But he put her from him gently. Then, while she fell down and clung to his legs, he passed his hands across his face, as though he were wiping from his brow and eyes some last lingering traces of sleep. It was yonder, then, that lay the unknown world, the strange land of which he had never dreamed without vague fear. Where had he seen that country? From what dream was he awakening, that he felt such keen anguish swelling up in his breast till it almost choked him? The village was breaking out into life at the close of the day’s work. The men were coming home from the fields with weary gait, their jackets thrown over their shoulders; the women, standing by their doors, were beckoning to them to hasten on; while the children, in noisy bands, chased the fowls about and pelted them with stones. In the churchyard a couple of scapegraces, a lad and a girl, were creeping along under the shelter of the wall in order to escape notice. Swarms of sparrows were retiring to roost beneath the eaves of the church; and, on the steps of the parsonage, a blue calico skirt had just appeared, of such spreading dimensions as to quite block the doorway.
‘Oh! he is looking out! he is looking out!’ sobbed Albine. ’Listen to me. It was only just now that you promised to obey me. I beg of you to turn round and to look upon the garden. Haven’t you been very happy in the garden? It was the garden which gave me to you. Think of the happy days it has in store for us, what lasting bliss and enjoyment. Instead of which it will be death that will force its way through that hole, if you don’t quickly flee and take me with you. See, all those people yonder will come and thrust themselves between us. We were so quite alone, so secluded, so well guarded by the trees! Oh! the garden is our love! Look on the garden, I beg it of you on my knees!’
But Serge was quivering. He had began to recollect. The past was re-awakening. He could distinctly hear the stir of the village life. Those peasants, those women and children, he knew them. There was the mayor, Bambousse, returning from Les Olivettes, calculating how much the approaching vintage would yield him; there were the Brichets, the husband crawling along, and the wife moaning with misery. There was Rosalie flirting with big Fortune behind a wall. He recognised also the pair in the churchyard, that mischievous Vincent and that bold hussy Catherine, who were catching big grasshoppers amongst the tombstones. Yes, and they had Voriau, the black dog, with them, helping them and ferreting about in the dry grass, and sniffing at every crack in the old stones. Under the eaves of the church the sparrows were twittering and bickering before going to roost. The boldest of them flew down and entered the church through the broken windows, and, as Serge followed them with his eyes, he recollected all the noise they had formerly made below the pulpit and on the step by the altar rails, where crumbs were always put for them. And that was La Teuse yonder, on the parsonage doorstep, looking fatter than ever in her blue calico dress. She was turning her head to smile at Desiree, who was coming up from the yard, laughing noisily. Then they both vanished indoors, and Serge, distracted with all these revived memories, stretched out his arms.