The Brother remained for a moment silent, clenching his fists and looking at Albine clinging round Serge’s neck, with the disgust of a man who has espied some filth by the roadside.
‘I suspected it,’ he mumbled between his teeth. ’It was virtually certain that they had hidden him here.’
Then he took a few steps, and cried out: ’I see you. It is an abomination. Are you a brute beast to go coursing through the woods with that female? She has led you far astray, has she not? She has besmeared you with filth, and now you are hairy like a goat. . . . Pluck a branch from the trees wherewith to smite her on the back.’
Again Albine whispered in an ardent, prayerful voice: ’Do you love me? Do you love me?’
But Serge, with bowed head, kept silence, though he did not yet drive her from him.
‘Fortunately, I have found you,’ continued Brother Archangias. ’I discovered this hole. . . . You have disobeyed God, and have slain your own peace. Henceforward, for ever, temptation will gnaw you with its fiery tooth, and you will no longer have ignorance of evil to help you to fight it. It was that creature who tempted you to your fall, was it not? Do you not see the serpent’s tail writhing amongst her hair? The mere sight of her shoulders is sufficient to make one vomit with disgust. . . . Leave her. Touch her not, for she is the beginning of hell. In the name of God, come forth from that garden.’
‘Do you love me? Oh! do you love me?’ reiterated Albine.
But Serge hastily drew away from her as though her bare arms and shoulders really scorched him.
‘In the name of God! In the name of God!’ cried the Brother, in a voice of thunder.
Serge unresistingly stepped towards the breach. As soon as Brother Archangias, with rough violence, had dragged him out of the Paradou, Albine, who had fallen half fainting to the ground, with hands wildly stretched towards the love which was deserting her, rose up again, choking with sobs. And she fled, vanished into the midst of the trees, whose trunks she lashed with her streaming hair.
When Abbe Mouret had said the Pater, he bowed to the altar, and went to the Epistle side. Then he came down, and made the sign of the cross over big Fortune and Rosalie, who were kneeling, side by side, before the altar-rails.
’Ego conjungo vos in matrimonium, in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.’
‘Amen,’ responded Vincent, who was serving the mass, and glancing curiously at his big brother out of the corner of his eye.
Fortune and Rosalie bent their heads, affected by some slight emotion, although they had nudged each other with their elbows when they knelt down, by way of making one another laugh. But Vincent went to get the basin and the sprinkler. Fortune placed the ring in the basin, a thick ring of solid silver. When the priest had blessed it, sprinkling it crosswise, he returned it to Fortune, who slipped it upon Rosalie’s finger. Her hand was still discoloured with grass-stains, which soap had not been able to remove.