Then, while Mathieu completed his conquest, there came to Marianne during those two years the joy of marrying one of her children even while she was again enceinte, for, like our good mother the earth, she also remained fruitful. ’Twas a delightful fete, full of infinite hope, that wedding of Blaise and Charlotte; he a strong young fellow of nineteen, she an adorable girl of eighteen summers, each loving the other with a love of nosegay freshness that had budded, even in childhood’s hour, along the flowery paths of Chantebled. The eight other children were all there: first the big brothers, Denis, Ambroise, and Gervais, who were now finishing their studies; next Rose, the eldest girl, now fourteen, who promised to become a woman of healthy beauty and happy gayety of disposition; then Claire, who was still a child, and Gregoire, who was only just going to college; without counting the very little ones, Louise and Madeleine.
Folks came out of curiosity from the surrounding villages to see the gay troop conduct their big brother to the municipal offices. It was a marvellous cortege, flowery like springtide, full of felicity, which moved every heart. Often, moreover, on ordinary holidays, when for the sake of an outing the family repaired in a band to some village market, there was such a gallop in traps, on horseback, and on bicycles, while the girls’ hair streamed in the wind and loud laughter rang out from one and all, that people would stop to watch the charming cavalcade. “Here are the troops passing!” folks would jestingly exclaim, implying that nothing could resist those Froments, that the whole countryside was theirs by right of conquest, since every two years their number increased. And this time, at the expiration of those last two years it was again to a daughter, Marguerite, that Marianne gave birth. For a while she remained in a feverish condition, and there were fears, too, that she might be unable to nurse her infant as she had done all the others. Thus, when Mathieu saw her erect once more and smiling, with her dear little Marguerite 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.