BY HECTOR MALOT
TRANSLATED BY FLORENCE CREWE-JONES
ILLUSTRATED IN COLOR BY JOHN B. GRUELLE
NEW YORK MDCCCCXVI CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
Copyright, 1916, by CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
Printed in U. S. A.
I MY VILLAGE HOME 1
II MY ADOPTED FATHER 10
III SIGNOR VITALIS' COMPANY 21
IV THE MATERNAL HOUSE 35
V EN ROUTE 43
VI MY DEBUT 49
VII CHILD AND ANIMAL LEARNING 61
VIII ONE WHO HAD KNOWN A KING 67
IX ARRESTED 74
X HOMELESS 85
XI ANOTHER BOY'S MOTHER 109
XII THE MASTER'S CONSENT 120
XIII WEARY DREARY DAYS 128
XIV THE DEATH OF PRETTY-HEART 148
XV FAITHFUL FRIENDS 163
XVI THE PADRONE 169
XVII POOR VITALIS 184
XVIII NEW FRIENDS 194
XIX DISASTER 205
XX MATTIA 220
XXI MEETING OLD FRIENDS 236
XXII IMPRISONED IN A MINE 244
XXIII ONCE MORE UPON THE WAY 262
XXIV FRIENDSHIP THAT IS TRUE 270
XXV MOTHER, BROTHERS AND SISTERS 294
XXVI BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT 304
XXVII A DISTRESSING DISCOVERY 312
XXVIII A MYSTERIOUS STRANGER 330
XXIX IN PRISON 335
XXX ESCAPE 345
XXXI HUNTING FOR THE SWAN 353
XXXII FINDING A REAL MOTHER 359
XXXIII THE DREAM COME TRUE 368
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"THE FIRST APPEARANCE OF REMI'S COMPANY" (See Page 230) Frontispiece
"I'LL GIVE YOU THIRTY FRANCS FOR HIM" 33
"FOR EACH CRY YOU WILL RECEIVE ANOTHER SLASH" 181
"LET US NOW PLAY FOR THOSE WE LOVE" 371
"Nobody's Boy," published in France under the title "Sans Famille," has become justly famous as one of the supreme juvenile stories of the world. In the midst of its early popularity, it was crowned by the Academy as one of the masterpieces of French literature. A few years later, it was followed by "En Famille," which is published by us as a companion story under the title "Nobody's Girl."
"Nobody's Boy" is a human document of child experiences that is fascinating reading for young and old. Parents, teachers and others, who are careful to have children read inspiring books, will welcome this beautiful story of Hector Malot, as among the best for them to recommend.
Such digressions in the original, as do not belong to the heart of the story, have been eliminated, so that the lost boy's experiences continue as the undisturbed interest, on through to the happy conclusion.
Loyal friendship and honest conduct are the vital ideals of this story, and the heart interest is eloquent with noble character.
MY VILLAGE HOME
I was a foundling. But until I was eight years of age I thought I had a mother like other children, for when I cried a woman held me tightly in her arms and rocked me gently until my tears stopped falling. I never got into bed without her coming to kiss me, and when the December winds blew the icy snow against the window panes, she would take my feet between her hands and warm them, while she sang to me. Even now I can remember the song she used to sing. If a storm came on while I was out minding our cow, she would run down the lane to meet me, and cover my head and shoulders with her cotton skirt so that I should not get wet.
When I had a quarrel with one of the village boys she made me tell her all about it, and she would talk kindly to me when I was wrong and praise me when I was in the right. By these and many other things, by the way she spoke to me and looked at me, and the gentle way she scolded me, I believed that she was my mother.
My village, or, to be more exact, the village where I was brought up, for I did not have a village of my own, no birthplace, any more than I had a father or mother—the village where I spent my childhood was called Chavanon; it is one of the poorest in France. Only sections of the land could be cultivated, for the great stretch of moors was covered with heather and broom. We lived in a little house down by the brook.
Until I was eight years of age I had never seen a man in our house; yet my adopted mother was not a widow, but her husband, who was a stone-cutter, worked in Paris, and he had not been back to the village since I was of an age to notice what was going on around me. Occasionally he sent news by some companion who returned to the village, for there were many of the peasants who were employed as stone-cutters in the city.
"Mother Barberin," the man would say, "your husband is quite well, and he told me to tell you that he's still working, and to give you this money. Will you count it?"
That was all. Mother Barberin was satisfied, her husband was well and he had work.
Because Barberin was away from home it must not be thought that he was not on good terms with his wife. He stayed in Paris because his work kept him there. When he was old he would come back and live with his wife on the money that he had saved.
One November evening a man stopped at our gate. I was standing on the doorstep breaking sticks. He looked over the top bar of the gate and called to me to know if Mother Barberin lived there. I shouted yes and told him to come in. He pushed open the old gate and came slowly up to the house. I had never seen such a dirty man. He was covered with mud from head to foot. It was easy to see that he had come a distance on bad roads. Upon hearing our voices Mother Barberin ran out.
"I've brought some news from Paris," said the man.
Something in the man's tone alarmed Mother Barberin.
"Oh, dear," she cried, wringing her hands, "something has happened to Jerome!"
"Yes, there is, but don't get scared. He's been hurt, but he ain't dead, but maybe he'll be deformed. I used to share a room with him, and as I was coming back home he asked me to give you the message. I can't stop as I've got several miles to go, and it's getting late."
But Mother Barberin wanted to know more; she begged him to stay to supper. The roads were so bad! and they did say that wolves had been seen on the outskirts of the wood. He could go early in the morning. Wouldn't he stay?
Yes, he would. He sat down by the corner of the fire and while eating his supper told us how the accident had occurred. Barberin had been terribly hurt by a falling scaffold, and as he had had no business to be in that particular spot, the builder had refused to pay an indemnity.
"Poor Barberin," said the man as he dried the legs of his trousers, which were now quite stiff under the coating of mud, "he's got no luck, no luck! Some chaps would get a mint o' money out of an affair like this, but your man won't get nothing!"
"No luck!" he said again in such a sympathetic tone, which showed plainly that he for one would willingly have the life half crushed out of his body if he could get a pension. "As I tell him, he ought to sue that builder."
"A lawsuit," exclaimed Mother Barberin, "that costs a lot of money."
"Yes, but if you win!"
Mother Barberin wanted to start off to Paris, only it was such a terrible affair ... the journey was so long, and cost so much!
The next morning we went into the village and consulted the priest. He advised her not to go without first finding out if she could be of any use. He wrote to the hospital where they had taken Barberin, and a few days later received a reply saying that Barberin's wife was not to go, but that she could send a certain sum of money to her husband, because he was going to sue the builder upon whose works he had met with the accident.
Days and weeks passed, and from time to time letters came asking for more money. The last, more insistent than the previous ones, said that if there was no more money the cow must be sold to procure the sum.
Only those who have lived in the country with the peasants know what distress there is in these three words, "Sell the cow." As long as they have their cow in the shed they know that they will not suffer from hunger. We got butter from ours to put in the soup, and milk to moisten the potatoes. We lived so well from ours that until the time of which I write I had hardly ever tasted meat. But our cow not only gave us nourishment, she was our friend. Some people imagine that a cow is a stupid animal. It is not so, a cow is most intelligent. When we spoke to ours and stroked her and kissed her, she understood us, and with her big round eyes which looked so soft, she knew well enough how to make us know what she wanted and what she did not want. In fact, she loved us and we loved her, and that is all there is to say. However, we had to part with her, for it was only by the sale of the cow that Barberin's husband would be satisfied.
A cattle dealer came to our house, and after thoroughly examining Rousette,—all the time shaking his head and saying that she would not suit him at all, he could never sell her again, she had no milk, she made bad butter,—he ended by saying that he would take her, but only out of kindness because Mother Barberin was an honest good woman.
Poor Rousette, as though she knew what was happening, refused to come out of the barn and began to bellow.
"Go in at the back of her and chase her out," the man said to me, holding out a whip which he had carried hanging round his neck.
"No, that he won't," cried mother. Taking poor Rousette by the loins, she spoke to her softly: "There, my beauty, come ... come along then."
Rousette could not resist her, and then, when she got to the road, the man tied her up behind his cart and his horse trotted off and she had to follow.
We went back to the house, but for a long time we could hear her bellowing. No more milk, no butter! In the morning a piece of bread, at night some potatoes with salt.
Shrove Tuesday happened to be a few days after we had sold the cow. The year before Mother Barberin had made a feast for me with pancakes and apple fritters, and I had eaten so many that she had beamed and laughed with pleasure. But now we had no Rousette to give us milk or butter, so there would be no Shrove Tuesday, I said to myself sadly.
But Mother Barberin had a surprise for me. Although she was not in the habit of borrowing, she had asked for a cup of milk from one of the neighbors, a piece of butter from another, and when I got home about midday she was emptying the flour into a big earthenware bowl.
"Oh," I said, going up to her, "flour?"
"Why, yes," she said, smiling, "it's flour, my little Remi, beautiful flour. See what lovely flakes it makes."
Just because I was so anxious to know what the flour was for I did not dare ask. And besides I did not want her to know that I remembered that it was Shrove Tuesday for fear she might feel unhappy.
"What does one make with flour?" she asked, smiling at me.
"And what else?"
"Why, I don't know."
"Yes, you know, only as you are a good little boy, you don't dare say. You know that to-day is Pancake day, and because you think we haven't any butter and milk you don't dare speak. Isn't that so, eh?
"I didn't mean that Pancake day should be so bad after all for my little Remi. Look in that bin."
I lifted up the lid quickly and saw some milk, butter, eggs, and three apples.
"Give me the eggs," she said; "while I break them, you peel the apples."
