Athalie (Chapter 3, page 1 of 13)


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Chapter 3

The black dresses of the children had become very rusty by spring, but
business had been bad at the Hotel Greensleeve, and Athalie, Doris,
and Catharine continued to wear their shabby mourning.

Greensleeve haunted the house all day long, roaming from bar to
office, from one room to another, silently opening doors of unoccupied
chambers to peer about in the dusty obscurity, then noiselessly
closing them, he would slink away down the dim corridor to his late
wife's room and sit there through the long sunny afternoon, his weak
face buried in his hands.

Ledlie had grown fatter, redder of visage, whiter of hair and beard.
When a rare guest arrived, or when local loafers wandered into the bar
with the faint stench of fertilizer clinging to their boots, he
shuffled ponderously from office to bar, serving as economically as he
dared whoever desired to be served.

Always a sprig of something green protruded from his small tight
mouth. His pale eyes, now faded almost colourless, had become weak and
red-rimmed, and he blinked continually except in the stale
semi-darkness of the house.

Always, now, he was muttering and grumbling his disapproval of the
children--"Eatin' their heads off I tell you, Pete! What good is all
this here schoolin' doin' 'em when they ought to git out some'rs an'
earn their vittles?"

But if Greensleeve's attitude was one of passive acquiescence, he made
no effort to withdraw the children from school. Once, when life was
younger, and Jack, his first baby, came, he had dreamed of college for
him, and of a career--in letters perhaps--something dignified,
leisurely, profound beyond his own limits. And of a modest corner
somewhere within the lustre of his son's environment where he and his
wife, grey-haired, might dream and admire, finding there surcease from
care and perhaps the peace which passes all understanding.

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