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guessed from the look of her. She is after season for twenty-one years, won strong and stocky, with the powerful four several times considerable sums. knotted hands of one that has done The result of all this was that when rough work, and a coarse-featured, in the course of time her parents died, wrinkled face, with deep-set, quick-glanc- Marie awoke one day, as she was adding, intelligent eyes. I made friends ing chicken bones to the pot au feu, to with her and she told me the story of the fact that she was sole mistress of her life.
the patisserie and of a fortune. It seems she was daughter to the Accordingly, she told me she had burgomaster of an ancient ville. From many suitors, chiefly of the apprentice her account I picture him dimly as a kind, lively young fellows who longed man all beard and chest and gold-headed to set up for themselves in fine pastry cane. In the prime of his life he had with a smooth-haired, red-cheeked girl the honor of reading an address of wel- to sell the same. But her ambition come to the great Napoleon himself, soared above the counter; she wanted and of being cut short and severely scope and the free use of her money in snubbed by the Imperial lips. He never the exercise of her one great talent. recovered from the effects of that day She sold the patisserie to great advanof glory, and well-nigh made the lives tage, and retired to the country with her of his fellow-citizens intolerable by his money-bags literally piled in the bottom reminiscences of the event-I subjoin of a donkey-cart. this last without the authority of Marie, She chuckled in her old age at the but I have no doubt that it is true. memory of how she had outwitted them
In this good man's life were two all-greedy 'prentices, penniless officers, crosses : one, that until he drew near and the various rag-tag and bobtail the confines of age he had no child to that sought to wed the burgomaster's inherit after him; the other, that when daughter, who owned a pastry-shop and his long-ailing patrician wife finally a fortune. allowed him to lay immortelles on her There were rumors enough afloat, and tomb, and to wed the housekeeper whose tongues wagged scandalously in Flemish delicate cooking alone had for some as well as in French: she had eloped years kept his body and soul together, with an English milord; she was fled to she produced no more satisfactory heir Paris to be a grande dame; she was lying than Marie. He fairly broke his heart murdered for her riches at the bottom over the matter, and died soon after of of a well. .. Marie could not rememan apoplexy, leaving a sufficient and ber a quarter of the tales that old Vrouw even pleasing fortune to his widow. Smits brought back on market-days to
With this she purchased a patisserie the little farm where the truant hugged in Bruges and the owner thereof, and herself in joy over her escape, and gave moreover laid aside a dot for Marie and herself unmolested to the delights of a surplus sum to be invested in lottery cookery. tickets.
After all, the plan was childishly I cannot tell you much of Marie's simple. Vrouw Smits in her youth had youth; but I know that a toy kitchen been Marie's bonne ; in her middle age was her first treasure, that she had a she was a widow left with a tiny marketpot on the fire long before she could garden on the road to Sluys. Every toddle, and that the chief accidents of Saturday she drove a donkey-cart into her childhood were a series of distress- Bruges, supplementing her green stuff ing burns caused by her early interfere with home-made spice-bread. And until ence in the conduct of the patisserie. Marie Aed to her she lived quite alone. And I know that while she was growing What better opportunity and outlet for into womanhood the shop of her parents her abilities could Marie have hoped to was spreading its reputation abroad find than this? through Bruges. And, again, since No seven-league pen could get over fortune follows the lucky, their lottery th list of delicacies that she conceived tickets, purchased unfailingly season and created. She knew no books and
few rules; but she had an instinct for might have been seen upon the tables of the blending of elements, a nice touch their midday meal. As to the outside for proportion and measure and weight. poor, I cannot attempt to say—nor could She all but achieved the impossible in Sister, though she shook her head as she making something out of nothing; that alluded to the topic-how much havoc was perhaps her chief pride.
dear innocent Marie wrought among Be it understood that she had no joy them with her rich and succulent dainin cooking for herself. Nor could she ties. But I gather that if fate had not do much for poor old Vrouw Smits, in intervened, the population of Bruges that, being practically toothless and frail would have lessened in number, increased of digestion, the widow subsisted for the in bulk, and developed into a decaying most part upon pap and milk sop, broth race of gormands. and coffee.
