A rush of blood warmed Mathieu’s heart when, all at once, he thought of Marianne, so strong and healthy, who would be waiting for him on the bridge over the Yeuse, in the open country, with their little Gervais at her breast. Figures that he had seen in print came back to his mind. In certain regions which devoted themselves to baby-farming the mortality among the nurslings was fifty per cent; in the best of them it was forty, and seventy in the worst. It was calculated that in one century seventeen millions of nurslings had died. Over a long period the mortality had remained at from one hundred to one hundred and twenty thousand per annum. The most deadly reigns, the greatest butcheries of the most terrible conquerors, had never resulted in such massacre. It was a giant battle that France lost every year, the abyss into which her whole strength sank, the charnel-place into which every hope was cast. At the end of it is the imbecile death of the nation. And Mathieu, seized with terror at the thought, rushed away, eager to seek consolation by the side of Marianne, amid the peacefulness, the wisdom, and the health which were their happy lot.
ONE Thursday morning Mathieu went to lunch with Dr. Boutan in the rooms where the latter had resided for more than ten years, in the Rue de l’Universite, behind the Palais-Bourbon. By a contradiction, at which he himself often laughed, this impassioned apostle of fruitfulness had remained a bachelor. His extensive practice kept him in a perpetual hurry, and he had little time free beyond his dejeuner hour. Accordingly, whenever a friend wished to have any serious conversation with him, he preferred to invite him to his modest table, to partake more or less hastily of an egg, a cutlet, and a cup of coffee.