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The Devil's Pool By George Sand Characters: 9312

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

"Oh! well, Germain, we must be patient," said little Marie. "We are not badly off on this little knoll. The rain doesn't come through the leaves of these great oaks, for I can feel some old broken branches that are dry enough to burn. You have flint and steel, Germain? You were smoking your pipe just now."

"I had them. My steel was in the bag on the saddle with the game I was carrying to my intended; but the cursed mare carried off everything, even my cloak, which she will lose or tear on all the branches." "Oh! no, Germain; the saddle and cloak and bag are all there on the ground, by your feet. Grise broke the girths and threw everything off when she left."

"Great God, that's so!" said the ploughman; "and if we can feel round and find a little dead wood, we can succeed in drying and warming ourselves."

"That's not hard to do," said little Marie; "the dead wood cracks under your feet wherever you step; but give me the saddle first."

"What are you going to do with it?"

"Make a bed for the little one: no, not like that; upside-down, so he won't roll out; and it's still warm from the mare's back. Prop it up on each side with those stones you see there."

"I don't see them! Your eyes are like a cat's, aren't they?"

"There! now that's done, Germain! Give me your cloak to wrap up his little feet, and I'll put mine over his body. Look! isn't he as comfortable there as he would be in his bed? and feel how warm he is!"

"Yes, indeed! you know how to take care of children, Marie!"

"That doesn't take much magic. Now look for your steel in your bag, and I'll fix the wood."

"That wood will never light, it's too damp."

"You doubt everything, Germain! Why, can't you remember taking care of sheep and making big fires in the fields when it was raining hard?"

"Yes, that's a knack that children who tend sheep have; but I've been an ox-driver ever since I knew how to walk."

"That's how you came to be stronger in your arms than clever with your hands. There's your fire all built; now you'll see if it won't burn! Give me the fire and a few dry ferns. Good! now blow; you're not weak-lunged, are you?"

"Not that I know of," said Germain, blowing like a forge-bellows. In a moment, the flame shot up, cast a red light at first, and finally rose in bluish flashes under the branches of the oaks, struggling with the mist, and gradually drying the atmosphere for ten feet around.

"Now, I'll sit down beside the little one and see that no sparks fall on him," said the girl. "You must throw on wood and keep the fire bright, Germain! we shall not catch cold or the fever here, I promise you."

"Faith, you're a smart girl," said Germain, "and you can make a fire like a little witch. I feel like a new man, and my courage is coming back to me; for, with my legs wet to the knees, and the prospect of staying here till daybreak in that condition, I was in a very bad humor just now."

"And when one is in a bad humor, one never thinks of anything," rejoined little Marie.

"And are you never in a bad humor, pray?"

"Oh! no, never! What's the use?"

"Why, it's of no use, that's certain; but how can you help it, when you have things to annoy you? God knows that you have plenty of them, poor child; for you haven't always been happy!"

"True, my poor mother and I have suffered. We have been unhappy, but we never lost courage."

"I wouldn't lose courage for any work that ever was," said Germain; "but poverty would grieve me, for I have never lacked anything. My wife made me rich, and I am rich still; I shall be as long as I work at the farm: that will be always, I hope; but every one has his own troubles! I have suffered in another way."

"Yes, you lost your wife, and it was a great pity!"

"Wasn't it?"

"Oh! I cried bitterly for her, Germain, I tell you! for she was so kind! But let's not talk about her any more or I shall cry again; all my sorrows seem to be coming back to me to-day."

"Indeed, she loved you dearly, little Marie; she thought a deal of you and your mother. What! you are crying! Come, come, my girl, I don't want to cry, you know-"

"But you are crying, Germain! You are crying, too! Why should a man be ashamed to cry for his wife? Cry on, don't mind me! I share that grief with you!"

"You have a kind heart, Marie, and it does me good to weep with you. But put your feet near the fire; your skirts are all damp, too, poor little girl! Let me take your place by the child, and do you warm yourself better than that."

"I'm warm enough," said Marie; "if you want to sit down, take a corner of the cloak; I am very comfortable."

