‘Yes,’ said La Rousse, ’and so big Fortune will still be able to go to his work, and Rosalie won’t lose her day’s pay at the vintage. It is very convenient to be married so early in the morning. He looks very sheepish, that big Fortune.’
‘Of course,’ murmured Babet. ’It tires him, keeping so long on his knees. You may be sure that he has never knelt so long since his first communion.’
But the girls’ attention was suddenly distracted by the baby which Catherine was dangling in her arms. It wanted to get hold of the bell-rope, and was quite blue with rage, frantically stretching out its little hands and almost choking itself with crying.
‘Ah! so the youngster is there,’ said La Rousse.
The baby now burst into still louder wailing, and struggled like a little Imp.
‘Turn it over on its stomach, and let it suck,’ said Babet to Catherine.
Catherine lifted up her head, and began to laugh, with the shamelessness of a little minx. ‘It’s not at all amusing,’ she said, giving the baby a shake. ’Be quiet, will you, little pig! My sister plumped it down on my knees.’
‘Naturally,’ said Babet, mischievously. ’You could scarcely have expected her to give the brat to Monsieur le Cure to nurse.’
At this sally, La Rousse almost fell over in a fit of laughter. She leaned against the wall, holding her sides with her hands. Lisa threw herself against her, and attempted to soothe her by pinching her back and shoulders; while Babet laughed with a hunchback’s laugh, which grated on the ear like the sound of a saw.
‘If it hadn’t been for the little one,’ she continued, ’Monsieur le Cure would have lost all use for his holy water. Old Bambousse had made up his mind to marry Rosalie to young Laurent, of Figuieres.’
However, the girls’ merriment and their chatter now came to an end, for they saw La Teuse limping furiously towards them. At this the three big hussies felt alarmed, stepped back, and subsided into sedateness.
‘You worthless things!’ hissed La Teuse. ’You come to talk a lot of filth here, do you? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, La Rousse? You ought to be there, on your knees, before the altar, like Rosalie. I will throw you outside if you stir again. Do you hear?’
La Rousse’s copper cheeks were tinged with a rising blush, and Babet glanced at her and tittered.
‘And you,’ continued La Teuse, turning towards Catherine, ’just you leave that baby alone. You are pinching it on purpose to make it scream. Don’t tell me you are not. Give it to me.’