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Title: Nobody's Boy - Sans Famille
Author: Malot, Hector, 1830-1907
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Nobody's Boy - Sans Famille" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



NOBODY'S BOY

(_Sans Famille_)


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.

[Illustration: "THE FIRST APPEARANCE OF REMI'S COMPANY."
(_See page 230_)]



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                PAGE

    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 DÉBUT                           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_

                                                  PAGE

"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



INTRODUCTION


"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.

                                                   THE PUBLISHERS.



NOBODY'S BOY



CHAPTER I

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.

"Bread."

"What else?"

"Pap."

"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?

"Oh, Mother."

"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."



CHAPTER II

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?"

"No."

"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."

"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?"

"Eight."

"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 mine."

"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 François 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.

"Say! Mamma!"

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.



CHAPTER III

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?"

"That's him."

"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?"

"That, no!"

"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."

"Sure?

"Sure."

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."

"Twenty francs!"

"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.

[Illustration: "I'LL GIVE YOU THIRTY FRANCS FOR 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."

"No, forty."

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?"



CHAPTER IV

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 café 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.

"Mamma."

"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?"

"Mother Barberin!..."

"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?"

"Remi."

"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.



CHAPTER V

EN ROUTE


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?"

"A little."

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.



CHAPTER VI

MY DÉBUT


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."

"Oh...."

"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?

He smiled.

"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!"

"Not he!"

"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.



CHAPTER VII

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.

"No."

"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.

"No."

"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.



CHAPTER VIII

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."

"What?"

"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.

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!



CHAPTER IX

ARRESTED


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.

A policeman stood by while we arranged our things. He seemed annoyed,
either because he did not like dogs, or because he thought we had no
business there; he tried to send us away. It would have been better if
we had gone. We were not strong enough to hold out against the police,
but my master did not think so. Although he was an old man, strolling
about the country with his dogs, he was very proud. He considered that
as he was not breaking the law, he should have police protection, so
when the officer wanted to send us away, he refused to leave.

Vitalis was very polite; in fact he carried his Italian politeness to
the extreme. One might have thought that he was addressing some high and
mighty personage.

"The illustrious gentleman, who represents the police authority," he
said, taking off his hat and bowing low to the policeman, "can he show
me an order emanating from the said authority, which states that it is
forbidden for poor strolling players, like ourselves, to carry on their
humble profession on a public square?"

The policeman replied that he would have no argument. We must obey.

"Certainly," replied Vitalis, "and I promise that I will do as you order
as soon as you let me know by what authority you issue it."

That day the officer turned on his heels, and my master, with hat in
hand, body bent low, smilingly bowed to the retreating form.

But the next day the representative of the law returned, and jumping
over the ropes which inclosed our theater, he sprang into the middle of
the performance.

"Muzzle those dogs," he said roughly to Vitalis.

"Muzzle my dogs!"

"It's an order of the law, you ought to know that!"

The spectators began to protest.

"Don't interrupt!"

"Let him finish the show, cop!"

Vitalis then took off his felt hat, and with his plumes sweeping the
ground, he made three stately bows to the officer.

"The illustrious gentleman representing the law, does he tell me that I
must muzzle my actors?" he asked.

"Yes, and be quick about it!"

"Muzzle Capi, Zerbino, and Dulcie," cried Vitalis, addressing himself
more to the audience than to the officer; "how can the great physician,
Capi, known throughout the universe, prescribe a cure for Mr.
Pretty-Heart, if the said physician wears a muzzle on the end of his
nose?"

The children and parents began to laugh. Vitalis encouraged by the
applause, continued:

"And how can the charming nurse, Dulcie, use her eloquence to persuade
the patient to take the horrible medicine which is to relieve him of his
pains if I am forced to carry out this cruel order of the law? I ask the
audience if this is fair?"

The clapping of hands and shouts of laughter from the onlookers was
answer enough. They cheered Vitalis and hooted the policeman and, above
all, they were amused at the grimaces Pretty-Heart was making. He had
taken his place behind the "illustrious gentleman who represented the
law," and was making ridiculous grimaces behind his back. The officer
crossed his arms, then uncrossed them and stuck his fists on his hips
and threw back his head, so did the monkey. The onlookers screamed with
laughter.

The officer turned round suddenly to see what amused them, and saw the
monkey striking his own attitude to perfection. For some moments the
monkey and the man stared at each other. It was a question which would
lower his eyes first. The crowd yelled with delight.

"If your dogs are not muzzled to-morrow," cried the policeman, angrily
shaking his first, "you'll be arrested. That's all."

"Good-day, until to-morrow, Signor," said Vitalis, bowing, "until
to-morrow...."

As the officer strode away, Vitalis stood with his body almost bent to
the ground in mock respect.

I thought that he would buy some muzzles for the dogs, but he did
nothing of the kind, and the evening passed without him even mentioning
his quarrel with the policeman. I decided at last to broach the subject
myself.

"If you don't want Capi to tear off his muzzle to-morrow during the
performance," I said, "I think it would be a good thing to put it on him
beforehand, and let him get used to it. We can teach him that he must
keep it on."

"You think I am going to put one of those things on their little noses?"

"The officer is down on us."

"You are only a country boy. Like all peasants you are afraid of a
policeman.

"Don't worry," he added, "I'll have matters arranged to-morrow so that
the policeman can't have me arrested, and at the same time so that the
dogs won't be uncomfortable. On the other hand, the public shall be
amused a bit. This officer should be the means of bringing us some more
money and, in the bargain, play the comic rôle in the piece that I shall
prepare for him. Now, to-morrow, you are to go there alone with
Pretty-Heart. You will arrange the ropes, and play a few pieces on your
harp, and when you have a large audience the officer will arrive on the
scene. I will make my appearance with the dogs. Then the farce will
commence."

I did not at all like going alone the next day, but I knew that my
master must be obeyed.

As soon as I got to our usual place I roped off an inclosure and
commenced to play. The people came from all parts and crowded outside
the ropes. By now I had learnt to play the harp and sing very well.
Amongst other songs, I had learnt a Neapolitan _canzonetta_ which was
always greatly applauded. But to-day I knew that the crowd had not come
to pay tribute to my talent. All who had witnessed the dispute with the
officer the day before were present, and had brought their friends with
them. The police are not liked at Toulouse, and the public were curious
to see how the old Italian would come out, and what significance was
attached to his parting words, "Until to-morrow, Signor." Several of the
spectators, seeing me alone with Pretty-Heart, interrupted my song to
ask if the "old Italian" was coming.

I nodded. The policeman arrived. Pretty-Heart saw him first. He at once
put his clenched hands on his hips and began trotting around in a
ridiculously important manner. The crowd laughed at his antics and
clapped their hands. The officer glared at me angrily.

How was it going to end? I was rather ill at ease. If Vitalis were there
he could reply to the officer. But I was alone. If he ordered me away,
what should I say?

The policeman strode back and forth outside the ropes, and when he
passed near me, he had a way of looking at me over his shoulder that did
not reassure me.

Pretty-Heart did not understand the seriousness of the situation, so he
gleefully strutted along inside the ropes, side by side with the
officer, mimicking his every movement. As he passed me, he also looked
at me over his shoulder in such a comical manner that the people laughed
still louder.

I thought the matter had gone far enough, so I called Pretty-Heart, but
he was in no mood to obey, and continued his walk, running and dodging
me when I tried to catch him. I don't know how it happened, but the
policeman, probably mad with rage, thought that I was encouraging the
monkey, for he quickly jumped the ropes. In a moment he was upon me, and
had knocked me to the ground with one blow. When I opened my eyes and
got to my feet Vitalis, who had sprung from I don't know where, stood
before me. He had just seized the policeman's wrist.

"I forbid you to strike that child," he cried, "what a cowardly thing to
do!"

For some moments the two men looked at each other. The officer was
purple with rage. My master was superb. He held his beautiful white head
high; his face expressed indignation and command. His look was enough to
make the policeman sink into the earth, but he did nothing of the kind.
He wrenched his hand free, seized my master by the collar and roughly
pushed him before him. Vitalis stumbled and almost fell, but he drew
himself up quickly and with his free hand struck the officer on the
wrist. My master was a strong man, but still he was an old man, and the
policeman was young and robust. I saw how a struggle would end. But
there was no struggle.

"You come along with me," said the officer, "you're under arrest."

"Why did you strike that child?" demanded Vitalis.

"No talk. Follow me."

Vitalis did not reply, but turned round to me.

"Go back to the inn," he said, "and stay there with the dogs. I'll send
word to you."

He had no chance to say more, for the officer dragged him off. So ended
the performance that my poor master had wanted to make amusing. The dogs
at first had followed their master, but I called them back, and
accustomed to obey, they returned to me. I noticed that they were
muzzled, but instead of their faces being inclosed in the usual
dog-muzzle, they simply wore a pretty piece of silk fastened round their
noses and tied under their chins. Capi, who was white, wore red;
Zerbino, who was black, wore white, and Dulcie, who was gray, wore blue.
My poor master had thus carried out the order of the law.

The public had quickly dispersed. A few stragglers remained to discuss
what had happened.

"The old man was right."

"He was wrong."

"Why did the cop strike the boy? He did nothing to him; never said a
word."

"Bad business. The old fellow will go to jail, for sure!"

I went back to the inn, depressed. I had grown very fond of my master,
more and more every day. We lived the same life together from morning
till night, and often from night to morning, when we had to sleep on the
same bed of straw. No father could have shown more care for his child
than he showed for me. He had taught me to read, to sing, and to write.
During our long tramps he gave me lessons, first on one subject then on
another. On very cold days he shared his coverings with me, on hot days
he had always helped me carry the bags, and the various things which I
was supposed to carry. And when we ate he never served me the worst
piece, keeping the best for himself; on the contrary, he shared it
equally, the good and the bad. It is true, he sometimes pulled my ears
more roughly than I liked, but if I needed the correction, what of that?
In a word, I loved him, and he loved me. For how long would they send
him to prison? What should I do during that time? How should I live?

Vitalis was in the habit of carrying his money on him, and he had not
had time to give me anything before he was dragged off. I had only a
few sous in my pocket. Would it be enough to buy food for Pretty-Heart,
the dogs, and myself? I spent the next two days in agony, not daring to
leave the inn. The monkey and the dogs were also very downcast. At last,
on the third day, a man brought me a letter from him. Vitalis wrote me
that on the following Saturday he was to be tried for resisting police
authority, and for attacking an officer.

"I was wrong to get into a temper," he wrote. "This may cost me dearly,
but it is too late now. Come to the court, you will learn a lesson."
Then he gave me some advice, and sent his love to me, telling me to
caress the animals for him.

While I was reading the letter, Capi, standing between my feet, put his
nose to the paper, and sniffed it. I could see by the way he wagged his
tail that he knew it had come from his master. This was the first time
in three days that he had showed any signs of joy.

I got to the court early on Saturday morning. Many of the people who had
witnessed the scene with the policeman were present. I was so scared at
being in court, that I got behind a large stove and squeezed up as small
as I could against the wall. Some men who had been arrested for robbery,
others for fighting, were tried first. All said that they were innocent,
but all were found guilty. At last Vitalis was brought in. He sat down
on a bench between two policemen. What he said at first, and what they
asked him, I scarcely knew, my emotion was so great. I stared at
Vitalis; he stood upright, his white head thrown back. He looked ashamed
and worried. I looked at the judge.

"You gave blows to the officer who arrested you," said the judge.

"Not blows, your Honor," said Vitalis, "I only struck once. When I got
to the place where we were to give our performance, I was just in time
to see the officer fell a child to the ground with a blow, the little
boy who is with me."

"The child is not yours."

"No, but I love him as my own son. When I saw him struck I lost my
temper and seized the policeman's arm so that he could not strike
again."

"You struck him?"

"When he laid his hands on me I thought of him only as a man, not as a
police officer."

The officer then said what he had to say.

Vitalis' eyes roamed around the room. I knew that he was looking to see
if I were there, so I decided to come out of my hiding place, and
elbowing through the crowd of people, I came and stood beside him. His
face lit up when he saw me. Presently, the trial ended. He was sentenced
to two months' imprisonment and a fine of one hundred francs. Two
months' prison! The door through which Vitalis had entered was opened.
Through my tears I saw him follow a policeman, and the door closed
behind him. Two months' separation!

Where should I go?



CHAPTER X

HOMELESS


When I returned to the inn with heavy heart and red eyes, the landlord
was standing in the yard. I was going to pass him to get to my dogs, but
he stopped me.

"Well, what about your master?" he asked.

"He is sentenced."

"How long?"

"Two months' prison."

"How much fine?"

"One hundred francs."

"Two months ... one hundred francs," he repeated two or three times.

I wanted to go on, but again he stopped me.

"What are you going to do these two months?"

"I don't know, sir."

"Oh, you don't know. You've got some money to live on and to buy food
for your animals, I suppose."

"No, sir."

"Then do you count on me keeping you?"

"No, sir, I don't count on any one."

That was true. I did not count upon any one.

"Your master already owes me a lot of money," he continued. "I can't
board you for two months without knowing if I shall be paid. You'll
have to go."

"Go! Where shall I go, sir?"

"That's not my business. I'm nothing to you. Why should I keep you?"

For a moment I was dazed. The man was right. Why should he give me
shelter?

"Come, take your dogs and monkey and get out! Of course, you must leave
your master's bag with me. When he comes out of jail, he'll come here to
get it, and then he can settle his account."

An idea came to me.

"As you know he will settle his bill then, can't you keep me until then,
and add what I cost to it?"

"Ah, ah! Your master might be able to pay for two days' lodging, but two
months! that's a different thing."

"I'll eat as little as you wish."

"And your dogs and monkey! No, be off! You'll pick up enough in the
villages."

"But, sir, how will my master find me when he comes out of prison? He'll
come to look for me here."

"All you've got to do is to come back on that day."

"And if he writes to me?"

"I'll keep the letter."

"But if I don't answer him?..."

"Oh, stop your talk. Hurry up and get out! I give you five minutes. If I
find you here when I come out again I'll settle you."

I knew it was useless to plead with him. I had to "get out." I went to
the stables to get the dogs and Pretty-Heart, then strapping my harp on
my shoulder I left the inn.

I was in a hurry to get out of town, for my dogs were not muzzled. What
should I say if I met a policeman? That I had no money? It was the
truth; I had only eleven sous in my pocket. That was not enough to buy
muzzles. They might arrest me. If Vitalis and I were both in prison,
whatever would become of the animals? I felt the responsibility of my
position.

As I walked along quickly the dogs looked up at me in a way I could not
fail to understand. They were hungry. Pretty-Heart, whom I carried,
pulled my ear from time to time to force me to look at him. Then he
rubbed his stomach in a manner that was no less expressive than the
looks the dogs cast at me. I also was hungry. We had had no breakfast.
My eleven sous could not buy enough for dinner and supper, so we should
have to be satisfied with one meal, which, if we took it in the middle
of the day, would serve us for two.

I wandered along. I did not care where I went; it was all the same to
me, for I did not know the country. The question of finding a place in
which to sleep did not worry me; we could sleep in the open air.... But
to eat!

We must have walked for about two hours before I dared to stop, and yet
the dogs had looked up at me imploringly and Pretty-Heart had pulled my
ear and rubbed his stomach incessantly. At last I felt that I was far
enough away from the town to have nothing to fear. I went into the first
bakery that I came across. I asked for one pound and a half of bread.

"You'd do well to take a two-pound loaf," said the woman. "That's not
too much for your menagerie. You must feed the poor dogs."

Oh, no, it was not too much for my menagerie, but it was too much for my
purse. The bread was five sous a pound; two pounds would cost ten sous.
I did not think it wise to be extravagant before knowing what I was
going to do the next day. I told the woman in an offhand manner that one
pound and a half was quite enough and politely asked her not to cut
more. I left the shop with my bread clutched tightly in my arms. The
dogs jumped joyfully around me. Pretty-Heart pulled my hair and chuckled
with glee.

We did not go far. At the first tree that we saw I placed my harp
against the trunk and sat down on the grass. The dogs sat opposite me,
Capi in the middle, Dulcie at one side, Zerbino on the other.
Pretty-Heart, who was not tired, stood up on the watch, ready to snatch
the first piece that he could. To eke out the meal was a delicate
matter. I cut the bread into five parts, as near the same size as
possible, and distributed the slices. I gave each a piece in turn, as
though I were dealing cards. Pretty-Heart, who required less food than
we, fared better, for he was quite satisfied while we were still
famished. I took three pieces from his share and hid them in my bag to
give the dogs later. Then, as there still remained a little piece, I
broke it and we each had some; that was for dessert.

After the meal I felt that the moment had come for me to say a few words
to my companions. Although I was their chief, I did not feel that I was
too much above them not to wish them to take part in the grave situation
in which we found ourselves.

Capi had probably guessed my intentions, for he sat with his big,
intelligent eyes fixed on me.

"Yes, Capi," I said, "and you, Dulcie, Zerbino and Pretty-Heart, my
friends, I've bad news for you. We shan't see our master for two whole
months."

"Ouah," barked Capi.

"It's bad for him and it's also bad for us, for we depend on him for
everything, and now he's gone, we haven't any money."

At the mention of the word money, which he perfectly understood, Capi
rose on his hind paws and commenced to trot round as though he were
collecting money from the "distinguished audience."

"I see you want to give a performance, Capi," I continued; "that's good
advice, but should we make anything? That's the question. We have only
three sous left, so you mustn't get hungry. You've all to be very
obedient; that will make it easier for us all. You must help me all you
can, you dogs and Pretty-Heart. I want to feel that I can count on you."

I would not make so bold as to say that they understood all I said, but
they got the general idea. They knew by our master's absence that
something serious had happened, and they had expected an explanation
from me. If they did not understand all that I said to them, they were
at least satisfied that I had their welfare at heart, and they showed
their satisfaction by the attention they gave me.

Attention? Yes, on the part of the dogs only. It was impossible for
Pretty-Heart to keep still for long. He could not fix his mind upon one
subject for more than a minute. During the first part of my discourse he
had listened to me with the greatest interest, but before I had said
twenty words, he had sprung up into a tree, the branches of which hung
over our heads, and was now swinging himself from branch to branch. If
Capi had insulted me in like manner, my pride would certainly have been
hurt; but I was never astonished at anything Pretty-Heart might do. He
was so empty-headed. But after all, it was quite natural that he should
want to have a little fun. I admit that I would liked to have done the
same. I would have gone up that tree with pleasure, but the importance
and dignity of my present office did not permit me any such
distractions.

After we had rested a while I gave the sign to start. We had to find a
place somewhere to lie down for the night and gain a few sous for our
food for the next day. We walked for one hour, then came in sight of a
village. I quickly dressed my troop, and in as good marching order as
possible we made our entry. Unfortunately, we had no fife and we lacked
Vitalis' fine, commanding presence. Like a drum major, he always
attracted the eye. I had not the advantage of being tall, nor was I
possessed of a wonderful head. Quite the reverse, I was small and thin
and I must have worn a very anxious look. While marching I glanced to
the right and to the left to see what effect we were producing. Very
little, I regret to say. No one followed us. Upon reaching the small
square upon which was a fountain shaded with trees, I took my harp and
commenced to play a waltz. The music was gay, my fingers were light, but
my heart was heavy.

I told Zerbino and Dulcie to waltz together. They obeyed me at once and
commenced to whirl round, keeping time. But no one put themselves out to
come and see us, and yet in the doorways I saw several women knitting
and talking. I continued to play, Zerbino and Dulcie went on with their
waltz. Perhaps if one decided to come over to us, a second would come,
then more and more.

I played on and on, Zerbino and Dulcie went round and round, but the
women in the doorways did not even look over at us. It was discouraging.
But I was determined not to be discouraged. I played with all my might,
making the cords of my harp vibrate, almost to breaking them. Suddenly a
little child, taking its first steps, trotted from his home and came
towards us. No doubt the mother would follow him, and after the mother a
friend would come, and we should have an audience, and then a little
money.

I played more softly so as not to frighten the baby, and also to entice
him to come nearer. With hands held out and swaying first on one foot,
then on the other, he came on slowly. A few steps more and he would have
reached us, but at that moment the mother looked round. She saw her baby
at once. But instead of running after him as I had thought she would,
she called to him, and the child obediently turned round and went back
to her. Perhaps these people did not like dance music; it was quite
possible.

I told Zerbino and Dulcie to lie down, and I began to sing my
_canzonetta_. Never did I try so hard to please.

I had reached the end of the second line, when I saw a man in a round
jacket, and I felt that he was coming towards me. At last! I tried to
sing with even more fervor.

"Hello, what are you doing here, young rogue?" he cried.

I stopped, amazed at his words, and watched him coming nearer, with my
mouth open.

"What are you doing here, I say?"

"Singing, sir."

"Have you got permission to sing on a public square in our village?"

"No, sir."

"Well, be off; if you don't I'll have you arrested."

"But, sir...."

"Be off, you little beggar."

I knew from my poor master's example what it would cost me if I went
against the town authorities. I did not make him repeat his order; I
hurried off.

Beggar! That was not fair. I had not begged; I had sung. In five minutes
I had left behind me this inhospitable, but well guarded, village. My
dogs followed me with their heads lowered, and their tails between their
legs. They certainly knew that some bad luck had befallen us. Capi, from
time to time, went ahead of us and turned round to look at me
questioningly with his intelligent eyes. Any one else in his place would
have questioned me, but Capi was too well bred to be indiscreet. I saw
his lip tremble in the effort he made to keep back his protests.

When we were far enough away from the village, I signed to them to stop,
and the three dogs made a circle round me, Capi in the middle, his eyes
on mine.

"As we had no permission to play, they sent us away," I explained.

"Well, then?" asked Capi, with a wag of his head.

"So then we shall have to sleep in the open air and go without supper."

At the word "supper" there was a general bark. I showed them my three
sous.

"You know that is all we have. If we spend those three sous to-night, we
shall have nothing left for breakfast to-morrow. So, as we have had
something to-day, it is better to save this." And I put my three sous
back in my pocket.

Capi and Dulcie bent their heads resignedly, but Zerbino, who was not so
good, and who besides was a gourmand, continued to growl. I looked at
him severely.

"Capi, explain to Zerbino, he doesn't seem to understand," I said to
faithful _Capitano_.

Capi at once tapped Zerbino with his paw. It seemed as though an
argument was taking place between the two dogs. One may find the word
argument too much, when applied to dogs, but animals certainly have a
peculiar language of their kind. As to dogs, they not only know how to
speak, they know how to read. Look at them with their noses in the air
or, with lowered head, sniffing at the ground, smelling the bushes and
stones. Suddenly they'll stop before a clump of grass, or a wall, and
remain on the alert for a moment. We see nothing on the wall, but the
dog reads all sorts of curious things written in mysterious letters
which we do not understand.

What Capi said to Zerbino I did not hear, for if dogs can understand the
language of men, men do not understand their language. I only saw that
Zerbino refused to listen to reason, and that he insisted that the three
sous should be spent immediately. Capi got angry, and it was only when
he showed his teeth that Zerbino, who was a bit of a coward, lapsed into
silence. The word "silence" is also used advisedly. I mean by silence
that he laid down.

The weather was beautiful, so that to sleep in the open air was not a
serious matter. The only thing was to keep out of the way of the wolves,
if there were any in this part of the country.

We walked straight ahead on the white road until we found a place. We
had reached a wood. Here and there were great blocks of granite. The
place was very mournful and lonely, but there was no better, and I
thought that we might find shelter from the damp night air amongst the
granite. When I say "we," I mean Pretty-Heart and myself, for the dogs
would not catch cold sleeping out of doors. I had to be careful of
myself, for I knew how heavy was my responsibility. What would become of
us all if I fell ill, and what would become of me if I had Pretty-Heart
to nurse?

We found a sort of grotto between the stones, strewn with dried leaves.
This was very nice. All that was lacking was something to eat. I tried
not to think that we were hungry. Does not the proverb say, "He who
sleeps, eats."

Before lying down I told Capi that I relied upon him to keep watch, and
the faithful dog, instead of sleeping with us on the pine leaves, laid
down like a sentinel at the entrance of our quarters. I could sleep in
peace, for I knew that none would come near without me being warned by
Capi. Yet, although, at rest on this point, I could not sleep at once.
Pretty-Heart was asleep beside me, wrapped up in my coat; Zerbino and
Dulcie were stretched at my feet. But my anxiety was greater than my
fatigue.

This first day had been bad; what would the next day be? I was hungry
and thirsty, and yet I only had three sous. How could I buy food for all
if I did not earn something the next day? And the muzzles? And the
permission to sing? Oh, what was to be done! Perhaps we should all die
of hunger in the bushes. While turning over these questions in my mind,
I looked up at the stars, which shone in the dark sky. There was not a
breath of wind. Silence everywhere. Not the rustle of a leaf or the cry
of a bird, nor the rumble of a cart on the road. As far as my eye could
see, stretched space. How alone we were; how abandoned! The tears filled
my eyes. Poor Mother Barberin! poor Vitalis.

I was lying on my stomach, crying into my hands, when suddenly I felt a
breath pass through my hair. I turned over quickly, and a big soft
tongue licked my wet cheek. It was Capi who had heard me crying and had
come to comfort me as he had done on the first day of my wanderings.
With my two hands I took him by the neck and kissed him on his wet
nose. He uttered two or three little mournful snorts, and it seemed to
me that he was crying with me. I slept. When I awoke it was full day and
Capi was sitting beside me, looking at me. The birds were singing in the
trees. In the distance I could hear a church bell ringing the Angelus,
the morning prayer. The sun was already high in the sky, throwing its
bright rays down to comfort heart and body.

We started off, going in the direction of the village where we should
surely find a baker: when one goes to bed without dinner or supper one
is hungry early in the morning. I made up my mind to spend the three
sous, and after that we would see what would happen.

Upon arriving in the village there was no need for me to ask where the
baker lived; our noses guided us straight to the shop. My sense of smell
was now as keen as that of my dogs. From the distance I sniffed the
delicious odor of hot bread. We could not get much for three sous, when
it costs five sous a pound. Each of us had but a little piece, so our
breakfast was soon over.

We _had_ to make money that day. I walked through the village to find a
favorable place for a performance, and also to note the expressions of
the people, to try and guess if they were enemies or friends. My
intention was not to give the performance at once. It was too early, but
after finding a place we would come back in the middle of the day and
take a chance.

I was engrossed with this idea, when suddenly I heard some one shouting
behind me. I turned round quickly and saw Zerbino racing towards me,
followed by an old woman. It did not take me long to know what was the
matter. Profiting by my preoccupation, Zerbino had run into a house and
stolen a piece of meat. He was racing alone, carrying his booty in his
jaws.

"Thief! thief!" cried the old woman; "catch him! Catch all of 'em!"

When I heard her say this, I felt that somehow I was guilty, or at
least, that I was responsible for Zerbino's crime, so I began to run.
What could I say to the old woman if she demanded the price of the
stolen meat? How could I pay her? If we were arrested they would put us
in prison. Seeing me flying down the road, Dulcie and Capi were not long
following my example; they were at my heels, while Pretty-Heart, whom I
carried on my shoulder, clung round my neck so as not to fall.

Some one else cried: "Stop thief!" and others joined in the chase. But
we raced on. Fear gave us speed. I never saw Dulcie run so fast; her
feet barely touched the ground. Down a side street and across a field we
went, and soon we had outstripped our pursuers, but I did not stop
running until I was quite out of breath. We had raced at least two
miles. I turned round. No one was following us. Capi and Dulcie were
still at my heels, Zerbino was in the distance. He had stopped probably
to eat his piece of meat. I called him, but he knew very well that he
deserved a severe punishment, so instead of coming to me, he ran away as
fast as he could. He was famished, that was why he had stolen the meat.
But I could not accept this as an excuse. He had stolen. If I wanted to
preserve discipline in my troop, the guilty one must be punished. If
not, in the next village Dulcie would do the same, and then Capi would
succumb to the temptation. I should have to punish Zerbino publicly. But
in order to do that I should have to catch him, and that was not an easy
thing to do.

I turned to Capi.

"Go and find Zerbino," I said gravely.

He started off at once to do what I told him, but it seemed to me that
he went with less ardor than usual. From the look that he gave me, I saw
that he would far rather champion Zerbino than be my envoy. I sat down
to await his return with the prisoner. I was pleased to get a rest after
our mad race. When we stopped running we had reached the bank of a canal
with shady trees and fields on either side.

An hour passed. The dogs had not returned. I was beginning to feel
anxious when at last Capi appeared alone, his head hanging down.

"Where is Zerbino?"

Capi laid down in a cowed attitude. I looked at him and noticed that one
of his ears was bleeding. I knew what had happened. Zerbino had put up a
fight. I felt that, although Capi had obeyed my orders, he had
considered that I was too severe and had let himself be beaten. I could
not scold him. I could only wait until Zerbino chose to return. I knew
that sooner or later he would feel sorry and would come back and take
his punishment.

I stretched myself out under a tree, holding Pretty-Heart tight for fear
he should take it into his head to join Zerbino. Dulcie and Capi slept
at my feet. Time passed. Zerbino did not appear. At last I also dropped
off to sleep.

Several hours had passed when I awoke. By the sun I could tell that it
was getting late, but there was no need for the sun to tell me that. My
stomach cried out that it was a long time since I had eaten that piece
of bread. And I could tell from the looks of the two dogs and
Pretty-Heart that they were famished. Capi and Dulcie fixed their eyes
on me piteously; Pretty-Heart made grimaces. But still Zerbino had not
come back. I called to him, I whistled, but in vain. Having well lunched
he was probably digesting his meal, cuddled up in a bush.

The situation was becoming serious. If I left this spot, Zerbino perhaps
would get lost, for he might not be able to find us; then if I stayed,
there was no chance of me making a little money to buy something to eat.
Our hunger became more acute. The dogs fixed their eyes on me
imploringly, and Pretty-Heart rubbed his stomach and squealed angrily.

Still Zerbino did not return. Once more I sent Capi to look for the
truant, but at the end of half an hour he came back alone. What was to
be done?

Although Zerbino was guilty, and through his fault we were put into this
terrible position, I could not forsake him. What would my master say if
I did not take his three dogs back to him? And then, in spite of all, I
loved Zerbino, the rogue! I decided to wait until evening, but it was
impossible to remain inactive. If we were doing something I thought we
might not feel the pangs of hunger so keenly. If I could invent
something to distract us, we might, for the time being, forget that we
were so famished. What could we do?

I pondered over the question. Then I remembered that Vitalis had told me
that when a regiment was tired out by a long march, the band played the
gayest airs so that the soldiers should forget their fatigue. If I
played some gay pieces on my harp, perhaps we could forget our hunger.
We were all so faint and sick, yet if I played something lively and made
the two poor dogs dance with Pretty-Heart the time might pass quicker. I
took my instrument, which I had placed up against a tree and, turning my
back to the canal I put my animals in position and began to play a
dance.

At first neither the dogs nor the monkey seemed disposed to dance. All
they wanted was food. My heart ached as I watched their pitiful
attitude. But they must forget their hunger, poor little things! I
played louder and quicker, then, little by little, the music produced
its customary effect. They danced and I played on and on.

Suddenly I heard a clear voice, a child's voice, call out: "Bravo." The
voice came from behind me. I turned round quickly.

A barge had stopped on the canal. The two horses which dragged the boat
were standing on the opposite bank. It was a strange barge. I had never
seen one like it. It was much shorter than the other boats on the canal,
and the deck was fashioned like a beautiful veranda, covered with plants
and foliage. I could see two people, a lady, who was still young, with a
beautiful sad face, and a boy about my own age, who seemed to be lying
down. It was evidently the little boy who had called out "Bravo!"

I was very surprised at seeing them. I lifted my hat to thank them for
their applause.

"Are you playing for your own pleasure?" asked the lady, speaking French
with a foreign accent.

"I am keeping the dogs in practice and also ... it diverts their
attention."

The child said something. The lady bent over him.

"Will you play again?" she then asked, turning round to me.

Would I play? Play for an audience who had arrived at such a moment! I
did not wait to be asked twice.

"Would you like a dance or a little comedy?" I asked.

"Oh, a comedy," cried the child. But the lady said she preferred a
dance.

"A dance is too short," said the boy.

"If the 'distinguished audience' wishes, after the dance, we will
perform our different rôles."

This was one of my master's fine phrases. I tried to say it in the same
grand manner as he. Upon second thought, I was not sorry that the lady
did not wish for a comedy, for I don't see how I could have given a
performance; not only was Zerbino absent, but I had none of the "stage
fittings" with me.

I played the first bars of a waltz. Capi took Dulcie by the waist with
his two paws and they whirled round, keeping good time. Then
Pretty-Heart danced alone. Successively, we went through all our
repertoire. We did not feel tired now. The poor little creatures knew
that they would be repaid with a meal and they did their best. I also.

Then, suddenly, in the midst of a dance in which all were taking part,
Zerbino came out from behind a bush, and as Capi and Dulcie and
Pretty-Heart passed near him, he boldly took his place amongst them.

While playing and watching my actors, I glanced from time to time at
the little boy. He seemed to take great pleasure in what we were doing,
but he did not move. He looked as though he was lying on a stretcher.
The boat had drifted right to the edge of the bank, and now I could see
the boy plainly. He had fair hair. His face was pale, so white that one
could see the blue veins on his forehead. He had the drawn face of a
sick child.

"How much do you charge for seats at your performance?" asked the lady.

"You pay according to the pleasure we have given you."

"Then, Mamma, you must pay a lot," said the child. He added something in
a language that I did not understand.

"My son would like to see your actors nearer."

I made a sign to Capi. With delight, he sprang onto the boat.

"And the others!" cried the little boy.

Zerbino and Dulcie followed Capi's example.

"And the monkey!"

Pretty-Heart could have easily made the jump, but I was never sure of
him. Once on board he might do some tricks that certainly would not be
to the lady's taste.

"Is he spiteful?" she asked.

"No, madam, but he is not always obedient, and I am afraid that he will
not behave himself."

"Well, bring him on yourself."

She signed to a man who stood near the rail. He came forward and threw a
plank across to the bank. With my harp on my shoulder and Pretty-Heart
in my arms I stepped up the plank.

"The monkey! the monkey!" cried the little boy, whom the lady addressed
as Arthur.

I went up to him and, while he stroked and petted Pretty-Heart, I
watched him. He was strapped to a board.

"Have you a father, my child?" asked the lady.

"Yes, but I am alone just now."

"For long?"

"For two months."

"Two months! Oh, poor little boy. At your age how is it that you happen
to be left all alone?"

"It has to be, madam."

"Does your father make you take him a sum of money at the end of two
months? Is that it?"

"No, madam, he does not force me to do anything. If I can make enough to
live with my animals, that is all."

"And do you manage to get enough?"

I hesitated before replying. I felt a kind of awe, a reverence for this
beautiful lady. Yet she talked to me so kindly and her voice was so
sweet, that I decided to tell her the truth. There was no reason why I
should not. Then I told her how Vitalis and I had been parted, that he
had gone to prison because he had defended me, and how since he had gone
I had been unable to make any money.

While I was talking, Arthur was playing with the dogs, but he was
listening to what I said.

"Then how hungry you all must be!" he cried.

At this word, which the animals well knew, the dogs began to bark and
Pretty-Heart rubbed his stomach vigorously.

"Oh, Mamma!" cried Arthur.

The lady said a few words in a strange language to a woman, whose head I
could see through a half open door. Almost immediately the woman
appeared with some food.

"Sit down, my child," said the lady.

I did so at once. Putting my harp aside I quickly sat down in the chair
at the table; the dogs grouped themselves around me. Pretty-Heart jumped
on my knee.

"Do your dogs eat bread?" asked Arthur.

"Do they eat bread!"

I gave them a piece which they devoured ravenously.

"And the monkey?" said Arthur.

But there was no occasion to worry about Pretty-Heart, for while I was
serving the dogs he had taken a piece of crust from a meat pie and was
almost choking himself underneath the table. I helped myself to the pie
and, if I did not choke like Pretty-Heart, I gobbled it up no less
gluttonously than he.

"Poor, poor child!" said the lady.

Arthur said nothing, but he looked at us with wide open eyes, certainly
amazed at our appetites, for we were all as famished as one another,
even Zerbino, who should have been somewhat appeased by the meat that he
had stolen.

"What would you have eaten to-night if you had not met us?" asked
Arthur.

"I don't think we should have eaten at all."

"And to-morrow?"

"Perhaps to-morrow we should have had the luck to meet some one like we
have to-day."

Arthur then turned to his mother. For some minutes they spoke together
in a foreign language. He seemed to be asking for something which at
first she seemed not quite willing to grant. Then, suddenly, the boy
turned his head. His body did not move.

"Would you like to stay with us?" he asked.

I looked at him without replying; I was so taken back by the question.

"My son wants to know if you would like to stay with us?" repeated the
lady.

"On this boat?"

"Yes, my little boy is ill and he is obliged to be strapped to this
board. So that the days will pass more pleasantly for him, I take him
about in this boat. While your master is in prison, if you like, you may
stay here with us. Your dogs and your monkey can give a performance
every day, and Arthur and I will be the audience. You can play your harp
for us. You will be doing us a service and we, on our side, may be
useful to you."

To live on a boat! What a kind lady. I did not know what to say. I took
her hand and kissed it.

"Poor little boy!" she said, almost tenderly.

She had said she would like me to play my harp: this simple pleasure I
would give her at once. I wanted to show how grateful I was. I took my
instrument and, going to the end of the boat, I commenced to play
softly. The lady put a little silver whistle to her lips and blew it.

I stopped playing, wondering why she had whistled. Was it to tell me
that I was playing badly, or to ask me to stop? Arthur, who saw
everything that passed around him, noticed my uneasiness.

"My mamma blew the whistle for the horses to go on," he said.

That was so; the barge, towed by the horses, glided over the soft waters
which lapped gently against the keel; on either side were trees and
behind us fell the oblique rays from the setting sun.

"Will you play?" asked Arthur.

He beckoned to his mother. She sat down beside him. He took her hand and
kept it in his, and I played to them all the pieces that my master had
taught me.



CHAPTER XI

ANOTHER BOY'S MOTHER


Arthur's mother was English. Her name was Mrs. Milligan. She was a
widow, and Arthur was her only son; at least, it was supposed that he
was her only son living, for she had lost an elder child under
mysterious conditions. When the child was six months old it had been
kidnaped, and they had never been able to find any trace of him. It is
true that, at the time he was taken, Mrs. Milligan had not been able to
make the necessary searches. Her husband was dying, and she herself was
dangerously ill and knew nothing of what was going on around her. When
she regained consciousness her husband was dead and her baby had
disappeared. Her brother-in-law, Mr. James Milligan, had searched
everywhere for the child. There being no heir, he expected to inherit
his brother's property. Yet, after all, Mr. James Milligan inherited
nothing from his brother, for seven months after the death of her
husband, Mrs. Milligan's second son, Arthur, was born.

But the doctors said that this frail, delicate child could not live. He
might die at any moment. In the event of his death, Mr. James Milligan
would succeed to the fortune. He waited and hoped, but the doctors'
predictions were not fulfilled. Arthur lived. It was his mother's care
that saved him. When he had to be strapped to a board, she could not
bear the thought of her son being closed up in a house, so she had a
beautiful barge built for him, and was now traveling through France on
the various canals.

