“Look, look!” murmured Mathieu, waving his arm, “all that has sprung from us, and we must continue to love, we must continue to be happy, in order that it may all live.”
“Ah!” Marianne gayly replied, “it will live forever now, since we have all become reconciled and united amid our victory.”
Victory! yes, it was the natural, necessary victory that is reaped by the numerous family! Thanks to numbers they had ended by invading every sphere and possessing everything. Fruitfulness was the invincible, sovereign conqueress. Yet their conquest had not been meditated and planned; ever serenely loyal in their dealings with others, they owed it simply to the fulfilment of duty throughout their long years of toil. And they now stood before it hand in hand, like heroic figures, glorious because they had ever been good and strong, because they had created abundantly, because they had given abundance of joy, and health, and hope to the world amid all the everlasting struggles and the everlasting tears.
AND Mathieu and Marianne lived more than a score of years longer, and Mathieu was ninety years old and Marianne eighty-seven, when their three eldest sons, Denis, Ambroise, and Gervais, ever erect beside them, planned that they would celebrate their diamond wedding, the seventieth anniversary of their marriage, by a fete at which they would assemble all the members of the family at Chantebled.
It was no little affair. When they had drawn up a complete list, they found that one hundred and fifty-eight children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren had sprung from Mathieu and Marianne, without counting a few little ones of a fourth generation. By adding to the above those who had married into the family as husbands and wives they would be three hundred in number. And where at the farm could they find a room large enough for the huge table of the patriarchal feast that they dreamt of? The anniversary fell on June 2, and the spring that year was one of incomparable mildness and beauty. So they decided that they would lunch out of doors, and place the tables in front of the old pavilion, on the large lawn, enclosed by curtains of superb elms and hornbeams, which gave the spot the aspect of a huge hall of verdure. There they would be at home, on the very breast of the beneficent earth, under the central and now gigantic oak, planted by the two ancestors, whose blessed fruitfulness the whole swarming progeny was about to celebrate.