The next morning broke fair and calm, and as soon as the Patoux household were astir, Cardinal Bonpre sought Madame Patoux in her kitchen, and related to her the story of his night's adventure. She listened deferentially, but could not refrain from occasional exclamations of surprise, mingled with suggestions of warning.
"It is like your good heart, Monseigneur," she said, "to give your own bed to a stray child out of the street, -- one, too, of whom you know nothing, -- but alas! how often such goodness is repaid by ingratitude! The more charity you show the less thanks you receive,- -yes, indeed, it is often so! -- and it seems as if the Evil One were in it! For look you, I myself have never done a kindness yet without getting a cruelty in exchange for it."
"That is a sad experience, my daughter," returned the Cardinal smiling, -- "Nevertheless, it is our duty to go on doing kindnesses, no matter what the results to ourselves may be. It is understood -- is it not? that we are to be misjudged in this world. If we had nothing to suffer, what would be the use of exercising such virtues as patience and endurance?"
"Ah, Monseigneur, for you it is different," said Madame Patoux shaking her head and sighing -- "You are like the blessed saints -- safe in a niche of Holy Church, with Our Lady for ever looking after you. But for poor people such as we are -- we see the rough side of life, Monseigneur -- and we know that there is very little goodness about in the world, -- and as for patience and endurance! -- why, no one in these days has the patience to endure even the least contradiction! Two men, -- aye even brothers, -- will fight for a word like mongrels quarrelling over a bone; -- and two women will scream themselves hoarse if one should have a lover more than the other -- asking your pardon, Monseigneur, for such wicked talk! Still, wicked as it may be, it is true -- and not all the powers of Heaven seem to care about making things better. And for this boy, -- believe me, -- you had better leave him to his own way -- for there will be no chance of getting such a poor little waif into the school unless his father and mother are known, or unless someone will adopt him, which is not likely . . . for Rouen is full of misery, and there are enough mouths to feed in most families -- and . . . mon Dieu! -- is that the child?"
Thus abruptly she broke off her speech, utterly taken aback as she suddenly perceived the little Manuel standing before her. Poorly clad in the roughest garments as he was, his grace and plaintive beauty moved her heart to quick compassion for his loneliness as he came towards the Cardinal, who, extending one hand, drew him gently to his side and asked if he had slept well?
"Thanks to your goodness, my lord Cardinal," the boy replied, "I slept so well that I thought I was in Heaven! I heard the angels singing in my dreams; -- yes! -- I heard all the music of a happy world, in which there never had been known a sin or sorrow!"
He rested his fair head lightly against the Cardinal's arm and smiled. Madame Patoux gazed at him in fascinated silence, -- gazed and gazed, -- till she found her eyes suddenly full of tears. Then she turned away to hide them, -- but not before Cardinal Bonpre had observed her emotion.
"Well, good MOTHER" he said with gentle emphasis on the word -- "Would you have me forsake this child that I have found?"
"No, Monseigneur, -- no," said Madame Patoux very softly and tremulously -- "It is almost as if he were a little lost Angel sent to comfort you."
A curious thrill went through the Cardinal. An angel to comfort him! He looked down at Manuel who still clung caressingly to his arm, and who met his earnest scrutiny with a sweet candid smile.
"Where did you come from, Manuel?" asked Bonpre suddenly.
"I cannot tell you," the boy answered, straightly, yet simply.
The Cardinal paused a moment, his keen penetrating eyes dwelling kindly on the noble young face beside him.
"You do not wish to tell me, -- is that so?" he pursued.
"Yes," said Manuel quietly -- "I do not wish to tell you. And if, because of this, you regret your kindness to me, my lord Cardinal, I will go away at once and trouble you no more."
But at these words the Cardinal felt such a sharp consciousness of pain and loss that his nerves ached with positive fear.
"Nay, nay, my child," he said anxiously -- "I cannot let you go. It shall be as you please, -- I will not think that you could do yourself or me a wrong by concealing what would be right for you to tell. It is true that you are alone in the world?"
"Quite, quite alone!" answered Manuel, a faint shadow darkening the serenity of his eyes -- "No one was ever more alone than I!"
Madame Patoux drew nearer and listened.
"And there is no person living who has the right to claim you?"
"And is it not strange, Monseigneur," murmured Madame Patoux at this juncture -- "The little lad does not speak as if he were ignorant! It is as though he had been well taught and carefully nurtured."