It is idle now to speculate why Marie Lacking an appreciative family, Marie was not discovered. Belgians were not therefore cooked for the public. This enterprising in those days. The laity does not mean that she sold her goods was content to swallow greedily; the in open market. Not at all. She knew clergy protested now and again, not dimly that such a process would be like against quantity, but against exceeding casting pearls before swine. No; she richness of quality. With the armor of was a burgomaster's daughter, and she a close mouth, Vrouw Smits parried such dispensed her rare dishes in charity. questions as were asked; and so for
Now you may well conceive that these more than twenty years Marie continued donations created some disturbance in her good works undiscovered. Her secret the ancient borough of Bruges. Every charities had become an institution in Saturday morning, wooden-faced Vrouw Bruges, when suddenly one morning she Smits had, in addition to her ordinary awoke to the fact that she had opened stock in trade, a vast basket of dainties up her last money-bag. She could not in that she found the means to send to any wise understand how that which had some worthy institution (favoring each seemed to her endless could so have in turn), without bringing upon herself wasted itself away; but the bare fact the gibes and inquisitive questions of the overwhelmed her. She did not cook on market folk. At close of day she rode that day, but sat in the fireless kitchen again along the Sluys road, her basket among her copper and earthenware full of spices and condiments and strange brooding and wondering, until even expensive materials, with now and again stupid old Vrouw Smits had pity of her a copper saucepan, or a cooking-dish of state, and, although it was not a Saturfine glazed earthenware, or a new-fangled day, harnessed the ancient donkey to the culinary implement. You must never for- unsteady cart and drove along the Sluys get, as I was never allowed to do, that road to the convent of St. Julien to take Marie's father had been burgomaster.
counsel with the Mother Superior. I began to say that these mysterious She was awestruck and frightened as gifts caused disturbance; they were at she followed the Sister along the tapestimes positively embarrassing. Alas for tried passage to the dim little room the old lace-makers of St. Julien ! There where the Mother received her guests. was an epidemic of indigestion among There, when, after long telling of her them the one and only time they were beads, she was admitted to an interview, allowed to partake of pâté de foie gras.
she for the first time in twenty years unThe patients at the hospital of St. Jean sealed her lips and told Marie's tale. suffered perilously the one day that the I take it that this Mother Superior is basket of Vrouw Smits ran the gauntlet not devoid of humor, for when she had of watching doctors. The orphans of heard the whole, she said dryly : “Bring St. Sauveur sickened of their daily fare her to us and she shall learn to make after a banquet of candied figs and lace. For the good of our souls and chestnut paste. Even the high-minded her own salvation we must not let her Béguines were corrupted from their an- cook.” cient simplicity, and warmed-over entrés This was well said, good Mother Superior ; but when Marie herself jogged be boiling pottage for the pigs. By no along in the donkey-cart, none too will- means! Like many another inspiration, ingly coming to the convent of which the good Mother's idea spread. Marie she had been an unknown benefactress was set to cook the clothes and the these many years past—when she came starch of a Monday, to cook the coppers thus and, with the full consciousness of at cleaning time, to cook the glue if by the charity she had bestowed, refused chance it was needed, to cook the paste to lay finger on a bobbin, what was to when the nuns were papering ; to cook do then ?
anything and everything that could not You could not turn out, penniless, be eaten. It was Nemesis upon her— shelterless, into the streets, a woman a brilliant, perhaps a just, Nemesis; but who had so often fed your poor.
You I say it was hard. could not let her sit idle as a bad exam- A clear, frosty morning in February, ple to the others. You could not com- when she had been but a few weeks in pel her to make lace when she refused her new humility, she was coughing in to learn. Ah! one day there came to her outhouse, her eyes reddened and the Mother a direct inspiration, and she watery with smoke, her heart rebelling murmured a thankful prayer that her against the hand that consented to stir problem was solved.
