G H I J K L M 

Total read books on site:
more than 10 000

You can read its for free!

Text on one page: Few Medium Many
It was
a half sheet of paper on which Florent had sketched the distinguishing
insignia which the chiefs and the lieutenants were to wear. By the
side of these were rough drawings of the standards which the different
companies were to carry; and notes in pencil even described what colours
the banners should assume. The chiefs were to wear red scarves, and the
lieutenants red armlets.

To Lisa this seemed like an immediate realisation of the rising; she saw
all the men with their red badges marching past the pork shop, firing
bullets into her mirrors and marble, and carrying off sausages
and chitterlings from the window. The infamous projects of her
brother-in-law were surely directed against herself--against her own
happiness. She closed the drawer and looked round the room, reflecting
that it was she herself who had provided this man with a home--that he
slept between her sheets and used her furniture. And she was especially
exasperated at his keeping his abominable infernal machine in that
little deal table which she herself had used at Uncle Gradelle's before
her marriage--a perfectly innocent, rickety little table.

For a while she stood thinking what she should do. In the first place,
it was useless to say anything to Quenu. For a moment it occurred to
her to provoke an explanation with Florent, but she dismissed that idea,
fearing lest he would only go and perpetrate his crime elsewhere, and
maliciously make a point of compromising them. Then gradually growing
somewhat calmer, she came to the conclusion that her best plan would be
to keep a careful watch over her brother-in-law. It would be time enough
to take further steps at the first sign of danger. She already had quite
sufficient evidence to send him back to the galleys.

On returning to the shop again, she found Augustine in a state of
great excitement. Little Pauline had disappeared more than half an
hour before, and to Lisa's anxious questions the young woman could only
reply: "I don't know where she can have got to, madame. She was on the
pavement there with a little boy. I was watching them, and then I had to
cut some ham for a gentleman, and I never saw them again."

"I'll wager it was Muche!" cried Lisa. "Ah, the young scoundrel!"

It was, indeed, Muche who had enticed Pauline away. The little girl, who
was wearing a new blue-striped frock that day for the first time, had
been anxious to exhibit it, and had accordingly taken her stand outside
the shop, manifesting great propriety of bearing, and compressing her
lips with the grave expression of a little woman of six who is afraid of
soiling her clothes. Her short and stiffly-starched petticoats stood out
like the skirts of a ballet girl, allowing a full view of her tightly
stretched white stockings and little sky-blue boots. Her pinafore,
which hung low about her neck, was finished off at the shoulders with an
edging of embroidery, below which appeared her pretty little arms, bare
and rosy. She had small turquoise rings in her ears, a cross at her
neck, a blue velvet ribbon in her well-brushed hair; and she displayed
all her mother's plumpness and softness--the gracefulness, indeed, of a
new doll.

Muche had caught sight of her from the market, where he was amusing
himself by dropping little dead fishes into the gutter, following them
along the kerb as the water carried them away, and declaring that they
were swimming. However, the sight of Pauline standing in front of the
shop and looking so smart and pretty made him cross over to her, capless
as he was, with his blouse ragged, his trousers slipping down, and his
whole appearance suggestive of a seven-year-old street-arab. His mother
had certainly forbidden him to play any more with "that fat booby of a
girl who was stuffed by her parents till she almost burst"; so he stood
hesitating for a moment, but at last came up to Pauline, and wanted to
feel her pretty striped frock. The little girl, who had at first felt
flattered, then put on a prim air and stepped back, exclaiming in a tone
of displeasure: "Leave me alone. Mother says I'm not to have anything to
do with you."

This brought a laugh to the lips of Muche, who was a wily, enterprising
young scamp.

"What a little flat you are!" he retorted. "What does it matter what
your mother says? Let's go and play at shoving each other, eh?"

He doubtless nourished some wicked idea of dirtying the neat little
girl; but she, on seeing him prepare to give her a push in the back,
retreated as though about to return inside the shop. Muche thereupon
adopted a flattering tone like a born cajoler.

"You silly! I didn't mean it," said he. "How nice you look like that! Is
that little cross your mother's?"

Pauline perked herself up, and replied that it was her own, whereupon
Muche gently led her to the corner of the Rue Pirouette, touching her
skirts the while and expressing his astonishment at their wonderful
stiffness. All this pleased the little girl immensely. She had been very
much vexed at not receiving any notice while she was exhibiting herself
outside the shop. However, in spite of all Muche's blandishments, she
still refused to leave the footway.

"You stupid fatty!" thereupon exclaimed the youngster, relapsing into
coarseness. "I'll squat you down in the gutter if you don't look out,
Miss Fine-airs!"

The girl was dreadfully alarmed. Muche had caught hold of her by
the hand; but, recognising his mistake in policy, he again put on a
wheedling air, and began to fumble in his pocket.

