Grandmother Dear Part 11

"Like my old woman in Paris," said Molly, nodding her head.

"And there it was the dear lady first saw me," said Marie. "It was all through the apples--bon papa did well for me the day he planted that tree! They were so fine--Madame bought them for the poor gentleman who was ill--and then I came to tell her my history; and when she took this house she asked me to be her concierge. Since then I have no troubles--my daughter married, long ago of course, but she died, and her husband died, and the friends were not good for her children, and it was these I had to provide for--my grand-daughters. But now they are very well off--each settled, and so good to me! The married one comes with her bebe every Sunday, and the other, in a good place, sends me always a part of her wages. And my son too--he that went to Paris--he writes often. Ah yes, I am well satisfied! And always my great-nephews send me the apples--every year--their father and their grandfather made the promise, and it has never been broken. And still, my little young ladies and little Monsieur--still, the old apple-tree at the paternal house at Stefanos, is called 'le pommier de la petite.'"

"How nice!" said the children all together. "Thank you, Marie, thank you so much for telling us the story."



"I'll tell you a story of Jack-o-my-nory, And now my story's begun.

I'll tell you another of Jack and his brother, And now my story's done."


Marie's story was the subject of much conversation among the children.

Sylvia announced her intention of writing it down.

"She tells it so nicely," she said. "I could have written it down beautifully while she was talking, if she would have waited."

"She would not have been able to tell it so nicely if she had known you were waiting to write down every word as she said it," remarked grandmother. "At least in her place I don't think _I_ could."

A shriek from Molly here startled them all, or perhaps I should say, _would_ have done so, had they been less accustomed to her eccentric behaviour.

"What is the matter now, my dear?" said aunty.

"Oh," said Molly, gasping with eagerness, "grandmother's saying that _reminded_ me."

"But what about, my dear child?"

"About telling stories; don't you remember grandmother _dear_, I said you would be _perfect_ if you would tell us stories, and you didn't say you wouldn't."

"And what's more, grandmother promised me one," said Ralph.

"_Did_ I, my dear boy?"

"Yes, grandmother," said Ralph, looking rather abashed, "don't you remember, grandmother--the day I called Prosper de Lastre a cad? I don't think he's a cad now," he added in a lower voice.

"Ah yes, I remember now," said grandmother. "But do you know, my dears, I am so sorry I cannot find your Uncle Jack's manuscript. He had written it out so well--all I can find is the letter in which he first alluded to the incident, very shortly. However, I remember most of it pretty clearly. I will think it over and refresh my memory with the letter, and some day I will tell it to you."

"Can't you tell it us to-night then, grandmother dear?" said Molly in very doleful tones.

They were all sitting round the fire, for it was early December now, and fires are needed then, even at Chalet! What a funny fire some of you would think such a one, children! No grate, no fender, such as you are accustomed to see--just two or three iron bars placed almost on the floor, which serve to support the nice round logs of wood burning so brightly, but alas for grandmother's purse, so swiftly away! But the brass knobs and bars in front look cheery and sparkling, and then the indispensable bellows are a delightful invention for fidgety fingers like those of Ralph and Molly. How many new "nozzles" grandmother had to pay for her poor bellows that winter I should really be afraid to say!

And once, to Molly's indescribable consternation, the bellows got on fire _inside_; there was no outward injury to be seen, but they smoked alarmingly, and internal crackings were to be heard of a fearful and mysterious description. Molly flew to the kitchen, and flung the bellows, as if they were alive, into a pan of water that stood handy. Doubtless the remedy was effectual so far as extinguishing the fire was concerned, but as for the after result on the constitution of the poor bellows I cannot report favourably, as they were never again fit to use. _And_, as this was the fourth pair spoilt in a month, Molly was obliged to give up half her weekly money for some time towards replacing them!

But we are wandering away from the talk by the fire--grandmother and aunty in their low chairs working--the three children lying in various attitudes on the hearthrug, for hearthrug there was, seldom as such superfluities are to be seen at Chalet. Grandmother was too "English" to have been satisfied with her pretty drawing-room without one--a nice fluffy, flossy one, which the children were so fond of burrowing in that grandmother declared she would need a new one by the time the winter was over!