Naturally, it was not the first day that I learned all this about the
English lady and her son. I learned these details little by little,
while I was with her.

I was given a tiny cabin on the boat. What a wonderful little room it
appeared to me! Everything was spotless. The only article of furniture
that the cabin contained was a bureau, but what a bureau: bed, mattress,
pillows, and covers combined. And attached to the bed were drawers
containing brushes, combs, etc. There was no table or chairs, at least
not in their usual shape, but against the wall was a plank, which when
pulled down was found to be a little square table and chair. How pleased
I was to get into that little bed. It was the first time in my life that
I had felt soft sheets against my face. Mother Barberin's were very hard
and they used to rub my cheeks, and Vitalis and I had more often slept
without sheets, and those at the cheap lodging houses at which we stayed
were just as rough as Mother Barberin's.

I woke early, for I wanted to know how my animals had passed the night.
I found them all at the place where I had installed them the night
before, and sleeping as though the beautiful barge had been their home
for several months. The dogs jumped up as I approached, but
Pretty-Heart, although he had one eye half open, did not move; instead
he commenced to snore like a trombone.

I guessed at once what was the matter: Pretty-Heart was very sensitive;
he got angry very quickly and sulked for a long time. In the present
circumstances he was annoyed because I had not taken him into my cabin,
and he showed his displeasure by pretending to be asleep.

I could not explain to him why I had been forced to leave him on deck,
and as I felt that I had, at least in appearances, done him an injury, I
took him in my arms and cuddled him, to show him that I was sorry. At
first he continued to sulk, but soon, with his changeable temper, he
thought of something else, and by his signs made me understand that if I
would take him for a walk on land he would perhaps forgive me. The man
who was cleaning the deck was willing to throw the plank across for us,
and I went off into the fields with my troop.

The time passed, playing with the dogs and chasing Pretty-Heart; when we
returned the horses were harnessed and the barge in readiness to start.
As soon as we were all on the boat the horses began to trot along the
towing path; we glided over the water without feeling a movement, and
the only sound to be heard was the song of the birds, the swish of the
water against the boat, and the tinkle of bells around the horses'
necks.

Here and there the water seemed quite black, as though it was of great
depth; in other parts it was as clear as crystal and we could see the
shiny pebbles and velvety grass below.

I was gazing down into the water when I heard some one call my name. It
was Arthur. He was being carried out on his board.

"Did you sleep well?" he asked, "better than in the field?"

I told him that I had, after I had politely spoken to Mrs. Milligan.

"And the dogs?" asked Arthur.

I called to them; they came running up with Pretty-Heart; the latter
making grimaces as he usually did when he thought that we were going to
give a performance.

Mrs. Milligan had placed her son in the shade and had taken a seat
beside him.

"Now," she said to me, "you must take the dogs and the monkey away; we
are going to work."

I went with the animals to the front of the boat.

What work could that poor little boy do?

I looked round and saw that his mother was making him repeat a lesson
from a book she held in her hand. He seemed to be having great
difficulty in mastering it, but his mother was very patient.

"No," she said at last, "Arthur, you don't know it, at all."

"I can't, Mamma, I just can't," he said, plaintively. "I'm sick."

"Your head is not sick. I can't allow you to grow up in utter ignorance
because you're an invalid, Arthur."

That seemed very severe to me, yet she spoke in a sweet, kind way.

"Why do you make me so unhappy? You know how I feel when you won't
learn."

"I cannot, Mamma; I cannot." And he began to cry.

But Mrs. Milligan did not let herself be won over by his tears, although
she appeared touched and even more unhappy.

"I would have liked to have let you play this morning with Remi and the
dogs," she said, "but you cannot play until you know your lessons
perfectly." With that she gave the book to Arthur and walked away,
leaving him alone.

From where I stood I could hear him crying. How could his mother, who
appeared to love him so much, be so severe with the poor little fellow.
A moment later she returned.

"Shall we try again?" she asked gently.

She sat down beside him and, taking the book, she began to read the
fable called "The Wolf and the Sheep." She read it through three times,
then gave the book back to Arthur and told him to learn it alone. She
went inside the boat.

I could see Arthur's lips moving. He certainly was trying very hard.
But soon he took his eyes off the book; his lips stopped moving. His
look wandered everywhere, but not back to his book. Suddenly he caught
my eye; I made a sign to him to go on with his lesson. He smiled, as
though to thank me for reminding him, and again fixed his eyes on his
book. But as before, he could not concentrate his thoughts; his eyes
began to rove from first one side of the canal to the other. Just then a
bird flew over the boat, swiftly as an arrow. Arthur raised his head to
follow its flight. When it had passed he looked at me.

"I can't learn this," he said, "and yet I want to."

I went over to him.

"It is not very difficult," I said.

"Yes, it is, it's awfully difficult."

"It seems to me quite easy. I was listening while your mother read it,
and I almost learned it myself."

He smiled as though he did not believe it.

"Do you want me to say it to you?"

"You can't."

"Shall I try? You take the book."

He took up the book again, and I began to recite the verse. I had it
almost perfect.

"What! you know it?"

"Not quite, but next time I could say it without a mistake, I believe."

"How did you learn it?"

"I listened while your mother read it, but I listened attentively
without looking about to see what was going on round about me."

He reddened, and turned away his eyes.

"I will try, like you," he said, "but tell me, what did you do to
remember the words?"

I did not quite know how to explain, but I tried my best.

"What is the fable about?" I said. "Sheep. Well, first of all, I thought
of sheep; the sheep were in a field. I could see them lying down and
sleeping in the field; picturing them so, I did not forget."

"Yes, yes," he said, "I can see them, black and white ones! in a green
field."

"What looks after the sheep usually?"

"Dogs."

"And?..."

"A shepherd."

"If they thought the sheep were quite safe, what did they do?"

"The dog slept while the shepherd played his flute in the distance with
the other shepherds."

Little by little Arthur had the entire fable pictured in his mind's eye.
I explained every detail, as well as I was able. When he was thoroughly
interested we went over the lines together and at the end of half an
hour he had mastered it.

"Oh, how pleased mamma will be!" he cried.

When his mother came out she seemed displeased that we were together.
She thought that we had been playing, but Arthur did not give her time
to say a word.

"I know it!" he cried. "Remi has taught it to me."

Mrs. Milligan looked at me in surprise, but before she could say a word
Arthur had commenced to recite the fable. I looked at Mrs. Milligan: her
beautiful face broke into a smile; then I thought I saw tears in her
eyes, but she bent her head quickly over her son and put her arms about
him. I was not sure if she was crying.

"The words mean nothing," said Arthur; "they are stupid, but the things
that one sees! Remi made me see the shepherd with his flute, and the
fields, and the dogs, and the sheep, then the wolves, and I could even
hear the music that the shepherd was playing. Shall I sing the song to
you, Mamma?"

And he sang a little sad song in English.

This time Mrs. Milligan did really cry, for when she got up from her
seat, I saw that Arthur's cheeks were wet with her tears. Then she came
to me and, taking my hand in hers, pressed it gently.

"You are a good boy," she said.

The evening before I had been a little tramp, who had come on the barge
with his animals to amuse a sick child, but this lesson drew me apart
from the dogs and the monkey. I was, from now, a companion, almost a
friend, to the sick boy.

From that day there was a change in Mrs. Milligan's manner toward me,
and between Arthur and myself there grew a strong friendship. I never
once felt the difference in our positions; this may have been due to
Mrs. Milligan's kindness, for she often spoke to me as though I were her
child.

When the country was interesting we would go very slowly, but if the
landscape was dreary, the horses would trot quickly along the towing
path. When the sun went down the barge stopped; when the sun rose the
barge started on again.

If the evenings were damp we went into the little cabin and sat round a
bright fire, so that the sick boy should not feel chilly, and Mrs.
Milligan would read to us and show us pictures and tell us beautiful
stories.

Then, when the evenings were beautiful, I did my part. I would take my
harp and when the boat had stopped I would get off and go at a short
distance and sit behind a tree. Then, hidden by the branches, I played
and sang my best. On calm nights Arthur liked to hear the music without
being able to see who played. And when I played his favorite airs he
would call out "Encore," and I would play the piece over again.

That was a beautiful life for the country boy, who had sat by Mother
Barberin's fireside, and who had tramped the high roads with Signor
Vitalis. What a difference between the dish of boiled potatoes that my
poor foster mother had given me and the delicious tarts, jellies, and
creams that Mrs. Milligan's cook made! What a contrast between the long
tramps in the mud, the pouring rain, the scorching sun, trudging behind
Vitalis, ... and this ride on the beautiful barge!

The pastry was delicious, and yes, it was fine, oh, so fine not to be
hungry, nor tired, nor too hot, nor too cold, but in justice to myself,
I must say that it was the kindness and love of this lady and this
little boy that I felt the most. Twice I had been torn from those I
loved, ... first from dear Mother Barberin, and then from Vitalis. I was
left with only the dogs and the monkey, hungry and footsore, and then a
beautiful lady, with a child of about my own age, had taken me in and
treated me as though I were a brother.

Often, as I looked at Arthur strapped to his bench, pale and drawn, I
envied him, I, so full of health and strength, envied the little sick
boy. It was not the luxuries that surrounded him that I envied, not the
boat. It was his mother. Oh, how I wanted a mother of my own! She kissed
him, and he was able to put his arms around her whenever he
wished,--this lady whose hand I scarcely dared touch when she held it
out to me. And I thought sadly that I should never have a mother who
would kiss me and whom I could kiss. Perhaps one day I should see Mother
Barberin again, and that would make me very happy, but I could not call
her mother now, for she was not my mother....

I was alone.... I should always be alone.... Nobody's boy.

I was old enough to know that one should not expect to have too much
from this world, and I thought that, as I had no family, no father or
mother, I should be thankful that I had friends. And I was happy, so
happy on that barge. But, alas! it was not to last long. The day was
drawing near for me to take up my old life again.



CHAPTER XII

THE MASTER'S CONSENT


It was all to end,--this beautiful trip that I had made on the barge. No
nice bed, no nice pastry, no evenings listening to Mrs. Milligan. Ah! no
Mrs. Milligan or Arthur!

One day I decided to ask Mrs. Milligan how long it would take me to get
back to Toulouse. I wanted to be waiting at the prison door when my
master came out. When Arthur heard me speak of going back, he began to
cry.

"I don't want him to go! I don't want Remi to go," he sobbed.

I told him that I belonged to Vitalis, and that he had paid a sum of
money for me, and that I must return to him the moment he wanted me. I
had spoken of my foster parents, but had never said that they were not
really my father and mother. I felt ashamed to admit that I was a
foundling,--a child picked up in the streets! I knew how the children
from the Foundlings' Hospital had been scorned. It seemed to me that it
was the most abject thing in the world to be a foundling. I did not want
Mrs. Milligan and Arthur to know. Would they not have turned from me in
disdain!

"Mamma, we must keep Remi," continued Arthur.

"I should be very pleased to keep Remi with us," replied Mrs. Milligan;
"we are so fond of him. But there are two things; first, Remi would have
to want to stay...."

"Oh, he does! he does!" cried Arthur, "don't you, Remi? You don't want
to go back to Toulouse?"

"The second is," continued Mrs. Milligan, "will his master give him up?"

"Remi comes first; he comes first," Arthur insisted.

Vitalis had been a good master, and I was very grateful for all he had
taught me, but there was no comparison between my life with him and that
which I should have with Arthur, and at the same time, there was also no
comparison between the respect I had for Vitalis and the affection which
I felt for Mrs. Milligan and her invalid boy. I felt that it was wrong
for me to prefer these strangers to my master, but it was so. I loved
Mrs. Milligan and Arthur.

"If Remi stays with us it will not be all pleasure," went on Mrs.
Milligan; "he would have to do lessons the same as you; he would have to
study a great deal; it would not be the free life that he would have in
going tramping along the roads."

"Ah, you know what I would like,..." I began.

"There, there, you see, Mamma!" interrupted Arthur.

"All that we have to do now," continued Mrs. Milligan, "is to get his
master's consent. I will write and ask him if he will come here, for we
cannot return to Toulouse. I will send him his fare, and explain to him
the reason why we cannot take the train. I'll invite him here, and I do
hope he will accept.

"If he agrees to my proposition," added Mrs. Milligan, "I will then make
arrangements with your parents, Remi, for of course they must be
consulted."

Consult my parents! They will tell her what I have been trying to keep
secret. That I am a foundling! Then neither Arthur nor Mrs. Milligan
would want me!

A boy who did not know his own father or mother had been a companion to
Arthur! I stared at Mrs. Milligan in affright. I did not know what to
say. She looked at me in surprise. I did not dare reply to her question
when she asked me what was the matter. Probably thinking that I was
upset at the thought of my master coming, she did not insist.

Arthur looked at me curiously all the evening. I was glad when bedtime
came, and I could close myself in my cabin. That was my first bad night
on board the _Swan_. What could I do? What say?

Perhaps Vitalis would not give me up, then they would never know the
truth. My shame and fear of them finding out the truth was so great that
I began to hope that Vitalis would insist upon me staying with him.

Three days later Mrs. Milligan received a reply to the letter she had
sent Vitalis. He said that he would be pleased to come and see her, and
that he would arrive the following Saturday, by the two o'clock train. I
asked permission to go to the station with the dogs and Pretty-Heart to
meet him.

In the morning the dogs were restless as though they knew that something
was going to happen. Pretty-Heart was indifferent. I was terribly
excited. My fate was to be decided. If I had possessed the courage I
would have implored Vitalis not to tell Mrs. Milligan that I was a
foundling, but I felt that I could not utter the word, even to him.

I stood on a corner of the railway station, holding my dogs on a leash,
with Pretty-Heart under my coat, and I waited. I saw little of what
passed around me. It was the dogs who warned me that the train had
arrived. They scented their master. Suddenly there was a tug at the
leash. As I was not on my guard, they broke loose. With a bark they
bounded forward. I saw them spring upon Vitalis. More sure, although
less supple than the other two, Capi had jumped straight into his
master's arms, while Zerbino and Dulcie jumped at his feet.

When Vitalis saw me, he put Capi down quickly, and threw his arms around
me. For the first time he kissed me.

"God bless you, my boy," he said again, and again.

My master had never been hard with me, but neither had he ever been
affectionate, and I was not used to these effusions. I was touched, and
the tears came to my eyes, for I was in the mood when the heart is
easily stirred. I looked at him. His stay in prison had aged him
greatly. His back was bent, his face paler, and his lips bloodless.

"You find me changed, don't you, Remi?" he said; "I was none too happy
in prison, but I'll be better now I'm out."

Then, changing the subject, he added:

"Tell me about this lady who wrote to me; how did you get to know her?"

I told him how I had met Mrs. Milligan and Arthur in their barge, the
_Swan_, on the canal, and of what we had seen, and what we had done. I
rambled along hardly knowing what I said. Now that I saw Vitalis, I felt
that it would be impossible to tell him that I wanted to leave him and
stay with Mrs. Milligan.

We reached the hotel where Mrs. Milligan was staying, before my story
was ended. Vitalis had not mentioned what she had proposed to him in her
letter, so I said nothing of her plan.

"Is this lady expecting me?" he asked, as we entered the hotel.

"Yes, I'll take you up to her apartment," I said.

"There's no occasion for that," he replied; "I'll go up alone; you wait
here for me with Pretty-Heart and the dogs."

I had always obeyed him, but in this case I felt that it was only fair
for me to go up with him to Mrs. Milligan's apartment. But with a sign
he stopped the words on my lips, and I was forced to stay below with the
dogs.

Why didn't he want me to be present when he spoke to Mrs. Milligan? I
asked myself this question again and again. I was still pondering over
it when he returned.

"Go and say good-by to the lady," he said, briefly. "I'll wait for you
here. We shall go in ten minutes."

I was thunderstruck.

"Well," he said, "didn't you understand me? You stand there like a
stupid! Hurry up!"

He had never spoken so roughly to me. Mechanically I got up to obey, not
seeming to understand. "What did you say to her?" I asked, after I had
gone a few steps.

"I said that I needed you and that you needed me, and consequently I was
not going to give up my rights to you. Go; I give you ten minutes to say
good-by."

I was so possessed by the fact that I was a foundling, that I thought
that if I had to leave immediately it was because my master had told
them about my birth.

Upon entering Mrs. Milligan's apartment I found Arthur in tears and his
mother bending over him.

"You won't go, Remi! Oh, Remi, tell me you won't go," he sobbed.

I could not speak. Mrs. Milligan replied for me, telling Arthur that I
had to do as I was told.

"Signor Vitalis would not consent to let us have you," said Mrs.
Milligan in a voice so sad.

"He's a wicked man!" cried Arthur.

"No, he is not a wicked man," continued Mrs. Milligan; "he loves you ...
and he needs you. He speaks like a man far above his position. He told
me,--let me see, these were his words:

"'I love that child, and he loves me. The apprenticeship in the life
that I give him is good for him, better, far better, than he would have
with you. You would give him an education, that is true; you would form
his mind, but not his character. It is the hardships of life that alone
can do that. He cannot be your son; he will be mine. That is better than
to be a plaything for your sick child, however sweet he may be. I also
will teach the boy.'"

"But he isn't Remi's father," cried Arthur.

"That is true, but he is his master, and Remi belongs to him. For the
time being, Remi must obey him. His parents rented him to Signor
Vitalis, but I will write to them and see what I can do."

"Oh, no, no, don't do that," I cried.

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, no, please don't."

"But that is the only thing to do, my child."

"Oh, please, please don't."

If Mrs. Milligan had not spoken of my parents, I should have taken much
more than the ten minutes to say good-by that my master had given me.

"They live in Chavanon, do they not?" asked Mrs. Milligan.

Without replying, I went up to Arthur and, putting my arms round him,
clung to him for a moment then, freeing myself from his weak clasp, I
turned and held out my hand to Mrs. Milligan.

"Poor child," she murmured, kissing me on the forehead.

I hurried to the door.

"Arthur, I will love you always," I said, choking back my sobs, "and I
never, never will forget you, Mrs. Milligan."

"Remi! Remi!" cried Arthur.

I closed the door. One moment later I was with Vitalis.

"Off we go," he said.

And that was how I parted from my first boy friend.



CHAPTER XIII

WEARY DREARY DAYS


Again I had to tramp behind my master with the harp strapped to my
shoulder, through the rain, the sun, the dust, and the mud. I had to
play the fool and laugh and cry in order to please the "distinguished
audience."

More than once in our long walks I lagged behind to think of Arthur, his
mother, and the _Swan_. When I was in some dirty village how I would
long for my pretty cabin on the barge. And how rough the sheets were
now. It was terrible to think that I should never again play with
Arthur, and never hear his mother's voice.

Fortunately in my sorrow, which was very deep, I had one consolation;
Vitalis was much kinder, kinder than he had ever been before. His manner
with me had quite changed. I felt that he was more to me than a master
now. Often, if I dared, I would have embraced him, I so needed love. But
I had not the courage, for Vitalis was not a man with whom one dared be
familiar. At first it had been fear that kept me at a distance, but now
it was something vague, which resembled a sentiment of respect.

When I left the village I had looked upon Vitalis the same as the other
men of the poorer class. I was not able to make distinctions, but the
two months that I had lived with Mrs. Milligan had opened my eyes and
developed my intelligence. Looking at my master with more attention, it
seemed to me that in manner and bearing he appeared to be very superior.
His ways were like Mrs. Milligan's ways....

Weeks passed. On our tramps, now, my eyes were always turned in the
direction of the water, not to the hills. I was always hoping that one
day I should see the _Swan_. If I saw a boat in the distance I always
thought that it might be the _Swan_. But it was not.

We passed several days at Lyons, and all my spare time I spent on the
docks, looking up and down the river. I described the beautiful barge to
the fishermen and asked them if they had seen it, but no one had seen
it.

We had to leave Lyons at last and went on to Dijon; then I began to give
up hope of ever seeing Mrs. Milligan again, for at Lyons I had studied
all the maps of France, and I knew that the _Swan_ could not go farther
up the river to reach the Loire. It would branch off at Chalon. We
arrived at Chalon, and we went on again without seeing it. It was the
end of my dream.

To make things worse, the winter was now upon us, and we had to tramp
along wearily in the blinding rain and slush. At night, when we arrived
at a wretched inn, or in a barn, tired out, wet to the skin, I could
not drop off to sleep with laughter on my lips. Sometimes we were frozen
to the bone, and Pretty-Heart was as sad and mournful as myself.

My master's object was to get to Paris as quickly as possible, for it
was only in Paris that we had a chance to give performances during the
winter. We were making very little money now, so we could not afford to
take the train.

After the cold sleet, the wind turned to the north. It had been very
damp for several days. At first we did not mind the biting north wind in
our faces, but soon the sky filled with great black clouds and the
wintry sun disappeared altogether. We knew that a snowstorm was coming.

Vitalis was anxious to get to the next big town, where we could stay and
give several performances, if very bad weather overtook us.

"Go to bed quickly," he said, when we got to an inn that night; "we are
going to start at a very early hour to-morrow, because I don't want to
be caught in a snowstorm."

He did not go to bed at once, but sat down by a corner of the kitchen
fire to warm Pretty-Heart, who was suffering terribly from the cold. The
monkey had not ceased moaning, although we had wrapped him up in plenty
of coverlets.

The next morning I got up early as I had been told. It was not yet day,
the sky was lowering and black, and there was not a star to be seen.
When we opened the door a strong wind almost took us off our feet.

"If I were in your place," said the innkeeper to Vitalis, "I wouldn't
venture out. We're going to have a terrible snowstorm."

"I'm in a hurry," replied Vitalis, "and I want to get to Troyes before
it comes on."

"Thirty miles."

Nevertheless, we started.

Vitalis held Pretty-Heart tight against his body so as to give him some
of his own warmth, and the dogs, pleased with the hard dry roads, raced
before us. My master had bought a sheepskin for me at Dijon, and I
wrapped myself up in it with the wool inside.

It was anything but agreeable when we opened our mouths, so we walked
along in silence, hurrying as much to get warm as to get ahead. Although
it was long past the hour of daybreak, the sky was still quite black.
Although to the east a whitish band cut the clouds, yet the sun would
not come out. Looking across the country, objects were now becoming more
distinct. We could see the trees stripped of their leaves, and the
shrubs and bushes with dry foliage rustling and cracking with the heavy
gusts of wind. There was no one on the roads, nor in the fields, not a
sound of cart wheels, nor the crack of a whip.

Suddenly, in the distance, we could see a pale streak which got larger
and larger as it came towards us. Then we heard a sort of hissing
murmur, the strange, harsh cry of the wild geese. The maddened flock
flew over our heads; on they went, wildly fleeing from the north towards
the south. Before they were out of sight, soft flakes were dropping
gently from the skies and floating in the atmosphere.

The country through which we tramped was desolate and bleak, the
mournful aspect seemed to add to the silence; only the shrill whistling
of the north wind was heard. Snowflakes, like tiny butterflies,
fluttered around us, whirling incessantly without touching the ground.

We made little headway. It seemed impossible that we could reach Troyes
before the storm was fully upon us. But I did not worry; I thought that
if the snow fell it would not be so cold.

I did not know what a snow storm could be. It was not long before I
learned, and in a way that I shall never forget. The clouds were
gathering from the northwest. The flakes no longer hovered in the air,
but fell straight and swift, covering us from head to foot.

"We shall have to take shelter in the first house we come to," murmured
Vitalis; "we cannot make Troyes."

I was pleased to hear him say that, but where could we find shelter? As
far as the eye could reach there was not a house to be seen, nor
anything to indicate that we were nearing a village.

Before us lay a forest with its dark depths, and on either side of us
the hills. The snow came down faster and thicker.

We tramped in silence. My master lifted his sheepskin now and again for
Pretty-Heart to breathe more easily. From time to time we had to turn
our heads to one side, so that we also could breathe. The dogs no longer
raced ahead; they walked at our heels asking for the shelter that we
were unable to give them.

We went slowly and painfully on, blinded, wet and frozen, and, although
we were now in the heart of the forest, the road through it was exposed
to the full wind. Several times I saw my master glance to the left, as
though he were looking for something, but he said nothing. What did he
hope to find? I looked straight before me, down the long road. As far as
my eye could reach, I could see nothing but woods on either side. I
thought we should never come to the end of that forest.

I had seen the snow falling only through the window panes of a warm
kitchen. How far off that warm kitchen seemed now! Our feet sunk into
the white bed of snow, deeper and deeper. Then, suddenly, without saying
a word, Vitalis pointed to the left. I looked and saw indistinctly a
little hut made of branches.

We had to find the track that led to the hut. This was difficult, for
the snow was already thick enough to efface all trace of a path. We
scrambled through the bushes, and after crossing a ditch, we managed at
last to reach the hut and get inside. The dogs, in ecstasy, rolled over
and over on the dry ground, barking. Our satisfaction was no less keen
than theirs.

"I thought there would be a wood-cutter's cabin somewhere in the
forest," said Vitalis. "Now, it can snow!"

"Yes, let it snow," I said defiantly; "I don't care!"

I went to the door, or rather to the opening of the hut, for there was
neither door nor window, and shook my coat and hat, so as not to wet the
inside of our apartment.

Our quarters were very simply but strongly built. Its furniture
consisted of a heap of dirt and some big stones for seats.

In a house like this it was not difficult to find fuel; we had only to
take it down from the walls and the roof, dragging out a few faggots
here and there. This was quickly done, and soon we had a bright flaming
fire. It is true that the hut was soon filled with smoke, but what did
that matter? There was a flame, and it was heat that we wanted. I lay
down, supporting myself on my two hands, and blew the fire; the dogs sat
around the grate gravely; with necks stretched out they presented their
wet sides to the flames.

Pretty-Heart soon ventured to peep from under Vitalis' coat; prudently
putting the end of his nose outside, he looked about to take in his
surroundings. Evidently satisfied, he jumped quickly to the ground and
taking the best place before the fire he held out his two little
trembling hands to the flames.

That morning before I had risen, Vitalis had packed some provisions.
There was some bread and a piece of cheese. We all expressed
satisfaction at the sight of the food. Unfortunately, we were only able
to have a very small piece, for not knowing how long we should have to
stay in the hut, Vitalis thought it advisable to keep some for supper. I
understood, but the dogs did not, and when they saw the bread put back
in the bag before they had scarcely eaten, they held out their paws to
their master, scratching his neck, and performing pantomime gestures to
make him open the bag upon which their eyes were fixed. But Vitalis took
no notice of them; the bag was not opened. The dogs settled themselves
to go to sleep, Capi with his nose in the cinders. I thought that I
would follow their example.

I do not know how long I slept; when I awoke the snow had stopped
falling. I looked outside. It was very deep; if we ventured out it would
come above our knees.

What time was it? I could not ask Vitalis. His big silver watch, by
which Capi had told the hour, had been sold. He had spent all his money
to pay his prison fine, and when he bought my sheepskin at Dijon he had
parted with his big watch to pay for it. From the misty atmosphere it
was impossible for me to tell what hour it might be.

There was not a sound to be heard; the snow seemed to have petrified
every movement of life. I was standing in the opening of our cabin when
I heard my master calling.

"Do you want to get on your way?" he asked.

"I don't know; I want to do what you wish."

"Well, I think we ought to stay here; we are at least sheltered and have
warmth."

That was true, but I remembered that we had no food. However, I said
nothing.

"I'm afraid it will snow again," continued Vitalis. "We don't want to
spend the night outside. Better stay here."

Yes, we should have to stay in the hut and tighten our belts round our
stomachs, that was all.

At supper Vitalis divided the remainder of the bread. Alas, there was
but little, and it was quickly eaten; we gobbled up every crumb. When
our frugal supper was over I thought that the dogs would begin making
signs for more as they had done before, for they were ravenous. But they
did nothing of the kind, and once again I realized how great was their
intelligence.

When Vitalis thrust his knife into his trouser pocket, which indicated
that the feast was over, Capi got up and smelled the bag in which the
food was kept. He then placed his paw on the bag to feel it. This double
investigation convinced him that there was nothing left to eat. Then,
coming back to his place before the fire, he looked at Zerbino and
Dulcie. The look clearly signified that they would get nothing more;
then he stretched himself out his entire length with a sigh of
resignation. "There is nothing more. It is useless to beg." He said this
to them as plainly as though he had spoken aloud.

His companions, understanding this language, also stretched out before
the fire sighing, but Zerbino's sigh in no wise betokened resignation,
for added to a large appetite, Zerbino was very much of a gourmand, and
this was a greater sacrifice for him than for the others.

The snow had commenced to fall again; it fell persistently. We could see
the white carpet on the ground rise higher and higher until the small
shrubs and bushes were hidden beneath it. When night came, big flakes
were still falling from the black sky onto the shimmering earth.

As we had to sleep there, the best thing to do was to go to sleep as
quickly as possible. I wrapped myself up in my sheepskin, which I had
dried by the fire during the day, and I laid down beside the fire, my
head on a flat stone which served for a pillow.

"You go to sleep," said Vitalis; "I'll wake you when it's my turn, for
although we have nothing to fear from animals or people in this cabin,
one of us must keep awake to see that the fire does not go out. We must
be careful not to get cold, for it will be bitter when the snow stops."

I slept. In the small hours of the night my master woke me. The fire
was still burning, and the snow had stopped falling.

"It's my turn to sleep now," said Vitalis; "as the fire goes down you
throw on this wood that I've got already here."

He had piled up a heap of small wood by the grate. My master, who slept
much lighter than I, did not wish me to wake him by pulling down the
wood from the walls each time I needed it. So from this heap that he had
prepared, I could take the wood and throw on the fire without making a
noise. It was a wise thing to do, but alas, Vitalis did not know what
the result would be.

He stretched out now before the fire with Pretty-Heart in his coverlet
cuddled up against him, and soon, from his deep breathing, I knew that
he had fallen asleep. Then I got up softly and went to the opening to
see how it looked outside.

All the grass, the bushes, and the trees were buried in snow. Everywhere
the eye rested was a dazzling white. The sky was dotted with twinkling
stars, but although they were so bright it was the snow which shed the
pale light over the earth. It was much colder now; it was freezing hard.

Oh! what should we have done in the depths of the forest in the snow and
the cold if we had not found this shelter?

Although I had walked on tiptoe to the opening without scarcely making a
sound, I had roused the dogs, and Zerbino had followed me. The splendor
of the night was nothing to him; he looked on the scene for a moment,
and then became bored and wanted to go outside. I ordered him to return
to his place. Foolish dog, wasn't it better to stay by the warm fire in
this terrible cold than to go prowling around. He obeyed me, but with a
very bad grace, and kept his eyes fixed on the entrance. I stayed there
for a few minutes longer, looking at the white night. It was beautiful,
but although I enjoyed it, somehow I felt a vague sadness. I could have
gone inside and not looked, of course, but the white, mysterious scene
held me fascinated.

At last I went back to the fire and having placed two or three long
pieces of wood crossways upon one another, I sat down on the stone which
had served me for a pillow. My master was sleeping calmly; the dogs and
Pretty-Heart also slept, and the flames leaped from the fire and swirled
upward to the roof, throwing out bright sparks. The spluttering flame
was the only sound that broke the silence of the night. For a long time
I watched the sparks, then little by little I began to get drowsy,
without my being aware.

If I had been compelled to busy myself with getting the wood, I could
have kept awake, but seated before the fire with nothing to do, I became
so sleepy, and yet all the time I thought that I could manage to keep
awake.

I sprang up suddenly, awakened by a violent barking! It was night. I
probably had slept for a long time and the fire was almost out. No
flames lit the hut now. Capi was barking loudly, furiously. But,
strange! there was no sound from Zerbino or Dulcie.

"What's the matter?" cried Vitalis, waking up.

"I don't know."

"You've been to sleep, and the fire's gone out."

Capi had run to the opening, but had not ventured outside. He stood on
the threshold barking.

"What has happened?" I asked in my turn.

In answer to Capi's barks came two or three mournful howls. I recognized
Dulcie's voice. These howls came from behind our hut and at a very short
distance.

I was going out. But Vitalis put his hand on my shoulder and stopped me.

"First," he said, in a tone of command, "put some wood on the fire."

While I obeyed, he took a sprig from the fire and blew it out until only
the point remained burning. He held the torch in his hand.

"Come and see what is the matter," he said; "you walk behind me. Go
ahead, Capi."

As we went out there was a frightful howl. Capi drew back, cowering
behind us in terror.

"Wolves! Where are Zerbino and Dulcie?"

What could I say? The two dogs must have gone out while I slept. Zerbino
had waited until I was asleep and had then crept out, and Dulcie had
followed him. The wolves had got hold of them! There was fear in my
master's voice when he asked for the dogs.

"Take a torch," he said, "we must go to their aid."

In our village I had heard them tell terrible stories of wolves, yet I
could not hesitate. I ran back for a torch, then followed my master.

But outside we could see neither dogs nor wolves. On the snow we could
see only the imprint of the two dogs' paws. We followed these traces
around the hut, then at a certain distance we could see a space in the
snow which looked as though some animals had been rolling in it.

"Go and look for them, Capi," said my master; at the same time he
whistled to attract Zerbino and Dulcie.

But there was no barking in reply; no sound disturbed the mournful
silence of the forest, and Capi, instead of running off as he was told,
kept close to us, giving every sign of fear. Capi who was usually so
obedient and brave!

There was not sufficient light for us to follow the imprints any
distance. The snow around us was dazzling, but beyond seemed all vague
and obscure.

Again Vitalis whistled and shouted for the missing dogs. There was no
answering bark.

Oh, poor Zerbino; poor Dulcie!

"The wolves have got them," said Vitalis; "why did you let them go out?"

Yes? why? I had nothing to say.

"We must go and look for them," I said after a pause.

I went before him, but he stopped me.

"Where will you look for them?" he asked.

"I don't know; everywhere."

"We can't tell, in this dim light, where they have gone."

That was true, and the snow came up above our knees. Our two torches
together could not penetrate the shadows.

"If they do not reply, it is because they are a long way off," he said.
"We must not go on; the wolves might attack us also. We cannot defend
ourselves."

It was dreadful to have to leave the poor dogs to their fate--our two
friends; friends particularly to me. And the terrible part of it was
that I knew that I was responsible. If I had not slept they would not
have gone out.

My master had turned back to the hut. I followed, looking back at each
step, stopping to listen. I heard nothing, and saw nothing but the snow.

When we reached the hut another surprise awaited us. The branches that I
had thrown on the fire were aflame and lit up the darkest corners of the
cabin, but Pretty-Heart was nowhere to be seen. His coverlets were there
before the fire, but he was not in them. I called. Vitalis called, but
he did not appear.

My master said that when he awoke the monkey was beside him, so it was
while we were out that he had disappeared. With our burning torches
held down to the snowy earth we started out to look for him. We found no
trace of him.

We returned to the hut to see if he were hidden behind some faggots. We
searched for a long time; ten times we looked in the same place, the
same corners. I climbed up on Vitalis' shoulders to look amongst the
branches of which the roof was made. We called again and again, but
there was no answer.

Vitalis seemed angry. I was in despair. I asked my master if he thought
that the wolves could have taken him also.

"No," he said, "the wolves would not dare come into the hut. I am afraid
they got Zerbino and Dulcie when they went out, but they did not come in
here. It is quite likely that Pretty-Heart was terrified and has hidden
himself somewhere while we were outside; that is why I am so anxious. In
this terrible weather he will catch cold, and cold is fatal for him."

"Well, let us keep on looking."

We went over the ground again, but all in vain.

"We must wait till day," said Vitalis.

"When will it be day?"

"In two or three hours, I think."

Vitalis sat down before the fire, with his head in his hands. I did not
dare disturb him. I stood quite close to him, only moving occasionally
to put some branches on the fire. Once or twice he got up and went to
the door. He looked at the sky, listened attentively, then came back
and sat down. I would rather that he had been angry with me, than that
he should be so silent and sad.

The three hours passed slowly. It seemed that the night would never end.
The stars were fading from the heavens, the sky was getting lighter. Day
was breaking. But as morning came the cold grew more intense; the air
which came through the door froze us to the bone.

If we did find Pretty-Heart, would he be alive?

The snow had quite stopped falling now and there was a pinkish light in
the sky which foretold fine weather. As soon as it was quite light,
Vitalis and I, armed with a stout stick, left the hut.

Capi did not appear so terrified as he had been the night before. With
his eyes fixed on his master, he only waited for a sign from him to rush
forward. As we were examining the ground for Pretty-Heart's footprints,
Capi threw back his head and began to bark joyfully. He signified that
we must look up, not on the ground.

In the great oak standing by the hut we found him.

Poor Pretty-Heart! Frightened by the howling of the dogs, he had jumped
onto the roof of the cabin when we had gone out, and from there he had
climbed to the top of an oak, where, feeling that he was in a safe
place, he had remained crouching, without replying to our calls.

The poor little frail creature, he must be frozen!

My master called him gently. He did not move. We thought that he was
already dead. For several minutes Vitalis continued to call him, but the
monkey gave no sign of life. My heart ached with remorse. How severely I
was being punished! I must atone.

"I'll go up and get him," I said.

"You'll break your neck."

"No, there is no danger. I can do it easily."

That was not true. There was danger. It was very difficult, for the
large tree was covered with ice and snow.

When I was quite small I had learned to climb trees, and I was quite an
adept in this art. I jumped and caught hold of the lowest branches. I
held onto these, and, although blinded by the snow that fell in my eyes,
I managed to climb up the trunk to the stronger branches. Once up there
I had only to be careful not to lose my footing.

As I climbed I spoke softly to Pretty-Heart. He did not move, but looked
at me with shining eyes. I had almost reached him and was about to
stretch out my hand, when, with a spring, he had jumped to another
branch. I followed him to this branch, but men, alas, and even
youngsters are very inferior to monkeys when it comes to climbing trees.
It is quite possible that I should never have caught him if the snow had
not wet his feet. He did not like this and soon got tired of dodging me;
then, letting himself drop from branch to branch, he jumped straight
onto his master's shoulders and hid himself inside his coat.

It was a great thing to have found Pretty-Heart, but that was not all.
Now we had to look for the dogs.

It was day now and easy for us to see what had happened. In the snow we
read the death of our dogs. We followed their footprints for thirty
yards. They had come out of the hut, one behind the other, Dulcie
following Zerbino. Then we saw other footprints. On one side there were
signs of a struggle where the wolves had sprung upon the dogs, and on
the other sides were the footprints of the wolves where they trotted
off, carrying their prey with them, to be devoured at their leisure.
There was no trace of the dogs except a red trail of blood which here
and there stained the snow.

The two poor dogs had gone to their death while I slept!

We had to get busy as quickly as possible with warming Pretty-Heart. We
hurried back to the hut. While Vitalis held out the little creature's
feet and hands to the fire, as one holds a tiny baby, I warmed his
coverlets and we rolled him up in them. But he needed more than the
coverlets; he needed a warm drink. My master and I sat by the fire,
silent, watching the wood burn.

"Poor Zerbino; poor Dulcie!"

Each of us murmured these words; first he, then I.

