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   Chapter 16 MèRE MAURICE

The Devil's Pool By George Sand Characters: 5938

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


One day, Mère Maurice, being alone in the orchard with Germain, said to him affectionately: "My poor son, I don't think you're well. You don't eat as much as usual, you never laugh, and you talk less and less. Has any one in the house, have we ourselves wounded you, without meaning to do it or knowing that we had done it?"

"No, mother," replied Germain, "you have always been as kind to me as the mother who brought me into the world, and I should be an ungrateful fellow if I complained of you, or your husband, or any one in the house."

"In that case, my child, it must be that your grief for your wife's death has come back. Instead of lessening with time, your loneliness grows worse, and you absolutely must do what your father-in-law very wisely advised, you must marry again."

"Yes, mother, that would be my idea, too; but the women you advised me to seek don't suit me. When I see them, instead of forgetting Catherine, I think of her all the more."

"The trouble apparently is, Germain, that we haven't succeeded in divining your taste. So you must help us by telling us the truth. Doubtless there's a woman somewhere who was made for you, for the good Lord doesn't make anybody without putting by his happiness for him in somebody else. So if you know where to go for the wife you need, go and get her; and whether she's pretty or ugly, young or old, rich or poor, we have made up our minds, my old man and I, to give our consent; for we're tired of seeing you so sad, and we can't live at peace if you are not."

"You are as good as the good Lord, mother, and so is father," replied Germain; "but your compassion can't cure my trouble: the girl I would like won't have me."

"Is it because she's too young? It's unwise for you to put your thoughts on a young girl."

"Well, yes, mother, I am foolish enough to have become attached to a young girl, and I blame myself for it. I do all I can not to think of her; but whether I am at work or resting, whether I am at Mass or in my bed, with my children or with you, I think of her all the time, and can't think of anything else."

"Why, it's as if there'd been a spell cast on you, Germain, isn't it? There's only one cure for it, and that is to make the girl change her mind and listen to you. So I must take a hand in it, and see if it can be done. You tell me where she lives and what her name is."

"Alas! my dear mother, I don't dare," said Germain, "for you'll laugh at me."

"No, I won't laugh at you, Germain, because you're in trouble, and I don't want to make it any worse for you. Can it be Fanchette?"

"No, mother, not her."

"Or Rosette?"

"No."

"Tell me, then, for I won't stop, if I have to name all the girls in the province."

Germain hung his head, and could not make up his mind to reply.

"Well," said Mère Maurice, "I leave you in peace for to-day, Germain; perhaps to-morrow you will feel more like trusting me, or your sister-in-law will show more s

kill in questioning you."

And she picked up her basket to go and stretch her linen on the bushes.

Germain acted like children who make up their minds when they see that you have ceased to pay any attention to them. He followed his mother-in-law, and at last gave her the name in fear and trembling-La Guillette's little Marie.

Great was Mère Maurice's surprise: she was the last one of whom she would have thought. But she had the delicacy not to cry out at it, and to make her comments mentally. Then, seeing that her silence was oppressive to Germain, she held out her basket to him, saying: "Well, is that any reason why you shouldn't help me in my work? Carry this load, and come and talk with me. Have you reflected, Germain? have you made up your mind?"

"Alas! my dear mother, that's not the way you must talk: my mind would be made up if I could succeed; but as I shouldn't be listened to, I have made up my mind simply to cure myself if I can."

"And if you can't?"

"Everything in its time, Mère Maurice: when the horse is overloaded, he falls; and when the ox has nothing to eat, he dies."

"That is to say that you will die if you don't succeed, eh? God forbid, Germain! I don't like to hear a man like you say such things as that, because when he says them he thinks them. You're a very brave man, and weakness is a dangerous thing in strong men. Come, take hope. I can't imagine how a poor girl, who is much honored by having you want her, can refuse you."

"It's the truth, though, she does refuse me."

"What reasons does she give you?"

"That you have always been kind to her, that her family owes a great deal to yours, and that she doesn't want to displease you by turning me away from a wealthy marriage."

"If she says that, she shows good feeling, and it's very honest on her part. But when she tells you that, Germain, she doesn't cure you, for she tells you she loves you, I don't doubt, and that she'd marry you if we were willing."

"That's the worst of it! she says that her heart isn't drawn toward me."

"If she says what she doesn't mean, the better to keep you away from her, she's a child who deserves to have us love her and to have us overlook her youth because of her great common-sense."

"Yes," said Germain, struck with a hope he had not before conceived; "it would be very good and very comme il faut on her part! but if she's so sensible, I am very much afraid it's because she doesn't like me."

"Germain," said Mère Maurice, "you must promise to keep quiet the whole week and not worry, but eat and sleep, and be gay as you used to be. I'll speak to my old man, and if I bring him round, then you can find out the girl's real feeling with regard to you."

Germain promised, and the week passed without Père Maurice saying a word to him in private or giving any sign that he suspected anything. The ploughman tried hard to seem tranquil, but he was paler and more perturbed than ever.

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