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The Treasure of Franchard
by [?]

‘Aha!’ he said, stopping before him humorously, with a hand on either knee. ‘So we rise early in the morning, do we? It appears to me that we have all the vices of a philosopher.’

The boy got to his feet and made a grave salutation.

‘And how is our patient?’ asked Desprez.

It appeared the patient was about the same.

‘And why do you rise early in the morning?’ he pursued.

Jean-Marie, after a long silence, professed that he hardly knew.

‘You hardly know?’ repeated Desprez. ‘We hardly know anything, my man, until we try to learn. Interrogate your consciousness. Come, push me this inquiry home. Do you like it?’

‘Yes,’ said the boy slowly; ‘yes, I like it.’

‘And why do you like it?’ continued the Doctor. ‘(We are now pursuing the Socratic method.) Why do you like it?’

‘It is quiet,’ answered Jean-Marie; ‘and I have nothing to do; and then I feel as if I were good.’

Doctor Desprez took a seat on the post at the opposite side. He was beginning to take an interest in the talk, for the boy plainly thought before he spoke, and tried to answer truly. ‘It appears you have a taste for feeling good,’ said the Doctor. ‘Now, there you puzzle me extremely; for I thought you said you were a thief; and the two are incompatible.’

‘Is it very bad to steal?’ asked Jean-Marie.

‘Such is the general opinion, little boy,’ replied the Doctor.

‘No; but I mean as I stole,’ explained the other. ‘For I had no choice. I think it is surely right to have bread; it must be right to have bread, there comes so plain a want of it. And then they beat me cruelly if I returned with nothing,’ he added. ‘I was not ignorant of right and wrong; for before that I had been well taught by a priest, who was very kind to me.’ (The Doctor made a horrible grimace at the word ‘priest.’) ‘But it seemed to me, when one had nothing to eat and was beaten, it was a different affair. I would not have stolen for tartlets, I believe; but any one would steal for baker’s bread.’

‘And so I suppose,’ said the Doctor, with a rising sneer, ‘you prayed God to forgive you, and explained the case to Him at length.’

‘Why, sir?’ asked Jean-Marie. ‘I do not see.’

‘Your priest would see, however,’ retorted Desprez.

‘Would he?’ asked the boy, troubled for the first time. ‘I should have thought God would have known.’

‘Eh?’ snarled the Doctor.

‘I should have thought God would have understood me,’ replied the other. ‘You do not, I see; but then it was God that made me think so, was it not?’

‘Little boy, little boy,’ said Dr. Desprez, ‘I told you already you had the vices of philosophy; if you display the virtues also, I must go. I am a student of the blessed laws of health, an observer of plain and temperate nature in her common walks; and I cannot preserve my equanimity in presence of a monster. Do you understand?’

‘No, sir,’ said the boy.

‘I will make my meaning clear to you,’ replied the doctor. ‘Look there at the sky–behind the belfry first, where it is so light, and then up and up, turning your chin back, right to the top of the dome, where it is already as blue as at noon. Is not that a beautiful colour? Does it not please the heart? We have seen it all our lives, until it has grown in with our familiar thoughts. Now,’ changing his tone, ‘suppose that sky to become suddenly of a live and fiery amber, like the colour of clear coals, and growing scarlet towards the top–I do not say it would be any the less beautiful; but would you like it as well?’

‘I suppose not,’ answered Jean-Marie.

‘Neither do I like you,’ returned the Doctor, roughly. ‘I hate all odd people, and you are the most curious little boy in all the world.’