Manuel's deep eyes dwelt upon her with a meditative sweetness.
"I have taught myself;" he said simply -- "Not out of books, perhaps, but out of nature. The trees and rivers, the flowers and birds have talked to me and explained many things; -- I have learned all I know from what God has told me."
His voice was so gentle and tender that Madame Patoux was infinitely touched by its soft plaintiveness.
"Poor child!" she murmured, -- "He has no doubt been wandering through the country, without a soul to help him. Alas, that troubles should begin for one so young! Perhaps he does not even know a prayer!"
"Oh yes!" said Manuel quickly -- "Prayer is like thought, -- God is so good that it is only natural to thank and praise Him. Is it not so?"
"It should be natural, my boy," answered the Cardinal slowly and with a slight accent of melancholy, -- "But for many of us in these days I fear it is more natural still to forget than to remember. Too often we take gifts and ignore the giver. But come now and breakfast in my room; -- for the present you shall remain with me, and I will see what can best be done for your future welfare."
And turning to Madame Patoux he added smilingly -- "You, my daughter, with children of your own to care for, will no longer blame me for my interest in this child, who is without protection in a somewhat rough world. We of the Church dare not 'offend one of these little ones'."
"Ah, Monseigneur!" murmured Madame, -- "If all in the Church were like you, some poor folks would believe in God more willingly. But when people are starving and miserable, it is easy to understand that often they will curse the priests and even religion itself, for making such a mock of them as to keep on telling them about the joys of heaven, when they are tormented to the very day of their death on earth, and are left without hope or rescue of any kind -- "
But the Cardinal had disappeared with his young charge and Madame's speech was lost upon him. She had therefore to content herself with relating the story of "Monseigneur's foundling" to her husband, who just then came into the kitchen to take his breakfast before starting off to work in his market-garden. He listened with interest and attention.
"A boy is always a trouble," he said sententiously -- "And it is likely that so Monseigneur will find it. How old would the child be?"
"About twelve, I should say," answered Madame -- "But beautiful as a little angel, Jean!"
"That's a pity!" and Patoux shook his head ominously -- "Tis bad enough when a girl is beautiful, -- but a boy! -- Well, well! Monseigneur is a wise man, and a saint they say, -- he knows best, -- but I fear he has taken a burden upon himself which he will very soon regret! What dost thou think of it, petite?"
Madame hesitated a moment before replying.
"Truly, I do not know what to think," she answered -- "For myself, I have not spoken to the child. I have seen him, -- yes! -- and at the sight of him a something in my throat rose up and choked me as it were, -- and stopped me from saying a rough word. Such a lonely gentle lad! -- one could not be harsh with him, and yet -- "
"Yet! Oh, yes, I know!" said Patoux, finishing his coffee at a gulp and smiling, -- "Women will always be women, -- and a handsome face in girl or boy is enough to make fools of them all. Where are the children? Are they gone to school?"
"Yes -- they went before the Cardinal was up. 'Tis a Saturday, and they will be back early, -- they are going to bring little Fabien Doucet to Monseigneur."
"What for?" enquired Patoux, his round eyes opening widely in amazement.
"Oh, for a strange fancy! That he may bless the child and pray Our Lady to cure him of his lameness. It was Babette's whim. I told her the Cardinal was a saint, -- and she said, -- well! she said she would never believe it unless he worked a miracle! The wicked mischief that girl is! -- as bad as Henri, who puts a doubt on everything!"
"'Tis the school," said Jean gloomily -- "I must speak to Pere Laurent."
"Truly that would be well," said Madame -- "He may explain what we cannot. All the same, you may be sure the children WILL bring Fabien Doucet to Monseigneur; -- they have made up their minds about it, -- and if the little miserable's lameness gets no better, we shall have work enough in future to make the saints respected!"