While I cut the apples into slices, she broke the eggs into the flour and began to beat the mixture, adding a little milk from time to time. When the paste was well beaten she placed the big earthenware bowl on the warm cinders, for it was not until supper time that we were to have the pancakes and fritters. I must say frankly that it was a very long day, and more than once I lifted up the cloth that she had thrown over the bowl.
"You'll make the paste cold," she cried; "and it won't rise well."
But it was rising well, little bubbles were coming up on the top. And the eggs and milk were beginning to smell good.
"Go and chop some wood," Mother Barberin said; "we need a good clear fire."
At last the candle was lit.
"Put the wood on the fire!"
She did not have to say this twice; I had been waiting impatiently to hear these words. Soon a bright flame leaped up the chimney and the light from the fire lit up all the kitchen. Then Mother Barberin took down the frying pan from its hook and placed it on the fire.
"Give me the butter!"
With the end of her knife she slipped a piece as large as a nut into the pan, where it melted and spluttered. It was a long time since we had smelled that odor. How good that butter smelled! I was listening to it fizzing when I heard footsteps out in our yard.
Whoever could be coming to disturb us at this hour? A neighbor perhaps to ask for some firewood. I couldn't think, for just at that moment Mother Barberin put her big wooden spoon into the bowl and was pouring a spoonful of the paste into the pan, and it was not the moment to let one's thoughts wander. Somebody knocked on the door with a stick, then it was flung open.
"Who's there?" asked Mother Barberin, without turning round.
A man had come in. By the bright flame which lit him up I could see that he carried a big stick in his hand.
"So, you're having a feast here, don't disturb yourselves," he said roughly.
"Oh, Lord!" cried Mother Barberin, putting the frying pan quickly on the floor, "is it you, Jerome."
Then, taking me by the arm she dragged me towards the man who had stopped in the doorway.
"Here's your father."
MY ADOPTED FATHER
Mother Barberin kissed her husband; I was about to do the same when he put out his stick and stopped me.
"What's this?... you told me...."
"Well, yes, but it isn't true ... because...."
"Ah, it isn't true, eh?"
He stepped towards me with his stick raised; instinctively I shrunk back. What had I done? Nothing wrong, surely! I was only going to kiss him. I looked at him timidly, but he had turned from me and was speaking to Mother Barberin.
"So you're keeping Shrove Tuesday," he said. "I'm glad, for I'm famished. What have you got for supper?"
"I was making some pancakes and apple fritters."
"So I see, but you're not going to give pancakes to a man who has covered the miles that I have."
"I haven't anything else. You see we didn't expect you."
"What? nothing else! Nothing for supper!" He glanced round the kitchen.
"There's some butter."
He looked up at the ceiling, at the spot where the bacon used to hang, but for a long time there had been nothing on the hook; only a few ropes of onions and garlic hung from the beam now.
"Here's some onions," he said, knocking a rope down with his big stick; "with four or five onions and a piece of butter we'll have a good soup. Take out the pancakes and fry the onions in the pan!"
"Take the pancakes out of the frying pan!"
Without a word, Mother Barberin hurried to do what her husband asked. He sat down on a chair by the corner of the fireplace. I had not dared to leave the place where his stick had sent me. Leaning against the table, I looked at him.
He was a man about fifty with a hard face and rough ways. His head leaned a little bit towards his right shoulder, on account of the wound he had received, and this deformity gave him a still more forbidding aspect.
Mother Barberin had put the frying pan again on the fire.
"Is it with a little bit of butter like that you're going to try and make a soup?" he asked. Thereupon he seized the plate with the butter and threw it all into the pan. No more butter ... then ... no more pancakes.
At any other moment I should have been greatly upset at this catastrophe, but I was not thinking of the pancakes and fritters now. The thought that was uppermost in my mind was, that this man who seemed so cruel was my father! My father! Absently I said the word over and over again to myself. I had never thought much what a father would be. Vaguely, I had imagined him to be a sort of mother with a big voice, but in looking at this one who had fallen from heaven, I felt greatly worried and frightened. I had wanted to kiss him and he had pushed me away with his stick. Why? My mother had never pushed me away when I went to kiss her; on the contrary, she always took me in her arms and held me tight.
"Instead of standing there as though you're made of wood," he said, "put the plates on the table."
I nearly fell down in my haste to obey. The soup was made. Mother Barberin served it on the plates. Then, leaving the big chimney corner, he came and sat down and commenced to eat, stopping only from time to time to glance at me. I felt so uncomfortable that I could not eat. I looked at him also, but out of the corner of my eye, then I turned my head quickly when I caught his eye.
"Doesn't he eat more than that usually?" he asked suddenly.
"Oh, yes, he's got a good appetite."
"That's a pity. He doesn't seem to want his supper now, though."
Mother Barberin did not seem to want to talk. She went to and fro, waiting on her husband.
"Ain't you hungry?"
"Well then, go to bed and go to sleep at once. If you don't I'll be angry."
My mother gave me a look which told me to obey without answering. But there was no occasion for this warning. I had not thought of saying a word.
As in a great many poor homes, our kitchen was also the bedroom. Near the fireplace were all the things for the meals—the table, the pots and pans, and the sideboard; at the other end was the bedroom. In a corner stood Mother Barberin's big bed, in the opposite corner, in a little alcove, was my bed under a red figured curtain.
I hurriedly undressed and got into bed. But to go to sleep was another thing. I was terribly worried and very unhappy. How could this man be my father? And if he was, why did he treat me so badly?
With my nose flattened against the wall I tried to drive these thoughts away and go to sleep as he had ordered me, but it was impossible. Sleep would not come. I had never felt so wide awake.
After a time, I could not say how long, I heard some one coming over to my bed. The slow step was heavy and dragged, so I knew at once that it was not Mother Barberin. I felt a warm breath on my cheek.
"Are you asleep?" This was said in a harsh whisper.
I took care not to answer, for the terrible words, "I'll be angry" still rang in my ears.
"He's asleep," said Mother Barberin; "the moment he gets into bed he drops off. You can talk without being afraid that he'll hear."
I ought, of course, to have told him that I was not asleep, but I did not dare. I had been ordered to go to sleep, I was not yet asleep, so I was in the wrong.
"Well, what about your lawsuit?" asked Mother Barberin.
"Lost it. The judge said that I was to blame for being under the scaffold." Thereupon he banged his fist on the table and began to swear, without saying anything that meant anything.
"Case lost," he went on after a moment; "money lost, all gone, poverty staring us in the face. And as though that isn't enough, when I get back here, I find a child. Why didn't you do what I told you to do?"
"Because I couldn't."
"You could not take him to a Foundlings' Home?"
"A woman can't give up a little mite like that if she's fed it with her own milk and grown to love it."
"It's not your child."
"Well, I wanted to do what you told me, but just at that very moment he fell ill."
"Yes. Then I couldn't take him to that place. He might have died."
"But when he got better?"
"Well, he didn't get better all at once. After that sickness another came. He coughed so it would have made your heart bleed to hear him, poor little mite. Our little Nicolas died like that. It seemed to me that if I sent him to the Foundlings' Home he'd died also."
"But after?... after?"
"Well, time went on and I thought that as I'd put off going I'd put it off a bit longer."
"How old is he now?"
"Well then, he'll go now to the place where he should have gone sooner, and he won't like it so well now."
"Oh, Jerome, you can't ... you won't do that!"
"Won't I? and who's going to stop me? Do you think we can keep him always?"
There was a moment's silence. I was hardly able to breathe. The lump in my throat nearly choked me. After a time Mother Barberin went on:
"How Paris has changed you! You wouldn't have spoken like that to me before you went away."
"Perhaps not. But if Paris has changed me, it's also pretty near killed me. I can't work now. We've got no money. The cow's sold. When we haven't enough to feed ourselves, have we got to feed a child that don't belong to us?"
"He's no more yours than mine. Besides, he ain't a country boy. He's no poor man's child. He's a delicate morsel, no arms, no legs."
"He's the prettiest boy in the village!"
"I don't say he ain't pretty. But sturdy, no! Do you think you can make a working man out of a chit with shoulders like his? He's a city child and there's no place for city children here."
"I tell you he's a fine boy and as intelligent and cute as a little cat, and he's got a good heart, and he'll work for us...."
"In the meantime we've got to work for him, and I'm no good for much now."
"If his parents claim him, what will you say?"
"His parents! Has he got any parents? They would have found him by now if he had. It was a crazy thing for me to think that his parents would come and claim him some day and pay us for his keep. I was a fool. 'Cause he was wrapped up in fine clothes trimmed with lace, that wasn't to say that his parents were going to hunt for him. Besides, they're dead."
"Perhaps they're not. And one day they may come...."
"If you women ain't obstinate!"
"But if they do come?"
"Well, we've sent him to the Home. But we've said enough. I'll take him to-morrow. I'm going 'round to see Francois now. I'll be back in an hour."
The door was opened and closed again. He had gone. Then I quickly sat up in bed and began to call to Mother Barberin.
She ran over to my bed.
"Are you going to let me go to the Foundlings' Home?"
"No, my little Remi, no."
She kissed me and held me tight in her arms. I felt better after that and my tears dried on my cheeks.
"You didn't go to sleep, then?" she asked softly.
"It wasn't my fault."
"I'm not scolding you. You heard what he said, then?"
"Yes, you're not my mamma, but ... he isn't my father."
The last words I had said in a different tone because, although I was unhappy at learning that she was not my mother, I was glad, I was almost proud, to know that he was not my father. This contradiction of my feelings betrayed itself in my voice. Mother Barberin did not appear to notice.
