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   Chapter 15 THE RETURN TO THE FARM

The Devil's Pool By George Sand Characters: 7308

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Within a quarter of an hour they had crossed the moors. They trotted along the high-road, and Grise neighed at every familiar object. Petit-Pierre told his father what had taken place so far as he had been able to understand it.

"When we got there," he said, "that man came and talked to my Marie in the sheepfold, where we went first to see the fine sheep. I'd got up into the crib to play, and that man didn't see me. Then he said good-day to my Marie and then he kissed her."

"You let him kiss you, Marie?" said Germain, trembling with anger.

"I thought it was a compliment, a custom of the place for new arrivals, just as grandma, at your house, kisses the girls who take service with her, to show that she adopts them and will be like a mother to them."

"And then," continued Petit-Pierre, who was very proud to have a story to tell, "that man said something naughty, something you told me not to say and not to remember: so I forgot it right away. But if my papa wants me to tell him what it was-"

"No, my Pierre, I don't want to hear it, and I don't want you to remember it ever."

"Then I'll forget it again," said the child. "And then that man acted as if he was mad because Marie said she was going away. He told her he'd give her all she wanted,-a hundred francs! And my Marie got mad, too. Then he went at her, just like he was going to hurt her. I was afraid, and I ran up to Marie and cried. Then that man said like this: 'What's that? where did that child come from? Put him out of here.' And he put up his stick to beat me. But my Marie stopped him, and she said like this: 'We will talk by and by, monsieur; now I must take this child to Fourche, and then I'll come back again.' And as soon as he'd gone out of the sheepfold, my Marie says to me like this: 'Let's run away, my Pierre, we must go away right off, for that man's a bad man, and he would only hurt us.'-Then we went behind the barns and crossed a little field and went to Fourche to look for you. But you weren't there, and they wouldn't let us wait for you. And then that man came up behind us on his black horse, and we ran still farther away, and then we went and hid in the woods. Then he came, too, and we hid when we heard him coming. And then, when he'd gone by, we began to run for ourselves so as to go home; and then at last you came and found us; and that's all there was. I didn't forget anything, did I, my Marie?"

"No, Pierre, and it's the truth. Now, Germain, you will bear witness for me and tell everybody at home that it wasn't for lack of courage and being willing to work that I couldn't stay over yonder."

"And I will ask you, Marie," said Germain, "to ask yourself the question, whether, when it comes to defending a woman and punishing a knave, a man of twenty-eight isn't too old? I'd like to know if Bastien, or any other pretty boy who has the advantage of being ten years younger than I am, wouldn't have been crushed by that man, as Petit-Pierre calls him: what do you think about it?"

"I think, Germain, that you have done me a very great service, and that I shall thank you for it all my life."

"Is that all?"

"My little father," said the child, "I didn't think to tell little Marie what I promised you. I didn't have time, but I'll tell her at home, and I'll tell grandma, too."

This promise on his child's part gave Germain abundant food for reflection. The problem now was how to explain his position to his family, and while setting forth his grievances against the widow Guérin, to avoid telling them what other thoughts had predisposed him to be so keen-sighted and so harsh in his judgment.

When one

is happy and proud, the courage to make others accept one's happiness seems easily within reach; but to be rebuffed in one direction and blamed in another is not a very pleasant plight.

Luckily, Pierre was asleep when they reached the farm, and Germain put him down on his bed without waking him. Then he entered upon such explanations as he was able to give. Père Maurice, sitting upon his three-legged stool in the doorway, listened gravely to him, and, although he was ill pleased with the result of the expedition, when Germain, after describing the widow's system of coquetry, asked his father in-law if he had time to go and pay court to her fifty-two Sundays in the year with the chance of being dismissed at the end of the year, the old man replied, nodding his head in token of assent: "You are not wrong, Germain; that couldn't be." And again, when Germain told how he had been compelled to bring little Marie home again without loss of time to save her from the insults, perhaps from the violence, of an unworthy master, Père Maurice again nodded assent, saying: "You are not wrong, Germain; that's as it should be."

When Germain had finished his story and given all his reasons, his father-in-law and mother-in-law simultaneously uttered a heavy sigh of resignation as they exchanged glances.

Then the head of the family rose, saying: "Well! God's will be done! affection isn't made to order!"

"Come to supper, Germain," said the mother-in-law. "It's a pity that couldn't be arranged better; however, it wasn't God's will, it seems. We must look somewhere else."

"Yes," the old man added, "as my wife says, we must look somewhere else."

There was no further sound in the house, and when Petit-Pierre rose the next morning with the larks, at dawn, being no longer excited by the extraordinary events of the last two days, he relapsed into the normal apathy of little peasants of his age, forgot all that had filled his little head, and thought of nothing but playing with his brothers, and being a man with the horses and oxen.

Germain tried to forget, too, by plunging into his work again; but he became so melancholy and so absent-minded that everybody noticed it. He did not speak to little Marie, he did not even look at her; and yet, if any one had asked him in which pasture she was, or in what direction she had gone, there was not an hour in the day when he could not have told if he had chosen to reply. He had not dared ask his people to take her on at the farm during the winter, and yet he was well aware that she must be suffering from poverty. But she was not suffering, and Mère Guillette could never understand why her little store of wood never grew less, and how her shed was always filled in the morning when she had left it almost empty the night before. It was the same with the wheat and potatoes. Some one came through the window in the loft, and emptied a bag on the floor without waking anybody or leaving any tracks. The old woman was anxious and rejoiced at the same time; she bade her daughter not mention the matter, saying that if people knew what was happening in her house they would take her for a witch. She really believed that the devil had a hand in it, but she was by no means eager to fall out with him by calling upon the curé to exorcise him from her house; she said to herself that it would be time to do that when Satan came and demanded her soul in exchange for his benefactions.

Little Marie had a clearer idea of the truth, but she dared not speak to Germain for fear that he would recur to his idea of marriage, and she pretended when with him to notice nothing.

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