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Full text of "The Ante-Nicene Fathers : translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325"

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Presented to the 

LIBRARY of the 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 

by 
MRS. H. M. FERGUSON 



Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2007 witii funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



littp://www.arcliive.org/details/antenicenefatlierOOrobeuoft 







iPR 



/ 



George Sand. 




Francois the 
Waif 




H. M. CALDWELL CO., PUBLISHERS 
NEV YORK AND BOSTON j* ^ 




Copyright, i8g4 
BY George H. Richmond & Co. 






\ 



PREFATORY NOTE 

Francois le Champi, a pretty idyl that tells of 
homely affections, self-devotion, " humble cares and 
delicate fears," opens a little vista into that Arcadia 
to which, the poet says, we were all born. It offers 
many difficulties to the translator. It is a rustic tale, 
put into the mouths of peasants, who relate it with a 
primitive simplicity, sweet and full of sentiment in the 
French, but prone to degenerate into mawkishness 
and monotony when turned into English. Great care 
has been taken to keep the English of this version 
simple and idiomatic, and yet religiously to avoid any 
breach of faith toward the author. It is hoped that, 
though the original pure and limpid waters have 
necessarily contracted some stain by being forced into 
another channel, they may yet yield refreshment to 
those thirsty souls who cannot seek them at the 
fountain-head. 

J. M. S. 

Stockhridge, January, 1894. 



r^ 



PREFACE 

FRANgOlS LE CH AMPI appeared for the first time 
in the feuilleton of the "Journal des Debats." 
Just as the plot of my story was reaching its develop- 
ment, another more serious development was an- 
nounced in the first column of the same newspaper. 
It was the final downfall of the July Monarchy, in 
the last days of February, 1848. 

This catastrophe was naturally very prejudicial to 
my story, the publication of which was interrupted 
and delayed, and not finally completed, if I remem- 
ber correctly, until the end of a month. For those 
of my readers who are artists either by profession or 
instinct, and are interested in the details of the con- 
struction of works of art, I shall add to my intro- 
duction that, some days before the conversation of 
which that introduction is the outcome, I took a 
walk through the Chemin atix Napes. The word 
nape, which, in the figurative language of that part 
of the country, designates the beautiful plant called 
nSnufar^ or nymphcea^ is happily descriptive of the 
broad leaves that lie upon the surface of the water, 
7 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

as a doth {nappe) upon a table; but I prefer to write 
it with a single />, and to trace its derivation from 
tiapie, thus leaving unchanged its mythological origin. 

The Cheniin aux Napes, which probably none of 
you, my dear readers, will ever see, as it leads to 
nothing that can repay you for the trouble of passing 
through so much mire, is a break-neck path, skirting 
along a ditch where, in the muddy water, grow the 
most beautiful nymphaeae in the world, more fragrant 
than lilies, whiter than camellias, purer than the ves- 
ture of virgins, in the midst of the lizards and other 
reptiles that crawl about the mud and flowers, while 
the kingfisher darts like living lightning along the 
banks, and skims with a fiery track the rank and 
luxuriant vegetation of the sewer. 

A child six or seven years old, mounted bare-back 
upon a loose horse, made the animal leap the hedge 
behind me, and then, letting himself slide to tlie 
ground, left his shaggy colt in the pasture, and re- 
turned to try jumping over the barrier which he had 
so lightly crossed on horseback a minute before. It 
was not such an easy task for his little legs; I helped 
him, and had with him a conversation similar to that 
between the miller's wife and the foundling, related 
in the beginning of "Tbfi_^aif." When I ques- 
"^8 "" """ 



PREFACE 

tioned him about his age, which he did not know, he 
literally delivered himself of the brilliant reply that he 
was two years o\d. He knew neither his own name,.., 
nor that of his parents, nor of the place he lived in ; 
all that he knew was to cling on an unbroken colt, 
as a bird clings to a branch shaken by the storm. 

I have had educated several foundlings of both 
sexes, who have turned out well physically and 
morally. It is no less certain, however, that these 
forIorn_children are apt, in rural districts, to become 
bandits, owing to their utter lack of education. In- 
trusted to the care of the poorest people, because of 
the insufficient pittance assigned to them, they often 
practise, for the benefit of their adopted parents, the 
shameful calling of beggars. Would it not be pos- 
sible to increase tfiis pMance on condition that the 
foundlings shall never beg, even at the doors of their 
neighbors and friends? 

I have also learned by experience that nothing is 
more difficult than to teach self-respect and the love 
of work to children who have already begun under- 
standingly to live upon alms. 

GEORGE SAND. 

Nohant, May 20, 18^2. 



THE WAIF 



NTRODUCTION 



R*** AND I were coming home from our walk 
. "by the light of the moon which faintly sil- 
vered the dusky country lanes. It was a mild au- 
tumn evening, and the sky was slightly overcast ; we 
observed the resonance of the air peculiar to the sea- 
son, and a certain mystery spread over the face of 
nature. At the approach of the long winter sleep, it 
seems as if every creature and thing stealthily agreed 
to enjoy what is left of life and animation before the 
deadly torpor of the frost; and as if the whole crea- 
tion, in order to cheat the march of time, and to avoid 
being detected and interrupted in the last frolics of 
its festival, advanced without sound or apparent 
motion toward its orgies in the night. The birds 
give out stifled cries instead of their joyous summer 
II 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

warblings. The cricket of the fields sometimes 
chirps inadvertently; but it soon stops again, and 
carries elsewhere its song or its wail. The plants 
hastily breathe out their last perfume, which is all the 
sweeter for being more delicate and less profuse. 
The yellowing leaves now no longer rustle in the 
breeze, and the flocks and herds graze in silence with- 
out cries of love or combat. 

My friend and I walked quietly along, and our in- 
voluntary thoughtfulness made us silent and attentive 
to the softened beauty of nature, and to the enchant- 
ing harmony of her last chords, which were dying 
away in an imperceptible pianissimo. Autumn is a 
sad and sweet andante, which makes an admirable 
preparation for the solemn adagio of winter, 

" It is all so peaceful," said my friend at last, for, in 
spite of our silence, he had followed my thoughts as 
I followed his; "everything seems absorbed in a 
reverie so foreign and so indifferent to the labors, 
•cares, and preoccupations of man, that I wonder what 
expression, what color, and what form of art and 
poetry human intelligence could give at this moment 
to the face of nature. In order to explain better to 
you the end of my inquiry, I may compare the 
evening, the sky, and the landscape, dimmed, and 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

yet harmonious and complete, to the soul of a wise 
and religious peasant, who labors arid profits by his 
toil, who rejoices in the possession of the life to 
which he is born, without the need, the longing, or 
the means of revealing and expressing his inner life. 
I try to place myself in the heart of the mystery of 
this natural rustic life — I, who am civilized, who 
cannot enjoy by instinct alone, and who am always 
tormented by the desire of giving an account of my 
contemplation, or of my meditation, to myself and to 
others. 

" Then, too," continued my friend, " I am trying 
to find out what relation can be established between 
my intelligence, which is too active, and that of the 
peasant, which is not active enough; just as I was 
considering a moment ago what painting, music, 
description, the interpretation of art, in short, could 
add to the beauty of this autumnal night which is 
revealed to me in its mysterious silence, and affects 
me in some magical and unknown way." 

" Let us see," said I, " how your question is put. 
This October night, this colorless sky, this music 
without any distinct or connected melody, this calm 
of nature, and this peasant who by his very sim- 
plicity is more able than we to enjoy and understand 

n 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF , .<j 

it, though he cannot portray it — let us put all this 
together and call it primitive life, with relation to our 
own highly developed and complicated life, which L 
shall call artificial life. You are asking what possi- 
ble connection or direct link can there be between 
these two opposite conditions in the existence of per- 
sons and things; between the palace and the cottage,, 
between the artist and the universe, between the. 
poet and the laborer." 

" Yes," he answered, " and let us be exact: be- 
tween the language spoken by nature, primitive life,, 
and instinct, and that spoken by art, science, — in a 
word, by knowledge.''^ 

" To answer in the language you have adopted, I 
should say that the link between knowledge and 
sensation is feeling." 

" It is about the definition of feeling that I am« 
going to question you and myself, for its mission is. 
the interpretation which is troubling me. It is the 
art or artist, if you prefer, empowered to translate 
the purity, grace, and charm of the primitive life to 
those who only live the artificial life, and who are, 
if you will allow me to say so, the greatest fools in 
the world in the presence of nature and her divine 
secrets." 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

*' You are asking nothing less than the secret of 
art, and you must look for it in the breast of God. 
No artist can reveal it, for he does not know it him- 
self, and cannot give an account of the sources of his 
own inspiration or his own weakness. How shall 
one attempt to express beauty, simplicity, and truth ? 
Do I know? And can anybody teach us? No, not 
even the greatest artists, because if they tried to 
do so they would cease to be artists, and would be- 
come critics; and criticism — " 

"And criticism," rejoined my friend, '' has been re- 
volving for centuries about the mystery without un- 
derstanding it. But, excuse me, that is not exactly 
what I meant. 1 am still more radical at this mo- 
ment, and call the power of art in question. I despise 
it, I annihilate it, I declare that art is not bom, that 
it does not exist; or, if it has been, its time is past. 
It is exhausted, it has no more expression, no more 
breath of life, no more means to sing of the beauty 
of truth. Nature is a work of art, but God is the 
only artist that exists, and man is but an arranger 
in bad taste. Nature is beautiful, and breathes feel- 
ing from all her pores; love, youth, beauty are in 
her imperishable. But man has but foolish means 
and miserable faculties for feeling and expressing them. 
'5 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

He had better keep aloof, silent and absorbed in con- 
templation. Come, what have you to say ? " 

" I agree, and am quite satisfied with your opin- 
ion," I answered. 

" Ah! " he cried, " you are going too far, and em- 
brace my paradox too warmly. I am only pleading, 
and want you to reply." 

" I reply, then, that a sonnet of Petrarch has its 
relative beauty, which is equivalent to the beauty of 
the water of Vaucluse; that a fine landscape of 
Ruysdael has a charm which equals that of this 
evening; that Mozart sings in the language of men 
as well as Philomel in that of birds ; that Shakspere 
delineates passions, emotions, and instincts as vividly 
as the actual primitive man can experience them. 
This is art and its relativeness — in short, feeling." 

"Yes, it is all a work of transformation! But 
suppose that it does not satisfy me? Even if 
you were a thousand times in the right according to 
the decrees of taste and esthetics, what if I think 
Petrarch's verses less harmonious than the roar of the 
waterfall, and so on? If I maintain that there is in 
this evening a charm that no one could reveal to me 
unless I had felt it myself; and that all Shakspere's 
passion is cold in comparison with that I see gleam- 
id 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

ing in the eyes of a jealous peasant who beats his 
wife, what should you have to say ? You must con- 
vince my feeling. And if it eludes your examples 
and resists your proofs? Art is not an invincible 
demonstrator, and feeling not always satisfied by the 
best definition." 

" I have really nothing to answer except that art 
is a demonstration of which nature is the proof; that 
the preexisting fact of the proof is always present to 
justify or contradict the demonstration, which nobody 
can make successfully unless he examine the proof 
with religious love." 

* ' So the demonstration could not do without the 
proof; but could the proof do without the demon- 
stration?" 

"No doubt God could do without it; but, al- 
though you are talking as if you did not belong to 
us, 1 am willing to wager that you would understand 
nothing of the proof if you had not found the demon- 
stration under a thousand forms in the tradition of 
art, and if you were not yourself a demonstration 
constantly acting upon the proof." 

" That is just what I am complaining of. I should 
like to rid mys elf of thi s eternal irritating de monstra - 
tion; to erase from my memory the teachings and 

2 '"" n 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

the forms of art; never to think of painting when I 
look at a landscape, of music when 1 listen to the 
wind, or of poetry when I admire and take delight 
in both together. I should like to enjoy everything 
instinctively, because 1 think that the cricket which 
is singing just now is more joyous and ecstatic 
than I." 

" You complain, then, of being a man? " 
"^'No; I complain of being no longer a primitive 
man." 

" It remains to be known whether he was capable 
of enjoying what he could not understand." 

" I do not suppose that he was similar to the 
brutes, for as soon as he became a man he thought 
and felt differently from them. But 1 cannot form an 
exact idea of his emotions, and that is what bothers 
me. I should like to be what the existing state of 
society allows a great number of men to be from the 
cradle to the grave — 1 should like to be a peasant; a 
peasant who does not know how to read, whom God 
has endowed with good instincts, a serene organiza- 
tion, and an upright conscience; and I fancy that in 
the sluggishness of my useless faculties, and in the 
ignorance of depraved tastes, I should be as happy 
as the primitive man of jean-Jacques's dreams." 
i8 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

*' I, too, have had this same dream; who has not? 
But, even so, your reasoning is not conclusive, for the 
most simple and ingenuous peasant may still be an 
artist; and I believe even that his art is superior to ours. 
The form is different, but it appeals more strongly to 
me than all the forms which belong to civilization. 
Songs, ballads, and rustic tales say in a few words 
what our literature can only amplify and disguise," 

"I may triumph, then ? " resumed my friend. " The 
peasant's art is the best, because it is more directly 
inspired by nature by being in closer contact with her. 
I confess I went to extremes in saying that art was 
good for nothing; but I meant that I should like to 
feel after the fashion of the peasant, and I do not 
contradict myself now. There are certain Breton 
laments, made by beggars, which in three couplets 
are worth all Goethe and Byron put together, and 
which prove that appreciation of truth and beauty 
was mo re spo ntaneous and complete in such simple 
souls than in our most distinguished poets. And 
music, too! Is not our country full of lovely melo- 
dies? And though they do not possess painting as 
an art, they have it in their speech, which is a bun- 
dled times more expressive, forcible, and logical than 
our literary language." 

•9 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

" I agree with you," said I, '' especially as to this 
last point. It drives me to despair that I am obliged 
to write in the language of the Academy, when I am 
much more familiar with another tongue infinitely 
more fitted for expressing a whole order of emotions^ 
thoughts, and feelings." 

"Oh, yes!" said he, "that fresh and unknown 
world is closed to modern art, and no study can help 
you to express it even to yourself, with all your 
sympathies for the peasant, if you try to introduce it 
into the domain of civilized art and the intellectual 
intercourse of artificial life." 



"Alas! " I answered~**lhis thought has often dis- 
turbed me. I have myself seen and felt, in common 
with all civilized beings, that primitive life was the 
dream and ideal of all men and all times. From 
the shepherds of Longus down to those of Trianon, 
pastoral life has been a perfumed Eden, where souls 
wearied and harassed by the tumult of the world 
have sought a refuge. Art, which has always flat- 
tered and fawned upon the too fortunate among 
mankind, has passed through an unbroken series of 
pastorals. And under the title of * The History of 
Pastorals ' I have often wished to write a learned and 
critical work, in which to review all the different rural 

20 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

dreams to which the upper classes have so fondly 
clung. 

" I should follow their modifications, which are al- 
ways in inverse relation to the depravity of morals, 
for they become innocent and sentimental in propor- 
tion as society is shameless and corrupt. I should 
like to order this book of a writer better qualified 
than I to accomplish it, and then I should read it 
with delight. It should be a complete treatise or 
art; for music, painting, architecture, literature in all 
its forms, the theater, poetry, romances, eclogues, 
songs, fashions, gardens, and even dress, have been 
infl nenred by the infatuation for the pastoral dre^m. 
All the types of the golden age, the shepherdesses of 
Astraea, who are first nymphs and then marchionesses, 
and who pass through the Lignon of Florian, wear 
satin and powder under Louis XV., and are put into 
sabots by Sedaine at the end of the monarchy, aie 
all more or less false, and seem to us to-day con- 
temptible and ridiculous. We have done with them, 
and see only their ghosts at the opera ; and yet they 
once reigned at court and were the delight of kings, 
who borrowed from them the shepherd's crook and 
scrip. 

"I have often wondered why there are no more 

2\ 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

shepherds, for we are not so much in love with the 
truth lately that art and literature can afford to de- 
spise the old conventional types rather than those 
introduced by the present mode. To-day we are de- 
voted to force and brutality, and on the background 
of these passions we embroider decorations horrible 
enough to make our hair stand on end if we could 
take them seriously." 

" If we have no more shepherds," rejoined my 
friend, "and if literature has changed one false ideal 
for another, is it not an involuntary attempt of art to 
bring itself down to the level of the intelligence of 
all classes ? Does not the dieam of equality afloat 
in society impel art to a fierce brutality in order to 
awaken those instincts and passions common to all 
men, of whatever rank they may be? Nobody has 
as yet reached the truth. It e xists no more in a hid- 
e^s~rg 2IIsm tha n in an embellished idealism; but 
there is plainly a search for it, and if the search is in 
the wrong direction, the eagerness of the pursuit is 
only quickened. Let us see: the drama, poetry, and 
the novel have thrown away the shepherd's crook for 
the dagger, and when rustic life appears on the scene 
it has a stamp of reality which was wanting in the 
old pastorals. But there is no more poetry in it, I 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

am sorry to say; and I do not yet see the means of 
reinstating the pastoral ideal without making it 
either too gaudy or too somber. You have often 
thought of doing it, I know; but can you hope for 
success ? " 

" No," I answered, '* for there is no form for me to 
adopt, and there is no language in which to express 
my conception of rustic simplicity. If I made the 
laborer of the fields speak as he does speak, it would 
be necessary to have a translation on the opposite 
page for the civilized reader; and if I made him 
speak as we do, I should create an impossible being, 
in whom it would be necessary to suppose an order 
of ideas which he does not possess." 

" Even if you made him speak as he does speak, 
your own language would constantly make a dis- 
agreeable contrast ; and in my opinion you cannot 
escape this criticism. You describe a peasant girl, 
call her Jeanne, and put into her mouth words which 
she might possibly use. But you, who are the writer 
of the novel, and are anxious to make your readers 
understand your fondness for painting this kind of 
type — you compare her to a druidess, to a Jeanne 
d'Arc, and so on. Your opinions and language make 
an incongruous effect with hers, like the clashing of 
23 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

harsh colors in a picture; and this is not the way 
fully to enter into nature, even if you idealize her. 
Since then you have made a better and more truth- 
ful study in 'The Devil's Pool.' Still, I am not yet 
satisfied ; the tip of the author's finger is apparent 
from time to time ; and there are some author's 
words, as they are called by Henri Mounier, an artist 
who has succeeded in being true in caricature, and 
who has consequently solved the problem he had set 
for himself. I know that your own problem is no 
easier to solve. But you must still try, although you 
are sure of not succeeding ; masterpieces are only 
lucky attempts. You may console yourself for not 
achieving masterpieces, provided that your attempts 
are conscientious." 

"1 am consoled beforehand," 1 answered, ''and I 
am willing to begin again whenever you wish; please 
give me your advice." 

" For example," said he, "we were present last 
evening at a rustic gathering at the farm, and the 
hemp-dresser told a story until two o'clock in the 
morning. The priest's servant helped him with his 
tale, and resumed it when he stopped; she was a 
peasant-woman of some slight education ; he was 
uneducated, but happily gifted by nature and en- 
24 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

dowed with a certain rude eloquence. Between them 
they related a true story, which was rather long, 
and like a simple kind of novel. Can you remem- 
ber it?" 

' ' Perfectly, and I could repeat it word for word in 
their language." 

" But their language would require a translation; 
you must write in ypur own, without using a single 
word unintelligible enough to necessitate a foot- 
note for the reader." 

" I see that you are setting an impossible task for 
me — a task into which I have never plunged without 
emerging dissatisfied with myself, and overcome with 
a sense of my own weakness." 

" No matter, you must plunge in again, for I un- 
derstand you artists ; you need obstacles to rouse 
your enthusiasm, and you never do well what is 
plain and easy to you. Come, begin, tell me the 
story of the ' WaifV but not in the way that you and 
I heard it last night. That was a masterly piece of 
narrative for you and me who are children of the soil. 
But tell it to me as if you had on your right hand a 
Parisian speaking the modem tongue, and on your 
left a peasant before whom you were unwilling to 
utter a word or phrase which he could not under- 
25 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

stand. You must speak dearly for the Parisian, and 
simply for the peasant. One will accuse you of a 
lack of local color, and the other of a lack of ele- 
gance. But I shall be listening too, and I am trying' 
to disc2yef~-b^,!;_what means art, without ceasing to 
be universal, can penetrate the mystery of primitive 
sjmplidty».jjT d interpret the charm of nature to the 
mind." ' ' 



This, then, is a study which we are going to 
undertake together? " 

" Yes, for 1 shall interrupt you when you stumble." 

" Very well, let us sit down on this bank covered 
with wild thyme. I will begin ; but first allow me 
to clear my voice with a few scales." 

'' What do you mean? I did not know that you 
could sing." 

" 1 am only speaking metaphorically. Before be- 
ginning a work of art, 1 think it is well to call to 
mind some theme or other to serve as a type, 
and to induce the desired frame of mind. So, in order 
to prepare myself for what you ask, I must recite the 
story of the dog of Brisquet, which is short, and 
which I know by heart." 

" What is it? I cannot recall it." 

^' It is an exercise for my voice, written by Charles 
26 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

Nodier, who tried his in all possible keys ; a great 
artist, to my thinking, and one who has never re- 
ceived all the applause he deserved, because, among 
all his varied attempts, he failed more often than he 
succeeded. But when a man has achieved two or 
three masterpieces, no matter how short they may be, 
he should be crowned, and his mistakes should be 
forgotten. Here is the dog of Brisquet. You must 
listen." 

Then 1 repeated to my friend the story of the 
*'Bichonne," which moved him to tears, and which 
he declared to be a masterpiece of style. 

" I should be discouraged in what 1 am going to 
attempt," said I, " for this Odyssey of the poor dog 
of Brisquet, which did not take five minutes to recite, 
has no stain or blot ; it is a diamond cut by the first 
lapidary in the world — for Nodier is essentially a lapi- 
dary in literature. I am not scientific, and must call 
sentiment to my aid. Then, too, I cannot promise 
to be brief, for I know beforehand that my study will 
fail in the first of all requisites, that of being short 
and good at the same time." 

" Go on, nevertheless," said my friend, bored by 
my preliminaries. 

" This, then, is the history of ' Francois the 
27 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

Champi,''" I resumed, "and I shall try to remember 
the first part without any alteration. It was Mo- 
nique, the old servant of the priest, who began." 

"One moment," said my severe auditor, "I must 
object to your title. Champi is not French." 

" I beg your pardon," I answered. " The diction- 
ary says it is obsolete, but Montaigne uses it, and I 
do not wish to be more French than the great 
writers who have created the language. So I shall 
not call my story ' Francois the Foundling,' nor * Fran- 
cois the Bastard,' but ' Francois the Champi,^ — that 
is to say, the Waif, ,th? fprsaken child of the fields, 
as he was once called in the great world, and is still 
called in our part of the country.'' 



28 



CHAPTER I 

ONE morning, when Madeleine Blanchet, the 
young wife of the miller of Cormouer, 
went down to the end of her meadow to wash her 
linen in the fountain, she found a little child sitting 
in front of her washing-board playing with the 
straw she used as a cushion for her knees. Madeleine 
Blanchet looked at the child, and was surprised not 
to recognize him, for the road which runs near by 
is unfrequented, and few strangers are to be met 
with in the neighborhood. 

"Who are you, my boy?" said she to the little 
boy, who turned confidingly toward her, but did not 
seem to understand her question. "What is your 
name?" Madeleine Blanchet went on, as she made 
him sit down beside her, and knelt down to begin 
to wash. f 

" Francois," answered the child, 

" Francois who?" 

29 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

" Who ? " said the child stupidly. 
Whose son are you ? " 
1 don't know." 
" You don't know your father's name?" 

I have no father." 
" Is he dead then ? " 
I don't know." 
And your mother ? " 
"She is over there," said the child, pointing to a 
poor little hovel which stood at the distance of two. 
gunshots from the mill, and the thatched roof of 
which could be seen through the willows. 

"Oh! I know," said Madeleine. "Is she the 
woman who has come to live here, and who moved 
in last evening ? " 

" Yes," answered the child. 
" And you used to live at Mers ? " 
"I don't know." 

" You are not a wise child. Do you know your 
mother's name, at least ? " 
" Yes, it is Zabelle." 

" Isabelle who? Don't you know her other 
name? " 

"No, of course not." 

" What you know will not wear your brains out,'* 
30 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

said Madeleine, smiling and beginning to beat her 
linen. 

"What do you say?" asked little Francois. 

Madeleine looked at him again; he was a fine 
child, and had magnificent eyes. " It is a pity," she 
thought, "that he seems to be so idiotic. How old 
are you?" she continued. "Perhaps you do not 
know that either." 

The truth is that he knew no more about this than 
about the rest. He tried his best to answer, ashamed 
to have the miller's wife think him so foolish, and 
delivered himself of this brilliant reply: 

"Two years old." 

"Indeed?" said Madeleine, wringing out her linen, 
without looking at him any more, "you are a real 
little simpleton, and nobody has taken the trouble to 
teach you, my poor child. You are tall enough to 
be six years old, but you have not the sense of a 
child of two." 

"Perhaps," answered Franfois. Then, making 
another effort, as if to shake off the lethargy from his 
poor little mind, he said: 

"Were you asking for my name? It is Franfois 
the Waif." 

"Oh! I understand now," said Madeleine, looking 
3» 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

at him compassionately; and she was no longer 
astonished that he was so dirty, ragged, and stupid. 

"You have not clothes enough," said she, "and 
the weather is chill ; I am sure that you must be 
cold." 

" I do not know," answered the poor waif, who 
was so accustomed to suffering that he was no 
longer conscious of it. 

Madeleine sighed. She thought of her little Jeannie, 
who was only a year old^ and was sleeping com- 
fortably in his. cradle watched over by his grand- 
mother, while this poor little waif was shivering all 
alone at the fountain's brink, preserved from drown- 
ing only by the mercy of Providence, for he was too 
foolish to know that he would die if he fell into 
the water. 

Madeleine, whose heart was full of kindness, felt 
the child's arm and found it warm, although he 
shook from time to time, and his pretty face was 
very pale. 

" Have you any fever ? " she asked. 

" I don't know," answered the child, who was 
always feverish. 

Madeleine Blanchet loosened the woolen shawl 
from her shoulders and wrapped it round the waif, 
32 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

who let her have her way without showing either 
surprise or pleasure. She picked up all the straw 
from under his knees and made a bed for him, on 
which he soon fell asleep; then she made haste to 
finish washing her little Jeannie's clothes, for she 
nursed her baby and was anxious to return to him. 

When her task was completed, the wet linen was 
twice as heavy as before, and she could not carry 
it all. She took home what she could, and left the 
rest with her wooden beater beside the water, intend- 
ing to come back immediately and wake up the waif. 
Madeleine Blanchet was neither tall nor strong. She 
was a very pretty woman, with a fearless spirit and 
a reputation for sense and sweetness. 

As she opened the door of her house she heard the 
clattering of sabots running after her over the little 
bridge above the mill-dam, and, turning round, she 
saw the waif, who had caught up with her, and was 
bringing her her beater, her soap, the rest of the 
linen, and her shawl. 

" Oh! " said she, laying her hand on his shoulder, 
"you are not so foolish as I thought, for you are 
obliging, and nobody who has a good heart can be 
stupid. Come in, my child, come in and rest. Look 
at this poor little boy! He is carrying a load heavier 
3 33 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

than himself! Here," said she to the miller's old 
mother, who handed her her baby, rosy and smiling, 
" here is a poor sick-looking waif. You understand 
fevers, and we must try to cure him." 

" Ah ! that is the fever of poverty ! " replied the 
old woman, as she looked at Francois. " He could 
cure it with good soup, but he cannot get that. He 
is the little waif that belongs to the woman who 
moved in yesterday. She is your husband's tenant, 
Madeleine. She looks very wretched, and I am 
afraid that she will not pay regularly." 

Madeleine did not answer. She knew that her 
husband and her mother-in-law were not charita- 
ble, and that they loved their money more than their 
neighbor. She nursed her baby, and when the old 
woman had gone out to drive home the geese, she 
took Franfois by the hand, and, holding Jeannie on 
her arm, went with them to Zabelle's. 

Zabelle, v/hose real name was Isabe lle Bigot, was 
an old maid of fifty, as disinterested as a woman 
can be when she has nothing to live on, and is in 
constant dread of starvation. She had taken Francois 
after he was weaned, from a dying woman, and had 
brought him up ever since, for the sake of the 
monthly payment of a few pieces of silver, and with 
34 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

the expectation of making a little servant out of him. 
She had lost her sheep, and was forced to buy others 
on credit, whenever she could obtain it; for she had 
no other means of support than her little flock, and 
a dozen hens, which lived at the expense of the 
parish. She meant Francois to tend this poor flock 
along the roadsides, until he should be old enough to 
make his first communion, after which she expected 
to hire him out as best she could, either as a little 
swineherd or a plowboy, and she was sure that 
if his heart were good he would give part of his 
wages to his adopted mother. 

Zabelle had come from Mers, the day after the 
feast of Saint Martin, leaving her last goat behind 
her in payment of what she owed on her rent, and 
had taken possession of the little cottage belonging 
to the mill of Cormouer, without being able to offer 
any security beside her pallet-bed, two chairs, a 
chest, and a few earthen vessels. The house was so 
poor, so ill-protected from the weather, and of such 
trifling value, that the miller was obliged to incur 
the risk of letting it to a poor tenant, or to leave it 
unoccupied. 

