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The sounds of the city did not reach us, and the wind that passed through the leaves was soft to hear like a rustle of silk.

At all times in my memory the voice of Bergeounette sang the song of earthly paradise:

In a delicious garden,
Close to heaven …
Beyond the alleys, when a group of children dressed in light colors ran past, I thought I saw clumps of flowers escaping from the flower beds and running towards the undergrowth.

On the benches and on the chairs, couples remained inactive and silent, as if crushed with happiness.

Other couples, very young, very serious and staring forward, were hurrying away to the nursery.

Then evening was falling, and suddenly a buzzer warned us that the doors were going to close. And again I thought of Bergeounette’s song:

Adam, Adam, hear my voice,
Get out of this wood.
The boss was getting up, and as if he had thought about the song too, he said to me with boredom:

-Allons, little one, we are hunted.

Despite his weakness, the boss was always present in the morning when the workers arrived, and he still found funny things to say to the latecomers:

-It’s the fault of the quilt, I bet.

At Duretour, whose bun was not as smooth as the day before, he said:

-The pillow was pulling your hair, huh?

The rest he was taking brought hardly any color to his face, and he hardly bore the sound of the machines. He became fearful, and soon the unknown noises troubled him more than reason. He sometimes put his hand on our scissors to tell us:

“Listen, what is that doing?

We listened and Madame Dalignac laughed softly, in a low voice:

“It’s a lion coming through the keyhole.

He laughed with us, and a little red came to his cheeks.

One morning, when he had seen a little mouse come out of the rag-box, he was almost angry, demanding that Duretour go straight for the neighbor’s cat.

It was a big cat born in the apartment next door and who had never seen a mouse. He was often met on the landing where he sought the caresses of the workers. As soon as he entered, he jumped on the machines, and he went around the studio, sniffing in every corner, and then, when he had seen everything, he shoved himself into an empty locker to sleep at his ease.

The little mouse suspected danger. She showed her muzzle several times between the wall and the top of the fireplace, but she did not dare to go any further. Then, as the big cat was still sleeping, she got bolder and went through the workshop to the kitchen.

She began again the following days. She passed very light and lively with her pretty gray dress, and Bergeounette, who was watching her, laughed at seeing her so dexterous.

Yet the cat saw him, he jumped heavily from his board and went behind her in the kitchen. He returned soon after, but his pace was changed. He was moving forward cautiously and his whole body was lengthening, his eyes were more yellow too, and he was stretching his claws for a long time. He went around the studio again, but instead of going back to his locker he stood under a stool near the fireplace. He seemed to sleep with his nose on his paws, but one or the other of his ears was constantly erect, and there was a clear ray between his eyelids.

The little mouse was in no hurry to return, and no one thought of her or the cat any more, when a cry was heard so fine and so long that all the machines stopped and everyone looked at the stool. The cat was still there, but he was lying on his side, and under one of his legs, lying, the tail of the mouse was hanging out and dragging like a piece of black cord. Almost immediately the black cord stirred, and the mouse escaped. She did not go far, the cat blocked her way and turned her with a paw. She remained for a moment as dead, then she tried to run to the kitchen; the cat was still in front of her.

Then she panicked; she wanted to flee anywhere and no matter how, she turned or flung herself in all directions, and always, with a claw, the cat brought her back to the studio. There was a moment when it was thought that she was going to resign herself to death, so trembling and shattered she was. But suddenly, she faced her executioner. She had risen so fast that her impulse had almost flung her back; she remained standing trembling, waving her front paws, while her small, bleeding mouth let out a variety of cries and followed. And each of us realized that she was insulting the huge monster who was watching her sitting quietly, bending her head. Then, as if she had suddenly measured all her weakness, and understood that nothing could save her, she faltered and fell back, uttering a sharp complaint. And it was so pitiful that Bulldog grabbed the cat by the middle of his back and threw it on the table. He came down again very quickly, but the mouse was no longer there.

The boss returned to his chaise longue, and it was not known whether he was angry or pleased when he said:

-She escaped.

Madame Dalignac breathed deeply, and her two fists, which she held close to her breast, opened abruptly as if she herself had nothing to fear.

The day after that we realized that Gabielle was suffering. She stopped her machine and bent in half for a minute, then she went back to work without saying anything.

Bergeounette joked:

-Is it for today?

And she offered to accompany him without delay to the Maternity.

Gabielle was afraid of the hospital. It was nice to tell him that Maternity was not a hospital; she did not believe it. And, at the thought of going there thus, immediately, without being able to think about it again, her repugnance increased, and she affirmed to suffer only a temporary uneasiness.

Felicite Damoure, who had just had a child, gave him reason against the others:

-Pardi! She has time, the fisherman. When the time comes, you will see him make another grimace.

But as Gabielle continued to fold in two, Bergeounette forced his coat and forced him to leave the workshop.

It was a great event among us, and most of the workers went to the window to see Gabielle cross the avenue. Madame Dalignac and the master did the same, and I went to look like them.

A heavy truck hitched by three horses slowly up the avenue prevented the two women from crossing immediately, and Bergeounette took the opportunity to turn to us and wave us goodbye. It was clear that Gabielle wanted to do the same, but in turning her two feet escaped the edge of the sidewalk, and she fell backwards in front of the team.

There were shouts. The arrow horse drew back, reared, and climbed onto the sidewalk. Then Bergeounette was seized by the bridle of the horses while the driver, standing in his seat, was pulling the guides with both hands.

People came running, but already Gabielle stood up unaided and shook herself.

Madame Dalignac had not waited for the end to run downstairs. She supported Bergeounette as much as Gabielle, and all three went slowly up.

Bergeounette’s sharp eyes widened, and his brown face had taken on an earthy hue:

-Never I was so scared, she confessed.

And as she never lost the opportunity to make fun of herself as much as anyone else, she exaggerated her weakness with words and grimaces that noisily brought back the gaiety.

Gabielle laughed. She did not want to lie down on the boss’s long chair, and she refused the cordial that Madame Dalignac offered her. She laughed noiselessly and her laugh was something supernatural. The pallor of his face was also something supernatural, and was not more pleasant to see than his laugh, but all the hardness of his features had gone and his eyes were soft and confident again. She resumed her machine and there was no question of giving birth that day.

Neither was it the next day nor the following days. And if Gabielle still bent in half from time to time, she did not complain, and her machine made no less noise than the others.

Eight days had already passed when Mr. Bon paid his visit to the employer. Because he was interested in Gabielle, the boss told him his fall as a funny story, but Mr. Bon did not find the story so funny and he went a little head in the workshop to watch Gabielle. No sooner had he looked at it than it was like a new accident that was coming. He leaned over her, grabbed her by the shoulder, and before she could resist, he dragged her to the door.

The windows opened as before, and we saw Gabielle half-drawn, half carried by Mr. Bon to a car, which went away at once.

Everyone believed in a hasty delivery. Gabielle herself must have believed it; for, as she passed through the cup-room, she had turned towards us a desolate face. At that moment I had only noticed her purple eyelids and her lips so dark that they looked black.

Mr. Bon did not delay coming back for his hat, which he had forgotten. He shrugged his shoulders full of scorn for our ignorance, when he said a little roughly:

She carries her dead child since the day of her fall.

After a week we knew that Gabielle would escape death, and that she had borne her suffering with the greatest courage.

The following Sunday, at the time of the visit to the sick, I found Bergeounette at the Maternity Hospital. It was not necessary to think of making Gabielle speak, but Bergeounette made up for it by asking a thousand questions to the nurse, who kept us away from the bed of the patient.

The last question was the one that interested us the most:

-Was it a girl or a boy?

The nurse had not thought of inquiring, and her two hands together made a gesture of indifference when she replied:

It was only a little rotting flesh.

Barely out, Bergeounette took my arm to say:

-What luck for her that this fall.

She added with a grave tone that she sometimes had:

-The child went away as the father had come, without Gabielle having seen the shape of his body or the color of his face.

Now the boss stayed in bed with fever. His condition had been aggravated by a heavy rainstorm which we had not been able to avoid, and which had held us too long under a Luxembourg tree.

Mr. Bon was alarmed at this fever, which did not diminish despite the care and the medicines. On the other hand, Mrs. Dalignac did not take any concern and continued to believe in the very near cure of her husband. To the workers who questioned her, and to Bergeounette, who did not dare to sing, she said:

-I saw him much more sick than that.

Eglantine, who had gone to see Monsieur Bon in secret, feared all this coolness. She was also dismayed to see Mme Dalignac so quiet. Quickly, between two doors, she had said to me:

“Aunt does not understand anything about diseases. She has never had a cold or an hour of fever; and if my uncle dies, she will be struck as an unexpected misfortune.

I could see that Eglantine was right, but no more than I could make Mrs. Dalignac understand that her husband was in danger.

All this, however, indicated to him, with the anxious and angry air of Monsieur Bon, the bewilderment of the patron’s eyes, as well as the redness of his once pale face. But all this seemed to exist only for us. When Madame Dalignac touched the moist forehead and warm hands of the patient, she did not think of the fever, and only blamed the heat of July. She even managed to share her confidence despite the warnings of Eglantine.

Sandrine’s example seemed to prove him right. “She could have healed with rest and care,” said Mr. Bon. The owner had been rested and cared for, his wife had not bargained for her pain or courage to assure her, and now that the embroidery machine was relegated to a corner and the difficult customers were far away forever, Mrs. Dalignac firmly believed that nothing could threaten her husband’s life. And unlike Eglantine, she kept her sweet gaiety and made her pretty laugh.

