.
You are of the people of Rubes'country, are
you not? she asked him.
Of what country, my dear? "
"Of the people that live in the gold frames,"
said 6b6be, quite seriously. In the galleries,
you know. I know a charwoman that scrubs
the floors of the Arenberg Palace, and she lets
me in sometimes to look; and you are just like
those great gentlemen in the gold frames, only
you have not a hawk and a sword, and they
always have. I used to wonder where they
came from, for they are not like any of us one
bit, and the charwoman she is Lisa Dredel,
and lives in the street of the Pot d'Etain--
always said, Dear heart, they all belong to
Rubes' land; we never see their like nowa-
days.' But you must come out of Rubes' land;
at least, I think so, do you not? "
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
He caught her meaning; he knew that Rubes
was the homely abbreviation of Rubens that
all the Netherlanders used, and he guessed the
idea that was reality to this little lonely fanciful
"Perhaps I do," he answered her with a
smile, for it was not worth his while to disabuse
her thoughts of any imagination that glorified
him to her. Do you not want to see Rubes'
world, little one? To see the gold and the
grandeur, and the glitter of it all? -never to
toil or get tired?- always to move in a
pageant? always to live like the hawks in the
paintings you talk of, with silver bells hung
round you, and a hood all sewn with pearls? "
"No," said B6b6e, simply. "I should like
to see it, just to see it, as one looks through a
grating into the king's grape-houses here. But
I should not like to live in it. I love my hut,
and the starling, and the chickens, and what
would the garden do without me? and the
children, and the old Ann6mie? I could not
anyhow, anywhere, be any happier than I am.
There is only one thing I wish."
"And what is that?"
"To know something; not to be so igno-
rant. Just look I can read a little, it is true:
my Hours, and the letters, and when Krebs
brings in a newspaper I can read a little of it,
not much. I know French well, because
Antoine was French himself, and never did
talk Flemish to me; and they being Nether-
landers, cannot, of course, read the newspapers
at all, and so think it very wonderful indeed in
me. But what I want is to know things, to
know all about what was before ever I was
living. St. Gudule now-they say it was built
hundreds of years before; and Rubes again-
they say he was a painter king in Antwerpen
before the oldest, oldest woman like Annemie
ever began to count time. I am sure books
tell you all those things, because I see the
students coming and going with them; and
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
when I saw once the millions of books in the
Rue du Mus6e, I asked the keeper what use
they were for, and he said, To make men wise,
my dear.' But Gringoire Bac, the cobbler, who
was with me, -it was a fete day, Bac, he
said, 'Do not you believe that, Beb6e; they
only muddle folks' brains; for one book tells
them one thing, and another book another, and
so on, till they are dazed with all the contrary
lying; and if you see a bookish man, be sure
you see a very poor creature who could not
hoe a patch, or kill a pig, or stitch an upper-
leather, were it ever so.' But I do not believe
that Bac said right. Did he? "
I am not sure. On the whole, I think it is
the truest remark on literature I have ever
heard, and one that shows great judgment in
Bac. Well? "
"Well, sometimes, you know," said Beb&e,
not understanding his answer, but pursuing her
thoughts confidentially, -" sometimes I talk
like this to the neighbors, and they laugh at
me. Because Mere Krebs says that when one
knows how to spin and sweep and make bread
and say one's prayers and milk a goat or a cow,
it is all a woman wants to know this side of
heaven. But for me, I cannot help it, when
I look at those windows in the cathedral, or at
those beautiful twisted little spires that are all
over our H6tel de Ville, I want to know who the
men were that made them, -what they did
and thought, -how they looked and spoke, -
how they learned to shape stone into leaves and
grasses like that, how they could imagine all
those angel faces on the glass. When I go
alone in the quite early morning or at night
when it is still-sometimes in winter I have to
stay till it is dark over the lace I hear their
feet come after me, and they whisper to me
close, 'Look what beautiful things we have
done, B1bee, and you all forget us quite. We
did what never will die, but our names are as
dead as the stones.' And then I am so sorry
for them and ashamed. And I want to know
more. Can you tell me?"
He looked at her earnestly; her eyes were
shining, her cheeks were warm, her little mouth
was tremulous with eagerness.
"Did any one ever speak to you in that
way? he asked her.
"No," she answered him. It comes into
my head of itself. Sometimes I think the
cathedral angels put it there. For the angels
must be tired, you know; always pointing to
God and always seeing men turn away. I used
to tell Antoine sometimes. But he used to
shake his head and say that it was no use think-
ing; most likely St. Gudule and St. Michael
had set the church down in the night all ready
made, why not? God made the trees, and
they were more wonderful, he thought, for his
part. And so perhaps they are, but that is no
answer. And I do want to know. I want
some one who will tell me; and if you come
OR TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES.
out of Rubes' country as I think, no doubt you
know everything, or remember it? "
"The free pass to Rubes' country lies in
books, pretty one. Shall I give you some?-
nay, lend them, I mean, since giving you are
too wilful to hear of without offence. You
can read, you said? "
ebebe's eyes glowed as they lifted themselves
I can read-not very fast, but that would
come with doing it more and more, I think, just
as spinning does; one knots the thread and
breaks it a million times before one learns to
spin as fine as cobwebs. I have read the
stories of St. Anne, and of St. Catherine, and
of St. Luven fifty times, but they are all the
books that Father Francis has; and no one
else has any among us."
"Very well. You shall have books of mine.
Easy ones first, and then those that are more
serious. But what time will you have? You
do so much; you are like a little golden bee."
Beb6e laughed happily.
Oh! give me the books and I will find the
time. It is light so early now. That gives one
so many hours. In winter one has so few one
must lie in bed, because to buy a candle you know
one cannot afford except, of course, a taper now
and then, as one's duty is, for our Lady or for
the dead. And will you really, really, lend me