“Oh, don’t, ma’am, if Agricola heard you say that—”
“I know the poor boy thinks of nothing but me, and that augments my vexation. Only I think that rather than leave me, he gives up the advantages that his fellow-workmen enjoy at Hardy’s, his good and worthy master—instead of living in this dull garret, where it is scarcely light at noon, he would enjoy, like the other workmen, at very little expense, a good light room, warm in winter, airy in summer, with a view of the garden. And he is so fond of trees! not to mention that this place is so far from his work, that it is quite a toil to him to get to it.”
“Oh, when he embraces you he forgets his fatigue, Mrs. Baudoin,” said Mother Bunch; “besides, he knows how you cling to the house in which he was born. M. Hardy offered to settle you at Plessy with Agricola, in the building put up for the workmen.”
“Yes, my child; but then I must give up church. I can’t do that.”
“But—be easy, I hear him,” said the hunchback, blushing.
A sonorous, joyous voice was heard singing on the stairs.
“At least, I’ll not let him see that I have been crying,” said the good mother, drying her tears. “This is the only moment of rest and ease from toil he has—I must not make it sad to him.”
Our blacksmith poet, a tall young man, about four-and-twenty years of age, was alert and robust, with ruddy complexion, dark hair and eyes, and aquiline nose, and an open, expressive countenance. His resemblance to Dagobert was rendered more striking by the thick brown moustache which he wore according to the fashion; and a sharp-pointed imperial covered his chin. His cheeks, however, were shaven, Olive color velveteen trousers, a blue blouse, bronzed by the forge smoke, a black cravat, tied carelessly round his muscular neck, a cloth cap with a narrow vizor, composed his dress. The only thing which contrasted singularly with his working habiliments was a handsome purple flower, with silvery pistils, which he held in his hand.
“Good-evening, mother,” said he, as he came to kiss Frances immediately.
Then, with a friendly nod, he added, “Good-evening, Mother Bunch.”
“You are very late, my child,” said Frances, approaching the little stove on which her son’s simple meal was simmering; “I was getting very anxious.”
“Anxious about me, or about my supper, dear mother?” said Agricola, gayly. “The deuce! you won’t excuse me for keeping the nice little supper waiting that you get ready for me, for fear it should be spoilt, eh?”
So saying, the blacksmith tried to kiss his mother again.
“Have done, you naughty boy; you’ll make me upset the pan.”
“That would be a pity, mother; for it smells delightfully. Let’s see what it is.”
“Wait half a moment.”