“Yes, yes, on condition that I always do what he wants me to, eh?” said Germain, wiping the little fellow’s eyes with his handkerchief. “Ah! Marie, you will spoil the rascal for me!—And really, little Marie, you’re too good. I don’t know why you didn’t come to us as shepherdess last midsummer. You could have taken care of my children, and I would rather have paid you a good price for waiting on them than go in search of a wife who will be very likely to think that she’s doing me a great favor by not detesting them.”
[Illustration: Chapter VI
He raised the child, who opened his eyes and smiled at him, saying, as he threw his arms around his neck.
“Little father, you are going to take me with you_!”]
“You mustn’t look on the dark side of things like that,” replied little Marie, holding the rein while Germain placed his son on the front of the heavy goat-skin-covered saddle; “if your wife doesn’t like children, you can hire me next year, and I’ll amuse them so well that they won’t notice anything, never you fear.”
ON THE MOOR
“By the way,” said Germain, when they had ridden on a short distance, “what will they think at home when this little man doesn’t appear? The old people will be anxious, and they will scour the country for him.”
“You can tell the man working on the road yonder that you have taken him with you, and send him back to tell your people.”
“True, Marie, you think of everything! It didn’t even occur to me that Jeannie would be in this neighborhood.”
“He lives close to the farm, too: he won’t fail to do your errand.”
When they had taken that precaution, Germain started the mare off at a trot, and Petit Pierre was so overjoyed that he did not notice at first that he had not dined; but as the rapid movement of the horse dug a pit in his stomach, he began, after a league or more, to yawn and turn pale, and at last confessed that he was dying of hunger.
“Now he’s beginning,” said Germain. “I knew that we shouldn’t go far before monsieur would cry from hunger or thirst.”
“I’m thirsty, too!” said Petit-Pierre.
“Well, we will go to Mere Rebec’s wine-shop at Corlay, at the sign of the Break of Day. A fine sign, but a poor inn! Come, Marie, you will drink a finger of wine too.”
“No, no, I don’t need anything,” she said, “I’ll hold the mare while you go in with the little one.”
“But now I think of it, my dear girl, you gave the bread you had for your luncheon to my Pierre, and you haven’t had anything to eat; you refused to dine with us at the house, and did nothing but weep.”
“Oh! I wasn’t hungry, I was too sad! and I promise you that I haven’t the slightest desire to eat now.”
“We must force you to, little one; otherwise you’ll be sick. We have a long way to go, and we mustn’t arrive there half-starved, and ask for bread before we say good-day. I propose to set you the example, although I’m not very hungry; but I shall make out to eat, considering that I didn’t dine very well, either. I saw you and your mother weeping, and it made my heart sick. Come, come, I will tie Grise at the door; get down, I insist upon it.”