"Perhaps I ought to have told you the truth, but you seemed so much my own boy that I couldn't tell you I was not your real mother. You heard what Jerome said, my boy. He found you one day in a street in Paris, the Avenue de Breuteuil. It was in February, early in the morning, he was going to work when he heard a baby cry, and he found you on a step. He looked about to call some one, and as he did so a man came out from behind a tree and ran away. You cried so loud that Jerome didn't like to put you back on the step again. While he was wondering what to do, some more men came along, and they all decided that they'd take you to the police station. You wouldn't stop crying. Poor mite, you must have been cold. But then, when they got you warm at the station house, you still cried, so they thought you were hungry, and they got you some milk. My! you were hungry! When you'd had enough they undressed you and held you before the fire. You were a beautiful pink boy, and all dressed in lovely clothes. The lieutenant wrote down a description of the clothes and where you were found, and said that he should have to send you to the Home unless one of the men liked to take charge of you. Such a beautiful, fine child it wouldn't be difficult to bring up, he said, and the parents would surely make a search for it and pay any one well for looking after it, so Jerome said he'd take it. Just at that time I had a baby the same age. So I was well able to feed both you two mites. There, dearie, that was how I came to be your mother."
"Oh, Mamma, Mamma!"
"Yes, dearie, there! and at the end of three months I lost my own little baby and then I got even more fond of you. It was such a pity Jerome couldn't forget, and seeing at the end of three years that your parents hadn't come after you, he tried to make me send you to the Home. You heard why I didn't do as he told me?"
"Oh, don't send me to the Home," I cried, clinging to her, "Mother Barberin, please, please, don't send me to the Home."
"No, dearie, no, you shan't go. I'll settle it. Jerome is not really unkind, you'll see. He's had a lot of trouble and he is kind of worried about the future. We'll all work, you shall work, too."
"Yes, yes, I'll do anything you want me to do, but don't send me to the Home."
"You shan't go, that is if you promise to go to sleep at once. When he returns he mustn't find you awake."
She kissed me and turned me over with my face to the wall. I wanted to go to sleep, but I had received too hard a blow to slip off quietly into slumberland. Dear good Mother Barberin was not my own mother! Then what was a real mother? Something better, something sweeter still? It wasn't possible! Then I thought that a real father might not have held up his stick to me.... He wanted to send me to the Home, would mother be able to prevent him?
In the village there were two children from the Home. They were called "workhouse children." They had a metal plaque hung round their necks with a number on it. They were badly dressed, and so dirty! All the other children made fun of them and threw stones at them. They chased them like boys chase a lost dog, for fun, and because a stray dog has no one to protect it. Oh, I did not want to be like those children. I did not want to have a number hung round my neck. I did not want them to call after me, "Hi, Workhouse Kid; Hi Foundling!" The very thought of it made me feel cold and my teeth chatter. I could not go to sleep. And Barberin was coming back soon!
But fortunately he did not return until very late, and sleep came before he arrived.
SIGNOR VITALIS' COMPANY
That night I dreamed that I had been taken to the Home. When I opened my eyes in the early morning I could scarcely believe that I was still there in my little bed. I felt the bed and pinched my arms to see if it were true. Ah, yes, I was still with Mother Barberin.
She said nothing to me all the morning, and I began to think that they had given up the idea of sending me away. Perhaps she had said that she was determined to keep me. But when mid day came Barberin told me to put on my cap and follow him. I looked at Mother Barberin to implore her to help me. Without her husband noticing she made me a sign to go with him. I obeyed. She tapped me on the shoulder as I passed her, to let me know that I had nothing to fear. Without a word I followed him.
It was some distance from our house to the village—a good hour's walk. Barberin never said a word to me the whole way. He walked along, limping. Now and again he turned 'round to see if I was following. Where was he taking me? I asked myself the question again and again. Despite the reassuring sign that Mother Barberin had made, I felt that something was going to happen to me and I wanted to run away. I tried to lag behind, thinking that I would jump down into a ditch where Barberin could not catch me.
At first he had seemed satisfied that I should tramp along just behind him, on his heels, but he evidently soon began to suspect what I intended to do, and he grabbed me by the wrist. I was forced to keep up with him. This was the way we entered the village. Every one who passed us turned round to stare, for I looked like a bad dog held on a leash.
As we were about to pass the tavern, a man who was standing in the doorway called to Barberin and asked him to go in. Barberin took me by the ear and pushed me in before him, and when we got inside he closed the door. I felt relieved. This was only the village tavern, and for a long time I had wanted to see what it was like inside. I had often wondered what was going on behind the red curtains, I was going to know now....
Barberin sat down at a table with the boss who had asked him to go in. I sat by the fireplace. In a corner near me there was a tall old man with a long white beard. He wore a strange costume. I had never seen anything like it before. Long ringlets fell to his shoulders and he wore a tall gray hat ornamented with green and red feathers. A sheepskin, the woolly side turned inside, was fastened round his body. There were no sleeves to the skin, but through two large holes, cut beneath the shoulders, his arms were thrust, covered with velvet sleeves which had once been blue in color. Woolen gaiters reached up to his knees, and to hold them in place a ribbon was interlaced several times round his legs. He sat with his elbow resting on his crossed knees. I had never seen a living person in such a quiet calm attitude. He looked to me like one of the saints in our Church. Lying beside him were three dogs—a white spaniel, a black spaniel, and a pretty little gray dog with a sharp, cute little look. The white spaniel wore a policeman's old helmet, which was fastened under its chin with a leather strap.
While I stared at the man in wonder, Barberin and the owner of the tavern talked in low voices. I knew that I was the subject of their talk. Barberin was telling him that he had brought me to the village to take me to the mayor's office, so that the mayor should ask the Charity Home to pay for my keep. That was all that dear Mother Barberin had been able to do, but I felt that if Barberin could get something for keeping me I had nothing to fear.
The old man, who without appearing, had evidently been listening, suddenly pointed to me, and turning to Barberin said with a marked foreign accent:
"Is that the child that's in your way?"
"And you think the Home is going to pay you for his keep?"
"Lord! as he ain't got no parents and I've been put to great expense for him, it is only right that the town should pay me something."
"I don't say it isn't, but do you think that just because a thing is right, it's done?"
"Well, then I don't think you'll ever get what you're after."
"Then he goes to the Home, there's no law that forces me to keep him in my place if I don't want to."
"You agreed in the beginning to take him, so it's up to you to keep your promise."
"Well, I ain't going to keep him. And when I want to turn him out I'll do so."
"Perhaps there's a way to get rid of him now," said the old man after a moment's thought, "and make a little money into the bargain."
"If you'll show me how, I'll stand a drink."
"Order the drinks, the affair's settled."
The old man got up and took a seat opposite Barberin. A strange thing, as he rose, I saw his sheepskin move. It was lifted up, and I wondered if he had another dog under his arm.
What were they going to do with me? My heart beat against my side, I could not take my eyes off the old man.
"You won't let this child eat any more of your bread unless somebody pays for it, that's it, isn't it?"
"That's it ... because...."
"Never mind the reason. That don't concern me. Now if you don't want him, just give him to me. I'll take charge of him."
"You? take charge of him!"
"You want to get rid of him, don't you?"
"Give you a child like him, a beautiful boy, for he is beautiful, the prettiest boy in the village, look at him."
"I've looked at him."
"Remi, come here."
I went over to the table, my knees trembling.
"There, don't be afraid, little one," said the old man.
"Just look at him," said Barberin again.
"I don't say that he is a homely child, if he was I wouldn't want him. I don't want a monster."
"Ah, now if he was a monster with two ears, or even a dwarf...."
"You'd keep him, you could make your fortune out of a monster. But this little boy is not a dwarf, nor a monster, so you can't exhibit him: he's made the same as others, and he's no good for anything."
"He's good for work."
"He's not strong."
"Not strong, him! Land's sakes! He's as strong as any man, look at his legs, they're that solid! Have you ever seen straighter legs than his?"
Barberin pulled up my pants.
"Too thin," said the old man.
"And his arms?" continued Barberin.
"Like his legs ... might be better. They can't hold out against fatigue and poverty."
"What, them legs and arms? Feel 'em. Just see for yourself."
The old man passed his skinny hand over my legs and felt them, shaking his head the while and making a grimace.
I had already seen a similar scene enacted when the cattle dealer came to buy our cow. He also had felt and pinched the cow. He also had shaken his head and said that it was not a good cow, it would be impossible to sell it again, and yet after all he had bought it and taken it away with him. Was the old man going to buy me and take me away with him? Oh, Mother Barberin! Mother Barberin!
If I had dared I would have said that only the night before Barberin had reproached me for seeming delicate and having thin arms and legs, but I felt that I should gain nothing by it but an angry word, so I kept silent.
For a long time they wrangled over my good and bad points.
"Well, such as he is," said the old man at last, "I'll take him, but mind you, I don't buy him outright. I'll hire him. I'll give you twenty francs a year for him."
"That's a good sum, and I'll pay in advance."
"But if I keep him the town will pay me more than ten francs a month."
"I know what you'd get from the town, and besides you've got to feed him."
"He will work."
"If you thought that he could work you wouldn't be so anxious to get rid of him. It is not for the money that's paid for their keep that you people take in lost children, it's for the work that you can get out of them. You make servants of them, they pay you and they themselves get no wages. If this child could have done much for you, you would have kept him."
"Anyway, I should always have ten francs a month."
"And if the Home, instead of letting you have him, gave him to some one else, you wouldn't get anything at all. Now with me you won't have to run for your money, all you have to do is to hold out your hand."
He pulled a leather purse from his pocket, counting out four silver pieces of money; he threw them down on the table, making them ring as they fell.