Patoux muttered something inaudible, and went his way. Life was in his opinion, a very excellent thing, -- nevertheless there were a few details about it which occasionally troubled him, and one of these details was decidedly the "national education" question. It struck him as altogether remarkable that the State should force him to send his children to school whether he liked it or no; and moreover that the system of instruction at the said school should be totally opposed to his own ideas. He would have certainly wished his son to learn to read and write, and then to have been trained as a thorough florist and gardener; -- while for his daughter he also desired reading and writing as a matter of course, and then a complete education in cooking and domestic economy, so that she might be a useful and efficient wife and mother when the proper time for such duties came. Astronomy he felt they could both do without, and most of the "physical sciences." Religion he considered an absolute necessity, and this was the very thing that was totally omitted from the national course of education. He was well aware that there are countless numbers of unhappy people nowadays who despise religion and mock at the very idea of a God. Every day he saw certain works exposed for sale on the out-of-door bookstalls which in their very titles proclaimed the hideous tone of blasphemy which in France is gradually becoming universal, -- but this did not affect his own sense of what was right and just. He was a very plain common man, but he held holy things in reverence, and instinctively felt that, if the world were in truth a bad place, it was likely to become much worse if all faith in God were taken out of it. And when he reached his plot of ground that morning, and set to work as usual, he was, for a non-reflective man, very much absorbed in thought. His heavy tramping feet over the soil startled some little brown birds from their hidden nests, and sent them flying to and fro through the clear air uttering sharp chirrups of terror, -- and, leaning on his spade, he paused and looked at them meditatively.
"Everything is afraid," he said, -- "Birds, beasts, and men, -- all are afraid of something and cannot tell what it is that frightens them. It seems hard sometimes that there should be so much trouble and struggle just to live -- however, the good God knows best, -- and if we could not think and hope and believe He knew best, we might just as well light up a charcoal fire, shut all the doors and windows, and say 'Bon jour! Bon jour, Monsieur le bon Dieu! -- for if YOU do not know YOUR business, it is evident we do not know ours, and therefore 'tis best for both our sakes to make an end of sheer Stupidity!'"
He chuckled at his own reasoning, and moistening his hands vigorously, seized his spade and began to bank up a ridge of celery, singing "Bon jour, Monsieur le bon Dieu!" under his breath without the slightest idea of irreverence. And looking up at the bright sky occasionally, he wished he had seen the stray boy rescued from the streets by Cardinal Bonpre.
"That he will be a trouble, there is no doubt," he said as he turned and patted the rich dark earth -- "Never was there a boy born yet into the world that was not a trouble except our Lord, and even in His case His own people did not know what to make of Him!"
Meantime, while Jean Patoux dug in his garden, and sang and soliloquized, his two children, Henri and Babette, their school hours being ended, had run off to the market, and were talking vivaciously with a big brown sturdy woman, who was selling poultry at a stall, under a very large patched red umbrella. She was Martine Doucet, reported to have the worst temper and most vixenish tongue in all the town, though there were some who said her sourness of humour only arose from the hardships of her life, and the many troubles she had been fated to endure. Her husband, a fine handsome man, earning good weekly wages as a stone-mason, had been killed by a fall from a ladder, while engaged in helping to build one of the new houses on the Boulevards, and her only child Fabien, a boy of ten had, when a baby, tumbled from the cart in which his mother was taking her poultry to market, and though no injury was apparent at the time, had, from the effects of the fall, grown into a poor little twisted mite of humanity with a bent spine, and one useless leg which hung limply from his body, while he could scarcely hobble about on the other, even with the aid of a crutch. He had a soft, pretty, plaintive face of his own, the little Fabien, and very gentle ways, -- but he was sensitively conscious of his misfortune, and in his own small secret soul he was always praying that he might die while he was yet a child, and not grow up to be a burden to his mother. Martine, however, adored him; and it was through her intense love for this child of hers that she had, in a strange vengeful sort of mood abandoned God, and flung an open and atheistical defiance in the face of her confessor, who, missing her at mass, had ventured to call upon her and seriously reproach her for neglecting the duties of her religion. Martine had whirled round upon him, -- a veritable storm in petticoats.
"Religion!" she cried -- "Oh -- he! What good has it done for ME, if you please! When I said my prayers night and morning, went to mass and confession, and told my rosary every Mary-Feast, what happened? Was not my man killed and my child crippled? And then, -- (not to lose faith -- ) did I not give the saints every chance of behaving themselves? For my child's sake did I not earn good money and pay it to the Church in special masses that he might be cured of his lameness? And Novenas in plenty, and candles in plenty to the Virgin, and fastings of my own and penitences? And is the child not as lame as ever? Look at him! -- the dear angel! -- with never an evil thought or a wicked way, -- and will you try to make me believe there is a good God, when He will not help a poor little creature like that, to be happy, though He is prayed to night and morning for it! No -- no! Churches are kept up for priests to make a fat living out of, -- but there is never a God in them that I can see; -- and as for the Christ, who had only to be asked in order to heal the sick, there is not so much as a ghost of Him anywhere! If what you priests tell us were true, poor souls such as I am, would get comfort and help in our sorrows, but it is all a lie! -- the whole thing! -- and when we are in trouble, we have got to bear it as best we can, without so much as a kind word from our neighbours, let alone any pity from the saints. Go to mass again? Not I! -- nor to confession either! -- and no more of my earnings will click into your great brass collection plate, mon reverend! Ah no! -- I have been a foolish woman indeed, to trust so long in a God who for all my tears and prayers never gives me a sign or a hope of an answer, -- and though I suppose this wretched world of ours was made by somebody, whoever it is that has done it is a cruel creature at best, so I say, -- without as much good feeling as there is in the heart of an ordinary man, and without the sense of the man either! For who that thinks twice about it would make a world where everything is only born to die? -- and for no other use at all! Bah! It is sheer folly and wickedness to talk to me of a God! -- a God, if there were one, would surely be far above torturing the creatures He has made, all for nothing!"
