Such was the second putting to death of Saint Bartholomew, who had already been martyred in the year 49 of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Meanwhile, evening was approaching, the heat was increasing, the air was full of drowsiness, Georgette's eyes grew heavy, René-Jean went to his crib, drew out the bag of straw which took the place of a mattress, dragged it to the window, stretched himself out on it, and said: "Let us go to bed."
Gros-Alain put his head on René-Jean, Georgette put her head on Gros-Alain, and the three malefactors went to sleep.
Hot breezes came in through the open windows; the perfume of wild flowers, blown from the ravines and hills, floated in, mingled with the evening zephyrs; space was calm and merciful; everything beamed, everything was at peace, everything loved everything else; the sun caressed creation with light; everywhere was felt that harmony which arises from the colossal sweetness of things; there was something of maternity in the Infinite; creation is a miracle in full bloom, its immensity is perfected by its goodness; it seemed as if some invisible power could be felt taking those mysterious precautions which, in the terrible conflict of life, protect the weak against the strong; at the same time it was beautiful, the splendor breathed forth mansuetude.
The landscape, full of an ineffable drowsiness, had that magnificent wavy appearance which the alternations of light and shade give to prairies and rivers; the smoke rose toward the clouds, as a dream toward a vision; flocks of birds whirled above la Tourgue; swallows looked in at the windows, and seemed to have come to see if the children were sleeping well.
They were gracefully grouped, one on the other, still, half-naked, in loving attitudes; they were adorable and pure, all three together were not nine years old, they had dreams of Paradise, which were reflected on their mouths in vague smiles; God, perhaps, was speaking in their ears; they were those whom every human tongue calls weak and blessed, they were innocents worthy of reverence; everything kept silence, as though the breath from their sweet breasts was of consequence to the universe, and was listened to by all creation; the leaves did not rustle, the grass did not quiver. It seemed as if the wide starry world held its breath, that it might not disturb these three humble, angelic sleepers, and nothing was so sublime as the immense respect of nature toward these little creatures.
The sun was going down, and almost touched the horizon. Suddenly, in the midst of this profound peace, there shot forth a bright light, coming from the forest, then a furious noise. A cannon had just been fired. The echoes seized this noise and turned it into an uproarious din. The rumbling, prolonged from hill to hill, was monstrous. It awoke Georgette.
She raised her head a little, lifted her little finger, listened, and said,—
The sound died away, and silence returned. Georgette laid her head down on Gros-Alain, and went to sleep again.