The dogs had been our friends, our companions, in good and bad fortune,
and to me in my loneliness they had meant so much. How deeply I
reproached myself for not having kept watch. The wolves would not have
come to attack us in our cabin; they would have stayed in the distance,
frightened by the fire.

If only Vitalis would have scolded me! I wished that he would beat me.
But he said nothing. He did not even look at me. He sat with his head
bent over the fire; probably wondering what would become of us without
the dogs.



CHAPTER XIV

THE DEATH OF PRETTY-HEART


The sun came out brightly. Its rays fell on the white snow, and the
forest, which the night before had looked so bleak and livid, was now
dazzling with a radiancy that blinded the eyes. Several times Vitalis
passed his hand under the coverlet to feel Pretty-Heart, but the poor
little monkey did not get warmer, and when I bent over him I could hear
him shivering and shaking. The blood in his veins was frozen.

"We must get to a village or Pretty-Heart will die," said Vitalis. "Let
us start at once."

His wrappings were well heated and the little creature was rolled in
them. My master placed him under his vest, next his heart. We were
ready.

"This was a shelter," said Vitalis, looking round the hut as we were
going out, "that has made us pay dearly for its hospitality." His voice
trembled.

He went out first, and I followed in his footsteps. When we had gone a
few yards we had to call to Capi. Poor dog, he had remained standing
outside the hut, his nose turned to the spot where his companions had
been taken by the wolves.

Ten minutes later we reached the main road. We passed a cart; the
driver told us that within an hour we should reach a village. This was
encouraging, yet it was difficult, even painful, to walk. The snow came
up to my waist. Many times I asked Vitalis after Pretty-Heart. Each time
he told me that he was still shivering. At last we saw the white roofs
of a fair sized village. We were not in the habit of putting up at the
better class inns. We always chose a poor place, where we were sure we
should not be driven away, and where they would not take all we had.

But this time Vitalis went into an inn where a beautiful sign hung
outside the kitchen door. The door was open and we could see the great
stove covered with shining copper saucepans, from which the steam was
rising. Ah, how good that soup smelled to the famished wanderers!

My master, putting on his most "gentlemanly" airs, and with his hat on
his head and his head thrown back, asked the landlady for a good bed and
a fire. At first the landlady, who was a fine looking woman, had not
condescended to notice us, but Vitalis' grand manner evidently impressed
her. She spoke to a maid and told her to take us up to a room.

"Quick, get into bed," said Vitalis, while the servant was lighting the
fire. I looked at him in astonishment. Why go to bed? I would rather sit
down and eat something than go to bed.

"Quick, hurry up," repeated Vitalis.

There was nothing to do but to obey.

There was an eiderdown quilt on the bed. Vitalis pulled it right up to
my chin.

"Try and get warm," he said; "the warmer you are the better."

It seemed to me that Pretty-Heart needed warming much more than I,
because I was not very cold now. While I laid still under the eiderdown
trying to get warm, Vitalis, to the servant's astonishment, turned
little Pretty-Heart round and round before the fire as though he were
going to roast him.

"Are you warm?" Vitalis asked me after a few minutes.

"I'm suffocating."

"That's right."

He came to the bed quickly. He put Pretty-Heart in, telling me to hold
him close to my chest. The poor little animal, who always rebelled when
he was made to do something that he did not want, seemed resigned to
everything. He let me hold him close to my body without making a
movement. But he was not cold now; his body was burning.

My master, who had gone down to the kitchen, soon returned, carrying a
bowl of well sweetened wine. He tried to make Pretty-Heart drink a few
spoonfuls, but the poor little creature could not unclench his teeth.
With his brilliant eyes he looked at us imploringly as though to ask us
not to torment him. Then he drew one arm from under the covers and held
it out to us.

I wondered what he meant. I looked inquiringly at Vitalis, who
explained: Before I had met them Pretty-Heart had had inflammation of
the lungs and they had had to bleed him, taking the blood from his arm.
Knowing that he was sick now he wanted us to bleed him so that he could
get better as before.

Poor little monkey! Vitalis was touched to the heart, and this made him
still more anxious. It was evident that Pretty-Heart was ill and he must
be very ill indeed to refuse the sugared wine that he liked so much.

"Drink the wine, Remi, and stay in bed," said Vitalis. "I'll go for a
doctor."

I must admit that I also liked sugared wine and besides I was very
hungry. I did not let him tell me twice to drink it. After I had emptied
the bowl I slid down under the eiderdown again, where the heat, aided by
the wine, nearly suffocated me.

Vitalis was not gone long. He soon returned, bringing with him a
gentleman wearing gold-rimmed spectacles--the doctor. Thinking that the
doctor might not put himself out for a monkey, Vitalis had not told him
who was his patient. When he saw me in bed, as red as a tomato, the
doctor put his hand on my forehead and said at once: "Congestion."

He shook his head with an air which augured nothing good.

Anxious to undeceive him for fear he might bleed me, I cried: "Why, I'm
not ill!"

"Not ill! Why, the child is delirious."

I lifted the quilt a bit and showed him Pretty-Heart, who had placed
his little arm round my neck.

"He's the one that's ill," I said.

"A monkey!" he exclaimed, turning angrily to Vitalis. "You've brought me
out in such weather to see a monkey!..."

Our master was a smart man who was not easily ruffled. Politely, and
with his grand air, he stopped the doctor. Then he explained the
situation, how he had been caught in a snowstorm, and how through fear
of the wolves Pretty-Heart had jumped up in an oak tree, where he had
been almost frozen to death. The patient might be only a monkey, but
what a genius! and what a friend and companion to us! How could we
confide such a wonderful, talented creature to the care of a simple
veterinary surgeon? Every one knew that the village veterinary was an
ass, while every one knew that doctors were scientific men, even in the
smallest village. If one rings at a door which bears a doctor's name,
one is sure to find a man of knowledge, and of generosity. Although the
monkey is only an animal, according to naturalists they are so near like
men that often an illness is treated the same for one as for the other.
And was it not interesting, from a scientific point of view, to study
how these illnesses differed. The doctor soon returned from the door
where he had been standing.

Pretty-Heart, who had probably guessed that this person wearing the
spectacles was a physician, again pushed out his arm.

"Look," cried Vitalis, "he wants you to bleed him."

That settled the doctor.

"Most interesting; a very interesting case," he murmured.

Alas! after examining him, the doctor told us that poor little
Pretty-Heart again had inflammation of the lungs. The doctor took his
arm and thrust a lancet into a vein without him making the slightest
moan. Pretty-Heart knew that this ought to cure him.

After the bleeding he required a good deal of attention. I, of course,
had not stayed in bed. I was the nurse, carrying out Vitalis'
instructions.

Poor little Pretty-Heart! he liked me to nurse him. He looked at me and
smiled sadly. His look was quite human. He, who was usually so quick and
petulant, always playing tricks on one of us, was now quiet and
obedient.

In the days that followed he tried to show us how friendly he felt
towards us, even to Capi, who had so often been the victim of his
tricks. As in the usual trend of inflammation of the lungs, he soon
began to cough; the attacks tired him greatly, for his little body shook
convulsively. All the money which I had, five sous, I spent on sugar
sticks for him, but they made him worse instead of better. With his keen
instinct, he soon noticed that every time he coughed I gave him a little
piece of sugar stick. He took advantage of this and coughed every
moment in order to get the remedy that he liked so much, and this remedy
instead of curing him made him worse.

When I found out this trick I naturally stopped giving him the candy,
but he was not discouraged. First he begged for it with an appealing
look; then when he saw that I would not give it to him, he sat up in his
seat and bent his little body with his hand on his stomach, and coughed
with all his might. The veins in his forehead stood out, the tears ran
from his eyes, and his pretense at choking, in the end, turned to a
dreadful attack over which he had no control.

I had to stay at the inn with Pretty-Heart while my master went out
alone. One morning upon his return he told me that the landlady had
demanded the sum that we owed her. This was the first time that he had
ever spoken to me about money. It was quite by chance that I had learned
that he had sold his watch to buy my sheepskin. Now he told me that he
had only fifty sous left. The only thing to do, he said, was to give a
performance that same day. A performance without Zerbino, Dulcie or
Pretty-Heart; why, that seemed to me impossible!

"We must get forty francs at once," he said. "Pretty-Heart must be
looked after. We must have a fire in the room, and medicine, and the
landlady must be paid. If we pay her what we owe her, she will give us
another credit."

Forty francs in this village! in the cold, and with such poor resources
at our command!

While I stayed at home with Pretty-Heart, Vitalis found a hall in the
public market, for an out-of-door performance was out of the question.
He wrote the announcements and stuck them up all over the village. With
a few planks of wood he arranged a stage, and bravely spent his last
fifty sous to buy some candles, which he cut in half so as to double the
lights.

From the window of our room I saw him come and go, tramping back and
forth in the snow. I wondered anxiously what program he could make. I
was soon enlightened on this subject, for along came the town crier of
the village, wearing a scarlet cap, and stopped before the inn. After a
magnificent roll of his drum he read out our program.

Vitalis had made the most extravagant promises! There was to be present
a world-renowned artist--that was Capi--and a young singer who was a
marvel; the marvel was myself. But the most interesting part of the
farce was that there was no fixed price for the entertainment. We relied
upon the generosity of the audience, and the public need not pay until
after it had seen, heard, and applauded.

That seemed to me extraordinarily bold. Who was going to applaud us?
Capi certainly deserved to be celebrated, but I ... I was not at all
convinced that I was a marvel.

Although Pretty-Heart was very ill at this moment, when he heard the
drum, he tried to get up. From the noise and Capi's barks, he seemed to
guess that it was to announce our performance.

I had to force him back on his bed; then he made signs to me to give him
his general's uniform--the red coat and trousers with gold braid, and
hat with the plume. He clasped his hands and went down on his knees to
beg me. When he saw that he could get nothing from me by begging, he
tried what anger would do, then finally melted into tears. It was
evident that we should have a great deal of trouble to convince him that
he must give up all idea of playing that night. I thought it would be
better not to let him know when we started.

When Vitalis returned, he told me to get my harp ready and all the
things we required for the entertainment. Pretty-Heart, who knew what
this meant, turned to his master and commenced his entreaties again. He
could not have better expressed his desires than by the sounds he
uttered, the twisting of his face, and the turns of his body. There were
real tears on his cheeks and they were real kisses that he imprinted on
Vitalis' hand. "You want to play?" asked Vitalis, who had not been told
what happened before.

"Yes, oh, yes!" Pretty-Heart's whole person seemed to cry out. He tried
to jump to show that he was no longer sick. We know very well that if we
took him out it would be his death.

It was time for us to start. Before going, I made up a good fire and
wrapped Pretty-Heart up in his coverlets. He cried again and embraced
me as much as he could, then we started.

As we tramped through the snow, my master told me what he expected of
me. We could not, of course, give our usual repertoire, as our principal
actors were missing, but Capi and I could vie with each other in doing
our best. We had to collect forty francs! Forty francs! It was terrible!
Impossible!

Vitalis had prepared everything. All we had to do now was to light the
candles, but this was an extravagance that we could not indulge in until
the room was filled, for our illuminations would not have to come to an
end before our entertainment.

Whilst we took possession of our theater, the town crier, with his drum,
came through the village streets for the last time. After I had dressed
Capi and myself, I went outside and stood behind a pillar to watch the
people arrive.

The roll of the drum became louder. It was approaching the market place
and I could hear a babble of voices. Behind the drum came a score of
youngsters, all keeping step. Without stopping the beating of his drum,
the town crier took up his place between the two large lamps that were
lit at the entrance of our theater. The public had only to walk in and
take their seats for the performance to commence.

Alas! how long they were coming, and yet the drum at the door continued
gayly its _rat ta ta ta_. All the boys in the village must have been
there. But it was not the youngsters who were likely to give us forty
francs. There would have to be some important people, open-handed and
generous.

At last Vitalis decided that we ought to commence, although the hall was
far from being full; but we could not wait longer, worried as we were by
the terrible question of candles.

I had to appear first and sing a few songs, accompanying myself on the
harp. I must confess the applause that I received was very weak. I had
never thought very much of myself as an entertainer, but the marked
coolness with which the audience received my efforts discouraged me. If
I did not please them they would certainly not give us anything. It was
not for the glory that I was singing; it was for poor Pretty-Heart. Ah,
how I wanted to stir this public, to make them enthusiastic.... But I
could see only too well that they did not consider me a marvel.

Capi was more successful. He received several encores. Thanks to Capi,
the entertainment ended in a burst of applause. Not only did they clap
their hands, but they stamped their feet.

The decisive moment had arrived. While Capi, with the cup in his jaws,
ran through the audience, I danced a Spanish dance on the stage, with
Vitalis playing an accompaniment. Would Capi collect forty francs? That
was the question which made my heart beat while I smiled at the public
in my pleasantest manner.

I was out of breath, but I still continued to dance, for I was not to
stop until Capi had returned. He did not hurry himself; when he found
that he did not receive a coin, he placed his paw against the person's
pocket. At last I saw him about to return, and thought that I might
stop, but Vitalis made me a sign to go on.

I continued to dance, and going a few steps nearer Capi, I saw that the
cup was not full; far from it. Vitalis had also seen this. Bowing to the
audience, he said:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I think that, without flattering ourselves, we
have conscientiously carried out our program, yet as our candles are
still burning, I will, if the public wishes, sing some songs myself. Our
dog, Capi, will make another quest and those who have not yet given will
perhaps give this time. Please have your money ready."

Although Vitalis had been my teacher, I had never really heard him sing,
or at least not as he sung that evening. He selected two songs, an air
from "Joseph" and one from "Richard the Lion Hearted."

Although I was only a little boy and was no judge as to whether one sang
with technique or without, Vitalis' singing stirred me strangely. I went
into a corner of the stage, for my eyes filled with tears as I listened
to his beautiful notes.

Through a mist, I saw a young lady, who occupied the first row, clap her
hands with all her might. I had already noticed that she was not a
peasant like the rest of the people in the hall. She was a lady, young
and beautiful, and from her handsome fur coat I took her to be the
richest woman in the village. She had with her a little child who had
applauded Capi heartily. It was probably her son for the likeness was
striking.

After the first song, Capi went the round again. I saw with surprise
that the lady had not put anything into his cup.

When my master had finished the air from the second opera, she beckoned
me to her.

"I want to speak to that gentleman," she said.

I was surprised, I thought she would have done better to have dropped
something into the cup. Capi returned. He had collected very little more
on this second round.

"What does the lady want?" asked Vitalis.

"To speak to you."

"I have nothing to say."

"She did not give anything to Capi, perhaps she would like to give it
now."

"Then it is for Capi to go to her, not for me."

However, he decided to go, and took the dog with him. I followed them.
By now a servant had appeared, carrying a lantern and a rug. He stood
beside the lady and the child. Vitalis bowed coldly to her.

"Forgive me for having disturbed you," she said, "but I wanted to
congratulate you."

Vitalis bowed, without saying a word.

"I am a musician," continued the lady; "I am telling you this so that
you will know how much I appreciate your superb talent."

Superb talent! My master! The dog trainer! I was amazed.

"An old man like me has no talent," he replied coldly.

"Do not think that I am inquisitive, but...." began the lady.

"I am quite willing to satisfy your curiosity, Madam," he said; "you are
surprised that a dog trainer is able to sing a little. But I have not
always been what I am now. When I was younger I was ... the servant of a
great singer, and like a parrot I imitated him. I began to repeat some
of the songs he practiced in my presence. That is all."

The lady did not reply. She looked hard at Vitalis. He seemed
embarrassed.

"Good-by, sir," she said at last, laying a stress on the word "sir."
"Good-by, and once more let me thank you for the exquisite delight you
have given me this evening." And leaning towards Capi she dropped a gold
piece in his cup.

I thought that Vitalis would escort her to the door, but he did nothing
of the kind, and when she was out of hearing I heard him swear softly in
Italian.

"She gave Capi a louis," I said.

I thought he was going to give me a blow, but he let his raised hand
fall to his side.

"A louis," he said, as though he were coming out of a dream. "Ah, yes,
poor Pretty-Heart. I had forgotten him. Let us go back to the little
creature at once."

I climbed the stairs of the inn first and went into the room. The fire
was not out, but there were no flames. I lit a candle quickly. I was
surprised not to hear any sound from Pretty-Heart. I found him, lying
under his coverlets, stretched out his full length, dressed in his
general's uniform. He appeared to be asleep. I leaned over him and took
his hand gently to wake him up. His hand was cold. Vitalis came into the
room. I turned to him.

"Pretty-Heart is cold," I said.

My master came to my side and also leaned over the bed.

"He is dead," he said. "It was to be. Ah, Remi, boy, I did wrong to take
you away from Mrs. Milligan. I am punished. Zerbino, Dulcie, and now
Pretty-Heart and ... this is not the end!"



CHAPTER XV

FAITHFUL FRIENDS


We were still a long way from Paris. We had to go by roads covered with
snow, and walk from morning till night, the north wind blowing in our
faces. How sad and weary were those long tramps.

Vitalis walked ahead, I at his heels, and Capi behind me. Thus in line
we went onward without exchanging a word, for hours and hours, faces
blue with cold, feet wet, stomachs empty. The people who passed us on
the way turned round to gaze at us. Evidently they thought it
strange.... Where was this old man leading his child and the dog?

The silence seemed terrible to me, and so sad. I would liked to have
talked just for company, but when I did venture to make a remark,
Vitalis replied briefly, without even turning his head. Fortunately,
Capi was more sociable, and as I trudged along I often felt his warm
tongue on my hand. He licked me as much as to say, "Your friend, Capi,
is here with you." Then I stroked him gently, without stopping. We
understood each other; we loved each other.

On the slippery snow we went straight ahead, without stopping, sleeping
at night in a stable or in a sheepfold, with a piece of bread, alas,
very small, for our meal in the evening. This was our dinner and supper
in one.

We did not tell the shepherds that we were dying of hunger, but Vitalis,
with his usual cleverness, would say insinuatingly that "the little chap
was very fond of sheep's milk, because, when he was a baby, he used to
drink it." This story did not always take effect, but it was a good
night for me when it did. Yes, I was very fond of sheep's milk and when
they gave me some I felt much stronger the next day.

It seemed strange to me that, as we neared Paris, the country ceased to
be beautiful. The snow was not white and dazzling now. I had heard what
a wonderful place Paris was, and I expected something extraordinary. I
did not know exactly what. I should not have been surprised to see trees
of gold, streets of marble, palaces everywhere.

What were we poor things going to do when we reached Paris? I wanted to
question Vitalis, but I did not dare, he seemed so gloomy. When we were
in sight of the roofs and the church towers of the capital, he slackened
his step to walk beside me.

"Remi," he said suddenly, "we are going to part when we get to Paris."

I looked at him. He looked at me. The sudden pallor of my face and the
trembling of my lips told him what effect his words had on me. For a
moment I could not speak.

"Going to part!" I murmured at last.

"Poor little chap, yes, we must part."

The tone in which he said this brought the tears to my eyes. It was so
long since I had heard a kind word.

"Oh, you are so good," I cried.

"It is you who are good. You brave little heart. There comes a time in
one's life when one feels these things. When all goes well, one goes
along through life without thinking much who is with one, but when
things go wrong, when one is on the wrong track, and above all when one
is old, one wants to lean on somebody. You may be surprised that I have
wanted to lean on you. And yet it is so. But only to see that your eyes
are moist as you listen to me, comforts me, little Remi. I am very
unhappy."

I did not know what to say. I just stroked his hand.

"And the misfortune is that we have to part just at the time when we are
getting nearer to each other."

"But you're not going to leave me all alone in Paris?" I asked timidly.

"No, certainly not. What would you do in the big city, all by yourself,
poor child. I have no right to leave you, remember that. The day when I
would not let that good lady take you and bring you up as her son, that
day I bound myself to do the best I could for you. I can do nothing at
this moment, and that is why I think it is best to part. It is only for
a time. We can do better if we separate during the last months of the
bad season. What can we do in Paris with all gone but Capi?"

Hearing his name mentioned, dear Capi came beside us: he put his paw to
his ear in military salute, then placed it on his heart, as though to
tell us that we could count on his devotion. My master stopped to pass
his hand affectionately over the dog's head.

"Yes, Capi, you're a good, faithful friend, but, alas! without the
others we can't do much now."

"But my harp...."

"If I had two children like you it would be better. But an old man with
just one little boy is bad business. I am not old enough. Now, if I were
only blind or broken down! I am not in a pitiful state enough for people
to stop and notice us. So, my boy, I have decided to give you to a
_padrone_, until the end of the winter. He will take you with other
children that he has, and you will play your harp...."

"And you?" I asked.

"I am known in Paris, I have stayed there several times. I will give
violin lessons to the Italian children who play on the streets. I have
only to say that I will give lessons to find all the pupils I want. And,
in the meantime, I will train two dogs that will replace poor Zerbino
and Dulcie. Then in the spring we will be together again, my little
Remi. We are only passing through a bad time now; later, I will take you
through Germany and England, then you will grow big and your mind will
develop. I will teach you a lot of things and make a man of you. I
promised this to Mrs. Milligan. I will keep my promise. That is the
reason why I have already commenced to teach you English. You can speak
French and Italian, that is something for a child of your age."

Perhaps it was all for the best as my master said, but I could only
think of two things.

We were to be parted, and I was to have a _padrone_.

During our wanderings I had met several _padrones_ who used to beat the
children who worked for them. They were very cruel, and they swore, and
usually they were drunk. Would I belong to one of those terrible men?

And then, even if fate gave me a kind master, it was another change.
First, my foster mother, then Vitalis, then another.... Was it to be
always so? Should I never find anyone that I could love and stay with
always? Little by little I had grown attached to Vitalis. He seemed
almost what I thought a father would be. Should I never have a father,
have a family? Always alone in this great world! Nobody's boy!

Vitalis had asked me to be brave. I did not wish to add to his sorrows,
but it was hard, so hard, to leave him.

As we walked down a dirty street, with heaps of snow on either side
covered with cinders and rotten vegetables, I asked: "Where are we?"

"In Paris, my boy."

Where were my marble houses? And the trees of gold, and the finely
dressed people. Was this Paris! Was I to spend the winter in a place
like this, parted from Vitalis and Capi?



CHAPTER XVI

THE PADRONE


Although I knew later how beautiful was the city of Paris, the slums,
being my first glimpse, created anything but a favorable impression.

Vitalis, who seemed to know his way, pushed through the groups of people
who obstructed his passage along the narrow street we had just turned
down.

"Mind, you don't lose me," cautioned Vitalis.

But his warning was not necessary, for I trod upon his heels, and to be
more sure of him I held a corner of his coat in my hand.

We crossed a big courtyard to a dirty, dismal house where surely the sun
had never penetrated. It was the worst looking place I had seen so far.

"Is Garofoli in?" asked Vitalis of a man who, by the light from a
lantern, was hanging rags against the door.

"I don't know; go up and see for yourself," he growled; "the door's at
the top of the stairs; it faces you."

"Garofoli is the _padrone_, Remi, I told you about," said Vitalis; "this
is where he lives."

The street, the house, the staircase was not in the nature to reassure
me. What would this new master be like?

Without knocking, Vitalis pushed open the door at the top of the stairs,
on the top floor, and we found ourselves in a large attic. There was a
great empty space in the middle of the room, and all around the walls
were beds, a dozen in all. The walls and ceiling that had once been
white were now filthy with smoke, dust, and dirt. On the walls was a
drawing of a head in charcoal and some flowers and birds.

"Are you there, Garofoli?" asked Vitalis; "it is so dark I can't see any
one. It's Vitalis."

A weak, drawling voice replied to Vitalis' question.

"Signor Garofoli has gone out; he will not be back for two hours."

A boy about twelve years of age came forward. I was struck by his
strange looks. Even now, as I write, I can see him as I saw him then. He
had no body, so to speak, for he seemed all legs and head. His great
head was out of all proportion. Built so, he could not have been called
handsome, yet there was something in his face which attracted one
strangely, an expression of sadness and gentleness and, yes ...
hopelessness. His large eyes held your own with sympathy.

"You are sure he will not be back for two hours?" asked Vitalis.

"Quite sure, Signor. That will be dinner time, and no one ever serves
dinner but Signor Garofoli."

"Well, if he comes in before, tell him that Vitalis will be back in two
hours."

"Very well, Signor."

I was about to follow Vitalis, when he stopped me.

"Stay here," he said; "you can rest.

"Oh, I'll come back," he added, reassuringly, noticing my look of
anxiety.

"Are you Italian?" asked the boy, when Vitalis' heavy step could no
longer be heard on the stairs.

"No," I replied in French, "I'm French."

"That's a good thing."

"What! you like the French better than the Italians?"

"Oh, no, I was thinking of you when I said 'that's a good thing,'
because if you were Italian you would probably come here to work for
Signor Garofoli, and I'd be sorry for you."

"Is he wicked, then?"

The boy did not reply, but the look he gave me spoke more than words. As
though he did not wish to continue the conversation, he went over to the
fireplace. On a shelf in the fireplace was an immense earthenware
saucepan. I drew nearer to the fire to warm myself, and I noticed that
the pot had something peculiar about it. The lid, through which a
straight tube projected to allow the steam to escape, was fixed on the
saucepan on one side with a hinge and on the other with a padlock.

"Why is that closed with a padlock?" I asked, inquisitively.

"So that I shan't take any of the soup. I have to look after it, but
the boss doesn't trust me."

I could not help smiling.

"You laugh," he said sadly, "because you think that I'm a glutton.
Perhaps, if you were in my place, you'd do the same as I've done. I'm
not a pig, but I'm famished, and the smell of the soup as it comes out
through the spout makes me still hungrier."

"Doesn't Signor Garofoli give you enough to eat?"

"He starves us...."

"Oh...."

"I'll tell you what I have done," went on the boy, "'cause if he's going
to be your master, it will be a lesson for you. My name is Mattia.
Garofoli is my uncle. My mother, who lives in Lucca in Italy, is very
poor and has only enough for herself and my little sister, Christina.
When Garofoli came to beautiful Lucca last year he brought me back with
him. Oh, it was hard to leave my little sister.... Signor Garofoli has a
lot of boys here, some of them are chimney sweeps, others rag pickers,
and those who are not strong enough to work, sing in the streets or beg.
Garofoli gave me two little white mice to show to the public and I had
to bring him back thirty sous every night. As many sous as you are short
a day, so many blows you get. It is hard to pick up thirty sous, but the
blows are hard, too, especially when it's Garofoli who gives them. So I
did everything that I could to get the money, but I was often short.
Nearly all the other boys had their money when they returned at night,
but I scarcely ever had mine and Garofoli was mad! There is another boy
here, who also shows mice, and he's taxed forty sous, and he brings that
sum back every night. Several times I went out with him to see how he
made it...."

He paused.

"Well?" I asked.

"Oh, the ladies always said, 'Give it to the pretty little one, not the
ugly boy.' The ugly one, of course, was I; so I did not go out with him
any more. A blow hurts, but it hurts more to have things like that said,
and before a lot of people! You don't know that because no one has ever
told you that you are ugly. Well, when Garofoli saw that beating me
didn't do any good, he tried another way. Each night he took away some
of my supper. It's hard, but I can't say to the people in the streets,
who are watching my mice: 'Give me something or I won't get any supper
to-night!' They don't give for that reason."

"Why do they give?"

"Because you are pretty and nice, or because you remind them of a little
boy they've lost, not because they think you're hungry. Oh, I know their
ways. Say, ain't it cold to-day?"

"Awful cold."

"I didn't get fat on begging," went on the boy. "I got so pale and then,
after a time, I often heard people say: 'That poor child is starving to
death.' A suffering look does what good looks can't do. But you have to
be very starved for that. They used to give me food. That was a good
time for me, because Garofoli had stopped giving me blows just then to
see if it would hurt me more to go without supper, so when I got
something to eat outside I didn't care. But one day Garofoli came along
and saw me eating something, a bowl of soup that the fruiterer gave me,
then he knew why I didn't mind going without supper at home. After that
he made me stay at home and look after the soup here. Every morning
before he goes out he puts the meat and the vegetables into the saucepan
and locks the lid on, and all I have to do is to see that it boils. I
smell the soup, but that's all. The smell of the soup doesn't feed you;
it makes you more hungry. Am I very white? As I never go out now I don't
hear people say so, and there's no mirror here."

"You don't seem any paler than others," I said.

"Ah, you say that because you don't want to frighten me, but I'm glad
I'm sick. I want to be very ill."

I looked at him in amazement.

"You don't understand," he said, with a pitiful smile. "When one is very
ill, they take care of you or they let you die. If they let me die it
will be all over, I shan't be hungry any more, and there'll be no more
beatings. And they do say that when we die we go up and live with God.
Then, if I'm up there, I can look down on Mamma and Christina, and I
can ask God not to let my little sister be unhappy. Also, if they send
me to the Hospital, I shall be pleased."

The Hospital! No matter how sick I felt while tramping across the
country, if I thought I might be sent to the hospital I always found
strength to go on.

"I'm quite ill now, but not ill enough to be in Garofoli's way," he went
on in his weak, drawling voice, "but I'm getting weaker. Garofoli,
fortunately, hasn't given up beating me entirely. He beat me on the head
eight days ago and, look, it's all swelled out now. You see here, this
big bump? He told me yesterday it was a tumor, and the way that he spoke
I believe that it's something serious. It hurts awful. I'm so giddy at
night when I put my head on the pillow I moan and cry. So I think in two
or three days he'll decide to send me to the hospital. I was in the
hospital once, and the Sisters speak so kind to you. They say, 'Put out
your tongue, little boy,' and 'There's a good boy,' every time you do
anything they tell you to do. I think I am almost had enough now to be
sent there."

He came and stood quite close to me, fixing his great eyes on me. Even
though I had not the same reason for hiding the truth from him, I did
not like to tell him how terrible he looked with his great glittering
eyes, his hollow cheeks, and his bloodless lips.

"I should think you're ill enough to go to the hospital," I said.

"At last!"

With dragging limbs he went slowly over to the table and began to wipe
it.

"Garofoli will be here shortly," he said; "we mustn't talk any more."

Wearily he went round the table, placing the plates and spoons. I
counted twenty plates. So Garofoli had twenty boys. As I only saw twelve
beds, they evidently slept, some of them, two in a bed. What beds! what
sheets! the coverlets must have been brought from the stables when they
were too old and not warm enough for the horses!

"Don't you come here," said the boy, "Try to get somewhere else."

"Where?"

"I don't know. No matter where, you'd be better than here."

The door opened and a child came into the room. He carried a violin
under his arm and a big piece of wood in his hand.

"Give me that bit of wood," said Mattia, going up to the child.

But the little fellow held the piece of wood behind his back.

"No," he said.

"Give it me for the fire; the soup'll be better."

"Do you think I brought it for the soup? I've only made thirty-six sous
to-day and I thought this bit of wood might save me a beating. It's to
make up for the four sous I'm short."

"You'll have to pay. Each in his turn."

Mattia said this mechanically, as though the thought of the boy being
punished gave him satisfaction. I was surprised to see a hard look come
into his soft, sad eyes. I knew later that if you live with wicked
people you get to be like them in time.

One by one the boys returned; each one as he came in hung his instrument
on a nail above his bed. Those who were not musicians, but simply
exhibitors of trained animals, put their mice and guinea pigs into a
cage.

Then a heavy step sounded on the stairs and a little man wearing a gray
overcoat came into the room. It was Garofoli. The moment he entered he
fixed his eyes on me with a look that scared me. Mattia quickly and
politely gave him Vitalis' message.

"Ah, so Vitalis is here," he said; "what does he want?"

"I don't know," replied Mattia.

"I'm not speaking to you, I'm speaking to this boy."

"He is coming back and he will tell you himself what he wants," I
replied.

"Ah, here's a little fellow who knows the value of words. You're not
Italian?"

"No, I'm French."

The moment Garofoli entered the room two small boys took their places,
one on each side of him, and were waiting until he had finished
speaking. Then one took his felt hat and placed it carefully on the bed,
and the other brought forward a chair. They did this with the same
gravity and respect that a choir boy waits upon a priest. When Garofoli
was seated another little boy brought him a pipe stuffed with tobacco,
and a fourth offered him a lighted match.

"It smells of sulphur, animal," he cried, throwing it in the grate.

The culprit hastened to repair his mistake; lighting another match he
let it burn for a time before offering it to his master. But Garofoli
would not accept it.

"No, you imbecile," he said, pushing the boy aside roughly. Then he
turned to another child and said with an ingratiating smile:

"Ricardo, dearie, bring a match."

The "dearie" hastened to obey.

"Now," said Garofoli, when he was comfortably installed and his pipe
burning; "now to business, my little angels. Bring the book, Mattia."

Garofoli made a sign to the boy who had lit the first match.

"You owe me a sou from yesterday; you promised to bring it to-day. How
much have you brought?"

The child hesitated for a long time, his face showing distress, "I'm
one sou short," he said at last.

"Ah, you're one sou short."

"It's not the sou for yesterday; it's a sou for to-day."

"That makes two sous! I've never seen the like of you!"

"It's not my fault."

"No excuses. You know the rules. Undo your coat; two blows for
yesterday, two for to-day, and no supper, for your impudence. Ricardo,
dearie, you're a good boy and you deserve some recreation. Take the
strap."

Ricardo, the child who had lit the second match, took down from the wall
a short-handled whip with two leather-knotted straps. Meanwhile, the boy
who was short two sous was unfastening his coat. Then he dropped his
shirt, baring his body to the waist.

"Wait a minute," said Garofoli, with an ugly smile; "you won't be the
only one, perhaps; it's always pleasant to have a companion."

The children stood motionless before their master. At his cruel joke
they all forced a laugh.

"The one who laughed most is the one who is short the most," said
Garofoli; "I'm sure of that. Who laughed the loudest?"

All pointed to the boy who had come home first, bringing his piece of
wood.

"How much are you short, you there?" demanded Garofoli.

"It's not my fault."

"And the one who says 'it's not my fault' will get an extra cut. How
much is missing?"

"I brought back a big piece of wood, a beautiful piece of wood...."

"That's something. But go to the baker's and ask him to exchange your
wood for bread, will he do it? How many sous are you missing? Speak
out!"

"I've made thirty-six sous."

"You're four short, you rogue. And you can stand there before me like
that! Down with your shirt! Ricardo, dearie, you're going to have a good
time."

"But the bit of wood?" cried the boy.

"I'll give it to you for supper."

This cruel joke made all the children who were not to be punished laugh.
All the other boys were then questioned as to how much they had brought
home. Ricardo stood with whip in hand until five victims were placed in
a row before him.

"You know, Ricardo," said Garofoli, "I don't like to look on, because a
scene like this always makes me feel ill. But I can hear, and from the
noise I am able to judge the strength of your blows. Go at it heartily,
dearie; you are working for your bread."

He turned towards the fire, as though it were impossible for him to
witness this chastisement.

I, in my corner, trembled with indignation and fear. This was the man
who was going to be my master. If I did not bring him back the thirty
or forty sous that he demanded of me, I should have to be whipped by
Ricardo. Ah, I understood now how Mattia could speak of death so calmly.

[Illustration: "FOR EACH CRY YOU WILL RECEIVE ANOTHER SLASH."]

The first lash of the whip, as it cut into the flesh, made the tears
spring to my eyes. I thought that I was forgotten, but I made a mistake;
Garofoli was looking at me out of the corner of his eye.

"There's a boy with a heart," he said, pointing to me; "he is not like
you other rogues; you laugh when you see your comrades suffer. Take this
little comrade for an example."

I trembled from head to foot. Their comrade!

At the second blow the victim uttered a wail, at the third a piercing
shriek. Garofoli lifted his hand; Ricardo stopped with raised whip. I
thought Garofoli was going to show mercy, but it was not so.

"You know how much it hurts me to hear you cry," said Garofoli, gently,
addressing the victim. "You know that if the whip tears your skin, your
cries pierce my heart. So then I warn you that for each cry you will
receive another slash, and it will be your own fault. If you have any
affection or gratitude you will keep silent. Go on, Ricardo."

Ricardo raised his arm and the strap curled on the backs of the victims.

"Oh, Mamma, Mamma," cried one.

Thank God, I saw no more of this frightful torture, for at this moment
the door was thrown open and Vitalis entered.

In a glance, he understood all. He had heard the shrieks while climbing
the stairs. Running to Ricardo, he snatched the whip from him, then,
wheeling round upon Garofoli, he stood before him with folded arms.

It all happened so quickly that, for a moment, I was dumbfounded, but
Garofoli quickly recovered himself and said gently:

"Isn't it terrible? That child has no heart."

"Shame! It's a shame!" cried Vitalis.

"That is just what I say," murmured Garofoli.

"Stop that," commanded Vitalis; "it's you, not the child! What a
cowardly shame to torture these poor children who cannot defend
themselves."

"Don't you meddle in what does not concern you, you old fool," cried
Garofoli, changing his tone.

"It concerns the police," retorted Vitalis.

"You threaten me with the police, do you?" cried Garofoli.

"Yes, I do," replied my master, nowise intimidated by the bully's fury.

"Ah, Vitalis," he hissed, "so you'll talk? Well, I can talk also. Your
affairs do not concern me, but there are others who are interested in
you and if I tell, if I say one name.... Ah, who will have to hide his
head in shame?"

My master was silent. Shame! His shame! I was amazed, but before I had
time to think, he had taken me by the hand.

"Come, Remi," he said. And he drew me to the door.

"Oh," cried Garofoli, now laughing, "I thought you wanted to talk to me,
old fellow."

"I have nothing to say to you."

Then, without another word, we went down the stairs, he still holding me
tightly by the hand. With what relief I followed him! I had escaped from
that tyrant! If I had dared I would have thrown my arms around Vitalis'
neck.



CHAPTER XVII

POOR VITALIS


While we were in the street Vitalis said not a word, but soon we came to
a narrow alley and he sat down on a mile-stone and passed his hand
several times across his forehead.

"It may be fine to listen to the voice of generosity," he said, as
though speaking to himself, "but now we're in the gutters of Paris,
without a sou; not a bite to eat.... Are you hungry?" he asked, looking
up at me.

"I haven't eaten anything since that little roll you gave me this
morning."

"Poor, poor child, and you'll have to go to bed to-night without supper.
And where are we going to sleep?"

"Did you count on sleeping at Garofoli's, then?"

"I counted upon you sleeping there, and as he would have given me twenty
francs for you for the winter, I could have managed for the time being.
But, seeing the way he treated those children, I could not give you to
him."

"Oh, you are so good!"

"Perhaps in this old, hardened vagabond there is still a bit of the
young man's heart left. This old vagabond calculated shrewdly, but the
young man still in him upset all.... Now, where to go?" he murmured.

It was already late and the cold had increased. It was going to be a
hard night. For a long time Vitalis sat on the stone. Capi and I stood
silently before, waiting until he had come to some decision. Finally he
rose.

"Where are we going?"

"To Gentilly, to try and find a race-course where I've slept sometimes.
Are you tired?"

"I rested at Garofoli's."

"The pity is that I haven't rested, and I can't do much more. But we
must get along. Forward! March! Children!"

This was his good humor signal for the dogs and myself when we were
about to start, but this night he said it sadly.