"To tell the

truth, we're not badly off here," said Germain, seating himself close beside her. "The only thing that troubles me now is hunger. It must be nine o'clock, and I had such hard work walking in those wretched roads, that I feel all fagged out. Aren't you hungry, too, Marie?"

"I? Not at all. I'm not used to four meals a day as you are, and I have been to bed without supper so many times, that once more doesn't worry me much."

"Well, a wife like you is a great convenience; she doesn't cost much," said Germain, with a smile.

"I am not a wife," said Marie artlessly, not perceiving the turn the ploughman's ideas were taking. "Are you dreaming?"

"Yes, I believe I am dreaming," was Germain's reply; "perhaps it's hunger that makes my mind wander."

"What a gourmand you must be!" she rejoined, brightening up a little in her turn; "well, if you can't live five or six hours without eating, haven't you some game in your bag, and fire to cook it with?"

"The devil! that's a good idea! but what about the gift to my future father-in-law?"

"You have six partridges and a hare! I don't believe you need all that to satisfy your hunger, do you?"

"But if we undertake to cook it here, without a spit or fire-dogs, we shall burn it to a cinder!"

"Oh! no," said little Marie; "I'll agree to cook it for you in the ashes so it won't smell of smoke. Didn't you ever catch larks in the fields, and haven't you cooked them between two stones? Ah! true! I forget that you never tended sheep! Come, pluck that partridge! Not so hard! you'll pull off the skin!"

"You might pluck another one to show me how!"

"What! do you propose to eat two? What an ogre! Well, there they are all plucked, and now I'll cook them."

"You would make a perfect cantinière, little Marie; but unluckily you haven't any canteen, and I shall be reduced to drink water from this pool."

"You'd like some wine, wouldn't you? Perhaps you need coffee, too? you imagine you're at the fair under the arbor! Call the landlord: liquor for the cunning ploughman of Belair!"

"Ah! bad girl, you're laughing at me, are you? You wouldn't drink some wine, I suppose, if you had some?"

"I? I drank with you to-night at La Rebec's for the second time in my life; but if you'll be very good, I will give you a bottle almost full, and of good wine too!"

"What, Marie, are you really a magician?"

"Weren't you foolish enough to order two bottles of wine at La Rebec's? You drank one with the boy, and I took barely three drops out of the one you put before me. But you paid for both of them without looking to see."


"Well, I put the one you didn't drink in my basket, thinking that you or the little one might be thirsty on the way; and here it is."

"You are the most thoughtful girl I ever saw. Well, well! the poor child was crying when we left the inn, but that didn't prevent her from thinking more of others than herself! Little Marie, the man who marries you will be no fool."

"I hope not, for I shouldn't like a fool. Come, eat your partridges, they are cooked to a turn; and, having no bread, you must be satisfied with chestnuts."

"And where the devil did you get chestnuts?"

"That's wonderful, certainly! why, all along the road, I picked them from the branches as we passed, and filled my pockets with them."

"Are they cooked, too?"

"What good would my wits do me if I hadn't put some chestnuts in the fire as soon as it was lighted? We always do that in the fields."

"Now, little Marie, we will have supper together! I want to drink your health and wish you a good husband-as good as you would wish yourself. Tell me what you think about it!"

"I should have hard work, Germain, for I never yet gave it a thought."

"What! not at all? never?" said Germain, falling to with a ploughman's appetite, but cutting off the best pieces to offer his companion, who obstinately refused them, and contented herself with a few chestnuts. "Tell me, little Marie," he continued, seeing that she did not propose to reply, "haven't you ever thought about marrying? you're old enough, though!"

"Perhaps I am," she said; "but I am too poor. You need at least a hundred crowns to begin housekeeping, and I shall have to work five or six years to save that much."

"Poor girl! I wish Pere Maurice would let me have a hundred crowns to give you."

"Thank you very much, Germain. What do you suppose people would say about me?"

"What could they say? everybody knows that I'm an old man and can't marry you. So they wouldn't imagine that I-that you-"

"Look, ploughman! here's your son waking up," said little Marie.

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