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People passing some huge mountain of cos or
cabbage lettuces often heard a muffled sound of chatter coming from
it. And when the green-stuff was removed, the two children would be
discovered lying side by side on their couch of verdure, their eyes
glistening uneasily like those of birds discovered in the depth of a
thicket. As time went on, Cadine could not get along without Marjolin,
and Marjolin began to cry when he lost sight of Cadine. If they happened
to get separated, they sought one another behind the petticoats of every
stallkeeper in the markets, amongst the boxes and under the cabbages. If
was, indeed, chiefly under the cabbages that they grew up and learned to
love each other.

Marjolin was nearly eight years old, and Cadine six, when old Madame
Chantemesse began to reproach them for their idleness. She told them
that she would interest them in her business, and pay them a sou a day
to assist her in paring her vegetables. During the first few days the
children displayed eager zeal; they squatted down on either side of
the big flat basket with little knives in their hands, and worked away
energetically. Mother Chantemesse made a specialty of pared vegetables;
on her stall, covered with a strip of damp black lining, were little
lots of potatoes, turnips, carrots, and white onions, arranged in
pyramids of four--three at the base and one at the apex, all quite ready
to be popped into the pans of dilatory housewives. She also had bundles
duly stringed in readiness for the soup-pot--four leeks, three carrots,
a parsnip, two turnips, and a couple of springs of celery. Then there
were finely cut vegetables for julienne soup laid out on squares of
paper, cabbages cut into quarters, and little heaps of tomatoes and
slices of pumpkin which gleamed like red stars and golden crescents
amidst the pale hues of the other vegetables. Cadine evinced much more
dexterity than Marjolin, although she was younger. The peelings of the
potatoes she pared were so thin that you could see through them; she
tied up the bundles for the soup-pot so artistically that they looked
like bouquets; and she had a way of making the little heaps she set up,
though they contained but three carrots or turnips, look like very big
ones. The passers-by would stop and smile when she called out in her
shrill childish voice: "Madame! madame! come and try me! Each little
pile for two sous."

She had her regular customers, and her little piles and bundles were
widely known. Old Mother Chantemesse, seated between the two children,
would indulge in a silent laugh which made her bosom rise almost to
her chin, at seeing them working away so seriously. She paid them their
daily sous most faithfully. But they soon began to weary of the little
heaps and bundles; they were growing up, and began to dream of some more
lucrative business. Marjolin remained very childish for his years, and
this irritated Cadine. He had no more brains than a cabbage, she often
said. And it was, indeed, quite useless for her to devise any plan for
him to make money; he never earned any. He could not even do an errand
satisfactorily. The girl, on the other hand, was very shrewd. When but
eight years old she obtained employment from one of those women who sit
on a bench in the neighbourhood of the markets provided with a basket
of lemons, and employ a troop of children to go about selling them.
Carrying the lemons in her hands and offering them at two for three
sous, Cadine thrust them under every woman's nose, and ran after every
passer-by. Her hands empty, she hastened back for a fresh supply. She
was paid two sous for every dozen lemons that she sold, and on good
days she could earn some five or six sous. During the following year
she hawked caps at nine sous apiece, which proved a more profitable
business; only she had to keep a sharp look-out, as street trading of
this kind is forbidden unless one be licensed. However, she scented
a policeman at a distance of a hundred yards; and the caps forthwith
disappeared under her skirts, whilst she began to munch an apple with
an air of guileless innocence. Then she took to selling pastry, cakes,
cherry-tarts, gingerbread, and thick yellow maize biscuits on wicker
trays. Marjolin, however, ate up nearly the whole of her stock-in-trade.
At last, when she was eleven years old, she succeeded in realising a
grand idea which had long been worrying her. In a couple of months she
put by four francs, bought a small _hotte_,[*] and then set up as a
dealer in birds' food.

[*] A basket carried on the back.--Translator.

It was a big affair. She got up early in the morning and purchased her
stock of groundsel, millet, and bird-cake from the wholesale
dealers. Then she set out on her day's work, crossing the river, and
perambulating the Latin Quarter from the Rue Saint Jacques to the Rue
Dauphine, and even to the Luxembourg. Marjolin used to accompany her,
but she would not let him carry the basket. He was only fit to call out,
she said; and so, in his thick, drawling voice, he would raise the cry,
"Chickweed for the little birds!"

Then Cadine herself, with her flute-like voice, would start on a strange
scale of notes ending in a clear, protracted alto, "Chickweed for the
little birds!"