Here we were, wandering in the streets of Paris; the night was dark and
the gas jets, which flickered in the wind, lit the alleys but dimly. At
each step we slipped on the ice-covered pavement. Vitalis held me by the
hand, and Capi followed at our heels. From time to time, the poor dog
stopped behind to look amongst a heap of garbage to see if he could find
a bone or a crust, for he was oh, so hungry, but the garbage was covered
with frozen snow and he searched in vain. With drooping ears he trotted
on to catch up with us.

After the big streets, more alleys; after the alleys, more big streets;
we walked on, and on; the few pedestrians that we met stared at us in
astonishment. Was it our costumes? Was it the tired way we plodded along
which arrested their attention? The policemen that we passed turned
round and followed us with a glance.

Without saying a word, Vitalis tramped on, his back almost bent double,
but despite the cold, his hand burned in mine. It seemed to me that he
was trembling. Sometimes, when he stopped to lean for a minute against
my shoulder, I felt all his body shaken with trembling. Ordinarily, I
would not dare to have questioned him, but I felt I must to-night.
Besides, I had a great wish to tell him how much I loved him or, at
least, that I wanted to do something for him.

"You are ill?" I said, when he stopped again.

"I'm afraid so; anyway, I'm very tired. This cold is too severe for my
old blood. I need a good bed and a supper before a fire. But that's a
dream. Forward! March! Children."

Forward! March! We had left the city behind us; we were now in the
suburbs. We saw no people or policemen or street lights, only a lighted
window here and there, and over our heads the dark-blue sky dotted with
a few stars. The wind, which blew more bitter and more violently, stuck
our clothing to our bodies. Fortunately, it was at our backs, but as the
sleeves of my coat were all torn near the shoulders, it blew in and
slipped along my arms, chilling me to the bone.

Although it was dark and the streets continually crossed each other,
Vitalis walked like a man who knows his way, and was perfectly sure of
his road. So I followed, feeling sure that we should not lose ourselves.
Suddenly, he stopped.

"Do you see a group of trees?" he asked.

"I don't see anything."

"You don't see a big black mass?"

I looked on all sides before answering. I saw no trees or houses. Space
all around us. There was no other sound save the whistle of the wind.

"See, down there!" He stretched out his right hand before him, then, as
I did not reply, for I was afraid to say that I saw nothing, he trudged
on again.

Some minutes passed in silence; then he stopped once more and asked me
if I did not see a group of trees. A vague fear made my voice tremble
when I replied that I saw nothing.

"It is fear, my boy, that makes your eyes dance; look again."

"I tell you, I do not see any trees."

"Not on the big road?"

"I can't see anything."

"We've made a mistake."

I could say nothing, for I did not know where we were, nor where we were
going.

"Let us walk for another five minutes and, if we do not see the trees,
we will come back here. I might have made a mistake on the road."

Now that I knew that we had gone astray, I seemed to have no more
strength left. Vitalis pulled me by the arm.

"Come, come."

"I can't walk any farther."

"Ah, and do you think I'm going to carry you?"

I followed him.

"Are there any deep ruts in the road?"

"No."

"Then we must turn back."

We turned. Now we faced the wind. It stung our faces like a lash. It
seemed that my face was being scorched with a flame.

"We have to take a road leading from the cross-roads," said my master
feebly; "tell me when you see it."

For a quarter of an hour we went on, struggling against the wind; in the
doleful silence of the night the noise of our footsteps echoed on the
dry, hard earth. Although scarcely able to put one foot before the
other, it was I who dragged Vitalis. How anxiously I looked to the left!
In the dark shadows I suddenly saw a little red light.

"See, there's a light," I said, pointing.

"Where?"

Vitalis looked; although the light was but a short distance off, he saw
nothing. I knew then that his sight was going.

"What is that light to us?" he asked; "it is a lamp burning on the table
of some worker, or it's near the bed of a dying person. We cannot go
and knock at those doors. Away in the country, during the night, you
can ask hospitality, but so near Paris ... we must not expect
hospitality here. Come."

A few steps more and I thought I could make out the cross-roads and a
black mass which must be the trees. I let go of my master's hand to go
ahead quicker. There were deep ruts in the road.

"See, here are the ruts?" I cried.

"Give me your hand, we are saved," said Vitalis; "look, now you can see
the group of trees."

I told him that I thought I could see the trees.

"In five minutes we shall be there," he murmured.

We trudged along, but the five minutes seemed an eternity.

"Where are the ruts?"

"They are still on the right."

"We must have passed the entrance to the race-course without seeing it.
I think we'd better go back."

Once more we turned back.

"Do you see the trees?"

"Yes, there on the left."

"And the ruts?"

"There are not any."

"Am I blind?" asked Vitalis in a low voice, as he passed his hands
across his eyes; "walk straight along by the trees, and give me your
hand."

"Here is a wall."

"No, it's a heap of stones."

"No, I am sure it's a wall."

Vitalis took a step aside to see if it really was as I said. He
stretched out his two hands and touched the wall.

"Yes, it's a wall," he murmured. "Where is the entrance. Look for the
track."

I stooped down to the ground and felt all along to the end of the wall,
but I found no entrance; then, turning back to where Vitalis stood, I
continued to feel along the wall on the other side. The result was the
same; there was no opening, no gate.

"There is nothing," I said.

The situation was terrible. Without doubt my master was delirious.
Perhaps there was no race-course here at all! Vitalis stood for a moment
as though in a dream. Capi began to bark impatiently.

"Shall we look further?" I asked.

"No, the race-course is walled up."

"Walled up?"

"Yes, they have closed the opening, and it is impossible for us to get
inside."

"Well, then?"

"What to do, eh? I don't know. Die here."

"Oh, Master! Master!"

"Yes, you don't want to die, you are so young. Life seems good to you.
Let us walk on. Can you still walk a bit further, my child."

"Oh, but you?"

"When I can go no farther, I shall fall down like an old horse."

"Where shall we go?"

"Return to Paris. When we meet a policeman we will let him take us to
the police station. I did not want that, but I cannot let you die of
cold, boy. Come, little Remi, come. On, my children. Courage!"

We turned back the same way that we had come. What time was it? I had no
idea. We had walked for hours, a long, long time, and so slowly. Perhaps
it was midnight or one o'clock. The sky was still a somber blue, without
moon, and with but few stars, and the few that had appeared seemed to me
to be smaller than usual. The wind had increased; the snow beat in our
faces; the houses that we passed were closed for the night. It seemed to
me that if the people who slept there, warmly beneath the sheets, knew
how cold we were outside, they would have opened their doors to us.

Vitalis walked slower and slower; when I spoke to him he made a sign to
me to be silent. We were now nearing the city. Vitalis stopped. I knew
that he had come to the end of his strength.

"Shall I knock at one of the doors?" I asked.

"No, they will not let us in. They are gardeners who live here. They
supply the market. They would not get up at this hour to take us in. Let
us go on."

But he had more will than strength. After a moment he stopped again.

"I must rest a little," he said, feebly; "I can't go on."

There was a gate leading to a big garden. The wind had blown a lot of
straw, that covered a manure heap near the gate, into the street.

"I am going to sit here," said Vitalis.

"You said that if we sat down we should get too cold to get up again."

He made no reply, but signed for me to heap up the straw against the
door; then he fell, rather than sat down upon it. His teeth chattered
and all his body shook.

"Bring some more straw," he said; "with a lot of straw we can keep the
wind from us."

The wind, yes, but not the cold. When I had gathered up all the straw
that I could, I sat down beside Vitalis.

"Come quite close to me," he said, "and lift Capi on your lap. He will
give you some warmth from his body."

Vitalis was ill. Did he know how ill? As I crept close up against him,
he bent over and kissed me. That was the second time he had kissed me.
Alas! it was the last.

Scarcely had I cuddled up against Vitalis than I felt my eyes close. I
tried to keep them open, but I could not. I pinched my arms, but there
was no feeling in my flesh. On my legs, which were drawn up to my chest,
Capi slept already. The wind blew the wisps of straw upon us like dried
leaves that fall from a tree. There was not a soul in the street, and
around us was the silence of death.

This silence frightened me. Of what was I afraid? I did not know, but a
vague fear came over me. It seemed to me that I was dying there. And
then I felt very sad. I thought of Chavanon, of poor Mother Barberin.
Must I die without seeing her again, and our little house, and my little
garden! Then, I was no longer cold; it seemed that I was back in my
little garden. The sun was shining and was so warm. The jonquils were
opening their golden petals; the birds were singing in the trees and on
the hedges. Yes, and Mother Barberin was hanging out the clothes that
she had just washed in the brook, which rippled over the pebbles. Then I
left Chavanon, and joined Arthur and Mrs. Milligan on the _Swan_. Then
my eyes closed again, my heart seemed to grow heavy, and I remembered no
more.



CHAPTER XVIII

NEW FRIENDS


When I awoke I was in a bed, and the flames from a big fire lit up the
room in which I was lying. I had never seen this room before, nor the
people who stood near the bed. There was a man in a gray smock and
clogs, and three or four children. One, which I noticed particularly,
was a little girl about six years old, with great big eyes that were so
expressive they seemed as though they could speak.

I raised myself on my elbow. They all came closer.

"Vitalis?" I asked.

"He is asking for his father," said a girl, who seemed to be the eldest
of the children.

"He is not my father; he is my master," I said; "where is he? where's
Capi?"

If Vitalis had been my father they perhaps would have broken the news to
me gently, but as he was only my master, they thought that they could
tell me the truth at once.

They told me that my poor master was dead. The gardener, who lived on
the grounds outside of which we had fallen exhausted, had found us early
the next morning, when he and his son were starting off with their
vegetables and flowers to the markets. They found us lying, huddled
together in the snow, with a little covering of their straw over us.
Vitalis was already dead, and I should have died but Capi had crept up
to my chest and kept my heart warm. They had carried us into the house
and I had been placed in one of the children's warm beds.

"And Capi?" I asked, when the gardener stopped talking.

"Capi?"

"Yes, the dog."

"I don't know, he's disappeared."

"He followed the body," said one of the children. "Didn't you see him,
Benjamin?"

"Should say I did," answered another boy; "he walked behind the men who
carried the stretcher. He kept his head down, and now and again he
jumped up on the body, and when they made him get down he moaned and
howled something terrible."

Poor Capi! how many times, as an actor, had he not followed Zerbino's
funeral. Even the most serious children had been obliged to laugh at his
display of grief. The more he moaned, the more they had laughed.

The gardener and his children left me alone. Not knowing quite what to
do or what I was going to do, I got up and dressed. My harp had been
placed at the foot of the bed upon which I was lying. I passed the strap
over my shoulder and went into the room where the family were. I should
have to go, but where? While in bed I had not felt very weak, but now I
could scarcely stand; I was obliged to hold on to a chair to keep from
falling. The odor of the soup was too much for me. I was reminded
brutally that I had eaten nothing the night before. I felt faint, and
staggering, I dropped into a chair by the fire.

"Don't you feel well, my boy?" asked the gardener.

I told him that I did not feel very well, and I asked him to let me sit
by the fire for a little while.

But it was not the heat that I wanted; it was food. I felt weaker as I
watched the family take their soup. If I had dared, I would have asked
for a bowl, but Vitalis had taught me not to beg. I could not tell them
I was hungry. Why? I don't know, quite, unless it was that I could not
ask for anything that I was unable to return.

The little girl with the strange look in her eyes, and whose name was
Lise, sat opposite to me. Suddenly, she got up from the table and,
taking her bowl which was full of soup, she brought it over to me and
placed it on my knees. Weakly, for I could no longer speak, I nodded my
head to thank her. The father did not give me time to speak even if I
had been able.

"Take it, my boy," he said. "What Lise gives is given with a kind heart.
There is more if you want more."

If I want more! The bowl of soup was swallowed in a few seconds. When I
put down the soup, Lise, who had remained standing before me, heaved a
little sigh of content. Then she took my bowl and held it out to her
father to have it refilled, and when it was full she brought it to me
with such a sweet smile, that in spite of my hunger, I sat staring at
her, without thinking to take it from her. The second bowlful
disappeared promptly like the first. It was no longer a smile that
curved Lise's pretty lips; she burst out laughing.

"Well, my boy," said her father, "you've got an appetite and no
mistake."

I was much ashamed, but after a moment I thought it better to confess
the truth than to be thought a glutton, so I told them that I had not
had any supper the night before.

"And dinner?"

"No dinner, either."

"And your master?"

"He hadn't eaten, either."

"Then he died as much from starvation as from cold."

The hot soup had given me strength. I got up to go.

"Where are you going?" asked the father.

"I don't know."

"Got any friends or relations in Paris?"

"No."

"Where do you live?"

"We hadn't any home. We only got to the city yesterday."

"What are you going to do, then?"

"Play my harp and get a little money."

"In Paris? You had better return to your parents in the country. Where
do they live?"

"I haven't any parents. My master bought me from my foster parents. You
have been good to me and I thank you with all my heart and, if you like,
I'll come back here on Sunday and play my harp while you dance."

While speaking I had walked towards the door, but I had only taken a few
steps when Lise, who followed me, took my hand and pointed to my harp.

"You want me to play now?" I asked, smiling at her.

She nodded and clapped her hands.

Although I had no heart to play, I played my prettiest waltz for this
little girl. At first she listened with her big, beautiful eyes fixed on
me, then she began to keep time with her feet, and very soon was dancing
gayly round the kitchen, while her brothers and sisters watched her. Her
father was delighted. When the waltz was finished the child came and
made me a pretty curtsy. I would have played for her all day, but the
father thought she had danced enough so, instead, I sang the Neapolitan
song that Vitalis had taught me. Lise stood opposite me, moving her lips
as though repeating the words. Then, suddenly, she turned round and
threw herself into her father's arms, crying.

"That's enough music," said the father.

"Isn't she a silly?" said the brother named Benjamin, scoffingly; "first
she dances, and then she cries!"

"She's not so silly as you!" retorted the elder sister, leaning over the
little one affectionately. "She understands...."

While Lise cried on her father's knee, I again strapped my harp to my
shoulder, and made for the door.

"Where are you going?" asked the gardener. "Wouldn't you like to stay
here and work? It won't be an easy life. You'll have to get up very
early in the morning and work hard all day. But you may be sure that you
won't have to go through what you did last night. You will have a bed
and food and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have
earned it. And, if you're a good boy, which I think you are, you will be
one of the family."

Lise turned round and, through her tears, she looked at me and smiled. I
could hardly believe what I heard. I just stared at the gardener. Then
Lise jumped off her father's knee and came up and took my hand.

"Well, what do you say, boy?" asked the father.

A family! I should have a family. I should not be alone. The man I had
lived with for several years, who had been almost a father to me, was
dead, and dear, good Capi, my companion and friend, whom I loved so
much, was lost. I had thought that all was over for me, and here was
this good man offering to take me into his family. Life would begin
again for me. He said he offered me food and lodging, but what meant
more to me was this home life which would be mine also. These boys would
be my brothers. This pretty little Lise would be my sister. I would no
longer be nobody's boy. In my childish dreams I had more than once
thought I might find my father and mother, but I had never thought that
I should have brothers and sisters! And this was what was being offered
to me. I quickly slipped the strap of my harp from off my shoulders.

"There's his reply," said the father, laughing. "I can see by your face
how pleased you are; no need for you to say anything. Hang your harp up
there on the wall and when you get tired of us you may take it down and
go on your way again, but you must do like the swallows, choose your
season to start on your flight. Don't go off in the depth of winter."

My new family consisted of the father, whose name was Pierre Acquin, two
boys, Alexix and Benjamin, and two girls, Etiennette, the elder, and
Lise, the youngest of the family.

Lise was dumb. She was not born dumb, but just before her fourth
birthday, through an illness, she had lost the power of speech. This
affliction, fortunately, had not impaired her intelligence; quite the
contrary, her intelligence was developed to an extraordinary degree. She
seemed to understand everything. And her sweet, pretty ways made her
adored by the family.

Since the mother had died, Etiennette had been mother to the family. She
had left school early to stay at home to cook and sew and clean the
house for her father and brothers. They had quite forgotten that she was
the daughter, the sister; they were so accustomed to seeing her doing
the work of a servant, for she seldom went out and was never angry.
Carrying Lise in her arms, dragging Benny by the hand, getting up at
daybreak to get her father's breakfast, going to bed late after washing
the dishes, she had not had time to be a child. At fourteen years her
face was serious and sad. It was not the face of a little girl.

Five minutes after I had hung my harp on the wall, I was telling them
all what had happened the night before, how we had hoped to sleep on the
race-course, when I heard a scratching on the door which opened onto the
garden; then there was a plaintive whine.

"Capi! Capi!" I cried, jumping up quickly.

But Lise was before me; she had already opened the door.

Capi sprang upon me. I took him in my arms; with little howls of joy,
and his whole body trembling, he licked my face.

"And Capi?..." I asked.

My question was understood.

"Well, Capi will remain with you, of course," said the father.

As though he knew what we were saying, the dog jumped to the ground and
putting his paw straight on his heart, he bowed. It made the children
laugh, especially Lise, and to amuse them I wanted Capi to perform some
of his tricks, but he had no wish to obey me; he jumped on my knee and
commenced to lick my face; then he sprung down and began to drag me by
the sleeve of my coat.

"He wants me to go out."

"To take you to your master."

The police, who had taken Vitalis away, had said that they wished to
question me when I was better. It was very uncertain as to when they
would come, and I was anxious to have news. Perhaps Vitalis was not dead
as they had thought. Perhaps there was still a spark of life left in my
master's body.

Upon seeing my anxiety, Monsieur Acquin offered to take me to the police
station. When we arrived there I was questioned at length, but I would
give no information until they had declared that poor Vitalis was really
dead. Then I told them what I knew. It was very little. Of myself I was
able to say that I had no parents and that Vitalis had hired me for a
sum of money, which he had paid in advance to my foster mother's
husband.

"And now?..." inquired the commissioner.

"We are going to take care of him," interrupted my new friend; "that
is, if you will let us."

The commissioner was willing to confide me to his care and complimented
him upon his kind act.

It is not easy for a child to hide much from a police officer who knows
his business. They very soon trap persons into telling what they wish to
hide. This was so in my case. The commissioner had quickly gleaned from
me all about Garofoli.

"There is nothing to do but to take him to this chap, Garofoli," he said
to one of his men. "Once in the street he mentions, he will soon
recognize the house. You can go up with him and question the man."

The three of us started. As the officer had said, we found the street
and the house. We went up to the fourth floor. I did not see Mattia. He
had probably been taken off to the hospital. Upon seeing the officer and
recognizing me, Garofoli paled and looked frightened, but he soon
recovered himself when he learned that they had only come to question
him about Vitalis.

"So the old fellow is dead?" he said.

"You know him? Well, tell us all you can about him."

"There is not much to tell. His name was not Vitalis. He was Carlo
Balzini, and if you had lived thirty-five or forty years ago in Italy,
that name alone would tell you all you want to know. Carlo Balzini was
the greatest singer of the day. He sang in Naples, Rome, Milan, Venice,
Florence, London and Paris. Then came the time when he lost his
magnificent voice, and as he could not be the greatest of singers, he
would not dim his fame by singing on cheaper stages unworthy of his
great reputation. Instead he preferred to hide himself from the world
and from all who had known him in his triumph. Yet he had to live. He
tried several professions, but could not succeed, then finally he took
to training dogs. But in his poverty he was still very proud and he
would have died of shame if the public could have known that the
brilliant Carlo Balzini had sunk to the depths he had. It was just a
matter of chance that I learned his secret."

Poor Carlo Balzini; dear, dear Vitalis!



CHAPTER XIX

DISASTER


Vitalis had to be buried the next day, and M. Acquin promised to take me
to the funeral. But the next day I could not rise from my bed, for in
the night I was taken very ill. My chest seemed to burn like poor little
Pretty-Heart's after he had spent the night in the tree. The doctor was
called in. I had pneumonia. The doctor wanted me sent to the hospital,
but the family would not hear of it. It was during this illness that I
learned to appreciate Etiennette's goodness. She devoted herself to
nursing me. How good and kind she was during that terrible sickness.
When she was obliged to leave me to attend to her household duties, Lise
took her place, and many times in my delirium I saw little Lise sitting
at the foot of my bed with her big eyes fixed on me anxiously. In my
delirium I thought that she was my guardian angel, and I would speak to
her and tell her of all my hopes and desires. It was from this time that
I began to consider her as something ideal, as a different being from
the other people I met. It seemed surprising that she could live in our
life; in my boyish imagination I could picture her flying away with big
white wings to a more beautiful world.

I was ill for a very long time. At night, when I was almost
suffocating, I had to have some one to sit up with me; then Alexix and
Benny would take turns. At last I was convalescent, and then it was Lise
who replaced Etiennette and walked with me down by the river. Of course
during these walks she could not talk, but strange to say we had no need
of words. We seemed to understand each other so well without talking.
Then came the day when I was strong enough to work with the others in
the garden. I had been impatient to commence, for I wanted to do
something for my kind friends who had done so much for me.

As I was still weak, the task that was given to me was in proportion to
my strength. Every morning after the frost had passed, I had to lift the
glass frames and at night, before it got chilly, I had to close them
again. During the day I had to shade the wall flowers with straw
coverings to protect them from the sun. This was not difficult to do,
but it took all my time, for I had several hundred glasses to move twice
daily.

Days and months passed. I was very happy. Sometimes I thought that I was
too happy, it could not last. M. Acquin was considered one of the
cleverest florists round about Paris. After the wall flower season was
over other flowers replaced them.

For many weeks we had been working very hard, as the season promised to
be an especially good one. We had not even taken a rest on Sunday, but
as all the flowers were now perfect and ready for the approaching
season, it was decided that, for a reward, we were all to go and have
dinner on Sunday, August 5th, with one of M. Acquin's friends, who was
also a florist. Capi was to be one of the party. We were to work until
four o'clock, and when all was finished we were to lock the gates and go
to Arcueil. Supper was for six o'clock. After supper we were to come
home at once, so as not to be late in getting to bed, as Monday morning
we had to be up bright and early, ready for work. A few minutes before
four we were all ready.

"Come on, all of you," cried M. Acquin gayly. "I'm going to lock the
gates."

"Come, Capi."

Taking Lise by the hand, I began to run with her; Capi jumped around us,
barking. We were all dressed up in our best, and looking forward to a
good dinner. Some people turned round to watch us as we passed. I don't
know what I looked like, but Lise in her blue dress and white shoes was
the prettiest little girl that one could see. Time passed quickly.

We were having dinner out of doors when, just as we had finished, one of
us remarked how dark it was getting. Clouds were gathering quickly in
the sky.

"Children, we must go home," said M. Acquin, "there's going to be a
storm."

"Go, already!" came the chorus.

"If the wind rises, all the glasses will be upset."

We all knew the value of those glass frames and what they mean to a
florist. It would be terrible for us if the wind broke ours.

"I'll hurry ahead with Benny and Alexix," the father said. "Remi can
come on with Etiennette and Lise."

They rushed off. Etiennette and I followed more slowly with Lise. No one
laughed now. The sky grew darker. The storm was coming quickly. Clouds
of dust swirled around us; we had to turn our backs and cover our eyes
with our hands, for the dust blinded us. There was a streak of lightning
across the sky, then came a heavy clap of thunder.

Etiennette and I had taken Lise by the hands; we were trying to drag her
along faster, but she could scarcely keep up with us. Would the father,
Benny and Alexix get home before the storm broke? If they were only in
time to close the glass cases so that the wind could not get under them
and upset them! The thunder increased; the clouds were so heavy that it
seemed almost night. Then suddenly there was a downpour of hail, the
stones struck us in the face, and we had to race to take shelter under a
big gateway.

In a minute the road was covered with white, like in winter. The
hailstones were as large as pigeon eggs; as they fell they made a
deafening sound, and every now and again we could hear the crash of
broken glass. With the hailstones, as they slid from the roofs to the
street, fell all sorts of things, pieces of slate, chimney pots, tiles,
etc.

"Oh, the glass frames!" cried Etiennette.

I had the same thought.

"Even if they get there before the hail, they will never have time to
cover the glasses with straw. Everything will be ruined."

"They say that hail only falls in places," I said, trying to hope still.

"Oh, this is too near home for us to escape. If it falls on the garden
the same as here, poor father will be ruined. And he counted so much on
those flowers, he needs the money so badly."

I had heard that the glass frames cost as much as 1800 francs a hundred,
and I knew what a disaster it would be if the hail broke our five or six
hundred, without counting the plants and the conservatories. I would
liked to have questioned Etiennette, but we could scarcely hear each
other speak, and she did not seem disposed to talk. She looked at the
hail falling with a hopeless expression, like a person would look upon
his house burning.

The hurricane lasted but a short while; it stopped as suddenly as it had
commenced. It lasted perhaps six minutes. The clouds swept over Paris
and we were able to leave our shelter. The hailstones were thick on the
ground. Lise could not walk in them in her thin shoes, so I took her on
my back and carried her. Her pretty face, which was so bright when going
to the party, was now grief-stricken and the tears rolled down her
cheeks.

Before long we reached the house. The big gates were open and we went
quickly into the garden. What a sight met our eyes! All the glass frames
were smashed to atoms. Flowers, pieces of glass and hailstones were all
heaped together in our once beautiful garden. Everything was shattered!

Where was the father?

We searched for him. Last of all we found him in the big conservatory,
of which every pane of glass was broken. He was seated on a wheelbarrow
in the midst of the débris which covered the ground. Alexix and Benjamin
stood beside him silently.

"My children, my poor little ones!" he cried, when we all were there.

He took Lise in his arms and began to sob. He said nothing more. What
could he have said? It was a terrible catastrophe, but the consequences
were still more terrible. I soon learned this from Etiennette.

Ten years ago their father had bought the garden and had built the house
himself. The man who had sold him the ground had also lent him the money
to buy the necessary materials required by a florist. The amount was
payable in yearly payments for fifteen years. The man was only waiting
for an occasion when the florist would be late in payment to take back
the ground, house, material; keeping, of course, the ten-year payments
that he had already received.

This was a speculation on the man's part, for he had hoped that before
the fifteen years expired there would come a day when the florist would
be unable to meet his notes. This day had come at last! Now what was
going to happen?

We were not left long in doubt. The day after the notes fell due--this
sum which was to have been paid from the sale of his season's flowers--a
gentleman dressed all in black came to the house and handed us a stamped
paper. It was the process server. He came often; so many times that he
soon began to know us by name.

"How do you do, Mlle. Etiennette? Hello, Remi; hello, Alexix!"

And he handed us his stamped paper smilingly, as though we were friends.
The father did not stay in the house. He was always out. He never told
us where he went. Probably he went to call on business men, or he might
have been at court.

What would the result be? A part of the winter passed. As we were unable
to repair the conservatories and renew the glass frames, we cultivated
vegetables and hardier flowers that did not demand shelter. They were
not very productive, but at least it was something, and it was work for
us. One evening the father returned home more depressed than usual.

"Children," he said, "it is all over."

I was about to leave the room, for I felt that he had something serious
to say to his children. He signed to me to stop.

"You are one of the family, Remi," he said sadly, "and although you are
not very old, you know what trouble is. Children, I am going to leave
you."

There was a cry on all sides.

Lise flung her arms round her father's neck. He held her very tight.

"Ah, it's hard to leave you, dear children," he said, "but the courts
have ordered me to pay, and as I have no money, everything here has to
be sold, and as that is not enough, I have to go to prison for five
years. As I am not able to pay with my money, I have to pay with my
liberty."

We all began to cry.

"Yes, it's sad," he continued brokenly, "but a man can't do anything
against the law. My attorney says that it used to be worse than it is."

There was a tearful silence.

"This is what I have decided is the best thing to do," continued the
father. "Remi, who is the best scholar, will write to my sister
Catherine and explain the matter to her and ask her to come to us. Aunt
Catherine has plenty of common sense and she will be able to decide what
should be done for the best."

It was the first time that I had written a letter, and this was a very
painful one, but we still had a ray of hope. We were very ignorant
children and the fact that Aunt Catherine was coming, and that she was
practical, made us hope that everything could be made right. But she did
not come as soon as we had hoped. A few days later the father had just
left the house to call on one of his friends, when he met the police
face to face coming for him. He returned to the house with them; he was
very pale; he had come to say good-by to his children.

"Don't be so downcast, man," said one of them who had come to take him;
"to be in prison for debt is not so dreadful as you seem to think.
You'll find some very good fellows there."

I went to fetch the two boys, who were in the garden. Little Lise was
sobbing; one of the men stooped down and whispered something in her ear,
but I did not hear what he said.

The parting was over very quickly. M. Acquin caught Lise up in his arms
and kissed her again and again, then he put her down, but she clung to
his hand. Then he kissed Etiennette, Alexix and Benny and gave Lise into
her sister's care. I stood a little apart, but he came to me and kissed
me affectionately, just like the others, and then they took him away. We
all stood in the middle of the kitchen crying; not one of us had a word
to say.

Aunt Catherine arrived an hour later. We were still crying bitterly. For
a country woman who had no education or money, the responsibility that
had fallen upon her was heavy. A family of destitute children, the
eldest not yet sixteen, the youngest a dumb girl. Aunt Catherine had
been a nurse in a lawyer's family; she at once called upon this man to
ask his advice, and it was he who decided our fate. When she returned
from the lawyer's, she told us what had been arranged. Lise was to go
and live with her. Alexix was to go to an uncle at Varses, Benny to
another uncle, who was a florist at Saint-Quentin, and Etiennette to an
aunt who lived at the seashore.

I listened to these plans, waiting until they came to me. When Aunt
Catherine ceased speaking, and I had not been mentioned, I said, "And
me?..."

"Why, you don't belong to the family."

"I'll work for you."

"You're not one of the family."

"Ask Alexix and Benny if I can't work, and I like work."

"And soup, also, eh?"

"But he's one of the family; yes, aunt, he's one of the family," came
from all sides.

Lise came forwards and clasped her hands before her aunt with an
expression that said more than words.

"Poor mite," said Aunt Catherine, "I know you'd like him to come and
live with us, but we can't always get what we want. You're my niece, and
if my man makes a face when I take you home, all I've to tell him is
that you're a relation, and I'm going to have you with me. It will be
like that with your other uncles and aunts. They will take a relation,
but not strangers."

I felt there was nothing to say. What she said was only too true. I was
not one of the family. I could claim nothing, ask nothing; that would be
begging. And yet I loved them all and they all loved me. Aunt Catherine
sent us to bed, after telling us that we were to be parted the next day.

Scarcely had we got upstairs than they all crowded round me. Lise clung
to me, crying. Then I knew, that in spite of their grief at parting from
one another, it was of me that they thought; they pitied me because I
was alone. I felt, indeed, then that I was their brother. Suddenly an
idea came to me.

"Listen," I said; "even if your aunts and uncles don't want me, I can
see that you consider me one of the family."

"Yes, yes," they all cried.

Lise, who could not speak, just squeezed my hand and looked up at me
with her big, beautiful eyes.

"Well, I'm a brother, and I'll prove it," I said stoutly.

"There's a job with Pernuit; shall I go over and speak to him
to-morrow?" asked Etiennette.

"I don't want a job. If I take a job I shall have to stay in Paris, and
I shan't see you again. I'm going to put on my sheepskin and take my
harp, and go first to one place and then to another where you are all
going to live. I shall see you all one after the other, and I'll carry
the news from one to the other, so you'll all be in touch. I haven't
forgotten my songs nor my dance music, and I'll get enough money to
live."

Every face beamed. I was glad they were so pleased with my idea. For a
long time we talked, then Etiennette made each one go to bed, but no one
slept much that night, I least of all. The next day at daybreak Lise
took me into the garden.

"You want to speak to me?" I asked.

She nodded her head.

"You are unhappy because we are going to be parted? You need not tell
me; I can see it in your eyes, and I am unhappy, too."

She made a sign that it was something else she wanted to say.

"In fifteen days I shall be at Dreuzy, where you are going to live."

She shook her head.

"You don't want me to go to Dreuzy?"

In order for us to understand each other, I made more progress by
questioning. She replied either with a nod or a shake of the head. She
told me that she wanted to see me at Dreuzy, but pointing her finger in
three directions, she made me understand that I must first go and see
her brothers and sister.

"You want me first to go to Varses, then Esnandes and then
Saint-Quentin?"

She smiled and nodded, pleased that I understood.

"Why?"

Then with her lips and hands, and above all with her eyes, she explained
to me why she wished this. She wanted me to go and see her sister and
brothers first, so that when I reached Dreuzy I could tell her news of
them. They had to start at eight o'clock, and Aunt Catherine had ordered
a cab to take them, first of all to the prison to say good-by to their
father, and then each, with their baggage, to the different depots where
they had to take their trains. At seven o'clock Etiennette, in her turn,
took me in the garden.

"I want to give you a little keepsake, Remi," she said. "Take this
little case; my godfather gave it to me. You'll find thread, needles and
scissors in it; when you are tramping along the roads you'll need them,
for I shan't be there to put a patch on your clothes, nor sew a button
on. When you use my scissors, think of us all."

While Etiennette was speaking to me, Alexix loitered near; when she left
me to return to the house, he came up.

"Say, Remi," he began, "I've got two five franc pieces. Take one; I'll
be so pleased if you will."

Of the five of us, Alexix was the only one who cared very much for
money. We always made fun of his greed; he saved up sou by sou, counting
his hoard continually, he was always very proud when he had a brand new
piece. His offer touched me to the heart; I wanted to refuse, but he
insisted, and slipped a shiny silver piece into my hand. I knew that his
friendship for me must be very strong if he were willing to share his
treasure with me.

Benjamin, neither, had forgotten me; he also wanted to give me a
present. He gave me his knife, and in exchange he exacted a sou, because
he said "a knife cuts friendship."

The time passed quickly. The moment had come for us to part. As the cab
was drawing up at the house, Lise again made a sign for me to follow her
into the garden.

"Lise!" called her aunt.

She made no reply, but ran quickly down the path. She stopped at a big
Bengal rose tree and cut off a branch, then, turning to me, she divided
the stalk in two; there was a rose on either side. The language of the
lips is a small thing compared with the language of the eyes; how cold
and empty are words compared with looks!

"Lise! Lise!" cried her aunt.

The baggage was already in the cab. I took down my harp and called to
Capi. At the sight of my old suit, he jumped and barked with joy. He
loved his liberty on the high roads more than being closed up in the
garden. They all got into the cab. I lifted Lise onto her aunt's lap. I
stood there half dazed, then the aunt gently pushed me away and closed
the door. They were off.

Through a mist I watched Lise as she leaned out of the window waving
her hand to me, then the cab sharply turned the corner of the street and
all I could see was a cloud of dust.

Leaning on my harp, with Capi sprawling at my feet, I stayed there
looking absently down the street. A neighbor, who had been asked to lock
up the house and keep the key, called to me:

"Are you going to stay there all day?"

"No, I'm off now."

"Where are you going?"

"Straight ahead."

"If you'd like to stay," he said, perhaps out of pity, "I'll keep you,
but I can't pay you, because you're not very strong. Later I might give
you something."

I thanked him, but said no.

"Well, as you like; I was only thinking for your own good. Good-by and
good luck!"

He went away. The cab had gone, the house was locked up.

I turned away from the home where I had lived for two years, and where I
had hoped always to live. The sky was clear, the weather warm, very
different from the icy night when poor Vitalis and I had fallen
exhausted by the wall.

So these two years had only been a halt. I must go on my way again. But
the stay had done me good. It had given me strength and I had made dear
friends. I was not now alone in the world, and I had an object in life,
to be useful and give pleasure to those I loved.



CHAPTER XX

MATTIA


The world was before me; I could go where I liked, north, south, east or
west. I was my own master. How many children there are who say to
themselves, "If I could only do as I liked, ... if I were my own
master!" And how impatiently they look forward to this day when they can
do the things they have longed to do, ... often very foolish things.
Between these children and myself there was a vast difference. When they
do anything foolish there is a hand stretched out, and they are picked
up if they fall. If I fell I should go down, down, down, and I might not
be able to pick myself up again. I was afraid. I knew the dangers that
beset me.

Before beginning my wanderings I wanted to see the man who had been so
good to me. Aunt Catherine had not wished to take me with them when they
had gone to say good-by, but I felt that, at least, I could go and see
him now that I was alone.

I did not dare walk across Paris with Capi running at my heels. I was
afraid that a policeman would stop and question me. My greatest fear was
the police. I tied a string to Capi's collar. I was loath to do this,
for I knew that it hurt his self-respect, but it had to be, and in this
humiliating manner I dragged him along to the Clichy prison, where M.
Acquin was serving his sentence. For some moments I looked in a sort of
fear at the great prison doors, thinking that perhaps once they had
closed on me I might not be able to get out again. I found it more
difficult than I had thought to get into a prison, but I would not be
discouraged. After much waiting and questioning, I was finally permitted
to see M. Acquin.

"Ah, Remi, boy, I was expecting you," he said, as I entered the room
where visitors were allowed to see the prisoners. "I scolded Aunt
Catherine for not bringing you with the others."

I brightened up at these words.

"The children tell me that you are going on your wanderings again. Have
you forgotten that you almost died of cold and hunger, my boy?"

"No, I've not forgotten that."

"You were not alone then; you had some one to look after you. At your
age I don't think it is right to go tramping across the country alone."

"You don't want me to bring you news of your children, then?" I asked.

"They told me that you were going to see them all, one after the other,"
he replied, "but I am not thinking of us when I ask you to give up this
wandering life."

"And if I do what you ask I should be thinking of myself and not of you
... of Lise."

This time he looked at me for several seconds, then he suddenly took
both my hands.

"You have a heart, and I will not say another word, my boy. God will
take care of you."

I threw my arms round his neck; the time had come for me to say good-by.
For some moments he held me in silence, then suddenly he felt in his
vest pocket and pulled out a large silver watch.

"Here, boy, take this," he said. "I want you to have it as a keepsake.
It isn't of much value; if it had been I'd have sold it. It doesn't keep
good time, either. When anything is wrong with it, just give it a thump.
It is all I have."

I wanted to refuse such a beautiful present, but he forced it into my
closed hands.

"Oh, I don't need to know the time," he said sadly; "the hours pass
slowly enough. I should die counting them. Good-by, little Remi; always
remember to be a good boy."

I was very unhappy. How good he had been to me! I lingered round the
prison doors for a long time after I had left him. I might have stayed
there perhaps until night if I had not suddenly touched a hard round
object in my pocket. My watch!

All my grief was forgotten for the moment. My watch! My very own watch
by which I could tell the time. I pulled it out to see the hour. Midday!
It was a matter of small importance whether it was midday, ten o'clock
or two o'clock. Yet, I was very pleased that it was midday. It would
have been hard to say why, but such was the case. I knew that it was
midday; my watch told me so. What an affair! It seemed to me that a
watch was a sort of confidential friend of whom one could ask advice and
to whom one could talk.

"Friend watch, what's the time?"

"Just twelve o'clock, my dear Remi."

"Really! Then it's time for me to do this or that. A good thing you
reminded me; if you had not, I should have forgotten."

In my joy I had not noticed that Capi was almost as pleased as myself.
He pulled me by the leg of my trousers and barked several times. As he
continued to bark, I was forced to bestow some attention upon him.

