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He himself never lets a
mouthful go past him, though it's little better he seems to be for it
all! He can't even grow decently stout, the wretched fellow, to such a
degree do his bad instincts prey on him!"

She had stepped up to the window whilst speaking, and now saw Florent
crossing the Rue Rambuteau on his way to the fish market. There was
a very large arrival of fish that morning; the tray-like baskets were
covered with rippling silver, and the auction rooms roared with the
hubbub of their sales. Lisa kept her eyes on the bony shoulders of her
brother-in-law as he made his way into the pungent smells of the market,
stooping beneath the sickening sensation which they brought him; and
the glance with which she followed his steps was that of a woman bent on
combat and resolved to be victorious.

When she turned round again, Quenu was getting up. As he sat on the edge
of the bed in his night-shirt, still warm from the pleasant heat of the
eider-down quilt and with his feet resting on the soft fluffy rug below
him, he looked quite pale, quite distressed at the misunderstanding
between his wife and his brother. Lisa, however, gave him one of her
sweetest smiles, and he felt deeply touched when she handed him his
socks.



CHAPTER IV

Marjolin had been found in a heap of cabbages at the Market of the
Innocents. He was sleeping under the shelter of a large white-hearted
one, a broad leaf of which concealed his rosy childish face It was never
known what poverty-stricken mother had laid him there. When he was found
he was already a fine little fellow of two or three years of age,
very plump and merry, but so backward and dense that he could scarcely
stammer a few words, and only seemed able to smile. When one of the
vegetable saleswomen found him lying under the big white cabbage she
raised such a loud cry of surprise that her neighbours rushed up to
see what was the matter, while the youngster, still in petticoats, and
wrapped in a scrap of old blanket, held out his arms towards her.
He could not tell who his mother was, but opened his eyes in wide
astonishment as he squeezed against the shoulder of a stout tripe dealer
who eventually took him up. The whole market busied itself about him
throughout the day. He soon recovered confidence, ate slices of bread
and butter, and smiled at all the women. The stout tripe dealer kept him
for a time, then a neighbour took him; and a month later a third woman
gave him shelter. When they asked him where his mother was, he waved his
little hand with a pretty gesture which embraced all the women present.
He became the adopted child of the place, always clinging to the skirts
of one or another of the women, and always finding a corner of a bed and
a share of a meal somewhere. Somehow, too, he managed to find clothes,
and he even had a copper or two at the bottom of his ragged pockets. It
was a buxom, ruddy girl dealing in medicinal herbs who gave him the name
of Marjolin,[*] though no one knew why.

[*] Literally "Marjoram."

When Marjolin was nearly four years of age, old Mother Chantemesse also
happened to find a child, a little girl, lying on the footway of the Rue
Saint Denis, near the corner of the market. Judging by the little one's
size, she seemed to be a couple of years old, but she could already
chatter like a magpie, murdering her words in an incessant childish
babble. Old Mother Chantemesse after a time gathered that her name was
Cadine, and that on the previous evening her mother had left her sitting
on a doorstep, with instructions to wait till she returned. The child
had fallen asleep there, and did not cry. She related that she was
beaten at home; and she gladly followed Mother Chantemesse, seemingly
quite enchanted with that huge square, where there were so many people
and such piles of vegetables. Mother Chantemesse, a retail dealer by
trade, was a crusty but very worthy woman, approaching her sixtieth
year. She was extremely fond of children, and had lost three boys of her
own when they were mere babies. She came to the opinion that the chit
she had found "was far too wide awake to kick the bucket," and so she
adopted her.

One evening, however, as she was going off home with her right hand
clasping Cadine's, Marjolin came up and unceremoniously caught hold of
her left hand.

"Nay, my lad," said the old woman, stopping, "the place is filled. Have
you left your big Therese, then? What a fickle little gadabout you are!"

The boy gazed at her with his smiling eyes, without letting go of her
hand. He looked so pretty with his curly hair that she could not resist
him. "Well, come along, then, you little scamp," said she; "I'll put you
to bed as well."

Thus she made her appearance in the Rue au Lard, where she lived, with
a child clinging to either hand. Marjolin made himself quite at home
there. When the two children proved too noisy the old woman cuffed them,
delighted to shout and worry herself, and wash the youngsters, and pack
them away beneath the blankets. She had fixed them up a little bed in
an old costermonger's barrow, the wheels and shafts of which had
disappeared. It was like a big cradle, a trifle hard, but retaining a
strong scent of the vegetables which it had long kept fresh and cool
beneath a covering of damp cloths. And there, when four years old,
Cadine and Marjolin slept locked in each other's arms.