Madeleine talked with Zabelle, and soon perceived 
that she was not a bad woman, and that she would 
35 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

do all in her power to pay the rent. She had some 
affection for the waif, but she was so accustomed to 
see him suffer and to suffer herself that she was at 
first more surprised than pleased by the pity which 
the rich miller's wife showed for the forlorn child. 

At last, after she had recovered from her astonish- 
ment, and understood that Madeleine had not come 
to ask anything of her, but to do her a kindness, she 
took courage, related her story, which was like that 
of all the unfortunate, and thanked her warmly for 
her interest. Madeleine assured her that she would 
do her best to help her, but begged her to tell no- 
body, acknowledging that she was not her own 
mistress, at .home, and could only afford her assis- 
tance in secret. 

She left her woolen shawl with Zabelle, and ex- 
acted a promise from her that she would cut it into 
a coat for the waif that same evening, and not allow 
the pieces to be seen before they were sewed to- 
gether. She saw, indeed, that Zabelle consented 
reluctantly, thinking the shawl very convenient for 
her own use, and so shejiV3§ obliged to tell her that 
she would do no more fpr her unless the waif were 
warmly clothed in three days' time. 

"Do you not suppose," sTie' added, "that my 
36 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

mother-in-law, who is so wide-awake, would recog- 
nize my shawl on your shoulders? Do you wish 
to get me into trouble? You may count upon my 
helping you in other ways if you keep your own 
counsel. Now, listen to me : your waif has the 
/ever, and he will die if you do not take good care 
of him." 

" Do you think so ? " said Zabelle, " I should be 
very sorry to lose him, because he has the best heart 
in the world; he never complains, and is as obedient 
as if he belonged to a respectable family. He is quite 
different from other waifs, who are ill-tempered and 
unruly, and always in mischief." 

** That is only because they are rebuffed and ill- 
treated. If yours is good, it is because you have been 
kind to him, you may be sure." 

"That is true," rejoined Zabelle; " chiililrsil_are 
more_grateful than people think, and though this 
littlejellow is not bright, he can be very usjgful at 
times^ Once, when I was ill last year, and he was 
only five years old, he took as good care of me as 
if he were a grown-up person." 

" Listen," said the miller's wife: " you must send 
him to me every morning and evening, at the hour 
when I give soup to my child. I shall make more 
3' 37 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

than is necessary, and the waif may eat what is left; 
nobody will pay any attention," 

" Oh ! I shall not dare bring him to you, and he 
will never have enough sense to know the right 
time himself." 

" Let us arrange it in this way. When the soup is 
ready, I willput my distaff on the bridge over the 
dam. Look, you can see it very well from here. 
Then you must send the child over with a sabot in 
his hand, as if he were coming to get a light for the 
fire; and if he eats my soup, you will have all yours 
to yourself. You will both be better fed." 

'' That will do very well," answered Zabelle. " I 
see that you are a clever woman, and that I am 
fortunate in coming here. I was very much afraid 
of your husband, who has the reputation of being a 
hard man, and if I could have gone elsewhere I 
should not have taken his house, especially as it is in 
wretched repair, and the rent is high. But I see that 
you are kind to the poor, and will help me to bring 
up my waif. Ah! if the soup could only cure his 
fever! It would be a great misfortune to me to lose 
that child! He brings me but little profit, for all 
that I receive from the asylum goes for his support. 
Cut I love him as if he were my own child, because 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

I know that he is good, and will be of use to me 
Jater. Have you noticed how well-grown he is for 
his age, and will soon be able to work ? " 

Thus Fn^n^jois^Uie^ajf was reared by the care and 
kindness of Madeleine, the miller's wife. He soon 
recovered his health, for he was strongly built, and 
any rich man in the country might have wished for a 
son with as handsome a face and as well-knit a 
frame. He was as brave as a man, and swam in the 
river like a fish, diving even under the mill-dam ;. he 
feared neither fire nor water; he jumped on the 
wildest colts and rode them without a halter into the 
pasture, kicking them with his heels to keep them in 
the right path, and holding on to their manes when 
they leaped the ditches. It was singular that he did 
all this in his quiet, easy way, without saying any- 
thing, or changing his childlike and somewhat sleepy 
expression. 

7t was on account of tWs expEg§.siQn_thLat he 
passed for a fool ; butjtisjione the less true that if 
it were a question of robbing a magpie's nest at the 
top of a lofty poplar, or of finding a cow that had 
strayed far from home, or of killing a thrush with a 
stone, no child. .was.iiQld^tK-n3ore adroit, or more cer- 
tain of success than he. The other children called 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

it luch, which is supposed to be the portion of a 
waif in this hard world. So they always let him 
take the first part in dangerous amusements. 

" He will never get hurt," they said, " because he 
is a waif. A kernel of wheat fears the havoc of the 
storm, but a random seed never dies." 

For two years all went well. Zabelle found means 
to buy a few sheep and goats, though no one knew 
how. She rendered a good many small services to 
the mill, and Cadet Blanchet, the miller, was induced 
to make some repairs in her roof, which leaked in 
every direction. She was enabled to dress herself 
and her waif a little better, and looked gradually less 
poverty-stricken than on her arrival. Madeleine's 
mother-in-law made some harsh comments on the 
disappearance of certain articles, and on the quantity 
of bread consumed in the house, and once Made- 
leine was obliged to plead guilty in order to shield 
Zabelle from suspicion ; but, contrary to his mother's 
expectation, Cadet Blanchet was hardly angry at all, 
and seemed to wink at what his wife had done. 

The secret of Cadet Blanchet's compliance_was 

that he_was_still^ viyy much i JiIL^^*^- 

Madeleine was pretty, and not the leastof aco.ctuettej 

he heard her praises sung everywhere. Besides, his 

40 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

affairs were prosperous, and, as he was one of those 
men who are cruel only when they are in dread of 
calamity, he was kinder to Madeleine than anybody 
could have supposed possible. Thij,ioused Mother 
Blanchet's jealousy, and she revenged herself by petty 
annoyances, jwhrdr-Madddne bdfe'ih silence, and 
without complaining to her husband. 

It was the best way of putting an end to them, 
and np,_woman_ could be^ more patient and reason- 
able in this jespec t than Madeleine,. But they say in 
our country that goodness avails less in the end than 
malice, and the day came when Madeleine was re- 
buked and called to account for her charities. 

It was a year when the grain had been wasted by 
hail, and an overflow of the river had spoiled the 
hay. Cadet Blanchet was not in a good humor, 
and one day, as he was coming back from market 
with a comrade who had just married a very beauti- 
ful girl, the latter said to him: 

" Youjjjo, WiStg^not to be pitkd in jyour day, for 
your Madelon used to be a very attractive girl." 

''W-liat3p.~you..mean by my da^, a.n(i Madelon 
JiSf.i^iQJk^_ Do you think that she and I are old ? 
Madeleine is not Jtwerity yet^ and I am not aware 
that she has lost her looks." 
4> 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

"Oh, no, I do not say so," replied the other, 
" Madeleine is certainly still good-looking; but you 
know that when a wpnian marriM SO - you^ you 
cannot expect her to_be prgtty long. After she has 
nursed one child, she is already worn ; and your wife 
was never strong, for you see that she is very thin, 
and has lost the appearance of health. l^_t he poor 

thing ilUi! 

" Not that I know of. Why do you ask me ? " 
" Oh, I don't know. I ^tlw¥k.sligJool« sad^ jsjf^he 
sufier^4j)ihad-sQm£_soixaw,.. A woman's bloom lasts 
no longer than the blossom of the vine. I must ex- 
pect to see my wife with a long face and sober ex- 
pression. And we men are only in love with our 
wives while we are jealous of them. HtfiiL^^^^sper- 
■-ateus^ we scold them an^_beatjhem sometimes; 
they^are distressed a5i,w£eB_i_they.stay at home and 
are afraid of us; then they are bored and care no 
more about us,.,.. JBu.t-We.ata. bapp for we are the 
masters. And yet, one fine morning, lo and behoIH, 
a man sees that if nobody jvants his wifeiJt.i§J?e- 
cause she has grown ugly; so_he,lfly:e$.Ji,erjTO longer, 
and goes to court his neighbor's. It is his fate. Good 
evening, Cadet Blanchet; you kissed my wife^rather 
too warmly tO:-night; I took note-pfj.t^ though I said 
"^ 42 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

nothing. I tell you this to let you know that she and 
I shall not quarrel over it, and that 1 shall try not to 
make her as melancholy as yours, because I know my 
own character. If I am ever jealous, I shall be cruel, 
and when 1 have no more occasion for jealousy, I 
shall be still worse perhaps." 

A good disposition profits by a good lesson ; but, 
though active and intelligent, Cadet Blanchet was 
too arrogant to keep his' self-possession. He came 
home with his head high" and his eye bloodshot. 
He looked at Madeleine as he had not done for a 
long time, and perceived that she was pale and al- 
tered. He asked her if she were ill, so rudely that she 
turned still paler, and answered in a faint voice that 
she was quite well. He took offense. Heaven knows 
why, and sat down to the table, desirous of seeking 
a quarrel. He had not long to wait for an oppor- 
tunity. They talked of the dearness of wheat, and 
Mother Blanchet remarked, as she did every even- 
ing, that too much bread was eaten in the house. 
Madeleine was silent. Cadet Blanchet wanted to 
make her responsible for the waste, and the old wo- 
man declared that she had caught the waif carrying 
away half a loaf that very morning. Madeleine 
sliould have been indignant and held her own, but 
43 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

she could only cry. Blanchet thought of what his 
companion had said to him, and was still more irri- 
tated ; and so it happened that from th2^day„..i)n 
explain., it as you can, he no longer loved his wife; 
but made her wretched. 



3 



CHAPTER II 

HE made her wretched^nd^s he_Jia^ 
m ade her hapE X.§b£ was dQllhlyj^I^^^y '" 
her marriage. She had allowed herself to be married, 
at sixteen, to this rou£h„ red-faced man, who drank 
deeply on Sunday, was in a fury all Monday, in bad 
spirits on Tuesday, and worked like a horse all the 
rest of the week to make up for lost time, for he was 
avaricious, and had no leisure to think of his wife. 
He was less ill-tempered on Saturday, because he had 
finished his work, and expected to amuse himself 
next day. But a single day of good humor in a week 
is not enough, and Madeleine had no pleasure in 
seeing him merry, because she knew that he would 
be sure to come home the next evening in a passion. 
But as she was young and pjetty^ and so gentle 
thaUtjA^s jmposs[ble to be angry long with her, there 
were still intervals when he was kind and just, and 
when he took her hands in his and said: 
45 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

" Madeleine, you are a good wife, and I think tiiat 
you were made expressly for me. If I had married a 
coquette, such as so many women are, I should Jcill 
her, or I should drown myself under my own mill- 
wheel. But I know that you are well-behaved and 
industrious, and that you are worth your weight 
in gold." 

After four y^j;s^ of married life^^ however^ his love 
had quite gone; he had no more kind words for her, 
and was enraged that she made no answer to his 
abuse. What answer could she make? She knew 
that her husband was unjust^ ^d was unwilling to 
reproach him for it, for she considered it her duty to 
respect the master whom she had never been able 
to love. 

Mother Blanchet was pleased to see her son master 
of the house agajrij^ as she said ; just as if it had ever 
been otherwise. She hated her daughter-in-law, be^ 
cause she knevv her ta be better than herself. When 
she could find no other cause of complaint, she reviled 
her for not being strong, for coughing all winter, and 
for having only one child. She.jdespised her^&r this, 
for knowing how to read and write, and for reading 
prayers in a corner of the orchard, instead of gossip- 
ing and chattering with the dames of the vicinity. 
46 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

Madeleine placed her soul in God's hands, and 
thinking lamentations useless, she bore her affliction 
as if it were her due. She withdrew her heart from 
this earth, and often dreamed of paradise, as if she 
wished to die. Still, she was careful of her health, 
and armed herself with courage, because she knew 
that her child could only be happy through her, and 
she accepted everything for the sake of Jthe love .she 
boje him. 

Though she could not feel any great aftectioa„for 
Zabelle,'shewa§'sfill fond of her, because this woman, 
who was half good and half selfish, continued to do 
her best for the poor _waif; and Madeleine, who 
saw how people deteriorate who think of themselves 
alone, was inclined to esteem only those who thought 
sometimes of others. As she was the only person in 
the neighborhood who took no care of herself, she 
was entirely isolated and very sorrowful, without fully 
understanding the caiise of her "^ief. 

Little by little, however, she observed that the waif, 
who was then ten years old, began to think as she did. 
When I say iMnk]'Tiriie2Lnyou to understand that she 
judgedjfrom his behavior; for there was no^rnore sense 
in the poor.child's words than on the first day she had 
spoken with him. He could not express himself, and 
47" 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

when people tried to make him talk they were sure 
to interrupt him immediately, for he knew nothing 
about anything. But if he were needed to run an 
errand, he was always ready, and when it was an 
errand for Madeleine, he ran before she could ask 
him. He looked as if he had not understood the 
commission, but he executed it so swiftly and well 
that even she was amazed. 

One day, as he was carrying little^Jeannje in his 
arms, and allowing him to pull his hair for his amuse- 
ment, Madeleine caught the child from him with some 
slight irritation, saying half involuntarily : 

" Franfois, if you begin now by suffering all the 
whims of other people, there is no knowing where 
they will stop." 

To her great surprise, Francois answered: 
rwnr^i ^' I should rather suffer evil than return it." 

^ Madeleine was astonished, and gazed into the eyes 
of the waif, where she saw something she had never 
observed in the eyes even of the most hoij.est persons 
she knew ; sornething so kind, and yet so decided, that 
she was quite be>^ildered. She sat down on the grass 
with her child on her knees, and made the waif sit 
on the edge of her dress, without daring to speak to 
him. She could scarcely understand why she was 
^8 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

overcome with fear and shame that she had often 
jested with this child for being so foolish. It is true 
that she had always done so with extreme gentleness, 
and perhaps she had pitied and loved him the more for 
his stupidity ; but now she fancied that he had always 
understood her ridicule, and had been pained by it 
without being able to say anything in return. 

She soon forgot this incident, for a short time after- 
ward her husband, who had beconie. infatuated with 
a disreputaWe^wornari mthe neighborhood, under- 
took to hate his wife in good earnest, and to forbid 
her to allow Zabelle and her boy to enter the mill. 
Madeleine fell to thinking of still more secret means 
of aiding them, and warned Zabelle, telling her that 
she should pretend to neglect her for a time. 

J^aUelle was very much in awe of the miller, and 
had not Madeleine's power of endurance for the love 
of others. She argued to herself that the miller was 
the master, and could turn her out of doors, or in- 
crease her rent, and that Madeleine would be unable 
to prevent it. She reflected also that if she submitted 
to Mother Blanchet, she would establish Herself in the 
good graces of the^old.woman, whose protection 
would be more viseful to her than that of the young 
wife. So ^.. went to the miller's mother, and con- 
♦ 49 ~ 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

fessed that she had received hdp .from, her daughter- 
rn-lawj..dedaring that she had done so against her 
will, and only out of pity for the'walf^ whom'she had 
no means of feeding, Th§ old woman detested the 
waif, though for no reason except that Madeleine 
took an interest in him. She advised Zabelle to rid 
.herself of him, and promised her at this price to ob- 
tain six months' credit on her rent. The morrow of 
Saint Martin's day had come round, and as the year 
had been a hard one, Zabelle was out of money, and 
Madeleine was so closely watched that for some time 
she had been unable to give her any. Zabelle boldly 
promised to take back the waif to the foundling asy- 
lum the next day. 

She had no sooner given her word than she re- 
pented of it, and at the sight of little Franpois sleep- 
ing on his wretched pallet, her heart was as heavy 
as if she were about to commit a mortal sin. She 
could not sleep, and before dawn Mother Blanchet 
entered the hovel. 

" Come, get up, Zabeau," she said. " You gave 
me your promise and you must keep it. If you wait 
to speak to my daughter-in-law, you will never do 
anything, but you must let the boy go, in her interest 
as well as your own, you see. My son has taken a 
50 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 
dislike to him on account of his stupidity and greed- "^ 

^ IT 

iness; my daughter-in-law has pampered him too AjU>** 

much, and I am sure that he is a thief already. ^^^ r^^ [o>^ 

foundlings are thieves from their birth, and it is mere 

folly to expect anything of such brats. This one will 

be the cause of your being driven away from here, 

and will ruin your reputation ; he will furnish my son 

with a reason for beating his wife every day, and_in_ 

the end, when he is tall and strong, he will become 

a highwayman, and will bring you to shame. Come, 

come, you must start ! Take him through the fields 

as far as Corley, and there thg^stage-coach passes at 

eight o'clock. Get in with him, and you will reach 

Chateauroux, at noon, at the latest. You can come 

back this evening; there is a piece of money for your 

journey, and you will have enough left over to amuse 

yourself with in town." 

Zabelle woke the child, dressed him in his best, 
made a bundle of the rest of his clothes, and, taking 
his hand, started off with him by the light of the 
moon. 

As she walked along and the day broke, her heart 

failed her; she could neither hasten her steps, nor 

speak, and when she came to the highroad, she sat 

down on the side of a ditch, more dead than alive. 

' I 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

The stage-coach was approaching, and they had 
arrived only just in time. 

The waif was not in the habit of worrying, and 
thus far he had followed his mother without suspi- 
cion; but when he saw a huge carriage bowling 
toward him for the first time in his life, the noise it 
made frightened him, and he tried to pull Zabelle 
back into the meadow which they had just left to 
join the highroad. Zabelle thought that he under- 
stood his fate, and said: 

" Come, poor Francois, you really must! " 
Franfois was still more frightened. He thought 
that the stage-coach was an enormous animal run- 
ning after him to devour him. He who was so bold 
in meeting all the dangers which he knew lost his 
head, and rushed back screaming into the meadow. 
Zabelle ran after him ; but when she saw him pale as 
death, her courage deserted her. She followed him 
all across the meadow, and allowed the stage-coach 
to go by. 



52 



CHAPTER III 

^T^HEY returned by the same road they had 
1 come, until they had gone half the distance, 
and then they stopped to rest. Zabelle was alarmed 
to see that the child trembled fronx head to foot, and 
his heart beat so violently as to agitate his poor old -^ 
shirt. She made him sit down, and attempted to 
comfort him, but she did not know what she was 
saying, and Francois was not in a state to guess her 
meaning. She drew out a bit of bread from her 
basket and tried to persuade him to eat it; but he 
had no desire for food, and they sat on for a long 
time in silence. 

At last, Zabelle, who was in the habit of recurring 
to her first thoughts, was ashamed of her weakness, 
and said to herself that she would be lost if she ap- 
peared again at the mill with the child. Another 
stage was to pass toward noon, and she decided to 
stay where they were until the moment necessary 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

for returning to the highroad; but as Francois was 
so terrified that he had lost the little sense he pos- 
sessed, and as for the first time in his life he was cap- 
able of resisting her will, she tried to tempt him 
with the attractions of the horse's bells, the noise 
of the wheels, and the speed of the great vehicle. 

In her efforts to inspire him with confidence, she 
said more than she intended; perhaps her repentance 
iirged her to speak, in spite of herself, or it may be 
that when Franpois woke that morning he had heard 
<;ertain words of Mother Blanchet, which now re- 
turned to his mind; or else his poor wits cleared 
suddenly at the approach of calamity; at all events, 
he began to say, with the same expression in his 
^yes which had once astonished and almost startled 
Madeleine: 

" Mother, you want to send me away from you ! 
You want to take me far off from here and leave me." 

Then he remembered the word asylum, spoken 
-several times in his hearing. He had no idea what 
an asylum was, but it seemed to him more horrible 
than the stage-coach, and he cried with a shudder: 

" You want to put me in the asylum! " 

Zabelle had gone too far to retreat. She believed 
that the child knew more of her intentions than he 
54 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

really did, and without reflecting how easy it would 
be to deceive him and rid herself of him by stratagem, 
she undertook to explain the truth to him, and to 
make him understand that he would be much happier 
at the asylum than with her, that he would be better 
cared for there, would learn to work, and would be 
placed for a time in the charge of some woman less 
poor than herself, who would be a mother to him. 

This attempted consolation put the finishing touch 
to the waifs despair, A strange and unknown future "^T" 
inspired him with more terror than all Zabelle could 
say of the hardships of a life with her. Besides, he 
loved with all his might this ungrateful mother, who 
cared less for him than for herself. He loved another, 
too, almost as much as Zabelle, and she was Made- 
leine ; only he did not .kno\y that he loved her, and 
did not speak of her. He threw himself sobbing on 
the ground, tore up the grass with his hands and flung 
it over his face, as if he had fallen in mortal agony. 
When Zabelle, in her distress and impatience, tried to 
make him get up by force and threats, he beat his 
head so hard against the stones that he was covered 
with blood, and she thought he was about to kill 
himself. 

It pleased God that Madeleine Blanchet should pass 
55 • 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

by at that moment. She had heard nothing of the de- 
parture of Zabelle and the child, and was coming home 
from Presles, where she had carried back some wool 
to a lady, who had given it to her to spin very fine, 
as she was considered the best spinster far and wide. 
She had received her payment, and was returning to 
the mill with tgn crowns in her pocket. She was go- 
ing to cross the river on one of those little plank 
bridges on a level with the surface of the water, 
which are often to be met with in that part of the 
country, when she heard heart-piercing shrieks, 
and recognized at once the voice of the poor waif. 
She flew in the direction of the cries, and saw the 
child, bathed in blood, struggling in Zabelle's arms. 
She could not understand it at first; for it looked as 
if Zabelle had cruelly struck him, and were trying to 
shake him off. This seemed the more probable, as 
Francois, on catching sight of her, rushed toward her, 
twined his arms about her like a little snake, and 
clung to her skirts, screaming : 

" Madame Blanchet, Madame Blanchet, save me! " 

Zabelle was tall and strong, and Madeleine was 

small and slight as a reed. Still, she was not afraid, 

and, imagining that Zabelle had gone crazy, and was 

going to murder the child, she placed herself in front 

56 f- 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

of him, resolved to protect him or to die while he 
was making his escape. 

A few words, however, sufficed for an explanation, 
Zabenejj^hQJ^.as_more^ey^.Jtha^^ told the 

story, and Francois, who at last took in all the sad- 
ness of his lot, managed this time to profit by what 
he heard, with more cleverness than he had ever been <;' 
supposed to possess. After Zabelle had finished, he 
kept fast hold of the miller's wife, saying : 

''Don't send me away, don't let me be sent 
away." 

And he went to and fro between Zabelle, who was 
crying, and the miller's wife, who was crying still 
harder, repeating all kinds of words and prayers, 
which scarcely seemed to come from his lips, for 
'his was the first time he had ever been able to 
express himself 

" O my mother, my darling mother!" said he to 
Zabelle, " why do you want me to leave you? Do 
you want me to die of grief and never see you again ? 
What have I done, that you no longer love me? 
Have I not always obeyed you? Have 1 done any 
harm ? I tiave always taken good care of our ani- 
mals — y«u told me so yourself; and when you kissed 
me every evening, you said I was your child, and you 
57 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

never said that you were not my mother! Keep me, 
mother, keep me; I am praying to you as I pray to 
God! I shall always take care of you; 1 shall always 
work for you; if you are not satisfied with me, you 
may beat me, and I shall not mind; but do not send 
me away until I have done something wrong." 

Then he went to Madeleine, and said: 

" Madame Blanchet, take pity on me. Tell my 
mother to keep me. I shall never go to your house, 
since it is forbidden, and if you want to give me any- 
thing, I shall know that I must not take it. I shall 
speak to Master Cadet Blanchet, and tell him to beat 
me and not to scold you on my account. When you 
go into the fields, I shall always go with you to carry 
your little boy, and amuse him all day. I shall do 
all you tell me, and if I do any wrong, you need no 
longer love me. But do not let me be sent away ; I do 
not want to go; I should rather jump into the river." 

Poor Franfois looked at the river, and ran so near 
it, that they saw his life hung by a thread, and that 
a single word of refusal would be enough to make 
him drown himself. Madeleine pleaded for the child^ 
and Zabelle was dying to listen to her. Now that she 
was near the mill, matters looked differently. 

" Well, I will keep you, you naughty child," said 
58 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

she; " but I shall be on the road to-morrow, begging 
jny bread because of you. You are too stupid to- 
know it is your fault that I shall be reduced to such 
a coridition, and this is what I have gained by bur- 
dening myself with a child who is no good to me, 
and does not even pay for the bread he eats." 

" You have said enough, Zabelle," said the miller's 
wife, taking the child in her arms to lift him from the 
ground, although he was very heavy. "There are 
ten crowns for you to pay your rent with, or to move 
elsewhere, if my husband persists in driving you away 
from here. It is my own money — money that I 
have earned myself. 1 know that it will be required 
of me, but no matter. They may kill me if they 
want ; I buy this child, he is mine, he is yours no 
longer. You do not deserve to keep a child with 
such a warm heart, and who loves you so much. 
1 shall be his mother, and my family must submit. I 
am willing to suffer everything for my children. I 
could be cut in pieces for my Jeannie, and I could 
endure as much for this child, too. Come, poor 
Francois, you are no longer a waif, do you hear? 
You have a mother, and you can love her as much as 
you choose, for she will love you with her whole 
heart in return." 

59 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

Madeleine said all this without being perfectly 
aware of what she was saying. She whose dis- 
position was so gentle was now highly excited. Her 
heart rebelled against Zabelle, and sTie was really 
angry with her. Francois had thrown his arms 
round the neck of the miller's wife, and clasped her 
so tight that she lost her breath; and at the same 
time her cap and neckerchief were stained with 
blood, for his head was cut in several places. 

Madeleine was so deeply affected, and was filled 
with so much pity, dismay, sorrow, and determina- 
tion at once, that she set out to walk toward the 
mill with as much courage as a soldier advancing 
under fire. Without considering that the child was 
heavy, and she herself so weak that she could hardly 
carry her small Jeannie, she attempted to cross the 
unsteady little bridge that sank under her weight. 
When she reached the middle, she stopped. The 
child was so heavy that she swerved slightly, and 
drops of perspiration started from her forehead. She 
felt as if she should fall from weakness, when sud- 
denly she called to mind a beautiful and marvelous 
story that she had read the evening before in an old 
volume of the " Lives of the Saints." It was the 
story of Saint Christopher, who carried the child 
60 



% 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

Jesus across the river, and found him so heavy that 
he stopped in fear. She looked down at the waif. 
His eyes had rolled back in his head, and his arms 
had relaxed their hold. The poor child had either 
undergone too much emotion, or he had lost too 
much blood, and had fainted. 



6t 



CHAPTER IV 

WHEN Zabelle saw him thus, she thought he 
was dead. All her love for him returned, 
and with no more thought of the miller or his 
wicked old mother, she seized the child from Made- 
leine, and began to kiss him, with sobs and cries. 
They sat down beside the river, and, laying him across 
their knees, they washed his wounds and stanched 
the blood with their handkerchiefs; but they had 
nothing with which to bring him to. Madeleine 
warmed his head against her bosom, and breathed 
on his face and into his mouth as people do with 
the drowned. This revived him, and as soon as he 
opened his eyes and saw what care they were taking 
of him, he kissed Madeleine and Zabelle, one after 
the other, so passionately that they were obliged to 
check him, fearing that he might faint again. 

" Come, come," said Zabelle, "we must go home. 
No, I can never, never leave that child; I see now> 

6.2 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

and I shall never think of it again. I shall keep 
your ten crowns, Madeleine, so I can pay my rent 
to^hlght if I am forced to do so. Do not tell about 
it; I shall go to-morrow to the lady in Presles, so 
that she may not inform against you, and she can 
say, in case of need, that she has not as yet given 
you the price of your spinning. In this way we 
shall gain time, and I shall try so hard that, even if I 
have to beg for it, I shall succeed in paying my debt 
to you, so that you need not suffer on my account. 
You cannot take this child to the mill; your hus- 
band would kill him. Leave him to me; I swear to 
you that 1 shall take as good care of him as before, 
and if we are tormented any further, we can think 
of something else." 

It came to pass that the waifs return was effected 
without disturbance, and without exciting attention ; 
for it happened that Mother Blanchet had just fallen 
ill^ol a stroke of apoplexy, without having had an 
opportunity of telling her son what she had exacted 
from Zabelle about the waif, and Master Blanchet 
sent in all haste for Zabelle to come and help in the 
household, while Madeleine and the servant were 
taking care of his mother. For three days every- 
thing was in confusion at the mill. Madeleine did 
(>3 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

not spare herself, and watched for three nights at 
the bedside of her husband's mother, who died in 
her arms. ——^ 

This blow allayed the miller's bad temper for some 
time. He had loved his mother as much as he was 
capable of loving, and his vanity was concerned in 
making as fine a funeral for her as his means allowed. 
He forgot his mistress for the required time, and with 
pretended generosity distributed his dead mother's 
clothes to the poor neighbors. Zabelle had her 
share of the alms, and the waif received a franc 
piece, because Blanchet remembered that once, when 
they were in urgent need of leeches for the sick 
woman, and everybody was running futilely hither 
and thither to look for them, the waif went off, 
without saying a word, to fish some out of a pool 
where he knew they were, and brought them back 
in less time than it took the others to start out for 
them. 

So Cadet Blanchet gradually forgot his dislike, and 
nobody at the mill knew of Zabelle's freak of send- 
ing back the waif to the asylum. The question of 
Madeleine's ten crowns came up later, for the miller 
did not neglect to make Zabelle pay the rent for her 
wretched cottage. Madeleine said that she had lost 
64 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

them as she ran home through the fields, on hearing 
of her mother-in-law's accident. Blanchet made a 
long search for them and scolded a great deal, but 
he never found out the use to which the money had 
been put, and Zabelle was not suspected. 

