He felt, indeed, intensely relieved, hummed a lively air, and then took his stand before Constance, who was still consulting the doctor. She was holding little Maurice against her knees, and gazing at him with the jealous love of a good bourgeoise, who carefully watched over the health of her only son, that son whom she wished to make a prince of industry and wealth. All at once, however, in reply to a remark from Boutan, she exclaimed: “Why then, doctor, you think me culpable? You really say that a child, nursed by his mother, always has a stronger constitution than others, and can the better resist the ailments of childhood?”
“Oh! there is no doubt of it, madame.”
Beauchene, ceasing to chew his cigar, shrugged his shoulders, and burst into a sonorous laugh: “Oh! don’t you worry, that youngster will live to be a hundred! Why, the Burgundian who nursed him was as strong as a rock! But, I say, doctor, you intend then to make the Chambers pass a law for obligatory nursing by mothers?”
At this sally Boutan also began to laugh. “Well, why not?” said he.
This at once supplied Beauchene with material for innumerable jests. Why, such a law would completely upset manners and customs, social life would be suspended, and drawing-rooms would become deserted! Posters would be placarded everywhere bearing the inscription: “Closed on account of nursing.”
“Briefly,” said Beauchene, in conclusion, “you want to have a revolution.”
“A revolution, yes,” the doctor gently replied, “and we will effect it.”
MATHIEU finished studying his great scheme, the clearing and cultivation of Chantebled, and at last, contrary to all prudence but with all the audacity of fervent faith and hope, it was resolved upon. He warned Beauchene one morning that he should leave the works at the end of the month, for on the previous day he had spoken to Seguin, and had found him quite willing to sell the little pavilion and some fifty acres around it on very easy terms. As Mathieu had imagined, Seguin’s affairs were in a very muddled state, for he had lost large sums at the gaming table and spent money recklessly on women, leading indeed a most disastrous life since trouble had arisen in his home. And so he welcomed the transaction which Mathieu proposed to him, in the hope that the young man would end by ridding him of the whole of that unprofitable estate should his first experiment prove successful. Then came other interviews between them, and Seguin finally consented to sell on a system of annual payments, spread over a term of years, the first to be made in two years’ time from that date. As things stood, the property seemed likely to remain unremunerative forever, and so there was nothing risked in allowing the purchaser a couple of years’ credit. However, they agreed to meet once more and settle the final details before a formal deed of sale was drawn up. And one Monday morning, therefore, about ten o’clock, Mathieu set out for the house in the Avenue d’Antin in order to complete the business.