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The Foster Sister
by [?]

I.

Sitting in her office at the end of the shop, shut off from it by glass windows, pretty Madame Bayard, in a black gown and with her hair in sober braids, was writing steadily in an enormous ledger with leather corners, while her husband, following his morning custom, stopped at the door to scold his workmen, who had not finished unloading a dray from the Northern Railway, which blocked the road, and carried to the druggist of the Rue Vieille du Temple a dozen casks of glucose.

“I have bad news to tell you,” said Madame Bayard, sticking her pen in a cup of leaden shot, when her husband had entered the glass cage. “Poor Voisin is dead.”

“The nurse of Leon? Poor woman! And her little daughter?”

“That is the saddest part, my dear. A relative of poor Voisin writes me that they are too poor to take charge of the child, and she must be sent to an orphan asylum.”

“Oh, those peasants!”

The druggist was silent for a moment, rubbing his thick blond beard; then suddenly looking at his wife with kindly eyes:

“Say, Mimi, the child is the foster sister of our Leon. Suppose we give her a home?”

“I should think so,” was the quiet reply of the pretty wife.

“Well done,” cried Bayard, as, caring little if he were seen by his clerks and store-boys, he leaned towards his wife and kissed her forehead, “well done! you’re a good woman, Mimi. We will take little Norine with us, and bring her up with Leon. That won’t ruin us, eh? Besides, I have just made a good stroke in quinine. We will go after the child Sunday to Argenteuil, sha’n’t we?”

“We will make that our Sunday excursion.”

II.

Good people, these Bayards; an honor to the drug trade. Their marriage had united two houses which had been for a long time rivals; for Bayard was the son of The Silver Pill, founded by his great-great-grandfather in 1756 in the Rue Vieille du Temple, and had espoused the daughter of the Offering to Esculapius, of the Rue des Lombards, an establishment which dated from the First Empire, as was shown by the sign, copied from the celebrated painting of Guerin. Honest people, excellent people–and there are many more, like them, whatever folks may say, among the older Paris houses, conservators of old traditions; going to the second tier, on Sunday, at the opera comique, and ignorant of false weights and measures. It was the cure of Blancs-Manteaux who had managed that marriage with his confrere of Saint-Merry. The first had ministered at the death-bed of the elder Bayard, and was dismayed to see a young man of twenty-five all alone in a house so gloomy as that of The Silver Pill, justly famed for its ipecac; and the second was anxious to establish Mademoiselle Simonin, to whom he had administered her first communion, and whose father was one of his most important parishioners, old Simonin of the Offering to Esculapius, celebrated for its camphor. The negotiations were successful; camphor and ipecac, two excellent specialties, were united in the holy bonds of matrimony, there was a dinner and ball at the Grand Vefour, and now for ten years, tranquilly working every day, summer and winter, in her glass cage, Madame Bayard, with her pale brown face and her plaited hair, had smitten the hearts of all the young clerks of the quarter Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie.

And yet for a long time there had been a disappointment in that happy household, a cloud in that bright sky. An heir was wanted, and it was five years before little Leon came into the world. One can imagine with what joy he was received. Now one day they might write over the door of The Silver Pill these words, “Bayard & Son.” But as the infant arrived at the time of a boom in isinglass, Madame Bayard, whose presence in the shop was indispensable, could not think of nursing him. She even gave up the idea of taking a nurse in the house, fearing for the new-born the close air of that corner of old Paris, and contented herself with taking every Sunday with her husband a little excursion to Argenteuil to see her son with his nurse Voisin, who was overwhelmed with coffee, sugar, soap, and other dainties. At the end of eighteen months Mother Voisin brought back the baby in a magnificent state, and for two years a child’s nurse, chosen with great care, had taken the child out for his airings in the square of the Tour Saint-Jacques, and had exhibited for the admiration of her companion-nurses, the pouting lips, the high color, and the dimpled back of the future druggist.