After his moltier's death, Blanchet's disposition 
changed little by little, though not for the better. 
He found life still more tedious at home, was less 
observant of what went on, and less niggardly in 
his expenditure. He no longer earned anything, and, 
in proportion as he grew fat, led a disorderly life, 
and cared no more for his work. He looked to make 
his profit by dishonest bargains and unfair dealings, 
which would have enriched him, if he had not spent 
on one hand what he gained on the other. His 
mistress acquired more ascendency over him every 
clayT She took him with her to fairs and feasts, in- 
""duced him to engage in petty trickeries, and spend 
his time at the tavern. He learned how to gamble, 
and was often lucky; but it would have been better 
for him to lose always than acquire this unfortunate 
taste; for his dissipations threw him entirely off his 
balance, and at the most trifling loss, he became furi- 
ous with himself, and ill-tempered toward everybody 
else. 

5 65 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

While he was leading this wretched life, his wife, 
always wise and good, governed the house and ten- 
derly reared their only child." But she thought herself 
doubly a mother, for she loved and watched over the 
waif almost as much as if he were her own. As her 
husband became more dissolute, she was less miser- 
able and more iier-OwiLjnistress. In the beginning 
of his licentious career he was still very churlish, be- 
cause he dreaded reproaches, and wished to hold his 
wife in a state of fear and subjection. When he saw 
that she was by nature an enemy to strife, and showed 
no jealousy, he made up his mind to leave her in peace. 
As his mother was no longer there to stir him up 
against her, he was obliged to recognize that no other 
woman was as thrifty as Madeleine. He grew accus- 
tomed to spend whole weeks away from home, and 
whenever he came back in the mood for a quarrel, 
he met with a mute patience that turned away his 
wrath, and he was first astonished and ended by go- 
ing to sleep. So finally he came to see his wife only 
when he was tired and in need of rest. 

Madeleine must have been a very Christian woman 
to live thus alone with an old servant and two chil- 
dren, and perhaps she was a still better Christian than 
if she had been a nun. God had given her the great 
66 '^ ~~ 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

privilege of learning to read, and of understanding 
what she read. Yet she always read the same 
thing, for she possessed only two books, the Holy 
(Sbspel and an abbreviated copy of the " Lives of the 
Saints." The Gospel sanctified her, and saddened her 
to tears, when she read alone in the evening beside 
her son's bed. The " Lives of the Saints" produced 
a different effect upon her ; it was just as when idle 
people read stories and excite themselves over dreams 
and illusions. These beautiful tales inspired her with 
courage and even gaiety. Sometimes, out in the fields, 
the waif saw her smile and flush, when she had her 
book in her lap. He wondered at it, and found it hard 
to understand how the stories which she told him, 
with some little alteration in order to adapt them to 
his capacity (and also perhaps because she could not 
perfectly grasp them from beginning to end), could 
come from that thing which she called her book. He 
wanted to read, too, and learned so quickly and well 
that she was amazed, and in his turn he was able to 
teach little Jeannie. When Franfois was old enough 
to make his first communion, Madeleine helped him 
with his catechism, and the parish priest was de- 
lighted with the intelligence and excellent memory 
of^this child, who had always passed for a simpleton, 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

because he was very shy and never had anything 
to say. 

After his first communion, and he was old enough 
to be hired out, Zabelle was pleased to have him 
engaged as servant at the mill ; and Master Blanchet 
made no opposition, because it was plain to all that 
the waif was a good boy, very industrious and oblig- 
irig, and stronger, more alert and sensible than the 
other children of his age. Then, too, he was satisfied 
with ten crowns for wages, and it was an economical 
arrangement for the miller. Francois was very happy 
to be entirely in the service of Madeleine and the dear 
little Jeannie he loved so much, and when he found 
that Zabelle could pay for her farm with his earnings, 
and thus be relieved of her most besetting care, he 
thought himself as rich as a king. 

Unfortunately, poor Zabelle could not long enjoy 
her reward. At the beginning of the winter,, she fell 
seriously ill, and in spite of receiving every care from 
the waif and Madeleine, she died on Candlemas Day, 
after having so far recovered that they thought her 
well again. Madeleine sorrowed and wept for her 
sincerely, but she tried to comfort the poor waif, who 
but for her would have been inconsolable. 

Even after a year's time, he still thought of her 
68 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

every day, and almost every instant. Once he said 
to the miller's w^ife : 

" I feel a kind of remorse when I pray for my poor 
mother's soul; it is because I did not love her enough. 
I am very sure that 1 always dKTTny best to please 
her, that I never said any but kind words to her, and 
that I served her in all ways as 1 serve you ; but I 
must confess something, Madame Blanchet, which 
troubles me, and for which, in secret, 1 often ask 
God's forgiveness. | Ever since the day my poor 
mother wanted to send me back to the asylum, and 
you took my part, and prevented her doing so, my 
love for her, against my will, grew less. I was not 
angry with her ; I did not allow myself even to think 
that she was wrong in trying to rid herself of me. 
It was her right to do so; I stood in her way; she 
was afraid of your mother-in-law, and after all she 
did it very reluctantly; for 1 could see that she loved 
me greatly. In some way or other, the idea keeps 
recurring to my mind, and I cannot drive it away. 
From the moment you said to me those words which 
I shall never forget^ I loved you more than her, and 
in spite of all I could do, I thought of you more often 
than of her. She is dead now, and I did not die of 
grief as 1 should if you died ! 
5* 69 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

"What were the words I said, my poor child, 
that made you love me so much? 1 do not remem- 
ber them." 

"You do not remember them?" said the waif, 
sitting down at the feet of Madeleine, who was turn- 
ing her wheel as she listened. " When you gave the 
crowns to my mother, you said: ' There, I buy that 
child of you; he is mine! ' And then you kissed me 
and said: 'Now you are no longer a waif; you have 
a mother who will love you as if you were her own ! * 
Did not you say so, Madame Blanchet? " 

" If I did, I said what I meant, and am still of the 
same mind. Do you think I have failed to keep my 
word?" 

"Oh no! only—" 

"Only what?" 

"No. I cannot tell you, for it is wrong to com- 
plain and be thankless and ungrateful." 

" I know that you cannot be ungrateful, and I want 
you to say what you have on your mind. Come, in 
what respect don't I treat you like my own child? I 
order you to tell me, as I should order Jeannie." 

" Well, it is — it is that you kiss Jeannie very often, 
and have never kissed me since the day we were just 
speaking of. Yet I am careful to keep my face and 
70 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

hands very clean, because I know that you do not 

like dirty children, and are always running after 

Jeannie to wash and comb him. But this does not 

make you kiss me any more, and my mother Zabelle 

did not kiss me either. I see that other mothers caress 

their children, and so I know that I a m always a Y \^ f^^ 

waif, and that you cannot forget it." ^■-♦•'^^^^^''ijtfvt 

"Come and kiss me, Franfois," said the miller's 
wife, making the child sit on her knees and kissing 
him with much feeling. " It is true that 1 did wrong 
never to think of it, and you deserved better of me. 
You see now that I kiss you with all my heart, and 
you are very sure that you are not a waif, are not you ? " 

The child flung his arms round Madeleine's neck, - .. 
and turned so pale that she was surprised, and put- 
ting him down gently from her lap, tried to distract 
his attention. After a minute, he left her, and ran 
off to hide. The miller's wife felt some uneasiness, 
and making a search for him, she finally found him 
on his knees, in a corner of the barn, bathed in tears. 

"What does this mean, Francois?" said she, 
raising him up. "I don't know what is the matter 
with you. If you are thinking of your poor mother 
Zabelle, you had better say a prayer for her, and then 
you will feel more at rest." 
V 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

" No, no," said the child, twisting the end of 
Madeleine's apron, and kissing it with all his might. 
"Are not you my mother? " 

"Why are you crying then? You give me pain! " 
"Oh, no! oh, no! I am not crying," answered 
Franfois, drying his eyes quickly, and looking up 
cheerfully; " 1 mean, 1 do not know why I was cry- 
ing. Truly, I cannot understand it, for I am as happy 
^ if I were in heaven." 



72 



CHAPTER V 

FOM Jhat day on Madeleme kissed_t.he childj 
morning and evening, neither more nor less 
than if he had been her own, and the only difference 
she made between jeannie and Francois was that 
the younger was the more petted and spoiled as be- 
came his age. He was only seven, while the waif 
was twelve, and Franfois understood perfectly that 
a big boy like him could not be caressed like a little 
one. Besides, they were still more unlike in looks 
than in years. Francois was so tall and strong that 
he passed for fifteen, and Jeannie was small and 
slender like his mother, whom he greatly resembled. 

It happened one morning, when she had just re- 
ceived Francois's greeting on her door-step, and had 
kissed him as usual, her servant said to her: 

" jniean no offense, my good mistress, but it 
seems to me that boy is very big to let you kiss 
him as if he were a little girl." 
73 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

'* Do you think so?" answered Madeleine, in as- 
tonishment. '^Don't you know how young he is?" 

"Yes, and I should not see any harm in it, except 
that he is a waif, and though I am only your servant, 
I would not be hired to kiss any such riff-raff." 

"What you say is wrong, Catherine," returned 
Madame Blanchet ; " and above all, you should not 
say it before the poor child. " 

" She may say it, and everybody else may say it, 
too," replied Franfois, boldly. "I don't care; if I 
am not a waif for you, Madame Blanchet, I am very 
well satisfied." 

" Only hear him! " said the servant. " This is the 
first time I ever knew him to talk so much at once. 
Then you know how to put two or three words to- 
gether, do you, Francois ? I really thought you could 
not even understand what other people said. If I 
had known that you were listening, I should not 
have spoken before you as I did, for I have no idea 
of hurting your feelings. You are a good, quiet, 
.obliging boy. Come, you must not think of it any 
«more ; if it seems odd to me for our mistress to kiss 
you, it is only because you are too big for it, and so 
much coddling makes you look sillier than you really 
.are." 

74 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

Having tried to mend matters in this way, big 
Catherine set about making her soup, and forgot ail 
about what had passed. 

The waif followed Madeleine to the place where 
she did her washing, and sitting down beside her, 
he spoke as he knew how to speak with her and for 
her alone. 

" Do you remember, Madame Blanchet," said he, 
" how I was here once, long ago, and you let me go 
to sleep in your shawl ? " 

*' Yes, my child," said she, " it was the first time 
we ever saw each other." 

"Was it the first time? 1 was not certain, for I 
cannot recollect very well; when I think of that 
time, it is all like a dream. How many years ago 
is it ? " 

" It is — wait a minute — it is nearly six years, for 
my Jeannie was fourteen months old." 

" So I was not so old then as he is now ? When 
he has made his first communion, do you think he 
will remember all that is happening to him now ? " 

"Oh! yes, I shall be sure to remember," cried 
Jeannie. 

" That may be so or not," said Francois. "What 
were you doing yesterday at this hour ? " 
75 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

Jeannie was startled, and opened his mouth to an- 
swer; then he stopped short, much abashed. 

"Well! I wager that you cannot give a better 
account of yourself, either," said the miller's wife to 
Francois. She always took pleasure in listening to 
the prattle of the two children. 

" I ? " said the waif, embarrassed, " wait a moment 
— I was going to the fields, and passed by this very 
place — I was thinking of you. Indeed, it was yes- 
terday that the day when you wrapped me up in 
your shawl came into my mind." 

" You have a good memory, and it is surprising 
that you can remember so far back. Can you re- 
member that you were ill with fever?" 

"No, indeed!" 

"And that you carried home my linen without 
my asking you ? " 

"No." 

" I have always remembered it, because that was 
the way I found out how good your heart was." 

" 1 have a good heart too, have n't I, mother?" 
said little Jeannie, presenting his mother with an 
apple which he had half eaten. 

" To be sure you have, and you must try to copy 
Franfois in all the good things you see him do." 
76 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

*' Oh, yes! " answered the child quickly, " I shall 
jump on the yellow colt this evening, and shall ride 
it into pasture," 

" Shall you ? " said Francois, laughing. " Are you, 
too, going to climb up the great ash-tree to hunt 
tomtits ? 1 shall let you do it, my little fellow ! But 
listen, Madame Blanchet, there is something I want 
to ask of you, but 1 do not know whether you will 
tell it to me." 

" Let me hear." 

"Why do they think they hurt my feelings when~l ^ 
they call me a waif? Is there any harm in being ^^ 
waif? " 

"No; certainly not, my child, since it is no fault of 
yours." 

" Whose fault is it ? " 

" It is the fault of the rich people." 

"The fault of the rich people! What does that 
mean ? " 

" You are asking a great many questions to-day; 
1 shall answer you by and by." 

"No, no; right away, Madame Blanchet." 

" I cannot explain it to you. In the first place, do 
you know yourself what it is to be a waif? " 

"Yes; it is being put in a foundling asylum by 
77 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

your father and mother, because they have no money 
to feed you and bring you up." 

" Yes, that is it. So you see that there are people 
so wretched as not to be able to bring up their own 
children, and that is the fault of the rich who do not 
help them." 

" You are right! " answered the waif very thought- 
fully. " Yet there are some good rich people, since 
you are one, Madame Blanchet, and it is only neces- 
sary to fall in their way." 



78 



CHAPTER VI 

NEVERTHELESS, the waif, who was always 
musing and trying to find reasons for every- 
thing since he had learned to read and had made his 
first communion, kept pondering over what Catherine 
had said to Madame Blanchet about him; but it was 
in vain that he reflected, for he could never under- 
stand why, now that he was growing older, he 
should no longer kiss Madeleine. He was the most 
innocent boy in the world, and had no suspicion of 
what boys of his age learn all too quickly in the 
•country. 

His great simplicity of mind was the result of his 
singular bringing-up. He had never felt his position 
as a foundling to be a disgrace, but it had made him 
ye^y shy; for though he had not taken the title as an 
insult, he was always surprised to find he possessed 
a characteristic which made a difference between 
himself and those with whom he associated. Found- 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

lings are apt to be humbled by their fate, which is 
generally thrust upon them so harshly that they lose 
early their self-respect as Christians. They grow up 
full of hatred toward those who brought them into 
the world, not to speak of those who helped them 
to remain in it. It happened, however, that Fran- 
cois had fallen into the hands of Zabelle, who loved 
him and treated him with kindness, and afterward 
he had met with Madeleine, who was the most 
charitable and compassionate of women. She had 
been a good mother to him, and a waif who receives 
affection is better than other children, just as he is 
worse when he is abused and degraded. 

Francois had never known any amusement or 
perfect content except when in the company of 
Madeleine, and instead of running off with the other 
shepherd-boys for his recreation, h^ hadjown up 
quite solitary, or tiedjo the apron-strings of the two 
women who loved him. Especially when with Made- 
leine, he was as happy as Jeannie could be, and he 
was in no haste to play with the other children, who 
were sure to call him a waif, and with whom he 
soon felt himself a stranger, though he could not 
tell why. 

So he reached the age of fifteen without any 
80 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

knowledge of wrong or conception of evil; his lips 
had never uttered an uncIeaiT wofd; ttof had his ears 
taken in the meaning of one. Yet, since the day 
that Catherine had censured his mistress for the affec- 
tion she showed him, the child had the great good 
sense and judgment to forego his morning kiss from 
the miller's wife. He pretended to forget about it, or 
perhaps to be ashamed of being coddled like a little 
girl, as Catherine had said. But at the bottom, he 
had no such false shame, and he would have laughed 
at the idea, had he not guessed that the sweet wo- 
man he loved might incur blame on his account. 
Why should she be blamed? He could not under- 
stand it, and though he saw that he could never find 
it out by himself, he shrank from asking Madeleine 
for an explanation. He knew that her strength of 
love and kindness of heart had enabled her to endure 
the carping of others ; for he had a good memory, 
and recollected that Madeleine had been upbraided, 
and had narrowly escaped blows in former years be- 
cause of her goodness to him. 

Now, owing to his good instincts, he spared her 

the annoyance of being rebuked and ridiculed on his 

account. He understood, and it is wonderful that 

the poor child could understand, that a wa[f was 

6 .81 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

to be loved only in secret ; and rather than cause 
any trouble to Madeleine, he would have consented 
to do without her love. 

He was attentive to his work, and as, in propor- 
tion as he grew older, he had more to do, it hap- 
pened that he was less and less with Madeleine. He 
did not grieve for this, for, as he toiled, he said to 
himself that it was for her, and that he would have 
his reward in seeing her at meals. In the evening, 
when Jeannie was asleep and Catherine had gone to 
bed, Franfois still stayed up with Madeleine while 
she worked, and read aloud to her, or talked with 
her. Peasants do not read very fast, so that the two 
books they had were quite sufficient for them. When 
they read three pages in an evening they thought it 
was a great deal, and when the book was finished, 
so much time had passed since the beginning that 
they could take it up again at the first page without 
finding it too familiar. There are two ways of read- 
ing, and it may not be amiss to say so to those per- 
sons who think themselves well educated. Those 
who have much time to themselves and many books, 
devour so many of them and cram so much stuff 
into their heads, that they are utterly confused; 
but those who have neither leisure nor libraries are 
82 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

happy when a good book falls into their hands. 
They begin it over again a thousand times without 
weariness, and every time something strikes them 
which they had not observed before. In the main, 
the idea is always the same, but it is so much dwelt 
upon, so thoroughly enjoyed and digested^ that the 
single mind which possesses it is better fed and more 
healthy than thirty thousand brains full of wind and 
twaddle. What I am telling you, my children, I have 
from the parish priest, who knows all about it. 
' So these two persons lived happy with what they 
had to consume in the matter of learning; and they 
consumed it slowly, helping each other to understand 
and love all that makes us just and good. Thus they 
grew in piet y and courage; and they had no greater 
joy than to feel_ themselves at peace with all the 
world, and to be of one mind at all times and in all 
places, on the subject of the truth and the desire of 
holy living. -...---~— — 



83 



CHAPTER VII 

MASTER BLANCHET was no longer particular 
concerning his household expenses, because 
he had fixed the amount of money which he gave to 
-his wife every month for her housekeeping, and made 
it as little as possible. Madeleine could, without dis- 
pleasing him, deprive herself of her own comfort in 
order to give alms to the poor about her; sometimes 
a little wood, another time part of her own dinner, 
again some vegetables, some clothing, some eggs, 
and so on. She spent all she had in the service of 
her neighbors, and when her money was exhausted, 
she did with her own hands the work of the poor, so 
as to save the lives of those among them who were ill 
and worn out. She was so economical, and mended 
her old clothes so carefully, that she appeared to live 
comfortably; and yet she was so anxious that her 
family should not suffer for what she gave away, 
that she accustomed herself to eat scarcely anything, 
84 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

wiever to rest, and to sleep as little as possible. The 
waif saw all this, and thought it quite natural ; for it 
was in his character, as well as in the education he 
received from Madeleine, to feel the same inclination, 
and to be drawn toward the same duty. Sometimes, 
only, he was troubled by the great hardships which 
the miller's wife endured, and blamed himself for 
sleeping and eating too much. He would gladly have 
spent the night sewing and spinning in her place; 
and when she tried to pay him his wages, which had 
risen to nearly twenty crowns, he refused to take them, 
and obliged her to keep them without the miller's 
knowledge. 

" If my mother Zabelle were alive," said he, "this 
money would be for her. What do you expect me to 
do with it? I have no need of it, since you take care 
of my clothes, and provide me with sabots. Keep it 
for somebody more unfortunate than I am. You 
work so hard for the poor already, and if you give 
money to me, you must work still harder. If you 
should fall ill and die like poor Zabelle, I should like 
to know what good it would do me to have my 
chest full of money. Would it bring you back 
again, or prevent me from throwing myself in the 
river ? " ' .uv \ £.1 .iX^, •, v ^.^^ ( 

6* 85 ^ 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

" You do not know what you are talking about, 
my child," said Madeleine, one day that this idea re- 
turned to his mind, as happened from time to time. 
"It is not a Christian act to kill oneself, and if I 
should die, it would be your duty to iive^nfter me to 
comfort and help my Jeannie, Should not you do 
that for me ? " 

" Yes, as long as Jeannie was a child and needed 
my love. But afterward! Do not let us speak of 
^his, Madame Blanchet. I caniiqt be a good Chris- 
tian on this point. Do not tire yourself out, and do 
not die, if you want me to live on this earth." 

" You may set your mind at ease, for I have no 
wish to die. I am well, I am hardened to work, 
and now I am even stronger than I was in my 
youth." 

" In your youth! " exclaimed Franfois in astonish- 
ment. " Are not you young, then ? " 

And he was afraid lest she might have reached the 
age for dying. 

" I think I never had time to be young," an- 
swered Madeleine, laughing like one who meets mis- 
fortune bravely. " Now I am twenty-five years old, 
and that is a good deal for a woman of my make; 
for I was not born strong like you, my boy, and I 
86 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

have had sorrows which have aged me more than 
years." 

"Sorrows! Heavens, yes! I knew it very well, 
when Monsieur Blanchet used to speak so roughly to 
you. God forgive me! I am not a wicked boy, yet 
once when he raised his hand against you as if to 
strike you — Oh! he did well to change his mind, for 
I had seized a flail, — nobody had noticed me, — and 
I was going to fall upon him. But that was a long 
time ago, Madame Blanchet, for I remember that I 
was much shorter than he then, and now 1 can look 
right ovei his head. And now that he scarcely 
speaks to you any more, Madame Blanchet, you are 
no longer unhappy, are you ? " 

"So you think 1 am no longer unhappy, do 
you? "said Madeleine rather sharply, thinking how 
it was that there had never been any love in, her 
marriage. Then she checked herself, for what she 
was going to say was no concern of the waifs, and 
she had no right to put such ideas into a child's head. 

" You are right," said she; " 1 am no longer un- 
happy. I live as I please. My husband is much 
kinder to me; my son is well and strongj, and 1 have 
nothing to complain of." •'"^ 4»Vv*^ r/' ' 

" Then don't I enter into your calcula tions ? I — " 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

"You? You are well and strong, too, and that 
pleases me." 

" Don't I please you in any other way ? " 

'' Y'es, you are a good boy; you are always right- 
minded, and 1 am satisfied with you." 

''Oh! if you were not satisfied with me, what a 
scamp, what a good-for-nothing I should be, after 
the way in which you have treated me! But there 
is still something else which ought to make you 
happy, if you think as I do," 

"Very well, tell me; for I do not know what 
puzzle you are contriving for me." 

"I mean no puzzle, Madame Blanchet. I need 
but look into my heart, and I see that even if 1 had 
to suffer hunger, thirst, heat, and cold, and were to 
be beaten half to death every day into the bargain, 
and then had only a bundle of thorns or a heap of 
stones to lie on — well, can you understand?" 

"I think so, my dear Francois; you could be 
happy in spite of so much evil if only your heart 
were at peace with God."'" 

"Of coufsetRat is true, and I need not speak of 
it. But I meant something else." 

" I cannot imagine what you are aiming at, and I 
see that you are cleverer than I am." 
88 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

** No, I am not clever. I mean that 1 could suffer I ^ 
all the pains that a man living mortal life can en- 1 h\^ ^ 
dure^ and could still be happy if I thought Madam^ U-v-cJ^ 
Blapchet lovad me. That is the reason why I just 
said to you that if you thought as I did, you v^'ould 
^ay : * Francois loves me, and I am content to be 
alive."' 

"You are right, my poor dear child," answered 
Madeleine; " and the things you say to me some- 
times make me want to cry. Yes, truly, your af- 
fection for me is one of the joys of my life, and 
perhaps the greatest, after — no, I mean with my 
Jeannie's. As you are older than he, you can under- 
stand better what I say to you, and you can better 
explain your thoughts to me. 1 assure you that I am 
never wearied when 1 am with both of you, and the 
only prayer 1 make to God is that we may long 
be able to live together as we do now, without 
separating." 

"Without separating, I should think so!" said 
Francois. " I should rather be cut into little pieces 
than leave you. Who else would love me as you 
have loved me? Who would run the danger of 
being ill-treated for the sake of a poor waif, and 
who would call me her child, her dear son ? For you 
8o 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

call me so often, almost always. You often say 
to me when we are alone : ' Call me mother, and 
not always Madame Blanchet.' I do not dare to do 
so, because 1 am afraid of becoming accustomed to 
it and letting it slip out before somebody." 

"Well, even if you did so ? " 

"Oh! you would be sure to be blamed for it, and 
I do not like to have you tormented on my account. 
1 am not proud, and I do not care to have it known 
that you have raised me from my orphan estate. I 
am satisfied to know, all by myself, that I have a 
mother and am her child. Oh! you must not die, 
Madame Blanchet," added poor Francois, looking at 
her sadly, for his thoughts had long been running on 
possible calamity. " If I lost you, I should have no 
other friend on this earth; you would go straight 
into Paradise, and I am not sure that I deserve ever 
to receive the reward of going there with you." 

Franfois had a kind of foreboding of heavy mis- 
fortune in all he said and thought, and some little 
time afterward the misfortune fell. 

He had become the servant of the mill, and it was 
his duty to make the round of the customers of the 
mill, to carry their corn away on his horse, and return 
it to them in flour. This sometimes obliged him to 

90 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

take long rides, and for this same purpose he often 
visited Blanchet's mistress, who lived about a league 
from the mill. He was not at all fond of this com- 
mission, and would never linger an instant in her 
house after her com was weighed and measured. 



At this point of the tak-the-ftagatoi L stopped. 



"Are yoiTaware that 1 have been talking a long 
time?" said she to her friends, who were listening. 
" My lungs are not so strong as they once were, and 
I think that the hemp-dresser, who knows the story 
better than 1, might relieve me, especially as we have 
just come to a place that 1 do not remember so well." 

" I know why your memory is not so good in the 
middle as in the beginning," answered the hemp- 
dresser. " It 16 because the waif is about to get into 
trouble, and you cannot stand it, because you are 
chicken-hearted about love stories, like all other 
pious women." 

" Is this going to turn into a love story?" asked 
Sylvine Courtioux, who happened to be present. 

"Good!" replied the hemp-dresser. " 1 knewL, 
that if I let out that word, all the young girls would 
9' 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

prick up their ears. But you must have patience; the 
part of the~sT6ry which 1 am going to take up on 
condition that I may carry it to a happy close is not 
yet what you want to hear. Where had you come 
to, Mother Monique?" 

" I had come to Blanchet's mistress." 
"That was it," said the hemp-dresSer. The wo- 
man was called Severe, but her name was not well 
suited to her, for there was nothing to match it in 
her disposition. She was very clever about hood- 
winking people when she wanted to get money out 
of them. She cannot be called entirely bad^fpr she 
was of a joyous, careless temper; but she thought 
only of herself, and cared not at all for the loss of 
others, provided that she had all the finery and rec- 
reation she wanted. She had been the fashion in the 
country, and it was said that she had found many 
men to her taste. She was still a very handsome, 
buxom woman, alert though stout, and rosy as a 
cherry. She paid but little attention to the waif, and 
if she met him in her barn or court-yard she made 
fun of him with some nonsense or other, but without 
malicious intent and for the pleasure of seeing him 
blush; for he blushed like a girl, and was ill at ease 
whenever she spoke to him. He thought her brazen, 
92 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

and she seemed both ugly and wicked in his eyes, 
though she was neither one nor the other; at least, 
she was only spiteful when she was crossed in her 
inteHSCor her vanity, and I must even acknowledge 
that she liked to give almost as much as to receive. 
She was ostentatiously generous, and enioyed being 
thanked; but to the mind of the waif she was a 
devil, who reduced Madame Blanchet to want and 
drudgery. 

Nevertheless, it happened that when the waif was 
seventeen years old, Madame Severe discovered that 
he was a deucedly handsome fellow. He was not 
like most country boys, who, at his age, are dumpy 
and thick-set, and only develop into something worth 
looking at two or three years later. He was already 
tall and well-built ; his skin was white, even at har- 
vest-time, and his tight curling hair was brown at the 
roots and golden at the ends. 

" Do you admire that sort of thing, Madame 
Monique? I mean the hair, without any reference 
to boys." 

"That is no business of yours," answered the 
priest's servant. "Go on with your story." 

He was always poorly dressed, but he loved clean- 
liness, as Madeleine Blanchet had taught him ; and 
93 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

such as he was, he had an air that no one else had. 
Severe noticed this little by little, and finally she was 
so well aware of it that she took it into ner head to 
thaw him out a little. She was not a woman of pre- 
judice, and when she heard anyboay say, " What a 
pity that sucn a handsome boy should be a waif!" 
she answered, " There is every reason that waifs 
should be handsome, for love brought thenjJntoThe 
_world." 

She devised the following plan for being in his 
company. She made Blanchet drink immoderately 
at the fair of Saint-Denis-de-Jouhet, and when she 
saw that he was no longer able to put one foot be- 
fore the other, she asked the friends she had in the 
place to put him to bed. Then she said to Franpois, 
who had come with his master to drive his animals 
to the fair: 

"My lad, I am going to leave my mare for your 
master to return with to-morrow morning; you may 
mount his and take me home on the crupper." 

This arrangement was not at all to Fran(;;ois's taste. 
He said that t|ie mare that belonged to the mill 
was not strong enough to carry two people, and he 
offered to accompany Severe home, if she rode her 
own horse and allowed him to ride Blanchet's. He 
94 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

promised to come back immediately with a fresh 
mount for his master, and to reach Saint- Denis-de- 
Jouhet early the next morning; but Severe would listen 
to him no more than the wind, and ordered him to 
obey her. Francois was afraid of her; for, as Blanchet 
saw with no eyes but hers, she could have him sent 
away from the mill if he displeased her, especially as 
the feast of Saint-Jean was near at hand. So he took 
her up behind him, without suspecting, poor fellow, 
that this was not the best means of escaping his evil 
destiny. 



