“The little mademoiselle has been in mischief again,” remarked monsieur, with a smile. “What is it this time?”
The smile was so encouraging that Joyce’s determination not to tell melted away, and she began a laughable account of the afternoon’s adventure. At first both the old people looked shocked. Monsieur shrugged his shoulders and pulled his gray beard thoughtfully. Madame threw up her hands at the end of each sentence like horrified little exclamation points. But when Joyce had told the entire story neither of them had a word of blame, because their sympathies were so thoroughly aroused for Jules.
“I shall ask Monsieur Ciseaux to allow the child to visit here sometimes,” said madame, her kind old heart full of pity for the motherless little fellow; “and I shall also explain that it was only your desire to save Jules from ill treatment that caused you to do such an unusual thing. Otherwise he might think you too bold and too—well, peculiar, to be a fit playmate for his little nephew.”
“Oh, was it really so improper and horrid of me, madame?” asked Joyce, anxiously.
Madame hesitated. “The circumstances were some excuse,” she finally admitted. “But I certainly should not want a little daughter of mine to be out after dark by herself on such a wild errand. In this country a little girl would not think it possible to do such a thing.”
Joyce’s face was very sober as she arose to leave the room. “I do wish that I could be proper like little French girls,” she said, with a sigh.
Madame drew her towards her, kissing her on both cheeks. It was such an unusual thing for madame to do that Joyce could scarcely help showing some surprise. Feeling that the caress was an assurance that she was not in disgrace, as she had feared, she ran up-stairs, so light-hearted that she sang on the way.
As the door closed behind her, monsieur reached for his pipe, saying, as he did so, “She has a heart of gold, the little mademoiselle.”
“Yes,” assented madame; “but she is a strange little body, so untamed and original. I am glad that her cousin returns soon, for the responsibility is too great for my old shoulders. One never knows what she will do next.”
Perhaps it was for this reason that madame took Joyce with her when she went to Tours next day. She felt safer when the child was in her sight.
“It is so much nicer going around with you than Marie,” said Joyce, giving madame an affectionate little pat, as they stood before the entrance of a great square building, awaiting admission. “You take me to places that I have never seen before. What place is this?” She stooped to read the inscription on the door-plate:
“Little sisters of the poor.”
Before her question could be answered, the door was opened by a wrinkled old woman, in a nodding white cap, who led them into a reception-room at the end of the hall.