They each took one side of the road, and looked up in the air as they
walked along. In those days Marjolin wore a big scarlet waistcoat
which hung down to his knees; it had belonged to the defunct Monsieur
Chantemesse, who had been a cab-driver. Cadine for her part wore a white
and blue check gown, made out of an old tartan of Madame Chantemesse's.
All the canaries in the garrets of the Latin Quarter knew them; and, as
they passed along, repeating their cry, each echoing the other's voice,
every cage poured out a song.

Cadine sold water-cress, too. "Two sous a bunch! Two sous a bunch!" And
Marjolin went into the shops to offer it for sale. "Fine water-cress!
Health for the body! Fine fresh water-cress!"

However, the new central markets had just been erected, and the girl
would stand gazing in ecstacy at the avenue of flower stalls which runs
through the fruit pavilion. Here on either hand, from end to end, big
clumps of flowers bloom as in the borders of a garden walk. It is a
perfect harvest, sweet with perfume, a double hedge of blossoms, between
which the girls of the neighbourhood love to walk, smiling the while,
though almost stifled by the heavy perfume. And on the top tiers of the
stalls are artificial flowers, with paper leaves, in which dewdrops are
simulated by drops of gum; and memorial wreaths of black and white beads
rippling with bluish reflections. Cadine's rosy nostrils would dilate
with feline sensuality; she would linger as long as possible in that
sweet freshness, and carry as much of the perfume away with her as she
could. When her hair bobbed under Marjolin's nose he would remark that
it smelt of pinks. She said that she had given over using pomatum; that
is was quite sufficient for her to stroll through the flower walk in
order to scent her hair. Next she began to intrigue and scheme with
such success that she was engaged by one of the stallkeepers. And then
Marjolin declared that she smelt sweet from head to foot. She lived in
the midst of roses, lilacs, wall-flowers, and lilies of the valley;
and Marjolin would playfully smell at her skirts, feign a momentary
hesitation, and then exclaim, "Ah, that's lily of the valley!" Next he
would sniff at her waist and bodice: "Ah, that's wall-flowers!" And at
her sleeves and wrists: "Ah, that's lilac!" And at her neck, and her
cheeks and lips: "Ah, but that's roses!" he would cry. Cadine used to
laugh at him, and call him a "silly stupid," and tell him to get away,
because he was tickling her with the tip of his nose. As she spoke her
breath smelt of jasmine. She was verily a bouquet, full of warmth and
life.

She now got up at four o'clock every morning to assist her mistress in
her purchases. Each day they bought armfuls of flowers from the
suburban florists, with bundles of moss, and bundles of fern fronds,
and periwinkle leaves to garnish the bouquets. Cadine would gaze with
amazement at the diamonds and Valenciennes worn by the daughters of
the great gardeners of Montreuil, who came to the markets amidst their
roses.

On the saints' days of popular observance, such as Saint Mary's, Saint
Peter's, and Saint Joseph's days, the sale of flowers began at two
o'clock. More than a hundred thousand francs' worth of cut flowers would
be sold on the footways, and some of the retail dealers would make
as much as two hundred francs in a few hours. On days like those only
Cadine's curly locks peered over the mounds of pansies, mignonette, and
marguerites. She was quite drowned and lost in the flood of flowers.
Then she would spend all her time in mounting bouquets on bits of rush.
In a few weeks she acquired considerable skillfulness in her business,
and manifested no little originality. Her bouquets did not always
please everybody, however. Sometimes they made one smile, sometimes they
alarmed the eyes. Red predominated in them, mottled with violent tints
of blue, yellow, and violet of a barbaric charm. On the mornings when
she pinched Marjolin, and teased him till she made him cry, she made up
fierce-looking bouquets, suggestive of her own bad temper, bouquets
with strong rough scents and glaring irritating colours. On other days,
however, when she was softened by some thrill of joy or sorrow, her
bouquets would assume a tone of silvery grey, very soft and subdued, and
delicately perfumed.

Then, too, she would set roses, as sanguineous as open hearts, in lakes
of snow-white pinks; arrange bunches of tawny iris that shot up in
tufts of flame from foliage that seemed scared by the brilliance of the
flowers; work elaborate designs, as complicated as those of Smyrna rugs,
adding flower to flower, as on a canvas; and prepare rippling fanlike
bouquets spreading out with all the delicacy of lace. Here was a cluster
of flowers of delicious purity, there a fat nosegay, whatever one might
dream of for the hand of a marchioness or a fish-wife; all the charming
quaint fancies, in short, which the brain of a sharp-witted child of
twelve, budding into womanhood, could devise.

There were only two flowers for which Cadine retained respect; white
lilac, which by the bundle of eight or ten sprays cost from fifteen to
twenty francs in the winter time; and camellias, which were still more
costly, and arrived in boxes of a dozen, lying on beds of moss, and
covered with cotton wool.



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