But Jules, in his white dress and shoulder-knots of blue ribbon, was toddling across the lawn after a firefly.
Then she began to call him another way. Jules had a vague idea that it was a part of some game that they sometimes played together. It sounded like a song, and the words were not like any that he had ever heard since he came to live with Henri and Brossard. He could not forget them, though, for had they not sung themselves through that beautiful dream every time he had it?
“Little Boy Blue,
oh, where are you?
O, where are you-u-u-u?”
He only laughed in the dream picture and ran on after the firefly. Then a man came running after him, and, catching him, tossed him up laughingly, and carried him to the house on his shoulder.
Somebody held a glass of cool, creamy milk for him to drink, and by and by he was in a little white night-gown in the woman’s lap. His head was nestled against her shoulder, and he could feel her soft lips touching him on cheeks and eyelids and mouth, before she began to sing:
“Oh, little Boy
Blue, lay by your horn,
And mother will sing of the cows and the corn,
Till the stars and the angels come to keep
Their watch, where my baby lies fast asleep.”
Now all of a sudden Jules knew that there was another kind of hunger worse than the longing for bread. He wanted the soft touch of those lips again on his mouth and eyelids, the loving pressure of those restful arms, a thousand times more than he had wished for the loaf that he had just brought home. Two hot tears, that made his eyes ache in their slow gathering, splashed down on the window-sill.
Down below Henri opened the kitchen door and snapped his fingers to call the dog. Looking out, Jules saw him set a plate of bones on the step. For a moment he listened to the animal’s contented crunching, and then crept across the room to his cot, with a little moan. “O-o-oh—o-oh!” he sobbed. “Even the dog has more than I have, and I’m so hungry!” He hid his head awhile in the old quilt; then he raised it again, and, with the tears streaming down his thin little face, sobbed in a heartbroken whisper: “Mother! Mother! Do you know how hungry I am?”
A clatter of knives and forks from the kitchen below was the only answer, and he dropped despairingly down again.
“She’s so far away she can’t even hear me!” he moaned. “Oh, if I could only be dead, too!”
He lay there, crying, till Henri had finished washing the supper dishes and had put them clumsily away. The rank odor of tobacco, stealing up the stairs, told him that Brossard had settled down to enjoy his evening pipe. Through the casement window that was still ajar came the faint notes of an accordeon from Monsieur Greville’s garden, across the way. Gabriel, the coachman, was walking up and down in the moonlight, playing a wheezy accompaniment to the only song he knew. Jules did not notice it at first, but after awhile, when he had cried himself quiet, the faint melody began to steal soothingly into his consciousness. His eyelids closed drowsily, and then the accordeon seemed to be singing something to him. He could not understand at first, but just as he was dropping off to sleep he heard it quite clearly: