Oh, that is the way he always does, whenever he hears the sound of eating, said Germain. The explosion of a cannon would not rouse him, but if you work your jaws near him, he opens his eyes at once.
You must have been just like him at his age, said little Marie, with a sly smile. See! my Petit-Pierre, you are looking for your canopy. To-night it is made all of green, my child; but your father eats his supper none the less. Do you wish to sup with him? I have not eaten your share; I thought that you might claim it.
Marie, I wish you to eat, cried the husbandman; I shall not touch another morsel. I am a greedy glutton. You are depriving yourself for our sake. It is not fair. I am ashamed. It takes away all my appetite. I will not have my son eat his supper unless you take some too.
Leave us alone, said little Marie; you have not the key to our appetites. Mine is tight shut to-day, but your Pierres is as wide open as a little wolfs. Just see how he seizes his food. He will be a strong workman, too, some day!
In truth, Petit-Pierre showed very soon whose son he was, and though scarcely awake and wholly at a loss to know where he was and how he had come there, he began to eat ravenously. As soon as his hunger was appeased, feeling excited as children do who break loose from their wonted habits, he had more wit, more curiosity, and more good sense than usual. He made them explain to him where he was, and when he found that he was in the midst of a forest, he grew a little frightened.
He is right, replied little Marie. That is what you told him. He has a good memory, and has not forgotten. But, little Pierre, you must learn that your father never tells a story. We passed through the big forest whilst you were sleeping, and now we are in the small forest where there are no wicked beasts.
There is nobody like you for talking to children and for making them listen to reason,said Germain to little Marie. To be sure, it is not long ago since you were a small child yourself, and you have not forgotten what your mother used to say to you. I believe that the younger one in, the better one gets on with children. I am very much afraid that a woman of thirty who does not yet know what it is to be a mother, would find it hard to prattle to children and reason with them.
No; for I saw her placed in a beautiful box of white wood, and my grandmother led me up to her to kiss her and say good-bye. She was very white and very stiff, and stiff, and every evening my aunt made me pray to God that she might go to Him in Heaven and be warm. Do you think that she is there now?
The child knelt down on the girls skirt. He clasped his little hands and began to say his prayers, at first with great care and earnestness, for he knew the beginning very well, then slowly and with more hesitation, and finally repeating word by word after Marie, when he came to that place in his prayer where sleep overtook him so invariably that he had never been able to learn the end. This time again the effort of close attention and the monotony of his own accent produced their wonted effect. He pronounced the last syllables with great difficulty, and only after they were thrice repeated.
His head grew heavy and fell on Maries breast; his hands unclasped, divided, and fell open on his knees. By the light of the camp-fire, Germain watched his little darling hushed at the heart of the young girl, who, as she held him in her arms and warmed his fair hair with her sweet breath, had herself fallen into a holy reverie, and prayed in quiet for the soul of Catherine.
The child allowed Marie to lay him down, but feeling the goatskin on the saddle, he asked if he were on the grey. Then opening his big blue eyes, and keeping them fixed on the branches for a minute, he seemed to be dreaming, wide-awake as he was, or to be struck with an idea which had slipped his mind during the daytime, and only assumed a distinct form at the approach of sleep.