“Very beautiful, madame,” answered Agricola greatly embarrassed.
“You may see from it that I like what is equitable.” added Miss de Cardoville, pointing with her finger to the little silver tablet;—“an artist puts his name upon his painting; an author publishes his on the title-page of his book; and I contend that an artisan ought also to have his name connected with his workmanship.”
“Oh, madame, so this name?”
“Is that of the poor chaser who executed this masterpiece, at the order of a rich goldsmith. When the latter sold me the vase, he was amazed at my eccentricity, he would have almost said at my injustice, when, after having made him tell me the name of the author of this production, I ordered his name to be inscribed upon it, instead of that of the goldsmith, which had already been affixed to the stand. In the absence of the rich profits, let the artisan enjoy the fame of his skill. Is it not just, sir?”
It would have been impossible for Adrienne to commence the conversation more graciously: so that the blacksmith, already beginning to feel a little more at ease, answered:
“Being a mechanic myself, madame, I cannot but be doubly affected by such a proof of your sense of equity and justice.”
“Since you are a mechanic, sir,” resumed Adrienne, “I cannot but felicitate myself on having so suitable a hearer. But please to be seated.”
With a gesture full of affability, she pointed to an armchair of purple silk embroidered with gold, sitting down herself upon a tete-a-tete of the same materials.
Seeing Agricola’s hesitation, who again cast down his eyes with embarrassment, Adrienne, to encourage him, showed him Frisky, and said to him gayly: “This poor little animal, to which I am very much attached, will always afford me a lively remembrance of your obliging complaisance, sir. And this visit seems to me to be of happy augury; I know not what good presentiment whispers to me, that perhaps I shall have the pleasure of being useful to you in some affair.”
“Madame,” said Agricola, resolutely, “my name is Baudoin: a blacksmith in the employment of M. Hardy, at Pressy, near the city. Yesterday you offered me your purse and I refused it: to-day, I have come to request of you perhaps ten or twenty times the sum that you had generously proposed. I have said thus much all at once, madame, because it causes me the greatest effort. The words blistered my lips, but now I shall be more at ease.”
“I appreciate the delicacy of your scruples, sir,” said Adrienne; “but if you knew me, you would address me without fear. How much do you require?”
“I do not know, madame,” answered Agricola.
“I beg your pardon. You don’t know what sum?”
“No madame; and I come to you to request, not only the sum necessary to me, but also information as to what that sum is.”
“Let us see, sir,” said Adrienne, smiling, “explain this to me. In spite of my good will, you feel that I cannot divine, all at once, what it is that is required.”