And the priest who heard this blasphemous and savage tirade on the part of Martine Doucet, retreated from her in amazement and horror, and presently gave out that she was possessed of a devil, and was unfit to be admitted to the Holy Sacrament. Whereat, when she heard of it, Martine laughed loudly and ferociously.
"Look you! -- what a charitable creature a priest is!" she cried -- "If you don't do the things he considers exactly right and fitting, he tells your neighbours that the devil has got you! -- and so little does he care to pick you out of the clutches of this same devil, that he refuses you the Sacrament, though THAT is said to drive away Satan by the mere touch of it! But wait till I ASK to have the Sacrament given to me! -- it will be time enough then to refuse it! Many a fat chicken of my stock has the reverend father had as a free gift to boil in his soup maigre!" and again she laughed angrily -- " But no more of them does he get to comfort his stomach while doing penance for his soul! -- the hypocrite! He must find another silly woman to cheat with his stories of a good God who never does anything but kill and curse us every one! -- he has had all that he will ever get out of Martine Doucet!"
It was to this redoubtable virago that Henri and Babette had betaken themselves in the market place directly school was over. She always held the same stall in the same position on market days, -- and she sat under her red umbrella on a rough wooden bench, knitting rapidly, now keeping an eye on her little lame son, coiled up in a piece of matting beside her, and anon surveying her stock-in-trade of ducks and geese and fowls, which were heaped on her counter, their wrung necks drooping limply from the board, and their yellow feet tied helplessly together and shining like bits of dull gold in the warm light of the September sun. She listened with an impassive countenance while Babette poured out her story of the great Cardinal, -- the Cardinal Felix Bonpre, whom people said was a saint,- -how he had come unexpectedly to stay two nights at the Hotel Poitiers, -- how "petite maman" had declared he was so good that even angels might visit him, -- how kind and gentle and grand he seemed, -- "Yes," said Babette somewhat eagerly, "there was no doubt that he LOOKED good, -- and we have told him all about Fabien and he has promised to bless him and ask Our Lord to cure his lameness."
"Well, and of what use is that, mignonne?" demanded Martine, clicking her knitting-needles violently and stooping over her work to wink away the sudden tears that had risen in her bold brown eyes at Babette's enthusiastic desire to benefit her afflicted child. -- "Asking our Lord is poor business, -- you may ask and ask, but you never get answered!"
Babette hung her curly brown head despondingly, and looked appealingly at her brother. Now Henri was a decided cynic; -- but his sister exercised a weird fascination over him, -- a sort of power to command which he always felt more or less constrained to obey. He stared solemnly at Martine, and then at the little Fabien, who, half rising from his mat, had listened with a visibly painful interest to Babette's story.
"I think you might let us take Fabien and see if a Cardinal CAN do anything," he said with a kind of judicial air, as of one who, though considering the case hopeless, had no objection to try a last desperate remedy. "This one is a very old man, and he must know a good deal. He could not do any harm. And I am sure Babette would like to find out if there is any use at all in a Cardinal. I should like it too. You see we went into Notre Dame last night, -- Babette and I, -- and everything was dark, -- all the candles were out at Our Lady's statue -- and we had only ten centimes between us. And the candles are ten centimes each. So we could only light one. But we lit that one, and said an Ave for Fabien. And the candle was all by itself in the Cathedral. And now I think we ought to take him to the Cardinal."
Martine shook her head, pursed up her lips, and knitted more violently than ever.
"It is all no use -- no use!" she muttered -- "There is no God, -- or if there is, He must be deaf as well as blind!"