"I've got a sou," said he.

The sight of the coin had a soothing effect upon Pauline. The boy held
up the sou with the tips of his fingers, and the temptation to follow
it proved so great that the girl at last stepped down into the roadway.
Muche's diplomacy was eminently successful.

"What do you like best?" he asked.

Pauline gave no immediate answer. She could not make up her mind; there
were so many things that she liked. Muche, however, ran over a whole
list of dainties--liquorice, molasses, gum-balls, and powdered sugar.
The powdered sugar made the girl ponder. One dipped one's fingers into
it and sucked them; it was very nice. For a while she gravely considered
the matter. Then, at last making up her mind, she said:

"No, I like the mixed screws the best."

Muche thereupon took hold of her arm, and she unresistingly allowed him
to lead her away. They crossed the Rue Rambuteau, followed the broad
footway skirting the markets, and went as far as a grocer's shop in the
Rue de la Cossonnerie which was celebrated for its mixed screws. These
mixed screws are small screws of paper in which grocers put up all sorts
of damaged odds and ends, broken sugar-plums, fragments of crystallised
chestnuts--all the doubtful residuum of their jars of sweets. Muche
showed himself very gallant, allowed Pauline to choose the screw--a blue
one--paid his sou, and did not attempt to dispossess her of the sweets.
Outside, on the footway, she emptied the miscellaneous collection of
scraps into both pockets of her pinafore; and they were such little
pockets that they were quite filled. Then in delight she began to munch
the fragments one by one, wetting her fingers to catch the fine sugary
dust, with such effect that she melted the scraps of sweets, and the
pockets of her pinafore soon showed two brownish stains. Muche laughed
slily to himself. He had his arm about the girl's waist, and rumpled her
frock at his ease whilst leading her round the corner of the Rue Pierre
Lescot, in the direction of the Place des Innocents.

"You'll come and play now, won't you?" he asked. "That's nice what
you've got in your pockets, ain't it? You see that I didn't want to do
you any harm, you big silly!"

Thereupon he plunged his own fingers into her pockets, and they entered
the square together. To this spot, no doubt, he had all along intended
to lure his victim. He did the honours of the square as though it were
his own private property, and indeed it was a favourite haunt of his,
where he often larked about for whole afternoons. Pauline had never
before strayed so far from home, and would have wept like an abducted
damsel had it not been that her pockets were full of sweets. The
fountain in the middle of the flowered lawn was sending sheets of water
down its tiers of basins, whilst, between the pilasters above, Jean
Goujon's nymphs, looking very white beside the dingy grey stonework,
inclined their urns and displayed their nude graces in the grimy air
of the Saint Denis quarter. The two children walked round the fountain,
watching the water fall into the basins, and taking an interest in the
grass, with thoughts, no doubt, of crossing the central lawn, or gliding
into the clumps of holly and rhododendrons that bordered the railings of
the square. Little Muche, however, who had now effectually rumpled the
back of the pretty frock, said with his sly smile:

"Let's play at throwing sand at each other, eh?"

Pauline had no will of her own left; and they began to throw the sand at
each other, keeping their eyes closed meanwhile. The sand made its way
in at the neck of the girl's low bodice, and trickled down into her
stockings and boots. Muche was delighted to see the white pinafore
become quite yellow. But he doubtless considered that it was still far
too clean.

"Let's go and plant trees, shall we?" he exclaimed suddenly. "I know how
to make such pretty gardens."

"Really, gardens!" murmured Pauline full of admiration.

Then, as the keeper of the square happened to be absent, Muche told her
to make some holes in one of the borders; and dropping on her knees in
the middle of the soft mould, and leaning forward till she lay at full
length on her stomach, she dug her pretty little arms into the ground.
He, meantime, began to hunt for scraps of wood, and broke off branches.
These were the garden-trees which he planted in the holes that Pauline
made. He invariably complained, however, that the holes were not deep
enough, and rated the girl as though she were an idle workman and he an
indignant master. When she at last got up, she was black from head to

Pages: | Prev | | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | 20 | | 21 | | 22 | | 23 | | 24 | | 25 | | 26 | | 27 | | 28 | | 29 | | 30 | | 31 | | 32 | | 33 | | 34 | | 35 | | 36 | | 37 | | 38 | | 39 | | 40 | | 41 | | 42 | | 43 | | 44 | | 45 | | 46 | | 47 | | 48 | | 49 | | 50 | | 51 | | 52 | | 53 | | 54 | | 55 | | 56 | | 57 | | 58 | | 59 | | 60 | | 61 | | 62 | | 63 | | 64 | | 65 | | 66 | | 67 | | 68 | | 69 | | 70 | | 71 | | 72 | | 73 | | 74 | | 75 | | 76 | | 77 | | Next |

U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.