“‘Very good,’ said the young man, ’I will help you take home the horse, who will go well enough with me, and I will tell the master that the delay was no fault of your’n. A balky horse ought not to be trusted to a child of your age.’
“At the moment of setting out, the poor little fellow said timidly to the good dame, as he took off his cap to her: ’Will you let me kiss you, ma’am?’
“His eyes were full of tears of gratitude. There was heart in that child. This scene of popular charity gave me delightful emotions. As long as I could, I followed with my eyes the tall young man and the child, who now could hardly keep up with the pace of the horse, rendered suddenly docile by fear of the whip.
“Yes! I repeat it with pride; man is naturally good and helpful. Nothing could have been more spontaneous than this movement of pity and tenderness in the crowd, when the poor little fellow exclaimed: ’What will become of me? I have no father or mother!’
“‘Unfortunate child!’ said I to myself. ’No father nor mother. In the hands of a brutal master, who hardly covers him with a few rags, and ill treats him into the bargain. Sleeping, no doubt in the corner of a stable. Poor little, fellow! and yet so mild and good, in spite of misery and misfortune. I saw it—he was even more grateful than pleased at the service done him. But perhaps this good natural disposition, abandoned without support or counsel, or help, and exasperated by bad treatment, may become changed and embittered—and then will come the age of the passions—the bad temptations—’
“Oh! in the deserted poor, virtue is doubly saintly and respectable!
“This morning, after having (as usual) gently reproached me for not going to mass, Agricola’s mother said to me these words, so touching in her simple and believing mouth, ’Luckily, I pray for you and myself too, my poor girl; the good God will hear me, and you will only go, I hope, to Purgatory.’
“Good mother; angelic soul! she spoke those words in so grave and mild a tone, with so strong a faith in the happy result of her pious intercession, that I felt my eyes become moist, and I threw myself on her neck, as sincerely grateful as if I had believed in Purgatory. This day has been a lucky one for me. I hope I have found work, which luck I shall owe to a young person full of heart and goodness, she is to take me to-morrow to St. Mary’s Convent, where she thinks she can find me employment.”
Florine, already much moved by the reading, started at this passage in which Mother Bunch alluded to her, ere she continued as follows:
“Never shall I forget with what touching interest, what delicate benevolence, this handsome young girl received me, so poor, and so unfortunate. It does not astonish me, for she is attached to the person of Mdlle. de Cardoville. She must be worthy to reside with Agricola’s benefactress. It will always be dear and pleasant to me to remember her name. It is graceful and pretty as her face; it is Florine. I am nothing, I have nothing—but if the fervent prayers of a grateful heart might be heard, Mdlle. Florine would be happy, very happy. Alas! I am reduced to say prayers for her—only prayers—for I can do nothing but remember and love her!”