"_Can't_ you tell it to us to-night then, grandmother dear?" said Molly.

"I would rather think it over a little first," said grandmother. "You forget, Molly, that old people's memories are not like young ones. And, as Marie says, it is very curious how, the older one gets, the further back things are those that one remembers the most distinctly. The middle part of my life is hazy compared with the earlier part. I can remember the patterns of some of my dresses as a _very_ little girl--I can remember words said and trifling things done fifty years ago better than little things that happened last month."

"How queer!" said Molly. "Shall we all be like that, grandmother dear, when we get old?"

Grandmother laid down her knitting and looked at the children with a soft smile on her face.

"Yes, dears, I suppose so. It is the 'common lot.' I remember once asking _my_ grandmother a question very like that."

"_Your_ grandmother!" exclaimed all the children--Molly adding, "Had _you_ ever a grandmother, grandmother dear?"

"Oh, Molly, how can you be so silly?" said Ralph and Sylvia, together.

"I'm not silly," said Molly. "It is you that are silly not to understand what I mean. I am sure anybody might. Of course I mean can grandmother remember her--did she know her? Supposing anybody's grandmother died before they were born, then they wouldn't ever have had one, would they now?"

Molly sat up on the rug, and tossed back her hair out of her eyes, convinced that her logic was unanswerable.

"You shouldn't begin by saying 'anybody's grandmother,'" remarked Ralph.

"You put anybody in the possessive case, which means, of course, that the grandmother belonged to the anybody, and _then_ you make out that the anybody never had one."

Molly retorted by putting her fingers in her ears and shaking her head vehemently at her brother. "Be quiet, Ralph," she said. "What's the good of muddling up what I say, and making my head feel _so_ uncomfortable when you know quite well what I _mean_? Please, grandmother dear, will you go on talking as soon as I take my fingers out of my ears, and then he will have to leave off puzzling me."

"And what am I to talk about?" asked grandmother.

"Tell us about your grandmother. If you remember things long ago so nicely, you must remember story sort of things of then," said Molly insinuatingly.

"I really don't, my dear child. Not just at this moment, anyhow."

"Well, tell us _about_ your grandmother: what was she like? was she like you?"

Grandmother shook her head.

"That I cannot say, my dear; I have no portrait of her, nor have I ever seen one since I have been grown up. She died when I was about fifteen, and as my father was not the eldest son, few, if any, heirlooms fell to his share. And a good many years before my grandmother's death--at the time of her husband's death--the old home was sold, and she came to live in a curious old-fashioned house, in the little county town a few miles from where we lived. This old house had belonged to her own family for many, many years, and, as all her brothers were dead, it became hers. She was very proud of it, and even during my grandfather's life they used to come in from the country to spend the worst of the winter there. Dear me!

what a long time back it takes us! were my grandmother living now, she would be--let me see--my father would have been a hundred years old by now. I was the youngest of a large family you know, dears. His mother would have been about a hundred and thirty. It takes us back to the middle of George the Second's reign."

"Yes," said Molly so promptly, that every one looked amazed, "George the First, seventeen hundred and fourteen, George the Second, seventeen hundred and twenty-seven, George the Third, seventeen hundred and----"

"When did you learn that--this morning I suppose?" observed Ralph with biting sarcasm.

"No," said Molly complacently, "I always could remember the four Georges.

Sylvia will tell you. _She_ always remembered the Norman Conquest, and King John, and so when we spoke about something to do with these dates when we were out a walk Miss Bryce used to be as pleased as pleased with us."

"Is that the superlative of 'very pleased,' my dear Molly?" said aunty.

Molly wriggled.

"History is bad enough," she muttered. "I don't think we need have grammar too, just when I thought we were going to have nice story-talking. Did _you_ like lessons when you were little, grandmother dear?" she inquired in a louder voice.

Chapter end

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