"What do you want, Capi?" I asked.

He looked at me, but I failed to understand him. He waited some moments,
then came and stood up against me, putting his paws on the pocket where
I had placed my watch. He wanted to know the time to tell the
"distinguished audience," like in the days when he had worked with
Vitalis.

I showed the watch to him. He looked at it for some time, as though
trying to remember, then, wagging his tail, he barked twelve times. He
had not forgotten! We could earn money with my watch! That was something
I had not counted upon.

Forward march, children!

I took one last look at the prison, behind the walls of which little
Lise's father was shut, then went on my way.

The thing I needed most of all was a map of France. Knowing that in the
book stalls on the quays I could procure one, I wended my way towards
the river. At last I found one that was so yellow that the man let me
have it for fifteen sous.

I was able to leave Paris now, and I decided to do so at once. I had a
choice between two roads. I chose the road to Fontainebleau. As I went
up the Rue Mouffetard, a host of memories rushed upon me. Garofoli!
Mattia! Ricardo! the soup pot fastened with a padlock, the whip, and
Vitalis, my poor, good master, who had died because he would not rent me
to the _padrone_. As I passed the church I saw a little boy leaning
against the wall, and I thought I recognized him. Surely it was Mattia,
the boy with the big head, the great eyes and the soft, resigned look.
But then he had not grown one inch! I went nearer to see better. Yes, it
was Mattia. He recognised me. His pale face broke into a smile.

"Ah, it's you," he said. "You came to Garofoli's a long time ago with an
old man with a white beard, just before I went to the hospital. Ah! how
I used to suffer with my head then."

"Is Garofoli still your master?"

He glanced round before replying, then lowering his voice he said:
"Garofoli is in prison. They took him because he beat Orlando to death."

I was shocked at this. I was pleased to hear that they had put Garofoli
in prison, and for the first time I thought the prisons, which inspired
me with so much horror, had their use.

"And the other boys?" I asked.

"Oh, I don't know. I was not there when Garofoli was arrested. When I
came out of the hospital, Garofoli, seeing that it was no good to beat
me 'cause I got ill, wanted to get rid of me, so he sold me for two
years to the Gassot Circus. They paid him in advance. D'ye know the
Gassot Circus? No? Well, it's not much of a circus, but it's a circus
all the same. They wanted a child for dislocation, and Garofoli sold me
to Mr. Gassot. I stayed with him until last Monday, when he sent me off
because my head was too big to go into the box. After leaving the circus
I went back to find Garofoli, but the place was all shut up, and a
neighbor told me what had happened. Now that Garofoli's in prison I
don't know where to go.

"And I haven't any money," he added, "and I haven't had a bite to eat
since yesterday."

I was not rich, but I had enough to give something to poor Mattia. How I
would have blessed one who would have given me a crust of bread when I
was wandering round Toulouse, famished like Mattia now.

"Stay here until I come back," I said.

I ran to a bakery at the corner of the street and soon returned with a
roll, which I offered him. He devoured it in a moment.

"Now," I said, "what do you want to do?"

"I don't know. I was trying to sell my violin when you spoke to me, and
I would have sold it before, if I hadn't hated to part with it. My
violin is all I have and when I'm sad, I find a spot where I can be
alone and play to myself. Then I see all sorts of beautiful things in
the sky, more beautiful than in a dream."

"Why don't you play your violin in the streets?"

"I did, but I didn't get anything."

How well I knew what it was to play and not get a coin.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

I don't know why, but on the spur of the moment, I put up a ridiculous
bluff.

"I'm the boss of a company," I said proudly.

It was true, but the truth was very near a falsehood. My "company" only
consisted of Capi.

"Oh, will you...." began Mattia.

"What?"

"Take me in your company?"

Not wishing to deceive him, I smiled and pointed to Capi.

"But that is all the company I have," I said.

"Well, what does that matter? I'll be another. Oh, please don't leave
me; I shall die of hunger!"

Die of hunger! His words seemed to strike my very heart. I knew what it
would be to die of hunger.

"I can play the violin, and I can dislocate," said Mattia breathlessly.
"I can dance on the tight rope, I can sing, I'll do anything you like.
I'll be your servant; I'll obey you. I don't ask for money; food only.
And if I do badly, you can beat me, that is understood. All that I ask
is, that you won't strike me on the head; that also must be understood,
because my head is very sore since Garofoli beat me so much on it."

I felt like crying, to hear poor little Mattia speak so. How could I
refuse to take him with me. Die of hunger! But with me there was also a
chance that he might die of hunger. I told him so, but he would not
listen to me.

"No, no," he said; "when there are two, one doesn't starve, because one
helps the other. The one who has it gives to the one who hasn't."

I hesitated no longer. As I had some I must help him.

"Well, then, it's understood," I said.

Instantly he took my hand and actually kissed it in gratitude.

"Come with me," I said; "not as a servant, Mattia, but as my chum."

Shouldering my harp, I gave the signal:

"Forward, march!"

At the end of a quarter of an hour, we had left Paris behind.

I left Paris by this route because I wanted to see Mother Barberin. How
many times I had wanted to write to her and tell her that I thought of
her, and that I loved her with all my heart, but the horrible fear of
Barberin restrained me. If Barberin found me by means of my letter, he
might take me and sell me to another man. He probably had the right to
do so. I preferred that Mother Barberin should think that I was an
ungrateful boy rather than run the risk of falling into Barberin's
power.

But though I dared not write, now that I was free, I could go and see
her. Since I had taken Mattia into my "company" I had made up my mind to
do so, for it seemed to me that it could easily be arranged. I would
send him ahead and he could find out if she were alone, and then tell
her that I was not far off, and was only waiting to know if it were safe
for me to come and see her. Then, if Barberin were in the village,
Mattia could ask her to come to some safe spot where I could meet her.

I tramped along in silence, working out this plan. Mattia trudged by my
side; he also seemed to be thinking deeply. The idea came to me to show
off my possessions to Mattia. Unfastening my bag, I proudly spread out
my riches on the grass. I had three cotton shirts, three pairs of socks,
five handkerchiefs, all in good condition, and one pair of shoes,
slightly used.

Mattia was awestruck.

"And you, what have you got?" I asked.

"I've only got my violin."

"Well, we'll go shares, now we're chums; you'll have two shirts, two
pairs of socks, and three handkerchiefs, but as it's only fair that we
go shares in everything, you'll carry my bag for one hour and I'll carry
it for another."

Mattia wanted to refuse the things, but as I had quickly fallen into the
habit of commanding, which, I must say I found very pleasant, I told him
to be silent. I had laid out Etiennette's needle case and also a little
box in which I had placed Lise's rose. Mattia wanted to open this box,
but I would not let him. I put it back in my bag without even lifting
the lid.

"If you want to please me," I said, "you will never touch this box ...
it's a present."

"I promise never to touch it," he said solemnly.

Since I had again donned my sheepskin and my harp there was one thing
which caused me serious thought. That was my trousers. It seemed to me
that an artist ought not to wear long trousers; to appear in public an
artist should have short trousers with stockings coming over them, laced
over and over with colored ribbons. Trousers were all right for a
gardener, but now ... I was an artist! Yes, I must wear knickers. I
quickly took the scissors from Etiennette's work-case.

"While I arrange my trousers," I said to Mattia, "you ought to show me
how you play the violin."

"Oh, I'd like to."

He began to play, while I boldly stuck the points of my scissors into my
trousers a little above the knee. I commenced to cut the cloth.

Yet, however, they were a beautiful pair of gray cloth trousers, with
vest and coat to match, and I had been so proud of them when M. Acquin
had given them to me, but I did not consider that I was spoiling them by
shortening them, quite the contrary.

At first I scarcely listened to Mattia; I was too busy cutting my
trousers, but soon I stopped manipulating the scissors and became all
ears. Mattia played almost as well as Vitalis.

"Who taught you the violin?" I asked, clapping my hands.

"No one, I studied alone."

"Hasn't any one explained to you anything about music?"

"No, I play just what I hear."

"I'll teach you, I will."

"You know everything, then?"

"Well so I ought to, if I'm the director."

I wanted to show Mattia that I also was a musician. I took my harp and,
wishing to impress him, I sang the famous canzonette. Then, as it should
be between artists, he complimented me. He had great talent. We were
worthy of each other.

I buckled my knapsack and Mattia, in turn, hoisted it on his shoulders.

We had to stop at the first village to give a performance. It was to be
the "First appearance of Remi's Company."

"Teach me your song," said Mattia; "we'll sing it together, and I'll
soon be able to accompany you on the violin. That'll be pretty."

Certainly, that would be pretty, and the "distinguished audience" would
have a heart of stone if they were not generous in their offerings.

At the first village that we came to we had to pass before a large farm
gate; looking in we saw a crowd of people dressed up in their best; some
of them carried bouquets tied with satin streamers. It was a wedding. I
thought that perhaps these people might like a little music and dance,
so I went into the farmyard and suggested it to the first person that I
met. This was a big, good-natured looking man with a red face; he wore a
tall white collar and a Prince Albert coat. He did not reply to my
question, but turning to the guests, he put his two fingers in his mouth
and gave such a shrill whistle that it frightened Capi.

"Say, you all," he cried, "what about a little music; the musicians have
arrived."

"Oh, music! music!" came the chorus.

"Take your places for the quadrilles!"

The dancers soon gathered in the middle of the yard. Mattia and I took
our places up in a wagon.

"Can you play the quadrilles?" I whispered anxiously.

"Yes."

He struck a few notes on his violin. By luck I knew the air. We were
saved. Although Mattia and I had never played together, we did not do
badly. It is true the people had not much ear for music.

"Can one of you play the cornet?" asked the big man with the red face.

"I can," said Mattia, "but I haven't the instrument with me."

"I'll go and find one; the violin's pretty, but it's squeaky."

I found that day that Mattia could play everything. We played until
night, without stopping. It did not matter for me, but poor Mattia was
very weak. From time to time I saw him turn pale as though he felt ill,
yet he continued to play, blowing with all his might. Fortunately, I was
not the only one who saw that he was ill; the bride remarked it also.

"That's enough," she said; "that little chap is tired out. Now all hands
to your pockets for the musicians!"

I threw my cap to Capi, who caught it in his jaws.

"Give your offerings to our secretary, if you please," I said.

They applauded, and were delighted at the manner in which Capi bowed.
They gave generously; the husband was the last, and he dropped a five
franc piece in the cap. The cap was full of silver coins. What a
fortune!

We were invited to supper, and they gave us a place to sleep in the hay
loft. The next day when we left this hospitable farm we had a capital
of twenty-eight francs!

"I owe this to you, Mattia," I said, after we had counted it; "I could
not have made an orchestra all alone."

With twenty-eight francs in our pockets we were rich. When we reached
Corbeil I could very well afford to buy a few things that I considered
indispensable: first, a cornet, which would cost three francs at a
second-hand shop, then some red ribbons for our stockings and, lastly,
another knapsack. It would be easier to carry a small bag all the time
than a heavy one in turns.

"A boss like you, who doesn't beat one, is too good," said Mattia,
laughing happily from time to time.

Our prosperous state of affairs made me decide to set out for Mother
Barberin's as soon as possible. I could take her a present. I was rich
now. There was something that, more than anything else, would make her
happy, not only now, but in her old age--a cow that would replace poor
Rousette. How happy she would be if I gave her a cow, and how proud I
should be. Before arriving at Chavanon I would buy a cow and Mattia
would lead it by a rope, right into Mother Barberin's yard.

Mattia would say to her: "Here is a cow I've brought you."

"A cow!" she would say; "you've made a mistake, my boy," and she would
sigh.

"No, I haven't," Mattia would answer; "you're Mother Barberin of
Chevanon, aren't you? Well, the prince (like in fairy tales) has sent
you this as a present."

"What prince?"

Then I would appear and take her in my arms, and after we had hugged
each other we would make some pancakes and apple fritters which would be
eaten by the three of us and not by Barberin, as on that Shrove Tuesday
when he had returned to upset our frying pan and put our butter in his
onion soup. What a beautiful dream! But to realize it we must first buy
the cow!

How much would a cow cost? I had not the slightest idea; a great deal
probably, but still.... I did not want a very big cow. Because the
fatter the cow the higher the price, and then the bigger the cow the
more nourishment it would require, and I did not want my present to be a
source of inconvenience to Mother Barberin. The essential, for the
moment, was to find out the price of cows or, rather, of a cow of the
kind that I wanted. Fortunately, that was not difficult for we often met
many farmers and cattle dealers at the different villages where we
stopped. I put the question to the first I met at the inn that day.

He burst out laughing and gave a bang on the table. Then he called the
landlady.

"This little musician wants to know how much a cow costs, not a very
large one, but a very healthy one that'll give plenty of milk!"

Every one laughed. I didn't care, though.

"Yes, she must give good milk and not eat too much," I said.

"And she mustn't mind being led along the lanes by a halter."

When he had had his laugh, he was quite willing to enter a discussion
with me, and to take the matter seriously. He had just the very thing, a
nice cow which gave delicious milk--real cream!--and she hardly ate
anything. If I would put down fifty écus, the cow was mine. Although I
had had trouble in making him talk at first, once he commenced it was
difficult to stop him. Finally, we were able to retire for the night,
and I dreamed of all I had learned from him.

Fifty écus; that was one hundred and fifty francs! I had nothing like
that great sum. Perhaps if our luck still continued I could, if I saved
sou by sou, get together the hundred and fifty francs. But it would take
time. In that case we should have to go, first of all, to Varses and see
Benny and give all the performances that we could on our way. And then
on our return we would have the money and we would go to Chavanon and
act the fairy tale, "The Prince's Cow."

I told Mattia of my plan and he raised no objections.



CHAPTER XXI

MEETING OLD FRIENDS


It took us nearly three months to do this journey, but when at last we
reached the outskirts of Varses we found that we had indeed employed our
time well. In my leather purse I now had one hundred and twenty-eight
francs. We were only short of twenty-two francs to buy Mother Barberin's
cow.

Mattia was almost as pleased as I, and he was very proud that he had
contributed his part to such a sum. His part was great, for I am sure
that without him, Capi and I could not have collected anything like the
sum of one hundred and twenty-eight francs! From Varses to Chavanon we
could easily gain the twenty-two francs that we were short.

It was three o'clock in the afternoon when we arrived at Varses and a
radiant sun shone in the clear sky, but the nearer we got to the town
the darker became the atmosphere. Between the sky and the earth hung a
cloud of smoke.

I knew that Alexix's uncle was a miner at Varses, but I did not know
whether he lived in the town itself or outside. I simply knew that he
worked in a mine called the "Truyère."

Upon entering the town I asked where this mine was situated, and I was
directed to the left bank of the river Divonne, in a little dale,
traversed by a ravine, after which the mine had been named. This dale is
as unattractive as the town.

At the office they told us where Uncle Gaspard, Alexix's uncle, lived.
It was in a winding street, which led from the hill to the river, at a
little distance from the mine.

When we reached the house, a woman who was leaning up against the door
talking to two or three neighbors told me that Gaspard, the miner, would
not be back until six o'clock.

"What do you want of him?" she asked.

"I want to see Alexix, his nephew."

"Oh? you're Remi?" she said. "Alexix has spoken of you. He's been
expecting you. Who's that boy?" She pointed to Mattia.

"He's my friend."

This woman was Alexix's aunt. I thought she would ask us to go in and
rest, for we were very dusty and tired, but she simply repeated that if
I would return at six o'clock I could see Alexix, who was then at the
mine. I had not the heart to ask for what was not offered. I thanked her
and went into the town to find a baker, to get something to eat. I was
ashamed of this reception, for I felt that Mattia would wonder what it
meant. Why should we have tramped so many miles for this.

It seemed to me that Mattia would have a poor idea of my friends, and
that when I should speak to him of Lise he would not listen to me with
the same interest. And I wanted him very much to like Lise. The cold
welcome that the aunt had given us did not encourage me to return to the
house, so at a little before six o'clock, Mattia, Capi, and I went to
the entrance of the mine to wait for Alexix.

We had been told by which gallery the miners would come out, and a
little after six we began to see in the dark shadows of the gallery some
tiny lights which gradually became larger. The miners, with lamp in
hand, were coming up into the day, their work finished. They came on
slowly, with heavy gait, as though they suffered in the knees. I
understood how this was later, when I myself had gone over the
staircases and ladders which led to the last level. Their faces were as
black as chimney sweeps; their clothes and hats covered with coal dust.
Each man entered the lamplighter's cabin and hung up his lamp on a nail.

Although keeping a careful lookout, I did not see Alexix until he had
rushed up to me. I should have let him pass without recognizing him. It
was hard to recognize in this boy, black from head to foot, the chum who
had raced with me down the garden paths in his clean shirt, turned up to
the elbows, and his collar thrown open, showing his White skin.

"It's Remi," he cried, turning to a man of about forty years, who walked
near him, and who had a kind, frank face like M. Acquin. This was not
surprising, considering that they were brothers. I knew that this was
Uncle Gaspard.

"We've been expecting you a long time," he said, smiling.

"The road is long from Paris to Varses," I said, smiling back.

"And your legs are short," he retorted, laughing.

Capi, happy at seeing Alexix, expressed his joy by tugging at the leg of
his trousers with all his might. During this time I explained to Uncle
Gaspard that Mattia was my friend and partner, and that he played the
cornet better than any one.

"And there's Monsieur Capi," said Uncle Gaspard; "you'll be rested
to-morrow, so you can entertain us, for it's Sunday. Alexix says that
that dog is cleverer than a schoolmaster and a comedian combined."

As much as I felt ill at ease with the aunt, so I felt at ease with
Uncle Gaspard.

"Now, you two boys talk together," he said cheerily, "I am sure that you
have a lot to say to each other. I'm going to have a chat with this
young man who plays the cornet so well."

Alexix wanted to know about my journey, and I wanted to know about his
work; we were so busy questioning each other that neither of us waited
for a reply.

When we arrived at the house, Uncle Gaspard invited us to supper; never
did an invitation give me such pleasure, for I had wondered as we
walked along if we should have to part at the door, the aunt's welcome
not having given us much hope.

"Here's Remi and his friend," said the father, entering the house.

We sat down to supper. The meal did not last long, for the aunt, who was
a gossiper, was only serving delicatessen that evening. The hard-working
miner ate his delicatessen supper without a word of complaint. He was an
easy going man who, above all, liked peace: He never complained; if he
had a remark to pass it was said in a quiet, gentle way. The supper was
soon over.

Uncle Gaspard told me that I could sleep with Alexix that night, and
told Mattia that if he would go with him into the bakehouse he would
make him up a bed there.

That evening and the greater part of the night Alexix and I spent
talking.

Everything that Alexix told me excited me strangely. I had always wanted
to go down in a mine, but when I spoke of it the next day to Uncle
Gaspard he told me that he could not possibly take me down as only those
who worked in the colliery were permitted to enter.

"If you want to be a miner," he said, "it will be easy. It's not worse
than any other job. It's better than being a singer on the streets. You
can stay here with Alexix. We'll get a job for Mattia also, but not in
playing the cornet, oh no."

I had no intention of staying at Varses; there was something else I had
set myself to do. I was about to leave the town without my curiosity
being satisfied when circumstances came about in which I learned, in all
their horror, the dangers to which the miners are exposed.

On the day that I was to leave Varses a large block of coal fell on
Alexix's hand and almost crushed his finger. For several days he was
obliged to give the hand complete rest. Uncle Gaspard was in despair,
for now he had no one to push his car and he was afraid that he also
would be obliged to stay at home, and he could ill afford to do this.

"Why can't I take his place?" I asked, when he returned home after
hunting in vain for a boy.

"I was afraid the car would be too heavy for you, my boy," he said, "but
if you'd be willing to try, you'd help me a mighty lot. It is hard to
find a boy for a few days only."

"And while you are down in the mine I'll go off with Capi and earn the
rest of the money for the cow," cried Mattia.

The three months that we had lived together in the open air had
completely changed Mattia. He was no longer the poor, pale boy whom I
had found leaning up against the church; much less was he the monster
whom I had seen for the first time in Garofoli's attic, looking after
the soup, and from time to time clasping his hands over his poor aching
head. Mattia never had a headache now. He was never unhappy, neither was
he thin or sad. The beautiful sun and the fresh air had given him
health and spirits. On our tramps he was always laughing and in a good
humor, seeing the best side of everything, amused at anything, happy at
nothing. How lonely I would have been without him!

We were so utterly different in character, perhaps that was why we got
on so well together. He had a sweet, sunny disposition, a little
careless, and with a delightful way of overcoming difficulties. We might
well have quarreled when I was teaching him to read and giving his
lessons in music, for I had not the patience of a schoolmaster. I was
often unjust to him, but never once did he show signs of anger.

It was understood that while I was down in the mine Mattia and Capi were
to go off into the suburbs and give "musical and dramatic performances"
and thereby increase our fortune. Capi, to whom I explained this
arrangement, appeared to understand and accordingly barked approval.

The next day, following close in Uncle Gaspard's footsteps, I went down
into the deep, dark mine. He bade me be very cautious, but there was no
need for his warning. It is not without a certain fear and anxiety that
one leaves the light of day to enter into the bowels of the earth. When
far down the gallery I instinctively looked back, but the daylight at
the end of the long black tube looked like a white globe,--like the moon
in a dark, starless sky. Soon the big, black pit yawned before us. Down
below I could see the swaying lamps of other miners as they descended
the ladder. We reached the stall where Uncle Gaspard worked on the
second level. All those employed in pushing the cars were young boys,
with the exception of one whom they called Professor. He was an old man
who, in his younger days had worked as a carpenter in the mine but
through an accident, which had crushed his fingers, had been obliged to
give up his trade. I was soon to learn what it meant to be a miner.



CHAPTER XXII

IMPRISONED IN A MINE


A few days later, while pushing my car along the rails, I heard a
terrible roaring. The noise came from all sides. My first feeling was
one of terror and I thought only of saving myself, but I had so often
been laughed at for my fears that shame made me stay. I wondered if it
could be an explosion. Suddenly, hundreds of rats raced past me, fleeing
like a regiment of cavalry. Then I heard a strange sound against the
earth and the walls of the gallery, and the noise of running water. I
raced back to Uncle Gaspard.

"Water's coming into the mine!" I cried.

"Don't be silly."

"Oh, listen!"

There was something in my manner that forced Uncle Gaspard to stop his
work and listen. The noise was now louder and more sinister.

"Race for your life. The mine's flooded!" he shouted.

"Professor! Professor!" I screamed.

We rushed down the gallery. The old man joined us. The water was rising
rapidly.

"You go first," said the old man when we reached the ladder.

We were not in a position to show politeness. Uncle Gaspard went first,
I followed, then came the professor. Before we had reached the top of
the ladder a rush of water fell, extinguishing our lamps.

"Hold on," cried Uncle Gaspard.

We clung to the rungs. But some men who were below us were thrown off.
The fall of water had turned into a veritable avalanche.

We were on the first landing. Water was here also. We had no lights, for
our lamps had been put out.

"I'm afraid we are lost," said the professor quietly; "say your prayers,
my boy."

At this moment seven or eight miners with lamps came running in our
direction, trying to reach the ladder. The water was now rushing through
the mine in a regular torrent, dragging in its mad course pieces of
wood, whirling them round like feathers.

"We must make for an airshaft, boys," said the professor. "That is the
only place where we might find refuge. Give me a lamp."

Usually no one took any notice of the old man when he spoke, unless it
was to make fun of him, but the strongest man there had lost his nerve
and it was the voice of the old man, whom they had mocked so often, that
they were now ready to obey. A lamp was handed to him. He seized it and
dragged me along with him, taking the lead. He, more than any man, knew
every nook and corner of the mine. The water was up to my waist. The
professor led us to the nearest airshaft. Two miners refused to enter,
saying that we were throwing ourselves into a blind alley. They
continued along the gallery and we never saw them again.

Then came a deafening noise. A rush of water, a splintering of wood,
explosions of compressed air, a dreadful roaring which terrified us.

"It's the deluge," shrieked one.

"The end of the world!"

"Oh, God, have mercy on us."

Hearing the men shrieking their cries of despair, the professor said
calmly, but in a voice to which all listened.

"Courage, boys, now as we are going to stay here for a while we must get
to work. We can't stay long, huddled together like this. Let us scoop
out a hollow in the shale so as to have a place to rest upon."

His words calmed the men. With hands and lamphooks they began to dig
into the soil. The task was difficult, for the airshaft in which we had
taken refuge was on a considerable slope and very slippery. And we knew
that it meant death if we made a false step. A resting place was made,
and we were able to stop and take note of each other. We were seven: the
professor, Uncle Gaspard, three miners, Pages, Comperou and Bergounhoux,
and a car pusher named Carrory, and myself.

The noise in the mine continued with the same violence; there are no
words with which to describe the horrible uproar. It seemed to us that
our last hour had come. Mad with fear, we gazed at one another,
questioningly.

"The evil genius of the mine's taking his revenge," cried one.

"It's a hole broke through from the river above," I ventured to say.

The professor said nothing. He merely shrugged his shoulder, as though
he could have argued out the matter in full day, under the shade of a
mulberry tree, eating an onion.

"It's all folly about the genius of the mine," he said at last, "The
mine is flooded, that's a sure thing. But what has caused the flood, we
down here can't tell...."

"Well, if you don't know what it is, shut up," cried the men.

Now that we were dry and the water was not touching us, no one wanted to
listen to the old man. The authority which his coolness in danger had
gained for him was already lost.

"We shan't die from drowning," he said at last, quietly; "look at the
flame in your lamps, how short it is now."

"Don't be a wizard, what do you mean? Speak out."

"I am not trying to be a wizard, but we shan't be drowned. We are in a
bell of air, and it is this compressed air which stops the water from
rising. This airshaft, without an outlet, is doing for us what the
diving bell does for the diver. The air has accumulated in the shaft
and now resists the water, which ebbs back."

"It is the foul air that we have to fear.... The water is not rising a
foot now; the mine must be full...."

"Where's Marius?" cried Pages, thinking of his only son, who worked on
the third level.

"Oh, Marius! Marius," he shrieked.

There was no reply, not even an echo. His voice did not go beyond our
"bell."

Was Marius saved? One hundred and fifty men drowned! That would be too
horrible. One hundred and fifty men, at least, had gone down into the
mine, how many had been able to get out by the shafts, or had found a
refuge like ourselves?

There was now utter silence in the mine. At our feet the water was quite
still, not a ripple, not a gurgle. The mine was full. This heavy
silence, impenetrable and deathly, was more stupefying than the
frightful uproar that we had heard when the water first rushed in. We
were in a tomb, buried alive, more than a hundred feet under ground. We
all seemed to feel the awfulness of our situation. Even the professor
seemed crushed down. Suddenly, I felt some warm drops fall on my hand.
It was Carrory.... He was crying, silently. Then came a voice,
shrieking:

"Marius! my boy, Marius!"

The air was heavy to breathe; I felt suffocated; there was a buzzing in
my ears. I was afraid, afraid of the water, the darkness, and death.
The silence oppressed me, the uneven, jagged walls of our place of
refuge seemed as though they would fall and crush me beneath their
weight. Should I never see Lise again, and Arthur, and Mrs. Milligan,
and dear old Mattia. Would they be able to make little Lise understand
that I was dead, and that I could not bring her news from her brothers
and sister! And Mother Barberin, poor Mother Barberin!...

"In my opinion, they are not trying to rescue us," said Uncle Gaspard,
breaking the silence at last. "We can't hear a sound."

"How can you think that of your comrades?" cried the professor hotly.
"You know well enough that in every mine accident the miners have never
deserted one another, and that twenty men, one hundred men, would sooner
be killed than leave a comrade without assistance. You know that well
enough."

"That is true," murmured Uncle Gaspard.

"Make no error, they are trying their hardest to reach us. They have two
ways, ... one is to bore a tunnel to us down here, the other is to drain
off the water."

The men began a vague discussion as to how long it would take to
accomplish this task. All realized that we should have to remain at
least eight days in our tomb. Eight days! I had heard of miners being
imprisoned for twenty-four days, but that was in a story and this was
reality. When I was able to fully grasp what this meant, I paid no heed
to the talk around me. I was stunned.

Again there was silence. All were plunged in thought. How long we
remained so I cannot tell, but suddenly there was a cry;

"The pumps are at work!"

This was said with one voice, for the sounds that had just reached our
ears had seemed to touch us by an electric current and we all rose up.
We should be saved!

Carrory took my hand and squeezed it.

"You're a good boy," he said.

"No, you are," I replied.

But he insisted energetically that I was a good boy. His manner was as
though he were intoxicated. And so he was; he was intoxicated with hope.
But before we were to see the beautiful sun again and hear the birds in
the trees, we were to pass through long, cruel days of agony, and wonder
in anguish if we should ever see the light of day again.

We were all very thirsty. Pages wanted to go down and get some water,
but the professor advised him to stay where he was. He feared that the
débris which we had piled up would give way beneath his weight and that
he would fall into the water.

"Remi is lighter, give him a boot, and he can go down and get water for
us all," he said.

Carrory's boot was handed to me, and I prepared to slip down the bank.

"Wait a minute," said the professor; "let me give you a hand."

"Oh, but it's all right, professor," I replied; "if I fall in I can
swim."

"Do as I tell you," he insisted; "take my hand."

In his effort to help me he either miscalculated his step, or the coal
gave way beneath him, for he slid over the inclined plane and fell head
first into the black waters. The lamp, which he held to light me, rolled
after him and disappeared also. Instantly we were plunged in darkness,
for we were burning only one light,--there was a simultaneous cry from
every man. Fortunately, I was already in position to get to the water.
Letting myself slide down on my back, I slipped into the water after the
old man.

In my wanderings with Vitalis I had learned to swim and to dive. I was
as much at ease in the water as on land, but how could I direct my
course in this black hole? I had not thought of that when I let myself
slip; I only thought that the old man would be drowned. Where should I
look? On which side should I swim? I was wondering, when I felt a firm
hand seize my shoulder. I was dragged beneath the water. Kicking out my
foot sharply, I rose to the surface. The hand was still grasping my
shoulder.

"Hold on, professor," I cried; "keep your head up and we're saved!"

Saved! neither one nor the other was saved. For I did not know which way
to swim.

"Speak out, you fellows!" I cried.

"Remi, where are you?"

It was Uncle Gaspard's voice; it came from the left.

"Light the lamp!"

There was instantly a light. I had only to stretch out my hand to touch
the bank. With one hand I clutched at a block of coal and drew up the
old man. It was high time, for he had already swallowed a great deal of
water and was partly unconscious. I kept his head well above water and
he soon came round. Our companions took hold of him and pulled him up
while I hoisted him from behind. I clambered up in my turn.

After this disagreeable accident which, for the moment, had caused us
some distraction, we again fell into fits of depression and despair, and
with them came thoughts of approaching death. I became very drowsy; the
place was not favorable for sleep; I could easily have rolled into the
water. Then the professor, seeing the danger I ran, took my head upon
his chest and put his arm around my body. He did not hold me very tight,
but enough to keep me from falling, and I laid there like a child on his
mother's knee. When I moved, half awake, he merely changed the position
of his arm that had grown stiff, then sat motionless again.

"Sleep, little chap," he whispered, leaning over me; "don't be afraid.
I've got you, Remi."

And I slept without fear, for I knew very well he would not let go of
me.

We had no idea of time. We did not know if we had been there two days
or six days. Opinions differed. We spoke no more of our deliverance.
Death was in our hearts.

"Say what you like, professor," cried Bergounhoux; "you have calculated
how long it will take them to pump out the water, but they'll never be
in time to save us. We shall die of hunger or suffocation...."

"Have patience," answered the professor. "I know how long we can live
without food and I have made my calculations. They will do it in time."

At this moment big Comperou burnt into sobs.

"The good Lord is punishing me," he cried, "and I repent! I repent! If I
get out of here I swear to atone for the wrong I have done, and if I
don't get out you boys will make amends for me. You know Rouquette, who
was sentenced for five years for stealing a watch from Mother Vidal?...
I was the thief! I took it! Its under my bed now.... Oh...."

"Throw him in the water," cried both Pages and Bergounhoux.

"Do you want to appear, then, before the Lord with a crime on your
conscience?" cried the professor; "let him repent!"

"I repent! I repent," wailed Comperou, more feebly than a child, in
spite of his great strength.

"To the water! To the water!" cried Pages and Bergounhoux, trying to get
at the sinner, who was crouching behind the professor.

"If you want to throw him in the water, you'll throw me with him!"

"No! No!"

Finally, they said they would not push him in the water, but upon one
condition; he was to be left in a corner and no one was to speak to him
or to pay any attention to him.

"Yes, that's what he deserves," said the professor. "That's only fair."

After the professor's words, which seemed like a judgment condemning
Comperou, we all huddled together and got as far away from him as
possible, leaving a space between us and the unfortunate man. For
several hours, I should think, he sat there, grief stricken, his lips
moving every now and again, to say:

"I repent! I repent!"

And then Pages and Bergounhoux would cry out:

"It's too late! It's too late! You repent because you're afraid now; you
should have repented six months ago, a year ago."

He gasped painfully, but still repeated:

"I repent! I repent!"

He was in a high fever; all his body shook and his teeth were
chattering.

"I'm thirsty," he said; "give me the boot." There was no more water in
the boot. I got up to go and fetch some, but Pages, who had seen me,
called to me to stop, and at the same moment Uncle Gaspard pulled me by
the arm.

"We swore we would pay no attention to him," he said.

For some minutes Comperou repeated that he was thirsty; seeing that we
would not give him anything to drink, he rose up to go to the water
himself.

"He'll drag down the rubbish!" cried Pages.

"Let him at least have his freedom," said the professor.

He had seen me go down by letting myself slide on my back. He wanted to
do the same, but I was light, whilst he was heavy. Scarcely was he on
his back than the coal gave way beneath him and, with his legs stretched
out and his arms striking into space, he slipped into the black hole.
The water splashed up to where we were. I leaned forward ready to go
down, but Uncle Gaspard and the professor each grasped me by the arm.

Half dead, and trembling with horror, I drew myself back.

Time passed. The professor was the only one who could speak with
courage. But our depression finally made his spirits droop. Our hunger
had become so great that we ate the rotten wood about us. Carrory, who
was like an animal, was the most famished of all; he had cut up his
other boot and was continually chewing the pieces of leather. Seeing
what hunger had led us to, I must confess that I began to have terrible
fears. Vitalis had often told me tales of men who had been shipwrecked.
In one story, a crew who had been shipwrecked on a desert island where
there was nothing to eat, had eaten the ship's boy. Seeing my companions
in such a famished state I wondered if that fate was to be mine. I knew
that the professor and Uncle Gaspard would never eat me, but of Pages,
Bergounhoux, and Carrory, especially Carrory with his great white teeth
which he dug into the leather of his boot, I was not quite so sure.

Once, when I was half asleep, I had been surprised to hear the professor
speak in almost a whisper, as though he was dreaming. He was talking of
the clouds, the wind, and the sun. Then Pages and Bergounhoux began to
chatter with him in a foolish manner. Neither waited for the other to
reply. Uncle Gaspard seemed hardly to notice how foolish they were. Were
they all gone mad? What was to be done?

Suddenly, I thought I would light a lamp. To economize we had decided
only to have a light when it was absolutely necessary. When they saw the
light they apparently regained their senses. I went to get some water
for them. The waters were going down!

After a time they began to talk strangely again. My own thoughts were
vague and wild, and for long hours and perhaps days we laid there
chattering to one another foolishly. After a time we became quieter and
Bergounhoux said that before dying we should put down our last wishes.
We lit a lamp and Bergounhoux wrote for us all, and we each signed the
paper. I gave my dog and harp to Mattia and I expressed a wish for
Alexix to go to Lise and kiss her for me, and give her the dried rose
that was in my vest pocket. Dear little Lise....

After some time, I slipped down the bank again, and saw that the waters
were lowering considerably. I hurried back to my companions and told
them that now I could swim to the ladders and tell our rescuers in what
part of the mine we had taken refuge. The professor forbade me to go,
but I insisted.

"Go on, Remi, and I'll give you my watch," cried Uncle Gaspard.

The professor thought for a moment, then took my hand.

"Do as you think, boy," he said; "you have a heart. I think that you are
attempting the impossible, but it is not the first time that what was
thought impossible has been successful. Kiss us, boy."

I kissed the professor and Uncle Gaspard and then, having thrown off my
clothes, I went into the water.

"You keep shouting all the while," I said, before taking the plunge;
"your voices will guide me."

I wondered if the space under the roof of the gallery was big enough for
me to move freely. That was the question. After some strokes I found
that I could swim if I went gently. I knew that there was a meeting of
galleries not far away, but I had to be cautious, for if I made a
mistake in the course I should lose my way. The roof and the walls of
the gallery were not enough to guide me; on the ground there was a surer
guide, the rails. If I followed them I should be sure to find the
ladders. From time to time I let my feet go down and, having touched the
iron rails, I rose up again, gently. With the voices of my companions
behind me and the rails under my feet, I was not lost. As the voices
became less distinct, the noise of the pumps increased. I was advancing.
Thank God, I should soon see the light of day!

Going straight down the middle of the gallery, I had only to turn to the
right to touch the rail. I went on a little farther, then dived again to
touch the rail. It was not there! I went from side to side of the
gallery, but there was no rail!

I had made a mistake.

The voices of my companions only reached me in the faintest murmur. I
took in a deep breath, then plunged again but with no more success.
There were no rails!

I had taken the wrong level; without knowing, I must have turned back.
But how was it the others were not shouting. If they were I could not
hear them. I was distracted, for I did not know which way to turn in
this cold, black water.

Then, suddenly, I heard the sounds of voices again and I knew which way
to turn. After having taken a dozen strokes back, I turned to the right,
then to the left, but only found the walls. Where were the rails? I was
sure now that I was in the right level, then I suddenly realized that
the railroad had been carried away by the rush of waters, and that I had
no guide. Under these circumstances it was impossible for me to carry
out my plan, and I was forced to turn back.

I swam back quickly to our place of refuge, the voices guiding me. As I
approached, it seemed to me that my companions' voices were more assured
as though they felt stronger. I was soon at the entrance of the shaft! I
hallooed to them.

"Come back; come back," shouted the professor.

"I could not find the way," I called out.

"Never mind, the tunnel is nearly finished: they hear our cries and we
can hear theirs. We shall soon speak."

I climbed quickly up to our landing and listened. We could hear the
blows from the picks and the cries of those who worked for our freedom
came to us feebly, but yet very distinct. After the first rush of joy, I
realized that I was frozen. As there were no warm clothes to give me,
they buried me up to the neck in coal dust and Uncle Gaspard and the
professor huddled up against me to keep me warm.

We knew now that our rescuers would soon reach us through the tunnel and
by the water, but these last hours of our imprisonment were the hardest
to bear. The blows from the picks continued, and the pumping had not
stopped for one moment. Strange, the nearer we reached the hour of our
deliverance, the weaker we grew. I was lying in the coal dust trembling,
but I was not cold. We were unable to speak.

