“They’ve no liberty,” said Michael, “though they usually take a deal too much licence. They never are allowed to call their time their own, though they often misuse the time that ought to belong to other people.”
For a long time Chapeau combatted such arguments as these, but without avail; the smith declared that now, as his two sons had become soldiers, it would break his heart if his daughter also were to marry one. He assured Jacques, with tears running down his rough cheeks, that he could not bring himself to give his daughter his blessing, if she left his house without his leave to marry a soldier. He declared that he also loved her better than all the world, and that he could not bear to part with her; and his tears and kindly words had such an effect upon Annot, that she could not restrain herself: she burst into tears herself and running out of her little room, threw herself into her father’s arms.
“Get up, thou simpleton; get up, thou little fool,” said he. “Why, Annot, what ails thee?”
“Oh, father! dear father!” said she.
“Get up then, Annot, and I’ll speak to thee. I never saw thee in this way before.”
“Oh, father!” she said, sobbing violently, “do you love your poor daughter so very, very much?”
“Love you, Annot! why yes, I do love you. If you’ll be a good girl, that is, I will love you.”
“I will be a good girl, dear father; indeed I’ll be a good girl; at any rate I’ll try. But then—” and she stood up, and commenced wiping her eyes with her little apron.
“Well, what then, Annot?” said the smith.
“But then—I wouldn’t anger you, father, for all the world; indeed I wouldn’t, for you always are so good to me, and I know I don’t deserve it,” and poor Annot continued sobbing and rubbing her eyes with her apron.
“Nonsense, girl, nonsense!” said Michael; “I don’t find any fault with you. Don’t think of getting yourself married till these wars be over, that’s all,” and he kissed her forehead, and patted her cheek as though all the difficulty were over.
“But, father—?” continued Annot, with her apron still to her face.
“Well, child, what is it? By the blessed mass, M. Chapeau, I don’t know what the girl’s crying for.”
“Do you love your own little Annot so very, very much?” said she, and she put her soft arm round his rough neck, and placed her cheek quite close to his.
“There, Annot; why what nonsense, girl! Don’t you know I love you? didn’t you hear me say so this minute? Leave off, will you, you little slut! why, what will M. Chapeau think of us? Well, I declare she’s crying still!”
“But if you really, really love me, father—”
“Bother the girl! she knows I love her better than anything else; God forgive me.”
“If you really love me,” repeated Annot, nestling her head in her father’s bosom, “you must, you must, you must—do something that I’ll ask you, father.”