Clotilde had to be taken into the secret, for he could not hide it from her. “It is for my Uncle Martin,” he said, timidly. “Do you think he will like it?”
The motherly housekeeper looked at the poor little tree, decked out in its scraps of cast-off finery, and felt a sob rising in her throat, but she held up her hands with many admiring exclamations that made Jules glow with pride.
[Illustration: “Sitting up in bed with the quilts wrapped around him.”]
“I have no beautiful white strings of pop-corn to hang over it like wreaths of snow,” he said, “so I am going down the lane for some mistletoe that grows in one of the highest trees. The berries are like lovely white wax beads.”
“You are a good little lad,” said the housekeeper, kindly, as she gave his head an affectionate pat. “I shall have to make something to hang on that tree myself; some gingerbread figures, maybe. I used to know how to cut out men and horses and pigs,—nearly all the animals. I must try it again some day soon.”
A happy smile spread all over Jules’s face as he thanked her. The words, “You are a good little lad,” sent a warm glow of pleasure through him, and rang like music in his ears all the way down the lane. How bright the world looked this frosty December morning! What cheeriness there was in the ring of Henri’s axe as he chopped away at the stove-wood! What friendliness in the baker’s whistle, as he rattled by in his big cart! Jules found himself whistling, too, for sheer gladness, and all because of no more kindness than might have been thrown to a dog; a pat on the head and the words, “You are a good little lad.”
* * * * *
Sometime after, it may have been two hours or more, Madame Greville was startled by a wild, continuous ringing of the bell at her front gate. Somebody was sending peal after peal echoing through the garden, with quick, impatient jerks of the bell-wire. She hurried out herself to answer the summons.
Berthe had already shot back the bolt and showed Clotilde leaning against the stone post, holding her fat sides and completely exhausted by her short run from the Ciseaux house.
“Will madame send Gabriel for the doctor?” she cried, gasping for breath at every word. “The little Monsieur Jules has fallen from a tree and is badly hurt. We do not know how much, for he is still unconscious and his uncle is away from home. Henri found him lying under a tree with a big bunch of mistletoe in his arms. He carried him up-stairs while I ran over to ask you to send Gabriel quickly on a horse for the doctor.”
“Gabriel shall go immediately,” said Madame Greville, “and I shall follow you as soon as I have given the order.”
Clotilde started back in as great haste as her weight would allow, puffing and blowing and wiping her eyes on her apron at every step. Madame overtook her before she had gone many rods. Always calm and self-possessed in every emergency, madame took command now; sent the weeping Clotilde to look for old linen, Henri to the village for Monsieur Ciseaux, and then turned her attention to Jules.