"But think," cried Barberin; "this child's parents will show up one day or the other."
"What does that matter?"
"Well, those who've brought him up will get something. If I hadn't thought of that I wouldn't have taken him in the first place."
Oh! the wicked man! How I did dislike Barberin!
"Now, look here, it's because you think his parents won't show up now that you're turning him out," said the old man. "Well, if by any chance they do appear, they'll go straight to you, not to me, for nobody knows me."
"But if it's you who finds them?"
"Well, in that case we'll go shares and I'll put thirty down for him now."
"Make it forty."
"No, for what he'll do for me that isn't possible."
"What do you want him to do for you? For good legs, he's got good legs; for good arms, he's got good arms. I hold to what I said before. What are you going to do with him?"
Then the old man looked at Barberin mockingly, then emptied his glass slowly:
"He's just to keep me company. I'm getting old and at night I get a bit lonesome. When one is tired it's nice to have a child around."
"Well, for that I'm sure his legs are strong enough."
"Oh, not too much so, for he must also dance and jump and walk, and then walk and jump again. He'll take his place in Signor Vitalis' traveling company."
"Where's this company?"
"I am Signor Vitalis, and I'll show you the company right here."
With this he opened the sheepskin and took out a strange animal which he held on his left arm, pressed against his chest. This was the animal that had several times raised the sheepskin, but it was not a little dog as I had thought. I found no name to give to this strange creature, which I saw for the first time. I looked at it in astonishment. It was dressed in a red coat trimmed with gold braid, but its arms and legs were bare, for they really were arms and legs, and not paws, but they were covered with a black, hairy skin, they were not white or pink. The head which was as large as a clenched fist was wide and short, the turned-up nose had spreading nostrils, and the lips were yellow. But what struck me more than anything, were the two eyes, close to each other, which glittered like glass.
"Oh, the ugly monkey!" cried Barberin.
A monkey! I opened my eyes still wider. So this was a monkey, for although I had never seen a monkey, I had heard of them. So this little tiny creature that looked like a black baby was a monkey!
"This is the star of my company," said Signor Vitalis. "This is Mr. Pretty-Heart. Now, Pretty-Heart,"—turning to the animal—"make your bow to the society."
The monkey put his hand to his lips and threw a kiss to each of us.
"Now," continued Signor Vitalis, holding out his hand to the white spaniel, "the next. Signor Capi will have the honor of introducing his friends to the esteemed company here present."
The spaniel, who up till this moment had not made a movement, jumped up quickly, and standing on his hind paws, crossed his fore paws on his chest and bowed to his master so low that his police helmet touched the ground. This polite duty accomplished, he turned to his companions, and with one paw still pressed on his chest, he made a sign with the other for them to draw nearer. The two dogs, whose eyes had been fixed on the white spaniel, got up at once and giving' each one of us his paw, shook hands as one does in polite society, and then taking a few steps back bowed to us in turn.
"The one I call 'Capi,'" said Signor Vitalis, "which is an abbreviation of Capitano in Italian, is the chief. He is the most intelligent and he conveys my orders to the others. That black haired young dandy is Signor Zerbino, which signifies 'the sport.' Notice him and I am sure you will admit that the name is very appropriate. And that young person with, the modest air is Miss Dulcie. She is English, and her name is chosen on account of her sweet disposition. With these remarkable artistes I travel through the country, earning my living, sometimes good, sometimes bad, ... it is a matter of luck! Capi!..."
The spaniel crossed his paws.
"Capi, come here, and be on your best behavior. These people are well brought up, and they must be spoken to with great politeness. Be good enough to tell this little boy who is looking at you with such big, round eyes what time it is."
Capi uncrossed his paws, went up to his master, drew aside the sheepskin, and after feeling in his vest pocket pulled out a large silver watch. He looked at the watch for a moment, then gave two distinct barks, then after these two decisive sharp barks, he uttered three little barks, not so loud nor so clear.
The hour was quarter of three.
"Very good," said Vitalis; "thank you, Signor Capi. And now ask Miss Dulcie to oblige us by dancing with the skipping rope."
Capi again felt in his master's vest pocket and pulled out a cord. He made a brief sign to Zerbino, who immediately took his position opposite to him. Then Capi threw him one end of the cord and they both began to turn it very gravely. Then Dulcie jumped lightly into the rope and with her beautiful soft eyes fixed on her master, began to skip.
"You see how intelligent they are," said Vitalis; "their intelligence would be even more appreciated if I drew comparisons. For instance, if I had a fool to act with them. That is why I want your boy. He is to be the fool so that the dogs' intelligence will stand out in a more marked manner."
"Oh, he's to be the fool...." interrupted Barberin.
"It takes a clever man to play the fool," said Vitalis, "the boy will be able to act the part with a few lessons. We'll test him at once. If he has any intelligence he will understand that with me he will be able to see the country and other countries besides; but if he stays here all he can do is to drive a herd of cattle in the same fields from morning to night. If he hasn't any intelligence he'll cry and stamp his feet, and then I won't take him with me and he'll be sent to the Foundlings' Home, where he'll have to work hard and have little to eat."
I had enough intelligence to know this, ... the dogs were very funny, and it would be fun to be with them always, but Mother, Mother Barberin!... I could not leave her!... Then if I refused perhaps I should not stay with Mother Barberin.... I might be sent to the Home. I was very unhappy, and as my eyes filled with tears, Signor Vitalis tapped me gently on the cheek.
"Ah, the little chap understands because he does not make a great noise. He is arguing the matter in his little head, and to-morrow...."
"Oh, sir," I cried, "let me stay with Mother Barberin, please let me stay."
I could not say more, for Capi's loud barking interrupted me. At the same moment the dog sprang towards the table upon which Pretty-Heart was seated. The monkey, profiting by the moment when every one was occupied with me, had quickly seized his master's glass, which was full of wine, and was about to empty it. But Capi, who was a good watch dog, had seen the monkey's trick and like the faithful servant that he was, he had foiled him.
"Mr. Pretty-Heart," said Vitalis severely, "you are a glutton and a thief; go over there into the corner and turn your face to the wall, and you, Zerbino, keep guard: if he moves give him a good slap. As to you, Mr. Capi, you are a good dog, give me your paw. I'd like to shake hands with you."
The monkey, uttering little stifled cries, obeyed and went into the corner, and the dog, proud and happy, held out his paw to his master.
"Now," continued Vitalis, "back to business. I'll give you thirty francs for him then."
A discussion commenced, but Vitalis soon stopped it by saying:
"This doesn't interest the child, let him go outside and play."
At the same time he made a sign to Barberin.
"Yes, go out into the yard at the back, but don't move or you'll have me to reckon with."
I could not but obey. I went into the yard, but I had no heart to play. I sat down on a big stone and waited. They were deciding what was to become of me. What would it be? They talked for a long time. I sat waiting, and it was an hour later when Barberin came out into the yard. He was alone. Had he come to fetch me to hand me over to Vitalis?
"Come," he said, "back home."
Home! Then I was not to leave Mother Barberin?
I wanted to ask questions, but I was afraid, because he seemed in a very bad temper. We walked all the way home in silence. But just before we arrived home Barberin, who was walking ahead, stopped.
"You know," he said, taking me roughly by the ear, "if you say one single word of what you have heard to-day, you shall smart for it. Understand?"
THE MATERNAL HOUSE
"Well," asked Mother Barberin, when we entered, "what did the mayor say?"
"We didn't see him."
"How! You didn't see him?"
"No, I met some friends at the Notre-Dame cafe and when we came out it was too late. So we'll go back to-morrow."
So Barberin had given up the idea of driving a bargain with the man with the dogs.
On the way home I wondered if this was not some trick of his, returning to the house, but his last words drove all my doubts away. As we had to go back to the village the next day to see the mayor, it was certain that Barberin had not accepted Vitalis' terms.
But in spite of his threats I would have spoken of my fears to Mother Barberin if I could have found myself alone for one moment with her, but all the evening Barberin did not leave the house, and I went to bed without getting the opportunity. I went to sleep thinking that I would tell her the next day. But the next day when I got up, I did not see her. As I was running all round the house looking for her, Barberin saw me and asked me what I wanted.
"She has gone to the village and won't be back till this afternoon."
She had not told me the night before that she was going to the village, and without knowing why, I began to feel anxious. Why didn't she wait for us, if we were going in the afternoon? Would she be back before we started? Without knowing quite why, I began to feel very frightened, and Barberin looked at me in a way that did not tend to reassure me. To escape from his look I ran into the garden.
Our garden meant a great deal to us. In it we grew almost all that we ate—potatoes, cabbages, carrots, turnips. There was no ground wasted, yet Mother Barberin had given me a little patch all to myself, in which I had planted ferns and herbs that I had pulled up in the lanes while I was minding the cow. I had planted everything pell mell, one beside the other, in my bit of garden: it was not beautiful, but I loved it. It was mine. I arranged it as I wished, just as I felt at the time, and when I spoke of it, which happened twenty times a day, it was "My garden."
Already the jonquils were in bud and the lilac was beginning to shoot, and the wall flowers would soon be out. How would they bloom? I wondered, and that was why I came to see them every day. But there was another part of my garden that I studied with great anxiety. I had planted a vegetable that some one had given to me and which was almost unknown in our village; it was Jerusalem artichokes. I was told they would be delicious, better than potatoes, for they had the taste of French artichokes, potatoes, and turnips combined. Having been told this, I intended them to be a surprise for Mother Barberin. I had not breathed a word about this present I had for her. I planted them in my own bit of garden. When they began to shoot I would let her think that they were flowers, then one fine day when they were ripe, while she was out, I would pull them up and cook them myself. How? I was not quite sure, but I did not worry over such a small detail; then when she returned to supper I would serve her a dish of Jerusalem artichokes! It would be something fresh to replace those everlasting potatoes, and Mother Barberin would not suffer too much from the sale of poor Rousette. And the inventor of this new dish of vegetables was I, Remi, I was the one! So I was of some use in the house.
