Fleur-de-lis had been christened Marie Hortense Amélie Dupont: Marie for her mother, Hortense and Amélie in honour of the two Vicomtesses de Rastignac, sole survivors of the proud old Royalist family in whose service Marie's mother and grandmother had lived, and into whose service Marie herself had been born. But when la petite Marie Hortense Amélie was a mere blossom of babyhood she forsook the name that the priest had given her as he touched her downy head with the holy water, and chose instead to be called Fleur-de-lis—a name, in sooth, much better suited to a noble daughter of the Rastignacs than to a child of Marie Dupont, maker of tissue-paper flowers, and Pierre Dupont, street musician.

Fleur-de-lis had first opened her eyes in a very humble chamber, but it was large enough to hold a deal of sweet content, which grew all the sweeter when she came to share it. There were only two rooms for father, mother, and child, and these were in a dreary tenement house, for Pierre Dupont, a stranger in a strange land, was having a desperate struggle with poverty. On being discharged from the hospital, where he had passed through the dangerous illness that left him a maimed and broken man, he had to begin the world all over again, and begin it single-handed, in very truth. There were few things to which he could turn his one hand; one of them was the crank of a street-piano, and in a modest example of that modern instrument of torture he accordingly invested the last of his savings. He was much too good for it, but by regarding it distinctly as a hated object which should be discarded the moment something better appeared, he mastered his aversion, and, by wheeling it through the streets from morning till night, he managed to live, for there were always people who wanted to hear it, and others who did not, so that between the two classes he scraped together enough for his frugal needs.

Marie was young and pretty and loyal, and when affairs were most desperate she offered to take the baby Fleur-de-lis and accompany her husband, gathering the pennies in a tambourine, while he ground so-called music from the piano with the left arm, that grew so weary in the monotonous service. But there was not a trace of the mountebank in Pierre Dupont, nor a drop of beggar's blood in his veins. He was poor and crippled, but he had still the self-respecting pride of the peasant whose people had served noble families, and who know what true nobility is. He could injure the dead-and-gone Rastignacs, if he must, by trundling about a second-hand street-piano, but he could at least spare them the insult of adding a monkey or a woman to the procession. So Maman Marie, loving him more than ever for his chivalrous regard of her, took up an almost forgotten pastime of her girlhood, and fell to making artificial flowers, which she sold to an old woman who stood on the street corners and offered them to the passers-by.

The two rooms in the tenement house were as neat as care and thrift could make them. The windows opened only into the court, it is true, but Pierre and Marie did not need to look out of doors to get a pleasant view, for they could look at each other, and at the baby; besides, the glass was spotlessly clean and hung with equally spotless curtains. The floors were uncarpeted, but there was never a speck of dust on them. The little kitchen where Marie worked had a not unappetising fragrance from the pot-au-feu that simmered on the stove; it had also a gleam of sunshine in it for a few hours each day. Sometimes when Pierre left his incubus for half an hour and ran home for a mouthful of bread and soup, he looked at Maman Marie sitting by her table in the sunshine, her scissors gleaming among the paper-flower petals, and at Fleur-de-lis, sitting at her feet playing with the rainbow-coloured scraps, and then he fell on his knees beside them, and, putting his arm about them both, forgot that it was the only one he had, forgot that he was poor and crippled, and that the future was all uncertain, remembering only that he had home and wife and child, and that life, with all its hardships, was inexpressibly dear to him. For it happens, sometimes, that a poet's soul is lodged in a very humble tenement, and a love that would do honour to a knight blossoms and flourishes in the midst of mean and pitiful surroundings.

