“Yes,” said Seguin feverishly, alluding to some recent heavy losses at the gaming table, “I’m leaving Paris for a time—I have no luck here just now. But I wish you plenty of courage and all success, my dear sir. You know how much I am interested in the attempt you are about to make.”
A little later that same day Mathieu was crossing the Champs-Elysees, eager to join Marianne at Chantebled, moved as he was by the decisive step he had taken, yet quivering also with faith and hope, when in a deserted avenue he espied a cab waiting, and recognized Santerre inside it. Then, as a veiled lady furtively sprang into the vehicle, he turned round wondering: Was that not Valentine? And as the cab drove off he felt convinced it was.
There came other meetings when he reached the main avenue; first Gaston and Lucie, already tired of play, and dragging about their puny limbs under the careless supervision of Celeste, who was busy laughing with a grocer’s man; while farther off La Catiche, superb and royal, decked out like the idol of venal motherhood, was giving little Andree an outing, with her long purple ribbons streaming victoriously in the sunshine.
ON the day when the first blow with the pick was dealt, Marianne, with Gervais in her arms, came and sat down close by, full of happy emotion at this work of faith and hope which Mathieu was so boldly undertaking. It was a clear, warm day in the middle of June, with a pure, broad sky that encouraged confidence. And as the children had been given a holiday, they played about in the surrounding grass, and one could hear the shrill cries of little Rose while she amused herself with running after the three boys.
“Will you deal the first blow?” Mathieu gayly asked his wife.
But she pointed to her baby. “No, no, I have my work. Deal it yourself, you are the father.”
He stood there with two men under his orders, but ready himself to undertake part of the hard manual toil in order to help on the realization of his long thought of, ripening scheme. With great prudence and wisdom he had assured himself a modest livelihood for a year of effort, by an intelligent scheme of association and advances repayable out of profits, which would enable him to wait for his first harvest. And it was his life that he risked on that future crop, should the earth refuse his worship and his labor. But he was a faithful believer, one who felt certain of conquering, since love and determination were his.
“Well then, here goes!” he gallantly cried. “May the earth prove a good mother to us!”
Then he dealt the first blow with his pick.