So let us, if we can, rescue from oblivion the furrow of Germain, the cunning ploughman. He will know nothing about it, and will not be disturbed; but I shall have had a little pleasure in making the attempt.
“Germain,” his father-in-law said to him one day, “you must make up your mind to marry again. It’s almost two years since you lost my daughter, and your oldest boy is seven years old. You’re getting on toward thirty, my boy, and when a man passes that age, you know, in our province, he’s considered too old to begin housekeeping again. You have three fine children, and thus far they haven’t been a trouble to us. My wife and daughter-in-law have looked after them as well as they could, and loved them as they ought. There’s Petit-Pierre, he’s what you might call educated; he can drive oxen very handily already; he knows enough to keep the cattle in the meadow, and he’s strong enough to drive the horses to water. So he isn’t the one to be a burden to us; but the other two—we love them, God knows! poor innocent creatures!—cause us much anxiety this year. My daughter-in-law is about lying-in, and she still has a little one in her arms. When the one we expect has come, she won’t be able to look after your little Solange, and especially your little Sylvain, who isn’t four years old and hardly keeps still a minute day or night. His blood is hot, like yours: he’ll make a good workman, but he’s a terrible child, and my old woman can’t run fast enough now to catch him when he runs off toward the ditch or in among the feet of the cattle. And then, when my daughter-in-law brings this other one into the world, her last but one will be thrown on my wife’s hands for a month, at least. So your children worry us and overburden us. We don’t like to see children neglected; and when you think of the accidents that may happen to them for lack of watching, your mind’s never at rest. So you must have another wife, and I another daughter-in-law. Think it over, my boy. I’ve already warned you more than once; time flies, and the years won’t wait for you. You owe it to your children and to us, who want to have everything go right in the house, to marry as soon as possible.”
“Well, father,” the son-in-law replied, “if you really want me to do it, I must gratify you. But I don’t propose to conceal from you that it will cause me a great deal of annoyance, and that I’d about as lief drown myself. You know what you’ve lost, and you don’t know what you may find. I had an excellent wife, a good-looking wife, sweet and brave, good to her father and mother, good to her husband, good to her children, a good worker, in the fields or in the house, clever about her work, good at everything, in fact; and when you gave her to me, when I took her, it wasn’t one of the conditions that I should forget her if I had the bad luck to lose her.”