“Oh! don’t disturb yourselves!” cried Beauchene merrily. “Why, what is the matter with you?”
“Would you like us to move away?” added Seguin.
But while Valentine laughed wildly, and Constance put on a prudish air, Morange, in whose voice tears were again rising, spoke these words, fraught with supreme regret: “Ah! you are right!”
Astonished at what they had done, without intention of doing it, Mathieu and Marianne remained for a moment speechless, looking at one another in consternation. And then they burst into a hearty laugh, gayly excusing themselves. To love! to love! to be able to love! Therein lies all health, all will, and all power.
FOUR years went by. And during those four years Mathieu and Marianne had two more children, a daughter at the end of the first year and a son at the expiration of the third. And each time that the family thus increased, the estate at Chantebled was increased also—on the first occasion by fifty more acres of rich soil reclaimed among the marshes of the plateau, and the second time by an extensive expanse of wood and moorland which the springs were beginning to fertilize. It was the resistless conquest of life, it was fruitfulness spreading in the sunlight, it was labor ever incessantly pursuing its work of creation amid obstacles and suffering, making good all losses, and at each succeeding hour setting more energy, more health, and more joy in the veins of the world.
On the day when Mathieu called on Seguin to purchase the wood and moorland, he lunched with Dr. Boutan, whom he found in an execrable humor. The doctor had just heard that three of his former patients had lately passed through the hands of his colleague Gaude, the notorious surgeon to whose clinic at the Marbeuf Hospital society Paris flocked as to a theatre. One of these patients was none other than Euphrasie, old Moineaud’s eldest daughter, now married to Auguste Benard, a mason, and already the mother of three children. She had doubtless resumed her usual avocations too soon after the birth of her last child, as often happens in working-class families where the mother is unable to remain idle. At all events, she had for some time been ailing, and had finally been removed to the hospital. Mathieu had for a while employed her young sister Cecile, now seventeen, as a servant in the house at Chantebled, but she was of poor health and had returned to Paris, where, curiously enough, she also entered Doctor Gaude’s clinic. And Boutan waxed indignant at the methods which Gaude employed. The two sisters, the married woman and the girl, had been discharged as cured, and so far, this might seem to be the case; but time, in Boutan’s opinion, would bring round some terrible revenges.