95 



CHAPTER VIII 

IT was twilight when they set out, and when they 
passed the sluice of the pond of Rochefolle night 
had already fallen. The moon had not yet risen above 
the trees, and in that part of the country the roads 
are so washed by numerous springs that they are 
not at all good. Fran(;;ois spurred his mare on to 
speed, for he disliked the company of Severe, and 
longed to be with Madame Blanchet. 

But SevCTe^ who was in no haste to reach home, 
began to play the part of a fine lady, saying that she 
was afraid, and that the mare must not go faster 
than a walk, because she did not lift her legs well and 
might stumble at any minute. 

" Bah ! " said Francois without paying any atten- 
tion; "then it would be the first time she said her 
prayers, for I never saw a mare so disinclined to 
piety!" 

"You are witty, Franfois," said Severe giggling, 
06 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

as if Francois had said something very new and 
amusing. 

'' Oh, no indeed! " answered the waif, who thought 
she was laughing at him. 

" Come," said she, "you surely cannot mean to 
trot down-hill?" 

" You need not fear, for we can trot perfectly 
well." 

The trot down-hill stopped the stout Severe's 
breath, and prevented her talking. She was ex- 
tremely vexed, as she had expected to coax the 
young man with her soft words, but she was un- 
willing to let him see that she was neither young 
nor slender enough to stand fatigue, and was silent 
for a part of the way. 

When they came to a chestnut grove, she took it 
into her head to say: 

" Stop, Franfois ; you must stop, dear Franfois. 
The mare has just lost a shoe." 

"Even if she has lost a shoe," said Francois, 
*'I have neither hammer nor nails to put it on 
with." 

" But we must not lose the shoe. It is worth 
something! Get down, I say, and look for it." 

" I might look two hours for it, among these 
7 97 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

ferns, without finding it. And my eyes are not 
lanterns." 

"Oh, yes, Franpois," said Severe, half in jest 
and half in earnest; "your eyes shine like glow- 
worms." 

" Then you can see them through my hat, 1 sup- 
pose ? " answered Francois, not at all pleased with 
what he took for derision. 

" I cannot see them just now," said Severe with a 
sigh as big as herself; "but I have seen them at 
other times! " 

"You can never have seen anything amiss in 
them," returned the innocent waif. " You may as 
well leave them alone, for they have never looked 
rudely at you and never will." 

"1 think," broke in at this moment the priest's 
servant, " that you might skip this part of the story. 
It is not very interesting to hear all the bad devices 
of this wicked woman, for ensnaring our waif." 

" Put yourself at ease, Mother Monique," replied 
the hemp-dresser. " I shall skip as much as is proper. 
1 know that I am speaking before young people, and 
I-shall not say a word too much." 

We were just speaking of Francois's eyes, the ex- 
98 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

pression of which Severe was trying to make less 
irreproachable than he had declared it to be. 

"How old are you, Francois?" said she with 
more politeness, so as to let him understand that 
she was no longer going to treat him like a little 
boy. 

"Oh, Heavens! I don't know exactly," answered 
the waif, beginning to perceive her clumsy advances. 
"I do not often amuse myself by reckoning my 
years. " 

" I heard that you were only seventeen," she re- 
sumed, "but 1 wager that you must be twenty, 
for you are tall, and will soon have a beard on 
your chin." 

" It is all the same to me," said Francois, yawning. 

"Take care! You are going too fast, my boy. 
There! I have just lost my purse! " 

"The deuce you have! " said Franpois, who had 
not as yet discovered how sly she was. '* Then I 
suppose that you must get off and look for it, for it 
maybe of value." 

He jumped down and helped her to dismount. 
She took pains to lean against him, and he found her 
heavier than a sack of corn. 

While she pretended to search for the purse, which 
I 99 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

was all the time in her pocket, he went on five or 
six steps, holding the mare by the bridle. 

" Are not you going to help me look for it ? " said 
she. 

" I must hold the mare," said he, "for she is think- 
ing of her colt, and if 1 let her loose she will run home. '* 

Severe looked under the mare's leg, close beside 
Franfois, and from this he saw that she had lost 
nothing except her senses. 

"We had not come as far as this," said he, 
" when you called out that you had lost your purse. 
So you certainly cannot find it here." 

"Do you think 1 am shamming, you rogue?" 
said she, trying to pull his ear; " for I really believe 
that you are a rogue," 

Franfois drew back, as he was in no mood for a 
frolic. 

"No, no," said he, " if you have found your 
money, let us go, for I should rather be asleep than 
stay here jestfng." 

"Then we can talk," said Severe, when she was 
seated again behind him; "they say that beguiles 
the weariness of the road." 

" I need no beguiling," answered the waif, "for I 
am not weary." 

100 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

" That is the first pretty speech you have made 
me. Francois! " 

" If it is a pretty speech, I made it by accident, for 
I do not understand that sort of thing." 

Severe was exasperated, but she would not as yet 
give in to the truth. 

" The boy must be a simpleton," said she to her- 
self " If 1 make him lose his way, he will have to 
stay a little longer with me.'' 

So she tried to mislead him, and to induce him to 
turn to the left when he was going to the right. 

"You are making a mistake," said she; "this is 
the first time you have been over this road. I know 
it better than you do. Take my advice, or you will 
make me spend the night in the woods, young 
man ! " 

When Franfois had once been over a road, he 
knewjtjp perfectly that he could find his_way in it 
at the end Q£ ,a-vear. 

"No, no," said he, "this is the right way, and I 
am not in the least out of my head. The mare 
knows it too, and 1 have no desire to spend the 
night rambling about the woods." 

Thus he reached the farm of DoUins, where Severe 
lived, without losing a quarter of an hour and with- 
7* T.-:i 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

out giving an opening as wide as the eye of a needle 
to her advances. Once there, she tried to detain 
him, insisting that the night was dark, that the 
water had risen, and that he would have difficulty in 
crossing the fords. The waif cared not a whit for 
these dangers, and, bored with so many foolish words, 
he struck the mare with his heels, galloped off with- 
out waiting to hear the rest, and returned swiftly to 
the mill, where Madeleine Blanchet was waiting for 
him, grieved that he should come so late. 



1J2 



CHAPTER IX 



THjJg_waif_neyer told Madeleine what Severe had 
given him to understand; he would not have 
dared, and indeed dared not even think of it himself. 
I cannot say that I should have behaved as discreetly 
as he in such an adventure; but a little discretion 
never does any harm, and then 1 am telling things as 
they happened. This boy was as refined as a well- 
Jbro.ught-up girl. 

As Madame Severe thought over the matter at 
night, she became incensed against him, and per- 
ceived that he had scorned her and was not the fool 
she had taken him for. Chafing at this thought, her 
spleen rose, and great projects_pf revenge passed 
through her head. 

So much so that when Cadet Blanchet, still half 

drunk, returned to her next morning, she gave him 

to understand thatihis mill-boy was a little upstart, 

whom she had been oblige d to hold in check and 

103 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

cufif in the face, because he had taken it into his 
head to make love to her and kiss her as they came 
home together through the wood at night. 

This was more than enough to disorder Blanchet's 

wits; but she was not yet satisfied, and jeered at 

him for le:avin^ajt. home jyyith- his. jsdfe_.a^felJow who 

would be inclined by his age and_character to ^- 

oiduviiL-vv^ ^uiis^the dullness of her life. 

In the twinklirig of jn jeyj^j^ Blanchet was jealous 
both of his mistress and..his wife. He seized his 
heavy stick, pulled .his hat down over his eyes, like 
an extinguisher on a candle, and rushed off to the 
mill, without stopping for breath. | 

Fortunately, the waif was not there. He had gone 
away to fell and saw up a tree that Blanchet had 
bought from Blanchard of Guerin, and was not to 
return till evening. Blanchet would have gone to 
find him at his work, but he shrank from showing 
his fury before the young millers of Guerin, lest they 
should make sport of him for his jealousy, which 
was unreasonable after his long neglect and con- 
tempt of his wife. 

He would have stayed to wait for his return, but he 
thought it too wearisome to stay all day at home, 
and he knew that the quarrel which he wished to 
104 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

pick with his wife could not last long enough to 
occupy him till evening. It is impossible to be 
angry very long when the ill-temper is all on one 
side. 

In spite of this, however, he could have endured 
all the derision and the tedium for the pleasure of 
belaboring the poor waif; but as his walk had 
cooled him to some degree, he reflected that this 
cursed waif was no longer a child, and that , if he 
were old enough to think ofjiiaking Joyej he was 
4so old enough to defend himself with blows, if 
provoked. So he tried to gather his wits together, 
drinking glass after glass in silence, revolving in his 
brain what he was going to say to his wife, but did 
not know how to begin. 

He had said roughly, on entering, that he wished 
her to listen to something; so she sat near him, as 
usual sad, silent, and with a tinge of pride in her 
manner. 

"Madame Blanchet," said he at last, "I have a 
command to give you, but if you were the woman 
you^ pretend to be, and that you have the reputation 
of being, you would not wait to be told." 

There he halted as if to take breath, but the fact is 
that he was almost ashamed of what he was going 
105 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 
to say, for virtue was written on his wife's face as 



plainly as a prayer in a missal. 
'^" Madeleine would not help him to explain himself. 
She did not breathe a word, but waited for him to go 
on, expecting him to find fault with her for some ex- 
penditure, for she had no suspicion of what he was 
meditating. 

"You behave as if you did not understand me, 
Madame Blanchet," continued the miller, "and yet 
my meaning is clear. You must throw that rubbish 
out of doors, the sooner the better, for 1 have had 
enough and too much of all this sort of thing." 

" Throw what? " asked Madeleine, in amazement. 

"Throw what! Then you do not dare to say 
throw whom?^^ 

"Good God! no; I know nothing about it," said 
she. " Speak, if you want me to understand you." 

" You will make me lose my temper," cried Cadet 
Blanchet, bellowing like a bull. "I tell you that 
waif is not wanted in my house, and if he is still 
here by to-morrow morning, I shall turn him out of 
doors by main force, unless he prefer to take a turn 
under my mill-wheel." 

" Your words are cruel, and your purpose is very 
foolish, Master Blanchet," said Madeleine, who could 
io6 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

not help turning as white as her cap. " Yoii will 
ruin your business if you send the boy away; for 
you will never find another who will work so well, 
and be satisfied with such small wages. What has 
the poor child done to make you want to drive him 
away so cruelly ? " 

" He makes a fool of me, 1 tell you, Madame Wife, 
and 1 do not intend to be the laughing-stock of the 
country. He has made himself master of my house, 
and deserves to be paid with a cudgel for what he 
has done." 

It was some time before Madeleine could under- 
stand what her husbancFmeaht. Shehadnot the 
slightest conception of it, and brought forward all 
the reasons she could think of to appease him and 
prevent his persisting in his caprice. 

It was all labor lost, for he only grew the more 
furious; and when he saw how grieved she was to 
lose her good servant Francois, he had a fresh access 
of^iejalousy, and spoke so brutally that his meaning 
dawned on her at last, and she began to cry from 
mortification, injured pride, and bitter sorrow. 

This did not mend matters; Blanchet swore that 
she was in love with this bundle of goods from the 
asylum, that he blushed for her, and that if she did 
107 



\ 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

not turn the waif out of doors without delay, he 
would kill him and grind him to powder. 

Thereupon she answered more haughtily than was 
her wont, that he had the right to send away whom 
he chose from his house, but not to wound and in- 
sult his faithful wife, and that she would complain to 
God and all the saints of Heaven of his cruel and 
intolerable injustice. Thus, in spite of herself, she 
came gradually to reproach him with his evil be- 
havior, and confronted him with the plain fact that 
if a man is dissatisfied with his own cap, he tries to 
throw his neighbor's into the mud. 

It went from bad to worse, and when Blanchet 
finally perceived that he was in the wrong, anger 
was his only resource. He threatened to shut Made- 
leine's mouth with a blow, and would have done so, 
if Jeannie had not heard the noise and come running 
in between them, without understanding what the 
matter was, but quite pale and discomfited by so 
much wrangling. When Blanchet ordered him away, 
the child cried, and his father took occasion to say 
that he was ill-brought-up, a cry-baby, and a coward, 
and that his mother would never be able to make 
anything out of him. Then Blanchet plucked up 



1 08 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

courage, and rose, brandishing his stick, and swear- 
ing that he would kill the waif. 

When Madeleine saw that he was mad with pas- 
sion, she threw herself boldly in front of him, and he, 
disconcerted and taken by surprise, allowed her her 
way. She snatched his stick out of his hands and 
threw it far off into the river, and then, standing her 
ground, she said: 

"You shall not ruin yourself by obeying this 
wicked impulse. Reflect that calamity is swift to 
follow a man who loses his self-control, and if you 
have no feeling for /Others, think of yourself and the 
probable consequences of a single bad action. For a 
long time you have been guiding your life amiss, my 
husband, and now you are hastening faster and faster 
along a dangerous road. I shall prevent you, at least 
for to-day, from committing a worse crime, which 
would bring its punishment both in this world and 
the next. You shall nqtjdll; return to. where you 
came from, rather than perseyjere in trying to revenge 
yourself for an affront which was not offered. Go 
away; I command you to do so in your own interest, 
and this is the first time in rnyjjfe that I ha ve ever 
commanded you to do anything. You will obey 
me, because you will see that I still observe the def- 
109 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

erence 1 owe you. I swear to you on my word and 
honor that the waif shall not be here to-morrow, and 
that you may come back without any fear of meet- 
ing him." 

Having said this, Madeleine opened the door of the 
house for her husband, and Cadet Blanchet, baffled 
by the novelty of her manner, and pleased in the 
main to receive her submission without danger to his 
person, clapped his hat upon his head, and without 
another word, returned to Severe. He did not fail 
to boast to her and to others that he had adminis- 
tered a sound thrashing to his wife and to the waif; 
but as this was not true, Severe's pleasure evaporated 
in smoke. 

When Madeleine Blanchet was alone again, she 
sent Jeannie to drive the sheep and the goat to 
pasture, and went off to a little lonely nook beside 
the mill-dam, where the earth was much eaten away 
by the force of the" current, and the place so crowded 
with a fresh growth of branches above the old tree- 
stumps that you could not see two steps away from 
you. She was in the habit of going there to pray, 
for nobody could interrupt her, and she could be as 
entirely concealed behind the tall weeds as a water- 
hen in its nest of green leaves. 
no 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

As soon as she reached there, she sank on her knees 
to seek in prayer the relief she so needed. But though 
she hoped this would bring great comfort, she could 
think of nothing but the poor waif, who was to be 
sent away, and who loved her so that he would die 
of grief. So nothing came to her lips, except that 
she was most unhappy to lose her only support and 
separate herself from the child of her heart. Then 
she crjed so long and so bitterly that she was suffo- 
cated, and, falling full length along the grass, lay 
unconscious for more than an hour, and it is a 
miracle that she ever came to herself. 

At nightfall she made an effort to collect her 
powers ; and when she heard Jeannie come home 
singing with the flock, she rose with difficulty and 
set about preparing supper. Shortly afterward, she 
heard the noise of the return of the oxen, who were 
drawing home the oak-tree that Blanchet had bought, 
and Jeannie ran joyfully to meet his friend Francois, 
whose presence he had missed all day. Poor little 
Jeannie had been grieved for a moment by his 
father's cruel behaviour to his dear mother, and he 
had run off to cry in the fields, without knowing 
what the quarrel could be. But a child's sorrow 
lasts no longer than the dew of the morning, and he 
1 1 1 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

had already forgotten his trouble. He took Francois 
by the hand, and skipping as gaily as a little par- 
tridge, brought him to Madeleine. 

There was no need for the waif to look twice 
to see that her eyes were reddened and her face 
blanched. 

" Good God," thought he, " some misfortune has 
happened." Then he turned pale too, and trembled, 
fixing his eyes on Madeleine, and expecting her to 
speak to him. She made him sit down, and set his 
meal before him in silence, but he could not swallow 
a mouthful. Jeannie eat and prattled on by himself; he 
felt no uneasiness, for his mother kissed him from time 
to time and encouraged him to make a good supper. 

When he had gone to bed, and the servant was 
putting the room in order, Madeleine went out, and 
beckoned Francois to follow her. She walked through 
the meadow as far as the fountain, and then calling 
all her courage to her aid, she said: 

" My child, misfortune has fallen upon you and 
me, and God strikes us both a heavy blow. You see 
how much I suffer, and out of love for me, try to 
strengthen your own heart, for if you do not uphold 
me, I cannot tell what will become of me." 

Franfois guessed nothing, although he at once 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

supposed that the trouble came from Monsieur 
Blanchet. 

"What are you saying?" said he to Madeleine, 
kissing her hands as if she were his mother. "How 
can you think that I shall not have courage to com- 
fort and sustain you? Am not I your servant for as 
long as I have to stay upon the earth? Am not I 
your child, who will work for you, and is now 
strong enough to keep you from want. Leave Mon- 
sieur Blanchet alone, let him squander his money, 
since it is his choice. I shall feed and clothe both you 
and our Jeannie. If I must leave you for a time, I 
shall go and hire myself out, though not far from 
here, so that I can see you every day, and come and 
spend Sundays with you. I am strong enough now 
to work and earn all the money you need. You are 
so careful and live on so little. Now you will not 
be able to deny yourself so many things for others, 
and you will be the better for it. Come, Madame 
Blanchet, my dear mother, calm yourself and do not 
cry, or I think I shall die of grief." 

When Madeleine saw that he had not understood, 
and that she must tell him everything, she com- 
mended her soul to God, and made up her mind to 
inflict this great pain upon him. 
8 113 



CHAPTER X 

"X TO, Francois, my son," said she, "that is not 
1^ it. My husband is not yet ruined, as far 
as I know anything of his affairs, and if it were only 
the fear of want, you would not see me so unhappy. 
Nobody need dread poverty who has courage to 
work. Since you must hear why it is that I am so 
sick at heart, let me tell you that Monsieur Blanchet 
is in a fury against you, and will no longer endure 
your presence in his house." 

" Is that it? " cried Francois, springing up. " He 
may as well kill me outright, as I cannot live after 
such a blow. Yes, let him put an end to me, for he 
has long disliked me and longed to have me die, 1 
know. Let me see, where is he? I will go to him 
and say, ' Tell me why you drive me away, and per- 
haps 1 can prove to you that ycu are mistaken in 
your reasons. But if you persist, say so, that — 
that — ' I do not know what I am saying, Madeleine ; 
114 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

truly, I do not know; I have lost my senses, and I 
can no longer see clearly; my heart is pierced and i i^r-M^ 
my head is turning* I am sure I shall either die or ^-^^^^^y* 
go mad." ' 

The poor waif threw himself on the ground, 
and struck his head with his fists, as he had done 
when Zabelle had tried to take him back to the 
asylum. 

When Madeleine saw this, her high spirit returned. 
She took him by the hands and arms, and shaking 
him, forced him to listen to her. 

" If you have no more resignation and strength of 
will than a child," said she, "you do not deserve my 
love, and you will shame me for bringing you up as 
my son. Get up. You are a man in years, and a 
man should not roll on the ground, as you are doing. ._ 
Listen, Francois, and tell me whether you love me 
enough to go without seeing me for a time. 1 Look, 
my child, it is for my peace and good name, for 
otherwise my husband will subject me to annoy- 
ance and humiliation. So you must leave me to-day, V.'.jik/^'' 
out of love^just asl have kegt_you, c»Lit.jQfjQye, to <,VtO\j, i 
tj iis day ; for love sh ows itself in di fferent waj^ ac- (&m^ 

cording to time .and, ciraimstance. You must leave 4.i».6V^L 
me without delay, because, in order to prevent Mon- 
H5 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

sieur Blanchet from committing a crime, I promised 
that you should be gone to-morrow morning. To- 
morrow is Saint John's day, and you must go and 
find a place ; but not too near at hand, for if we 
were able to see each other every day, it would be 
all the worse in Monsieur Blanchet's mind.'']! 

" What has he in his mind, Madeleine? Of what 
does he complain? How have I behaved amiss? 
T5oes he think that you rob the house to help me? 
That cannot be, because now I am one of his 
household. I eat only enough to satisfy my hunger, 
and I do not steal a pin from him. Perhaps he thinks 
that I take my wages, and that I cost him too much. 
Very well, let me follow out my purpose of going to 
explain to him that since my poor mother Zabelle 
died, I have never received a single penny ; or, if 
you do not want me to tell him this, — and indeed 
if he knew it, he would try to make you pay back 
all the money due on my wages that you have spent 
in charity — well, 1 will make him this proposition 
for the next year. I will offer to remain in your ser- 
vice for nothing. In this way he cannot think me 
a burden, and will allow me to stay with you." 

"No, no, no, Francois," cried Madeleine, hastily, 
"it is not possible; and if you said this to him, he 
ii6 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

would fly into such a rage with you and me that 
worse would come of it." 

" But why ? " asked Francois; " what is he angry 
about? Is it only for the pleasure of making us un- 
happy that he^pretends to mistrust me ? " 

"My child, do not ask the reason of his anger for 
1 cannot tell you. I should be too much ashamed, 
"and you had bettei"..aot eventry to guess; but I can 
assure you that your duty toward me is to go away. 
You are tall and strong, and can do without me; 
and you will earn your living better elsewhere, as 
long as you will take nothing from me. All sons 
have to leave their mothers when they go out to 
work, and many go far away. You must go like the 
rest, and I shall grieve as all mothers do. I shall 
weep for you and think of you, and pray God morn- 
ing and evening to shield you from all ill." 

" Yes, and you will take another servant who will 
serve you ill, who will take no care of your son or 
your property, who will perhaps hate you, if Mon- 
sieur Blanchet orders him not to obey you, and will 
repeat and misrepresent to him all the kind things 
you do. You may be unhappy, and I shall not be 
with you to protect and comfort you. Ah! you 
think that I have no courage because I am miser- 
8* 117 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

able ? You believe that I am thinking only of my- 
self, and tell me that I shall earn more money else- 
■where! 1 am not thinking of myself at all. What 
is it to me whether 1 gain or lose ? 1 do not even 
care to know whether I shall be able to control my 
despair. I shall live or die as may please God, and it 
makes no difference to me, as long as I am pre- 
vented from devoting my life to you. What gives 
n^e intolerable anguish is that 1 see trouble ahead for 
you. You will be trampled upon in your turn, and 
if Monsieur Blanchet puts me out of the way, it 
is that he may the more easily walk over your 
rights." 

'' Even if God permits this," said Madeleine, '/ I 
must bear what I cannot help. It is wrong to make 
one's fate worse by kicking against the pricks. You 
know that 1 am very unhappy, and you may imagine 
how much more wretched I should be if 1 learned 
that you were ill, disgusted with life, and unwilling 
to be comforted. But if I can find any consolation 
in my affliction, it will be because I hear that you 
are well behaved, and keep up your health and cour- 
age out of love for me." 

This last excellent reason gave Madeleine the ad- 
vantage. The waif gave in, and promised on his 
ii8 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

knees, as if in the confessional, that he would do his 
best to bear his sorrow bravely. 
" " Then," said he, as he wiped his eyes, " if I must 
go to-morrow morning, I shall say good-by to you 
now, my mother Madeleine. Farewell, for this life, 
perhaps; for you do not tell me if I shall ever see 
you and talk with you again. If you do not think 
I shall ever have such happiness, do not say so, for I 
should lose courage to live. Let me keep the hope 
of meeting you one day here by this clear fountain, 
where I met you the first time nearly eleven years 
ago. From that day to this, I have had nothing but 
happiness; I must not forget all the joys that God 
has given me through you, but shall keep them in 
remembrance, so that they may help me to bear, 
from to-morrow onward, all that time and fate may 
bring. I carry away a heart pierced and benumbed 
with anguish, knowing that you are unhappy, and 
that in me you lose your best friend. You tell me 
that your distress will be greater if I do not take 
heart, so I shall sustain myself as best I may, by 
thoughts of you, and I value your affection too 
much to forfeit it by cowardice. Farewell, Madame 
Blanchet; leave me here alone a little while; I shall 
feel better when 1 have cried my fill. If any of my 
119 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

tears fall into this fountain, you will think of me 
whenever you come to wash here. I am going to 
gather some of this mint to perfume my linen. I 
must soon pack my bundle; and as long as I smell 
the sweet fragrance among my clothes, 1 shall ima- 
gine that I am here and see you before me. Fare- 
well, farewell, my dear mother; I shall not go back 
with you to the house. 1 might kiss little Jeannie, 
without waking him, but I have not the heart. You 
must kiss him for me; and to keep him from crying, 
please tell him to-morrow that 1 -am coming back 
soon. So, while he is expecting me, he will have 
time to forget me a little; and then later, you must 
talk to him of poor Franf ois, so that he may not for- 
get me too much. Give me your blessing^ Made- 
leine, as you gave it to me on the day of my first 
communion, for it wilf bring with it tfie'grace of 
God." 

" The poor waif knelt down before Madeleine, en- 
treating her to forgive him if he had ever offended 
her against his will. 

Madeleine declared that she had nothing to forgive 
him, and that she wished her blessing could prove 
as beneficent as that of God. 

"Now," said Francois, "that I am again a waif, 

120 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

and that ,nobody will ever love me any more, will 
not you kiss me as you once kissed me, in kindness, 
on the day of my first communion ? I shall need to 
remember this, so that 1 may be very sure that you 
still love me in your heart, like a mother." 

Madeleine kissed the waif io-tlie jsarne^gure spirit 
as when he was a little child. Yet anybody who 
had seen her would have fancied there was some 
justification for Monsieur Blanchet's anger, and would 
have blamed this faithful woman, who had no 
thought of ill, and whose action could not have dis- 
pleased the Virgin Mary. 

"Nor me, either," put in the priest's servant 
'* And me still less," returned the hemp-dresser. 
Then he resumed: 

She returned to the house, but not to sleep. She 
heard Francois come in and do up his bundle in the 
next room, and she heard him go out again at day- 
break. She did not get up till he had gone some 
little distance, so as not to weaken his courage, but 
when she heard his steps on the little bridge, she 
opened the door a crack, without allowing herself to 
be seen, so that she might catch one more last 

121 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

glimpse of him. She saw him stop and look back 
at the river and mill, as if to bid them farewell. 
Then he strode away very rapidly, after -first picking 
a branch of poplar and putting it in his hat, as men 
do when they go out for hire, to show that they are 
trying to find a place. 

Master Blanchet came in toward noon, but did not 
speak till his wife said: 

" You must go out and hire another boy for your 
mill, for Franfois has gone, and you are without a 
servant." 

" That is quite enough, wife," answered Blanchet. 
" 1 shall go, but 1 warn you not to expect another 
young fellow." 

As these were all the thanks he gave her for her 
submission, her feelings were so much wounded that 
she could not help showing it. 

" Cadet Blanchet," said she, ** I have obeyed your 
•will ; I have sent an excellent boy away without a 
motive, and I must confess that I did so with regret. 
1 do not ask for your gratitude, but, in my turn, I 
have something to command you, and that is not to 
insult me, for I do not deserve it." 

She said this in a manner so new to Blanchet, that 
it produced its effect on him. 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

"Come, wife," said he, holding out his hand to 
her, "let us make a truce to all this, and think no 
more about it. Perhaps 1 may have been a little 
hasty in what I said; but you see I had my own 
reasons for not trusting the waif. The devil is the 
father of all those children, and he is always after 
them. They may be good in some ways, but they 
are sure to be scamps in others. I know that it will 
be hard for me to find another such hard worker for 
a servant; but the devil, who is a good father, had 
whispered wantonness into that boy's ear, and I 
know one woman who had a complaint against 
him." 

" That woman is not your wife," rejoined Made- 
leine, " and she may be lying. Even if she told the 
truth, that would be no cause for suspecting me." 

" Do 1 suspect you?" said Blanchet, shrugging his 
shoulders. "My grudge was only against him^ and 
now that he has gone, I have forgotten about it. If I 
said anything displeasing to you, you must take it 
in jest." 

"Such jests arcnot to my taste," answered Made- 
leine. " Keep them for those who like them." 



123 



CHAPTER XI 

MADELEINE bore her sorrow very well at first. 
She heard from her new servant, who had met 
with Francois, that he had been hired for eighteen pis- 
toles a year by a farmer, who had a good mill and 
some land over toward Aigurande. She was happy 
to know that he had found a good place, and did her 
utmost to return to her occupations, without griev- 
ing too much. In spite of her efforts, however, she 
fell ill for a long time of a low fever, and pined quietly 
away, without anybody's noticing it. Francois was 
right when he said that in him she lost her best friend. 
She was sad and lonely, and, having nobody to talk 
with, she petted all the more her son Jeannie, who 
was a very nice boy, as gentle as a lamb. 