Fleur-de-lis's cradle had curtains made of a bit of tricolour, and from the centre of the canopy there hung a medal of the Virgin swinging on a narrow ribbon of blue. The cradle itself was a wooden box, and Marie, with a maternal ingenuity that surmounted the lack of ordinary materials, had lined the inside of the hood with tissue-paper flowers; white and blue fleurs-de-lis to match those on the faded satin coverlet, a fragment of ancient grandeur where the Rastignac coat-of-arms was intertwined with the Bourbon lilies of France. And when the baby's vagrant gaze wandered to the flowery heaven above her head, and her pink fingers reached to touch it and to stroke the soft counterpane, Maman Marie would tell her the name of the posies; and so after a time, when she discovered that people and things possessed names, Marie Hortense Amélie, Mademoiselle Bébé, elected to call herself Fleur-de-lis. It was the first word she lisped, and she attached it to herself with the utmost complacency. It was appropriate enough, for she looked as if she might have been originally intended for a flower, and then somehow a soul had strayed into the flower, and it had fluttered down to earth as a child—a curious blossom to come from lowly stock, a kind of tender and beautiful miracle wrought out of common clay by the fashioning and refining power of love. At times, when Marie sat at her work and looked at Fleur-de-lis cooing and smiling under her tri-coloured curtains, she forgot the strange land outside the windows, and the Babel of strange tongues in the crowded tenement, and as her deft, brown fingers shaped the tissue flowers, she saw in fancy the poppies and the wheat and the lilies of her native Breton fields. She saw the sun shining on the old château, her mother hanging a chaplet on the baron's tomb in the little oratory, the aged baroness walking sadly in the pleasance. All, all were gone. The château was dismantled. The proud old family, rooted for centuries to the soil of Brittany, had gradually lost its land and its riches, till now there was only one frail old dame, poor and childless, to maintain the ancient title. All these memories, half sad, half sweet, flitted in and out of Marie's mind as she snipped and trimmed and twisted and shaped, her head on one side to view the result, like a little brown pheasant regarding a berry; and if Fleur-de-lis slept, she hummed a Breton lullaby as she twined her paper nosegays. What wonder, then, that there was a French air about them that attracted purchasers?

So "hope clad in April green" made life worth living for father and mother; and, as for Fleur-de-lis, she was a child; and she had love, and that was enough, and it is sad when we grow so old that it does not suffice for us. But these days, so full of care and anxiety, of weariness and self-denial tinged with happiness, came to an end; for when Fleur-de-lis was two years old, Maman Marie, young and strong, passionately in love with life, desperately needed by husband and child, had to leave them, to journey on alone to another far country, having just grown wonted to this.

Then the light went out of the two little rooms that had been home; indeed, it seemed to go out of the world altogether. Hard times and yet harder ones descended upon poor Pierre Dupont. Marie's earnings no longer helped to swell the slender income, and there were no willing woman's hands to cut and plan and save, to contrive and embellish. Added to this, the piano suddenly grew uncertain, and subject to grave musical lapses, attacks of aphasia in the middle of some tunes, and of asthma in the middle of others; so that the hoot of the stony-hearted bystander and the ruffianly small boy became familiar to Pierre's ears; for he could not afford to buy new cylinders to fit into the old instrument, and to keep it up to the demands of the street, which is always delighted if you "cannot sing the old songs," and wishes the latest melody to the exclusion of everything else.

Fleur-de-lis had been left in the care of a woman for many weeks after Marie's death, but the sight of her tear-stained face at night, the tender frenzy with which she lifted her arms to her father when he came in, the sob of joy with which she buried her head in his coat, the sigh of content with which she stroked his cheek between every mouthful of bread and milk as she sat on his knee eating her meagre supper—all this was too much for his loving heart. He had a small sum of money that he had been hoarding to attach "Annie Rooney" and "Comrades" to his unfashionable instrument, that he might appease the public by the gratification of its darling wishes, and withdraw the Boulanger march from its sated ears. This money he took and went to a carpenter's shop in the neighbourhood. After many explanations in his broken English, and many diagrams rudely drawn on paper, the carpenter succeeded in building a primitive sort of baby-carriage on one end of the street-piano. It had two wheels of its own, and moved somewhat in harmony with the ancient instrument, which had its difficulties of locomotion nowadays, as well as its musical weaknesses. It had a drawer in which Fleur-de-lis's playthings were kept—a battered doll, and boxes of her favourite scraps of bright tissue-paper, the top of an old cotton umbrella, and a square of rubber cloth like that which covered the piano when it rained. Here Fleur-de-lis sat for many hours each day, happy and content. Pierre would often take her out, and let her toddle by his side until she was tired, when she would ascend her throne again. She wore a faded corduroy jacket and an old woollen cap, but the flower-face that smiled above the one, and the shower of chestnut hair that fell from beneath the other, made you forget the poverty of her raiment. She was always clean and sweet and comfortable, for Pierre, with the gentleness and patience of a woman, washed and even mended, in a rough sort of a way, that the child might not wholly miss a mother's care.

