The garden in the Rue Victor Hugo was full of long narrow tables covered with snowy cloths and as white china. In the pitiless noonday sun the display dazzled the eyes. In the middle of every table was a high vase of yellow flowers, and at intervals down each stood china bowls heaped with apples and grapes.
A carafe of cider stood at every plate, for Normans are thirsty and their heads strong.
Brigit stood in an upper window looking down as the crowd assorted itself and settled down on the benches by the tables. In a few moments Theo would fetch her and conduct her to the arbour where twelve people were to be seated; at present he was bustling about making himself agreeable to everybody, laughing with those few children who, being over twelve, were present, helping the old or unwieldly to dispose of themselves comfortably, darting to and fro, looking strangely out of place among the good people with whom he felt so thoroughly at home.
In the arbour, Brigit knew, were already assembled the bridal couple, Victor and Felicite, Antoine and Guillaume, and the wife of Guillaume, Madame Chalumeau, the ancient cure and M. Thibaut, the Mayor. She and Theo were to complete the dozen. For some reason the girl dreaded the feast. She had been unable to speak to Victor as yet, and since their eyes had met in the church she had been unable to shake off a haunting feeling of fear that had come to her at that moment. Something was impending.
And the sultry heat seemed to make matters worse. Down in the garden the guests were now all seated, and scraps of their conversation reached her as she leaned in the window.
“A magnificent dinner, I am told,” M. Perret, the apothecary, was saying in his high voice like that of a grass-hopper chirping in the heat. “Thildette Chalumeau told me: Pot au feu, veal cooked in a casserole in its own juice, rabbits stewed in wine, gigot roti, patisserie—and many other things. Yvonne Gaude is cooking it, but Thildette prepared most of the things with her own hands——”
“—And what is a poor man to think when a cow dies like that, from no reason whatever,” murmured one of the humblest of the country cousins. “M. le cure can say what he likes about there being no witches!”
“Have you seen the future of le petit de Victor? They call her beautiful, I am told, in England, but——”
“Victor is growing old, Maitre Leboeuf. He looked quite old in church——”
“No, ma chere, positively only eighteen fifty, and as good as new! I always liked plush, too——”
Brigit listened absently. What could be the matter with Victor? And why had he not come to her for only one minute before the long ordeal of the dinner began?
Then the door opened and Theo, beaming with a sense of duty artistically fulfilled, came in. “They are all as happy as possible,” he laughed; “the pot au feu is a thing of the past, and they are beginning on the veal. Come, my Brigit, you must be hungry.”