But here suddenly the weak plaintive voice of Fabien himself piped out --
"Oh, mother, let me go!"
Martine looked down at him.
"Let thee go? To see the Cardinal? Why he is nought but an old man, child, as helpless as any of us. What dost thou think he can do for thee?"
"Nothing!" and the boy clambered up on his crutch, and stood appealingly before his mother, his fair curls blowing back in the breeze, -- "But I SHOULD like to see him. Oh, do let me go!"
Babette caught him by the hand.
"Yes, oh yes, Martine!" she exclaimed -- "Let him come with us!"
Martine hesitated a moment longer, but she could never altogether resist an imploring look in her boy's eyes, or refuse any request he made of her, -- and gradually the hard lines of her mouth relaxed into a half smile. Babette at once perceived this, and eagerly accepted it as a sign that she had gained her point.
"Come, Fabien!" she exclaimed delightedly -- "Thy mother says yes! We will not be long gone, Martine! And perhaps we will bring him home quite well!"
Martine shook her head sorrowfully, and paused for a while in her knitting to watch the three children crossing the market-place together, Henri supporting her little son on one side, Babette on the other, both carefully aiding his slow and halting movements over the rough cobbles of the uneven pavement. Then as they all turned a corner and disappeared, she sighed, and a couple of bright tears splashed down on her knitting. But the next moment her eyes were as bold and keen and defiant as ever while she stood up to attend to two or three customers who just then approached her stall, and her voice was as shrill and sharp as any woman's voice could be in the noisy business of driving a bargain. Having disposed of three or four fat geese and fowls at a good profit, she chinked and counted the money in her apron pockets, hummed a tune, and looked up at the genial sky with an expression of disfavour.
"Oh, yes, 'tis a fine day!" she muttered, -- "And the heavens look as if the saints lived in them; -- but by and by the clouds will come, and the cold! -- the sleet, the snow, the frost and the bitterness of winter! -- and honest folk will starve while thieves make a good living! -- that is the way the wise God arranges things in this world."
She gave a short laugh of scorn, and resumed the clicking of her needles, not raising her eyes from her work even when her neighbour, the old woman who sold vegetables at the next stall, ventured to address her.
"Where is thy unfortunate boy gone to, Martine?" she enquired, -- "Is it wise to let him be with the Patoux children? They are strong and quick and full of mischief, -- they might do him fresh injury in play without meaning it."
"I will trust them," answered Martine curtly, -- "They have taken him to see a Cardinal."
"A Cardinal!" and the old woman craned her withered neck forward in amazement and began to laugh feebly, -- "Nom de Jesus! That is strange! What does the Cardinal want with him?"
"Nothing," said Martine gruffly -- "It seems that he is an old man who is kind to children, and the girl Babette has a fancy to get his blessing for my Fabien, -- that is all."
"And that is little enough," responded the old vegetable-vendor, still laughing, or rather chuckling hoarsely -- "A blessing is not worth much nowadays, is it Martine? It never puts an extra ounce of meat in the pot-au-feu, -- and yet it is all one gets out of the priests for all the prayers and the praise. Last time I went to confession I accused myself of the sin of envy. I said 'Look here, my father, I am a widow and very old; and I have rheumatism in all my bones, and I have only a bit of matting to sleep on at home, and if I have a bad day with the market I can buy no food. And there is a woman living near me who has a warm house, with a stove in it, -- and blankets to cover her, and a bit of money put by, and I envy her her blankets and her stove and her house and her money. Is that a sin?' And he said it was a sin; but that he would absolve me from it if I said ten Paters and ten Aves before Our Lady of Bon-Secours. And then he gave me his blessing, -- but no blankets and no stove and no money. And I have not said ten Paters and Aves yet, because my bones have ached too much all the week for me to walk up the hill to Bon-Secours. And the blessing has been no use to me at all."
"Nor is it likely to be!" scoffed Martine -- "I thought you had given up all that Church-nonsense long ago."
"Nay -- nay -- not altogether," -- murmured the old woman timidly -- "I am very old, -- and one never knows -- there may be truth in some of it. It is the burning and the roasting in hell that I think of, -- you know that is very likely to happen, Martine! -- because you see, in this life we have nothing but trouble, -- so whoever made us must like to see us suffering; -- it must be a pleasure to God, and so it is sure to go on and on always. And I am afraid! -- and if a candle now and then to St. Joseph would help matters, I am not the one to grudge it, -- it is better to burn a candle than burn one's self!"