Matters were going on in this way, rather from bad to worse, when one November day father and child turned off a side-street, and trundled into one of the fashionable avenues of the city. Pierre did not often wheel his piano in front of brown-stone houses; it was too old and wheezy to commend itself to localities accustomed to Seidl's orchestra and the Hungarian band; but he scarcely knew to-day whither his aimless feet were carrying him. For two weeks he had gone out in the early morning and evening, leaving Fleur-de-lis asleep, and had spent an hour or two in a vain quest for employment. But his speech was broken, and he had only one arm—small wonder that he failed when hundreds of men with two arms and nimbler tongues were seeking the same thing and failing. People generally told him that he ought to have stayed at home in his own country, where he belonged; but that, as he had not done that, his next best plan was to get back there at the earliest possible moment. If they had had time to hear his justification for cumbering the earth of this free country, he might have told them that he left France a strong young man, with a strong young wife, and nearly fifteen hundred francs for the inevitable rainy day; but that the rainy day had turned out to be a continual downpour. He was wondering in a dull, vague sort of way, as they rattled along over the cobblestones, why there was not bread for the mouths that needed it. He wondered why, through no fault of his own, he should have been maimed and crippled, why the loss of wife should have followed the loss of limb, why there was not enough work in the world for the people who were willing to do it, why the children in the luxurious carriages that swept past him should be swathed in furs while Fleur-de-lis's hands were blue in her ragged mittens.

The universe was a mystery to Pierre Dupont. Search it as he might, he could find no key to its curious distribution of miseries and injustices. It seemed to him that, if some people would be content to take a little less, there might be a little more for him; but he was by no means certain of the soundness of this comfortable theory. A little less gold plate on that harness, for instance, a yard less of lace on the gown of that lady just stepping into her brougham, a single diamond from her marquise ring—no, that superficial and snarling philosophy did not help Pierre; there was neither envy nor rage in his heart as yet; only a dull despair, a groping in the dark for a reason. Many of these fortunate people, he supposed, deserved their fortunes, and had earned them. They were cleverer than he, and had friends and opportunities not vouchsafed, perhaps, to him. But why, since he was not clever, and since he had neither friends nor opportunities, should he have been deprived first of his principal means of self-support, and then of his consolation, his courage, his other and braver self?

And now it was the anniversary of Marie's death. That made the day even harder to bear; for in some subtle way the remembrance of certain hours or moments in a dear dead past is always more bitter when we say to ourselves with a sigh, "It was just a year ago." Nature was in no buoyant mood. A cold, drizzling rain, which ought to have been snow, fell from time to time. The chill dampness made people draw their wraps closer, and look drearily at the sky. Even the children appeared less joyous than usual. Men turned up the bottoms of their trousers and the collars of their coats, and hurried past one another with a gruff nod that would have been a smile on a sunny day. The bare branches of the trees shivered in the wind, and a few snowbirds huddled themselves together cheerlessly here and there, as if even they wished themselves farther south.

Pierre took out the rubber-cloth to cover his piano, and as he did so he saw two children at the second story of a fine house near by. He expected to be ordered away by a butler in livery at the moment he disclosed the limitations of his musical instrument, but one could never tell, the butler might be wooing the parlour-maid, so he drew up in front of the drive-way. Fleur-de-lis had just walked several blocks, and, on being lifted into her carriage, hoisted the dilapidated cotton umbrella and wrapped her doll in an extra bit of calico. Pierre turned the crank; the piano began on "Love's Young Dream." It seemed to him that, with every revolution of the handle, he twisted the chords of his aching heart, and that presently it would break, as the battered old cylinders threatened to do, and for the same reason; because, alas! too many tunes had been played upon them. When ill-fortune descends too thick and fast upon the human spirit, unless it can draw fresh accessions of strength from within, from without, from above, it sinks inevitably into despair. Man may be conscious that he is made in the image of God, fitted to endure, to conquer, all things, but for the time he is common human clay, he faints and dies, or falls into a cowardly lethargy that is worse than death. Such a moment had come to Pierre Dupont. In his first crushing blow he had had a wife to stand shoulder to shoulder with him. He had now his passionate devotion to his child; but in cold and weariness, in hunger and friendlessness, ill-fortune and despair, would love be able to keep itself pure, noble, self-denying, hopeful? There were ways of forgetting, of dulling one's self, of blotting out memory for hours together.

His wants were comparatively simple; but, since he could not realise them, why not give up the struggle? He did not wish for a carriage or a palace; he wished to give up his vagrant life for some labour by which he could maintain himself and give his child a start towards honest womanhood. That was not extravagant, surely, and if God were indeed in His heaven, and all were indeed right with the world, it seemed to Pierre that it was none too much to ask.

