La Blanchotte, dumb and tortured with shame, leaned herself against the wall, both her hands upon her heart. The child, seeing that no answer was made him, replied: "If you will not, I shall go back and drown myself." The workman took the matter as a jest and answered, laughing: "Why, yes, certainly I will."

The children were dumfounded by this extraordinary, impossible, monstrous thing a boy who had not a papa; they looked upon him as a phenomenon, an unnatural being, and they felt that hitherto inexplicable contempt of their mothers for La Blanchotte growing upon them. As for Simon, he had leaned against a tree to avoid falling, and he remained as if prostrated by an irreparable disaster.

And so they started on the way, the big fellow holding the little fellow by the hand, and the man smiled, for he was not sorry to see this Blanchotte, who was, it was said, one of the prettiest girls of the countryside, and, perhaps, he was saying to himself, at the bottom of his heart, that a lass who had erred might very well err again. They arrived in front of a very neat little white house.

The school-door opened and the youngsters tumbled out rolling over each other in their haste to get out quickly. But instead of promptly dispersing and going home to dinner as was their daily wont, they stopped a few paces off, broke up into knots and set to whispering. The fact was that that morning Simon, the son of La Blanchotte, had, for the first time, attended school.

The children were dumfounded by this extraordinary, impossible, monstrous thing a boy who had not a papa; they looked upon him as a phenomenon, an unnatural being, and they felt that hitherto inexplicable contempt of their mothers for La Blanchotte growing upon them. As for Simon, he had leaned against a tree to avoid falling, and he remained as if prostrated by an irreparable disaster.

The man smiled afresh, for he was not sorry to see this Blanchotte, who by popular report was one of the prettiest girls in the country-side and, perhaps, he said to himself, at the bottom of his heart, that a lass who had erred once might very well err again. They arrived in front of a very neat little white house. "There it is," exclaimed the child, and he cried: "Mamma."

La Blanchotte, dumb and tortured with shame, leaned herself against the wall, both her hands upon her heart. The child, seeing that no answer was made him, replied: "If you will not, I shall go back and drown myself." The workman took the matter as a jest and answered, laughing: "Why, yes, certainly I will."

They had all of them in their families heard talk of La Blanchotte; and, although in public she was welcome enough, the mothers among themselves treated her with compassion of a somewhat disdainful kind, which the children had caught without in the least knowing why.

But a fallen reputation is so difficult to recover, and always remains so fragile that, in spite of the shy reserve La Blanchotte maintained, they already gossiped in the neighborhood. As for Simon, he loved his new papa much, and walked with him nearly every evening when the day's work was done.

La Blanchotte, dumb and tortured with shame, leaned herself against the wall, both her hands upon her heart. The child seeing that no answer was made him, replied: "If you do not wish it, I shall return to drown myself." The workman took the matter as a jest and answered laughing: "Why, yes, I wish it certainly."