With such a plan in my head I had to bestow careful attention on my Jerusalem artichokes. Every day I looked at the spot where I had planted them, it seemed to me that they would never grow. I was kneeling on both knees on the ground, supported on my hands, with my nose almost touching the earth where the artichokes were sown, when I heard Barberin calling me impatiently. I hurried back to the house. Imagine my surprise when I saw, standing before the fireplace, Vitalis and his dogs.
I knew at once what Barberin wanted of me. Vitalis had come to fetch me and it was so that Mother Barberin should not stop me from going that Barberin had sent her to the village. Knowing full well that I could expect nothing from Barberin, I ran up to Vitalis.
"Oh, don't take me away. Please, sir, don't take me away." I began to sob.
"Now, little chap," he said, kindly enough, "you won't be unhappy with me. I don't whip children, and you'll have the dogs for company. Why should you be sorry to go with me?"
"Anyhow, you're not going to stay here," said Barberin roughly, taking me by the ear. "Go with this gentleman or go to the workhouse. Choose!"
"No, no. Mamma! Mamma!"
"So, you're going to make me mad, eh!" cried Barberin. "I'll beat you good and hard and chase you out of the house."
"The child is sorry to leave his mamma, don't beat him for that. He's got feelings, that's a good sign."
"If you pity him he'll cry all the more."
"Well, now to business."
Saying that, Vitalis laid eight five franc pieces on the table, which Barberin with a sweep of his hand cleared up and thrust into his pocket.
"Where's his bundle?" asked Vitalis.
"Here it is," said Barberin, handing him a blue cotton handkerchief tied up at the four corners. "There are two shirts and a pair of cotton pants."
"That was not what was agreed; you said you'd give some clothes. These are only rags."
"He ain't got no more."
"If I ask the boy I know he'll say that's not true. But I haven't the time to argue the matter. We must be off. Come on, my little fellow. What's your name?"
"Well, then, Remi, take your bundle and walk along beside Capi."
I held out both my hands to him, then to Barberin. But both men turned away their heads. Then Vitalis took me by the wrist. I had to go.
Ah, our poor little house! It seemed to me when I passed over the threshold that I left a bit of my body there. With my eyes full of tears I looked around, but there was no one near to help me. No one on the road, and no one in the field close by. I began to call:
"Mamma ... Mother Barberin!"
But no one replied to my call, and my voice trailed off into a sob. I had to follow Vitalis, who had not let go of my wrist.
"Good-by and good luck," cried Barberin. Then he entered the house. It was over.
"Come, Remi, hurry along, my child," said Vitalis. He took hold of my arm and I walked side by side with him. Fortunately he did not walk fast. I think he suited his step to mine.
We were walking up hill. As I turned I could still see Mother Barberin's house, but it was getting smaller and smaller. Many a time I had walked this road and I knew that for a little while longer I should still see the house, then when we turned the bend, I should see it no more. Before me the unknown, behind me was the house, where until that day I had lived such a happy life. Perhaps I should never see it again! Fortunately the hill was long, but at last we reached the top. Vitalis had not let go his hold.
"Will you let me rest a bit?" I asked.
"Surely, my boy," he replied.
He let go of me, but I saw him make a sign to Capi and the dog understood. He came close to me. I knew that Capi would grab me by the leg if I attempted to escape. I went up a high grassy mound and sat down, the dog beside me. With tear-dimmed eyes I looked about for Mother Barberin's cottage. Below was the valley and the wood, and away in the distance stood the little house I had left. Little puffs of yellow smoke were coming out of the chimney, going straight up in the sky, and then on towards us. In spite of the distance and the height, I could see everything very clearly. On the rubbish heap I could see our big fat hen running about, but she did not look as big as usual; if I had not known that it was our hen, I should have taken her for a little pigeon. At the side of the house I could see the twisted pear tree that I used to ride as a horse. In the stream I could just make out the drain that I had had so much trouble in digging, so that it would work a mill made by my own hands; the wheel, alas! had never turned, despite all the hours I had spent upon it. I could see my garden. Oh, my dear garden!...
Who would see my flowers bloom? and my Jerusalem artichokes, who would tend them? Barberin, perhaps, that wicked Barberin! With the next step my garden would be hidden from me. Suddenly on the road which led to our house from the village, I saw a white sunbonnet. Then it disappeared behind some trees, then it came in view again. The distance was so great that I could only see a white top, like a spring butterfly. It was going in and out amongst the trees. But there is a time when the heart sees better and farther than the sharpest eyes. I knew it was Mother Barberin. It was she. I was sure of it.
"Well," asked Vitalis, "shall we go on now?"
"Oh, sir, no, please no."
"Then it is true what they say, you haven't any legs, tired out already. That doesn't promise very good days for us."
I did not reply, I was looking....
It was Mother Barberin. It was her bonnet. It was her blue skirt. She was walking quickly as though she was in a hurry to get home. When she got to our gate she pushed it open and went quickly up the garden path. I jumped up at once and stood up on the bank, without giving a thought to Capi, who sprang towards me. Mother Barberin did not stay long in the house. She came out and began running to and fro, in the yard, with her arms stretched out.
She was looking for me. I leaned forwards and, at the top of my voice, I cried:
"Mamma! Mamma!" But my cry could not reach her, it was lost in the air.
"What's the matter? Have you gone crazy?" asked Vitalis.
I did not reply; my eyes were still fixed on Mother Barberin. But she did not look up, for she did not know that I was there above her. She went round the garden, then out into the road, looking up and down. I cried louder, but like my first call it was useless. Then Vitalis understood, and he also came up on the bank. It did not take him long to see the figure with the white sunbonnet.
"Poor little chap," he said softly to himself.
"Oh," I sobbed, encouraged by his words of pity, "do let me go back." But he took me by the wrist and drew me down and onto the road.
"As you are now rested," he said, "we'll move on."
I tried to free myself, but he held me firmly.
"Capi! Zerbino," he said, looking at the dogs. The two dogs came close to me; Capi behind, Zerbino in front. After taking a few steps I turned round. We had passed the bend of the hill and I could no longer see the valley nor our house.
Because a man pays forty francs for a child that is not to say that he is a monster, and that he intends to eat the child. Vitalis had no desire to eat me and although he bought children he was not a bad man. I soon had proof of this. We had been walking in silence for some time. I heaved a sigh.
"I know just how you feel," said Vitalis; "cry all you want. But try and see that this is for your own good. Those people are not your parents; the wife has been good to you and I know that you love her, that is why you feel so badly. But she could not keep you if the husband did not want you. And he may not be such a bad chap after all; he is ill and can't do any more work. He'll find it hard to get along...."
Yes, what he said was true, but I had only one thought in my mind, perhaps I should never again see the one I loved most in the world.
"You won't be unhappy with me," he continued; "it is better than being sent to the Home. And let me tell you, you must not try to run away, because if you do Capi and Zerbino would soon catch you."
Run away—I no longer thought of doing so. Where should I go? This tall old man perhaps would be a kind master after all. I had never walked so far at a stretch. All around us were barren lands and hills, not beautiful like I had thought the world would be outside of my village.
Vitalis walked with big regular strides, carrying Pretty-Heart on his shoulder, or in his bag, and the dogs trotted close to us. From time to time Vitalis said a word of friendship to them, sometimes in French, sometimes in a language that I did not understand. Neither he nor the animals seemed to get tired. But I ... I was exhausted. I dragged my limbs along and it was as much as I could do to keep up with my new master. Yet I did not like to ask him to let me stop.
"It's those wooden shoes that tire you," he said, looking down at me. "When we get to Ussel, I'll buy you some shoes."
These words gave me courage. I had always longed for a pair of shoes. The mayor's son and the inn-keeper's son wore shoes, so that on Sunday when they came to church they seemed to slide down the stone aisles, while we other country boys in our clogs made a deafening noise.
"Is Ussel far?"
"Ah, that comes from your heart," said Vitalis, laughing. "So you want to have a pair of shoes, do you? Well, I'll promise you them and with big nails, too. And I'll buy you some velvet pants, and a vest and a hat. That'll make you dry your tears, I hope, and give you legs to do the next six miles."
Shoes with nails! I was overcome with pride. It was grand enough to have shoes, but shoes with nails! I forgot my grief. Shoes with nails! Velvet pants! a vest! a hat! Oh, if Mother Barberin could see me, how happy she would be, how proud of me! But in spite of the promise that I should have shoes and velvet pants at the end of the six miles, it seemed impossible that I could cover the distance.
The sky, which had been blue when we started, was now filled with gray clouds and soon a fine rain commenced to fall. Vitalis was covered well enough with his sheepskin and he was able to shelter Pretty-Heart, who, at the first drop of rain, had promptly retired into his hiding place. But the dogs and I had nothing to cover us, and soon we were drenched to the skin. The dogs from time to time could shake themselves, but I was unable to employ this natural means, and I had to tramp along under my water-soaked, heavy garments, which chilled me.
"Do you catch cold easily?" asked my new master.
"I don't know. I don't remember ever having a cold."
"That's good. So there is something in you. But I don't want to have it worse for you than we are obliged. There is a village a little farther on and we'll sleep there."
There was no inn in this village and no one wanted to take into their homes an old beggar who dragged along with him a child and three dogs, soaked to the skin.
"No lodgings here," they said.
