One evening when the window was open, and she, sitting by it, had been
watching Lestiboudois, the beadle, trimming the box, she suddenly heard the
It was the beginning of April, when the primroses are in bloom, and a warm wind
blows over the flower-beds newly turned, and the gardens, like women, seem to
be getting ready for the summer fetes. Through the bars of the arbour and away
beyond, the river seen in the fields, meandering through the grass in wandering
curves. The evening vapours rose between the leafless poplars, touching their
outlines with a violet tint, paler and more transparent than a subtle gauze caught
athwart their branches. In the distance cattle moved about; neither their steps nor
their lowing could be heard; and the bell, still ringing through the air, kept up its
With this repeated tinkling the thoughts of the young woman lost themselves in
old memories of her youth and school-days. She remembered the great
candlesticks that rose above the vases full of flowers on the altar, and the
tabernacle with its small columns. She would have liked to be once more lost in
the long line of white veils, marked off here and there by the stuff black hoods of
the good sisters bending over their prie-Dieu. At mass on Sundays, when she
looked up, she saw the gentle face of the Virgin amid the blue smoke of the rising
incense. Then she was moved; she felt herself weak and quite deserted, like the
down of a bird whirled by the tempest, and it was unconsciously that she went
towards the church, included to no matter what devotions, so that her soul was
absorbed and all existence lost in it.
On the Place she met Lestivoudois on his way back, for, in order not to shorten
his day's labour, he preferred interrupting his work, then beginning it again, so
that he rang the Angelus to suit his own convenience. Besides, the ringing over a
little earlier warned the lads of catechism hour.
Already a few who had arrived were playing marbles on the stones of the
cemetery. Others, astride the wall, swung their legs, kicking with their clogs the
large nettles growing between the little enclosure and the newest graves. This
was the only green spot. All the rest was but stones, always covered with a fine
powder, despite the vestry-broom.
The children in list shoes ran about there as if it were an enclosure made for
them. The shouts of their voices could be heard through the humming of the bell.
This grew less and less with the swinging of the great rope that, hanging from the
top of the belfry, dragged its end on the ground. Swallows flitted to and fro
uttering little cries, cut the air with the edge of their wings, and swiftly returned to
their yellow nests under the tiles of the coping. At the end of the church a lamp
was burning, the wick of a night-light in a glass hung up. Its light from a distance
looked like a white stain trembling in the oil. A long ray of the sun fell across the
nave and seemed to darken the lower sides and the corners.