Martine laughed loudly, but made no answer. She could not waste her time arguing against the ridiculous superstitions of an old creature who was so steeped in ignorance as to think that a votive candle could rescue her soul from a possible hell. She went on knitting in silence till a sudden shadow came between her and the sunlight, and a girl's voice, harsh, yet with a certain broken sweetness in it, said --
"A fine morning's killing, aye! All their necks wrung, -- all dead birds! Once they could fly -- fly and swim! Fly and swim! All dead now -- and sold cheap in the open market!"
A shrill laugh finished this outburst, but Martine knew who it was that spoke, and maintained her equanimity.
"Is that you again, Marguerite?" she said, not unkindly -- "You will tire yourself to death wandering about the streets all day."
Marguerite Valmond, "la folle" as she was called by the townsfolk, shook her head and smiled cunningly. She was a tall girl, with black hair disordered and falling loosely about her pale face, -- her eyes were dark and lustrous, but wild, and with a hunted expression in them, -- and her dress was composed of the strangest remnants of oddly assorted materials and colours pinned about her without any order or symmetry, the very idea of decent clothing being hardly considered, as her bosom was half exposed and her legs were bare. She wore no head-covering, and her whole aspect was that of one who had suddenly awakened from a hideous dream and was striving to forget its horrors.
"I shall never be tired!" she said -- "If I could be tired I should sleep, -- but I never sleep! I am looking for HIM, you know! -- it was at the fair I lost him -- you remember the great fair? And when I find him I shall kill him! It is quite easy to kill -- you take a sharp glittering thing, so!" and she snatched up a knife that lay on Martine's counter -- "And you plunge it -- so!" and she struck it down with singular fury through the breast of one of the "dead birds" which were Martine's stock-in-trade. Then she threw the knife on the ground -- rubbed her hands together, tossed her head, and laughed again -- "That is how I shall do it when I meet him!"
Martine said nothing. She simply removed the one stabbed bird from among the others, and setting it aside, picked up the knife from the ground and went on knitting as calmly as ever.
"I am going to see the Archbishop," proceeded Marguerite, tossing back her dishevelled locks and making one or two fantastic dance- steps as she spoke -- "The great Archbishop of this wonderful city of Rouen! I want to ask him how it happened that God made men. It was a mistake which He must be sorry for! The Archbishop knows everything; -- he will tell me about it. Ah! -- what a beautiful mistake is the Archbishop himself! -- and how soon women find it out! Bon jour, Martine!"
"Bon jour, Marguerite!" responded Martine quietly.
Singing to herself, the crazed girl sauntered off. Several of the market women looked after her.
"She killed her child, they say," muttered the old vegetable-seller- -"But no one knows -- "
"Sh -- sh -- sh!" hissed Martine angrily -- "What one does not know one should not say. Mayhap there never was a child at all. Whatever the wrong was, she has suffered for it; -- and if the man who led her astray ever comes nigh her, his life is not worth a centime."
"Rough justice!" said one of the market porters, who had just paused close by to light his pipe.
"Aye, rough justice!" echoed Martine -- "When justice is not given to the people, the people take it for themselves! And if a man deals ill by a woman, he has murdered her as surely as if he had put a knife through her; -- and 'tis but even payment when he gets the knife into himself. Things in this life are too easy for men and too hard for women; men make the laws for their own convenience, and never a thought of us at all in the making. They are a selfish lot!"
The porter laughed carelessly, and having lit his pipe to his satisfaction went his way.
A great many more customers now came to Martine's stall, and for upwards of an hour there was shrill argument and driving of bargains till she had pretty well cleared her counter of all its stock. Then she sat down again and looked to right and left of the market-place for any sign of the Patoux children returning with her little son, but there was not a glimpse of them anywhere.
"I wonder what they are doing!" she thought -- "And I wonder what sort of a Cardinal it is they have taken the child to see! These great princes of the Church care nothing for the poor, -- the very Pope allows half Italy to starve while he shuts himself up with his treasures in the Vatican; -- what should a great Cardinal care for my poor little Fabien! If the stories of the Christ were true, and one could only take the child to Him, then indeed there might be a chance of cure! -- but it is all a lie, -- and the worst of the lie is that it would give us all so much comfort and happiness if it were only true! It is like holding out a rope to a drowning man and snatching it away again. And when the rope goes, the sooner one sinks under the waves the better!"