And they shut the door in our faces. We went from one house to another, but all refused to admit us. Must we tramp those four miles on to Ussel without resting a bit? The night had fallen and the rain had chilled us through and through. Oh, for Mother Barberin's house!
Finally a peasant, more charitable than his neighbors, agreed to let us go into his barn. But he made the condition that we could sleep there, but must have no light.
"Give me your matches," he said to Vitalis. "I'll give you them back to-morrow, when you go."
At least we had a roof to cover us from the storm.
In the sack which Vitalis had slung over his back he took out a hunch of bread and broke it into four pieces. Then I saw for the first time how he maintained obedience and discipline in his company. Whilst we had gone from door to door seeking shelter, Zerbino had gone into a house and he had run out again almost at once, carrying in his jaws a crust. Vitalis had only said:
"Alright, Zerbino ... to-night."
I had thought no more of this theft, when I saw Vitalis cut the roll; Zerbino looked very dejected. Vitalis and I were sitting on a box with Pretty-Heart between us. The three dogs stood in a row before us, Capi and Dulcie with their eyes fixed on their master. Zerbino stood with drooping ears and tail between his legs.
"The thief must leave the ranks and go into a corner," said Vitalis in a tone of command; "he'll go to sleep without his supper."
Zerbino left his place, and in a zigzag went over to the corner that Vitalis indicated with his finger. He crouched down under a heap of hay out of sight, but we heard him breathe plaintively, with a little whine.
Vitalis then handed me a piece of bread, and while eating his own he broke little pieces for Pretty-Heart, Capi and Dulcie. How I longed for Mother Barberin's soup ... even without butter, and the warm fire, and my little bed with the coverlets that I pulled right up to my nose. Completely fagged out, I sat there, my feet raw by the rubbing of my clogs. I trembled with cold in my wet clothing. It was night now, but I did not think of going to sleep.
"Your teeth are chattering," said Vitalis; "are you cold?"
I heard him open his bag.
"I haven't got much of a wardrobe," he said, "but here's a dry shirt and a vest you can put on. Then get underneath the hay and you'll soon get warm and go to sleep."
But I did not get warm as quick as Vitalis thought; for a long time I turned and turned on my bed of straw, too unhappy to sleep. Would all my days now be like this, walking in the pouring rain; sleeping in a loft, shaking with cold, and only a piece of dry bread for supper? No one to love me; no one to cuddle me; no Mother Barberin!
My heart was very sad. The tears rolled down my cheeks, then I felt a warm breath pass over my face. I stretched out my hand and my finger touched Capi's woolly coat. He had come softly to me, stepping cautiously on the straw, and he smelt me: he sniffed gently, his breath ran over my cheek and in my hair. What did he want? Presently he laid down on the straw, quite close to me, and very gently he commenced to lick my hand. Touched by this caress, I sat up on my straw bed and throwing my arms round his neck kissed his cold nose. He gave a little stifled cry, and then quickly put his paw in my hand and remained quite still. I forgot my fatigue and my sorrows. I was no longer alone. I had a friend.
We started early the next morning. The sky was blue and a light wind had come up in the night and dried all the mud. The birds were singing blithely in the trees and the dogs scampered around us. Now and again Capi stood up on his hind paws and barked into my face, two or three times. I knew what he meant. He was my friend. He was intelligent, and he understood every thing, and he knew how to make you understand. In his tail only was more wit and eloquence than in the tongue or in the eyes of many people.
Although I had never left my village and was most curious to see a town, what I most wanted to see in that town was a boot shop. Where was the welcome shop where I should find the shoes with nails that Vitalis had promised me? I glanced about in every direction as we passed down the old streets of Ussel. Suddenly my master turned into a shop behind the market. Hanging outside the front were some old guns, a coat trimmed with gold braid, several lamps, and some rusty keys. We went down three steps and found ourselves in a large room where the sun could never have entered since the roof had been put on the house. How could such beautiful things as nailed shoes be sold in such a terrible place? Yet Vitalis knew, and soon I had the pleasure of being shod in nailed shoes which were ten times as heavy as my clogs. My master's generosity did not stop there. He bought me a blue velvet coat, a pair of trousers, and a felt hat.
Velvet for me who had never worn anything but cotton! This was surely the best man in the world, and the most generous. It is true that the velvet was creased, and that the woolen trousers were well worn, and it was difficult to guess what had been the original color of the felt hat, it had been so soaked with rain; but dazzled by so much finery I was unconscious of the imperfections which were hidden under their aspect.
When we got back to the inn, to my sorrow and astonishment, Vitalis took a pair of scissors and cut the two legs of my trousers to the height of the knees, before he would let me get into them. I looked at him with round eyes.
"That's because I don't want you to look like everybody else," he explained. "When in France I'll dress you like an Italian; when in Italy, like a French boy."
I was still more amazed.
"We are artistes, are we not? Well, we must not dress like the ordinary folk. If we went about dressed like the country people, do you think anybody would look at us? Should we get a crowd around us when we stop? No! Appearances count for a great deal in life."
I was a French boy in the morning, and by night I had become an Italian. My trousers reached my knees. Vitalis interlaced red cords all down my stockings and twisted some red ribbon all over my felt hat, and then decorated it with a bunch of woolen flowers.
I don't know what others thought of me, but to be frank I must admit that I thought I looked superb; and Capi was of the same opinion, for he stared at me for a long time, then held out his paw with a satisfied air. I was glad to have Capi's approval, which was all the more agreeable, because, during the time I had been dressing, Pretty-Heart had seated himself opposite to me, and with exaggerated airs had imitated every movement I had made, and when I was finished put his hands on his hips, threw back his head, and laughed mockingly.
It is a scientific question as to whether monkeys laugh or not. I lived on familiar terms with Pretty-Heart for a long time, and I know that he certainly did laugh and often in a way that was most humiliating to me. Of course, he did not laugh like a man, but when something amused him, he would draw back the corners of his mouth, screw up his eyes, and work his jaws rapidly, while his black eyes seemed to dart flames.
"Now you're ready," said Vitalis, as I placed my hat on my head, "and we'll get to work, because to-morrow is market day and we must give a performance. You must play in a comedy with the two dogs and Pretty-Heart."
"But I don't know how to play a comedy," I cried, scared.
"That is why I am going to teach you. You can't know unless you learn. These animals have studied hard to learn their part. It has been hard work for them; but now see how clever they are. The piece we are going to play is called, 'Mr. Pretty-Heart's Servant, or The Fool is not Always the One You Would Think.' Now this is it: Mr. Pretty-Heart's servant, whose name is Capi, is about to leave him because he is getting old. And Capi has promised his master that before he leaves he will get him another servant. Now this successor is not to be a dog, it is to be a boy, a country boy named Remi."
"You have just come from the country to take a position with Mr. Pretty-Heart."
"Monkeys don't have servants."
"In plays they have. Well, you've come straight from your village and your new master thinks that you're a fool."
"Oh, I don't like that!"
"What does that matter if it makes the people laugh? Well, you have come to this gentleman to be his servant and you are told to set the table. Here is one like we shall use in the play; go and set it."
On this table there were plates, a glass, a knife, a fork, and a white tablecloth. How could I arrange all those things? As I pondered over this question, leaning forward with hands stretched out and mouth open, not knowing where to begin, my master clapped his hands and laughed heartily.
"Bravo!" he cried, "bravo! that's perfect. The boy I had before put on a sly expression as much as to say, 'See what a fool I can make of myself'; you are natural; that is splendid."
"But I don't know what I have to do."
"That's why you are so good! After you do know, you will have to pretend just what you are feeling now. If you can get that same expression and stand just like you are standing now, you'll be a great success. To play this part to perfection you have only to act and look as you do at this moment."
"Mr. Pretty-Heart's Servant" was not a great play. The performance lasted not more than twenty minutes. Vitalis made us do it over and over again, the dogs and I.
I was surprised to see our master so patient. I had seen the animals in my village treated with oaths and blows when they could not learn. Although the lesson lasted a long time, not once did he get angry, not once did he swear.
"Now do that over again," he said severely, when a mistake had been made. "That is bad, Capi. I'll scold you, Pretty-Heart, if you don't pay attention."
And that was all, but yet it was enough.
"Take the dogs for an example," he said, while teaching me; "compare them with Pretty-Heart. Pretty-Heart has, perhaps, vivacity and intelligence, but he has no patience. He learns easily what he is taught, but he forgets it at once; besides he never does what he is told willingly. He likes to do just the contrary. That is his nature, and that is why I do not get angry with him; monkeys have not the same conscience that a dog has; they don't understand the meaning of the word 'duty,' and that is why they are inferior to the dog. Do you understand that?"
"I think so."
"You are intelligent and attentive. Be obedient, do your best in what you have to do. Remember that all through life."
Talking to him so, I summoned up courage to ask him about what had so astonished me during the rehearsal: how could he be so wonderfully patient with the dogs, the monkey, and myself?
"One can see that you have lived only with peasants who are rough with animals, and think that they can only be made to obey by having a stick held over their heads. A great mistake. One gains very little by being cruel, but one can obtain a lot, if not all, by gentleness. It is because I am never unkind to my animals that they are what they are. If I had beaten them they would be frightened creatures; fear paralyzes the intelligence. Besides, if I gave way to temper I should not be what I am; I could not have acquired this patience which has won their confidence. That shows that who instructs others, instructs himself. As I have given lessons to my animals, so I have received lessons from them. I have developed their intelligence; they have formed my character."
I laughed. This seemed strange to me.
"You find that odd," he continued; "odd that a dog could give a lesson to a man, yet it is true. The master is obliged to watch over himself when he undertakes to teach a dog. The dog takes after the master. Show me your dog and I'll tell you what you are. The criminal has a dog who is a rogue. The burglar's dog is a thief; the country yokel has a stupid, unintelligent dog. A kind, thoughtful man has a good dog."