Suddenly, there was a noise in the waters of the gallery and, turning my
head, I saw a great light coming towards us. The engineer was at the
head of several men. He was the first to climb up to us. He had me in
his arms before I could say a word.

It was time, for my heart was failing me, yet I was conscious that I was
being carried away, and I was wrapped up in a blanket after our rescuers
had waded through the water in the gallery. I closed my eyes; when I
opened them again it was daylight! We were in the open air! At the same
time something jumped on me. It was Capi. With a bound he had sprung
upon me as I laid in the engineer's arms. He licked my face again and
again. Then my hand was taken; I felt a kiss and heard a weak voice
murmuring: "Remi! oh, Remi!"

It was Mattia. I smiled at him, then I glanced round.

A mass of people were crowded together in two straight rows, leaving a
passage down the center. It was a silent crowd, for they had been
requested not to excite us by their cries, but their looks spoke for
their lips. In the first row I seemed to see some white surplices and
gilt ornaments which shone in the sun. They were the priests, who had
come to the entrance of the mine to offer prayers for our deliverance.
When we were brought out, they went down on their knees in the dust.

Twenty arms were stretched out to take me, but the engineer would not
give me up. He carried me to the offices, where beds had been prepared
to receive us.

Two days later I was walking down the village street followed by Mattia,
Alexix, and Capi. There were some who came and shook me by the hands
with tears in their eyes, and there were others who turned away their
heads. These were in mourning, and they asked themselves bitterly why
this orphan child had been saved when their fathers and sons were still
in the mine, ghastly corpses, drifting hither and thither in the dark
waters.



CHAPTER XXIII

ONCE MORE UPON THE WAY


I had made some friends in the mine. Such terrible experiences, born in
common, unites one. Uncle Gaspard and the professor, in particular, had
grown very fond of me and, although the engineer had not shared our
captivity, he had become attached to me like one is to a child that one
has snatched from death. He invited me to his house. I had to tell his
daughter all that had happened to us in the mine.

Every one wanted to keep me at Varses. The engineer told me that if I
wished he would find me a position in the offices; Uncle Gaspard said he
would get me a permanent job in the mine; he seemed to think it quite
natural that I should return to the colliery; he himself was soon going
down again with that indifference that men show who are accustomed to
brave danger each day. I had no wish to go back. A mine was very
interesting, and I was very pleased that I had seen one, but I had not
the slightest desire to return. I preferred to have the sky over my
head, even a sky full of snow. The open-air life suited me better, and
so I told them. Every one was surprised, especially the professor.
Carrory, when he met me, called me a "chicken."

During the time that they were all trying to persuade me to stay at
Varses, Mattia became very preoccupied and thoughtful. I questioned him,
but he always answered that nothing was the matter. It was not until I
told him that we were starting off on our tramps in three days' time,
that he admitted the cause of his sadness.

"Oh, I thought that you would stay and that you would leave me," he
said.

I gave him a good slap, so as to teach him not to doubt me.

Mattia was quite able to look after himself now. While I was down in the
mine he had earned eighteen francs. He was very proud when he handed me
this large sum, for with the hundred and twenty-eight that we already
had, this made a total of one hundred and forty-six francs. We only
wanted four francs more to be able to buy the Prince's cow.

"Forward! March! Children!" With baggage strapped on our back we set
forth on the road, with Capi barking and rolling in the dust for joy.

Mattia suggested that we get a little more money before buying the cow;
the more money we had, the better the cow, and the better the cow, the
more pleased Mother Barberin would be.

While tramping from Paris to Varses I had begun to give Mattia reading
lessons and elementary music lessons. I continued, these lessons now.
Either I was not a good teacher, which was quite possible, or Mattia was
not a good pupil, which also was quite possible; the lessons were not a
success. Often I got angry and, shutting the book with a bang, told him
that he was a thickhead.

"That's true," he said, smiling; "my head is only soft when it's banged.
Garofoli found out that!"

How could one keep angry at this reply. I laughed and we went on with
the lessons. But with music, from the beginning, he made astonishing
progress. In the end, he so confused me with his questions, that I was
obliged to confess that I could not teach him any more. This confession
mortified me exceedingly. I had been a very proud professor, and it was
humiliating for me not to be able to answer my pupil's questions. And he
did not spare me, oh, no!

"I'd like to go and take one lesson from a real master," he said, "only
just one, and I'll ask him all the questions that I want answered."

"Why didn't you take this lesson from a real master while I was in the
mine?"

"Because I didn't want to take what he would charge out of your money."

I was hurt when Mattia had spoken thus of a _real_ master, but my absurd
vanity could not hold out against his last words.

"You're a good boy," I said; "my money is your money; you earn it also,
and more than I, very often. You can take as many lessons as you like,
and I'll take them with you."

The master, the _real_ master that we required, was not a villager, but
an _artiste_, a great _artiste_, such as might be found only in
important towns. Consulting our map we found that the next big town was
Mendes.

It was already night when we reached Mendes and, as we were tired out,
we decided that we could not take a lesson that evening. We asked the
landlady of the inn where we could find a good music master. She said
that she was very surprised that we asked such a question; surely, we
knew Monsieur Espinassous!

"We've come from a distance," I said.

"You must have come from a very great distance, then?"

"From Italy," replied Mattia.

Then she was no longer astonished, and she admitted that, coming from so
far then, we might not have heard of M. Espinassous.

"Is this professor very busy?" I asked, fearing that such a celebrated
musician might not care to give just one lesson to two little urchins
like ourselves.

"Oh, yes, I should say he is busy; how couldn't he be?"

"Do you think that he would receive us to-morrow morning?"

"Sure! He receives every one, when they have money in their pockets ...
naturally."

We understood that, of course.

Before going to sleep, we discussed all the questions that we intended
asking the celebrated professor the next day. Mattia was quite elated
at our luck in finding just the kind of musician we wanted.

Next morning we took our instruments, Mattia his violin and I my harp,
and set out to find M. Espinassous. We did not take Capi, because we
thought that it would not do to call on such a celebrated person with a
dog. We tied him up in the inn stables. When we reached the house which
our landlady indicated was the professor's, we thought that we must have
made a mistake, for before the house two little brass plaques were
swinging, which was certainly not the sign of a music professor. The
place bore every appearance of a barber's shop. Turning to a man, who
was passing, we asked him if he could direct us to M. Espinassous'
house.

"There it is," he said, pointing to the barber's shop.

After all, why should not a professor live with a barber? We entered.
The shop was partitioned off into two equal parts. On the right were
brushes, combs, jars of cream, and barbers' chairs. On the left, hanging
on the walls and on the shelves, were various instruments, violins,
cornets, trombones, etc.

"Monsieur Espinassous?" inquired Mattia.

Fluttering like a bird, the dapper little man, who was in the act of
shaving a man, replied: "I am Monsieur Espinassous."

I glanced at Mattia as much as to say that the barber musician was not
the man we were looking for, that it would be wasting good money to
consult him, but Mattia, instead of understanding my look, sat down in a
chair with a deliberate air.

"Will you cut my hair after you have shaved that gentleman?" he asked.

"Certainly, young man, and I'll give you a shave also, if you like."

"Thanks," replied Mattia.

I was abashed at his assurance. He looked at me out of the corner of his
eye, to ask me to wait before getting annoyed.

When the man was shaved, M. Espinassous, with towel over his arm,
prepared to cut Mattia's hair.

"Monsieur," said Mattia, while the barber tied the sheet round his neck,
"my friend and I had an argument, and as we know that you are a
celebrated musician, we thought that you would give us your advice and
settle the matter for us."

"What is it, young man?"

Now I knew what Mattia was driving at! First of all, he wanted to see if
this barber-musician was capable of replying to our questions; if so, he
intended to get a music lesson at the price of a hair cut.

All the while Mattia was having his hair cut, he asked questions. The
barber-musician was highly amused, but answered each question put to him
quickly and with pleasure. When we were ready to leave he asked Mattia
to play something on his violin. Mattia played a piece.

"And you don't know a note of music!" cried the barber, clapping his
hands, and looking affectionately at Mattia as though he had known and
loved him all his life. "It is wonderful!"

Mattia took a clarionette from amongst the instruments and played on it;
then a cornet.

"Why, the youngster's a prodigy!" cried M. Espinassous in rapture; "if
you will stay here with me I'll make you a great musician. In the
mornings you shall learn to shave my customers and the rest of the day
you shall study music. Don't think, because I'm a barber, I don't know
music. One has to live!"

I looked at Mattia. What was he going to reply? Was I to lose my friend,
my chum, my brother?

"Think for your own good, Mattia," I said, but my voice shook.

"Leave my friend?" he cried, linking his arm in mine; "that I never
could, but thank you all the same, Monsieur."

M. Espinassous insisted, and told Mattia that later they would find the
means to send him to the Conservatoire in Paris, because he would surely
be a great musician!

"Leave Remi? never!"

"Well, then," replied the barber, sorrowfully, "let me give you a book
and you can learn what you do not know from that." He took a book out of
one of the drawers, entitled, "The Theory of Music." It was old and
torn, but what did that matter? Taking a pen, he sat down and wrote on
the first page:

"To a child who, when he becomes celebrated, will remember the barber of
Mendes."

I don't know if there were any other professors of music at Mendes, but
that was the only one we knew, and we never forgot him.



CHAPTER XXIV

FRIENDSHIP THAT IS TRUE


I loved Mattia when we arrived at Mendes, but when we left the town I
loved him even more. I could not tell him before the barber how I felt
when he cried out: "Leave my friend!"

I took his hand and squeezed it as we tramped along.

"It's till death doth us part now, Mattia," I said.

"I knew that long ago," he replied, smiling at me with his great, dark
eyes.

We heard that there was going to be an important cattle fair at Ussel,
so we decided to go there and buy the cow. It was on our way to
Chavanon. We played in every town and village on the road, and by the
time we had reached Ussel we had collected two hundred and forty francs.
We had to economize in every possible manner to save this sum, but
Mattia was just as interested and eager to buy the animal as I. He
wanted it to be white; I wanted brown in memory of poor Rousette. We
both agreed, however, that she must be very gentle and give plenty of
milk.

As neither of us knew by what signs one could tell a good cow, we
decided to employ the services of a veterinarian. We had heard many
stories of late how people had been deceived when buying a cow, and we
did not want to run any risk. It would be an expense to employ a
veterinarian, but that could not be helped. We had heard of one man who
had bought an animal for a very low price and when he had got her home
he found that she had a false tail; another man, so we were told, had
bought a cow which seemed to be in a very healthy state, and had every
appearance of giving plenty of milk, but she only gave two glasses of
milk in twenty-four hours. By a little trick, practiced by the cattle
dealer, the animal was made to look as though she had plenty of milk.

Mattia said that as far as the false tail went we had nothing to fear,
for he would hang onto the tail of every cow with all his might, before
we entered into any discussion with the seller. When I told him that if
it were a real tail he would probably get a kick in the stomach or on
his head, his imagination cooled somewhat.

It was several years since I had arrived at Ussel with Vitalis, where he
had bought me my first pair of shoes with nails. Alas! out of the six of
us who started, Capi and I were the only ones left. As soon as we got to
the town, after having left our baggage at the same inn where I had
stayed before with Vitalis and the dogs, we began to look about for a
veterinarian. We found one and he seemed very amused when we described
to him the kind of a cow we wanted, and asked if he would come and buy
it for us.

"But what in the world do you two boys want with a cow, and have you
got the money?" he demanded.

We told him how much money we had, and how we got it, and that we were
going to give a present, a surprise, to Mother Barberin of Chavanon, who
had looked after me when I was a baby. He showed a very kindly interest
then, and promised to meet us the next morning at the fair at seven
o'clock. When we asked him his charges he refused flatly to accept
anything. He sent us off laughing and told us to be at the fair on time.

The next day at daybreak the town was full of excitement. From our room
at the inn we could hear the carts and wagons rolling over the
cobblestones in the street below, and the cows bellowing, the sheep
bleating, the farmers shouting at their animals and joking with each
other. We jumped into our clothes and arrived at the fair at six
o'clock, for we wanted to make a selection before the veterinarian
arrived.

What beautiful cows they were, ... all colors, and all sizes, some fat,
some thin, and some with their calves; there were also horses and great
fat pigs, scooping holes in the ground, and little plump sucking pigs,
squealing as though they were being skinned alive. But we had eyes for
nothing but the cows; they stood very quiet, placidly chewing. They
permitted us to make a thorough examination, merely blinking their
eyelids. After one hour's inspection, we had found seventeen that
pleased us, this for one quality, that for another, a third because she
was red, two because they were white, which, of course, brought up a
discussion between Mattia and myself. The veterinarian arrived. We
showed him the cows we liked.

"I think this one ought to be a good one," Mattia said, pointing to a
white animal.

"I think that is a better one," I said, indicating a red one.

The veterinarian stopped the argument we had begun by ignoring both and
passing on to a third one. This one had slim legs, red coat with brown
ears and cheeks, eyes bordered with black, and a whitish circle around
her muzzle.

"This is just the one you want," said the veterinarian.

It was a beauty! Mattia and I now saw that this was the best. The
veterinarian asked a heavy looking peasant, who held the cow by a rope,
how much he wanted for it.

"Three hundred francs," he replied.

Our mouths dropped. Three hundred francs! I made a sign to the
veterinarian that we must pass on to another; he made another sign that
he would drive a bargain. Then a lively discussion commenced between the
veterinarian and the peasant. Our bidder went up to 170, the peasant
came down to 280. When they reached this sum, the veterinarian began to
examine the cow more critically. She had weak legs, her neck was too
short, her horns too long, she hadn't any lungs and her teats were not
well formed. No, she certainly would not give much milk.

The peasant said that as we knew so much about cows, he would let us
have her for 250 francs, because he felt sure she would be in good
hands. Thereupon we began to get scared, for both Mattia and I thought
that it must be a poor cow then.

"Let us go and see some others," I suggested, touching the
veterinarian's arm.

Hearing this, the man came down ten francs. Then, little by little, he
came down to 210 francs, but he stopped there. The veterinarian had
nudged me and given me to understand that he was not serious in saying
what he did about the cow, that it was an excellent animal, but then 210
francs was a large sum for us.

During this time Mattia had gone behind her and pulled a long wisp of
hair from her tail and the animal had given him a kick. That decided me.

"All right, 210 francs," I said, thinking the matter was settled. I held
out my hand to take the rope.

"Have you brought a halter?" asked the man. "I'm selling my cow, not the
halter."

He said that, as we were friends, he would let me have the halter for
sixty sous. We needed a halter, so I parted with the sixty sous,
calculating that we should now have but twenty sous left. I counted out
the two hundred and thirteen francs, then again I stretched out my hand.

"Have you got a rope?" inquired the man. "I've sold you the halter, but
I haven't sold you the rope."

The rope cost us our last twenty sous.

The cow was finally handed over to us, but we had not a sou left to buy
food for the animal, nor for ourselves. After warmly thanking the
veterinarian for his kindness, we shook hands and said good-by to him,
and went back to the inn, where we tied our cow up in the stable. As it
was a very busy day in the town on account of the fair, and people from
all parts had come in, Mattia and I thought that it would be better for
each to go his own way and see what we could make. In the evening Mattia
brought back four francs and I three francs fifty centimes.

With seven francs fifty we felt that we were again rich. We persuaded
the kitchen maid to milk our cow and we had the milk for supper. Never
had we tasted anything so good! We were so enthusiastic about the
quality of the milk that we went into the stable as soon as we had
finished to embrace our treasure. The cow evidently appreciated this
caress, for she licked our faces to show her appreciation.

To understand the pleasure that we felt at kissing our cow and to be
kissed by her, it must be remembered that neither Mattia nor I had been
overburdened with caresses; our fate had not been that of the petted
and pampered children who are obliged to defend themselves against too
many kisses.

The next morning we rose with the sun and started for Chavanon. How
grateful I was to Mattia for the help he had given me; without him I
never could have collected such a big sum. I wanted to give him the
pleasure of leading the cow, and he was very proud indeed to pull her by
the rope while I walked behind. She looked very fine; she walked along
slowly, swaying a little, holding herself like an animal that is aware
of her value. I did not want to tire her out, so I decided not to get to
Chavanon that evening late; better, I thought, get there early in the
morning. That is what we intended to do; this is what happened:

I intended to stay the night in the village where I had spent my first
night with Vitalis, when Capi, seeing me so unhappy, came to me and lay
down beside me. Before reaching this village we came to a nice green
spot, and, throwing down our baggage, we decided to rest. We made our
cow go down into a ditch. At first I wanted to hold her by the rope, but
she seemed very docile, and quite accustomed to grazing, so after a time
I twisted the rope around her horns and sat down near her to eat my
supper. Naturally we had finished eating long before she had, so after
having admired her for some time and not knowing what to do next, we
began to play a little game with each other. When we had finished our
game, she was still eating. As I went to her, she pulled at the grass
sharply, as much as to say that she was still hungry.

"Wait a little," said Mattia.

"Don't you know that a cow can eat all day long?" I replied.

"Well, wait a little."

We got our baggage and instruments together, but still she would not
stop eating.

"I'll play her a piece on the cornet," said Mattia, who found it
difficult to keep still. "There was a cow at Gassot's Circus and she
liked music."

He commenced to play a lively march.

At the first note the cow lifted up her head; then suddenly, before I
could throw myself at her horns to catch hold of the rope, she had gone
off at a gallop. We raced after her as fast as we could, calling to her
to stop. I shouted to Capi to stop her. Now one cannot be endowed with
every talent. A cattle driver's dog would have jumped at her nose, but
Capi was a genius, so he jumped at her legs. Naturally, this made her
run faster. She raced back to the last village we had passed through. As
the road was straight, we could see her in the distance, and we saw
several people blocking her way and trying to catch hold of her. We
slackened our speed, for we knew now that we should not lose her. All we
should have to do would be to claim her from the good people who had
stopped her going farther. There was quite a crowd gathered round her
when we arrived on the scene, and instead of giving her up to us at
once, as we expected they would, they asked us _how_ we got the animal
and _where_ we got her. They insisted that we had stolen her and that
she was running back to her owner. They declared that we ought to go to
prison until the truth could be discovered. At the very mention of the
word "prison" I turned pale and began to stammer. I was breathless from
my race and could not utter a word. At this moment a policeman arrived,
and, in a few words, the whole affair was explained to him. As it did
not seem at all clear, he decided to take possession of the cow and have
us locked up until we could prove that it belonged to us. The whole
village seemed to be in the procession which ran behind us up to the
town hall, which was also the station house. The mob pushed us and
sneered at us and called us the most horrible names, and I do believe
that if the officer had not defended us they would have lynched us as
though we were criminals of the deepest dye. The man who had charge of
the town hall, and who was also jailer and sheriff, did not want to
admit us. I thought what a kind man! However, the policeman insisted
that we be locked up, and the jailer finally turned the big key in a
double-locked door and pushed us into the prison. Then I saw why he had
made some difficulty about receiving us. He had put his provision of
onions to dry in this prison and they were strewn out on every bench. He
heaped them all together in a corner. We were searched, our money,
matches and knives taken from us. Then we were locked up for the night.

"I wish you'd give me a good slap," said Mattia miserably, when we were
alone; "box my ears or do something to me."

"I was as big a fool as you to let you play the cornet to a cow," I
replied.

"Oh, I feel so bad about it," he said brokenly; "our poor cow, the
Prince's cow!" He began to cry.

Then I tried to console him by telling him that our situation was not
very serious. We would prove that we bought the cow; we would send to
Ussel for the veterinarian ... he would be a witness.

"But if they say we stole the money to buy it," he said, "we can't prove
that we earned it, and when one is unfortunate they always think you're
guilty." That was true.

"And who'll feed her?" went on Mattia dismally.

Oh, dear, I did hope that they would feed our poor cow.

"And what are we going to say when they question us in the morning?"
asked Mattia.

"Tell them the truth."

"And then they'll hand you over to Barberin, or if Mother Barberin is
alone at her place and they question her to see if we are lying, we
can't give her a surprise."

"Oh, dear!"

"You've been away from Mother Barberin for a long time; how do you know
if she isn't dead?"

This terrible thought had never occurred to me, and yet poor Vitalis had
died, ... how was it I had not thought that I might lose her....

"Why didn't you say that before?" I demanded.

"Because when I'm happy I don't have those ideas. I have been so happy
at the thought of offering your cow to Mother Barberin and thinking how
pleased she'd be, I never thought before that she might be dead."

It must have been the influence of this dismal room, for we could only
see the darkest side of everything.

"And, oh," cried Mattia, starting up and throwing out his arms, "if
Mother Barberin is dead and that awful Barberin is alive and we go
there, he'll take our cow and keep it himself."

It was late in the afternoon when the door was thrown open and an old
gentleman with white hair came into our prison.

"Now, you rogues, answer this gentleman," said the jailer, who
accompanied him.

"That's all right, that's all right," said the gentleman, who was the
public prosecutor, "I'll question this one." With his finger he
indicated me. "You take charge of the other; I'll question him later."

I was alone with the prosecutor. Fixing me with his eye, he told me that
I was accused of having stolen a cow. I told him that we bought the
animal at the fair at Ussel, and I named the veterinarian who had
assisted us in the purchase.

"That will be verified," he replied. "And now what made you buy that
cow?"

I told him that I was offering it as a token of affection to my foster
mother.

"Her name?" he demanded.

"Madame Barberin of Chavanon," I replied.

"The wife of a mason who met with a serious accident in Paris a few
years ago. I know her. That also will be verified."

"Oh!..."

I became very confused. Seeing my embarrassment, the prosecutor pressed
me with questions, and I had to tell him that if he made inquiries of
Madame Barberin our cow would not be a surprise after all, and to make
it a surprise had been our chief object. But in the midst of my
confusion I felt a great satisfaction to know that Mother Barberin was
still alive, and in the course of the questions that were put to me I
learned that Barberin had gone back to Paris some time ago. This
delighted me.

Then came the question that Mattia had feared.

"But how did you get all the money to buy the cow?"

I explained that from Paris to Varses and from Varses to Ussel we had
collected this sum, sou by sou.

"But what were you doing in Varses?" he asked.

Then I was forced to tell him that I had been in a mine accident.

"Which of you two is Remi?" he asked, in a softened voice.

"I am, sir," I replied.

"To prove that, you tell me how the catastrophe occurred. I read the
whole account of it in the papers. You cannot deceive me. I can tell if
you really are Remi. Now, be careful."

I could see that he was feeling very lenient towards us. I told him my
experience in the mine, and when I had finished my story, I thought from
his manner, which was almost affectionate, that he would give us our
freedom at once, but instead he went out of the room, leaving me alone,
a prey to my thoughts. After some time he returned with Mattia.

"I am going to have your story investigated at Ussel," he said. "If it
is true, as I hope it is, you will be free to-morrow."

"And our cow?" asked Mattia anxiously.

"Will be given back to you."

"I didn't mean that," replied Mattia; "but who'll feed her, who'll milk
her?"

"Don't worry, youngster," said the prosecutor.

Mattia smiled contentedly.

"Ah, then if they milk our cow," he asked, "may we have some milk for
supper?"

"You certainly shall!"

As soon as we were alone I told Mattia the great news that had almost
made me forget that we were locked up.

"Mother Barberin is alive, and Barberin has gone to Paris!" I said.

"Ah, then the Prince's cow will make a triumphal entry."

He commenced to dance and sing with joy. Carried away by his gayety, I
caught him by the hands, and Capi, who until then had been lying in a
corner, quiet and thoughtful, jumped up and took his place between us,
standing up on his hind paws. We then threw ourselves into such a wild
dance that the jailer rushed in to see what was the matter, probably
afraid for his onions. He told us to stop, but he spoke very differently
to what he had before. By that, I felt that we were not in a very
serious plight. I had further proof of this when a moment later he came
in carrying a big bowl of milk, our cow's milk. And that was not all. He
brought a large piece of white bread and some cold veal, which he said
the prosecutor had sent us. Decidedly, prisons were not so bad after
all; dinner and lodging for nothing!

Early the next morning the prosecutor came in with our friend the
veterinarian, who had wanted to come himself to see that we got our
freedom. Before we left, the prosecutor handed us an official stamped
paper.

"See, I'm giving you this," he said; "you are two silly boys to go
tramping through the country without any papers. I have asked the mayor
to make out this passport for you. This is all you will need to protect
you in the future. Good luck, boys."

He shook hands with us, and so did the veterinarian.

We had entered the village miserably, but we left in triumph. Leading
our cow by the rope and walking with heads held high, we glanced over
our shoulders at the villagers, who were standing on their doorsteps
staring at us.

I did not want to tire our cow, but I was in a hurry to get to Chavanon
that same day, so we set out briskly. By evening we had almost reached
my old home. Mattia had never tasted pancakes, and I had promised him
some as soon as we arrived. On the way I bought one pound of butter, two
pounds of flour and a dozen eggs. We had now reached the spot where I
had asked Vitalis to let me rest, so that I could look down on Mother
Barberin's house, as I thought for the last time.

"Take the rope," I said to Mattia.

With a spring I was on the parapet. Nothing had been changed in our
valley; it looked just the same; the smoke was even coming out of the
chimney. As it came towards us it seemed to me I could smell oak leaves.
I jumped down from the parapet and hugged Mattia, Capi sprang up on me,
and I squeezed them both tight.

"Come, let's get there as quickly as possible now," I cried.

"What a pity," sighed Mattia. "If this brute only loved music, what a
triumphal entry we could make."

As we arrived at one of the turns in the road, we saw Mother Barberin
come out of her cottage and go off in the direction of the village. What
was to be done? We had intended to spring a surprise upon her. We should
have to think of something else.

Knowing that the door was always on the latch, I decided to go straight
into the house, after tying our cow up in the cowshed. We found the shed
full of wood now, so we heaped it up in a corner, and put our cow in
poor Rousette's place.

When we got into the house, I said to Mattia: "Now, I'll take this seat
by the fire so that she'll find me here. When she opens the gate, you'll
hear it creak; then you hide yourself with Capi."

I sat down in the very spot where I had always sat on a winter night. I
crouched down, making myself look as small as possible, so as to look as
near like Mother Barberin's little Remi as I could. From where I sat I
could watch the gate. I looked round the kitchen. Nothing was changed,
everything was in the same place; a pane of glass that I had broken
still had the bit of paper pasted over it, black with smoke and age.
Suddenly I saw a white bonnet. The gate creaked.

"Hide yourself quickly," I said to Mattia.

I made myself smaller and smaller. The door opened and Mother Barberin
came in. She stared at me.

"Who is there?" she asked.

I looked at her without answering; she stared back at me. Suddenly she
began to tremble.

"Oh, Lord, is it my Remi!" she murmured.

I jumped up and caught her in my arms.

"Mamma!"

"My boy! my boy!" was all that she could say, as she laid her head on my
shoulder.

Some minutes passed before we had controlled our emotion. I wiped away
her tears.

"Why, how you've grown, my boy," she cried, holding me at arms' length,
"you're so big and so strong! Oh, my Remi!"

A stifled snort reminded me that Mattia was under the bed. I called him.
He crept out.

"This is Mattia," I said, "my brother."

"Oh, then you've found your parents?" she cried.

"No, he's my chum, but just like a brother. And this is Capi," I added,
after she had greeted Mattia. "Come and salute your master's mother,
Capitano."

Capi got on his hind paws and bowed gravely to Mother Barberin. She
laughed heartily. Her tears had quite vanished. Mattia made me a sign to
spring our surprise.

"Let's go and see how the garden looks," I said.

"I have kept your bit just as you arranged it," she said, "for I knew
that some day you would come back."

"Did you get my Jerusalem artichokes?"

"Ah, you planted them to surprise me! You always liked to give
surprises, my boy."

The moment had come.

"Is the cowshed just the same since poor Rousette went?" I asked.

"Oh, no; I keep my wood there now."

We had reached the shed by this time. I pushed open the door and at once
our cow, who was hungry, began to bellow.

"A cow! A cow in my cowshed!" cried Mother Barberin.

Mattia and I burst out laughing.

"It's a surprise," I cried, "and a better one than the Jerusalem
artichokes."

She looked at me in a dazed, astonished manner.

"Yes, it's a present for you. I did not come back with empty hands to
the mamma who was so good to the little lost boy. This is to replace
Rousette. Mattia and I bought it for you with the money we earned."

"Oh, the dear boys!" she cried, kissing us both.

She now went inside the shed to examine her present. At each discovery
she gave a shriek of delight.

"What a beautiful cow," she exclaimed.

Then she turned round suddenly.

"Say, you must be very rich now?"

"I should say so," laughed Mattia; "we've got fifty-eight sous left."

I ran to the house to fetch the milk pail, and while in the house I
arranged the butter, eggs, and flour in a display on the table, then
ran back to the shed. How delighted she was when she had a pail
three-quarters full of beautiful frothy milk.

There was another burst of delight when she saw the things on the table
ready for pancakes, which I told her we were dying to have.

"You must have known that Barberin was in Paris, then?" she said. I
explained to her how I had learned so.

"I will tell you why he has gone," she said, looking at me
significantly.

"Let's have the pancakes first," I said; "don't let's talk about him. I
have not forgotten how he sold me for forty francs, and it was my fear
of him, the fear that he would sell me again, that kept me from writing
to tell you news of myself."

"Oh, boy, I thought that was why," she said, "but you mustn't speak
unkindly of Barberin."

"Well, let's have the pancakes now," I said, hugging her.

We all set briskly to prepare the ingredients and before long Mattia and
I were cramming pancakes down our throats. Mattia declared that he had
never tasted anything so fine. As soon as we had finished one we held
out our plates for another, and Capi came in for his share. Mother
Barberin was scandalized that we should give a dog pancakes, but we
explained to her that he was the chief actor in our company and a
genius, and that he was treated by us with every consideration. Later,
while Mattia was out getting some wood ready for the next morning, she
told me why Barberin had gone to Paris.

"Your family is looking for you," she said, almost in a whisper. "That's
what Barberin has gone up to Paris about. He's looking for you."

"My family," I exclaimed. "Oh, have I a family of my own? Speak, tell
all, Mother Barberin, dear Mother Barberin!"

Then I got frightened. I did not believe that my family was looking for
me. Barberin was trying to find me so that he could sell me again. I
would not be sold! I told my fears to Mother Barberin, but she said no,
my family was looking for me. Then she told me that a gentleman came to
the house who spoke with a foreign accent, and he asked Barberin what
had become of the little baby that he had found many years ago in Paris.
Barberin asked him what business that was of his. This answer was just
like Barberin would give.

"You know from the bakehouse one can hear everything that is said in the
kitchen," said Mother Barberin, "and when I knew that they were talking
about you, I naturally listened. I got nearer and then I trod on a twig
of wood that broke."

"'Oh, we're not alone,' said the gentleman to Barberin.

"'Yes, we are; that's only my wife,' he replied. The gentleman then said
it was very warm in the kitchen and that they could talk better outside.
They went out and it was three hours later when Barberin came back
alone. I tried to make him tell me everything, but the only thing he
would say was that this man was looking for you, but that he was not
your father, and that he had given him one hundred francs. Probably he's
had more since. From this, and the fine clothes you wore when he found
you, we think your parents must be rich.

"Then Jerome said he had to go off to Paris," she continued, "to find
the musician who hired you. This musician said that a letter sent to Rue
Mouffetard to a man named Garofoli would reach him."

"And haven't you heard from Barberin since he went?" I asked, surprised
that he had sent no news.

"Not a word," she said. "I don't even know where he is living in the
city."

Mattia came in just then. I told him excitedly that I had a family, and
that my parents were looking for me. He said he was pleased for me, but
he did not seem to share my joy and enthusiasm. I slept little that
night. Mother Barberin had told me to start off to Paris and find
Barberin at once and not delay my parent's joy at finding me. I had
hoped that I could spend several days with her, and yet I felt that she
was right. I would have to see Lise before going. That could be managed,
for we could go to Paris by way of the canal. As Lise's uncle kept the
locks and lived in a cottage on the banks, we could stop and see her.

I spent that day with Mother Barberin, and in the evening we discussed
what I would do for her when I was rich. She was to have all the things
she wanted. There was not a wish of hers that should not be gratified
when I had money.

"The cow that you have given me in your poor days will be more to me
than anything you can give me when you're rich, Remi," she said fondly.

The next day, after bidding dear Mother Barberin a loving farewell, we
started to walk along the banks of the canal. Mattia was very
thoughtful. I knew what was the matter. He was sorry that I had rich
parents. As though that would make any difference in our friendship! I
told him that he should go to college and that he should study music
with the very best masters, but he shook his head sadly. I told him that
he should live with me as my brother, and that my parents would love him
just the same because he was my friend. But still he shook his head.

In the meantime, as I had not my rich parents' money to spend, we had to
play in all the villages through which we passed to get money for our
food. And I also wanted to make some money to buy a present for Lise.
Mother Barberin had said that she valued the cow more than anything I
could give her when I became rich, and perhaps, I thought, Lise would
feel the same about a gift. I wanted to give her a doll. Fortunately a
doll would not cost so much as a cow. The next town we came to I bought
her a lovely doll with fair hair and blue eyes.

Walking along the banks of the canal I often thought of Mrs. Milligan
and Arthur and their beautiful barge, and wondered if we should meet it
on the canal. But we never saw it.

One evening we could see in the distance the house where Lise lived. It
stood amongst the trees and seemed to be in an atmosphere of mist. We
could see the window lit up by the flames from a big fire inside. The
reddish light fell across our path as we drew nearer. My heart beat
quickly. I could see them inside having supper. The door and the window
were shut, but there were no curtains to the window, and I looked in and
saw Lise sitting beside her aunt. I signed to Mattia and Capi to be
silent, and then taking my harp from my shoulder, I put it on the
ground.

"Oh, yes," whispered Mattia, "a serenade. What a fine idea!"

"No, not you; I'll play alone."

I struck the first notes of my Neapolitan song. I did not sing, for I
did not want my voice to betray me. As I played, I looked at Lise. She
raised her head quickly and her eyes sparkled. Then I commenced to sing.
She jumped from her chair and ran to the door. In a moment she was in my
arms. Aunt Catherine then came out and invited us in to supper. Lise
quickly placed two plates on the table.

"If you don't mind," I said, "will you put a third; we have a little
friend with us." And I pulled out the doll from my bag and placed her in
the chair next to Lise. The look that she gave me I shall never forget!



CHAPTER XXV

MOTHER, BROTHERS AND SISTERS


If I had not been in a hurry to get to Paris I should have stayed a long
time with Lise. We had so much to say to each other and could say so
little in the language that we used. She told me with signs how good her
uncle and aunt had been to her and what beautiful rides she had in the
barges, and I told her how I had nearly perished in the mine where
Alexix worked and that my family were looking for me. That was the
reason that I was hurrying to Paris and that was why it had been
impossible for me to go and see Etiennette.

Naturally most of the talk was about my family, my rich family and all I
would do when I had money. I would make her father, brothers, sisters,
and above all herself, happy. Lise, unlike Mattia, was delighted. She
quite believed that if one had money one ought to be very happy,
because, would not her father have been happy if he had only had the
money to pay his debts? We took long walks, all three of us, Lise,
Mattia and I, accompanied by the doll and Capi. I was very happy those
few days. In the evening we sat in front of the house when it was not
too damp and before the fireplace when the mist was thick. I played the
harp and Mattia played his violin or cornet. Lise preferred the harp,
which made me very proud. When the time came and we had to separate and
go to bed, I played and sang her my Neapolitan song.

Yet we had to part and go on our way. I told her that I would come back
for her soon. My last words to her were: "I'll come and fetch you in a
carriage drawn by four horses."

And she quite believed me and she made a motion as though she were
cracking a whip to urge on the horses. She also, the same as I, could
see my riches and my horses and carriages.

I was so eager to get to Paris now that if it had not been for Mattia I
would have stopped only to collect what was absolutely necessary for our
food. We had no cow to buy now, nor doll. It was not for me to take
money to my rich parents.

"Let us get all we can," said Mattia, forcing me to take my harp, "for
we don't know if we shall find Barberin at once. One would think that
you had forgotten that night when you were dying of hunger."

"Oh, I haven't," I said lightly, "but we're sure to find him at once.
You wait."

"Yes, but I have not forgotten how I leaned up against the church that
day when you found me. Ah, I don't want to be hungry in Paris."

"We'll dine all the better when we get to my parents'," I replied.

"Well, let's work just as though we are buying another cow," urged
Mattia.

This was very wise advice but I must admit that I did not sing with the
same spirit. To get the money to buy a cow for Mother Barberin or a doll
for Lise was quite a different matter.

"How lazy you'll be when you're rich," said Mattia. The nearer we got to
Paris the gayer I became; and the more melancholy grew Mattia. As I had
assured him that we should not be parted I wondered why he should be sad
now. Finally, when we reached the gates of Paris, he told me how great
was his fear of Garofoli, and that if he saw him he knew that he would
take him again.

"You know how afraid you are of Barberin, so you can imagine how I fear
Garofoli. If he's out of prison he'll be sure to catch me. Oh, my poor
head; how he used to bang it! And then he will part us; of course he'd
like to have you as one of his pupils, but he could not force you to
stay, but he has a right to me. He's my uncle."

I had not thought of Garofoli. I arranged with Mattia that I should go
to the various places that Mother Barberin had mentioned as to where I
might find Barberin. Then I would go to the Rue Mouffetard and after
that he should meet me at seven o'clock outside the Notre Dame
Cathedral.

We parted as though we were never going to meet again. Mattia went in
one direction, I in another. I had written down on paper the names of
the places where Barberin had lived before. I went first to one place,
then to another. At one lodging house they told me that he had lived
there four years ago but that he had not been there since. The landlord
told me that he'd like to catch the rogue, for he owed him one week's
rent. I grew very despondent. There was only one place left for me to
inquire; that was at a restaurant. The man who kept the place said that
he had not seen him for a very long time, but one of the customers
sitting eating at a table called out that he had been living at the
Hotel du Cantal of late.

Before going to the Hotel du Cantal I went to Garofoli's place to see if
I could find out something about him so that I could take back some news
to poor Mattia. When I reached the yard I saw, as on my first visit, the
same old man hanging up dirty rags outside the door.

"Has Garofoli returned?" I asked.

The old man looked at me without replying, then began to cough. I could
see that he would not tell me anything unless I let him know that _I_
knew all about Garofoli.

"You don't mean to say he is still in prison?" I exclaimed. "Why, I
thought he'd got out long ago."

"No, he's got another three months yet."

Garofoli three more months in prison! Mattia could breathe. I left the
horrible yard as quickly as possible and hurried off to the Hotel du
Cantal. I was full of hope and joy and quite disposed to think kindly of
Barberin; if it had not been for Barberin, I might have died of cold
and hunger when I was a baby. It was true he had taken me from Mother
Barberin to sell me to a stranger, but then he had no liking for me and
perhaps he was forced to do it for the money. After all it was through
him that I was finding my parents. So now I ought not to harbor any
bitterness against him.

I soon reached the Hotel du Cantal which was only a hotel in name, being
nothing better than a miserable lodging house.

"I want to see a man named Barberin; he comes from Chavanon," I said to
a dirty old woman who sat at a desk. She was very deaf and asked me to
repeat what I had said.

"Do you know a man named Barberin?" I shouted.

