“Perine, my poor child, you must go; there is no dinner for you today. Don’t cry, don’t cry; you meant no harm—you did not know, and Heaven is witness how sorely we sometimes suffer for that!”
Between her sobs the girl jerked out piteously:
“Perine come back?”
Marie looked imploringly at her husband, but he shook his head.
“Not tonight, not to-night, my child. As you go out beg for a bit of bread from M. Plon, he is in a splendid temper, and will not refuse it. There make haste, go!”
She took her by the shoulders and pushed her towards the door, but when she left her outside, kissed her.
Perine had no sooner gone than Jean came out and flung himself angrily on a chair.
“I shall stand this no longer. I give you notice of my determination, Marie. You have her here, I believe, solely to torment me. Figure to yourself having to stand by helpless, and see the creature put an end to both one’s dinner and one’s pipe! She is not to come here any more, those are my orders. Do you hear?”
“Yes, I hear,” said Marie quietly, “but I beg of you to change your mind. We are badly off, I allow, yet somehow or other we can always rub along, and this poor child is in worse plight than we are.”
“Worse? Nonsense. No one can be worse off than I am. Denounced, executed, for I assure you I felt that bullet go through my brain, saved just by the hair of my head—”
“Such a mercy!” breathed the wife.
“A mercy, yes—but you who can go and come and amuse yourself, never think what this life must be to me, cooped up like a rat in his hole. There are times when I believe I should do better to give myself up.”
“For the sake of Heaven, Jean—!”
“At any rate,” said Jean, descending from his heights, “I will not have that imbecile here. You understand?”
Marie looked at him indulgently. “Yes, my friend, I understand.”
“I’ll lay a wager you never got that journal from old Plon-Plon?”
“He had not finished with it.”
“Of course not. Then I shall go to sleep, for there is nothing else for me to do.”
He flung a handkerchief over his eyes as he spoke, put his feet on Perine’s stool, and his elbow on the table. Marie moved quietly about, set the saucepan again on the stove, and taking some needlework from a box, sat down near her husband, stitching rapidly. Every now and then she glanced at him, and her mind was tenderly busy over his concerns all the while, so that tears would have stood in her eyes if they had not had other work to do.