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Ten

The little old lady was as good as her word and after Christmas she ordered cloths from sample books, got the next summer’s fashion books and patterns, and began to plan on making dresses for Rosalie s campaign against the world. She was no country dressmaker. She was a skilled cutter and seamstress, and nothing but the best material would suit her touch and eye.

“You must have one red dress, Rosalie, to go against your black hair, and one of powder blue to bring out the blue-gray of your eyes, and a white dress, a black dress and a sedate tweed dress to wear when you are hunting for a job. Then, of course, you must have half a dozen cotton dresses, and lots of under things and pyjamas.”

“But how in the world will I carry these things, said Rosalie, “when I go walking the roads of the world?”

“I’ve thought of all that but I can’t tell you yet, that must be a secret and surprise that we’ll enjoy in a month together. I’ve got two leather trunks in the attic that have been twice around the world, and that are no more use to me. On my next journey, I’ll travel light.”

“I can never repay you, Old Lady.”

“You’re repaying me now. What use is extra money now to a wrinkled old lady. When I dress you I renew for a little the glory of my own youth. Never fear, they won’t look homemade, for I’ve had lessons from the best in cutting and sewing, and I had plenty of time to practice sewing in long ninety day voyages from Shanghai to London. They won’t look homemade but smart and right up to the minute.”

“I’m sure they will. How do you happen to know so much, Little Old Lady?”

“Necessity drives us all on. I learned a little at home, but at sea, I had to make my own dresses to please Mat and my own young vanity. ‘Smart as paint, Kitty,’ he used to say, looking me over before we went ashore, ‘smart as a new ship just off the docks with a shining copper bottom, smart as paint and fragrant as a wayside rose.'”

Rosalie did not have to repeat on ‘Great Expectations’, rather when the lamp was lighted and chores and housework done, she carried on with the greatest of all French stories. Her Acadian French ran trippingly from her tongue, and she read with animation,

 

In 1804, M. Myriel was the cure of Brignolles. He was then an old man, and lived in the deepest seclusion. Near the time of the coronation, a trifling matter of business belonging to his curacy—what it was, is not now precisely known—took him to Paris.

Among other personages of authority, he went to visit Cardinal Fesch on behalf of his parishioners.

One day, when the Emperor had come to visit his uncle, the worthy cure, who was waiting in the ante-room, happened to be on the way to his Majesty. Napoleon noticing that the old man looked at him with a certain curiousness, turned around and said brusquely:

“Who is this good man who looks at me?”

“Sire,” said M. Myriel, “you behold a good man, and I a great man.”

That evening the emperor asked the Cardinal, the name of the cure, and sometime afterwards M. Myriel was overwhelmed with surprise on learning that he had been appointed Bishop of D–.”

 

“God put that idea in Napoleon’s heart, you will see why later,” said the little old lady.

It is too long to tell in this book all the winter tales that the little old lady told Rosalie; how she and Mat sailed the seven seas and visited Shanghai and Hong Kong, London and Port of Spain, the Golden Gate, New Orleans and Copenhagen; how Kitty learned to do some trading and I fear a little smuggling on her own account; how they took on guano in Chile and had for two months to wait their turn with twenty ships lying in the road-stead in turn ahead of them. “The best smelling cargo,” she used to say, “is deck loads of spruce and pine deal, the worst smelling is guano.”

Only a few extracts from this winter’s saga can be told, otherwise this story would be all about the little old lady and not about Rosalie at all.

 

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Ten by Dalhousie University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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