“I TELL you that I don’t need Zoe to give the child a bath,” exclaimed Mathieu half in anger. “Stay in bed, and rest yourself!”
“But the servant must get the bath ready,” replied Marianne, “and bring you some warm water.”
She laughed as if amused by the dispute, and he ended by laughing also.
Two days previously they had re-installed themselves in the little pavilion on the verge of the woods near Janville which they rented from the Seguins. So impatient, indeed, were they to find themselves once more among the fields that in spite of the doctor’s advice Marianne had made the journey but fifteen days after giving birth to her little boy. However, a precocious springtide brought with it that March such balmy warmth and sunshine that the only ill-effect she experienced was a little fatigue. And so, on the day after their arrival—Sunday—Mathieu, glad at being able to remain with her, insisted that she should rest in bed, and only rise about noon, in time for dejeuner.
“Why,” he repeated, “I can very well attend to the child while you rest. You have him in your arms from morning till night. And, besides, if you only knew how pleased I am to be here again with you and the dear little fellow.”
He approached her to kiss her gently, and with a fresh laugh she returned his kiss. It was quite true: they were both delighted to be back at Chantebled, which recalled to them such loving memories. That room, looking towards the far expanse of sky and all the countryside, renascent, quivering with sap, was gilded with gayety by the early springtide.
Marianne leant over the cradle which was near her, beside the bed. “The fact is,” said she, “Master Gervais is sound asleep. Just look at him. You will never have the heart to wake him.”
Then both father and mother remained for a moment gazing at their sleeping child. Marianne had passed her arm round her husband’s neck and was clinging to him, as they laughed delightedly over the cradle in which the little one slumbered. He was a fine child, pink and white already; but only a father and mother could thus contemplate their offspring. As the baby opened his eyes, which were still full of all the mystery whence he had come, they raised exclamations full of emotion.
“You know, he saw me!”
“Certainly, and me too. He looked at me: he turned his head.”
“Oh, the cherub!”
It was but an illusion, but that dear little face, still so soft and silent, told them so many things which none other would have heard! They found themselves repeated in the child, mingled as it were together; and detected extraordinary likenesses, which for hours and for days kept them discussing the question as to which of them he most resembled. Moreover, each proved very obstinate, declaring that he was the living portrait of the other.