pigs' porridge after concocting delica“ Marie,” she said, pausing by the cies for charitable donations—that very burgomaster's daughter, who sat apart morning into her hour of trial came from her companions and sulked, “it relief through the convent carpe:ater. was the sin of pride that brought you He looked in and saw her stooping low, but by humility you shall be raised. over her task, coughing for the reek of After to-day you shall cook again. You the place, and opened acquaintance. shall go to the woodshed and boil the Now you must know that, as the only turnips and potatoes for the pigs.” man allowed on the premises, the car
Marie but half understood. Small penter was a peculiar and carefully blame to her if she interpreted this selected personage. He could not have speech to mean that one day she might told you how old he was ; nor will I be raised, step by step, until she came venture to guess, further than that he to preside over the nuns' kitchen. How was safely past his threescore. far the Mother was moved by moral He was not, as you might well suppurpose, how far by a sense of humor, pose, a bachelor, a misogynist. On the how far by direct inspiration, I am un- contrary, he had been much married, able to say; but the immediate result having buried his third wife many years was altogether outside the limits of her before he entered the service of the conprophetic powers.
vent. For the rest, he was lame and The next morning Marie was taken sufficiently unprepossessing in appearout into the shed, with its heaps of wood ance and manner to be secure against and vegetables, which was to be her new turning the head of the most romantic kitchen, and which, together with the novice that ever entered whitewashed hen-house and the pig-sty, lent a familiar cell. domestic air to the convent inclosure. On this February morning he came
Picture her thus : an interior by Te in to light his pipe and to grumble at the niers or Ryckaert, smoky, dark, untidy, smoke that drifted out upon him as he and a bent, withered woman in a scant repaired the old hen-house. Perhaps gown of faded butcher's blue, with a by virtue of having listened to his comlittle black shawl on her shoulders and plaints, Marie felt free to begin upon a knitted black cap over her ears—a hers. He had small sympathy, being short, clumsy woman shuffling about in a firm and devoted adherent of the her sabots, now stooping to blow up a Reverend Mother. Moreover, he was sullen fire, now stirring the untempting skeptical about her prowess. Any womess, her face sharpened, I fear me, man could cook his three wives had with bitterness at her present lot.
been marvels in the kitchen. OnlyBut, you will say, she could not always what good was it to him when they all
died off, one after the other ? But in the akimbo, fiercely challenging his apend, what did a man want with a cook proval. when he had his own two hands to He tasted gingerly, rolled a morsel make gruel and coffee, and when bread on his tongue, for it was hot as a red and sausage could be bought at the coal, grew ruminative with fixed gaze, next shop? Trust women for letting and presently, a the omelette cooled, their tongues run away with them. His tenderly reminiscent. first, now
“ Ah !” he shook his head. But Marie sharply bade him be about a good woman and ”-he finished the his work, or he would get more of her dish—“ a good cook.” tongue.
“Do you pretend to me, maker-ofIf only he had omitted his parting hen-houses-me, daughter of a burgojeer about the pigs' messes that she was master-?” preparing!
“ Madame” —he bowed as he had seen Her hands went as high as her head the gentry do—“I do you homage. In in angry protest : “Give me but a dish omelettes I am willing to say you are a and something to put into it and you woman of mark." should soon see ! But as for women's Marie threw out tragic hands: “But, tongues
in the name of God, what is it that I The carpenter, whose name was Be- cannot make ? Bring me and you shall noist, baptized how I know not unless it see.” be Gabriei, went away with a sheepish From that day forth Benoist had a grin and the gleam of a plan in his eye. hot midday meal instead of cold. sau
On the morrow, about midday, he sage or cheese; and the pigs squealed returned in a new red kerchief, and fifteen minutes, sometimes half an hour, without a word drew from recesses of before the mess of turnips appeared. his blue smock two eggs, pinches of No one can doubt that it was wickedsalt and pepper, a little oil, a bunch of very wicked. Even if it may not be fine herbs, and a tiny frying-pan. classed strictly among the mortal sins,
“ Now, then,” says he in his croaking it was one that cried aloud for conFlemish, and no more.
fession and penance. There were three “ What then?” She was scornful. distinct grounds on which the cook “ Can I cook in such a thing ?”
should have been stung by remorse: “ It was that of my third wife,” says she was deceiving the Mother and the he, simply, and pulled at his earring; Sisters; she was awakening in the abwhereupon she seized it and pushed him stemious Benoist, long inured to gruel away so abruptly that he, having one and cold sausage, a new love for fleshfoot half out of its sabot, nearly toppled' pots; she was sadly neglecting the pigs.
