Meantime Mathieu, amid his creative work, received Marianne’s gay and courageous assistance. And she was not merely a skilful helpmate, taking a share in the general management, keeping the accounts, and watching over the home. She remained both a loving and well-loved spouse, and a mother who nursed, reared, and educated her little ones in order to give them some of her own sense and heart. As Boutan remarked, it is not enough for a woman to have a child; she should also possess healthy moral gifts in order that she may bring it up in creditable fashion. Marianne, for her part, made it her pride to obtain everything from her children by dint of gentleness and grace. She was listened to, obeyed, and worshipped by them, because she was so beautiful, so kind, and so greatly beloved. Her task was scarcely easy, since she had eight children already; but in all things she proceeded in a very orderly fashion, utilizing the elder to watch over the younger ones, giving each a little share of loving authority, and extricating herself from every embarrassment by setting truth and justice above one and all. Blaise and Denis, the twins, who were now sixteen, and Ambroise, who was nearly fourteen, did in a measure escape her authority, being largely in their father’s hands. But around her she had the five others—from Rose, who was eleven, to Louise, who was two years old; between them, at intervals of a couple of years, coming Gervais, Claire, and Gregoire. And each time that one flew away, as it were, feeling his wings strong enough for flight, there appeared another to nestle beside her. And it was again a daughter, Madeleine, who came at the expiration of those two years. And when Mathieu saw his wife erect and smiling again, with the dear little girl at her breast, he embraced her passionately and triumphed once again over every sorrow and every pang. Yet another child, yet more wealth and power, yet an additional force born into the world, another field ready for to-morrow’s harvest.
And ’twas ever the great work, the good work, the work of fruitfulness spreading, thanks to the earth and thanks to woman, both victorious over destruction, offering fresh means of subsistence each time a fresh child was born, and loving, willing, battling, toiling even amid suffering, and ever tending to increase of life and increase of hope.
TWO more years went by, and during those two years Mathieu and Marianne had yet another daughter; and this time, as the family increased, Chantebled also was increased by all the woodland extending eastward of the plateau to the distant farms of Mareuil and Lillebonne. All the northern part of the property was thus acquired: more than five hundred acres of woods, intersected by clearings which roads soon connected together. And those clearings, transformed into pasture-land, watered by the neighboring springs, enabled Mathieu to treble his live-stock and attempt cattle-raising on a large scale. 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.