We were in the middle of the dead season. The models to be created and the shopping at the store occupied Madame Dalignac’s every hour, but it was easy for me to stay with the boss to prevent his slightest desires. The others did not leave me in any embarrassment. Bulldog, who knew how to clean up quickly and well, was in charge of putting order and cleanliness in the room, and Duretour, who watched the medicine vials, ran to the pharmacist as soon as it was necessary.

The boss was happy to see us so attentive. He was angry, however, when he saw Bergeounette climb on the window sill to clean the windows more easily:

-Eh! do not break your paws, you big grasshopper.

And he added, forcing her to go down:

-For what I have time to see, your windows.

He liked the sound of the workshop, and to lose nothing of it, he forced me to leave all the doors open.

Only a few workers were there. And only the machine of Bulldog could hear the clatter of his pedal. As soon as she stopped, the boss was worried, but when Bergeounette was singing, he would sit on the bed and restrain himself from coughing. Another noise, coming back at intervals, held all his attention. It was a hard, stubborn sound and supported:

Crrran, crrran, crrran. It looked like a strong jaw crushing flesh and bones. It was only the great scissors of Mme Dalignac who regularly did their work.

Long, hot days passed without bringing relief that Mr. Bon was expecting.

The boss was making fun of him from behind:

He does not see that I am at the end of my roll.

I let him say and laugh with him. While I was sewing near his bed, he was talking to me about his wife. All he had to say about her was to his praise, and if the suffering came to cut him off by reminding him that death was near, he was not afraid of it, and kept telling me what he was doing. had already said a hundred times:

-With her, I had my share of happiness.

As a result of Clement’s permission he forgot his wife a little to tell me about my future marriage. He spoke to me with spaced sentences that did not require an answer:

To live alone lives without joy.

He let silence pass and continued:

-You can not live without joy.

But one day when his fever was stronger, he suddenly said:

He has nothing but pride.

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I waited, not knowing if he was still talking about Clement. And as I raised my head, he said again:

“You can not be happy with him.

His whole sagging body seemed to give way to sleep, yet he resumed in the same muffled and weak voice:

-His heart is like a burnt path where there is neither source nor shade.

In the noise and the remoteness Madame Dalignac certainly could not hear, and I did not understand why she entered the room so quickly, and why she remained so long to look at us one after the other.

She touched her husband’s hands, kissed her forehead, and left silently as she had come.

The boss listened for a moment to the scissors, which began to bite again, and his eyes, which had closed at the departure of his wife, reopened when he said to me:

– To live near her you will gain her sweetness and her courage.

I did not dare to ask him for the other words and he did not speak to me about Clement anymore.

Eglantine soon came to spend the night with her uncle as I spent the days there myself. When she arrived a little before sunset, the boss received her with a beautiful smile of gratitude, then fell asleep heavily for an hour or two. These were his only hours of real rest, for the rest of the night he was stifling or agitating uselessly.

For us too, it was the only hours of real rest. After our dinner we all three met in the workshop, and although we have no secrets to say, we were talking low and not lighting the lamp.

Here again, I heard about Clement. Madame Dalignac praised her qualities of heart and extolled certain traits of her character:

-It is active and intelligent, and never will his people experience misery.

Eglantine did not contradict her, on the contrary. She added to Clement’s eulogy the grateful tenderness he had devoted to the patron, and she predicted a much more tender affection for the woman and the children who would share her life. Madame Dalignac did not forget that it was to him that she owed the happiness of her household. And as if the knowledge of her past had been a bond which would unite me more strongly to her nephew, she related one evening how her marriage had been.

When she had to replace her sister with the three orphans, the two girls had given him little trouble, but it was not the same with their brother. This ten-year-old had been hard, insolent, and willful. He responded to caresses only by mockeries, and reproaches only by fits of rage which terrified his aunt and sisters.

However, this child so difficult to handle worked well in school, and passed for a docile and respectful student. His docility and his respect were not less to Dalignac, the embroiderer who came almost every day to take or bring work back to the workshop. And so the young adoptive mother understood that to raise a boy, the authority of a man was necessary.

On the other hand, the embroiderer, whom we had always known to be erased and timid, had taken daring in becoming the comrade of the child. He joined the little family in his evening walks, and he never failed to run with Clement around the trees and benches.

The two girls had made assumptions right away. “It’s me he wants for a wife,” Rose said, already as beautiful as a girl to marry.

“If it’s me he loves,” said Eglantine in his turn, “he’ll have to wait until I’m fifteen.”

While laughing with the two sisters, their aunt thought like Rose and made for her and her younger brother beautiful future plans.

It had lasted until the evening when Dalignac had abruptly separated from the children to walk beside their aunt. The mysterious air of the embroiderer kept the three children away during the whole walk, but after his departure the two girls had asked together:

“Is it me that he likes?”