It was wicked, Marie knew very well. “ And what is it that I can make of Confession bubbled to her lips, but she nothing ?” Her accents were despair- hardened her heart and refrained. And ing. What herbs he had brought I can
all the while that the vernal sun was not tell; but it seems that they were all turning to the earth and sweetening the wrong, and that there was no reasonable
grasses, the carpenter puttered at the old hope of anything more coming from the hen-house and various odd jobs about concoction than another pigs' mess. the buildings, his heart warmed and
Perhaps the fine irony of the last lightened by Marie's skill; and she stole thought was lost upon Benoist, for he ob- away to the secret bliss of her cookery served, meditatively : “My second knew and purchased her happiness with the all that is to be known of omelettes." pigs' discomfort.
Clash went the saucepan on the coals. But no happiness is static in this penHow Marie managed this particular dent world, least of all that which is triumph I do not know; but I have plucked slyly aside from the path of duty. seen her in the divine madness at other There came a day when the Reverend times. In the end she set it smoking Mother, looking from her window, obbefore Benoist and stood with her arms served that the hen-house progressed
but slowly; also that at the moment of heard of such a matter. Benoist, the her gazing no Benoist was visible. She invincible Benoist, hard-won to acknowlleaned out into the sunshine, the better edge the merits of her cookery–had he to search the garden, and a strange indeed resolved to make her his fourth ? savory smell was insinuated into her Marie, what have you to say to this?” nostrils. The Mother Superior sniffed demanded the Mother, reproachfully. critically, being a bit of a cook and Marie shook her head, because she more of a connoisseur. Besides, she could not find any words at all. knew what was for dinner; and, further. “It's not, you see, Mother, as if she the kitchen was not near enough to her was one of the Sisters ..." window to have caused such a distinct “Benoist l” gasped the Mother. olfactory disturbance and a resultant Yes, yes, Reverend Mother. I say watering of the mouth.
it is not so. Besides, we are old enough. You ask me why she had
I will buy her food and she shall cook noticed it before? My own theory is
A good bargain—not? And that this was the first day on which she then you will have so much room for had opened her windows to the spring. another, you see.”
She smelled a while, then pondered, The Mother perceived clearly that then descended as swiftly and silently there was sense in his words, and, with a and blackly as a tropic night.
little gesture of washing her hands, left Benoist saw her coming down the them to their fate. passage and felt himself trapped. Escape Marie was still awe-struck, and would being out of the question, his first thought have run after to implore pardon ; but was to save as much of the situation Benoist jerked her roughly to the right that is, of the dish before him-as he about and pulled her arm through his. could, and do the penance afterwards ; “Come," says he. therefore he-gobbled. Marie, absently " And where ?" poking the bubbling turnips, had no eyes “ To the notary.” for the portly figure in the doorway. As in a dream, she went.
“ Benoist I”
He grew purple choking over the last But do you think that this is the end morsel, then heaved a sigh of satisfac- of her story? By no means! Her little tion. He had won the race.
day of bliss was tempered with remorse; “ Reverend Mother ”
for so thoroughly did the gormand “What are you doing?”
tastes of Benoist return under her skill" Eating my dinner, Mother."
ful care that they imperiled his old age, “ And where did you get your dinner?” and, after some ten years or so, made an He shrugged and glanced at Marie. end of him altogether.
“I see. You have been deceiving And when Marie had buried him me. You hungered, Benoist, after the safely, what was there for her to do but flesh-pots of Egypt, and you— Marie- to sell out her few sticks and go back to shame! Go in now. I will never trust her old prison ? you to feed the pigs again.”
The Mother Superior was older by Marie had turned to obey, outwardly this time and perhaps wiser. She looked meek, when there came an amazing at the refugee kindly but sadly. development in the form of the voice of “So, Marie, you are come back to us Benoist, commanding her to stop.
once more? But I said I would never The Reverend Mother stared, grow- let you feed the pigs again, and lace you ing purple.
will not learn, and there must be no “She is to come home with me,” idlers here, so what can I do with you?” mumbled the carpenter.
“It is not for me to chocse, Reverend “My good man ”—the Mother was Mother. I have lived my life and I am quite breathless.
I will do what you wish. I “Because she shall be my wife.” will scrub the floors, or wash the cups, or
It was Marie's turn gasp and cross I will learn the lace." herself. This was the first she had “I suppose it is true," mused the