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He hesitatingly replied that they had not yet made up their minds.

But on the village green people rushed out of all the houses in a flutter of excitement; and, at the sight of the gathering crowd, old Boitelle took to his heels, and regained his abode, while Antoine; swelling with rage, his sweetheart on his arm, advanced majestically under the staring eyes, which opened wide in amazement.

He understood that it was at an end, and there was no hope for him, that he could not marry his negress. She also understood it; and as they drew near the farmhouse they both began to weep. As soon as they had got back to the house, she once more took off her dress to aid the mother in the household duties, and followed her everywhere, to the dairy, to the stable, to the hen house, taking on herself the hardest part of the work, repeating always: “Let me do it, Madame Boitelle,” so that, when night came on, the old woman, touched but inexorable, said to her son: “She is a good girl, all the same. It’s a pity she is so black; but indeed she is too black. I could not get used to it. She must go back again. She is too, too black!”

And young Boitelle said to his sweetheart:

“She will not consent. She thinks you are too black. You must go back again. I will go with you to the train. No matter–don’t fret. I am going to talk to them after you have started.”

He then took her to the railway station, still cheering her with hope, and, when he had kissed her, he put her into the train, which he watched as it passed out of sight, his eyes swollen with tears.

In vain did he appeal to the old people. They would never give their consent.

And when he had told this story, which was known all over the country, Antoine Boitelle would always add:

“From that time forward I have had no heart for anything–for anything at all. No trade suited me any longer, and so I became what I am–a night scavenger.”

People would say to him:

“Yet you got married.”

“Yes, and I can’t say that my wife didn’t please me, seeing that I have fourteen children; but she is not the other one, oh, no–certainly not! The other one, mark you, my negress, she had only to give me one glance, and I felt as if I were in Heaven.”