But he was too young to understand all that she 

had to say of Francois, and, besides, he showed her 

no such kind cares and attentions as the waif had 

done at his age. Jeannie loved his mother, more even 

124 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

than children ordinarily do, because she was such a 
mother as is hard to find; but he never felt the same 
wonder and emotion about her as Franfois did. He 
thought it quite natural to be so tenderly loved and 
caressed. He received it as his portion, and counted 
on it as his due, whereas the waif had never been 
unmindful of the slightest kindness from her, and 
made his gratitude so apparent in his behavior, his 
words and looks, his blushes and tears, that when 
Madeleine was with him she forgot that her home . 
was bereft of peace, love, and comfort. ~h^ ^ . —V"' ^ 

When she was left again forlorn, all this evil re- '~^ 
turned upon her, and she meditated long on the - - 
sorrows which Francois's affectionate companionship 
had kept in abeyance. Now she had nobody to read 
with her, to help her in caring for the poor, to pray 
with her, or even now and then to exchange a few 
frank, good-natured jests with her. Nothing that she / 2^fe> ^ 
saw or did gave her any more pleasure, and her/ - <^'**^ 
thoughts wandered back to the time when she had 
with her such a kind, gentle, and loving friend. 
Whether she went into her vineyard, into her or- 
chard, or into the mill, there was not a spot as large 
as a pocket-handkerchief, that she had not passed 
over ten thousand times, with this child clinging to 
125 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

her skirts, or this faithful, zealous friend at her side. 
It was as if she had lost a son of great worth and 
promise; and it was in vain she heaped her affection 
on the one who still remained, for half her heart was 
left untenanted. 

Her husband saw that she was wearing away, and 
felt some pity for her languid, melancholy looks. He 
feared lest she might fall seriously ill, and was loath 
to lose her, as she was a skilful manager, and saved 
on her side as much as he wasted on his. As Severe 
would not allow him to attend to his mill, he knew 
that his business would go to pieces if Madeleine no 
longer had the charge of it, and though he continued 
to upbraid her from habit, and complained of her 
lack of care, he knew that nobody else would serve 
him better. 

He exerted himself to contrive some means of cur- 
ing her of her sickness and sorrow, and just at this 
juncture it happened that his uncle died. His 
youngest sister had been under this uncle's guar- 
dianship, and now she fell into his own care. He 
thought, at first, of sending the girl to live with 
Severe, but his other relations made him ashamed of 
this project ; and, besides, when Severe found that 
the girl was only just fifteen, and promised to be as 
126 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

fair as the day, she had no further desire to be in- 
trusted with such a charge, and told Blanchet that 
she was afraid of the risks attendant on the care of 
a young girl. 

So Blanchet — who saw that he should gain some- 
thing by being his sister's guardian, as the uncle, 
who had brought her up, had left her money in his 
will ; and who was unwilling to place her with any 
of his other relations — brought her home to his mill, 
and requested his wife to treat her as a sister and 
companion, to teach her to work, and let her share 
in the household labors, and yet to make the task so 
easy that she should have no desire to go elsewhere. 

Madeleine acquiesced gladly in this family arrange- 
ment. She liked Mariette Blanchet from the first for 
the sake of her beauty, the very cause for which 
Severe had disliked her. She believed, too, that a 
sweet disposition and a good heart always go with 
a pretty face, and she received the young girl not so 
much as a sister as a daughter, who might perhaps 
take the place of poor Francois. 

During all this time poor Franfois bore his trouble 

with as much patience as he had, and this was none 

at all; for never was man nor boy visited with so 

heavy an affliction. He fell ill, in the first place, and 

127 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

this was almost fortunate for him, for it proved the 
kindness of his master's family, who would not 
allow him to be sent to the hospital, but kept him 
at home, and tended him carefully. The miller, his 
present master, was most unlike Cadet Blanchet, and 
his daughter, who was about thirty years old, and 
not yet married, had a reputation for her charities 
and good conduct. 

These good people plainly saw, too, in spite of the 
waifs illness, that they had found a treasure in him. 

He was so strong and well-built that he threw 
off his disease more quickly than most people, and 
though he set to work before he was cured, he had 
no relapse. His conscience spurred him on to make 
up for lost time and repay his master and mistress for 
their kindness. He still felt ill for more than two 
months, and every morning, when he began his 
work, he was as giddy as if he had just fallen from 
the roof of a house, but little by little he warmed 
up to it, and never told the trouble it cost him to 
begin. The miller and his daughter were so well 
pleased with him that they intrusted him with the 
management of many things which were far above 
his position. When they found that he could read 
and write, they made him keep the accounts, which 
128 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

had never been kept before, and the need of which 
had often involved the mill in difficulties. In short, 
he was as well off as was compatible with his mis- 
fortune; and as he had the prudence to refrain from 
saying that he was a foundling, nobody reproached 
him with his origin. 

But neither the kind treatment he received, nor his 
work, nor his illness, could make him forget Made- 
leine, his dear mill at Cormouer, his little Jeannie, 
and the graveyard where Zabelle was lying. His 
heart was always far away, and on Sundays he 
did nothing but brood, and so had no rest from the 
labors of the week. He was at such a distance from 
his home, which was more than six leagues off, that 
no news from it ever reached him. He thought at 
first that he would become used to this, but he was 
consumed with anxiety, and tried to invent means 
of finding out about Madeleine, at least twice a 
year. He went to the fairs for the purpose of meet- 
ing some acquaintance from the old place, and if he 
saw one, he made inquiries about all his friends, be- 
ginning prudently with those for whom he cared 
least, and leading up to Madeleine, who interested 
him most ; and thus he had some tidings of her and 
her family. 

9 129 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

" But it is growing late, my friends, and I am 
going to sleep in the middle of my story. I shall 50 
on with it to-morrow, if you care to hear it. Good 
night, all." 

The hemp-dresser went off to bed, and the farmer 
lit his lantern and took Mother Monique back to the 
parsonage, for she was an old woman, and could not 
see her way clearly. 



130 



T 



CHAPTER XII 

HE next evening we all met again at the 
farm, and the hemp-dresser resumed his story: 



Franpois had been living about three years in the 
country of Aigurande, near Villechiron, in a hand- 
some mill which is called Haut-Champault, or Bas- 
Champault, or Frechampault, for Champault is as 
common a name in that country as in our own. I 
have been twice into those parts, and know what a 
fine country it is. The peasants there are richer, and 
better lodged and fed; there is more business there, 
and though the earth is less fertile, it is more pro- 
ductive. The land is more broken ; it is pierced by 
rocks and washed by torrents, but it is fair and pleas- 
ant to the eye. The trees are marvelously beautiful, 
and two streams, clear as crystal, rush noisily along 
through their deep-cut channels. 

The mills there are more considerable than ours, 
>3' 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

and the one where Franfois lived was among the 
richest and best. One winter day, his master, by 
name Jean Vertaud, said to him : 

" Francois, my servant and friend, I have some- 
thing to say to you, and I ask for your attention. 

" You and I have known each other for some 
little time. I have done very well in my business, 
and my mill has prospered; I have succeeded better 
than others of my trade; in short, my fortune has in- 
creased, and 1 do not conceal from myself that I owe 
it all to you. You have served me not as a servant, 
but as a friend and relation. You have devoted 
yourself to my interests as if they were your own. 
You have managed my property better than I knew 
how to do myself, and have shown yourself pos- 
sessed of more knowledge and intelligence than I. 
1 am not suspicious by nature, and I should have 
been often cheated if you had not kept watch of all 
the people and things about me. Those who were 
in the habit of abusing my good nature, complained, 
and you bore the brunt boldly, though more than 
once you exposed yourself to dangers, which you 
escaped only by your courage and gentleness. What 
1 like most about you is that your heart is as good 

as your head and hand. You love order, but not 
1^2 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

avarice. You do not allow yourself to be duped, as 
1 do, and yet you are as fond of helping your neigh- 
bor as I can be. You were the first to advise me to 
be generous in real cases of need, but you were 
quick to hold me back from giving to those who 
were merely making a pretense of distress. You 
have sense and originality. The ideas you put into 
practice are always successful, and whatever you 
touch turns to good account. 

" I am well pleased with you, and I should like, 
on my part, to do something for you. Tell me 
frankly what you want, for I shall refuse you 
nothing." 

'M do not know why you say this," answered 
Franfois. " You must think. Master Vertaud, that 1 
am dissatisfied with you, but it is not so. You may 
be sure of that." 

'M do not say that you are dissatisfied, but you 
do not generally look like a happy man. Your 
spirits are not good. You never laugh and jest, nor 
take any amusement. You are as sober as if you 
were in mourning for somebody." 

"Do you blame me for this, master? I shall 
never be able to please you in this respect, for I am 
fond neither of the bottle nor of the dance; I go 
9* 133 



[ 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

neither to the tavern nor to balls; I know no funny 
stories nor nonsense. 1 care for nothing which 
might distract me from my duty." 

'' You deserve to be held in high esteem for this, 
my boy, and 1 am not going to blame you for it. I 
mention it, because I believe that there is something 
on your mind. Perhaps you think that you are tak- 
ing a great deal of trouble on behalf of other people, 
and are but poorly paid for it." 

" You are wrong in thinking so, Master Vertaud. 
My reward is as great as I could wish, and perhaps I 
could never have found elsewhere the high wages 
which you are willing to allow me, of your own free 
will, and without any urging from me. You have 
increased them, too, every year, and, on Saint John's 
day last, you fixed them at a hundred crowns, which 
is a very large price for you to pay. If you suffer 
any inconvenience from it, I assure you that I should 
gladly relinquish it." 



»34 



CHAPTER XIII 



" /^"^OME, come, Francois, we do not understand 

V^ each other," returned Master Jean Vertaud; 
" and I do not know how to take you. You are no 
fool, and 1 think my hints have been broad enough; 
but you are so shy that I will help you out still 
further. Are not you in love with some girl about 
here ? " 

" No, master," was the waifs honest answer. 

" Truly ? " "^"^ ' """^ 

" I give you my word." 

" Don't you know one who might please you, if 
you were able to pay your court to her ? " 

" 1 have no desire to marry." 

"What an idea! You are too young to answer 
for that. What 's your reason ? " 

"My reason? Do you really care to know, 
master?" 

" Yes, because I feel an interest in you." 
•35 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

" Then I will tell you; there is no occasion for me 
to hide it: 1 have never known father or mother. 
And there is something I have never told you; I was 
not obliged to do so; but if you had asked me, 1 
should have told you the truth: 1 am a waif; I 
come from the foundling asylum." 

" h it possible?" exclaimed Jean Vertaud, some- 
what taken aback by this confession. " I should 
never have thought it." 

"Why should you never have thought it? You do 
not answer, Master Vertaud. Very well, 1 shall an- 
swer for you. You saw that I was a good fellow, 
and you could not believe that a waif could be like 
that. It is true, then, that nobody has confidence in 
waifs, and that there is a prejudice against them. It 
is not just or humane; but since such a prejudice 
exists, everybody must conform to it, and the best 
people are not exempt, since you yourself — " 

" No, no," said Master Vertaud, with a revulsion 
of feeling, for he was a Just man, and always ready 
to abjure a false notion; " I do not wish to fail in 
justice, and if I forgot myself for a moment, you 
must forgive me, for that is all past now. So, you 
think you cannot marry, because you were born a 
waif? " 

136 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

"Not at all, master; I do not consider that an ob- 
stacle. There are all sorts of women, and some of 
them are so kind-hearted that my misfortune might 
prove an inducement." 

" That is true," cried Jean Vertaud. " Women are 
better than we are. Yet," he continued, with a 
laugh, " a fine handsome fellow like you, in the 
flower of youth, and without any defect of body or 
mind, might very well add a zest to the pleasure of 
being charitable. But come, give me your reason." 

''Listen," said Franfois. "I was taken from the 
asylum and nursed by a woman whom I never 
knew. At her death I was intrusted to another 
woman, who received me for the sake of the slen- 
der pittance granted by the government to those of 
my kind ; but she was good to me, and when I was 
so unfortunate as to lose her, 1 should never have 
been comforted but for the help of another woman, 
who was the best of the three, and whom I still love 
so much, that I am unwilling to live for any other 
woman but her. I have left her, and perhaps I may 
never see her again, for she is well off, and may 
never have need of me. Still, her husband has had 
many secret expenses, and 1 have heard that he has 
been ill since autumn, so it may be that he will die 
'37 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

before long, and leave her with more debts than 
property. If this happened, master, 1 do not deny 
that 1 should return to the place she lives in, and 
that my only care and desire would be to assist her 
and her son, and keep them from poverty by my toil. 
That is my reason for not undertaking any engage- 
ment which would bind me elsewhere. You employ 
me by the year, but if I married, I should be tied for 
life. I should be assuming too many duties at once. 
If I had a wife and children, it is not to be supposed 
that I could earn enough bread for two families; 
neither is it to be supposed, if, by extraordinary luck, 
I found a wife with some money of her own, that I 
should have the right to deprive my house of its 
comforts, to bestow them upon another's. Thus I 
expect to remain a bachelor. I am young, and have 
time enough before me; but if some fancy for a girl 
should enter my head, I should try to get rid of it; 
because, do you see, there is but one woman in the 
world for me, and that is my mother Madeleine, who 
never despised me for being a waif, but brought me 
up as her own child." 

" Is that it? " answered Jean Vertaud. " My dear 
fellow, what you tell me only increases my esteem 
for you. Nothing is so ugly as ingratitude, and 
138 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

nothing so beautiful as the memory of benefits re- 
ceived. I may have some good reasons for showing 
you that you could marry a young woman of the 
same mind as yourself, who would join you in aid- 
ing your old friend, but they are reasons which I 
must think over, and I must ask somebody else's 
opinion." 

No great cleverness was necessary to guess that 
Jean Vertaud, with his honest heart and sound judg- 
ment, had conceived of a marriage between his 
daughter and Franj ois. His daughter was comely, 
and though she was somewhat older than Francois, 
she had money enough to make up the difference. 
She was an only child, and a fine match, but up to 
this time, to her father's great vexation, she had 
refused to marry. He had observed lately that she 
thought a great deal of Francois, and had questioned 
her about him, but as she was a very reserved per- 
son, he had some difficulty in extorting any con- 
fession from her. Finally, without giving a positive 
answer, she consented to allow her father to sound 
Francois on the subject of marriage, and awaited 
the result with more uneasiness than she cared to 
show. 

Jean Vertaud was disappointed that he had not a 
^}9 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

more satisfactory answer to carry to her; first, be- 
cause he was so anxious to have her married, and 
next, because he could not wish for a better son-in- 
law than Franfois. Besides the affection he felt for 
him, he saw clearly that the poor boy who had 
come to him was worth his weight in gold, on ac- 
count of his intelligence, his quickness at his work, 
and his good conduct. 

The young woman was a little pained to hear that 
Francois was a foundling. She was a trifle proud, 
but she made up her mind quickly, and her liking 
became more pronounced when she learned that 
Franf ois was backward in love. Women go by con- 
traries, and if Franfois had schemed to obtain indul- 
gence for the irregularity of his birth, he could have 
contrived no more artful device that that of showing 
a distaste toward marriage. 

So it happened that Jean Vertaud's daughter de- 
cided in Franpois's favor, that day, for the first time. 

'' Is that all? " said she to her father. " Does n't 
he think that we should have both the desire and 
the means to aid an old woman and find a situation 
for her son? He cannot have understood your hints, 
father, for if he knew it was a question of entering 
•our family, he would have felt no such anxiety." 
140 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

That evening, when they were at work, Jean- 
nette Vertaud said to Francois : 

" I have always had a high opinion of you, Fran- 
9ois ; but it is still higher now that my father has 
told me of your affection for the woman who 
brought you up, and for whom you wish to work 
all your life. It is right for you to feel so. I should 
like to know the woman, so that I might serve her 
in case of need, because you have always been so 
fond of her. She must be a fine woman." 

"Oh! yes," said Francois, who was pleased to 
talk of Madeleine, " she is a woman with a good 
heart, a woman with a heart like yours." 

Jeannette Vertaud was delighted at this, and, think- 
ing herself sure of what she wanted, went on : 

" If she should turn out as unfortunate as you fear, 
I wish she could come and live with us. I should 
help you take care of her, for I suppose that she is 
no longer young. Is not she infirm? " 

"Infirm? No," said Francois; "she is not old 
enough to be infirm." 

"Then is she still young?" asked Jeannette Ver- 
taud, beginning to prick up her ears. 

"Oh! no, she is not young," answered Francois, 
simply. " I do not remember how old she is now. 
141 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

She was a mother to me, and I never thought of 
her age." 

"Was she attractive?" asked Jeannette, after hesi- 
tating a moment before putting the question. 

'' Attractive ? " said Francois, with some surprise ; 
"do you mean to ask if she is a pretty woman? 
She is pretty enough for me just as she is ; but to 
tell the truth, I never thought of that. What differ- 
ence can it make in my affection for her ? She might 
be as ugly as the devil, without my finding it out."" 

" But cannot you tell me about how old she is?"" 

"Wait a minute. Her son was five years younger 
than 1. Well ! She is not old, but she is not very 
young; she is about like — " 

"Like me?" said Jeannette, making a slight effort 
to laugh. "In that case, if she becomes a widow, it 
will be too late for her to marry again, will it not ? " 

" That depends on circumstances," replied Fran- 
cois. " If her husband has not wasted all the prop- 
erty, she would have plenty of suitors. There are 
fellows, who would marry their great-aunts as will- 
ingly as their great-nieces, for money." 

" Then you have no esteem for those who marry 
for money ? " 

" I could not do it," answered Francois. 
142 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

Simple-hearted as the waif was, he was no such 
simpleton as not to understand the insinuations 
which had been made him, and he did not speak 
without meaning. But Jeannette would not take 
the hint, and fell still deeper in love with him. She 
had had many admirers, without paying attention to 
any of them, and n ow the only one who pleased! 
her, turned. his back on hej\ _Such_is^.thg_lagical | 
te mper of a_y^Qma.nls_rnind. "• 

Franf ois observed during the following days that 
she had something on her mind, for she ate scarcely 
anything, and her eyes were always fixed on him, 
whenever she thought he was not looking. Her at- 
tachment paine d him . He respected this good wo- 
man, and saw that the more indifferent he appeared, 
the more she cared about hirn ; but he had no fancy 
for her, and if he had tried to cultivate such a feeling, 
it would have been the result of duty and principle 
<rather than of spontaneous affection. 

He reflected that he could not stay much longer 
with Jean Vertaud, because he knew that, sooner or 
later, such a condition of affairs must necessarily give 
rise to some unfortunate difference. 

Just at this time, however, an incident befell which 
changed the current of his thoughts. 
>45 



CHAPTER XIV 

ONE morning the parish priest of Aigurande 
came strolling over to Jean Vertaud's mill, 
and wandered round the place for some time before 
espying Francois, whom he found at last in a corner 
of the garden. He assumed a very confidential air, 
and asked him if he were indeed Franf ois, surnamed 
Strawberry, a name that had been given him in the 
civil register — where he had been inscribed as a 
foundling — on account of a certain mark on his left 
arm. The priest then inquired concerning his exact 
age, the name of the woman who had nursed him, 
the places in which he had lived ; in short, all that 
he knew of his birth and life. 

Francois produced his papers, and the priest seemed 
to be entirely satisfied. 

"Very well," said he, "you may come this 
evening or to-morrow morning to the parsonage ; 
but you must not let anybody know what I am 
144 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

going to tell you, for 1 am forbidden to make 
it public, and it is a matter of conscience with 
me." 

When Francois went to the parsonage, the priest 
carefully shut the doors of the room, and drawing 
four little bits of thin paper from his desk, said : 

" Francois Strawberry, there are four thousand 
francs that your mother sends you. 1 am forbidden 
to tell you her name, where she lives, or whether 
she is alive or dead at the present moment. A pious 
thought has induced her to remember you, and it 
appears that she always intended to do so, since she 
knew where you were to be found, although you 
lived at such a distance. She knew that your char- 
acter was good, and gives you enough to establish 
yourself with in life, on condition that for six months 
you never mention this gift, unless it be to the wo- 
man you want to marry. She enjoins me to consult 
with you on the investment or the safe deposit of 
this money, and begs me to lend my name, in case 
it is necessary, in order to keep the affair secret. I 
shall do as you like in this respect ; but I am ordered 
to deliver you the money, only in exchange for your 
word of honor that you will neither say nor do any- 
thing that might divulge the secret. I know that I 
«o ,45 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

may count upon your good faith ; will you pledge 
it to me ? " 

Franfois gave his oath and left the money in the 
priest's charge, begging him to lay it out to the best 
advantage, for he knew this priest to be a good 
man ; and some priests are like jome women^ dther^ 
all good or all bad. "^ 

The waif returned home rather sad than glad. He 
thought of his mother, and would have been glad to 
give up the four thousand francs for the privilege of 
seeing and embracing her. He imagined, too, that 
perhaps she had just died, and that her gift was the 
result of one of those impulses which come to people 
at the point of death; and it made him still more mel- 
ancholy to be unable to bear mourning for her and 
have masses said for her soul. Whether she were dead 
or alive, he prayed God to forgive her for forsaking 
her child, as her child forgave her with his whole heart, 
\ and prayed to be forgiven his sins in like manner. 

He tried to appear the same as usual; but for more 
than a fortnight, he was so absorbed in a reverie at 
meal-times that the attention of the Vertauds was 
excited. 

" That young man does not confide in us," ob- 
served the miller. " He must be in love." 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

** Perhaps it is with me," thought the daughter, 
'' and he is too modest to confess it. He is afraid 
that I shall think him more attracted by my money 
than my person, so he is trying to prevent our guess- 
ing what is on his mind." 

Thereupon, she set to work to cure him of his shy- 
ness, and encouraged him so frankly and sweetly in 
her words and looks, that he was a little touched in 
spite of his preoccupation. 

Occasionally, he said to himself that he was rich 
enough to help Madeleine in case of need, and that 
he could well afford to marry a girl who laid no 
claim to his fortune. He was not in love with any 
woman, but he saw Jeannette Vertaud's good quali- 
ties, and was afraid of being hard-hearted if he did 
not respond to her advances. At times he pitied her, 
and was almost ready to console her. 

But all at once, on a journey which he made to 
Crevant on his master's business, he met a forester 
from Presles, who told him of Cadet Blanchet's death, 
adding that he had left his affairs in great disorder, 
and that nobody knew whether his widow would be 
able to right them. 

Francois had no cause to love or regret Master 
Blanchet, yet his heart was so tender that when he 
HI 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

heard the news his eyes were moist and his head 
heavy, as if he were about to weep; he knew that 
Madeleine was weeping for her husband at that very 
moment, that she forgave him everything, and re- 
membered only that he was the father of her child. 
The thought of Madeleine's grief awoke his own, 
and obliged him to weep with her over the sorrow 
which he was sure was hers. 

His first impulse was to leap upon his horse and 
hasten to her side ; but he reflected that it was his 
duty to ask permission of his master. 



[4« 



CHAPTER XV 

" IV A ^^'^^^'" ^^^^ ^^ *° J^^" Vertaud, " I must 
1 y 1 leave you for a time ; how long I cannot 
tell. I have something to attend to near my old 
home, and I request you to let me go with a good 
will ; for, to tell the truth, if you refuse to give your 
permission, 1 shall not be abJe to obey you, but shall 
go in spite of you. Forgive me for stating the case 
plainly. 1 should be very sorry to vex you, and that 
is why 1 ask you as a reward for all the services that 
I may have been able to render you, not to take my 
behavior amiss, but to forgive the offense of which I 
am guilty, in leaving your work so suddenly. I may 
return at the end of a week, if I am not needed in 
the place where 1 am going; but I may not come 
back till late in the year, or not at all, for I am un- 
willing to deceive you. However, I shall do my best 
to come to your assistance if you need me, or if any- 
thing were to occur which you cannot manage with- 
lo* ,49 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

out me. Before I go, I shall find you a good work- 
man to take my place, and, if necessary, offer him as an 
inducement all that is due on my wages since Saint 
John's day last. Thus I can arrange matters without 
loss to you, and you must shake hands to wish me 
good luck, and to ease my mind of some of the regret 
I feel at parting with you." 

Jean Vertaud knew that the waif seldom asked for 
anything, but that when he did, his will was so firm 
that neither God nor the devil could bend it. 

"Do as you please, my boy," said he, shaking 
hands with him. " I should not tell the truth if I 
said 1 did not care; but rather than have a quarrel 
with you, I should consent to anything." 

Franfois spent the next day in looking up a ser- 
vant to take his place in the mill, and he met with a 
zealous, upright man who was returning from the 
army, and was happy to find work and good wages 
under a good master; for Jean Vertaud was recog- 
nized as such, and was known never to have wronged 
anybody. 

Before setting out, as he intended to do at day- 
break the next day, Franpois wished to take leave 
of Jeannette Vertaud at supper-time. She was sit- 
ting at the barn door, saying that her head ached 
150 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

and that she could not eat. He observed that she 
had been weeping, and felt much troubled in mind. 
He did not know how to thank her for her kindness, 
and yet tell her that he was to leave her in spite of it. 
He sat down beside her on the stump of an alder- 
tree, which happened to be there, and struggled to 
speak, without being able to think of a single word 
to say. She saw all this, without looking up, and 
pressed her handkerchief to her eyes. He made a 
motion to take her hand in his and comfort her, but 
drew back as it occurred to him that he could not 
conscientiously tell her what she wanted to hear. 
When poor Jeannette found that he remained silent, 
she was ashamed of her own sorrow, and rising 
quietly without showing any bitterness of feeling, 
she went into the barn to weep unrestrained. 

She lingered there a little while, in the hope that 
he would make up his mind to follow her and say a 
kind word, but he forbore, and went to his supper, 
which he ate in melancholy silence. 

It would be false to say that he had felt nothing 
for Jeannette when he saw her in tears. His heart 
was a little fluttered, as he reflected how happy he 
might be with a person of so excellent a disposition, 
who was so fond of him, and who was not person- 
151 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

ally disagreeable to him. But he shook off all these 
ideas when it returned to his mind that Madeleine 
might stand in need of a friend, adviser, and servant, 
and that when he was but a poor, forsaken child, 
wasted with fever, she had endured, worked, and 
braved more for him than anybody else in the 
world. 

" Come," said he to himself, when he woke next 
morning before the dawn ; " you must not think of 
a love-a ffair or your ow n happiness and t ranquillity. 
You would gladly forget that you are a waif, and 
would throw your past to the winds, as so many 
others do, who seize the moment as it flies, without 
looking behind them. Yes, but think of Madeleine 
Blanchet, who entreats you not to forget her, but to 
remember what she did for you. Forward, then ; 
and Jeannette, may God help you to a more gallant 
lover than your humble servant." 

Such were his reflections as he passed beneath the 
window of his kind mistress, and if the season had 
been propitious, he would have left a leaf or flower 
against her casement, in token of farewell ; but it 
was the day after the feast of the Epiphany ; the 
ground was covered with snow, and there was not 
a leaf on the trees nor a violet in the grass. 
152 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

He thought of knotting into the comer of a white 
handkerchief the bean which he had won the even- 
ing before in the Twelfth-night cake, and of tying 
the handkerchief to the bars of Jeannette's window, 
to show her that he would have chosen her for his 
qiieen, if she had deigned to appear at supper. ' '"'""~"- 

"A bean is a very little thing," thought he, "but 
it is a slight mark of courtesy and friendship, and 
will make my excuses for not having said good-by 
to her." 

But a still, small voice within counseled him 
against making this offering, and pointed out to him 
that a man should not follow the example of those 
young girls who try to make men love, remember, 
and regret them, when they have not the slightest 
idea of giving anything in return. 

"No, no, Franfois," said he, putting back his 
pledge into his pocket, and hastening his step; "a. 
man's will must be firm, and he must allow himself 
to be forgotten when he has made up his mind to 
forget himself." 

Thereupon, he strode rapidly away, and before he 

had gone two gunshots from Jean Vertaud's mill he 

fancied that he saw Madeleine's image before him, 

and heard a faint little voice calling to him for help. 

•53 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

This dream drew him on, and he seemed to see al- 
ready the great ash-tree, the fountain, the meadow 
of the Blanchets, the mill-dam, the little bridge, and 
Jeannie running to meet him ; and in the midst of 
all this, the memory of Jeannette Vertaud was pow- 
erless to hold him back an inch. 

He walked so fast that he felt neither cold nor 
hunger nor thirst, nor did he stop to take breath 
till he left the highroad and reached the cross of 
Plessys, which stands at the beginning of the path 
which leads to Presles. 

When there, he flung himself on his knees and 
kissed the wood of the cross with the ardor of a 
good Christian who meets again with a good friend. 
Then he began to descend the great track, which is 
like a road, except that it is as broad as a field. It 
is the finest common in the world, and is blessed 
with a beautiful view, fresh air, and extended hori- 
zon. It slopes so rapidly that in frosty weather a 
man could go post-haste even in an ox-cart and 
take an unexpected plunge in the river, which runs 
silently below. 

Francois mistrusted this; he took off his sabots 
more than once, and reached the bridge without a 
tumble. He passed by Montipouret on the left, not 
J 54 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

without sending a loving salute to the tall old clock- 
tower, which is everybody's friend; for it is the first 
to greet the eyes of those who are returning home, 
and shows them the right road, if they have gone 
astray. 

As to the roads, I have no fault to find with them 
in summer-time, when they are green, smiling, and 
pleasant to look upon. You may walk through 
some of them with no fear of a sunstroke; but those 
are the most treacherous of all, because they may 
lead you to Rome, when you think you are going to 
Angibault. Happily, the good clock-tower of Monti- 
pouret is not chary of showing itself, and through 
every clearing you may catch a glimpse of its glitter- 
ing steeple, that tells you whether you are going 
north or northwest. 

The waif, however, needed no such beacon to^ 
guide him. He was so familiar with all the wooded 
paths and byways, all the shady lanes, all the 
hunters' trails, and even the very hedge-rows along 
the roads, that in the middle of the night he could 
take the shortest cut, and go as straight as a pigeon 
flies through the sky. 

