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   Chapter 3 PèRE MAURICE

The Devil's Pool By George Sand Characters: 5983

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


"Germain," his father-in-law said to him one day, "you must make up your mind to marry again. It's almost two years since you lost my daughter, and your oldest boy is seven years old. You're getting on toward thirty, my boy, and when a man passes that age, you know, in our province, he's considered too old to begin housekeeping again. You have three fine children, and thus far they haven't been a trouble to us. My wife and daughter-in-law have looked after them as well as they could, and loved them as they ought. There's Petit-Pierre, he's what you might call educated; he can drive oxen very handily already; he knows enough to keep the cattle in the meadow, and he's strong enough to drive the horses to water. So he isn't the one to be a burden to us; but the other two-we love them, God knows! poor innocent creatures!-cause us much anxiety this year. My daughter-in-law is about lying-in, and she still has a little one in her arms. When the one we expect has come, she won't be able to look after your little Solange, and especially your little Sylvain, who isn't four years old and hardly keeps still a minute day or night. His blood is hot, like yours: he'll make a good workman, but he's a terrible child, and my old woman can't run fast enough now to catch him when he runs off toward the ditch or in among the feet of the cattle. And then, when my daughter-in-law brings this other one into the world, her last but one will be thrown on my wife's hands for a month, at least. So your children worry us and overburden us. We don't like to see children neglected; and when you think of the accidents that may happen to them for lack of watching, your mind's never at rest. So you must have another wife, and I another daughter-in-law. Think it over, my boy. I've already warned you more than once; time flies, and the years won't wait for you. You owe it to your children and to us, who want to have everything go right in the house, to marry as soon as possible."

"Well, father," the son-in-law replied, "if you really want me to do it, I must gratify you. But I don't propose to conceal from you that it will cause me a great deal of annoyance, and that I'd about as lief drown myself. You know what you've lost, and you don't know what you may find. I had an excellent wife, a good-looking wife, sweet and brave, good to her father and mother, good to her husband, good to her children, a good worker, in the fields or in the house, clever about her work, good at everything, in fact; and when you gave her to me, when I took her, it wasn't one of the conditions that I should forget her if I had the bad luck to lose her."

"What you say shows a good heart, Germain," rejoined Père Maurice; "I know you loved my daughter, that you made her happy, and that if you could have satisfied Death by going in her place, Catherine would be alive at this moment and you in the cemetery. She well deserved to have you love her like that, and if you don't get over her loss, no m

ore do we. But I'm not talking about forgetting her. The good God willed that she should leave us, and we don't let a day pass without showing Him, by our prayers, our thoughts, our words, our acts, that we respect her memory and are grieved at her departure. But if she could speak to you from the other world and tell you her will, she would bid you seek a mother for her little orphans. The question, then, is to find a woman worthy to take her place. It won't be very easy; but it isn't impossible; and when we have found her for you, you will love her as you loved my daughter, because you are an honest man and because you will be grateful to her for doing us a service and loving your children."

"Very good, Père Maurice," said Germain, "I will do what you wish, as I always have done."

"I must do you the justice to say, my son, that you have always listened to the friendship and sound arguments of the head of your family. So let us talk over the matter of your choice of a new wife. In the first place, I don't advise you to take a young woman. That isn't what you need. Youth is fickle; and as it's a burden to bring up three children, especially when they're the children of another marriage, what you must have is a kind-hearted soul, wise and gentle, and used to hard work. If your wife isn't about as old as yourself, she won't have sense enough to accept such a duty. She will think you too old and your children too young. She will complain, and your children will suffer."

"That is just what disturbs me," said Germain. "Suppose she should hate the poor little ones, and they should be maltreated and beaten?"

"God forbid!" said the old man. "But evil-minded women are rarer in these parts than good ones, and a man must be a fool not to be able to put his hand on the one that suits him."

"True, father: there are some good girls in our village. There's Louise and Sylvaine and Claudie and Marguerite-any one you please, in fact."

"Softly, softly, my boy, all those girls are too young or too poor-or too pretty; for we must think of that, too, my son. A pretty woman isn't always as steady as a plainer one."

"Do you want me to take an ugly one, pray?" said Germain, a little disturbed.

"No, not ugly, for you will have other children by her, and there's nothing so sad as to have ugly, puny, unhealthy children. But a woman still in her prime, in good health and neither ugly nor pretty, would do your business nicely."

"It is easy to see," said Germain, smiling rather sadly, "that to get such a one as you want we must have her made to order; especially as you don't want her to be poor, and rich wives aren't easy to get, especially for a widower."

"Suppose she was a widow herself, Germain? what do you say to a widow without children, and a snug little property?"

"I don't know of any just now in our parish."

"Nor do I, but there are other places."

"You have some one in view, father; so tell me at once who it is."

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