She ceased to weep, but she continued silent, clinging to him, with her head resting on his shoulder. And Mathieu, by the side of that loving, trustful woman, all health and rectitude and purity, felt more and more confused, more and more ashamed of himself, ashamed of having given heed to the base, sordid, calculating principles which others made the basis of their lives. He thought with loathing of the sudden frenzy which had possessed him during the evening in Paris. Some poison must have been instilled into his veins; he could not recognize himself. But honor and rectitude, clear-sightedness and trustfulness in life were fast returning. Through the window, which had remained open, all the sounds of the lovely spring night poured into the room. It was spring, the season of love, and beneath the palpitating stars in the broad heavens, from fields and forests and waters came the murmur of germinating life. And never had Mathieu more fully realized that, whatever loss may result, whatever difficulty may arise, whatever fate may be in store, all the creative powers of the world, whether of the animal order, whether of the order of the plants, for ever and ever wage life’s great incessant battle against death. Man alone, dissolute and diseased among all the other denizens of the world, all the healthful forces of nature, seeks death for death’s sake, the annihilation of his species. Then Mathieu again caught his wife in a close embrace, printing on her lips a long, ardent kiss.
“Ah! dear heart, forgive me; I doubted both of us. It would be impossible for either of us to sleep unless you forgive me. Well, let the others hold us in derision and contempt if they choose. Let us love and live as nature tells us, for you are right: therein lies true wisdom and true courage.”
Mathieu rose noiselessly from his little folding iron bedstead beside the large one of mahogany, on which Marianne lay alone. He looked at her, and saw that she was awake and smiling.
“What! you are not asleep?” said he. “I hardly dared to stir for fear of waking you. It is nearly nine o’clock, you know.”
It was Sunday morning. January had come round, and they were in Paris. During the first fortnight in December the weather had proved frightful at Chantebled, icy rains being followed by snow and terrible cold. This rigorous temperature, coupled with the circumstance that Marianne was again expecting to become a mother, had finally induced Mathieu to accept Beauchene’s amiable offer to place at his disposal the little pavilion in the Rue de la Federation, where the founder of the works had lived before building the superb house on the quay. An old foreman who had occupied this pavilion, which still contained the simple furniture of former days, had lately died. And the young folks, desiring to be near their friend, worthy Dr. Boutan, had lived there for a month now, and did not intend to return to Chantebled until the first fine days in April.