‘In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti,’ Abbe Mouret murmured again, giving them a final benediction.
‘Amen,’ responded Vincent.
It was early morning. The sun was not yet shining through the big windows of the church. Outside one could hear the noisy twittering of the sparrows in the branches of the service tree, whose foliage shot through the broken panes. La Teuse, who had not previously had time to clean the church, was now dusting the altar, craning up on her sound leg to wipe the feet of the ochre and lake-bedaubed Christ, and arranging the chairs as quietly as possible; all the while bowing and crossing herself, and following the service, but not omitting a single sweep of her feather broom. Quite alone, at the foot of the pulpit, was mother Brichet, praying in a very demonstrative fashion. She kept on her knees, and repeated the prayers in so loud a whisper that it seemed as if a swarm of bluebottles had taken possession of the nave.
At the other end of the church near the confessional, Catherine held an infant in swaddling clothes. As it began to cry, she turned her back upon the altar, and tossed it up, and amused it with the bell-rope, which dangled just over its nose.
‘Dominus vobiscum,’ said the priest, turning round, and spreading out his hands.
‘Et cum spiritu tuo,’ responded Vincent.
At that moment three big girls came into the church. They were too shy to go far up, though they jostled one another to get a better view of what was going on. They were three friends of Rosalie, who had dropped in for a minute or two on their way to the fields, curious as they were to hear what his reverence would say to the bride and bridegroom. They had big scissors hanging at their waists. At last they hid themselves behind the font, where they pinched each other and twisted themselves about, while trying to choke their bursts of laughter with their clenched fists.
‘Well,’ whispered La Rousse, a finely built girl, with copper-coloured skin and hair, ’there won’t be any scrimmage to get out of church when it’s all over.’
‘Oh! old Bambousse is quite right,’ murmured Lisa, a short dark girl, with gleaming eyes; ’when one has vines, one looks after them. Since his reverence so particularly desired to marry Rosalie, he can very well do it all alone.’
The other girl, Babet, who was humpbacked, tittered. ’There’s mother Brichet,’ she said; ’she is always here. She prays for the whole family. Listen, do you hear how she’s buzzing? All that will mean something in her pocket. She knows very well what she is about, I can tell you.’
‘She is playing the organ for them,’ retorted La Rousse.
At this all three burst into a laugh. La Teuse, in the distance, threatened them with her broom. At the altar, Abbe Mouret was taking the sacrament. As he went from the Epistle side towards Vincent, so that the water of ablution might be poured upon his thumb and fore-finger, Lisa said more softly: ’It’s nearly over. He will begin to talk to them directly.’