could grow up so ill, and, so to speak, grudgingly. But at fifteen, although still delicate, she had the prettiest little face in the world. She had black hair, black eyes, and at the same time was all rosy; a mouth that laughed all the time, dimpled cheeks, a clear brow on which there seemed to rest a crown of sunshine. Although puny for the neighborhood, she was not thin, far from it; people only meant that she could not shoulder a sack of grain; but she grew very plump with time, and stood a good chance of ending by being round and dainty as a quail. Only her father's long spells of speechlessness had made her thoughtful at an early age. If she was always laughing, it was to give others pleasure. At bottom, she was serious.
Naturally all the countryside courted her, still more for her dollars than for her niceness. And at last, she made a choice that had just scandalized the country. On the other side of the Morelle lived a young fellow, named Dominique Penquer. He did not belong in Rocreuse. Ten years before, he had come there from Belgium, to take possession of a legacy from an uncle of his who owned a little piece of property on the very outskirts of the Gagny forest, just opposite the mill, within a few gunshots. He came to sell this property, he said, and go home again. But the country fascinated him, it seems, for he did not stir. He was seen tilling his bit of field,