That morning, in the little pavilion of Chantebled, on the verge of the woods, where they had now been installed for nearly a month, Mathieu was making all haste in order that he might catch the seven-o’clock train which every day conveyed him from Janville to Paris. It was already half-past six, and there were fully two thousand paces from the pavilion to Janville. Afterwards came a railway journey of three-quarters of an hour, and another journey of at least equal duration through Paris, from the Northern Railway terminus to the Boulevard de Grenelle. He seldom reached his office at the factory before half-past eight o’clock.
He had just kissed the children. Fortunately they were asleep; otherwise they would have linked their arms about his neck, laughed and kissed him, being ever unwilling to let him go. And as he hastily returned to the principal bedroom, he found his wife, Marianne, in bed there, but awake and sitting up. She had risen a moment before in order to pull back a curtain, and all the glow of that radiant May morning swept in, throwing a flood of gay sunshine over the fresh and healthy beauty of her four-and-twenty years. He, who was three years the elder, positively adored her.
“You know, my darling,” said he, “I must make haste, for I fear I may miss the train—and so manage as well as you can. You still have thirty sous left, haven’t you?”
She began to laugh, looking charming with her bare arms and her loose-flowing dark hair. The ever-recurring pecuniary worries of the household left her brave and joyous. Yet she had been married at seventeen, her husband at twenty, and they already had to provide for four children.
“Oh! we shall be all right,” said she. “It’s the end of the month to-day, and you’ll receive your money to-night. I’ll settle our little debts at Janville to-morrow. There are only the Lepailleurs, who worry me with their bill for milk and eggs, for they always look as if they fancied one meant to rob them. But with thirty sous, my dear! why, we shall have quite a high time of it!”
She was still laughing as she held out her firm white arms for the customary morning good-by.
“Run off, since you are in a hurry. I will go to meet you at the little bridge to-night.”
“No, no, I insist on your going to bed! You know very well that even if I catch the quarter-to-eleven-o’clock train, I cannot reach Janville before half-past eleven. Ah! what a day I have before me! I had to promise the Moranges that I would take dejeuner with them; and this evening Beauchene is entertaining a customer—a business dinner, which I’m obliged to attend. So go to bed, and have a good sleep while you are waiting for me.”
She gently nodded, but would give no positive promise. “Don’t forget to call on the landlord,” she added, “to tell him that the rain comes into the children’s bedroom. It’s not right that we should be soaked here as if we were on the high-way, even if those millionnaires, the Seguins du Hordel, do let us have this place for merely six hundred francs a year.”