It was toward noon when he first caught sight of 
the mill of Cormouer through the leafless branches^ 
«55 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

and he was happy to see curling up from the roof 
a faint blue smoke, which assured him that the 
house was not abandoned to the rats. 

For greater speed he crossed the upper part of the 
Blanchet meadow, and thus did not pass close by 
the fountain ; but as the trees and bushes were stript 
of their leaves, he could still see sparkling in the 
sunlight the open water, that never freezes, because 
it bubbles up from a spring. The approach to the 
mill, on the contrary, was icy and so slippery that 
much caution was required to step safely over the 
stones, and along the bank of the river. He saw 
the old mill-wheel, black with age and damp, 
covered with long icicles, sharp as needles, that 
hung from the bars. 

Many trees were missing around the house, and 
the place was much changed. Cadet Blanchet's debts 
had called the ax into play, and here and there were 
to be seen the stumps of great alders, freshly cut, as 
red as blood. The house seemed to be in bad repair; 
the roof was ill-protected, and the oven had cracked 
half open by the action of the frost. 

What was still more melancholy was that there 
\ was no sound to be heard of man or beast; only a 
Ibrindled black-and-white dog, a poor country mon- 
156 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

grel, jumped up from the door-step and ran bark- 
ing toward Francois; then he suddenly ceased, and 
came crawling up to him and lay at his feet. 

" Is it you, Labriche, and do you know me?" said 
Franfois, "I did not recognize you, for you are so 
old and miserable; your ribs stick out, and your 
whiskers are quite white." 

Francois talked thus to the dog, because he was 
distressed, and wanted to gain a little time before 
entering the house. He had been in great haste up 
to this moment, but now he was alarmed, because 
he feared that he should never see Madeleine again, 
that she might be absent or dead instead of her hus- 
band, or that the report of the miller's death might 
prove false ; in short, he was a prey to all those fan- 
cies which beset the mind of a man who has just 
reached the goal of all his desires. 



'57 



CHAPTER XVI 

FINALLY Francois drew the latch of the door, 
and beheld, instead of Madeleine, a lovely young 
girl, rosy as a May morning, and lively as a linnet. 
She said to him, with an engaging manner: " What 
is it you want, young man ? " 

Though she was so fair to see, Francois did not 
waste time in looking at her, but cast his eyes round 
the room in search of Madeleine. He saw nothing 
but the closed curtains of her bed, and he was sure 
that she was in it. He did not wait to answer the 
pretty girl, who was Mariette Blanchet, the miller's 
youngest sister, but without a word walked up to 
the yellow bed and pulled the curtains noiselessly 
aside; there he saw Madeleine Blanchet lying asleep, - 
pale and wasted with fever. 

He looked at her long and fixedly, without moving 
or speaking; and in spite of his grief at her illness, 
and his fear of her dying, he was yet happy to have 
158 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

her face before him, and to be able to say: "I see 
Madeleine." 

Mariette Blanchet pushed him gently away from 
the bed, drew the curtains together, and beckoned 
to him to follow her to the fireside. 

" Now, young man," said she, "who are you, and 
what do you want ? I do not know you, and you 
are a stranger in the neighborhood. Tell me how 1 
may oblige you." 

Franfois did not listen to her, and instead of an- 
swering her, he began to ask questions about how 
long Madame Blanchet had been ill, whether she were 
in any danger, and whether she were well cared for. 

Mariette answered that Madeleine had been ill since 
her husband's death, because she had overexerted 
herself in nursing him, and watching at his bedside, 
day and night; that they had not as yet sent for the 
doctor, but that they would do so in case she was 
worse; and as to her being well cared for, Mariette 
declared that she knew her duty and did not spare 
herself. 

At these words, the waif looked the girl full in the 

face, and had no need to ask her name, for besides 

knowing that soon after he had left the mill. Master 

Blanchet had placed his sister in his wife's charge, he 

>59 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

detected in the pretty face of this pretty girl a strik- 
ing resemblance to the sinister face of the dead miller. 
There are many fine and delicate faces which have 
an inexplicable likeness to ugly ones ; and though 
Mariette Blanchet's appearance was as chafming as 
that of her brother had been disagreeable, she still 
had an unmistakable family look. Only the miller's 
expression had been surly and irascible, while Mari- 
ette's was mocking rather than resentful, and fearless 
instead of threatening. 

So it was that Franf ois was neither altogether dis- 
turbed nor altogether at ease concerning the atten- 
tion Madeleine might receive from this young girl. 
Her cap was of fine linen, neatly folded and pinned; 
her hair, which she wore somewhat after the fashion 
of town-bred girls, was very lustrous, and carefully 
combed and parted ; and both her hands and her 
apron were very white for a sick-nurse. In short, she 
was much too young, fresh, and gay to spend the 
day and night in helping a person who was unable 
to help herself. 

Francois asked no more questions, but sat down 
in the chimney-corner, determined not to leave the 
place until he saw whether his dear Madeleine's ill- 
ness turned for the better or worse. 
i6o 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

Mariette was astonished to see him take possession 
of the fire so cavalierly, just as if he were in his own 
house. He stared into the blaze, and as he seemed in 
no humor for talking, she dared inquire no further 
who he was and what was his business. After a 
moment, Catherine, who had been the house-servant 
for eighteen or twenty years, came into the room. 
She paid no attention to him, but approached the bed 
of her mistress, looked at her cautiously, and then 
turned to the fireplace, to see after the potion which 
Mariette was concocting. Her behavior showed an 
intense interest for Madeleine, and Francois, who 
took in the truth of the matter in a throb, was on 
the point of addressing her with a friendly greeting ; 
but— 

"But," said the priest's servant, interrupting the 
hemp-dresser, "you are using an unsuitable word. 
A thfob does not express a moment, or a minute." 

"I tell you," retorted the hemp-dresser, "that a 
moment means nothing at all, and a minute is 
longer than it takes for an idea to rush into the 
head. I do not know how many millions of things 
you can think of in a minute, whereas you only 
need a throb of time to see and hear some qne_.thing 
i6i <;vuVa/»V>6s. 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

that is happening. I will say a little throb, if you 
please." 

" But a throb of time! " objected the old purist. 

"Ah! A throb of time ! Does that worry you, 
Mother Monique? Does not everything go by 
throbs? Does not the sun, when you see it rising 
in the clouds of flames, and it makes your eyes blink 
to look at it? And the blood that beats in your 
veins; the church clock that sifts your time particle 
by particle, as a bolting-machine does the grain; 
your rosary when you tell it; your heart when the 
priest is delayed in coming home; the rain falling drop 
by drop, and the earth that turns round, as they say, 
like a mill-\Vheel? Neither you nor I feel the motion, 
the machine is too well oiled for that ; but there 
must be some throbbing about it, since it accom- 
plishes its period in twenty-four hours. As to that, 
too, we use the word period when we speak of a 
certain length of time. So I say a throh, and I shall 
not unsay it. Do not interrupt me any more, unless 
you wish to tell the story." 

"No, no; your machine is too well oiled, too," 
answered the old woman. "Now let your tongue 
throb a little longer." 



162 



CHAPTER XVII 



I WAS saying that Francois was tempted to speak 
to big old Catherine, and make himself known 
to her; but as in the same throb of time he was on 
the point of crying, he did not wish to behave like a 
fool, and did not even raise his head. As Catherine 
stooped over the ashes, she caught sight of his long 
legs and drew back in alarm. 

" What is all that? " whispered she to Mariette in 
the other corner of the room. "Where does that 
man come from ? " 

" Do you ask me? " said the girl; " how should I 
know? 1 never saw him before. He came in here, 
as if he were at an inn, without a good-morning or 
good-evening. He asked after the health of my 
sister-in-law as if he were a near relation, or her 
heir; and there he is sitting by the fire, as you see. 
You may speak to him, for 1 do not care to do so. 
He may be a disreputable person." 
163 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

"What? Do you think he is crazy? He does 
not look wicked, as far as 1 can see, for he seems to 
be hiding his face." 

" Suppose he has come for some bad purpose ? " 

" Do not be afraid, Mariette, for I am near to keep 
him in check. If he alarms you, I shall pour a kettle 
of boiling water over his legs, and throw an andiron 
at his head." 

While they were chattering thus, Francois was 
thinking of Madeleine. 

''That poor dear woman," said he to himself, 
"who has never had anything but vexation and 
unkindness from her husband, is now lying ill be- 
cause she nursed and helped him to the end. Here 
is this young girl, who was the miller's pet sister, as 
I have heard say, and her face bears no traces of 
sorrow. She shows no signs of fatigue or tears, for 
her eyes are as clear and bright as the sun." 

He could not help looking at her from under the 
brim of his hat, for never until then had he seen 
such fresh and joyous beauty. Still, though his eyes 
were charmed, his heart remained untouched. 

" Come," continued Catherine, in a whisper to her 
young mistress, "1 am going to speak to him. I 
must find out his business here." 
164 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

"Speak to him politely," said Mariette. "We 
must not irritate him ; we are all alone in the house, 
and Jeannie may be too far away to hear our cries," 

"Jeannie!" exclaimed Franfois, who caught no- 
thing from all their prattle, except the name of his 
old friend, "Where is Jeannie, and why don't 1 see 
him? Has he grown tall, strong, and handsome?" 

" There," thought Catherine, "he asks this be- 
cause he has some evil intention. Who is the man, 
for Heaven's sake ? 1 know neither his voice nor his 
figure ; 1 must satisfy myself and look at his face," 

She was strong as a laborer and bold as a soldier, 
and would not have quailed before the devil himself, 
so she stalked up to Francois, determined either to 
make him take off his hat, or to knock it off herself, 
so that she might see whether he were a monster or 
a Christian man. She approached the waif, without 
suspecting that it was he ; for being as little given 
to thinking of the past as of the future, she had long 
forgotten all about Francois, and, moreover, he had 
improved so much and was now such a handsome 
fellow that she might well have looked at him sev- 
eral times before recalling him to mind ; but just as 
she was about to accost him rather roughly, Made- 
leine awoke, and called Catherine, saying in a faint, 
"* 165 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

almost inaudible voice that she was burning with 
thirst. 

Franfois sprang up, and would have been the first 
to reach her but for the fear of exciting her too 
much, which held him back. He quickly handed 
the draught to Catherine, who hastened with it to 
her mistress, forgetting everything for the moment 
but the sick woman's condition. 

Mariette, too, did her share, by raising Madeleine 
in her arms, to help her drink, and this was no hard 
task, for Madeleine was so thin and wasted that it 
was heartbreaking to see her. 

" How do you feel, sister? " asked Mariette. 

" Very well, my child," answered Madeleine in the 
tone of one about to die. She never complained, to 
avoid distressing the others. 

*' That is not Jeannie over there," she said, as she 
caught sight of the waif "Am I dreaming, my 
child, or who is that tall man standing by the fire ? " 

Catherine answered : 

''We do not know, dear mistress; he says no- 
thing, and behaves like an idiot." 

The waif, at this moment, made a little motion to 
go toward Madeleine, but restrained himself, for 
tliough he was dying to speak to her, he was afraid 
i66 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

of taking her by surprise. Catherine now saw his 
face, but he had changed so much in the past three 
years that she did not recognize him, and thinking 
that Madeleine was frightened, she said : 

" Do not worry, dear mistress ; I was just going 
to turn him out, when you called me." 

" Don't turn him out," said Madeleine, in a 
stronger voice, pulling aside the curtain of her bed ; 
" 1 know him, and he has done right in coming to 
see me. Come neai:eiV-D3y_son ; I have been pray- 
ing God every day to permit me the grace of giving 
you my blessing." 

The waif ran to her, and threw himself on his 
knees beside her bed, shedding tears of joy and sor- 
row that nearly suffocated him. Madeleine touched 
his hands, and then his head; and said, as she kissed 
him: 

" Gall Jeannie; Catherine, call Jeannie, that he may 
share this happiness with us. Ah! I thank God, 
Franfois, and 1 am ready to die now, if such is. his 
will; for both my children are grown, and I may bid 
them farewell in peace." 



167 



CHAPTER XVIII 

CATHERINE rushed off in pursuit of Jeannie, and 
Mariette was so anxious to know what it all 
meant, that she followed to ask questions. Francois 
was left alone with Madeleine, who kissed him 
again, and burst into tears; then she closed her eyes, 
looking still more weak and exhausted than she had 
been before, Francois saw that she had fainted, and 
knew not how to revive her; he was beside himself, 
and could only hold her in his arms, calling her his 
dear mother, his dearest friend, and imploring her, as 
if it lay within her power, not to die so soon, with- 
out hearing what he had to say. 

So, by his tender words, devoted care, and fond 
endearments, he restored her to consciousness, and 
she began again to see and hear him. He told her 
that he had guessed she needed him, that he had 
left all, and had come to stay as long as she wanted 
him, and that, if she would take him for her servant, 
1 68 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

he would ask nothing but the pleasure of working 
for her, and the solace of spending his life in her 
service. __ 

" "Do not answer," he continued; " do not speak, 
my dear mother; you are too weak, and must not 
say a word. Only look at me, if you are pleased to 
see me again, and I shall understand that you accept 
my friendship and help." 

Madeleine looked at him so serenely, and was so 
much comforted by what he said, that they were 
contented and happy together, notwithstanding the 
misfortune of her illness. 

Jeannie, who came in answer to Catherine's loud 
cries, arrived to take his share of their joy. He had 
grown into a handsome boy between fourteen and 
fifteen, and though not strong, he was delightfully 
active, and so well brought up that he was always 
friendly and polite. 

"Oh! How glad I am to see you like this, Jean- 
nie," said Francois. " You are not very tall and 
strong, but I am satisfied, because I think you will 
need my help in climbing trees and crossing the river. 
I see that you are delicate, though you are not ill, 
is n't it so ? Well, you shall be my child, still a little 
while longer, if you do not mind. Yes, yes; you 
169 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

will find me necessary to you ; and you will make 
me carry out your wishes, just as it was long ago." 

" Yes," said Jeannie; " my four hundred wishes, as 
you used to call them." 

"Oho! What a good memory you have! How 
nice it was of you, Jeannie, not to forget Francois! 
But have we still four hundred wishes a day ? " 

"Oh, no," said Madeleine; "he has grown very 
reasonable; he has no more than two hundred now." 

" No more nor less ? " asked Franfois. 

"Just as you like," answered Jeannie; "since my 
darling mother is beginning to smile again, I am 
ready to agree to anything. I am even willing to 
say that 1 wish more than five hundred times a day 
to see her well again." 

" That is right, Jeannie," said Francois. "See how 
nicely he talks! Yes, my boy, God will grant those 
five hundred wishes of yours. We shall take such 
good care of your darling mother, and shall cheer 
and gladden her little by little, until she forgets her 
weariness." 

Catherine stood at the threshold, and was most 
anxious to come in, to see and speak to Fraripois, 
but Mariette held her by the sleeve, and would not 
leave off asking questions. 
170 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

" What," said she, " is he a foundling? He looks 
so respectable." 

She was looking through the crack in the door, 
which she held ajar. 

"How comes it that he and Madeleine are such 
friends ? " 

" I tell you that she brought him up, and that he 
was always a very good boy." 

"She has never spoken of him to me, nor have 
you." 

" Oh, goodness, no! I never thought of it; he 
was away; and I almost forgot him; then, 1 knew, 
too, that my mistress had been in trouble on his 
account, and I did not wish to recall it to her mind." 

' ' Trouble ! What kind of trouble ? " 

"Oh! because she was so fond of him; she could 
not help liking him, he had such a good heart, poor 
child. Your brother would not allow him in the 
house, and you know your brother was not always 
very gentle ! " 

" We must not say that, now that he is dead, 
Catherine." 

" Yes, yes; you are right; I was not thinking. 
Dear me, how short my memory is! And yet it is 
only two weeks since he died! But let me go in, 
171 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

my young lady; I want to give the boy some dinner, 
for I think he must be hungry." 

She shook herself loose, ran up to Franfois, and 
kissed him. He was so handsome that she no longer 
remembered having once said that she would rather 
kiss her sabot than a foundling. 

"Oh, poor Francois," said she, "how glad I am 
to see you! I was afraid that you would never come 
back. See, my dear mistress, how changed he is! I 
wonder that you were able to recognize him at once. 
If you had not told me who he was, I should not 
have known him for ages. Jiow handsome he is, 
is n't he? His beard is beginning to grow; yes, you 
cannot see it much, but you can feel it. It did not 
prick when you went away, Francois, but now it 
pricks a little. And how strong you are, my friend! 
What hands and arms and legs you have! A work- 
man like you is worth three. What wages are you 
getting now ? " 

Madeleine laughed softly to see Catherine so 
pleased with Francois, and was overjoyed that he 
was so strong and vigorous. She wished that her 
Jeannie might grow up to be like him. Mariette 
was ashamed to have Catherine look so boldly in a 
man's face, and blushed involuntarily. But the more 
172 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

she tried not to look at him, the more her eyes 
strayed toward him; she saw that Catherine , was 
right ; he was certainly remarkably handsome, tall 
and erect as a young oak. 

Then, without stopping to think, she began to 
serve him very politely, pouring out the best wine 
of that year's vintage, and recalling his attention 
when it wandered to Madeleine and Jeannie, and 
he forgot to eat. 

"You must eat more," said she; ''you scarcely 
take anything. You should have more appetite 
after so long a journey." 

" Pay no attention to me, young lady," answered 
Francois, at last; "I am too happy to be here to 
care about eating and drinking. Come now," 
continued he, turning to Catherine, when the 
room was put to rights, ''show me round the mill 
and the house, for everything looks neglected, and I 
want to talk to you about it." 

When they were outside, he questioned her intel- 
ligently on the state of things, with the air of a man 
determined to know the whole truth. 

"Oh, Franfois," said Catherine, bursting into 
tears, "everything is going to grief, and if nobody 
comes to the assistance of my poor mistress, I be- 
'73 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

lieve that wicked woman will turn her out of doors, 
and make her spend all she owns in lawsuits." 

"Do not cry," said Francois, "for if you do, I 
cannot understand what you say; try to speak more 
clearly. What wicked woman do you mean? Is it 
Severe?" 

"Oh! yes, to be sure. She is not content with 
having ruined our master, but now lays claim to 
everything he left. She is trying to prosecute us in 
fifty different ways; she says that Cadet Blanchet 
gave her promissory notes, and that even if she sold 
everything over our heads, she would not be paid. 
She sends us bailiffs every day, and the expenses are 
already considerable. Our mistress has paid all she 
could, in trying to pacify her, and I am very much 
afraid that she will die of this worry, on top of all 
the fatigue she underwent during her husband's ill- 
ness. At this rate, we shall soon be without food 
and fire. The servant of the mill has left us, be- 
cause he was owed two years' wages, and could not 
be paid. The mill has stopped running, and if this 
goes on, we shall lose our customers. The horses 
and crops have been attached, and are to be sold; 
the trees are to be cut down. Oh, Francois, it is 
ruin!" 

'74 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

Her tears began to flow afresh. 

^' And how about you, Catherine ? " asked Fran- 
cois; "are you a creditor, too? Have your wages 
been paid?" 

"I, a creditor?" said Catherine, changing her wail 
into a roar; ''never, never! It is nobody's business 
whether my wages are paid or not! " 

"Good for you, Catherine; you show the right 
spirit!" said Francois. "Keep on taking care of 
your mistress, and do not bother about the rest. 1 
have earned a little money in my last place, and I 
have enough with me to save the horses, the crops, 
and the trees. I am going to pay a little visit to the 
mill, and if I find it in disorder, I shall not need a 
wheelwright to set it going again. Jeannie is as 
swift as a little bird, and he must set out immedi- 
ately and run all day, and then begin again to-mor- 
row morning, so as to let all the customers know 
that the mill is creaking like ten thousand devils, 
and that the miller is waiting to grind the corn." 

"Shall we send for a doctor for our mistress?" 

"1 have been thinking about it; but 1 am going 
to wait and watch her all day, before making up my 
mind. 

" Do you see, Catherine, I believe that doctors are 
175 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

useful when the sick cannot do without them ; but 
if the disease is not violent, it is easier to recover 
with God's help, than with their drugs: not taking 
[into consideration that the mere presence of a doc- 
tor, which cures the rich, often kills the poor. He 
cheers and amuses those who live in luxury, but he 
scares and oppresses those who never see him ex- 
cept in the day of danger. It seems to me that 
Madame Blanchet will recover very soon, if her 
affairs are straightened. 

"And before we finish this conversation, Cathe- 
rine, tell me one thing more; I ask the truth of you, 
and you must not scruple to tell it to me. It will 
go no further; I have not changed, and if you 
remember me, you must know that a secret is safe 
in the waifs bosom." 

"Yes, yes, I know," said Catherine; "but why 
do you consider yourself a waif? Nobody will call 
you any more by that name, for you do not deserve 
it, Francois." 

"Never mind that. I shall always be what 1 am, 
and I am not m the habit of plaguing myself about 
it. Tell me what you thir.ik of your young mistress, 
Mariette Blanchet." 

"Oh, she! She is a pretty girl. Have you al- 
176 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

ready taken it into your head to marry her? She 
has some money of her own; her brother could not 
touch her property, because, she was a minor, and 
unless you have fallen heir to an estate, Master 
Franfois — " 

'' Waifs never inherit anything," said Franpois, 
"and as to marrying, I have as much time to think 
of it as the chestnut in the fire. What I want to 
hear from you is whether this girl is better than her 
brother, and whether she will prove a source of 
comfort or trouble to Madeleine, if she stays on 
here." 

"Heaven knows," said Catherine, "for 1 do not. 
Until now, she has been thoughtless and innocent 
enough. She likes dress, caps trimmed with lace, 
and dancing. She is not very selfish, but she has 
been so well-treated and spoiled by Madeleine, that 
she has never had occasion to show whether she 
could bite or not. She has never had anything to 
suffer, so we cannot tell what she may be." 

" Was she very fond of her brother? " 

" Not very, except when he took her to balls, and 

our mistress tried to convince him that it was not 

proper to take a respectable girl in Severe's company. 

Then the little girl, who thought of nothing but her 

'77 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

own pleasure, overwhelmed her brother with atten- 
tions, and turned up her nose at Madeleine, who 
was obliged to yield. So Mariette does not dislike 
Severe as much as 1 should wish to have her, but 
I cannot say that she is not good-natured and nice 
to her sister-in-law." 

"That will do, Catherine; I ask nothing further. 
Only I forbid you to tell the young girl anything of 
what we have been talking about," 

Francois accomplished successfully all that he had 
promised Catherine. By evening, owing to Jeannie's 
diligence, corn arrived to be ground, and the mill 
too was in working order; the ice was broken and 
melted about the wheel, the machinery was oiled, 
and the woodwork repaired, wherever it was broken. 
The energetic Franjois worked till two in the morn- 
ing, and at four he was up again. He stepped 
noiselessly into Madeleine's room, and finding the 
faithful Catherine on guard, he asked how the pa- 
tient was. She had slept well, happy in the arrival 
of her beloved servant, and in the efficient aid he 
brought. Catherine refused to leave her mistress 
before Mariette appeared, and Franpois asked at 
what hour the beauty of Cormouer was in the habit 
of rising. 

178 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

"Not before daylight," said Catherine. 

"What? Then you have two more hours to 
wait, and you will get no sleep at all," 

" I sleep a little in the daytime, in my chair, or on 
the straw in the barn, while the cows are feeding." 

"Very well, go to bed now," said Francois, " and 
I shall wait here to show the young lady that some 
people go to bed later than she, and get up earlier 
in the morning. 1 shall busy myself with examining 
the miller's papers and those which the bailiffs have 
brought since his death. Where are they ? " 

" There, in Madeleine's chest," said Catherine. 
" I am going to light the lamp, Francois. Come, 
courage, and try your best to make things straight, 
as you seem to understand law-papers." 

She went to bed, obeying the commands of the 
waif as if he were the master of the house; for true 
it is that he who has a gOQji.hfiad-and good iieart 
rules by his own right. 



179 



CHAPTER XIX 

BEFORE setting to work, Francois, as soon as 
he was left alone with Madeleine and Jeannie 
(for the young child always slept in the room with 
his mother), went to take a look at the sleeping 
woman, and thought her appearance better than 
when he had first arrived. He was happy to think 
that she would have no need of a doctor, and that 
he alone, by the comfort he brought, would preserve 
her health and fortune. 

He began to look over the papers, and was soon 
fully acquainted with Severe's claims and the amount 
of property that Madeleine still possessed with which 
to satisfy them. Besides all that Severe had already 
made Cadet Blanchet squander upon her, she de- 
clared that she was still a creditor for two hundred 
pistoles, and Madeleine had scarcely anything of her 
own property left in addition to the inheritance that 
Blanchet had bequeathed to Jeannie — an inheritance 
i8o 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

now reduced to the mill and its immediate belong- 
ings — that is, the courtyard, the meadow, the out- 
buildings, the garden, the hemp-field, and a bit of 
planted ground; for the broad fields and acres had 
melted like snow in the hands of Cadet Blanchet. 

" Thank God ! " thought Francois, " I have four 
hundred pistoles in the charge of the priest of Aigu- 
rande, and in case I can do no better, Madeleine can 
still have her house, the income of her mill, and 
what remains of her dowry. But 1 think we can get 
off more easily than that. In the first place, I must 
find out whether the notes signed by Blanchet to 
Severe were not extorted by strategem and undue 
influence, and then I must do a stroke of business 
on the lands he sold. I understand how such affairs 
are managed, and knowing the names of the pur- 
chasers, I will put my hand in the fire if 1 cannot 
bring this to a successful issue." 

The fact was that Blanchet, two or three years 
before his death, straightened for money and over 
head and ears in debt to Severe, had sold his land 
at a low price to whomsoever wanted to buy, and 
turned all his claims for it over to Severe, thus ex- 
pecting to rid himself of her and of her comrades 
who had helped her to ruin him. But, as usually 
"* i8i 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

happens in such sales, almost all those who has- 
tened to buy, attracted by the sweet fragrance of 
the fertile lands, had not a penny with which to pay 
for them, and only discharged the interest with great 
difficulty. This state of things might last from ten 
to twenty years ; it was an investment for Severe 
and her fiiends, but a bad investment, and she com- 
plained loudly of Cadet Blanchet's rashness, and 
feared that she would never be paid. So she said, 
at least ; but the speculation was really a reasonably 
good one. The peasant, even if he has to lie on 
straw, pays his interest, so unwilling is he to let go 
the bit of land he holds, which his creditor may 
seize if he is not satisfied. 

We all know this, my good friends, and we often 
try to grow rich the wrong way, by buying fine 
property at a low price. However low it may be, it 
is always too high for us. Our covetousness is more 
capacious than our purse, and we take no end of 
trouble to cultivate a field the produce of which does 
not cover half the interest exacted by the seller. 

When we have delved and sweated all our poor 

lives, we find ourselves ruined, and the earth alone 

is enriched by our pains and toil. Just as we have 

doubled its value, we are obliged to sell it. If we 

182 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

could sell it advantageously, we should be safe; but 
this is never possible. We have been so drained 
by the interest v/e have had to pay, that we must 
sell in haste, and for anything we can get. If we 
rebel, we are forced into it by the law-courts, and 
the man who first sold the land gets back his prop- 
erty in the condition in which he finds it; that means 
that for long years he has placed his land in our hands 
at eight or ten per cent., and when he resumes pos- 
session of it, it is by our labors, twice as valuable, in 
consequence of a careful cultivation which has cost 
him neither trouble nor expense, and also by the 
lapse of time which always increases the value of 
property. Thus we poor little minnows are to be 
continually devoured by the big fish which pursue 
us; punished always for our love of gain, and just as 
foolish as we were before. 

Severe's money was thus profitably invested in a 
mortgage at a high interest, but at the same time 
she had a firm hold of Cadet Blanchet's estate, be- 
cause she had managed him so cleverly that he had 
pledged himself for the purchasers of his land, and 
had gone surety for their payment, 

Francois saw all this intrigue, and meditated some 
possible means of buying back the land at a low 
183 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

price, without ruining anybody, and of playing a 
fine trick upon Severe and her clan, by causing the 
failure of their speculation. 

It was no easy matter. He had enough money 
to buy back almost everything at the price of the 
original sale, and neither Severe nor anybody else 
could refuse to be reimbursed. The buyers would 
find it to their profit to sell again in all haste, in 
order to escape approaching ruin ; for I tell you 
all, young and old, if you buy land on credit, you 
take out a patent for beggary in your old age. It is 
useless for me to tell you this, for you will have the 
buying mania no whit the less. Nobody can see a 
plowed furrow smoking in the sun, without being 
in a fever to possess it, and it was the peasant's mad 
fever to hold on to his own piece of soil that caused 
Francois's uneasiness. 

Do you know what the soil is, my children ? Once 
upon a time, everybody in our parishes was talking 
about it. They said that the old nobles had attached 
us to the soil to make us drudge and die, but the 
Revolution had burst our bonds, and that we no 
longer drew our master's cart like oxen. The truth 
is that we have bound ourselves to our own acres, 
and we drudge and die no less than before. 
184 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

The city people tell us that our only remedy- 
would be to have no wants or desires. Only last 
Sunday, I answered a man who was preaching this 
doctrine very eloquently, that if we poor peasants 
could only be sensible enough never to eat or sleep, 
to work all the time, and to drink nothing but fresh 
Clearwater, provided the frogs had no objection, we 
might succeed in saving a goodly hoard, and in re- 
ceiving a shower of compliments for our wisdom and 
discretion. 

