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A Hilltop on the Marne by Mildred Aldrich

I must tell you about that crimson rambler


I

must tell you about that crimson rambler. You know when I hired this house it was only a peasant's hut. In front of what is now the kitchen--it was then a dark hole for fuel--stood four dilapidated posts, moss-covered and decrepit, over which hung a tangle of something. It was what I called a "mess." I was not as educated as I am now. I saw--it was winter--what looked to me an unsightly tangle of disorder. I ordered those posts down. My workmen, who stood in some awe of me,--I was the first American they had ever seen,--were slow in obeying. They did not dispute the order, only they did not execute it.

One day I was very stern. I said to my head mason, "I have ordered that thing removed half a dozen times. Be so good as to have those posts taken down before I come out again."

He touched his cap, and said, "Very well, madame."

It happened that the next time I came out the weather had become spring-like.

The posts were down. The tangle that had grown over them was trailing on the ground--but it had begun to put out leaves. I looked at it--and for the first time it occurred to me to say, "What is that?"

The mason looked at me a moment, and replied, "That, madame! That is a 'creamson ramblaire'--the oldest one in the commune."

Poor fellow, it had never occurred to

him that I did not know.

Seven feet to the north of the climbing rose bush was a wide hedge of tall lilac bushes. So I threw up an arbor between them, and the crimson rambler now mounts eight feet in the air. It is a glory of color to-day, and my pride. But didn't I come near to losing it?

The long evenings are wonderful. I sit out until nine, and can read until almost the last minute. I never light a lamp until I go up to bed. That is my day. It seems busy enough to me. I am afraid it will--to you, still so willing to fight, still so absorbed in the struggle, and still so over-fond of your species--seem futile. Who knows which of us is right ?--or if our difference of opinion may not be a difference in our years? If all who love one another were of the same opinion, living would be monotonous, and conversation flabby. So cheer up. You are content. Allow me to be.

Ill

June 20, 1914.

I have just received your letter--the last, you say, that you can send before you sail away again for "The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave," where you still seem to feel that it is my duty to return to die. I vow I will not discuss that with you again. Poverty is an unpretty thing, and poverty plus old age simply horrid in the wonderful land which saw my birth, and to which I take off my sun-bonnet in reverent admiration, in much the same spirit that the peasants still uncover before a shrine. But it is the land of the young, the energetic, and the ambitious, the ideal home of the very rich and the laboring classes. I am none of those--hence here I stay. I turn my eyes to the west often with a queer sort of amazed pride. If I were a foreigner--of any race but French--I 'd work my passage out there in an emigrant ship. As it is, I did forty-five years of hard labor there, and I consider that I earned the freedom to die where I please.


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