« AnkstesnisTęsti »
his father is Mr. Duval. There are twelve hundred Duvals in Paris."
"Then he does not know in what part of the town he lives?"
"I should think not, indeed! Don't you see that he is a gentleman's child? He has never gone out except in a carriage or with a servant. He does not know what to do by himself."
Here the mason was interrupted by some of the voices rising above the others.
"We cannot leave him in the street," said some. "The child-stealers would carry him off," continued others.
"We must take him to the overseer." "Or to the police office."
"That's the thing. Come, little one!
But the child, frightened by these suggestions of danger, and at the names of police and overseer, cried louder, and drew back toward the parapet. In vain they tried to persuade him; his fears made him resist the more. The most eager began to get weary, when the voice of a little boy was heard through the confusion.
"I know him well- I do," said he, looking at the lost child, "he belongs in our part of the town."
"What part is it?"
"Yonder, on the other side of the Boulevards — 'Magazine Street."
"And you have seen him before?"
"Yes, yes! he belongs to the great house at the end of the street, where there is an iron gate with gilt points."
The child quickly raised his head and stopped crying. The little boy answered all the questions that were put to him, and gave such details as left no room for doubt. The other child understood him, for he went up to him as if to put himself under his protection.
"Then you can take him to his parents?" asked the mason, who had listened with real interest.
"I don't care if I do," replied he; "it's the way I'm going."
"Then you will take charge of him?"
"He has only to come with me."
And, taking up the basket he had put down on the pavement, he set off toward the postern gate of the Louvre. The lost child followed him.
"I hope he will take him all right," said I, when I saw them go away.
"Never fear," replied the mason; "the little one in the blouse is the same age as the other; but, as the saying is, he knows black from white'; poverty, you see, is a famous schoolmistress !
The crowd dispersed. For my part, I went toward the Louvre. The thought came into my head to follow the two children, so as to guard against any mistake.
I was not long in overtaking them. They were walking side by side, talking and already quite familiar with one another.
The contrast in their dress struck me. Little Duval wore one of those fanciful dresses which are expensive as well as in good taste; his coat was skillfully fitted to his figure, his trousers came down in plaits from his waist to his polished boots, and his ringlets were half hid by a velvet cap.
The appearance of his guide, on the contrary, was that of the class who dwell on the extreme borders of poverty. His old blouse, patched with pieces of different shades, indicated the perseverance of an industrious mother struggling against the wear and tear of time. His trousers were become too short, and showed his stockings darned over and over again.
The countenances of the two children were not less different than their dresses. That of the first was delicate and refined; his clear blue eye, his fair skin, and his smiling mouth, gave him a charming look of innocence and happiness.
The features of the other, on the contrary, had something rough in them; his eye was quick and lively, his complexion dark, his smile less merry than shrewd. All showed a mind sharpened by too early experience. He boldly walked through the middle
of the streets thronged by carriages, and followed their countless turnings without hesitation.
I found, on asking him, that every day he carried dinner to his father, who was then working on the left bank of the Seine; and this responsible duty made him careful and prudent. Unfortunately, the wants of his poor family had kept him from school, and he seemed to feel the loss; for he often stopped before the print-shops and asked his companion to read to him the names of the engravings.
In this way we reached a certain boulevard which the little wanderer seemed to know again. Notwithstanding his fatigue he hurried on; he was agitated by mixed feelings; at the sight of his house he uttered a cry, and ran toward the iron gate with the gilt points.
A lady who was standing at the entrance received him in her arms; and from the exclamations of joy, and the sound of kisses, I soon perceived she was his mother.
Not having seen either the servant or the child return, she had sent in search for them in every direction, and was waiting for them in intense anxiety.
I explained to her in a few words what had happened. She thanked me warmly, and looked round for the little boy who had recognized and brought back her son; but while we were talking he had disappeared.
After these events two years had passed, and it was now the first time since then that I had come into this part of Paris. Did the mother continue grateful? Had the two children met again, and had the happy chance of their first meeting lowered between them that barrier which may mark the different ranks of men, but should not divide them?
While putting these questions to myself, I slackened my pace, and fixed my eyes on the great gate, which I just perceived. All at once I saw it open, and two children appeared at the entrance. Although much grown, I recognized them at first sight; they were the child who was found near the parapet of the Louvre, and his young guide. But the dress of the latter was greatly changed. His blouse of gray cloth was neat, and even spruce, and was fastened round the waist by a polished leather belt. wore strong shoes, and had on a new cloth cap.
Just at the moment I saw him he held in his hand an enormous bunch of lilacs, to which his companion was trying to add narcissuses and primroses. The two children laughed, and parted with a friendly good-by. The Duval boy did not go till he had seen the other as he turned the corner of the street.
Then I spoke to the latter, and reminded him of