I was very nervous at the thought of appearing before the public the next day. The dogs and the monkey had the advantage over me, they had played before, hundreds of times. What would Vitalis say if I did not play my part well? What would the audience say? I was so worried that, when at last I dropped off to sleep, I could see in my dreams a crowd of people holding their sides with laughter because I was such a fool.
I was even more nervous the next day, when we marched off in a procession to the market place, where we were to give our performance. Vitalis led the way. Holding his head high and with chest thrown out, he kept time with his arms and feet while gayly playing his fife. Behind him came Capi, carrying Pretty-Heart on his back, wearing the uniform of an English general, a red coat and trousers trimmed with gold braid and helmet topped with a plume. Zerbino and Dulcie came next, at a respectful distance. I brought up the rear. Our procession took up some length as we had to walk a certain space apart. The piercing notes of the fife brought the people running from their houses. Scores of children ran behind us, and by the time we had reached the square, there was a great crowd. Our theater was quickly arranged. A rope was fastened to four trees and in the middle of this square we took our places.
The first numbers on the program consisted of various tricks performed by the dogs. I had not the slightest notion what they did. I was so nervous and taken up in repeating my own part. All that I remember was that Vitalis put aside his fife and took his violin and played accompaniments to the dogs' maneuvers; sometimes it was dance music, sometimes sentimental airs.
The tricks over, Capi took a metal cup between his teeth and began to go the round of the "distinguished audience." When a spectator failed to drop a coin in, he put his two fore paws upon the reluctant giver's pocket, barked three times, then tapped the pocket with his paw. At this every one laughed and shouted with delight.
"If that ain't a cunning spaniel! He knows who's got money and who hasn't!"
"Say, out with it!"
"He'll give something!"
"And his uncle left him a legacy! The stingy cuss!"
And, finally, a penny was dug out of a deep pocket and thrown into the cup. During this time, Vitalis, without saying a word, but with his eyes following Capi, gayly played his violin. Soon Capi returned to his master, proudly carrying the full cup.
Now for the comedy.
"Ladies and gentlemen," said Vitalis, gesticulating with his bow in one hand and his violin in the other, "we are going to give a delightful comedy, called 'Mr. Pretty-Heart's Servant, or the Fool is not Always the One You Would Think.' A man of my standing does not lower himself by praising his plays and actors in advance. All I have to say is look, listen, and be ready to applaud."
What Vitalis called a delightful comedy was really a pantomime; naturally it had to be for the very good reason that two of its principals, Pretty-Heart and Capi, could not speak, and the third, myself, was incapable of uttering two words. However, so that the audience would clearly understand the play, Vitalis explained the various situations, as the piece progressed. For instance, striking up a warlike air, he announced the entrance of General Pretty-Heart, who had won his high rank in various battles in India. Up to that day General Pretty-Heart had only had Capi for a servant, but he now wished to have a human being as his means allowed him this luxury. For a long time animals had been the slaves of men, but it was time that such was changed!
While waiting for the servant to arrive, the General walked up and down, smoking his cigar. You should see the way he blew the smoke into the onlookers' faces! Becoming impatient, he began to roll his eyes like a man who is about to have a fit of temper. He bit his lips, and stamped on the ground. At the third stamp I had to make my appearance on the scene, led by Capi. If I had forgotten my part the dog would have reminded me. At a given moment he held out his paw to me and introduced me to the General. The latter, upon noticing me, held up his two hands in despair. What! Was that the servant they had procured for him. Then he came and looked pertly up into my face, and walked around me, shrugging his shoulders. His expression was so comical that every one burst out laughing. They quite understood that the monkey thought I was a fool. The spectators thought that also. The piece was made to show how dense was my stupidity, while every opportunity was afforded the monkey to show his sagacity and intelligence. After having examined me thoroughly, the General, out of pity, decided to keep me. He pointed to a table that was already set for luncheon, and signed to me to take my seat.
"The General thinks that after his servant has had something to eat he won't be such an idiot," explained Vitalis.
I sat down at the little table; a table napkin was placed on my plate. What was I to do with the napkin?
Capi made a sign for me to use it. After looking at it thoughtfully for a moment, I blew my nose. Then the General held his sides with laughter, and Capi fell over with his four paws up in the air, upset at my stupidity.
Seeing that I had made a mistake, I stared again at the table napkin, wondering what I was to do with it. Then I had an idea. I rolled it up and made a necktie for myself. More laughter from the General. Another fall from Capi, his paws in the air.
Then, finally overcome with exasperation, the General dragged me from the chair, seated himself at my place, and ate up the meal that had been prepared for me.
Ah! he knew how to use a table napkin! How gracefully he tucked it into his uniform, and spread it out upon his knees. And with what an elegant air he broke his bread and emptied his glass!
The climax was reached when, luncheon over, he asked for a toothpick, which he quickly passed between his teeth. At this, applause broke out on all sides, and the performance ended triumphantly.
What a fool of a servant and what a wonderful monkey!
On our way back to the inn Vitalis complimented me, and I was already such a good comedian that I appreciated this praise from my master.
CHILD AND ANIMAL LEARNING
Vitalis' small group of actors were certainly very clever, but their talent was not very versatile. For this reason we were not able to remain long in the same town. Three days after our arrival in Ussel we were on our way again. Where were we going? I had grown bold enough to put this question to my master.
"Do you know this part of the country?" he asked, looking at me.
"Then why do you ask where we are going?"
"So as to know."
"To know what?"
I was silent.
"Do you know how to read?" he asked, after looking thoughtfully at me for a moment.
"Then I'll teach you from a book the names and all about the towns through which we travel. It will be like having a story told to you."
I had been brought up in utter ignorance. True, I had been sent to the village school for one month, but during this month I had never once had a book in my hand. At the time of which I write, there were many villages in France that did not even boast of a school, and in some, where there was a schoolmaster, either he knew nothing, or he had some other occupation and could give little attention to the children confided to his care.
This was the case with the master of our village school. I do not mean to say that he was ignorant, but during the month that I attended his school, he did not give us one single lesson. He had something else to do. By trade he was a shoe-maker, or rather, a clog maker, for no one bought shoes from him. He sat at his bench all day, shaving pieces of beech wood into clogs. So I learnt absolutely nothing at school, not even my alphabet.
"Is it difficult to read?" I asked, after we had walked some time in silence.
"Have you got a hard head?"
"I don't know, but I'd like to learn if you'll teach me."
"Well, we'll see about that. We've plenty of time ahead of us."
Time ahead of us! Why not commence at once? I did not know how difficult it was to learn to read. I thought that I just had to open a book and, almost at once, know what it contained.
The next day, as we were walking along, Vitalis stooped down and picked up a piece of wood covered with dust.
"See, this is the book from which you are going to learn to read," he said.
A book! A piece of wood! I looked at him to see if he were joking. But he looked quite serious. I stared at the bit of wood. It was as long as my arm and as wide as my two hands. There was no inscription or drawing on it.
"Wait until we get to those trees down there, where we'll rest," said Vitalis, smiling at my astonishment. "I'll show you how I'm going to teach you to read from this."
When we got to the trees we threw our bags on the ground and sat down on the green grass with the daisies growing here and there. Pretty-Heart, having got rid of his chain, sprang up into a tree and shook the branches one after the other, as though he were making nuts fall. The dogs lay down beside us. Vitalis took out his knife and, after having smoothed the wood on both sides, began to cut tiny pieces, twelve all of equal size.
"I am going to carve a letter out of each piece of wood," he said, looking up at me. I had not taken my eyes off of him. "You will learn these letters from their shapes, and when you are able to tell me what they are, at first sight, I'll form them into words. When you can read the words, then you shall learn from a book."
I soon had my pockets full of little bits of wood, and was not long in learning the letters of the alphabet, but to know how to read was quite another thing. I could not get along very fast, and often I regretted having expressed a wish to learn. I must say, however, it was not because I was lazy, it was pride.
While teaching me my letters Vitalis thought that he would teach Capi at the same time. If a dog could learn to tell the hour from a watch, why could he not learn the letters? The pieces of wood were all spread out on the grass, and he was taught that with his paw he must draw out the letter for which he was asked.
At first I made more progress than he, but if I had quicker intelligence, he had better memory. Once he learnt a thing he knew it always. He did not forget. When I made a mistake Vitalis would say:
"Capi will learn to read before you, Remi."
And Capi, evidently understanding, proudly shook his tail.
I was so hurt that I applied myself to the task with all my heart, and while the poor dog could get no farther than pulling out the four letters which spelled his name, I finally learned to read from a book.
"Now that you know how to read words, how would you like to read music?" asked Vitalis.
"If I knew how to read music could I sing like you?" I asked.
"Ah, so you would like to sing like me," he answered.
"I know that would be impossible, but I'd like to sing a little."
"Do you like to hear me sing, then?"
"I like it more than anything. It is better than the nightingales, but it's not like their song at all. When you sing, sometimes I want to cry, and sometimes I want to laugh. Don't think me silly, master, but when you sing those songs, I think that I am back with dear Mother Barberin. If I shut my eyes I can see her again in our little house, and yet I don't know the words you sing, because they are Italian."
I looked up at him and saw the tears standing in his eyes; then I stopped and asked him if what I had said hurt him.
"No, my child," he said, his voice shaking, "you do not pain me; on the contrary, you take me back to my younger days. Yes, I will teach you to sing, little Remi, and, as you have a heart, you also will make people weep with your songs."
He stopped suddenly, and I felt that he did not wish to say more at that moment. I did not know the reason why he should feel sad.
