But Madame Bouclet looking in apologetically one morning to remark, that, O Heaven! she was in a state of desolation because the lamp-maker had not sent home that lamp confided to him to repair, but that truly he was a lamp-maker against whom the whole world shrieked out, Mr. The Englishman seized the occasion.
"Madame, that baby—"
"Pardon, monsieur. That lamp."
"No, no, that little girl."
"But, pardon!" said Madame Bonclet, angling for a clew, "one cannot light a little girl, or send her to be repaired?"
"The little girl—at the house of the barber."
"Ah-h-h!" cried Madame Bouclet, suddenly catching the idea with her delicate little line and rod. "Little Bebelle? Yes, yes, yes! And her friend the Corporal? Yes, yes, yes, yes! So genteel of him,—is it not?"
"He is not—?"
"Not at all; not at all! He is not one of her relations. Not at all!"
"Why, then, he—"
"Perfectly!" cried Madame Bouclet, "you are right, monsieur. It is so genteel of him. The less relation, the more genteel. As you say."
"The child of the barber?" Madame Bouclet whisked up her skilful little line and rod again. "Not at all, not at all! She is the child of—in a word, of no one."
"The wife of the barber, then—?"
"Indubitably. As you say. The wife of the barber receives a small stipend to take care of her. So much by the month. Eh, then! It is without doubt very little, for we are all poor here."
"You are not poor, madame."
"As to my lodgers," replied Madame Bouclet, with a smiling and a gracious bend of her head, "no. As to all things else, so-so."
"You flatter me, madame."
"Monsieur, it is you who flatter me in living here."
Certain fishy gasps on Mr. The Englishman′s part, denoting that he was about to resume his subject under difficulties, Madame Bouclet observed him closely, and whisked up her delicate line and rod again with triumphant success.
"O no, monsieur, certainly not. The wife of the barber is not cruel to the poor child, but she is careless. Her health is delicate, and she sits all day, looking out at window. Consequently, when the Corporal first came, the poor little Bebelle was much neglected."
"It is a curious—" began Mr. The Englishman.
"Name? That Bebelle? Again you are right, monsieur. But it is a playful name for Gabrielle."
"And so the child is a mere fancy of the Corporal′s?" said Mr. The Englishman, in a gruffly disparaging tone of voice.
"Eh, well!" returned Madame Bouclet, with a pleading shrug: "one must love something. Human nature is weak."
("Devilish weak," muttered the Englishman, in his own language.)
"And the Corporal," pursued Madame Bouclet, "being billeted at the barber′s,—where he will probably remain a long time, for he is attached to the General,—and finding the poor unowned child in need of being loved, and finding himself in need of loving,—why, there you have it all, you see!"
Mr. The Englishman accepted this interpretation of the matter with an indifferent grace, and observed to himself, in an injured manner, when he was again alone: "I shouldn′t mind it so much, if these people were not such a"—National Participled—"sentimental people!"
There was a Cemetery outside the town, and it happened ill for the reputation of the Vaubanois, in this sentimental connection, that he took a walk there that same afternoon.
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