He finished "Love's Young Dream," and began the "Boulanger March." A young girl of eighteen or nineteen, with an open book in her hand, joined the children at the window. She had a beautiful, rather serious face, and it brightened into amusement, and then into earnestness, as she caught sight of the quaint vehicle, of the child under the faded umbrella, and of the empty sleeve of the musician. Pierre ground on mechanically; it was "I dreamt that I dwelt in Marble Halls" now, and he hoped that a dime would be flung from the window before he came to "Within a Mile of Edinboro' Town," for that was the weakest part of his repertoire. The group still stayed at the window, and the crisis could not be delayed. The piano jerked through several bars, stopped and repeated, wheezed and returned to the "Boulanger March," then bounded again to "Edinboro' Town," and, after several ineffectual attempts to finish it, made an asthmatic dash into "No One to Love." Pierre looked anxiously under the porte-cochère for the resentful butler; but the children shrieked with renewed delight, and the young girl, going away from the window, presently appeared, running down the drive-way, and slipping on her jacket as she came. She approached the edge of the side-walk, for there was no group about the piano, and, after a brief interview with Pierre, she left a piece of silver with him, and went upstairs to her mother.

Janet Gordon was a great anxiety to her family. She was possessed of the most extraordinary ideas, and no one could tell whence they came, unless she became infected by them in some mysterious fashion, as one is by microbes; at all events, she had never inherited them in the legitimate way. At present, it is true, she had not been introduced to society, but unless a great change of heart should make itself apparent in a few months, she threatened to be no ornament to her set, and no source of pride to an ambitious mother.

"Please look out of the window, mama," she said, bringing a breath of raw air into her mother's flower-scented sitting-room.

Mrs. Gordon rose languidly, her tea-gown trailing behind her. "What is it? Anything more than an organ-grinder who has been rasping my nerves for five minutes? Oh, I see what you mean; what an extraordinary combination—a child in one end of the machine! Tell Héloise to give the man a dime, dear."

"I have given him a quarter myself, and have had a little talk with him; he is quite different from the ordinary organ-grinder, mama."

"Oh, of course," said Mrs. Gordon good-naturedly; "all your geese are swans, dear; a dime was quite enough for him."

"But he has only one arm, you see, mama."

"Of course, they never have; that is one of the tricks of the trade. They bind one arm down to the side, and then slip the coat over it. If you notice the man to-morrow he will have the left sleeve hanging empty, and be playing with the right arm—it is more effective."

"I'm sure there is no deception in this case, mama."

"Well, have it your own way, child; but pray don't take off his coat to investigate, or you'll be catching some dreadful disease. It does seem strange that poor people should always be so odiously dirty, when water costs nothing."

"This man is as clean as possible, and so is the baby. Her name is Fleur-de-lis; is it not quaint?"

"Just what I should expect; the dirtier and commoner they are, the more regal and fanciful are the names they give their children. I suppose your Fleur-de-lis is redolent of garlic, like the Pansies and Violets of her class."

"No, she is not. She is as sweet as a rose; but her face is almost blue with cold."

"Of course; what can the man expect if he trundles her about in this weather? But I suppose he does it to enlist public sympathy. I wonder why foreigners choose this particularly obnoxious way of getting a living; and, if they must do it, why they go about with a decrepit old instrument like that."

"Yes, his piano is very old, but he cannot afford to rent a better one just at present. He said, in his broken English, 'I had not the "Marche Boulanger," neither "Comrades," ma'mselle; it was then I had what you call bad luck, and now, mon Dieu! it is that I have not "Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay."' And, as for the child, he does not allow her to take the money. I was dropping the quarter into her hand, when he touched his cap, and said, 'Pardon, give it to me, ma'mselle, s'il vous plaît. You see, if ze monees keep putting in her hand she will grow up one leetle beggair; she does not make ze muzeek, she does not push ze piano—bien, she s'all not take zee monees."

"Extraordinary!" murmured Mrs. Gordon satirically, as she fitted the cushions to her back more luxuriously; "you must repeat that speech to your father. I actually believe that a new order of philosophic mendicant is springing up to match the new charity. The new charity does not wish to pauperise poverty, and the new poverty does not wish to be pauperised; it is really very amusing."

"He is forced to take the child with him, because she has no mother," explained Janet.