Following this same train of thought, Francois 
cudgeled his brains to find some means of induc- 
ing the purchasers of the land to sell it back again. 
He finally hit upon the plan of whispering in their 
ears the little falsehood, that though Severe had the 
reputation of being fabulously rich, she had really as 
many debts as a sieve has holes, and that some fine 
morning her creditors would lay hands upon all her 
claims, as well as upon all her property. He meant 
to tell them this confidentially, and when they were 
thoroughly alarmed, he expected to buy back Made- 
leine Blanchet's lands at the original price, with his 
own money. 

He scrupled, however, to tell this untruth, until it 
occurred to him that he could give a small bonus to- 
" 185 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

all the poor purchasers, to make them amends for 
the interest they had already paid. In this manner 
Madeleine could be restored to her rights and pos- 
sessions without loss or injury to the purchasers. 

The discredit in which Severe would be involved 
by his plan caused him no scruple whatever. It is 
right for the hen to pull out a feather from the cruel 
bird that has plucked her chickens. 

When Franfois had reached this conclusion, Jean- 
nie awoke, and arose softly, to avoid disturbing his 
mother's slumbers ; then, after a good-morning to 
Franpois, he lost no time in going off to announce to 
the rest of their customers that the mill was in good 
order, and that a strong young miller stood in readi- 
ness to grind the com. 



1 86 



CHAPTER XX 

IT was already broad daylight when Mariette Blan- 
che! emerged from her nest, carefully attired in 
her mourning, which was so very black and so very 
white that she looked as spick and span as a little 
magpie. The poor child had one great care, and that 
was that her mourning would long prevent her going 
to dances, and that all her admirers would be missing 
her. Her heart was so good that she pitied them 
greatly. 

'* How is this? " said she, as she saw Francois ar- 
ranging the papers in Madeleine's room. " You attend 
to everything here, Master Miller! You make flour, 
you settle the business, you mix the medicines; sopn 
we shall see you sewing and spinning." 

" And you, my young lady," said Franfois, who 

saw that she regarded him favorably, although she 

slashed him with her tongue, '* I have never as yet 

seen you sewing or spinning; I think we shall soon 

.87 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

find you sleeping till noon, and it will do you good, 
and keep your cheeks rosy ! " 

" Oho ! Master Francois, you are already begin- 
ning to tell me truths about myself. You had better 
take care of that little game ; I can tell you some- 
thing in return." 

" I await your pleasure, my young lady." 

" It will soon come; do not be afraid, Master Mil- 
ler. Have the kindness to tell me where Catherine 
is, and why you are here watching beside our patient. 
Should you like a hood and gown ? " 

" Are you going to ask, in your turn, for a cap and 
blouse, so that you may go to the mill ? As I see 
you do no woman's work, which would be nursing 
your sister for a little while, 1 suppose you would 
like to sift out the chaff, and turn the grindstone. 
At your service. Let us change clothes." 

" It looks as if you were trying to give me a les- 
son." 

" No ; you gave me one first, and I am only re- 
turning, out of politeness, what you lent me." 

' ' Good ! You like to laugh and tease, but you have 
chosen the wrong time. We are not merry here, 
and it is only a short time ago that we had to go to 
the graveyard. If you chatter so much, you will 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

prevent my sister-in-law from getting the skep she 
needs so greatly." 

"On that very account, you should not raise your 
voice so much, my young lady; for 1 am speaking 
very low, and you are not speaking, just now, as 
you should in a sick-room." 

" Enough, if you please, Master Franfois," said 
Mariette, lowering her tone, and flushing angrily. 
" Be so good as to see if Catherine is at hand, and 
tell me why she leaves my sister-in-law in your 
charge." 

" Excuse me, my young lady," said Francois, with 
no sign of temper. '' She could not leave her in your 
charge, because you are too fond of sleeping, so she 
was obliged to intrust her to mine. I shall not call 
her, because the poor woman is jaded with fatigue. 
Without meaning to offend you, I must say that she 
has been sitting up every night for two weeks. I sent 
her off to bed, and, until noon, I mean to do her 
work and mine too, for it is only right for us all to 
help one another." 

"Listen, Master Francois," said the young girl, 

with a sudden change of tone ; "you appear to hint 

that I think only of myself and leave all the work to 

others. Perhaps I should have sat up in my turn, if 

189 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

Catherine had told me that she was tired; but she 
insisted that she was not at all tired, and I did not 
understand that my sister was so seriously ill. You 
think that I have a bad heart, but I cannot imagine 
where you have learned it. You never knew me 
before yesterday, and we are not, as yet, intimate 
enough for you to scold me as you do. You behave 
exactly as if you were the head of the family, and 
yet—" 

"Come, out with it, beautiful Mariette, say what 
you have on the tip of your tongue. And yet I was 
taken in and brought up out of charity, is not it so? 
And I cannot belong to the family, because j have 
no family; I have no right to it, as Tam a foundling! 
Is that all you wanted to say?" 

As Franfois gave Mariette this straightforward 
answer, he looked at her in a way that made her 
blush up to the roots of her hair, for she saw that his 
expression was that of a stern and serious person, 
although he appeared so serene and gentle that it 
was impossible to irritate him, or to make him think 
or say anything unjust. 

The poor child, who was ordinarily so ready with 
her tongue, was overawed for a moment, but al- 
though she was a little frightened, she still felt a 
190 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

desire to please this handsome fellow, who spoke so 
decidedly and looked her so frankly in the eyes. 
She was so confused and embarrassed, that it was 
with difficulty she restrained her tears, and she 
turned her face quickly the other way, to hide her 
emotion. 

He observed it, however, and said very kindly: 

*M am not angry, Mariette, and you have no 
cause to be,, on your part. I think no ill of you; I 
see only that you are young, that there is misfortune 
in the house, and that you are thoughtless. I must 
tell you what 1 think about it." 

"What do you think about it?" asked she; "tell 
me at once, that I may know whether you are my 
friend or my enemy."" 

"I think that you are not fond of the care and 
pains people take for those whom they love, who 
are in trouble. You like to have your time to your- 
self, to turn everything into sport, to think about 
your dress, your lovers, and your marriage by and 
by, and you do not mind having others do your 
share. If you have any heart, my pretty child, if 
you really love your sister-in-law, and your dear 
little nephew, and even the poor, faithful servant 
who is capable of dying in harness like a good horse, 
191 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

you must wake up a little earlier in the morning, 
you must care for Madeleine, comfort Jeannie, relieve 
Catherine, and, above all, shut your ears to the 
enemy of the family, Madame Severe, who is, 1 
assure you, a very bad woman. Now you know 
what I think, neither more nor less." 

'M am glad to hear it," said Mariette, rather dryly; 
"and now please tell me by what right you wish to 
make me think as you do." 

''Oh! This is the way you take it, is it?" an- 
swered Franfois. "My right is the waifs right, and 
to tell you the whole truth, the right of the child 
who was taken in and brought up by Madame 
Blanchet; for this, it is my duty to love her as my 
jnother, and my right to try to requite her for her 
kindness." 

"I have no fault to find," returned Mariette, 
"and I see that I cannot do better than give you 
my respect at once, and my friendship as time goes 
on." 

" I like that," said Fran5;ois; " shake hands with 
me on it." 

He strode toward her, holding out his great hand, 
without the slightest awkwardness; but the little 
Mariette was suddenly stung by the fly of coquetry, 
193 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

and, withdrawing her hand, she announced that it 
was not proper to shake hands so familiarly with a 
young man. 

Franfois laughed and left her, seeing plainly that 
she was not frank, and that her first object was to 
entangle him in a flirtation. 

''Now, my pretty girl," thought he, "you are 
much mistaken in me, and we shall not be friends 
in the way you mean." 

He went up to Madeleine, who had just waked, 
and who said to him, taking both his hands in hers: 

" I have slept well, my son, and God is gracious 
to let me see your face first of all, on waking. How 
is it that Jeannie is not with you?" 

Then, after hearing his explanation, she spoke 
some kind words to Mariette, telling the young girl 
how sorry she was to have her sit up all night, and 
assuring her that she needed no such great care. 
Mariette expected Franpois to say that she had risen 
very late; but Francois said nothing and left her 
alone with Madeleine, who had no more fever and 
wanted to try to get up. 

After three days, she was so much better that she 
was able to talk over business affairs with Francois. 

" You may put yourself at ease, my dear mother," 
^3 193 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

said he. "I sharpened my wits when I was away 
from here, and I understand business pretty well. 1 
mean to see you through these straits, and 1 shall 
succeed. Let me have my way; please do not con- 
tradict anything I say, and sign all the papers I shall 
bring you. Now, that my mind is at ease on the 
score of your health, I am going to town to consult 
some lawyers. It is market-day, and I shall find 
some people there whom I want to see, and I do not 
think my time will be wasted." 

He did as he said; and after receiving instructions 
and advice from the lawyers, he saw clearly that the 
last promissory notes which Blanchet had given 
Severe would be a good subject for a lawsuit ; for 
he had signed them when he was beside himself 
with drink, fever, and infatuation. Severe believed 
that Madeleine would not dare to go to law, on ac- 
count of the expense. Francois was unwilling to 
advise Madame Blanchet to embark in a lawsuit, 
but he thought there was a reasonable chance of 
bringing the matter to an amicable close, if he began 
by putting a bold face on it ; and as he needed 
somebody to carry a message into the enemy's 
camp, he bethought himself of a plan which suc- 
ceeded perfectly. 

194 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

For several days he had watched little Mariette, 
and assured himself that she took a daily walk in 
the direction of Dolling, where Severe lived, and that 
she was on more friendly terms with this woman 
than he could wish, chiefly because she met at her 
house all her young acquaintances, and some men 
from town who made love to her. She did not 
listen to them, for she was still an innocent girl, and 
had no idea that the wolf was so near the sheep- 
fold, but she loved flattery, and was as thirsty for 
it as a fly for milk. She kept her walks secret from 
Madeleine ; and as Madeleine never gossiped with 
the other women, and had not as yet left her sick- 
room, she guessed nothing, and suspected no evil. 
Big Catherine was the last person in the world to 
notice anything, so that the little girl cocked her cap 
over her ear, and, under the pretext of driving the 
sheep to pasture, she soon left them in charge of 
some little shepherd-boy, and was off to play the 
fine lady in poor company. 

Franfois, however, who was going continually 
to and fro on the affairs of the mill, took note of 
what the girl was doing. He never mentioned it 
at home, but turned it to account, as you shall 
hear. 

>95 



CHAPTER XXI 

HE planted himself directly in her way at the 
river-crossing ; and just as she stepped on 
the foot-bridge which leads to Dollins, she beheld 
the waif, astride of the plank, a leg dangling on each 
side above the water, and on his face the expression 
of a man who has all the time in the world to 
spare. She blushed as red as a cherry, and if she 
had not been taken so by surprise, she would have 
swerved aside, and pretended to be passing by 
accident. 

But the approach to the bridge was obstructed 
by branches, and she did not see the wolf till she 
felt his teeth. His iace was turned toward her, so 
she had no means of advancing or retreating, with- 
out being observed. 

"Master Miller," she began, saucily, "can't you 
move a hairbreadth to let anybody pass? " 

"No, my young lady," replied Francois, "for I 
196 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

am the guardian of this bridge till evening, and I 
claim the right to collect toll of everybody." 

"Are you mad, Franfois? Nobody pays toll in 
our country, and you have no right on any bridge, 
or foot-bridge, or whatever you may call it in your 
country of Aigurande. You may say what you like, 
but take yourself off from here, as quickly as you 
can; this is not the place for jesting; you will make 
me tumble into the water." 

" Then," said Francois, without moving, and fold- 
ing his arms in front of him, "you think that 1 want 
to laugh and joke with you, and that my right of 
toll is that of paying you my court ? Pray get rid 
of that idea, my young lady; I wish to speak sensi- 
bly to you, and 1 will allow you to pass if you give 
me permission to accompany you for a short part of 
your way." 

" That would not be at all proper," said Mariette, 
somewhat flustered by her notion of what Franfois 
was thinking. " What would they say of me here- 
abouts, if anybody met me out walking alone with 
a man to whom 1 am not betrothed ? " 

"You are right," said Francois; " as Severe is not 
here to protect you, people would talk of you; that 
is why you are going to her house, so that you may 
13* 197 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

walk about in her garden with all your admirers. 
Very well, so as not to embarrass you, I shall speak 
to you here, and briefly, for my business is pressing, 
and this it is. You are a good girl; you love your 
sister-in-law Madeleine; you see that she is in diffi- 
culties, and you must want to help her out of them." 

"If that is what you want to say," returned 
Mariette, " I shall listen to you, for you are speaking 
the truth." 

" Very well, my dear young lady," said Franfois, 
rising and leaning beside her, against the bank beside 
the little bridge, ''you can do a great service to 
Madame Blanchet. Since it is for her good and in- 
terest, as I fondly believe, that you are so friendly 
with Severe, you must make that woman agree to a 
compromise. Severe is trying to attain two objects 
which are incompatible : she wants to make Master 
Blanchet's estate security for the payment of the land 
he sold for the purpose of paying his debts to her; 
and in the second place, she means to exact payment 
of the notes which he signed in her favor. She may 
go to law, if she likes, and wrangle about this poor 
little estate, but she cannot succeed in getting more 
out of it than there is. Make her understand that if 
she does not insist upon our guaranteeing the pay- 
198 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

ment of the land, we can pay her notes; but if she 
does not allow us to,get rid of one debt, we shall not 
have funds enough to pay the other, and if she makes 
us drain ourselves with expenses which bring her no 
profit, she runs the risk of losing everything." 

*• That is true," said Mariette; " although I under- 
stand very little about business, I think 1 can under- 
stand as much as that. If I am able, by any chance, 
to influence her, which would be better: for my sis- 
ter-in-law to pay the notes, or to be obliged to re- 
deem the security ? " 

** It would be worse for her to pay the notes, for 
it would be more unjust. We could contest the notes 
and go to law about them; but the law requires 
money, and you know that there is none, and never 
will be any, at the mill. So, it is all one to your 
sister, whether her little all goes in a lawsuit or in 
paying Severe; whereas it is better for Severe to be 
paid, without having a lawsuit. 

"As Madeleine is sure to be ruined in either case,she 
prefers to have all her possessions seized at once, than 
to drag on after this under a heavy burden of debt, 
which may last all her lifetime; for the purchasers of 
Cadet Blanchet's land are not able to pay for it. 
Severe knows this well, and will be forced, some fine 
'99 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

day, to take back her land; but this idea is not at all 
distressing to her, as it will be a profitable specula- 
tion for her to receive the land in an improved condi- 
tion, having long drawn a heavy rate of interest from 
it. Thus, Severe risks nothing in setting us free, and 
assures the payment of her notes." 

" I shall do as you say," said Mariette ; " and if I 
fail, you may think as ill of me as you choose." 

" Then, good luck, Mariette, and a pleasant walk 
to you," said Franfois, stepping out of her way. 

Little Mariette started off to Dollins, well pleased 
to have such a fine excuse for going there, for staying 
a long time, and for returning often during the next 
few days. Severe pretended to like what she heard, 
but she really determined to be in no haste. She had 
always hated Madeleine Blanchet, because of the in- 
voluntary respect her husband had felt for her. She 
thought she held her safely in her claws for the whole 
of her lifetime, and preferred to give up the notes, 
which she knew to be of no great value, rather than 
renounce the pleasure of harassing her with the bur- 
den of an endless debt. 

Franfois understood all this perfectly, and was 
anxious to induce her to exact the payment of this 
debt, so that he might have an opportunity to buy 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

back Jeannie's broad fields from those who had pur- 
chased them for a song. When Mariette returned 
with her answer, he saw that they were trying to 
mislead him with words; that, on one hand, the 
young girl was glad to have her errands last for a 
long time to come, and that, on the other hand. 
Severe had not reached the point of being more de- 
sirous for Madeleine's ruin than for the payment of 
her notes. 

To clinch matters, he took Mariette aside, two 
days afterward. 

" My dear young lady," said he, ''you must not 
go to Dollins to-day. Your sister has learned, though 
I do not know how, that you go there more than 
once a day, and she says it is no place for a respect- 
able girl. I have tried to make her understand that 
it is for her interest that you are so friendly with 
Severe; but she blamed me as well as you. She says 
that she would rather be ruined than have you lose 
your reputation, that you are under her guardianship, 
and that she has authority over you. If you do not 
obey of your own free will, you will be prevented 
from going by main force. If you do as she says, 
she will not mention this to you, as she wishes to 
avoid giving you pain, but she is very much dis- 

201 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

pleased with you, and it would be well for you to 
beg her pardon." 

Francois had no sooner unleashed the dog than it 
began to bark and bite. He was correct in his esti- 
mate of little Mariette's temper, which was as hasty 
and inflammable as her brother's had been. 

"Indeed, indeed!" she exclaimed; "do you ex- 
pect me to obey my sister-in-law, as if I were a 
child of three ? You talk as if she were my mother, 
and I owed her submission! What makes her think 
that I may lose my reputation ? Tell her that it is 
quite as well buckled on as her own, and perhaps 
better. Why does she imagine that Severe is not 
so good as other people ? Is it wicked not to spend 
the whole day sewing, spinning, and praying ? My 
sister-in-law is unjust because she has a quarrel with 
her about money, and she thinks she can treat her 
as she pleases. It is very imprudent of her, for if 
Severe wished she could turn her out of the house 
she lives in ; and as Severe is patient, and does not 
make use of her advantage, she is certainly better 
than she is said to be. And this is the way in 
which you thank me, who have been obliging 
enough to take part in these disputes, which are no 
concern of mine ! I can tell you, Fran9ois, that the 

202 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

most respectable people are not always the most 
prudish, and when I go to Severe's I do no more 
mischief than if I stayed at home." 

*' 1 don't know about that," said Franpois, who 
was determined to make all the scum of the vat 
mount to the surface; "perhaps your sister was 
right in thinking that you are in some mischief 
there. Look here, Mariette, I see that you like to 
go there too well. It is not natural. You have de- 
livered your message about Madeleine's affairs, and 
since Severe has sent no answer, it is evident that 
she means to give none. Do not go back there any 
more, or I shall think, with Madeleine, that you go 
with no good intention." 

"Then, Master Francois," cried Mariette, in a 
fury, "you think you are going to dictate to me? 
Do you mean to take my brother's place at home,, 
and make yourself master there? You have not 
enough beard on your chin to give me such a lec- 
ture, and I advise you to leave me alone. Your 
humble servant," she added, adjusting her coif; " if 
my sister-in-law asks where I am, tell her that I am 
at Severe's, and if she sends you after me, you will 
see how you are received." 

She burst the door open" violently, and flew off 
203 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

with a light foot toward Dollins ; but as Francois 
was afraid that her anger would cool on the way, 
especially as the weather was frosty, he allowed her 
a little start. He waited until he thought she had 
nearly reached Severe's house, and then putting his 
long legs in motion he ran like a horse let loose, and 
caught up with her, to make her believe that Made- 
leine had sent him in pursuit of her. 

He was so provoking that she raised her hand 
against him. He dodged her every time, being well 
aware that anger evaporates with blows, and that a 
woman's temper improves when she has relieved 
herself by striking. Then he ran away, and as 
soon as Mariette arrived at Severe's house she made 
a great explosion. The poor child had really no 
bad designs ; but in the first flame of her anger she 
disclosed everything, and put Severe into such a 
towering passion that Fran<pois, who was retreating 
noiselessly through the lane, heard them at the 
other end of the hemp-field, hissing and crackling 
like fire in a barn full of hay. 



204 



CHAPTER XXII 

HIS plan succeeded admirably, and he was so 
sure of it that he went over to Aigurande 
next day, took his money from the priest, and re- 
turned at night, carrying the four little notes of thin 
paper, which were of such great value, and yet 
made no more noise in his pocket than a crumb of 
bread in a cap. After a week's time, Severe made 
herself heard. All the purchasers of Blanchet's 
land were summoned to pay up, and as not one 
was able to do it. Severe threatened to make Made- 
leine pay instead. 

Madeleine was much alarmed when she heard the 
news, for she had received no hint from Francois of 
what was coming. 

" Good !" said he to her, rubbing his hands; " a 

trader cannot always gain, nor a thief always rob. 

Madame Severe is going to make a bad bargain and 

you a good one. All the same, my dear mother, 

205 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

you must behave as if you thought you were ru- 
ined. The sadder you are, the gladder she will be to 
do what she thinks is to your harm. But that harm 
is your salvation, for when you pay Severe you will 
buy back your son's inheritance." 

"What do you expect me to pay her with, my 
child?" 

"With the money I have in my pocket, and 
which belongs to you." 

Madeleine tried to dissuade him; but the waif was 
headstrong, as he said himself, and no one could 
loose what he had bound. He hastened to deposit 
two hundred pistoles with the notary, in the widow 
Blanchet's name, and Severe was paid in full, will- 
ingly or unwillingly, arid also all the other creditors 
of the estate, who had made common cause with* 
her. 

Moreover, after Francois had indemnified all the 
poor purchasers of the land for their losses, he had 
still enough money with which to go to law, and 
he let Severe know that he was about to embark in 
a lawsuit on the subject of the promissory notes 
which she had wrongfully and fraudulently extracted 
from the miller. He set afloat a report which spread 
far and wide through the land. He pretended that 
206 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

in fumbling about an old wall of the mill which he 
was trying to prop up, he had found old Mother 
Blanchet's money-box, filled with gold coins of an 
ancient stamp, and that by this means Madeleine 
was richer than she had ever been. Weary of war- 
fare. Severe consented to a compromise, hoping also 
that Franfois would be lavish of the crowns which 
he had so opportunely discovered, and that she 
-could wheedle from him more than he gave her to 
expect. She got nothing for her pains, however, 
^nd he was so hard with her that she was forced to 
(return the notes in exchange for a hundred crowns. 

To revenge herself, she worked upon little Mari- 
nette, telling her that the money-box of old Mother 
Blanchet, who was the girl's grandmother, should 
have been divided between her and Jeannie, that 
she had a right to her share, and should go to law 
against her sister. 

Then the waif was forced to tell the true source 
-of the money he had provided, and the priest of 
Aigurande sent him the proofs, in case of there 
being a lawsuit. 

He began by showing these proofs to Mariette, 
begging her to make no unnecessary disclosures, 
^nd making it clear to her that she had better keep 
207 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

quiet. But Marietta would not l<eep at all quiet; 
her little brain was excited by the confusion in the 
family, and the devil tempted the poor child. In 
spite of all the kindness she had received from 
Madeleine, who had treated her as a daughter and 
indulged all her whims, she felt a dislike and jeal- 
ousy of her sister-in-law, although her pride pre- 

' vented her from acknowledging it. The truth is 
that in the midst of her tantrums and quarrels with 
Francois, she had inadvertently fallen in love with 
him, and never suspected the trap which the devil 
had set for her. The more Francois upbraided her 
for her faults and vagaries, the more crazy she was 

• to please him. 

"She was not the kind of girl to pine and consume 
away in grief and tears ; but it robbed her of her 
peace to think that Francois was so handsome, rich, 
and upright, so kind to everybody, and so clever and 
brave ; that he was a man to shed his last drop of 
blood for the woman he loved, and yet that none 
of this was for her, although she was the prettiest 
and richest girl in the neighborhood, and counted 
her lovers by the dozen. 

One day she opened her heart to her false friend, 
Severe. It was in the pasture at the end of the road 
208 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

of the water-lilies, underneath an old apple-tree that 
was then in blossom. While all these things were 
happening, the month of May had come, and Severe 
strolled out under the apple-blossoms, to chat with 
Mariette, who was tending her flock beside the river. 

It pleased God that Franjois, who was near by, 
should overhear their conversation. He had seen 
'Severe enter the pasture, and at once suspected her 
of meditating some intrigue against Madeleine; and 
as the river was low, he walked noiselessly along the 
bank, beneath the bushes which are so tall just 
there that a hay-cart could pass under their shade. 
When he came within hearing distance, he sat down 
on the ground, without making a sound, and opened 
his ears very wide. 

The two women plied their tongues busily. In 
the first place, Mariette confessed to not caring for a 
single one of her suitors, for the sake of a young 
miller, who was not at all courteous to her, and the 
thought of whom kept her awake at night. Severe, 
on the other hand, wanted to unite her to a young 
man of her acquaintance, who was so much in love 
with the girl, that he had promised a handsome 
wedding -present to Severe, if she succeeded in 
marrying him to Mariette Blanchet. It appeared 
'4 209 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

also that Severe had exacted a gratuity beforehand 
from him and from several others; so she naturally 
did all in her power to put Mariette out of conceit 
with Francois. 

"A plague take the waif!" she exclaimed. 
" What, Mariette, a girl in your position marry a 
foundling! You would be called Madame Straw- 
berry, for he has no other name. 1 should be 
ashamed for you, my poor darling. Then you have 
no chance; you would be obliged to fight for him 
with your sister-in-law, for he is her lover, as true 
as I live." 

"Severe," cried Mariette, "you have hinted this 
to me more than once; but I cannot believe you; 
my sister-in-law is too old." 

"No, no, Mariette; your sister-in-law is not old 
enough to do without this sort of thing; she is only 
thirty, and when the waif was but a boy, your 
brother discovered that he was too familiar with his 
wife. That is why he gave him a sound thrashing 
with the butt of his whip, and turned him out of 
doors." 

Franf ois felt a lively desire to spring out of the 
bushes and tell Severe that she lied; but he re- 
strained himself, and sat motionless. 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

Severe continued to ring the changes on this sub- 
ject, and told so many shocking lies that Fran(;;ois's 
face burned, and it was with great difficulty that he 
kept his patience. 

"Then," said Mariette, "he probably means to 
marry her now that she is a widow; he has already 
given her a good part of his fortune, and he must 
wish to have a share in the property which he has 
bought back." 

" Somebody else will outbid him," said the other; 
" for now that Madeleine has plundered him, she 
will be on the lookout for a richer suitor, and will 
be sure to find one. She must take a husband to 
manage her property, but while she is trying to find 
him, she keeps this great simpleton with her, who 
serves her for nothing, and amuses her solitude." 

"If she is going along at that pace," said Mari- 
ette, much vexed, "I am in a most disreputable 
house, in which I run too many dangers ! Do you 
consider, my dear Severe, that I am very ill-lodged, 
and that people will talk against me ? Indeed, I can- 
not stay where I am ; I must leave. Oh ! yes, these 
pious women criticize everybody else, because they 
themselves are shameless only in God's sight ! I 
should like to hear her say anything against you 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

and me now ! Very well ! I am going to say good- 
by to her, and I am coming to live with you; if 
she is angry, I shall answer her; if she tries to bring 
me back by force, to live with her, I shall go to law; 
and 1 shall let people know what she is — do you 
hear?" 

" A better remedy for you, Mariette, is to get mar- 
ried as soon as possible. She will not refuse her con- 
sent, because I am sure she is anxious to rid herself 
of you. You stand in the way of her relations with 
the handsome waif. You must not delay, cannot 
you understand, for people will say that he belongs to 
both of you, and then nobody will marry you. Go 
and get married, then, and take the man I advise." 

"Agreed," said Mariette, breaking her shepherd's 
crook violently, against the old apple-tree. * ' I give 
you my word. Go and tell him. Severe; let him 
come to my house this evening, to ask for my hand, 
and let our banns be published next Sunday." 



212 



CHAPTER XXIII 

FRANCOIS was never sadder than when he 
emerged from the river-bank where he had hid- 
den himself to listen to the women's talk. His heart 
was as heavy as lead, and when he had gone half- 
way home he lost courage to return, and, stepping 
aside into the path of the water-lilies, he sat down 
in the little grove of oaks, at the end of the meadow. 

Once there, by himself, he wept like a child, and 
his heart was bursting with sorrow and shame; for 
he was ashamed to hear of what he was accused, 
and to think that his poor dear friend Madeleine, 
whom, through all his life, he had loved so purely 
and constantly, reaped nothing but insult and slan- 
der from his devotion and fidelity. 

" Oh ! my God, my God ! " said he to himself, 
** how can it be that tlie world Ts so wTclce3 and that 

;■ J 

a woman like Severe can have tHelnsolence to mea- 
sure the honor of a woman like my dear mother, by 
14* 213 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

her own standard? And that little Mariette, who 
should naturally be inclined to innocence and truth, 
a child as she is, who does not as yet know the 
meaning of evil, even she listens to this infernal 
calumny, and believes in it, as if she knew how it 
stung ! Since this is so, others will believe it too ; 
as the larger part of people living mortal life are, old 
in evil, almost everybody will think that because,. I 
love Madame Blanchet, and she loves m.e, there must 
be something dishonorable in it." 

Then poor Francois undertook a careful examina- 
tion of his conscience, and searched his memory to 
see whether, by any fault of his, he were responsible 
for Severe's wicked gossip; whether he had behaved 
wisely in all respects, or whether, by a lack of pru- 
dence and discretion, he had involuntarily given rise 
to evil thinking. But it was in vain that he reflected, 
for he could not believe that he had appeared guilty 
of what had never even crossed his mind. 

