“Faith, she’s a fine girl, all the same. ’Tis a pity she made a slip with Victor.”
Till evening he kept thinking of her and also on the following morning.
When he saw her again he felt something tickling the end of his throat, as if a cock’s feather had been driven through his mouth into his chest, and since then, every time he found himself near her, he was astonished at this nervous tickling which always commenced again.
In three months he made up his mind to marry her, so much did she please him. He could not have said whence came this power over him, but he explained it in these words:
“I am possessed by her,” as if the desire for this girl within him were as dominating as one of the powers of hell. He scarcely bothered himself about her transgression. It was a pity, but, after all, it did her no harm, and he bore no grudge against Victor Lecoq.
But if the cure should not succeed, what was he to do? He did not dare to think of it, the anxiety was such a torture to him.
He reached the presbytery and seated himself near the little gateway to wait for the priest’s return.
He was there perhaps half an hour when he heard steps on the road, and although the night was very dark, he presently distinguished the still darker shadow of the cassock.
He rose up, his legs giving way under him, not even venturing to speak, not daring to ask a question.
The clergyman perceived him and said gaily:
“Well, my lad, it’s all right.”
“All right, ’tisn’t possible.”
“Yes, my lad, but not without trouble. What an old ass your father is!”
The peasant repeated:
“Why, yes. Come and look me up to-morrow at midday in order to settle about the publication of the banns.”
The young man seized the cure’s hand. He pressed it, shook it, bruised it as he stammered:
“True-true-true, Monsieur le Cure, on the word of an honest man, you’ll see me to-morrow-at your sermon.”
The wedding took place in the middle of December. It was simple, the bridal pair not being rich. Cesaire, attired in new clothes, was ready since eight o’clock in the morning to go and fetch his betrothed and bring her to the mayor’s office, but it was too early. He seated himself before the kitchen table and waited for the members of the family and the friends who were to accompany him.
For the last eight days it had been snowing, and the brown earth, the earth already fertilized by the autumn sowing, had become a dead white, sleeping under a great sheet of ice.
It was cold in the thatched houses adorned with white caps, and the round apples in the trees of the enclosures seemed to be flowering, covered with white as they had been in the pleasant month of their blossoming.