They grew up together, and were always to be seen with their arms about
one another's waist. At night time old Mother Chantemesse heard them
prattling softly. Cadine's clear treble went chattering on for hours
together, while Marjolin listened with occasional expressions of
astonishment vented in a deeper tone. The girl was a mischievous young
creature, and concocted all sorts of stories to frighten her companion;
telling him, for instance, that she had one night seen a man, dressed
all in white, looking at them and putting out a great red tongue, at
the foot of the bed. Marjolin quite perspired with terror, and anxiously
asked for further particulars; but the girl would then begin to jeer at
him, and end by calling him a big donkey. At other times they were
not so peaceably disposed, but kicked each other beneath the blankets.
Cadine would pull up her legs, and try to restrain her laughter as
Marjolin missed his aim, and sent his feet banging against the wall.
When this happened, old Madame Chantemesse was obliged to get up to put
the bed-clothes straight again; and, by way of sending the children to
sleep, she would administer a box on the ear to both of them. For a long
time their bed was a sort of playground. They carried their toys into
it, and munched stolen carrots and turnips as they lay side by side.
Every morning their adopted mother was amazed at the strange things she
found in the bed--pebbles, leaves, apple cores, and dolls made out of
scraps of rags. When the very cold weather came, she went off to her
work, leaving them sleeping there, Cadine's black mop mingling with
Marjolin's sunny curls, and their mouths so near together that they
looked as though they were keeping each other warm with their breath.

The room in the Rue au Lard was a big, dilapidated garret, with a single
window, the panes of which were dimmed by the rain. The children would
play at hide-and-seek in the tall walnut wardrobe and underneath Mother
Chantemesse's colossal bed. There were also two or three tables in the
room, and they crawled under these on all fours. They found the place a
very charming playground, on account of the dim light and the vegetables
scattered about in the dark corners. The street itself, too, narrow and
very quiet, with a broad arcade opening into the Rue de la Lingerie,
provided them with plenty of entertainment. The door of the house was by
the side of the arcade; it was a low door and could only be opened half
way owing to the near proximity of the greasy corkscrew staircase. The
house, which had a projecting pent roof and a bulging front, dark with
damp, and displaying greenish drain-sinks near the windows of each
floor, also served as a big toy for the young couple. They spent their
mornings below in throwing stones up into the drain-sinks, and the
stones thereupon fell down the pipes with a very merry clatter. In thus
amusing themselves, however, they managed to break a couple of windows,
and filled the drains with stones, so that Mother Chantemesse, who had
lived in the house for three and forty years, narrowly escaped being
turned out of it.

Cadine and Marjolin then directed their attention to the vans and drays
and tumbrels which were drawn up in the quiet street. They clambered on
to the wheels, swung from the dangling chains, and larked about amongst
the piles of boxes and hampers. Here also were the back premises of the
commission agents of the Rue de la Poterie--huge, gloomy warehouses,
each day filled and emptied afresh, and affording a constant succession
of delightful hiding-places, where the youngsters buried themselves
amidst the scent of dried fruits, oranges, and fresh apples. When
they got tired of playing in his way, they went off to join old
Madame Chantemesse at the Market of the Innocents. They arrived there
arm-in-arm, laughing gaily as they crossed the streets with never the
slightest fear of being run over by the endless vehicles. They knew the
pavement well, and plunged their little legs knee-deep in the vegetable
refuse without ever slipping. They jeered merrily at any porter in
heavy boots who, in stepping over an artichoke stem, fell sprawling
full-length upon the ground. They were the rosy-cheeked familiar spirits
of those greasy streets. They were to be seen everywhere.

On rainy days they walked gravely beneath the shelter of a ragged old
umbrella, with which Mother Chantemesse had protected her stock-in-trade
for twenty years, and sticking it up in a corner of the market they
called it their house. On sunny days they romped to such a degree that
when evening came they were almost too tired to move. They bathed their
feet in the fountains, dammed up the gutters, or hid themselves beneath
piles of vegetables, and remained there prattling to each other just as
they did in bed at night.



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