Then she threw up her hands to heaven so abruptly that the cat sleeping
on her knees sprang down in terror.

"Alas! Alas!" she cried, then she added: "Are you the boy he was looking
for?"

"Oh, you know?" I cried excitedly. "Well, where's Barberin?"

"Dead," she replied, laconically.

I leaned on my harp.

"Dead!" I cried loud enough for her to hear. I was dazed. How should I
find my parents now?

"You're the boy they're looking for; I'm sure you are," said the old
woman again.

"Yes, yes, I'm the boy. Where's my family? Can you tell me?"

"I don't know any more than just what I've told you, my boy; I should
say my young gentleman."

"What did Barberin say about my parents? Oh, do tell me," I said
imploringly.

She threw her arms up towards heaven.

"Ah, if that isn't a story!"

"Well, tell it me. What is it?"

At this moment a woman who looked like a servant came forward. The
mistress of the Hotel du Cantal turned to her: "If this isn't an affair!
This boy here, this young gentleman, is the man Barberin talked so much
about."

"But didn't Barberin speak to you about my family?" I asked.

"I should say so--more than a hundred times. A very rich family it is,
that you've got, my boy, my young gentleman."

"And where do they live and what is their name?"

"Barberin wouldn't tell us anything. He was that mysterious. He wanted
to get all the reward for himself."

"Didn't he leave any papers?"

"No, nothing except one that said he came from Chavanon. If we hadn't
found that, we couldn't have let his wife know he's dead."

"Oh, you did let her know?"

"Sure, why not?"

I could learn nothing from the old woman. I turned slowly towards the
door.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"Back to my friend."

"Ah, you have a friend! Does he live in Paris?"

"We got to Paris only this morning."

"Well, if you haven't a place to lodge in, why don't you come here? You
will be well taken care of and it's an honest house. If your family get
tired of waiting to hear from Barberin they may come here and then
they'll find you. What I say is for your own interest. What age is your
friend?"

"He is a little younger than I."

"Just think! two boys on the streets of Paris! You could get into such a
bad place; now this is real respectable on account of the locality."

The Hotel du Cantal was one of the dirtiest lodging houses that I had
ever seen and I had seen some pretty dirty ones! But what the old woman
said was worth considering, besides we could not be particular. I had
not found my family in their beautiful Paris mansion yet. Mattia had
been right to want to get all the money we could on our way to the city.
What should we have done if we had not our seventeen francs in our
pockets?

"How much will you charge for a room for my friend and myself?" I asked.

"Ten cents a day. That's not much."

"Well, we'll come back to-night."

"Come back early; Paris is a bad place at night for boys," she called
after me.

Night was falling. The street lamps were lit. I had a long way to walk
to the Cathedral, where I was to meet Mattia. All my high spirits had
vanished. I was very tired and all around me seemed gloomy. In this
great Paris full of light and noise I felt so utterly alone. Would I
ever find my own people? Was I ever to see my real mother and my real
father? When I reached the Cathedral I had still twenty minutes to wait
for Mattia. I felt this night that I needed his friendship more than
ever. What a comfort it was to think that I was going to see him so gay,
so kind, such a friend!

A little before seven I heard a quirk hark, then out of the shadows
jumped Capi! He sprang onto my knees and licked me with his soft wet
tongue. I hugged him in my arms and kissed his cold nose. It was not
long before Mattia appeared. In a few words I told him that Barberin was
dead and that there was now little hope that I could ever find my
family. Then he gave me all the sympathy of which I was in need. He
tried to console me and told me not to despair. He wished as sincerely
as I that we could find my parents.

We returned to the Hotel du Cantal. The next morning I wrote to Mother
Barberin to express my grief for her loss and to ask her if she had had
any news from her husband before he died. By return mail she sent me
word that her husband had written to her from the hospital, where they
had taken him, and said that if he did not get better she was to write
to Greth and Galley's, Lincoln Square, London, for they were the
lawyers who were looking for me. He told her that she was not to take
any steps until she was sure that he was dead.

"We must go to London," said Mattia, when I had finished reading the
letter that the priest had written for her. "If the lawyers are English,
that shows that your parents are English."

"Oh, I'd rather be the same as Lise and the others. But," I added, "if
I'm English I'll be the same as Mrs. Milligan and Arthur."

"I'd rather you were Italian," said Mattia.

In a few minutes our baggage was ready and we were off. It took us eight
days to hike from Paris to Bologne, stopping at the principal towns en
route. When we reached Bologne we had thirty-two francs in our purse. We
took passage on a cargo boat that was going the next day to London. What
a rough journey we had! Poor Mattia declared that he would never go on
the sea again. When at last we were steaming up the Thames I begged him
to get up and see the wonderful sights, but he implored me to let him
alone. At last the engine stopped and the ropes were thrown to the
ground, and we landed in London.

I knew very little English, but Mattia had picked up quite a great deal
from an Englishman who had worked with him at the Gassot Circus. When we
landed he at once asked a policeman to direct us to Lincoln Square. It
seemed to be a very long way. Many times we thought that we had lost
ourselves but again upon making inquiries we found that we were going
in the right direction. Finally we reached Temple Bar and a few steps
further we came to Green Square.

My heart heat so quickly when we stood before the door of Greth and
Galley's office that I had to ask Mattia to wait a moment until I had
recovered myself. After Mattia had stated to the clerk my name and my
business, we were shown at once into the private office of the head of
the firm, Mr. Greth. Fortunately this gentleman spoke French, so I was
able to speak to him myself. He questioned me upon every detail of my
life. My answers evidently convinced him that I was the boy he was
looking for, for he told me that I had a family living in London and
that he would send me to them at once.

"One moment, sir. Have I a father?" I asked, scarcely able to say the
word "father."

"Yes, not only a father, but a mother, brothers and sisters," he
replied.

"Oh...."

He touched a bell and a clerk appeared whom he told to take charge of
us.

"Oh, I had forgotten," said Mr. Greth, "your name is Driscoll; your
father's name is Mr. John Driscoll."

In spite of Mr. Greth's ugly face I think I could have jumped at him and
hugged him if he had given me time, but with his hand he indicated the
door and we followed the clerk.



CHAPTER XXVI

BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT


When we got to the street the clerk hailed a cab and told us to jump in.
The strange looking vehicle, with the coachman sitting on a box at the
back of a hood that covered us, I learned later was a hansom cab. Mattia
and I were huddled in a corner with Capi between our legs. The clerk
took up the rest of the seat. Mattia had heard him tell the coachman to
drive us to Bethnal-Green. The driver seemed none too anxious to take us
there. Mattia and I thought it was probably on account of the distance.
We both knew what "Green" meant in English, and Bethnal-Green
undoubtedly was the name of the park where my people lived. For a long
time the cab rolled through the busy streets of London. It was such a
long way that I thought perhaps their estate was situated on the
outskirts of the city. The word "green" made us think that it might be
in the country. But nothing around us announced the country. We were in
a very thickly populated quarter; the black mud splashed our cab as we
drove along; then we turned into a much poorer part of the city and
every now and again the cabman pulled up as though he did not know his
way. At last he stopped altogether and through the little window of the
hansom a discussion took place between Greth & Galley's clerk and the
bewildered cabman. From what Mattia could learn the man said that it was
no use, he could not find his way, and he asked the clerk which
direction he should take. The clerk replied that he did not know for he
had never been in that thieves' locality before. We both caught the word
"thieves." Then the clerk gave some money to the coachman and told us to
get out of the cab. The man grumbled at his fare and then turned round
and drove off. We were standing now in a muddy street before what the
English call a gin palace. Our guide looked about him in disgust, then
entered the swing-doors of the gin palace. We followed. Although we were
in a miserable part of the city I had never seen anything more
luxurious. There were gilt framed mirrors everywhere, glass chandeliers
and a magnificent counter that shone like silver. Yet the people who
filled this place were filthy and in rags. Our guide gulped down a drink
standing before the beautiful counter, then asked the man who had served
him if he could direct him to the place he wanted to find. Evidently he
got the information he required for he hurried out again through the
swing-doors, we following close on his heels. The streets through which
we walked now were even narrower and from one house across to another
were swung wash lines from which dirty rags were hanging. The women who
sat in their doorways were pale and their matted fair hair hung loose
over their shoulders. The children were almost naked and the few clothes
that they did wear were but rags. In the alley were some pigs wallowing
in the stagnant water from which a fetid odor arose. Our guide stopped.
Evidently he had lost his way. But at this moment a policeman appeared.
The clerk spoke to him and the officer told him he would show him the
way.... We followed the policeman down more narrow streets. At last we
stopped at a yard in the middle of which was a little pond.

"This is Red Lion Court," said the officer.

Why were we stopping there? Could it be possible that my parents lived
in this place? The policeman knocked at the door of a wooden hut and our
guide thanked him. So we had arrived. Mattia took my hand and gently
pressed it. I pressed his. We understood one another. I was as in a
dream when the door was opened and we found ourselves in a room with a
big fire burning in the grate.

Before the fire in a large cane chair sat an old man with a white beard,
and his head covered with a black skull cap. At a table sat a man of
about forty and a woman about six years his junior. She must have been
very pretty once but now her eyes had a glassy stare and her manners
were listless. Then there were four children--two boys and two
girls--all very fair like their mother. The eldest boy was about eleven,
the youngest girl, scarcely three. I did not know what the clerk was
saying to the man, I only caught the name "Driscoll," my name, so the
lawyer had said. All eyes were turned on Mattia and me, only the baby
girl paid attention to Capi.

"Which one is Remi?" asked the man in French.

"I am," I said, taking a step forward.

"Then come and kiss your father, my boy."

When I had thought of this moment I had imagined that I should be
overwhelmed with happiness and spring into my father's arms, but I felt
nothing of the kind. I went up and kissed my father.

"Now," he said, "there's your grandfather, your mother, your brothers
and sisters."

I went up to my mother first and put my arms about her. She let me kiss
her but she did not return my caress; she only said two or three words
which I did not understand.

"Shake hands with your grandfather," said my father, "and go gently;
he's paralyzed."

I also shook hands with my brothers and my eldest sister. I wanted to
take the little one in my arms but she was too occupied with Capi and
pushed me away. As I went from one to the other I was angry with myself.
Why could I not feel any pleasure at having found my family at last. I
had a father, a mother, brothers, sisters and a grandfather. I had
longed for this moment, I had been mad with joy in thinking that I, like
other boys, would have a family that I could call my own to love me and
whom I could love.... And now I was staring at my family curiously,
finding nothing in my heart to say to them, not a word of affection. Was
I a monster? If I had found my parents in a palace instead of in a hovel
should I have had more affection for them? I felt ashamed at this
thought. Going over again to my mother I put my arms round her and
kissed her full on the lips. Evidently she did not understand what made
me do this, for instead of returning my kisses she looked at me in a
listless manner, then turning to her husband, my father, she shrugged
her shoulders and said something that I could not understand but which
made him laugh. Her indifference and my father's laugh went right to my
heart. It did not seem to me that my affection should have been received
in such a way.

"Who is he?" asked my father, pointing to Mattia. I told him that Mattia
was my dearest friend and how much I owed him.

"Good," said my father; "would he like to stay and see the country?" I
was about to answer for Mattia, but he spoke first.

"That's just what I want," he exclaimed.

My father then asked why Barberin had not come with me. I told him that
he was dead. He seemed pleased to hear this. He repeated it to my
mother, who also seemed pleased. Why were they both pleased that
Barberin was dead?

"You must be rather surprised that we have not searched for you for
thirteen years," said my father, "and then suddenly to go off and look
up this man who found you when you were a baby."

I told him that I was very surprised, and that I'd like to know about
it.

"Come near the fire then and I'll tell you all about it."

I flung the bag from my shoulders and took the chair that he offered me.
As I stretched out my legs, wet, and covered with mud, to the fire my
grandfather spat on one side, like an old cat that is annoyed.

"Don't pay any attention to him," said my father; "the old chap doesn't
like any one to sit before his fire, but you needn't mind him, if you're
cold."

I was surprised to hear any one speak like this of an old man. I kept my
legs under my chair, for I thought that attention should be paid to him.

"You are my eldest son now," said my father; "you were born a year after
my marriage with your mother. When I married there was a young girl who
thought that I was going to marry her, and out of revenge she stole you
from us when you were six months old. We searched everywhere for you but
we did not go so far as Paris. We thought that you were dead until three
months ago when this woman was dying she confessed the truth. I went
over to France at once and the police in that locality where you had
been left, told me that you had been adopted by a mason named Barberin
who lived at Chavanon. I found him and he told me that he had loaned
you to a musician named Vitalis and that you were tramping through
France. I could not stay over there any longer, but I left Barberin some
money and told him to search for you, and when he had news to write to
Greth and Galley. I did not give him my address here, because we are
only in London during the winter; the rest of the year we travel through
England and Scotland. We are peddlers by trade, and I have my own
caravans. There, boy, that is how it is you have come back to us after
thirteen years. You may feel a little timid at first because you can't
understand us, but you'll soon pick up English and be able to talk to
your brothers and sisters. It won't be long before you're used to us."

Yes, of course I should get used to them; were they not my own people?
The fine baby linen, the beautiful clothes had not spoken the truth. But
what did that matter! Affection was worth more than riches. It was not
money that I pined for, but to have affection, a family and a home.
While my father was talking to me they had set the table for supper. A
large joint of roast beef with potatoes round it was placed in the
middle of the table.

"Are you hungry, boys?" asked my father, addressing Mattia and myself.
Mattia showed his white teeth.

"Well, sit down to table."

But before sitting down he pushed my grandfather's cane rocker up to the
table. Then taking his own place with his back to the fire, he
commenced to cut the roast beef and gave each one a fine big slice and
some potatoes.

Although I had not been brought up exactly on the principle of good
breeding, I noticed that my brothers and sister's behaved very badly at
table; they ate more often with their fingers, sticking them into the
gravy and licking them without my father and mother seeming to notice
them. As to my grandfather, he gave his whole attention to what was
before him, and the one hand that he was able to use went continually
from his plate to his mouth. When he let a piece fall from his shaking
fingers my brothers and sisters laughed.

I thought that we should spend the evening together round the fire, but
my father said that he was expecting friends, and told us to go to bed.
Beckoning to Mattia and me he took a candle and went out to a stable
that led from the room where we had been eating. In this stable were two
big caravans. He opened the door of one and we saw two small beds, one
above the other.

"There you are, boys, there are your beds," he said. "Sleep well."

Such was the welcome into my family.



CHAPTER XXVII

A DISTRESSING DISCOVERY


My father left the candle with us, but locked the caravan on the
outside. We got into bed as quickly as possible, without chatting, as
was our habit. Mattia did not seem to want to talk any more than I and I
was pleased that he was silent. We blew the candle out, but I found it
impossible to go to sleep. I thought over all that had passed, turning
over and over in my narrow bed. I could hear Mattia, who occupied the
berth above mine, turn over restlessly also. He could not sleep any more
than I.

Hours passed. As it grew later a vague fear oppressed me. I felt uneasy,
but I could not understand why it was that I felt so. Of what was I
afraid? Not of sleeping in a caravan even in this vile part of London!
How many times in my vagabond life had I spent the night less protected
than I was at this moment! I knew that I was sheltered from all danger
and yet I was oppressed with a fear that amounted almost to terror.

The hours passed one after the other; suddenly I heard a noise at the
stable door which opened onto another street. Then came several regular
knocks at intervals. Then a light penetrated our caravan. I glanced
hastily round in surprise and Capi, who slept beside my bed, woke up
with a growl. I then saw that this light came in through a little window
of the caravan against which our berths were placed, and which I had not
noticed when going to bed because there was a curtain hanging over it.
The upper part of this window touched Mattia's bed and the lower part
touched mine. Afraid that Capi might wake up all the house, I put my
hand over his mouth, then looked outside.

My father had entered the stable and quietly opened the door on the
other side, then he closed it again in the same cautious manner after
admitting two men heavily laden with bundles which they carried on their
shoulders. Then he placed his finger on his lip, and with the other hand
which held the lantern, he pointed to the caravan in which we were
sleeping. I was about to call out that they need not mind us, but I was
afraid I should wake up Mattia, who now, I thought, was sleeping
quietly, so I kept still. My father helped the two men unload their
bundles, then he disappeared, but soon he returned with my mother.
During his absence the men had opened their baggage. There were hats,
underclothes, stockings, gloves, etc. Evidently these men were merchants
who had come to sell their goods to my parents. My father took each
object and examined it by the light of the lantern and passed it on to
my mother, who with a little pair of scissors cut off the tickets and
put them in her pocket. This appeared strange to me, as also the hour
that they had chosen for this sale.

While my mother was examining the goods my father spoke to the men in a
whisper. If I had known English a little better I should perhaps have
caught what he said, but all I could hear was the word "police," that
was said several times and for that reason caught my ear.

When all the goods had been carefully noted, my parents and the two men
went into the house, and again our caravan was in darkness. They had
evidently gone inside to settle the bill. I wanted to convince myself
that what I had seen was quite natural, yet despite my desire I could
not believe so. Why had not these men who had come to see my parents
entered by the other door? Why did they talk of the police in whispers
as though they were afraid of being heard outside? Why had my mother cut
off the tickets after she had bought the goods? I could not drive these
thoughts from my mind. After a time a light again filled our caravan. I
looked out this time in spite of myself. I told myself that I ought not
to look, and yet ... I looked. I told myself that it was better that I
should not know, and yet I wanted to see.

My father and mother were alone. While my mother quickly made a bundle
of the goods, my father swept a corner of the stable. Under the dry sand
that he heaped up there was a trap door. He lifted it. By then my mother
had finished tying up the bundles and my father took them and lowered
them through the trap to a cellar below, my mother holding the lantern
to light him. Then he shut the trap door and swept the sand over it
again. Over the sand they both strewed wisps of straw as on the rest of
the stable floor. Then they went out.

At the moment when they softly closed the door it seemed to me that
Mattia moved in his bed and that he lay back on his pillow. Had he seen?
I did not dare ask him. From head to foot I was in a cold perspiration.
I remained in this state all night long. A cock crowed at daybreak; then
only did I drop off to sleep.

The noise of the key being turned in the door of our caravan the next
morning woke me. Thinking that it was my father who had come to tell us
that it was time to get up, I closed my eyes so as not to see him.

"It was your brother," said Mattia; "he has unlocked the door and he's
gone now."

We dressed. Mattia did not ask me if I had slept well, neither did I put
the question to him. Once I caught him looking at me and I turned my
eyes away.

We had to go to the kitchen, but neither my father nor mother were
there. My grandfather was seated before the fire in his big chair as
though he had not moved since the night before, and my eldest sister,
whose name was Annie, was wiping the table. Allen, my eldest brother,
was sweeping the room. I went over to them to wish them good morning,
but they continued with their work without taking any notice of me. I
went towards my grandfather, but he would not let me get near him, and
like the evening before, he spat at my side, which stopped me short.

"Ask them," I said to Mattia, "what time I shall see my mother and
father?"

Mattia did as I told him, and my grandfather, upon hearing one of us
speak English, seemed to feel more amiable.

"What does he say?"

"He says that your father has gone out for the day and that your mother
is asleep, and that if we like we may go out."

"Did he only say that?" I asked, finding this translation very short.

Mattia seemed confused.

"I don't know if I understood the rest," he said.

"Tell me what you think you understood."

"It seemed to me that he said that if we found some bargains in the city
we were not to miss them. He said that we lived at the expense of
fools."

My grandfather must have guessed that Mattia was explaining what he had
said to me, for with the hand that was not paralyzed, he made a motion
as though he were slipping something into his pocket, then he winked his
eye.

"Let us go out," I said quickly.

For two or three hours we walked about, not daring to go far for fear we
might become lost. Bethnal-Green was even more horrible in the daytime
than it had been at night. Mattia and I hardly spoke a word. Now and
again he pressed my hand.

When we returned to the house my mother had not left her room. Through
the open door I could see that she was leaning her head on the table.
Thinking that she was sick I ran to her to kiss her, as I was unable to
speak to her. She lifted up her head, which swayed. She looked at me but
did not see me. I smelled the odor of gin on her hot breath. I drew
back. Her head fell again on her arms resting on the table.

"Gin," said my grandfather, grinning.

I remained motionless. I felt turned to stone. I don't know how long I
stood so. Suddenly I turned to Mattia. He was looking at me with eyes
full of tears. I signed to him and again we left the house. For a long
time we walked about, side by side, holding each other's hands, saying
nothing, going straight before us without knowing where we were going.

"Where do you want to go, Remi?" he asked at last, anxiously.

"I don't know. Somewhere so we can talk. I want to speak to you, Mattia.
We can't talk in this crowd."

We had by this time come to a much wider street at the end of which was
a public garden. We hurried to this spot and sat down on a bench.

"You know how much I love you, Mattia boy," I began, "and you know that
it was through friendship for you that I asked you to come with me to
see my people. You won't doubt my friendship, no matter what I ask of
you?"

"Don't be such a silly," he said, forcing a smile.

"You want to laugh so that I won't break down," I replied. "If I can't
cry when I'm with you, when can I cry? But.... Oh ... oh, Mattia,
Mattia!"

Throwing my arms around dear old Mattia's neck, I burst into tears.
Never had I felt so miserable. When I had been alone in this great
world, never had I felt so unhappy as I did at this moment. After my
burst of sobs I forced myself to be calm. It was not because I wanted
Mattia's pity that I had brought him to this garden, it was not for
myself; it was for him.

"Mattia," I said resolutely, "you must go back to France."

"Leave you? Never!"

"I knew beforehand what you would reply and I am pleased, oh, so pleased
that you wish to be with me, but, Mattia, you _must_ go back to France
at once!"

"Why? Tell me that."

"Because.... Tell me, Mattia. Don't be afraid. Did you sleep last night?
Did you see?"

"I did not sleep," he answered.

"And you saw...?"

"All."

"And you understood?"

"That those goods had not been paid for. Your father was angry with the
men because they knocked at the stable door and not at the house door.
They told him that the police were watching them."

"You see very well, then, that you must go," I said.

"If I must go, you must go also; it is no better for one than for the
other."

"If you had met Garofoli in Paris and he had forced you to go back to
him, I am sure you would not have wanted me to stay with you. I am
simply doing what you would do yourself."

He did not reply.

"You must go back to France," I insisted; "go to Lise and tell her that
I cannot do for her father what I promised. I told her that the first
thing I did would be to pay off his debts. You must tell her how it is,
and go to Mother Barberin also. Simply say that my people are not rich
as I had thought; there is no disgrace in not having money. _But don't
tell them anything more._"

"It is not because they are poor that you want me to go, so I shan't
go," Mattia replied obstinately. "I know what it is, after what we saw
last night; you are afraid for me."

"Mattia, don't say that!"

"You are afraid one day that I shall cut the tickets off goods that have
not been paid for."

"Mattia, Mattia, don't!"

"Well, if you are afraid for me, I am afraid for you. Let us both go."

"It's impossible; my parents are nothing to you, but this is my father
and mother, and I must stay with them. It is my family."

"Your family! That man who steals, your father! That drunken woman your
mother!"

"Don't you dare say so, Mattia," I cried, springing up from my seat;
"you are speaking of my father and mother and I must respect them and
love them."

"Yes, so you should if they are your people, but ... are they?"

"You forget their many proofs."

"You don't resemble your father or your mother. Their children are all
fair, while you are dark. And then how is it they could spend so much
money to find a child? Put all these things together and in my opinion
you are not a Driscoll. You might write to Mother Barberin and ask her
to tell you just what the clothes were like that you wore when you were
found. Then ask that man you call your father to describe the clothes
his baby had on when it was stolen. Until then I shan't move."

"But suppose one day Mattia gets a bang on his poor head?"

"That would not be so hard if he received the blow for a friend," he
said, smiling.

We did not return to the Red Lion Court until night. My father and
mother passed no remark upon our absence. After supper my father drew
two chairs to the fireside, which brought a growl from my grandfather,
and then asked us to tell him how we had made enough money to live on
in France. I told the story.

"Not only did we earn enough to live on, but we got enough to buy a
cow," said Mattia with assurance. In his turn he told how we came by the
cow.

"You must be clever kids," said my father; "show us what you can do."

I took my harp and played a piece, but not my Neapolitan song. Mattia
played a piece on his violin and a piece on his cornet. It was the
cornet solo that brought the greatest applause from the children who had
gathered round us in a circle.

"And Capi, can he do anything?" asked my father. "He ought to be able to
earn his food."

I was very proud of Capi's talents. I put him through all his tricks and
as usual he scored a great success.

"Why, that dog is worth a fortune," exclaimed my father.

I was very pleased at this praise and assured him that Capi could learn
anything that one wished to teach him. My father translated what I said
into English, and it seemed to me that he added something more which
made everybody laugh, for the old grandfather winked his eye several
times and said, "Fine dog!"

"This is what I suggest," said my father, "that is if Mattia would like
to live with us?"

"I want to stay with Remi," replied Mattia.

"Well, this is what I propose," continued my father. "We're not rich
and we all work. In the summer we travel through the country and the
children go and sell the goods to those who won't take the trouble to
come to us, but in the winter we haven't much to do. Now you and Remi
can go and play music in the streets. You'll make quite a little money
as Christmas draws near, but Ned and Allen must take Capi with them and
he'll make the people laugh with his tricks; in that way the talent will
be distributed."

"Capi won't work well with any one but me," I said quickly. I could not
bear to be parted from my dog.

"He'll learn to work with Allen and Ned easy," said my father; "we'll
get more money this way."

"Oh, but we'll get ever so much more with Capi," I insisted.

"That's enough," replied my father briefly; "when I say a thing I mean
it. No arguments."

I said nothing more. As I laid down in my bed that night Mattia
whispered in my ear: "Now to-morrow you write to Mother Barberin." Then
he jumped into bed.

But the next morning I had to give Capi his lesson, I took him in my
arms and while I gently kissed him on his cold nose, I explained to him
what he had to do; poor doggy! how he looked at me, how he listened! I
then put his leash in Allen's hand and he followed the two boys
obediently, but with a forlorn air.

My father took Mattia and me across London where there were beautiful
houses, splendid streets with wide pavements, and carriages that shone
like glass, drawn by magnificent horses and driven by big fat coachmen
with powdered wigs. It was late when we got back to Red Lion Court, for
the distance from the West End to Bethnal-Green is great. How pleased I
was to see Capi again. He was covered with mud, but in a good humor. I
was so pleased to see him, that after I had rubbed him well down with
dry straw, I wrapped him in my sheepskin and made him sleep in my bed.

Things went on this way for several days. Mattia and I went one way and
Capi, Ned, and Allen another. Then one evening my father told me that we
could take Capi the next day with us, as he wanted the two boys to do
something in the house. Mattia and I were very pleased and we intended
to do our utmost to bring back a good sum of money so that he would let
us have the dog always. We had to get Capi back and we would not spare
ourselves, neither one of us. We made Capi undergo a severe washing and
combing early in the morning, then we went off.

Unfortunately for our plan a heavy fog had been hanging over London for
two entire days. It was so dense that we could only see a few steps
before us, and those who listened to us playing behind these fog
curtains could not see Capi. It was a most annoying state of affairs for
our "takings." Little did we think how indebted we should be to the fog
a few minutes later. We were walking through one of the most popular
streets when suddenly I discovered that Capi was not with us. This was
extraordinary, for he always kept close at our heels. I waited for him
to catch up with us. I stood at the entrance of a dark alley and
whistled softly, for we could see but a short distance. I was beginning
to fear that he had been stolen from us when he came up on the run,
holding a pair of woolen stockings between his teeth. Placing his fore
paws against me he presented them to me with a bark. He seemed as proud
as when he had accomplished one of his most difficult tricks and wanted
my approval. It was all done in a few seconds. I stood dumbfounded. Then
Mattia seized the stockings with one hand and pulled me down the alley
with the other.

"Walk quick, but don't run," he whispered.

He told me a moment later that a man who had hurried past him on the
pavement was saying, "Where's that thief? I'll get him!" We went out by
the other end of the alley.

"If it had not been for the fog we should have been arrested as
thieves," said Mattia.

For a moment I stood almost choking. They had made a thief of my good
honest Capi!

"Hold him tight," I said, "and come back to the house."

We walked quickly.

The father and mother were seated at the table folding up material. I
threw the pair of stockings down. Allen and Ned laughed.

"Here's a pair of stockings," I said; "you've made a thief of my dog. I
thought you took him out to amuse people."

I was trembling so I could scarcely speak, and yet I never felt more
determined.

"And if it was not for amusement," demanded my father, "what would you
do, I'd like to know?"

"I'd tie a cord round Capi's neck, and although I love him dearly, I'd
drown him. I don't want Capi to become a thief any more than I want to
be one myself, and if I thought that I ever should become a thief, I'd
drown myself at once with my dog."

My father looked me full in the face. I thought he was going to strike
me. His eyes gleamed. I did not flinch.

"Oh, very well, then," said he, recovering himself; "so that it shall
not happen again, you may take Capi out with you in the future."

I showed my fist to the two boys. I could not speak to them, but they
saw by my manner that if they dared have anything more to do with my
dog, they would have me to reckon with. I was willing to fight them both
to protect Capi.

From that day every one in my family openly showed their dislike for me.
My grandfather continued to spit angrily when I approached him. The boys
and my eldest sister played every trick they possibly could upon me. My
father and mother ignored me, only demanding of me my money every
evening. Out of the whole family, for whom I had felt so much affection
when I had landed in England, there was only baby Kate who would let me
fondle her, and she turned from me coldly if I had not candy or an
orange in my pocket for her.

Although I would not listen to what Mattia had said at first, gradually,
little by little, I began to wonder if I did really belong to this
family. I had done nothing for them to be so unkind to me. Mattia,
seeing me so greatly worried, would say as though to himself: "I am just
wondering what kind of clothes Mother Barberin will tell us you wore...."

At last the letter came. The priest had written it for her. It read:


     "My little Remi: I was surprised and sorry to learn the contents of
     your letter. From what Barberin told me and also from the clothes
     you had on when you were found, I thought that you belonged to a
     very rich family. I can easily tell you what you wore, for I have
     kept everything. You were not wound up in wrappings like a French
     baby; you wore long robes and underskirts like little English
     babies. You had on a white flannel robe and over that a very fine
     linen robe, then a big white cashmere pelisse lined with white silk
     and trimmed with beautiful white embroidery, and you had a lovely
     lace bonnet, and then white woolen socks with little silk rosettes.
     None of these things were marked, but the little flannel jacket you
     had next to your skin and the flannel robe had both been marked,
     but the marks had been carefully cut out. There, Remi, boy, that is
     all I can tell you. Don't worry, dear child, that you can't give us
     all the fine presents that you promised. Your cow that you bought
     with your savings is worth all the presents in the world to me. I
     am pleased to tell you that she's in good health and gives the same
     fine quantity of milk, so I am very comfortably off now, and I
     never look at her without thinking of you and your little friend
     Mattia. Let me have news of you sometimes, dear boy, you are so
     tender and affectionate, and I hope, now you have found your
     family, they will all love you as you deserve to be loved. I kiss
     you lovingly.
                                    "Your foster mother,
                                             "WIDOW BARBERIN."


Dear Mother Barberin! she imagined that everybody must love me because
she did!

"She's a fine woman," said Mattia; "very fine, she thought of me! Now
let's see what Mr. Driscoll has to say."

"He might have forgotten the things."

"Does one forget the clothes that their child wears when it was
kidnaped? Why, it's only through its clothes that they can find it."

"Wait until we hear what he says before we think anything."

It was not an easy thing for me to ask my father how I was dressed on
the day that I was stolen. If I had put the question casually without
any underthought, it would have been simple enough. As it was I was
timid. Then one day when the cold sleet had driven me home earlier than
usual, I took my courage in both hands, and broached the subject that
was causing me so much anxiety. At my question my father looked me full
in the face. But I looked back at him far more boldly than I imagined
that I could at this moment. Then he smiled. There was something hard
and cruel in the smile but still it was a smile.

"On the day that you were stolen from us," he said slowly, "you wore a
flannel robe, a linen robe, a lace bonnet, white woolen shoes, and a
white embroidered cashmere pelisse. Two of your garments Were marked
F.D., Francis Driscoll, your real name, but this mark was cut out by the
woman who stole you, for she hoped that in this way you would never be
found. I'll show you your baptismal certificates which, of course, I
still have."

He searched in a drawer and soon brought forth a big paper which he
handed to me.

"If you don't mind," I said with a last effort, "Mattia will translate
it for me."

"Certainly."

Mattia translated it as well as he could. It appeared that I was born on
Thursday, August the 2nd, and that I was the son of John Driscoll and
Margaret Grange, his wife.

What further proofs could I ask?

"That's all very fine," said Mattia that night, when we were in our
caravan, "but how comes it that peddlers were rich enough to give their
children lace bonnets and embroidered pelisses? Peddlers are not so rich
as that!"

"It is because they were peddlers that they could get those things
cheaper."

Mattia whistled, but he shook his head, then again he whispered: "You're
not that Driscoll's baby, but you're the baby that Driscoll stole!"

I was about to reply but he had already climbed up into his bed.



CHAPTER XXVIII

A MYSTERIOUS STRANGER


If I had been in Mattia's place, I should perhaps have had as much
imagination as he, but I felt in my position that it was wrong for me to
have such thoughts. It had been proved beyond a doubt that Mr. Driscoll
was my father. I could not look at the matter from the same point of
view as Mattia. He might doubt ... but I must not. When he tried to make
me believe as he did, I told him to be silent. But he was pig-headed and
I was not always able to get the better of his obstinacy.

"Why are you dark and all the rest of the family fair?" he would ask
repeatedly.

"How was it that poor people could dress their baby in fine laces and
embroidery?" was another often repeated question. And I could only reply
by putting a question myself.

"Why did they search for me if I was not their child? Why had they given
money to Barberin and to Greth and Galley?"

Mattia could find no answer to my question and yet he would not be
convinced.

"I think we should both go back to France," he urged.

"That's impossible."

"Because it's your duty to keep with your family, eh? But is it your
family?"

These discussions only had one result, they made me more unhappy than I
had ever been. How terrible it is to doubt. Yet, in spite of my wish not
to doubt, I doubted. Who would have thought when I was crying so sadly
because I thought I had no family that I should be in such despair now
that I had one. How could I know the truth? In the meantime I had to
sing and dance and laugh and make grimaces when my heart was full.

One Sunday my father told me to stay in the house because he wanted me.
He sent Mattia off alone. All the others had gone out; my grandfather
alone was upstairs. I had been with my father for about an hour when
there was a knock at the door. A gentleman, who was unlike any of the
men who usually called on my father, came in. He was about fifty years
old and dressed in the height of fashion. He had white pointed teeth
like a dog and when he smiled he drew his lips back over them as though
he was going to bite. He spoke to my father in English, turning
continually to look at me. Then he began to talk French; he spoke this
language with scarcely an accent.

"This is the young boy that you spoke to me about?" he said. "He appears
very well."

"Answer the gentleman," said my father to me.

"Yes, I am quite well," I replied, surprised.

"You have never been ill?"

"I had pneumonia once."

"Ah, when was that?"

"Three years ago. I slept out in the cold all night. My master, who was
with me, was frozen to death, and I got pneumonia."

"Haven't you felt any effects of this illness since?"

"No."

"No fatigue, no perspiration at night?"

"No. When I'm tired it's because I have walked a lot, but I don't get
ill."

He came over to me and felt my arms, then put his head on my heart, then
at my back and on my chest, telling me to take deep breaths. He also
told me to cough. That done he looked at me for a long time. It was then
that I thought he wanted to bite me, his teeth gleamed in such a
terrible smile. A few moments later he left the house with my father.

What did it mean? Did he want to take me in his employ? I should have to
leave Mattia and Capi. No, I wouldn't be a servant to anybody, much less
this man whom I disliked already.

My father returned and told me I could go out if I wished. I went into
the caravan. What was my surprise to find Mattia there. He put his
finger to his lips.

"Go and open the stable door," he whispered, "I'll go out softly behind
you. They mustn't know that I was here."

I was mystified but I did as he asked.

"Do you know who that man was who was with your father?" he asked
excitedly when we were in the street. "It was Mr. James Milligan, your
friend's uncle."

I stood staring at him in the middle of the pavement. He took me by the
arm and dragged me on.

"I was not going out all alone," he continued, "so I went in there to
sleep, but I didn't sleep. Your father and a gentleman came into the
stable and I heard all they said; at first I didn't try to listen but
afterward I did.

"'Solid as a rock,' said the gentleman; 'nine out of ten would have
died, but he pulled through with pneumonia.'

"'How is your nephew?' asked your father.

"'Better. Three months ago the doctors again gave him up, but his mother
saved him once more. Oh, she's a marvelous mother, is Mrs. Milligan.'

"You can imagine when I heard this name if I did not glue my ears to the
window.

"'Then if your nephew is better,' continued your father, 'all you've
done is useless.'

"'For the moment, perhaps,' replied the other, 'but I don't say that
Arthur is going to live; it would be a miracle if he did, and I am not
afraid of miracles. The day he dies the only heir to that estate will be
myself.'

"'Don't worry; I'll see to that,' said Driscoll.

"'Yes, I count on you,' replied Mr. Milligan."

My first thought was to question my father, but it was not wise to let
them know that they had been overheard. As Mr. Milligan had business
with my father he would probably come to the house again, and the next
time, Mattia, whom he did not know, could follow him.

A few days later Mattia met a friend of his, Bob, the Englishman, whom
he had known at the Gassot Circus. I could see by the way he greeted
Mattia that he was very fond of him. He at once took a liking to Capi
and myself. From that day we had a strong friend, who, by his experience
and advice, was of great help to us in time of trouble.



CHAPTER XXIX

IN PRISON


Spring came slowly, but at last the day arrived for the family to leave
London. The caravans had been repainted and were loaded with
merchandise. There were materials, hats, shawls, handkerchiefs,
sweaters, underwear, ear-rings, razors, soap, powders, cream, everything
that one could imagine.

The caravans were full. The horses bought. Where, and how? I did not
know but we saw them come and everything was then ready for the
departure. We did not know if we were to stay with the old grandfather
or go with the family, but my father, finding that we made good money
playing, told us the night before that we should go on the road with him
and play our music.

"Let us go back to France," urged Mattia; "here's a good chance now."

"Why not travel through England?"

"Because I tell you something's going to happen if we stay here, and
besides we might find Mrs. Milligan and Arthur in France. If he has been
ill she will be sure to take him on their barge, now the summer is
coming."

I told him that I must stay.

The same day we started. I saw in the afternoon how they sold the
things that cost so little. We arrived at a large village and the
caravans were drawn up on the public square. One of the sides was
lowered and the goods displayed temptingly for the purchasers to
inspect.

"Look at the price! Look at the price!" cried my father. "You couldn't
find anything like this elsewhere for the price! I don't sell 'em; I'm
giving 'em away. Look at this!"

"He must have stolen them," I heard the people say when they saw the
prices. If they had glanced at my shamed looks, they would have known
that they were right in their suppositions.

If they did not notice me, Mattia did. "How much longer can you bear
this?" he asked.

I was silent.