The next day he cut out little pieces of wood for the music notes the same as he had for the letters. The notes were more complicated than the alphabet, and this time I found it much harder and more tedious to learn. Vitalis, so patient with the dogs, more than once lost patience with me.
"With an animal," he cried, "one controls oneself, because one is dealing with a poor dumb creature, but you are enough to drive me mad!" He threw up his hands dramatically.
Pretty-Heart, who took special delight in imitating gestures he thought funny, mimicked my master, and as the monkey was present at my lessons every day, I had the humiliation to see him lift his arms in despair every time I hesitated.
"See, Pretty-Heart is even mocking you," cried Vitalis.
If I had dared, I would have said that he mocked the master just as much as the pupil, but respect, as well as a certain fear, forbade me.
Finally, after many weeks of study, I was able to sing an air from a piece of paper that Vitalis himself had written. That day my master did not throw up his hands, but instead, patted me on the cheek, declaring that if I continued thus I should certainly become a great singer.
ONE WHO HAD KNOWN A KING
Our mode of traveling was very simple: We went straight ahead, anywhere, and when we found a village, which from the distance looked sufficiently important, we began preparations for a triumphal entry. I dressed the dogs, and combed Dulcie's hair; stuck a plaster over Capi's eye when he was playing the part of an old grouchy man, and forced Pretty-Heart into his General's uniform. That was the most difficult thing I had to do, for the monkey, who knew well enough that this was a prelude to work for him, invented the oddest tricks to prevent me from dressing him. Then I was forced to call Capi to come to my aid, and between the two of us we finally managed to subdue him.
The company all dressed, Vitalis took his fife and we went in marching order into the village. If the number of people who trooped behind us was sufficient, we gave a performance, but if we had only a few stragglers, we did not think it worth our while to stop, so continued on our way. When we stayed several days in a town, Vitalis would let me go about alone if Capi was with me. He trusted me with Capi.
"You are traveling through France at the age when most boys are at school," he once said to me; "open your eyes, look and learn. When you see something that you do not understand, do not be afraid to ask me questions. I have not always been what you see me now. I have learnt many other things."
"We will speak of that later. For the present listen to my advice, and when you grow up I hope you will think with a little gratitude of the poor musician of whom you were so afraid when he took you from your adopted mother. The change may not be bad for you after all."
I wondered what my master had been in the days gone by.
We tramped on until we came to the plains of Quercy, which were very flat and desolate. There was not a brook, pond, or river to be seen. In the middle of the plain we came to a small village called Bastide-Murat. We spent the night in a barn belonging to the inn.
"It was here in this village," said Vitalis, "and probably in this inn, that a man was born who led thousands of soldiers to battle and who, having commenced his life as a stable boy, afterwards became a king. His name was Murat. They called him a hero, and they named this village after him. I knew him and often talked with him."
"When he was a stable boy?"
"No," replied Vitalis, laughing, "when he was a king. This is the first time I have been in this part of the country. I knew him in Naples, where he was king."
"You have known a king!"
The tone in which I said this must have been rather comical, for my master laughed heartily.
We were seated on a bench before the stable door, our backs against the wall, which, was still hot from the sun's rays. The locusts were chanting their monotonous song in a great sycamore which covered us with its branches. Over the tops of the houses the full moon, which had just appeared, rose gently in the heavens. The night seemed all the more beautiful because the day had been scorchingly hot.
"Do you want to go to bed?" asked Vitalis, "or would you like me to tell you the story of King Murat?"
"Oh, tell me the story!"
Then he told me the story of Joachim Murat; for hours we sat on the bench. As he talked, the pale light from the moon fell across him, and I listened in rapt attention, my eyes fixed on his face. I had not heard this story before. Who would have told me? Not Mother Barberin, surely! She did not know anything about it. She was born at Chavanon, and would probably die there. Her mind had never traveled farther than her eyes.
My master had seen a king, and this king had spoken to him! What was my master in his youth, and how had he become what I saw him now in his old age?...
We had been tramping since morning. Vitalis had said that we should reach a village by night where we could sleep, but night had come, and I saw no signs of this village, no smoke in the distance to indicate that we were near a house. I could see nothing but a stretch of plains ahead of us. I was tired, and longed to go to sleep. Vitalis was tired also. He wanted to stop and rest by the roadside, but instead of sitting down beside him, I told him that I would climb a hill that was on the left of us and see if I could make out a village. I called Capi, but Capi also was tired, and turned a deaf ear to my call; this he usually did when he did not wish to obey me.
"Are you afraid?" asked Vitalis.
His question made me start off at once, alone.
Night had fallen. There was no moon, but the twinkling stars in the sky threw their light on a misty atmosphere. The various things around me seemed to take on a strange, weird form in the dim light. Wild furze grew in bushes beside some huge stones which, towering above me, seemed as though they turned to look at me. The higher I climbed, the thicker became the trees and shrubs, their tops passing over my head and interlacing. Sometimes I had to crawl through them to get by. Yet I was determined to get to the top of the hill. But, when at last I did, and gazed around, I could see no light anywhere; nothing but strange shadows and forms, and great trees which seemed to hold out their branches to me, like arms ready to enfold me.
I listened to see if I could catch the bark of a dog, or the bellow of a cow, but all was silent. With my ear on the alert, scarcely breathing so as to hear better, I stood quiet for a moment. Then I began to tremble, the silence of this lonely, uncultivated country frightened me. Of what was I frightened? The silence probably ... the night ... anyhow, a nameless fear was creeping over me. My heart beat quickly, as though some danger was near. I glanced fearfully around me, and then in the distance I saw a great form moving amongst the trees. At the same time I could hear the rustling of branches. I tried to tell myself that it was fear that made me fancy I saw something unusual. Perhaps it was a shrub, a branch. But then, the branches were moving and there was not a breath of wind or a breeze that could shake them. They could not move unless swayed by the breeze or touched by some one.
No, this great, dark form that was coming towards me could not be a man—some kind of animal that I did not know, or an immense night bird, a gigantic spider, hovering over the tops of the trees. What was certain, this creature had legs of unusual length, which brought it along with amazing bounds. Seeing this, I quickly found my own legs, and rushed down the hill towards Vitalis. But, strange to say, I made less haste going down than I had in climbing up. I threw myself into the thick of the thistles and brambles, scratching myself at every step. Scrambling out of a prickly bush I took a glance back. The animal was coming nearer! It was almost upon me!
Fortunately, I had reached the bottom of the hill and I could run quicker across the grass. Although I raced at the top of my speed, the Thing was gaining upon me. There was no need for me to look behind, I knew that it was just at the back of me. I could scarcely breathe. My race had almost exhausted me; my breath came in gasps. I made one final effort and fell sprawling at Vitalis' feet. I could only repeat two words:
"The beast! the beast!"
Above the loud barking of the dogs, I heard a hearty peal of laughter. At the same time my master put his hands on my shoulders and forced me to look round.
"You goose," he cried, still laughing, "look up and see it."
His laugh, more than his words, brought me to my senses. I opened one eye, then the other, and looked where he was pointing. The apparition, which had so frightened me, had stopped and was standing still in the road. At the sight of it again, I must confess, I began to shake, but I was with Vitalis and the dogs were beside me. I was not alone up there in the trees.... I looked up boldly and fixed my eyes on the Thing.
Was it an animal or a man? It had the body, the head, and arms like a man, but the shaggy skin which covered it, and the two long thin legs upon which it seemed to poise, looked as though they belonged to an animal.
Although the night was dark, I could see this, for the silhouette of this dark form stood out against the starry sky. I should have remained a long time undecided as to what it was, if my master had not spoken to it.
"Can you tell me if we are far from the village?" he asked, politely.
He was a man, then, if one could speak to him! What was my astonishment when the animal said that there were no houses near, but an inn to which he would take us. If he could talk, why did he have paws?
If I had had the courage, I would have gone up to him to see how his paws were made, but I was still somewhat afraid, so I picked up my bag and followed my master, without saying a word.
"You see now what scared you so," Vitalis said, laughing, as we went on our way.
"But I don't know what it is, yet. Are there giants in this part of the country, then?"
"Yes, when men are standing on stilts."
Then he explained to me that the Landais, so as to get over the marshy plains, and not sink in up to their hips, stride about the country on stilts.
What a goose I had been!
I had a pleasant remembrance of Pau, the beautiful winter resort where the wind scarcely ever blew. We stayed there the whole winter, for we were taking in quite a lot of money. Our audience consisted mostly of children, and they were never tired if we did give the same performance over and over again. They were children of the rich, mostly English and American. Fat little boys, with ruddy skins, and pretty little girls with soft eyes almost as beautiful as Dulcie's. It was from these children that I got a taste for candy, for they always came with their pockets stuffed with sweets which they divided between Pretty-Heart, the dogs, and myself. But when the spring approached our audience grew smaller. One by one, two by two, the little ones came to shake hands with Pretty-Heart, Capi, and Dulcie. They had come to say good-by. They were going away. So we also had to leave the beautiful winter resort and take up our wandering life again.
For a long time, I do not know how many days or weeks, we went through valleys, over hills, leaving behind the bluish top of the Pyrenees, which now looked like a mass of clouds.
Then one night we came to a great town with ugly red brick houses and with streets paved with little pointed stones, hard to the feet of travelers who had walked a dozen miles a day. My master told me that we were in Toulouse and that we should stay there for a long time. As usual, the first thing we did was to look about for a suitable place to hold the next day's performance. Suitable places were not lacking, especially near the Botanical Gardens, where there is a beautiful lawn shaded with big trees and a wide avenue leading to it. It was in one of the side walks that we gave our first performance.