"Of course she has no mother; they make it a point to have no mother, or, if they have, they say they never knew who she was nor where she is."

"They know where this mother is," said Janet gravely, "for she died a year ago to-day."

"Really, Janet, you exasperate me beyond measure, talking with these low people, and allowing them to fill your mind with their falsehoods. What is it you wish to do? You have given the man a quarter already; that will quench his thirst for the present—Héloise, don't take Fifine out without her blanket; she has been shivering on the rug before the fire. Go back to your books, Janet. There will always be poor organ-grinders, and most of them will have lost some of their arms or legs, and all of them will have motherless, or worse than motherless, children. It's the way of the world, and if you had the wealth of the Indies you could never set things right—and, Héloise, come back a moment; tell Madame Labiche that all three gowns must be sent home to-morrow; and that I shall give her no more orders if she copies any detail of my costumes for her other customers; and don't forget the American Beauties, two dozen, the longest stems, and give that piano-child at the gate ten cents more as you pass—I know it is not right, Janet, but you are so insistent. The societies tell you never to bestow alms without first looking into the case and finding whether it is really deserving; but I am too weakly benevolent, and too lazy, besides, ever to restrain—Janet, are you mad? Close that window at once!" And Mrs. Gordon almost shrieked as she held down her frizzes with both hands to shield them from the raw wind that rushed in from outside. She would not have spoken so peremptorily had it not been for the effect of the damp air on her coiffure. When her front hair was crimped and protected from the assaults of the atmosphere she was an amiable woman and could discuss any subject with calmness; but, deprive her of twenty little gold-wire hair-pins daintily darned into her auburn frizzes, and the invisible hair-net that Héloise pinned on with such nicety, and she would not have listened to any argument in the world, even if it concerned the salvation of her own soul.

"I was only going to speak a word to the man, mama," said Janet apologetically.

"I believe you've been reading Tolstoi," returned her mother, going to a mirror to repair damages. "Heavens! what a fright you've made me! I wish those Russians would keep their universal brotherhood ideas, and their cholera germs, at home."

"Dear mama, I scarcely know who Tolstoi is, except that he wrote a novel about Anna somebody that you will not let me read. I do not know what Tolstoi thinks about the wrong in the world, or how he means to right it. I am not as sentimental as you and papa seem to fancy. I am not certain that I ought to wrap that cold little child in my new seal jacket, and run bare-headed by the side of the organ collecting pennies for the poor one-armed man. I know that if I should go down into the slums I should find a thousand others, and that if I worked from year's end to year's end, and spent papa's entire fortune, I could not make them all comfortable. But don't you believe, mama, when, once in a while, need, poverty, and sorrow seem to come directly in contact with plenty and riches and happiness, that it means something, and that we ought to stop and think out something special?"

"Oh, I'm sure I don't know, child; you confuse me so with your persistence, and I can't think of anything while he sticks fast in the middle of 'Edinboro' Town.' Give him half a dollar, if you like—anything to get rid of him, though he succeeds wonderfully in amusing the children."

"I don't want to give him any more money, mama," said Janet, with a sigh. "I only feel as if I must not lose sight of the child—there they are going!"

Pierre covered his piano, pinned the rubber-cloth more tightly round Fleur-de-lis's throat, and was preparing to move off in the direction of home, when Janet darted into the nursery, and, flinging open the window in front of the children, called impetuously in her clear young voice; "Bon soir, Fleur-de-lis! Bon soir, monsieur! Revenez bientôt, je vous prie!"

Pierre's face lighted with surprise and pleasure, and, as he took off his cap he stammered excitedly, "Dis bon soir, bébé! Je vous remercis mille-fois, ma'mselle; je reviendrai!"

He wheeled his piano to the shed where he kept it under cover at night, and carried Fleur-de-lis home on his arm. After he had undressed her and laid her in her crib, he took a crucifix from a drawer where, in a moment of bitterness, he had hidden it the day before, and, kissing it, restored it to its accustomed place above the head of his bed.

And the anniversary of Marie's death did not go out in utter blackness after all; nor was it entirely because of the two pieces of silver that had unexpectedly swelled the day's receipts. He had felt the magic of a friendly voice; the beautiful little lady had spoken to him in his native tongue; she had drawn a fragment of his story from him, and thus relieved the weight at his heart; she had smiled on the child, and kissed her; she had asked him to come again. And as he fell asleep he whispered, "Merci, mille-fois, ma'mselle; je reviendrai."