She had stepped up to the window whilst speaking, and now saw Florent crossing the Rue Rambuteau on his way to the fish market. There was a very large arrival of fish that morning; the tray-like baskets were covered with rippling silver, and the auction rooms roared with the hubbub of their sales. Lisa kept her eyes on the bony shoulders of her brother-in-law as he made his way into the pungent smells of the market, stooping beneath the sickening sensation which they brought him; and the glance with which she followed his steps was that of a woman bent on combat and resolved to be victorious.
When she turned round again, Quenu was getting up. As he sat on the edge of the bed in his night-shirt, still warm from the pleasant heat of the eider-down quilt and with his feet resting on the soft fluffy rug below him, he looked quite pale, quite distressed at the misunderstanding between his wife and his brother. Lisa, however, gave him one of her sweetest smiles, and he felt deeply touched when she handed him his socks.
Marjolin had been found in a heap of cabbages at the Market of the Innocents. He was sleeping under the shelter of a large white-hearted one, a broad leaf of which concealed his rosy childish face It was never known what poverty-stricken mother had laid him there. When he was found he was already a fine little fellow of two or three years of age, very plump and merry, but so backward and dense that he could scarcely stammer a few words, and only seemed able to smile. When one of the vegetable saleswomen found him lying under the big white cabbage she raised such a loud cry of surprise that her neighbours rushed up to see what was the matter, while the youngster, still in petticoats, and wrapped in a scrap of old blanket, held out his arms towards her. He could not tell who his mother was, but opened his eyes in wide astonishment as he squeezed against the shoulder of a stout tripe dealer who eventually took him up. The whole market busied itself about him throughout the day. He soon recovered confidence, ate slices of bread and butter, and smiled at all the women. The stout tripe dealer kept him for a time, then a neighbour took him; and a month later a third woman gave him shelter. When they asked him where his mother was, he waved his little hand with a pretty gesture which embraced all the women present. He became the adopted child of the place, always clinging to the skirts of one or another of the women, and always finding a corner of a bed and a share of a meal somewhere. Somehow, too, he managed to find clothes, and he even had a copper or two at the bottom of his ragged pockets. It was a buxom, ruddy girl dealing in medicinal herbs who gave him the name of Marjolin,[*] though no one knew why.
[*] Literally “Marjoram.”