Still absorbed in thought and reverie, he went on 
saying to himself: 

"Suppose that my liking had turned to loving, 

what harm would it be in God's sight, now that she 

is a widow and her own mistress? I have given a 

good part of my fortune to her and Jeannie, but I 

214 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

still have a considerable share left, and she would not 
wrong her child if she married me. It would not be 
self-seeking on my part to desire this, and_nobody 
could make her believe that my love for her is self- 
iritergstfi4i I am a foundling, but she does not care 
for that. She has loved me with a mother's love, 
which is the strongest of all affections, and now she 
might love me in another way. I see that her enemies 
will force me to leave her if I do not marry her, and 
I should rather die than leave her a second time. Be- 
sides, she needs my help, and I should be a coward to 
leave her affairs in such disorder when I have strength 
as well as money with which to serve her. Yes, all 
I have should belong to her, and as she often talks to 
me about paying me back in the end, I must put that 
idea out of her head, by sharing all things in com- 
mon with her, in accordance with the permission of 
God and the law. She must keep her good name for 
her son's sake, and she can save it only by marrying 
me. How is it that I never thought of this before, 
and that I needed to hear it suggested by a serpent's 
tongue ? I was too simple-minded and unsuspect- 
ing; and my poor mother is too charitable to others 
to take to heart the injuries which are done her. 
Everything tends toward good, by the will of 
215 



FRANQOIS THE WAIF 

Heaven; and Madame Severe, who was plotting 
mischief, has done me the service of teaching me 
my duty. " 

Without indulging any longer in meditation or 
wonder, Francois set off on his way home, deter- 
mined to speak of his plan to Madame Blanchet 
without loss of time, and on his knees to entreat her 
to accept him as her protector, in the name of God, 
and for eternal life. 

When he reached Cormouer, he saw Madeleine 
spinning on her doorstep, and for the first time in his 
life her face had the effect of making him timid and 
confused. He was in the habit of walking straight 
up to her, looking her full in the face to ask her 
how she did; but this time he paused on the little 
bridge as if he were examining the mill-dam, and 
only looked at her out of the corners of his eyes. 

When she turned toward him, he moved farther 
away, not understanding himself what his trouble 
was, or why a matter which, a few minutes ago, had 
seemed to him so natural and opportune, should sud- 
denly become so awkward to confess. 

Madeleine called him. 

" Come here to me," said she, "for I have some- 
thing to say to you, dear Francois. We are alone, 
216 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

so come and sit down beside me, and open your 
heart to me, as if I were your father-confessor, for I 
want to hear the truth from you. " 

Franfois was reassured by Madeleine's words, and 
he sat down beside her. 

" I promise, my dear mother," said he, " to open 
my heart to you as I do to God, and to give you a 
true confession." 

He fancied that something had come to her ears 
which had brought her to the same conclusion as 
himself ; he was delighted, and waited to hear what 
she had to say. 

"Francois," she went on, "you are in your 
twenty-first year, and it is time for you to think 
of marrying; you are not opposed to it, I hope?" 

"No, 1 am not opposed to anything you wish," 
answered Francois, blushing with pleasure; "go on, 
my dear Madeleine." 

" Good!" said she. " I expected this, and I have 
guessed the right thing. Since you wish it, I wish 
it too, and perhaps I thought of it before you did. 
1 was waiting to see whether the person in question 
cared for you, and 1 think that if she does not as 
yet, she will, very soon. Don't you think so, too, 
and shall I tell you where you stand? Why do 

317 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

you look at me with such a puzzled expression ? 
Don't I speak clearly enough ? I see that you are 
shy about it, and I must help you out. Well, the 
poor child pouted all the morning because you 
teased her a little yesterday, and I dare say she 
thinks you do not love her. But I know that you 
do love her, and if you scold her sometimes for her 
little caprices it is because you are a trifle jealous. 
You must not hold back for that, Francois. She is 
young and pretty; but though there is some danger 
in this, if she truly loves you she will willingly sub- 
mit herself to you." 

"I should like," said Francois, much disappointed, 
^'to know whom you are talking of, my dear 
mother, for I am wholly at a loss." 

"Really!" said Madeleine; "don't you know 
what I mean? Am I dreaming, or are you trying 
to keep a secret from me ? " 

" A secret from you! " said Franpois, taking Made- 
leine's hand. He soon dropped it, and took up in- 
stead the corner of her apron, which he crumpled as 
if he were provoked, then lifted toward his lips as 
if about to kiss it, and finally let go just as he had 
done with her hand. He was first inclined to cry; 
then he felt angry, and then giddy, all in succession. 
2i8 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

Madeleine was amazed. 

" You are in trouble, my child," she cried, " and 
this means that you are in love — that all does not 
go as you wish. I can assure you that Mariette has 
a good heart; she, too, is distressed, and if you 
speak openly with her she will tell you, in return, 
that she thinks of no one but you." 

Francois sprang up, and walked up and down 
the courtyard for some time in silence ; then he 
returned to Madeleine's side. 

" I am very much surprised to hear what you 
have in your mind, Madame Blanchet; this never 
once occurred to me, and I am well aware that 
Mariette has no liking for me, and that I am not to 
her taste." 

"Oh, come! "said Madeleine; ''you are speaking 
petulantly, my child! Don't you think I noticed 
how often you talked with her? Though I could 
not catch the meaning of what you said, it was 
evident that she understood very well, for her face 
glowed like a burning coal. Do you think 1 do not 
know that she runs away from the pasture every 
day, 'eaving her flock in charge of the first person 
she meets? Her sheep flourish at the expense of 
our wheat; but I do not want to cross her, or talk 
219 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

to her of sheep, when her head is full of nothing 
but love and marriage. The poor child is just of 
an age to guard her sheep ill, and her heart still 
worse. But it is great good luck for her, Francois, 
that instead of falling in love with one of those bad 
fellows whom 1 was so much afraid of her meeting 
at Severe's, she had the good sense to think of you. 
It makes me, too, very happy to think that, when 
you are married to my sister-in-law, who is almost 
the same as a daughter to me, you will live with 
me and make part of my family, and that 1 may 
harbor you in my house, work with you, bring up 
your children, and thus repay your kindness to me. 
So, do not let your childish notions interfere with 
all the joys 1 have planned. Try to see clearly, 
and forget your jealousy. If Mariette is fond of 
dress, it is because she is anxious to please you. If 
she has been rather idle lately, it is only because 
she is thinking too much of you; and if she answers 
me sometimes rather sharply, she does so because 
she is vexed with your reprimands, and does not 
know whom to blame for them. The proof that 
she is good and desirous of mending her ways, is 
that she has recognized your goodness and wisdom, 
and wants you for her husband." 

220 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

" You are good, my dear mother," said Francois, 
quite crestfallen. "Yes, it is you_wllQ_.are_goodj 
fo r youj believe in the goodness of others and de- 
ceive yourself. I can tell you that, if Mariette is 
good, too, and I will not say she is not, lest I should 
injure her in your opinion, it is in a way very dif- 
ferent from yours, and, consequently, very displeasing 
to me. Do not say anything more to me about her. 
I swear to you on my word and honor, on my heart 
and soul, that I am no more in love with her than 
I am with old Catherine, and if she has any regard 
for me, it is her own misfortune, becauseJ_caiinot 
return it. Do not try to make her say she loves me; 
your tact would be at fault, and you would make 
her my enemy. It is quite the contrary; hear what 
she will say to you to-night, and let her marry Jean 
Aubard, whom she has made up her mind to accept. 
'Let her marry as soon as possible, for she is out of 
place in your house. She is not happy there, and 
will not be a source of comfort to you." 

"Jean Aubard ! " exclaimed Madeleine; " he is not 
a proper person for her; he is a fool, and she is too 
clever to submit herself to a stupid man." 

" He is rich, and she will not submit to him. She 
will manage him, and he is Just the man for her. 

221 ~ 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

Will you not trust in your friend, my dear mother? 
You know that, up to this time, I have never given 
you any bad advice. Let the young girl go ; she 
does not love you as she ought, and she does not 
know your worth." 

"You say this because your feelings are hurt, 
Francois, " said Madeleine, laying her hand on his 
head and moving it gently up and down, as if she 
were trying to shake the truth out of it. Francois 
was exasperated that she would not believe him, 
and it was the first time in his life that there had 
been any dispute between them. He withdrew, say- 
ing in a dissatisfied tone of voice : 

"Madame Blanchet, you are not just to me. I 
tell you that girl does not love you. You force me 
to say this, against my will; for I did not come here 
to bring distrust and strife. So, if I tell it to you, 
you may know that I am sure of it; and do you 
think I can love her after that ? You cannot love me 
any more, if you will not belieye,rne." 
r-— Wild with grief, Francois rushed off to weep all 
alone by the fountain. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

MADELEINE was still more perplexed than Fran- 
f ois, and was on the point of following him 
with questions and words of encouragement; but 
she was held back by the sudden appearance of 
Mariette, who, with a strange expression on her face, 
announced the offer of marriage she had received 
from Jean Aubard. Madeleine, who was unable to 
disabuse herself of the idea that the whole affair was 
the result of a lovers' quarrel, attempted to speak to 
the girl of Francois ; but Mariette answered in a tone 
which gave her great pain, and was utterly incom- 
prehensible to her: 

*' Those people who care for foundlings may keep 
them for their own amusement; I am an honest girl," 
and shall not allow my good name to suffer because 
my poor brother is dead, I am perfectly indepen- 
dent, Madeleine; and if I am forced by law to ask 
your advice, 1 am not forced to take it when it is not 
223 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

for my good. So please do not stand in my way, or 
1 may stand in yours hereafter." 

" I cannot imagine what is the matter with you, 
my dear child," said Madeleine, very sweetly and 
sadly. " You speak to me as if you had neither re- 
spect nor affection for me. I think you must be in 
some distress which has confused your mind; so I 
entreat you to take three or four days, in which to 
decide. 1 shall tell Jean Aubard to come back, and 
if you are of the same opinion after a little quiet re- 
flection, 1 shall give you free leave to marry him, as 
he is a respectable man, and comfortably off. But 
you are in such an excited condition, just now, that 
you cannot know your own mind, and you shut 
your heart against my affection. You grieve me very 
much, but as 1 see that you are grieved too, I for- 
give you." 

Mariette tossed her head, to show how much she 
despised that sort of forgiveness, and ran away to 
put on her silk apron and prepare for the reception of 
Jean Aubard, who arrived, an hour later, with big 
Severe in gala dress. 

This time, at last, Madeleine was convinced of 
Mariette's ill-will toward her, since the girl had 
brought into her house, on a family matter, a woman 
224 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

who was her enemy, and whom she blushed to see. 
Notwithstanding this, she advanced very politely to 
meet Severe, and served her with refreshments, with- 
out any appeal ance of anger or dislike; for she feared 
that if Mariette were opposed, she would prove un- 
manageable. So Madeleine said that she made no 
objection to her sister-in-law's desire, but requested 
three days' grace before giving her answer. 

Thereupon Severe said, insolently, that was a very 
long time to wait. Madeleine answered quietly that 
it was a very short time. 

Jean Aubard then left, looking like a blockhead, 
and giggling like a booby, for he was sure that Mar- 
iette was madly in love with him. He had paid well 
for this illusion, and Severe gave him his money's 
worth. 

As Severe left the house, she said to Mariette that 
she had ordered a cake and some sweets at home for 
the betrothal, and even if Madame Blanchet delayed 
the preliminaries, they must sit down to the feast. 
Madeleine objected that it was not proper for a young 
girl to go off in the company of a man who had not 
as yet received his answer from her family. 

"If that is so, I shall not go," said Mariette. in a 
huff. 

«5 235 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

"Oh, yes, yes; you must come," Severe insisted; 
" are not you your own mistress ? " 

" No, indeed," returned Mariette; "you see my sis- 
ter-in-law forbids me to go." 

She went into her room and slammed the door; 
but she merely passed through the house, went out 
by the back door, and caught up with Severe and 
her suitor at the end of the meadow, laughing and 
jeering at Madeleine's expense. 

Poor Madeleine could not restrain her tears when 
she saw how things were going. 

" Francois was right," thought she; " the girl does 
not love me, and she is ungrateful at heart. She 
will not believe that I am acting for her good, that I 
am most anxious for her happiness, and wish only to 
prevent her doing something which she will regret 
hereafter. She has taken evil counsel, and I am con- 
demned to see that wretched Severe stirring up trou- 
ble and strife in my family. I have not deserved all 
these troubles, and 1 must submit to God's will. 
Fortunately, poor Franfois was more clear-sighted 
than I. How much he would suffer with such a 
wife ! " 

She went to look for him, to let him know what 
she thought; but when she found him in tears be- 
226 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

side the fountain, she supposed he was grieving for 
the loss of Mariette, and attempted to comfort him. 
The more she said the more pained he was, for it be- 
came clear to him that shejefused to understand the 
truth, and that her heart could never feel for him in 
the way he had hoped. 

In the evening, when Jeannie was in bed and 
asleep_, Francois sat with Madeleine, and sought to 
explain himself. 

He began by saying that Mariette was jealous of 
her, and that Severe had slandered her infamously; 
but Madeleine never dreamed of his meaning. 

"What can she say against me?" said she, sim- 
ply; " and what jealousy can she put into poor silly 
little Mariette's head? You are mistaken, Franfois; 
something else is at stake, some interested reason 
which we shall hear later. It is not possible that 
she should be jealous; I am too old to give any 
anxiety to a young and pretty girl. I am almost 
thirty, and for a peasant woman who has under- 
gone a great deal of trouble and fatigue, that is old 
enough to be your mother. The devil only could 

say that I think of ynyi in— any w^y bn^ pi my «^o n, 

and Mariette must know I longed to have you both 
marry. No, no; never believe that she has any 

227 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

such evil thought, or, at least, do not mention it to 
me, for I should be too much pained and mortified." 

"And yet," said Francois, making a great effort 

to speak, and bending low over the fire to hide his 

confusion from Madeleine, " Monsieur Blanchet had 

lS51?~iyj£!l_£XiiJi9-^— when he turned me out of 

J^oors!" 

"What! "Do you know that now, Francois?" 
exclaimed Madeleine. " How is it that you know 
it ? I never told you, and I never should have told 
you. If Catherine spoke of it to you, she did 
wrong. Such an idea must shock and pain you as 
much as it does me, but we must try not to think 
of it any more and to forgive my husband, now 
that he is dead. All the obloquy of it falls upon 
Severe; but now Severe can be no longer jealous of 
me. I have no husband, and I am as old and ugly 
as she could ever have wished, though I am not in 
the least sorry for it, for I have gained the right of 
being respected, of treating you as a son, and of 
finding you a pretty young wife, who will live hap- 
pily with me and love me as a mother. This is my 
only wish, Franfois, and you must not distress 
yourself, for we shall find her. So much the worse 
for Marietta if she despises the happiness I had in 
228 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

store for her. Now, go to bed, my child, and take 
courage. If I thought I were any obstacle to your 
marrying, I should send you away at once; but you 
may be sure that nobody worries about me, or 
imagines what is absolutely impossible." 

As Francois listened to Madeleine, he was con- 
vinced that she was right, so accustomed was he 
to believe all that she said. He rose to bid her 
good night, but, as he took her hand, it happened 
that, for the first time in his life, he looked at her 
with the intention of finding out whether she were 
old and ugly; and the truth is, she had long been 
so sad and serious that she deceived herself, and 
was still as pretty a woman as she had ever been. 

So when Francois saw all at once that she was 
still young and as beautiful as the blessed Virgin, 
his heart gave a great bound, as if he had climbed 
to the pinnacle of a tower. He went back for the 
night to the mill, where his bed was neatly spread 
in a square of boards among the sacks of flour. 
Once there, and by himself, he shivered and gasped 
as if he had a fever; but it was only the fever of 
love, for he who had all his life warmed himself 
comfortably in front of the ashes, had suddenly 
been scorched by a gregt.ljurst of flame. 



CHAPTER XXV 

FROM that time on, the waif was so melancholy 
that it made one's heart ache to see him. He 
worked like a horse, but he found no more joy or 
peace, and Madeleine could not induce him to say 
what was the matter with him. It was in vain he 
swore that he neither loved nor regretted Mariette, 
for Madeleine would not believe him, and could assign 
no other cause for his depression. She was grieved 
that he should be in distress and yet no longer con- 
fide in her, and she was amazed that his trouble 
should make him so proud and self-willed. 

As it was not in her nature to be tormenting, she 
made up her mind to say nothing further to him on 
the subject. She attempted to make Mariette reverse 
her decision, but her overtures were so ill-received 
that she lost courage, and was silent. Though her 
heart was full of anguish, she kept it to herself, lest 
she should add to the burden of others. 
2^0 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

Franfois worked for her, and served her with the 
same zeal and devotion as before. As in the old 
time, he stayed as much as possible in her company, 
but he no longer spoke as he used. He was always 
embarrassed' wjflT'fi^ turned first red as fire, 
and then white as a sheet in the same minute. She 
was afraid he was ill, and once took his hand to see 
if he were feverish ; but he drew back from her as if 
her touch hurt him, and sometimes he reproached 
her in words which she could not understand. 

The trouble between them grew from day to day. 
During all this time, great preparations were being 
made for Mariette's marriage to Jean Aubard, and the 
day which was to end her mourning was fixed as 
that of the wedding. 

Madeleine looked forward to that day with dread; 
she feared that Francois would go crazy, and was 
anxious to send him to spend a little time at Aigu- 
rande, with his old master Jean Vertaud, so as to dis- 
tract his mind. Francois, however, was unwilling 
to let Mariette believe what Madeleine insisted upon 
thinking. He showed no vexation before her, was 
on friendly relations with her lover, and jested with 
Severe, when he met her along the road, to let her 
see that he had nothing to fear from her. He was 
231 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

present at the wedding; and as he was really de- 
lighted to have the house rid of the girl, and Made- 
leine freed from her false friendship, it never crossed 
anybody's mind that he had been in love with her. 
The truth began to dawn even on Madeleine, or at 
least she was inclined to believe that he had consoled 
himself. She received Mariette's farewell with her 
accustomed warmth of heart ; but as the young girl 
still cherished a grudge against her on account of the 
waif, Madeleine could not help seeing that her sister- 
in-law left her without love or regret. Inured as she 
was to sorrow, Madeleine wept over the girl's hard- 
ness of heart, and prayed God to forgive her. 

After a week had passed, Franfois unexpectedly 
told her that he had some business at Aigurande 
that would call him there for the space of five or 
six days. She was not surprised, and hoped it would 
be for the good of his health, for she believed that he 
had stifled his grief, and was ill in consequence. 

But thatjgjjef, which she thought he had over- 
come, increased_>yith him day by day. He could 
think of nothing else, and whether asleep or awake, 
far or near, Madeleine was always in his heart and 
before his eyes. It is true that all his life had been 
spent in loving her and thinking of her, but until 
232 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

lately these thoug hts of her had been his happiness 
and consolation, whereas they were now his despair 
and hisjandoing. As long as he was content to be her 
son and friend, he wished for no better lot on earth ; 
but now his love had change4 its character, and he 
waS^exquisitd^unhappy. He fancied that she could 
never change as he had done. He kept repeating to 
himself that he was too young, that she had known 
him as a forlorn and wretched child, that he could be 
only an object of care and compassion to her, and 
never of pride. In short, he believed her to be so 
lovely and so attractive, so far above him, and so 
much to be desired, that when she said she was no 
longer young and pretty, he thought she was adopt- 
ing a role to scare away her suitors. 

In the mean time, Severe, Mariette, and their clan 
were slandering her openly on his account, and he 
was in terror lest some of the scandal should come 
to her ears, and she should be displeased and long 
for his departure. He knew she was too kind to ask 
him to go, but he dreaded being again a cause of 
annoyance to her, as he had been once before, and 
it occurred to him to go to ask the advice of the 
priest of Aigurande, whom he had found to be a 
just and God-fearing man. 
233 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

He went, but with no success, as the priest was 
absent on a visit to his bishop ; so Franf ois returned 
to the mill of Jean Vertaud, who had invited him 
for a few days' visit, while waiting for the priest's 
return. 

He found his kind master as true a man and as 
faithful a friend as he had left him, and his good 
daughter Jeannette on the brink of marriage with a 
very respectable man whom she had accepted from 
motives of prudence rather than of enthusiasm, but 
for whom she fortunately felt more liking than dis- 
taste. This put Francois more at his ease with her 
than he had ever been, and the next day being Sun- 
day, he had a long talk with her, and confided in 
her Madame Blanchet's many difficulties, and his 
satisfaction in rescuing her from them. 

Jeannette was quick-witted, and from one thing 
and another she guessed that the waif was more 
agitated by his attachment to Madeleine than he 
would confess. She laid her hand on his arm, and 
said to him abruptly: 

" Francois, you must Hide nothing from me. I 

have come to my senses now, and you see that I 

am not ashamed to tell you that I once thought 

more of you than you did of me. You knew my 

234 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

feelings, and you could not return them, but you 
would not deceive me, and no selfish interest led 
you to do what many others would have done in 
your place. I respect you both for your behavior 
toward me and for your constancy to the woman 
you loved b est in the world ; and instead of disown- 
ing my regard for you, I am glad to remember it. I 
expect you to think the better of me for acknow- 
ledging it, and to do me the justice to observe that 
I bear no grudge or malice toward you for your 
coolness. I mean to give you the greatest possible 
token of my esteem. You love Madeleine Blanchet, 
not indeed as a mother, but as a young and attrac- 
tive woman, whom you wish for your wife." 

" Oh ! " said Francois, blushing like a girl, "I 
love her as a mother, and my heart is full of respect 
for her." 

** I have no doubt of it," answered Jeannette; 
"but you loye_her in Uvo ways, for your face says 
one thing and your words another. Very well, 
Francois; you dare not tell her what you dare not 
even confess to me, and you do not know whether 
she can answer your two ways of loving." 

Jeannette Vertaud spoke with so much sense and 
sweetness, and showed Francois such true friend- 
235 



FRANCOIS THE WAIF 

ship, that he had not the courage to deceive her, 
and pressing her hand, he told her that she was like 
a sister to him, and the only person in the world to 
whom he had the heart to disclose his secret. 

Jeannette asked him several questions, which he 
answered tiuly and openly. 

" Franfois, my friend," said she. " I understand it 
all. It is impossible for me to know what Made- 
leine Blanchet will think about it; but I see that 
you might be for years in her company without 
having the boldness to tell her what you have on 
your mind. No matter. I shall find out for you, and 
shall let you know. My father and you and I shall 
set out to-morrow for a friendly visit to Cormouer, 
as if we went to make the acquaintance of the kind 
woman who brought up our friend Francois; you 
must take my father to walk about the place, under 
pretext of asking his advice, and I shall spend the 
time talking with Madeleine. I shall use a great 
deal of tact, and shall not tell what your feelings 
are until I am certain of hers." 

Francois was so grateful to Jeannette that he was 

ready to fall on his knees before her; and Jean Ver- 

tiud, who, with the waifs permission, was in- 

fDrmed of the situation, gave his consent to the 

536 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

plan. Next day they set out; Jeannette rode on the 
croup behind her father, and Francois started an 
hour earlier than they to prepare Madeleine for the 
visit she was to receive. 

The sun was setting as Francois approached Cor- 
mouer, A storm came up during his ride, and he 
was drenched to the skin ; but he never murmured, 
for he had good hope in Jeannette's friendly offices, 
and his heart was lighter than when he had left 
home. The water was dripping from the bushes, 
and the blackbirds were singing like mad in thank- 
fulness for a last gleam from the sun before it sank 
behind the hill of Grand-Corlay. Great flocks of 
birds fluttered from branch to branch around Fran- 
cois, and their joyous chattering cheered his spirits. 
He thought of the time when he was little, and 
roamed about the meadows, whistling to attract the 
birds, absorbed in his childish dreams and fancies. 
Just then a handsome bullfinch hovered round his 
head, like a harbinger of good luck and good tid- 
ings, and his thoughts wandered back to his Mother 
Zabelle and the quaint songs of the olden time, with 
which she used to sing him to sleep. 

Madeleine did not expect him so soon. She had 
even feared that he would never come back at all, 
aj7 



FRANgOlS THE WAIF 

and when she caught sight of him, she could not help 
running to kiss him, and was surprised to see how 
much it made him blush. He announced the ap- 
proaching visit, and apparently as much afraid of hav- 
ing her guess his feelings as he was grieved to have her 
ignore them, in order to prevent her suspecting any- 
thing, he told her that Jean Vertaud thought of buy- 
ing some land in the neigborhood. 

Then Madeleine bestirred herself to prepare the 
best entertainment she could offer to Francois's 
friends. 

Jeannette was the first to enter the house, while her 
father was putting up their horse in the stable; and 
as s»on as she saw Madeleine, she took a great lik- 
ing for her, a liking which the other woman fully re- 
turned. They began by shaking hands, but they 
soon fell to kissing each other for the sake of their 
common love for Francois, and they spoke together 
freely, as if they had had a long and intimate ac- 
quaintance. The truth is they were both excellent 
women, and made such a pair as is hard to find. 
Jeannette could not help a pang on seeing Made- 
leine, vyhom she knew to be idolized by the man for 
whom she herself still cherished a lingering fondness; 
but she felt no jealousy, and tried to forget her grief in 
238 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

the good action on which she was bent. On the other 
hand, when Madeleine saw the young woman's sweet 
face and graceful figure, she supposed that it was she 
whom Franfois had loved and pined for, that, they 
were now betrothed, and that Jeannette had come to 
bring the news in person; but neither did she feel 
any jealousy, for she had never thought of Franfbis 
save as her own child. 

In the evening, after supper, Father Vertaud, who 
was tired by his ride, went to bed; and Jeannette 
took Madeleine out into the garden with her, after 
first instructing Francois to keep a little aloof with 
Jeannie, but still near enough to see her let down the 
corner of her apron, which she wore tucked up on 
one side, for this was to be the signal for him to join 
them. She then fulfilled her mission conscientiously, 
and so skilfully that Madeleine had no time to ex- 
claim, although beyond measure astonished, as the 
matter was unfolded to her. At first she thought it 
but another proof of Francois's goodness of heart, 
that he wished to put a stop to all evil gossip, and 
to devote his life to her service; and she would have 
refused, thinking it too great a sacrifice on the part 
of so young a man to marry a woman older than 
himself. She feared he would repent later, and could 
239 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

not long keep his faith to her, without vexation and 

regret; but Jeannette gave her to understand that 

["the waif was in love with her, heart and soul, and 

1 that he was losing his health and peace of mind 

Ibecause of her. 

This was inconceivable to Madeleine. She had 
lived such a sober and retired life, never adorning 
her person, never appearing in public, nor listening 
to flattery, that she had no longer any idea of the 
impression she might make upon a man. 

"Then," said Jeannette, " since Jie^ loves you so 
much, and,will-die-if-you..refuse him, will you per- 
sist in closing your eyes and ears to what 1 say to 
you? If you do, it must be because you dislike the 
poor young fellow, and would be sorry to make him 
happy," 

" Do not say that, Jeannette," answered Made- 
leine; "I love him almost, if not quite, as much as 
my Jeannie, and if I had ever suspected that he 
thought of me in another light, it is quite possible 
that my affection for him would have been more 
passionate. But what can you expect? I never 
dreamed of this, and I am still so dazed that I do not 
know how to answer. I ask for time to think of it 
and to talk it over with him, so that 1 may find out 
240 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

whether he does this from a whim or out of mere 
pique, or whether, perhaps, he thinks it is a duty he 
owes me. This I am afraid of most of all, and I 
think he has repaid me fully for the care I took of 
him, and it would be too much for him to give me 
his liberty and himself, at least unless he loves me 
as you think he does." 

When Jeannette heard these words, she let down 
the corner of her apron, and Francois, who was 
waiting near at hand with his eyes fixed upon her, 
was beside them in an instant. The clever Jean- 
nette asked Jeannie to show her the fountain, and 
they strolled off together, leaving Madeleine and 
Francois together. 

But Madeleine, who had expected to put her ques- 
tions to the waif, in perfect calmness, was suddenly 
covered with shyness and confusion, like a young 
girl ; for confusion such as hers, so sweet and pleas- 
ant to see, belongs to no age, but is bred of inno- 
cence of mind and purity of life. When Francois 
saw that his dear mother blushed and trembled as he 
did, he received it as a more favorable token than 
if she had kept her usual serene manner. He took 
her hand and arm, but he could not speak. Tremb- 
ling all the while, she tried to shake herself loose and 
x6 241 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

to follow Jeannie and Jeannette, but he held her fast, 
and made her turn back with him. When Made- 
leine saw his boldness in opposing his will to hers, 
she understood, better than if he had spoken, that it 
was no longer her child, the waif, but her lover, 
Franfois, that walked by her side. 

After they had gone a little distance, silent, but 
linked arm in arm, as vine is interlaced with vine, 
Francois said: 

"Let us go to the fountain; perhaps I may find my 
tongue there." 

They did not find Jeannie and Jeannette beside 
the fountain, for they had gone home; but Francois 
found courage to speak, remem.bering that it was 
there he had seen Madeleine for the first time, and 
there, too, he had bidden her farewell, eleven years 
afterward. We must believe that he spoke very 
fluently, and that Madeleine did not gainsay him, 
for they were still there at midnight. She was cry- 
ing for joy, and he was on his knees before her, 
thanking her for accepting him for her husband. 
********** 

** There ends the story," said the hemp-dresser, 
"for it would take too long to tell you about the 
wedding. I was present, myself, and the same day 
242 



FRANgOIS THE WAIF 

the waif married Madeleine in the parish of Mers, 
Jeannette was married in the parish of Aigurande. 
Jean Vertaud insisted that Francois and his wife, 
and Jeannie, who was happy as a king, with their 
friends, relations, and acquaintances, should come to 
his house for the wedding-feast, which was finer, 
grander, and more delightful than anything I have 
ever seen since." 

"Is the story true in all points?^' asked Sylvinc 
Courtioux. 

"If it is not, it might be," answered the hemp- 
dresser. " If you do not believe me, go and see for 
yourself." ""'^ 



243 



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PQ Sand, George 

24.02 Frangois the waif 

1894 



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