The Fat and the Thin HTML version

Marjolin had been found in a heap of cabbages at the Market of the Innocents. He was
sleeping under the shelter of a large white-hearted one, a broad leaf of which concealed
his rosy childish face It was never known what poverty-stricken mother had laid him
there. When he was found he was already a fine little fellow of two or three years of
age, very plump and merry, but so backward and dense that he could scarcely stammer
a few words, and only seemed able to smile. When one of the vegetable saleswomen
found him lying under the big white cabbage she raised such a loud cry of surprise that
her neighbours rushed up to see what was the matter, while the youngster, still in
petticoats, and wrapped in a scrap of old blanket, held out his arms towards her. He
could not tell who his mother was, but opened his eyes in wide astonishment as he
squeezed against the shoulder of a stout tripe dealer who eventually took him up. The
whole market busied itself about him throughout the day. He soon recovered
confidence, ate slices of bread and butter, and smiled at all the women. The stout tripe
dealer kept him for a time, then a neighbour took him; and a month later a third woman
gave him shelter. When they asked him where his mother was, he waved his little hand
with a pretty gesture which embraced all the women present. He became the adopted
child of the place, always clinging to the skirts of one or another of the women, and
always finding a corner of a bed and a share of a meal somewhere. Somehow, too, he
managed to find clothes, and he even had a copper or two at the bottom of his ragged
pockets. It was a buxom, ruddy girl dealing in medicinal herbs who gave him the name
of Marjolin,[*] though no one knew why.
[*] Literally "Marjoram."
When Marjolin was nearly four years of age, old Mother Chantemesse also happened to
find a child, a little girl, lying on the footway of the Rue Saint Denis, near the corner of
the market. Judging by the little one's size, she seemed to be a couple of years old, but
she could already chatter like a magpie, murdering her words in an incessant childish
babble. Old Mother Chantemesse after a time gathered that her name was Cadine, and
that on the previous evening her mother had left her sitting on a doorstep, with
instructions to wait till she returned. The child had fallen asleep there, and did not cry.
She related that she was beaten at home; and she gladly followed Mother
Chantemesse, seemingly quite enchanted with that huge square, where there were so
many people and such piles of vegetables. Mother Chantemesse, a retail dealer by
trade, was a crusty but very worthy woman, approaching her sixtieth year. She was
extremely fond of children, and had lost three boys of her own when they were mere