"Let us go back to France," he urged again. "I feel that something is
going to happen, and going to happen soon. Don't you think sooner or
later the police will get on to Driscoll, seeing how cheap he's selling
the things? Then what'll happen?"

"Oh, Mattia...."

"If you will keep your eyes shut I must keep mine open. We shall both be
arrested and we haven't done anything, but how can we prove that? Aren't
we eating the food that is paid for by the money that he gets for these
things?"

I had never thought of that; it struck me now like a blow in the face.

"But we earn our food," I stammered, trying to defend ourselves.

"That's true, but we're living with thieves," replied Mattia, speaking
more frankly than he had ever done before, "and then if we're sent to
prison, we can't look for your family. And I'm anxious to see Mrs.
Milligan to warn her against that James Milligan. You don't know what he
might not do to Arthur. Let us go while we can."

"Let me have a few more days to think it over, Mattia," I said.

"Hurry up, then. Jack the Giant Killer smelled flesh--I smell danger."

Circumstances did for me what I was afraid to do. Several weeks had
passed since we left London. My father had set up his caravans in a town
where the races were about to be held. As Mattia and I had nothing to do
with selling the goods, we went to see the race-course, which was at
some distance from the town. Outside the English race-courses there is
usually a fair going on. Mountebanks of all descriptions, musicians, and
stall holders gather there two or three days in advance.

We were passing by a camp fire over which a kettle was hanging when we
recognized our friend Bob, who had been with Mattia in the circus. He
was delighted to see us again. He had come to the races with two friends
and was going to give an exhibition of strength. He had engaged some
musicians but they had failed him at the last moment and he was afraid
that the performance the next day would be a failure. He had to have
musicians to attract a crowd. Would we help him out? The profits would
be divided between the five of us that made up the company. There would
even be something for Capi, for he would like to have Capi perform his
tricks in the intervals. We agreed and promised to be there the next day
at the time he mentioned.

When I told of this arrangement to my father he said that he wanted Capi
and that we could not have him. I wondered if they were going to make my
dog do some dirty trick. From my look my father guessed my thoughts.

"Oh, it's all right," he said; "Capi's a good watch dog; he must stand
by the caravans. In a crowd like we shall have we might easily be
robbed. You two go alone and play with your friend Bob, and if you are
not finished until late, which will be quite likely, you can join us at
the Old Oak Tavern. We shall go on our way again to-morrow."

We had spent the night before at the Old Oak Tavern, which was a mile
out on a lonely road. The place was kept by a couple whose appearance
did not inspire one with confidence. It was quite easy to find this
place. It was on a straight road. The only annoying thing was that it
was a long walk for us after a tiring day.

But when my father said a thing I had to obey. I promised to be at the
Tavern. The next day, after tying Capi to the caravan, where he was to
be on guard, I hurried off to the race-course with Mattia.

We began to play as soon as we arrived and kept it up until night. My
fingers ached as though they had been pricked with a thousand pins and
poor Mattia had blown his cornet so long that he could scarcely breathe.
It was past midnight. Just as they were doing their last turn a big bar
of iron which they were using in their feats fell on Mattia's foot. I
thought that his foot was broken. Fortunately it was only severely
bruised. No bones were broken, but still he could not walk.

It was decided that he should stay there that night with Bob and that I
should go on alone to the Old Oak Tavern, for I had to know where the
Driscoll family was going the next day. All was dark when I reached the
tavern. I looked round for the caravans. They were nowhere to be seen.
All I could see, beside one or two miserable wagons, was a big cage from
which, as I drew near, came the cry of a wild beast. The beautiful gaudy
colored caravans belonging to the Driscoll family were gone.

I knocked at the tavern door. The landlord opened it and turned the
light from his lantern full on my face. He recognised me, but instead of
letting me go in he told me to hurry after my parents, who had gone to
Lewes, and said that I'd better not lose any time joining them. Then he
shut the door in my face.

Since I had been in England I had learned to speak English fairly well.
I understood clearly what he said, but I had not the slightest idea
where Lewes was situated, and besides I could not go, even if I found
out the direction, and leave Mattia behind. I began my weary tramp back
to the race-course; an hour later I was sleeping beside Mattia in Bob's
wagon.

The next morning Bob told me how to get to Lewes and I was ready to
start. I was watching him boil the water for breakfast when I looked up
from the fire and saw Capi being led towards us by a policeman. What did
it mean? The moment Capi recognized me he gave a tug at his leash and
escaping from the officer bounded toward me and jumped into my arms.

"Is that your dog?" asked the policeman.

"Yes."

"Then come with me, you're under arrest."

He seized me by the collar.

"What do you mean by arresting him?" cried Bob, jumping up from the
fire.

"Are you his brother?"

"No, his friend."

"Well, a man and a boy robbed St. George's Church last night. They got
up a ladder and went through the window. This dog was there to give the
alarm. They were surprised in the act and in their hurry to get out by
the window, the dog was left in the church. I knew that with the dog I'd
be sure to find the thieves; here's one, now where's his father?"

I could not utter a word. Mattia, who had heard the talk, came out of
the caravan and limped over to me. Bob was telling the policeman that I
could not be guilty because I had stayed with him until one o'clock,
then I went to the Old Oak Tavern and spoke to the landlord there, and
came back here at once.

"It was a quarter after one that the church was entered," said the
officer, "and this boy left here at one o'clock so he could have met the
other and got to the church."

"It takes more than a quarter of an hour to go from here to the town,"
said Bob.

"On the run, no," replied the policeman, "and what proves that he left
here at one o'clock?"

"I can prove it; I swear it," cried Bob.

The policeman shrugged his shoulders. "This boy can explain to the
magistrate," he said.

As I was being led away, Mattia threw his arms about my neck, as though
it was because he wanted to embrace me, but Mattia had another object.

"Keep up your courage," he whispered, "we won't forsake you."

"Take care of Capi," I said in French, but the officer understood.

"Oh, no," he said; "I'll keep that dog. He helped me to find you; he may
help me to find the other."

Handcuffed to the policeman I had to pass under the gaze of a crowd of
people, but they did not jeer me like the peasants in France had done at
my first arrest; these people, almost all of them, were antagonistic to
the police; they were gypsies, tramps, in fact, the Bohemian vagabond.

There were no onions strewn over this prison where I was now locked up.
This was a real jail with iron bars at the windows, the sight of which
put all thought of escape from my mind. In the cell there was only a
bench and a hammock. I dropped onto the bench and remained for a long
time with my head buried in my hands. Mattia and Bob, even with the help
of other friends, could never get me away from here. I got up and went
over to the window; the bars were strong and close together. The walls
were three feet thick. The ground beneath was paved with large stones.
The door was covered with a plate of sheet iron.... No, I could not
escape.

I began to wonder if it would be possible for me to prove my innocence,
despite Capi's presence in the church. Mattia and Bob could help me by
proving an alibi. If they could prove this I was saved in spite of the
mute testimony that my poor dog had carried against me. I asked the
jailer when he brought in some food if it would be long before I should
appear before the magistrate. I did not know then that in England you
are taken into court the day after arrest. The jailer, who seemed a
kindly sort of man, told me that it would certainly be the next day.

I had heard tales of prisoners finding messages from their friends in
the food that was brought in to them. I could not touch my food, but I
at once began to crumble my bread. I found nothing inside. There were
some potatoes also; I mashed them to a pulp, but I found not the
tiniest note. I did not sleep that night.

The next morning the jailer came into my cell carrying a jug of water
and a basin. He told me to wash myself if I wished to, for I was to
appear before the judge, and a good appearance never went against one.
When the jailer returned he told me to follow him. We went down several
passages, then came to a small door which he opened.

"Pass in," he said.

The room I entered was very close. I heard a confused murmur of voices.
Although my temples were throbbing and I could scarcely stand, I was
able to take in my surroundings. The room was of fair size with large
windows and high ceiling. The judge was seated on a raised platform.
Beneath him in front sat three other court officials. Near where I stood
was a gentleman wearing a robe and wig. I was surprised to find that
this was my lawyer. How was it I had an attorney? Where did he come
from?

Amongst the witnesses, I saw Bob and his two friends, the landlord of
the Old Oak Tavern, and some men whom I did not know. Then on another
stand opposite, amongst several other persons, I saw the policeman who
had arrested me. The public prosecutor in a few words stated the crime.
A robbery had been committed in St. George's Church. The thieves, a man
and a child, had climbed up a ladder and broken a window to get in. They
had with them a dog to give the alarm. At a quarter after one, a late
pedestrian had seen a light in the church and had at once aroused the
sexton. Several men ran to the church; the dog barked and the thieves
escaped through the window, leaving the dog behind them. The dog's
intelligence was remarkable. The next morning the animal had led the
policeman to the race-course where he had recognized his master, who was
none other than the accused now standing in the prisoner's dock. As to
the second thief, they were on his trail, and they hoped to arrest him
shortly.

There was little to be said for me; my friends tried to prove an alibi,
but the prosecutor said that I had ample time to meet my accomplice at
the church and then run to the Old Oak Tavern after. I was asked then
how I could account for my dog being in the church at quarter after one.
I replied that I could not say, for the dog had not been with me all
day. But I declared that I was innocent. My attorney tried to prove that
my dog had wandered into the church during the day and had been locked
in when the sexton closed the door. He did his best for me, but the
defense was weak. Then the judge said that I should be taken to the
county jail to wait for the Grand Jury to decide if I should, or should
not, be held for the assizes.

The assizes!

I fell back on my bench. Oh, why had I not listened to Mattia.



CHAPTER XXX

ESCAPE


I had not been acquitted because the judge was expecting the arrest of
the man who had entered the church with the child. They would then know
if I was this man's accomplice. They were on the trail, the prosecutor
had said, so I should have the shame and sorrow of appearing in the
prisoner's dock at the Assizes beside _him_.

That evening, just before dusk, I heard the clear notes of a cornet.
Mattia was there! Dear old Mattia! he wanted to tell me that he was near
and thinking of me. He was evidently in the street on the other side of
the wall opposite my window. I heard footsteps and the murmur of a
crowd. Mattia and Bob were probably giving a performance.

Suddenly I heard a clear voice call out in French, "To-morrow at
daybreak!" Then at once Mattia played his loudest on the cornet.

It did not need any degree of intelligence to understand that Mattia had
not addressed these French words to an English public. I was not sure
what they meant, but evidently I had to be on the alert at daybreak the
next morning. As soon as it was dark I got into my hammock, but it was
some time before I could go to sleep, although I was very tired. At
last I dropped off to sleep. When I awoke it was night. The stars shone
in the dark sky and silence reigned everywhere. A clock struck three. I
counted the hours and the quarter hours. Leaning against the wall I kept
my eyes fixed on the window. I watched the stars go out one by one. In
the distance I could hear the cocks crowing. It was daybreak.

I opened the window very softly. What did I expect? There were still the
iron bars and the high wall opposite. I could not get out, and yet
foolish though the thought was, I expected my freedom. The morning air
chilled me but I stayed by my window, looking out without knowing at
what, listening without knowing to what. A big white cloud came up in
the sky. It was daybreak. My heart throbbed wildly. Then I seemed to
hear a scratching on the wall, but I had heard no sound of footsteps. I
listened. The scratching continued. I saw a head appear above the wall.
In the dim light I recognized Bob.

He saw me with my face pressed against the bars.

"Silence!" he said softly.

He made a sign for me to move away from the window. Wondering, I obeyed.
He put a peashooter to his mouth and blew. A tiny ball came through the
air and fell at my feet. Bob's head disappeared.

I pounced on the ball. It was tissue paper made into a tiny ball like a
pea. The light was too dim for me to see what was written on it; I had
to wait till day. I closed my window cautiously and lay down again in
my hammock with the tiny bit of paper in my hand. How slowly the light
came! At last I was able to read what was written on the paper. I read:


     "To-morrow you will be taken in the train to the county jail. A
     policeman will be in the compartment with you. Keep near the same
     door by which you enter. At the end of forty minutes (count them
     carefully), the train will slacken speed as it nears a junction;
     then open the door and jump out. Climb the small hill on the left.
     We'll be there. Keep your courage up; above all, jump well forward
     and fall on your feet."


Saved! I should not appear before the Assizes! Good Mattia, dear old
Bob! How good of Bob to help Mattia, for Mattia, poor little fellow,
could not have done this alone.

I re-read the note. Forty minutes after the train starts.... Hill to the
left.... It was a risky thing to do to jump from a train, but even if I
killed myself in doing so, I would better do it. Better die than be
condemned as a thief.

Would they think of Capi?

After I had again read my note, I chewed it into a pulp.

The next day, in the afternoon, a policeman came into my cell and told
me to follow him. He was a man over fifty and I thought with
satisfaction that he did not appear to be very nimble.

Things turned out just as Bob had said. The train rolled off. I took my
place near the door where I had entered. The policeman sat opposite me;
we were alone in the compartment.

"Do you speak English?" asked the policeman.

"I understand if you don't talk too rapidly," I replied.

"Well, then, I want to give you a little advice, my boy," he said;
"don't try and fool the law. Just tell me how it all happened, and I'll
give you five shillings. It'll be easier for you if you have a little
money in jail."

I was about to say that I had nothing to confess, but I felt that might
annoy the man, so I said nothing.

"Just think it over," he continued, "and when you're in jail don't go
and tell the first comer, but send for me. It is better to have one who
is interested in you, and I'm very willing to help you."

I nodded my head.

"Ask for Dolphin; you'll remember my name?"

"Yes, sir."

I was leaning against the door. The window was down and the air blew in.
The policeman found that there was too much air so he moved into the
middle of the seat. My left hand stole softly outside and turned the
handle; with my right hand I held the door.

The minutes passed; the engine whistled and slackened its speed. The
moment had come. I pushed open the door quickly and sprang out as far
as I could. Fortunately, my hands, which I held out before me, touched
the grass, yet the shock was so great that I rolled on the ground
unconscious. When I came to my senses I thought that I was still in the
train for I felt myself being carried along. Looking round I saw that I
was lying at the bottom of a cart. Strange! My cheeks were wet. A soft
warm tongue was licking me. I turned slightly. An ugly yellow dog was
leaning over me. Mattia was kneeling beside me.

"You're saved," he said, pushing aside the dog.

"Where am I?"

"You are in a cart. Bob's driving."

"How goes it?" cried Bob from his seat. "Can you move your arms and
legs?"

I stretched out and did what he asked.

"Good," said Mattia; "nothing broken."

"What happened?"

"You jumped from the train as we told you, but the shock stunned you,
and you rolled into a ditch. When you didn't come, Bob left the cart,
crept down the hill, and carried you back in his arms. We thought you
were dead. Oh, Remi, I was afraid."

I stroked his hand. "And the policeman?" I asked.

"The train went on; it didn't stop."

My eyes again fell on the ugly yellow dog that was looking at me with
eyes that resembled Capi's. But Capi was white....

"What dog is that?" I asked.

Before Mattia could reply the ugly little animal had jumped on me,
licking me furiously and whining.

"It's Capi; we dyed him!" cried Mattia, laughing.

"Dyed him? Why?"

"So that he wouldn't be recognized. Now Bob wants to make you more
comfortable."

While Bob and Mattia were making me comfortable I asked them where we
were going.

"To Little Hampton," said Mattia, "where Bob's brother has a boat that
goes over to France to fetch butter and eggs from Normandy. We owe
everything to Bob. What could a poor little wretch like me have done
alone? It was Bob's idea that you jump from the train."

"And Capi? Who's idea was it to get him?"

"Mine. But it was Bob's to paint him yellow so that he wouldn't be
recognized after we stole him from Policeman Jerry. The judge called
Jerry 'intelligent'; he wasn't so very intelligent to let us get Capi
away. True, Capi smelled me and almost got off alone. Bob knows the
tricks of dog thieves."

"And your foot?"

"Better, or almost better. I haven't had time to think of it."

Night was falling. We had still a long distance to go.

"Are you afraid?" asked Mattia, as I lay there in silence.

"No, not afraid," I answered, "for I don't think that I shall be
caught. But it seems to me that in running away I admit my guilt. That
worries me."

"Better anything, Bob and I thought, than that you should appear at the
Assizes. Even if you got off it's a bad thing to have gone through."

Convinced that after the train stopped the policeman would lose no time
looking for me, we went ahead as quickly as possible. The villages
through which we drove were very quiet; lights were seen in only a few
of the windows. Mattia and I got under a cover. For some time a cold
wind had been blowing and when we passed our tongues over our lips we
tasted salt. We were nearing the sea. Soon we saw a light flashing every
now and again. It was a lighthouse. Suddenly Bob stopped his horse, and
jumping down from the cart, told us to wait there. He was going to see
his brother to ask him if it would be safe for him to take us on his
boat.

Bob seemed to be away a very long time. We did not speak. We could hear
the waves breaking on the shore at a short distance. Mattia was
trembling and I also.

"It is cold," he whispered.

Was it the cold that made us shake? When a cow or a sheep in the field
at the side touched against the fence we trembled still more. There were
footsteps on the road. Bob was returning. My fate had been decided. A
rough-looking sailor wearing a sou'wester and an oilskin hat was with
Bob.

"This is my brother," said Bob; "he'll take you on his boat. So we'll
have to part now; no one need know that I brought you here."

I wanted to thank Bob but he cut me short. I grasped his hand.

"Don't speak of it," he said lightly, "you two boys helped me out the
other night. One good turn deserves another. And I'm pleased to have
been able to help a friend of Mattia's."

We followed Bob's brother down some winding quiet streets till we came
to the docks. He pointed to a boat, without saying a word. In a few
moments we were on board. He told us to go down below into a little
cabin.

"I start in two hours' time," he said; "stay there and don't make a
sound."

But we were not trembling now. We sat in the dark side by side.



CHAPTER XXXI

HUNTING FOR THE SWAN


For some time after Bob's brother left we heard only the noise of the
wind and the sea dashing against the keel, then footsteps were heard on
the deck above and the grinding of pulleys. A sail was hoisted, then
suddenly the boat leaned to one side and began to rock. In a few moments
it was pitching heavily on the rough sea.

"Poor Mattia," I said, taking his hand.

"I don't care, we're saved," he said; "what if I am seasick?"

The next day I passed my time between the cabin and deck. Mattia wanted
to be left alone. When at last the skipper pointed out Harfleur I
hurried down to the cabin to tell him the good news. As it was late in
the afternoon when we arrived at Harfleur, Bob's brother told us that we
could sleep on the boat that night if we wished.

"When you want to go back to England," he said the next morning, as we
wished him good-by, and thanked him for what he had done for us, "just
remember that the _Eclipse_ sails from here every Tuesday."

It was a kind invitation, but Mattia and I each of us had our reason for
not wishing to cross the sea again ... yet awhile.

Fortunately we had our profits from Bob's performance. In all we had
twenty-seven francs and fifty centimes. Mattia wanted to give Bob the
twenty-seven francs in payment for the expenses he had been put to for
my flight, but he would not accept a penny.

"Well, which way shall we go?" I asked when we landed in France.

"By the canal," replied Mattia promptly, "because I have an idea. I
believe the _Swan_ is on the canal this summer, now that Arthur's been
so ill, and I think we ought to find it," he added.

"But what about Lise and the others?" I asked.

"We'll see them while we're looking for Mrs. Milligan. As we go up the
canal, we can stop and see Lise."

With a map that we bought, we searched for the nearest river: it was the
Seine.

"We'll go up the Seine and ask all the fishermen along the banks if
they've seen the _Swan_. It isn't like any other boat from what you say,
and if they've seen it they'll remember."

Before beginning the long journey that was probably ahead of us I bought
some soft soap to clean Capi. To me, Capi yellow--was not Capi. We
washed him thoroughly, each one taking it in turns until he was tired
out. But Bob's dye was an excellent quality and when we had finished he
was still yellow, but a shade paler. It would require many shampoos
before we could get him back to his original color. Fortunately Normandy
is a country of brooks and each day we gave him a bath.

We reached the top of a hill one morning and Mattia spied the Seine away
ahead of us, winding in a large curve. From then on, we began to
question the people. Had they seen the _Swan_, a beautiful barge with a
veranda? No one had seen it. It must have passed in the night. We went
on to Rouen, where again we commenced our questions, but with no better
result. We would not be discouraged but went forward questioning every
one. We had to stop to get money for our food as we went along, so it
took us five weeks to reach the suburbs of Paris.

Fortunately, upon arriving at Charenton, we soon knew which direction we
had to take. When we put the important question, we received for the
first time the answer for which we had longed. A boat which resembled
the _Swan_, a large pleasure boat, had passed that way; turning to the
left, it had continued up the Seine.

We were by the docks. Mattia was so overjoyed that he commenced to dance
amongst the fishermen. Stopping suddenly he took his violin and
frantically played a triumphal march. While he played I questioned the
man who had seen the barge. Without a doubt it was the _Swan_. It had
passed through Charenton about two months ago.

Two months! What a lead it had! But what did that matter! We had our
legs and they had the legs of two good horses and we should join them
some day. The question of time did not count. The great thing, the
wonderful thing was that the _Swan_ was found!

"Who was right?" cried Mattia.

If I had dared I would have admitted to Mattia that I had very great
hopes, but I felt that I could not analyze my thoughts, not even to
myself. We had no need to stop now and question the people. The _Swan_
was ahead of us. We had only to follow the Seine. We went on our way,
getting nearer to where Lise lived. I wondered if she had seen the barge
as it passed through the locks by her home. At night we never complained
of weariness and we were always ready the next morning to set out at an
early hour.

"Wake me up," said Mattia, who was fond of sleeping. And when I woke him
he was never long in jumping to his feet.

To economize we ate hard-boiled eggs, which we bought from the grocers,
and bread. Yet Mattia was very fond of good things.

"I hope Mrs. Milligan has that cook still who made those tarts," he
said; "apricot tarts must be fine!"

"Haven't you ever tasted them?"

"I've tasted apple puffs, but I've never tasted apricot tarts. I've seen
them. What are those little white things they stick all over the fruit?"

"Almonds."

"Oh...." And Mattia opened his mouth as though he were swallowing a
whole tart.

At each lock we had news of the _Swan;_ every one had seen the
beautiful barge and they spoke of the kind English lady and the little
boy lying on a sofa under the veranda.

We drew nearer to Lise's home, two more days, then one, then only a few
hours. We came in sight of the house. We were not walking now, we were
running. Capi, who seemed to know where we were going, started ahead at
a gallop. He was going to let Lise know that we were coming. She would
come to meet us. But when we got to the house there was a woman standing
at the door whom we did not know.

"Where's Madame Suriot?" we inquired.

For a moment she stared at us as though we were asking a foolish
question.

"She doesn't live here now," she said at last; "she's in Egypt."

"In Egypt!"

Mattia and I looked at one another in amazement. Egypt! We did not know
just where Egypt was situated, but we thought, vaguely, it was far away,
very far, somewhere beyond the seas.

"And Lise? Do you know Lise?"

"The little dumb girl? Yes, I know her! She went off with an English
lady on a barge."

Lise on the _Swan!_ Were we dreaming? Mattia and I stared at one
another.

"Are you Remi?" then asked the woman.

"Yes."

"Well, Suriot was drowned...."

"Drowned!"

"Yes, he fell into the lock and got caught below on a nail. And his
poor wife didn't know what to do, and then a lady that she lived with
before she married was going to Egypt, and she told her she would take
her as nurse to look after the children. She didn't know what to do with
little Lise and while she was wondering an English lady and her little
sick son came along the canal in a barge. They talked. And the English
lady, who was looking for some one to play with her son, for he was
tired of being always alone, said she would take Lise along and she
would educate the little girl. The lady said she would have doctors who
would cure her and she would be able to speak some day. Before they
went, Lise wanted her aunt to explain to me what I was to say to you if
you came to see her. That's all."

I was so amazed that I could find no words. But Mattia never lost his
head like me.

"Where did the English lady go?" he asked.

"To Switzerland. Lise was to have written to me so that I could give you
her address, but I haven't received the letter yet."



CHAPTER XXXII

FINDING A REAL MOTHER


"Forward! March! Children!" cried Mattia after we had thanked the woman.
"It is not only Arthur and Mrs. Milligan now that we are going after,
but Lise. What luck! Who knows what's in store for us!"

We went on our way in search of the _Swan_, only stopping just to sleep
and to earn a few sous.

"From Switzerland one goes to Italy," said Mattia softly. "If, while
running after Mrs. Milligan, we get to Lucca, how happy my little
Christina will be."

Poor dear Mattia! He was helping me to seek those I loved and I had done
nothing to help him see his little sister.

At Lyons we gained on the _Swan_. It was now only six weeks ahead of us.
I doubted if we could catch up with it before it reached Switzerland.
And then I did not know that the river Rhone was not navigable up to the
Lake of Geneva. We had thought that Mrs. Milligan would go right to
Switzerland on her boat. What was my surprise when arriving at the next
town to see the _Swan_ in the distance. We began to run along the banks
of the river. What was the matter? Everything was closed up on the
barge. There were no flowers on the veranda. What had happened to
Arthur? We stopped, looking at each other both with the same sorrowful
thoughts.

A man who had charge of the boat told us that the English lady had gone
to Switzerland with a sick boy and a little dumb girl. They had gone in
a carriage with a maid; the other servants had followed with the
baggage. We breathed again.

"Where is the lady?" asked Mattia.

"She has taken a villa at Vevy, but I cannot say where; she is going to
spend the summer there."

We started for Vevy. Now they were not traveling away from us. They had
stopped and we should be sure to find them at Vevy if we searched. We
arrived there with three sous in our pockets and the soles off our
boots. But Vevy is not a little village; it is a town, and as for asking
for Mrs. Milligan, or even an English lady with a sick son and a dumb
girl, we knew that that would be absurd. There are so many English in
Vevy; the place is almost like an English pleasure resort. The best way,
we thought, was to go to all the houses where they might be likely to
live. That would not be difficult; we had only to play our music in
every street. We tried everywhere, but yet we could see no signs of Mrs.
Milligan.

We went from the lake to the mountains, from the mountains to the lake,
looking to the right and to the left, questioning from time to time
people who, from their expression, we thought would be disposed to
listen and reply. Some one sent us to a chalet built way up on the
mountain; another assured us that she lived down by the lake. They were
indeed English ladies who lived up in the chalet on the mountain and the
villa down by the lake; but not our Mrs. Milligan.

One afternoon we were playing in the middle of the road. The house
before us had a large iron gate; the house behind stood way back in a
garden. In the front of it there was a stone wall. I was singing my
loudest. I sung the first verse of my Neapolitan song and was about to
commence the second when we heard a weak strange voice singing. Who
could it be? What a strange voice!

"Arthur?" inquired Mattia.

"No, no, it is not Arthur. I have never heard that voice before."

But Capi commenced to whine and gave every sign of intense joy while
jumping against the wall.

"Who is singing?" I cried, unable to contain myself.

"Remi!" called a weak voice.

My name instead of an answer! Mattia and I looked at one another,
thunderstruck. As we stood looking stupidly into each other's faces, I
saw a handkerchief being waved at the end of the wall. We ran to the
spot. It was not until we got to the hedge which surrounded the other
side of the garden that we saw the one who was waving.

Lise! At last we had found her and not far away were Mrs. Milligan and
Arthur!

But who had sung? That was the question that Mattia and I asked as soon
as we found words.

"I," answered Lise.

Lise was singing! Lise was talking!

The doctors had said that one day Lise would recover her speech, and
very probably, under the shock of a violent emotion, but I did not think
that it could be possible. And yet the miracle had happened, and it was
upon knowing that I had come to her and hearing me sing the Neapolitan
song I used to sing to her, that she had felt this intense emotion, and
was restored to her voice. I was so overcome at this thought that I had
to stretch out my hand to steady myself.

"Where is Mrs. Milligan?" I asked, "and Arthur?"

Lise moved her lips, but she could only utter inarticulate sounds, then
impatiently she used the language of her hands, for her tongue was still
clumsy in forming words. She pointed down the garden and we saw Arthur
lying in an invalid's chair. On one side of him was his mother, and on
the other ... Mr. James Milligan. In fear, in fact almost terror, I
stooped down behind the hedge. Lise must have wondered why I did so.
Then I made a sign to her to go.

"Go, Lise, or you'll betray me," I said. "Come to-morrow here at nine
o'clock and be alone, then I can talk to you."

She hesitated for a moment, then went up the garden.

"We ought not to wait till to-morrow to speak to Mrs. Milligan," said
Mattia. "In the meantime that uncle might kill Arthur. He has never seen
me and I'm going to see Mrs. Milligan at once and tell her."

There was some reason in what Mattia proposed, so I let him go off,
telling him that I would wait for him at a short distance under a big
chestnut tree. I waited a long time for Mattia. More than a dozen times
I wondered if I had not made a mistake in letting him go. At last I saw
him coming back, accompanied by Mrs. Milligan. I ran to her, and,
seizing the hand that she held out to me, I bent over it. But she put
her arms round me and, stooping down, kissed me tenderly on the
forehead.

"Poor, dear child," she murmured.

With her beautiful white fingers she pushed the hair back from my
forehead and looked at me for a long time.

"Yes, yes," she whispered softly.

I was too happy to say a word.

"Mattia and I have had a long talk," she said, "but I want you to tell
me yourself how you came to enter the Driscoll family."

I told her what she asked and she only interrupted me to tell me to be
exact on certain points. Never had I been listened to with such
attention. Her eyes did not leave mine.

When I had finished she was silent for some time, still looking at me.
At last she said: "This is a very serious matter and we must act
prudently. But from this moment you must consider yourself as the
friend," she hesitated a little, "as the brother of Arthur. In two
hours' time go to the Hotel des Alpes; for the time being you will stay
there. I will send some one to the hotel to meet you. I am obliged to
leave you now."

Again she kissed me and after having shaken hands with Mattia she walked
away quickly.

"What did you tell Mrs. Milligan?" I demanded of Mattia.

"All that I have said to you and a lot more things," he replied. "Ah,
she is a kind lady, a beautiful lady!"

"Did you see Arthur?"

"Only from a distance, but near enough to see that he looked a nice sort
of boy."

I continued to question Mattia, but he answered me vaguely.

Although we were in our ragged street suits, we were received at the
hotel by a servant in a black suit and a white tie. He took us to our
apartment. How beautiful we thought our bedroom. There were two white
beds side by side. The windows opened onto a balcony overlooking the
lake. The servant asked us what we would like for dinner, which he would
serve us on the balcony if we wished.

"Have you any tarts?" asked Mattia.

"Yes, rhubarb tarts, strawberry tarts, and gooseberry tarts."

"Good. Then you can serve these tarts."

"All three?"

"Certainly."

"And what entrée? What meat? Vegetables?"

At each offer Mattia opened his eyes, but he would not allow himself to
be disconcerted.

"Anything, just what you like," he replied coolly.

The butler left the room gravely.

The next day Mrs. Milligan came to see us; she was accompanied by a
tailor and a shirt maker who took our measures for some suits and
shirts. Mrs. Milligan told us that Lise was still trying to talk and
that the doctor had declared that she would soon be cured, then after
having spent an hour with us she left us, again kissing me tenderly and
shaking hands warmly with Mattia.

For four days she came, each time she was more affectionate and loving
to me, yet still with a certain restraint. The fifth day the maid, whom
I had known on the _Swan_, came in her place. She told us that Mrs.
Milligan was expecting us and that a carriage was at the hotel doors to
take us to her. Mattia took his seat in the brougham as though he had
been used to riding in a carriage all his life. Capi also jumped in
without any embarrassment and sat down on the velvet cushions.

The drive was short, it seemed to me very short, for I was like one in a
dream, my head filled with foolish ideas, or at least what I thought
might be foolish. We were shown into a drawing-room. Mrs. Milligan,
Arthur, and Lise were there. Arthur held out his arms. I rushed over to
him, then I kissed Lise. Mrs. Milligan kissed me.

"At last," she said, "the day has come when you can take the place that
belongs to you."

I looked to her to ask her to explain. She went over to a door and
opened it. Then came the grand surprise! Mother Barberin entered. In her
arms she carried some baby's clothes, a white cashmere pelisse, a lace
bonnet, some woolen shoes. She had only time to put these things on the
table before I was hugging her. While I fondled her, Mrs. Milligan gave
an order to the servant. I heard only the name of Milligan, but I looked
up quickly. I know that I turned pale.

"You have nothing to fear," said Mrs. Milligan gently; "come over here
and place your hand in mine."

James Milligan came into the room, smiling and showing his white pointed
teeth. When he saw me, the smile turned to a horrible grimace. Mrs.
Milligan did not give him time to speak.

"I asked for you to come here," she said, her voice shaking, "to
introduce you to my eldest son, whom I have at last found"; she pressed
my hand. "But you have met him already; you saw him at the home of the
man who stole him, when you went there to inquire after his health."

"What does this mean?" demanded Milligan.

"That the man who is serving a sentence for robbing a church has made a
full confession. He has stated how he stole my baby and took it to Paris
and left it there. Here are the clothes that my child wore. It was this
good woman who brought up my son. Do you wish to read this confession.
Do you wish to examine these clothes?"

James Milligan looked at us as though he would liked to have strangled
us, then he turned on his heels. At the threshold he turned round and
said: "We'll see what the courts will think of this boy's story."

My mother, I may call her so now, replied quietly: "_You_ may take the
matter to the courts; I have not done so because you are my husband's
brother."

The door closed. Then, for the first time in my life, I kissed my mother
as she kissed me.

"Will you tell your mother that I kept the secret?" said Mattia, coming
up to us.

"You knew all, then?"

"I told Mattia not to speak of all this to you," said my mother, "for
though I did believe that you were my son, I had to have certain proofs,
and get Madame Barberin here with the clothes. How unhappy we should
have been if, after all, we had made a mistake. We have these proofs and
we shall never be parted again. You will live with your mother and
brother?" Then, pointing to Mattia and Lise, "and," she added, "with
those whom you loved when you were poor."



CHAPTER XXXIII

THE DREAM COME TRUE


Years have passed. I now live in the home of my ancestors, Milligan
Park. The miserable little wanderer who slept so often in a stable was
heir to an old historical castle. It is a beautiful old place about
twenty miles west of the spot where I jumped from the train to escape
from the police. I live here with my mother, my brother and my wife.

We are going to baptize our first child, little Mattia. To-night all
those who were my friends in my poorer days will meet under my roof to
celebrate the event and I am going to offer to each one as a little
token a copy of my "Memoirs," which for the last six months I have been
writing and which to-day I have received from the bookbinder.

This reunion of all our friends is a surprise for my wife; she will see
her father, her sister, her brothers, her aunt. Only my mother and
brother are in the secret. One will be missing from this feast. Alas!
poor master! poor Vitalis! I could not do much for you in life, but at
my request, my mother has had erected a marble tomb and placed your
bust, the bust of Carlo Balzini, upon the tomb. A copy of this bust is
before me now as I write, and often while penning my "Memoirs," I have
looked up and my eyes have caught yours. I have not forgotten you; I
shall never forget you, dear master, dear Vitalis.

Here comes my mother leaning on my brother's arm, for it is now the son
who supports the mother, for Arthur has grown big and strong. A few
steps behind my mother comes an old woman dressed like a French peasant
and carrying in her arms a little baby robed in a white pelisse. It is
dear Mother Barberin, the little baby is my son Mattia.

Arthur brings me a copy of the _Times_ and points to a correspondence
from Vienna which states that Mattia, the great musician, has completed
his series of concerts, and that, in spite of his tremendous success in
Vienna, he is returning to England to keep an engagement which cannot be
broken. I did not need to read the article for, although all the world
now calls Mattia the Chopin of the violin, I have watched him develop
and grow. When we were all three working together under the direction of
our tutors, Mattia made little progress in Latin and Greek, but quickly
outstripped his professors in music. Espinassous, the barber-musician of
Mendes, had been right.

A footman brings me a telegram:


     "Sea very rough! Alas! Have been very ill, but managed to stop on
     my way at Paris for Christina. Shall be with you at 4 o'clock. Send
     carriage to meet us.   MATTIA."


Mentioning Christina, I glanced at Arthur, but he turned away his eyes.
I knew that Arthur loved Mattia's little sister, and I knew that in
time, although not just yet, my mother would become reconciled to the
match. Birth was not everything. She had not opposed my marriage, and
later, when she saw that it was for Arthur's happiness, she would not
oppose his.

Lise comes down the gallery, my beautiful wife. She passes her arm round
my mother's neck.

"Mother dear," she said, "there is some secret afoot and I believe that
you are in the plot. I know if it is a surprise and you are in it, it is
something for our happiness, but I am none the less curious."

"Come, Lise, you shall have the surprise now," I said, as I heard the
sound of carriage wheels on the gravel outside.

One by one our guests arrive and Lise and I stand in the hall to welcome
them. There is Mr. Acquin, Aunt Catherine and Etiennette, and a bronze
young man who has just returned from a botanical expedition and is now
the famous botanist--Benjamin Acquin. Then comes a young man and an old
man. This journey is doubly interesting to them for when they leave us
they are going to Wales to visit the mines. The young one is to make
observations which he will carry back to his own country to strengthen
the high position which he now holds in the Truyère mine, and the other
to add to the fine collection of minerals which the town of Varses
has honored him by accepting. It is the old professor and Alexix.
Lise and I greet our guests, the landau dashes up from the opposite
direction with Arthur, Christina and Mattia. Following in its wake is a
dog cart driven by a smart looking man, beside whom is seated a rugged
sailor. The gentleman holding the reins is Bob, now very prosperous, and
the man by his side is his brother, who helped me to escape from
England.

[Illustration: "LET US NOW PLAY FOR THOSE WE LOVE."]

When the baptismal feast is over, Mattia draws me aside to the window.

"We have often playful to indifferent people," he said; "let us now, on
this memorable occasion, play for those we love?"

"To you there is no pleasure without music, eh, Mattia, old boy," I
said, laughing; "do you remember how you scared our cow?"

Mattia grinned.

From a beautiful box, lined with velvet, he drew out an old violin which
would not have brought two francs if he had wished to sell it. I took
from its coverings a harp, the wood of which had been washed so often by
the rain, that it was now restored to its original color.

"Will you sing your Neapolitan song?" asked Mattia.

"Yes, for it was that which gave Lise back her speech," I said, smiling
at my wife who stood beside me.

Our guests drew round us in a circle. A dog suddenly came forward. Good
old Capi, he is very old and deaf but he still has good eyesight. From
the cushion which he occupies he has recognized the harp and up he
comes, limping, for "the Performance." In his jaws he holds a saucer; he
wants to make the rounds of the "distinguished audience." He tries to
walk on his two hind paws, but strength fails him, so he sits down
gravely and with his paw on his heart he bows to the society.

Our song ended, Capi gets up as best he can and "makes the round." Each
one drops something into the saucer and Capi delightedly brings it to
me. It is the best collection he has ever made. There are only gold and
silver coins--170 francs.

I kiss him on his cold nose as in other days, and the thought of the
miseries of my childhood gives me an idea. I tell my guests that this
sum shall be the first subscription to found a Home for little street
musicians. My mother and I will donate the rest.

"Dear Madam," said Mattia, bending over my mother's hand, "let me have a
little share in this good work. The proceeds of my first concert in
London will be added to Capi's collection."

And Capi barked approval.


THE END





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