The town of Dulham was not used to seeing foreigners of any sort, or to hearing their voices in its streets, so that it was in some sense a matter of public interest when a Canadian family was reported to have come to the white house by the bridge. This house, small and low-storied, with a bushy little garden in front, had been standing empty for several months. Usually when a house was left tenantless in Dulham it remained so and fell into decay, and, after some years, the cinnamon rose bushes straggled into the cellar, and the dutiful grass grew over the mound that covered the chimney bricks. Dulham was a quiet place, where the population dwindled steadily, though such citizens as remained had reason to think it as pleasant as any country town in the world.
Some of the old men who met every day to talk over the town affairs were much interested in the newcomers. They approved the course of the strong-looking young Canadian laborer who had been quick to seize upon his opportunity; one or two of them had already engaged him to make their gardens, and to do odd jobs, and were pleased with his quickness and willingness. He had come afoot one day from a neighboring town, where he and his wife had been made ill by bad drainage and factory work, and saw the little house, and asked the postmaster if there were any work to be had out of doors that spring in Dulham. Being assured of his prospects, he reappeared with his pale, bright-eyed wife and little daughter the very next day but one. This startling promptness had given time for but few persons to hear the news of a new neighbor, and as one after another came over the bridge and along the road there were many questions asked. The house seemed to have new life looking out of its small-paned windows; there were clean white curtains, and china dogs on the window-sills, and a blue smoke in the chimney–the spring sun was shining in at the wide-open door.
There was a chilly east wind on an April day, and the elderly men were gathered inside the post-office, which was also the chief grocery and dry-goods store. Each was in his favorite armchair, and there was the excuse of a morning fire in the box stove to make them form again into the close group that was usually broken up at the approach of summer weather. Old Captain Weathers was talking about Alexis, the newcomer (they did not try to pronounce his last name), and was saying for the third or fourth time that the more work you set for the Frenchman the better pleased he seemed to be. “Helped ‘em to lay a carpet yesterday at our house, neat as wax,” said the Captain, with approval. “Made the garden in the front yard so it hasn’t looked so well for years. We’re all goin’ to find him very handy; he’ll have plenty to do among us all summer. Seems to know what you want the minute you p’int, for he can’t make out very well with his English. I used to be able to talk considerable French in my early days when I sailed from southern ports to Havre and Bordeaux, but I don’t seem to recall it now very well. He’d have made a smart sailor, Alexis would; quick an’ willing.”
“They say Canada French ain’t spoken the same, anyway”–began the Captain’s devoted friend, Mr. Ezra Spooner, by way of assurance, when the store door opened and a bright little figure stood looking in. All the gray-headed men turned that way, and every one of them smiled.
“Come right in, dear,” said the kind-hearted old Captain.
They saw a charming little creature about six years old, who smiled back again from under her neat bit of a hat; she wore a pink frock that made her look still more like a flower, and she said ” Bonjour ” prettily to the gentlemen as she passed. Henry Staples, the storekeeper and postmaster, rose behind the counter to serve this customer as if she had been a queen, and took from her hand the letter she brought, with the amount of its postage folded up in a warm bit of newspaper.