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of straw, and gave her a piece of bread; this the poor girl quickly demolished, and creeping to her straw bed, she very soon fell asleep.
In the morning, after cleaning herself, and arranging her dress the best way possible, she appeared before her new mistress. The latter was reclining upon the sofa at breakfast, whilst Bijou, not yet quite awake, was at her side.
“Well,” said she, “you look a trifle more decent now. Pray what do they call you ?"
The contrast between the soft and gentle tone with which she addressed her dog, and the harsh and brutal style with which she spoke to our little Savoyard was painfully cutting, and affected Marie to tears.
“ My name is Marie,” she gently replied.
“Why, I declare you are actually crying,” said Madame Bertin; "come, come, I won't have that: do you hear ? Mind, I have taken you out of the streets for the sake of my sweet little Bijou, and you will understand that your duty is to attend to everything he wants, and when he is asleep you must fan away the flies from tormenting him ; and you must set his pillow aright, play with him when he wishes it, and, in fact, you must be entirely at his command. And for all this I will give you your food, and such other trifling things as a poor, common peasant girl like you may want.”.
At this moment a young girl, about eighteen years of age, was shewn in by Therese, and, making a neat courtesy, said very humbly—“Good morning, madame; you will excuse my intruding so early, but I have brought the work you gave me to do.”
Madame nodded her head haughtily, and said—“ Well, and how have you done it? Have you brought Bijou's collar and cushion ?"
“Yes, madame, everything; and I hope you will be satisfied.” She then opened the parcel—and, oh! what beautiful things did she produce! Marie was lost in admiration, for she had never seen anything like it.
Madame Bertin appeared pleased, although, from principle, she here and there found something to find fault with. “Well, and have you brought the bill ?" she asked: "you know I like to pay directly, for I am not like some of my rank whom you may work for.”
The young girl handed her the bill; but the moment she saw it she flew into a violent passion.
“ These charges are much too high!” she exclaimed; “I never heard of such prices! I shall certainly not employ you again, young woman, nor recommend you to any more of my friends, if you charge like this. No; these four francs certainly must be deducted.”
"I hope, madame, you will not do that; for indeed I have not overcharged you one farthing; and I assure you I have worked night and day at it.”
“Ay, ay,” returned Madame Bertin, “ you always say so; but it is not the work we pay for: it is for the plays, for the dancing, and for the fine dresses, to' which you devote your money."
The young woman cast an expressive look at her own neat but simple dress, and said—“ Alas, madame, there are six of us in family, and we only live by our needlework, and that but very sparingly.”
" Ay, ay, I understand all that sort of excuse; however, here is the money; I will pay the three francs, but the fourth I shall deduct, if you wish to do any more for me.”
The maiden took the money with a sigh, and withdrew. This scene touched Marie very much; for the young woman, at first so cheerful, had now walked away with a troubled, mournful countenance. No doubt, the harsh words of Madame Bertin had grieved her more than the loss of the franc, and Marie could not understand how a lady so rich could act so mean and cruel.
But our poor little Savoyard girl herself was equally forced to experience this harsh treatment. She, poor thing, received scarcely enough of dry bread to appease her hunger, whilst the petted dog was fed upon every dainty. Every now and then she was reprimanded for not shewing enough attention to the little brute; and wearied with the bad usage she received, she was glad when night came, so that she might lament her sad destiny upon her bed of straw.
Thus passed over some weeks, when, by some accident, the dog became ill and died; and her mistress, in her lamentations for her pet, revenged herself upon poor Marie, and turned her out of doors.
It was a bitter cold night; and, shivering from its inclemency, the poor girl walked about, lamenting her unhappy lot, and seeking in vain for shelter. She crouched down on the step of a door, and finding there, by accident, an old straw mat, she wrapped herself up in it, and thus awaited the approach of morning. Alas! how dreadfully did she suffer the whole of that severe and freezing night! Morning at length appeared, and at that early hour, a young girl, with a basket in her hand, passed her hastily—“Ah, Mademoiselle
Manon ! Mademoiselle Manon !" exclaimed poor Marie. The young person she thus challenged, was no other than the embroidress whom she had seen at Madame Bertin's. Attracted by her voice, the young woman turned round, and on seeing the poor creature in such affliction, almost dead with cold, she ran towards her, and said—“Good Heavens, Marie, what has brought you here in this sad state?” .
“Oh! Mademoiselle Manon !” faltered Marie ; “ all night - Manon stayed not a moment, but seizing her hand, helped her up, and supported her along towards her own home, where they soon arrived; and, ascending to the fifth floor, Manon opened a door, and led the suffering girl into a small but cheerful room. An elderly matron, who was busy with some needlework, raised her head as the door was opened, and exclaimed, in surprise, “ Whom are you bringing there, Manon ?”
“Only look, dear mother, look,” replied her daughter, with emotion, " at this poor little girl, almost frozen to death! I found her shivering at a street door, and have brought her home for shelter. She was with that Madame · Bertin, for whom I work, you know, and who always deducts from my poor earnings.”
The good matron immediately put aside her work, and soon got ready some hot tea and bread and butter, which she gave to the child, who now soon felt the beneficial effects of her kindness. She had now revived, and feeling much stronger, she related to her charitable friends all that had transpired since Manon had seen her at Madame Bertin's. During this time, the group was joined by two of Manon's little sisters, about the age of Marie; and as she went on
with her narrative, their sympathising little hearts gave vent to their emotions, and they exclaimed, every now and then: “ Poor Marie !—to be turned out by that wicked woman in such a bitter, cold night!” Nor was there, in fact, of all the listening circle, one eye that remained unmoistened.
When the little Savoyard had ended, Manon put her arms round the neck of her good mother, and, kissing her, said “Dear mother, Providence has thrown this poor forsaken girl into our arms for protection--ought we not to do what we can for her ? Besides, you know, this evening will be Christmas Eve, and that gives the circumstance a more sacred character !"
“Why, dear Manon,” replied her mother, smiling kindly, “ you know we are already six in number.”
“Oh, never mind that; I am sure you will let her stay with us: she is but a child, and will not require much ; and she can help us at our work, and be useful in various ways."
Marie said not a word; she timidly and anxiously cast her eyes on the ground, not venturing to look up, when the two younger children took her by the hand, and led her to their parent.
“ Then be it so! Come, my dear, forlorn child, if the Almighty's will has led you to us, He will also, be assured, grant us the means of supporting you,” said the good woman generously.
It need not be said, how delighted Manon and her sisters were at this arrangement. The latter, especially, paid their new inmate the most affectionate attention ; so that Marie was soon quite at home. “And,” said they, “as this evening is Christmas eve, our dear 'godfather' will be here; and won't he be astonished, as well as Paul and Robert ?"