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However, two constables, still in night
uniform, with cloaks and _kepis_, paced up and down the footway side by
side, their hands resting behind their backs; and every time they passed
the bench they glanced at the game which they scented there. Florent
felt sure that they recognised him, and were consulting together about
arresting him. At this thought his anguish of mind became extreme. He
felt a wild desire to get up and run away; but he did not dare to do
so, and was quite at a loss as to how he might take himself off. The
repeated glances of the constables, their cold, deliberate scrutiny
caused him the keenest torture. At length he rose from the bench, making
a great effort to restrain himself from rushing off as quickly as his
long legs could carry him; and succeeded in walking quietly away, though
his shoulders quivered in the fear he felt of suddenly feeling the rough
hands of the constables clutching at his collar from behind.

He had now only one thought, one desire, which was to get away from
the markets as quickly as possible. He would wait and make his
investigations later on, when the footways should be clear. The three
streets which met here--the Rue Montmartre, Rue Montorgueil, and Rue
Turbigo--filled him with uneasiness. They were blocked by vehicles of
all kinds, and their footways were crowded with vegetables. Florent went
straight along as far as the Rue Pierre Lescot, but there the cress and
the potato markets seemed to him insuperable obstacles. So he resolved
to take the Rue Rambuteau. On reaching the Boulevard de Sebastopol,
however, he came across such a block of vans and carts and waggonettes
that he turned back and proceeded along the Rue Saint Denis. Then he got
amongst the vegetables once more. Retail dealers had just set up their
stalls, formed of planks resting on tall hampers; and the deluge of
cabbages and carrots and turnips began all over again. The markets were
overflowing. Florent tried to make his escape from this pursuing
flood which ever overtook him in his flight. He tried the Rue de la
Cossonnerie, the Rue Berger, the Square des Innocents, the Rue de
la Ferronnerie, and the Rue des Halles. And at last he came to a
standstill, quite discouraged and scared at finding himself unable to
escape from the infernal circle of vegetables, which now seemed to dance
around him, twining clinging verdure about his legs.

The everlasting stream of carts and horses stretched away as far as the
Rue de Rivoli and the Place de l'Hotel de Ville. Huge vans were carrying
away supplies for all the greengrocers and fruiterers of an entire
district; _chars-a-bancs_ were starting for the suburbs with straining,
groaning sides. In the Rue de Pont Neuf Florent got completely
bewildered. He stumbled upon a crowd of hand-carts, in which numerous
costermongers were arranging their purchases. Amongst them he recognised
Lacaille, who went off along the Rue Saint Honore, pushing a barrow of
carrots and cauliflowers before him. Florent followed him, in the hope
that he would guide him out of the mob. The pavement was now quite
slippery, although the weather was dry, and the litter of artichoke
stalks, turnip tops, and leaves of all kinds made walking somewhat
dangerous. Florent stumbled at almost every step. He lost sight of
Lacaille in the Rue Vauvilliers, and on approaching the corn market
he again found the streets barricaded with vehicles. Then he made no
further attempt to struggle; he was once more in the clutch of the
markets, and their stream of life bore him back. Slowly retracing his
steps, he presently found himself by Saint Eustache again.

He now heard the loud continuous rumbling of the waggons that were
setting out from the markets. Paris was doling out the daily food of its
two million inhabitants. These markets were like some huge central organ
beating with giant force, and sending the blood of life through every
vein of the city. The uproar was akin to that of colossal jaws--a mighty
sound to which each phase of the provisioning contributed, from the
whip-cracking of the larger retail dealers as they started off for the
district markets to the dragging pit-a-pat of the old shoes worn by the
poor women who hawked their lettuces in baskets from door to door.

Florent turned into a covered way on the left, intersecting the group of
four pavilions whose deep silent gloom he had remarked during the night.
He hoped that he might there find a refuge, discover some corner in
which he could hide himself. But these pavilions were now as busy, as
lively as the others. Florent walked on to the end of the street. Drays
were driving up at a quick trot, crowding the market with cages full of
live poultry, and square hampers in which dead birds were stowed in deep
layers. On the other side of the way were other drays from which porters
were removing freshly killed calves, wrapped in canvas, and laid at full
length in baskets, whence only the four bleeding stumps of their legs
protruded. There were also whole sheep, and sides and quarters of beef.
Butchers in long white aprons marked the meat with a stamp, carried it
off, weighted it, and hung it up on hooks in the auction room. Florent,
with his face close to the grating, stood gazing at the rows of hanging
carcasses, at the ruddy sheep and oxen and paler calves, all streaked
with yellow fat and sinews, and with bellies yawning open. Then he
passed along the sidewalk where the tripe market was held, amidst the
pallid calves' feet and heads, the rolled tripe neatly packed in boxes,
the brains delicately set out in flat baskets, the sanguineous livers,
and purplish kidneys. He checked his steps in front of some long
two-wheeled carts, covered with round awnings, and containing sides of
pork hung on each side of the vehicle over a bed of straw. Seen from
the back end, the interiors of the carts looked like recesses of some
tabernacle, like some taper-lighted chapel, such was the glow of all the
bare flesh they contained. And on the beds of straw were lines of tin
cans, full of the blood that had trickled from the pigs. Thereupon
Florent was attacked by a sort of rage. The insipid odour of the meat,
the pungent smell of the tripe exasperated him. He made his way out of
the covered road, preferring to return once more to the footwalk of the
Rue de Pont Neuf.

He was enduring perfect agony. The shiver of early morning came upon
him; his teeth chattered, and he was afraid of falling to the ground and
finding himself unable to rise again. He looked about, but could see no
vacant place on any bench. Had he found one he would have dropped
asleep there, even at the risk of being awakened by the police. Then, as
giddiness nearly blinded him, he leaned for support against a tree,
with his eyes closed and his ears ringing. The raw carrot, which he had
swallowed almost without chewing, was torturing his stomach, and the
glass of punch which he had drunk seemed to have intoxicated him. He was
indeed intoxicated with misery, weariness, and hunger. Again he felt a
burning fire in the pit of the stomach, to which he every now and then
carried his hands, as though he were trying to stop up a hole through
which all his life was oozing away. As he stood there he fancied that
the foot-pavement rocked beneath him; and thinking that he might perhaps
lessen his sufferings by walking, he went straight on through the
vegetables again. He lost himself among them. He went along a narrow
footway, turned down another, was forced to retrace his steps, bungled
in doing so, and once more found himself amidst piles of greenery. Some
heaps were so high that people seemed to be walking between walls
of bundles and bunches. Only their heads slightly overtopped these
ramparts, and passed along showing whitely or blackly according to the
colour of their hats or caps; whilst the huge swinging baskets, carried
aloft on a level with the greenery, looked like osier boats floating on
a stagnant, mossy lake.

Florent stumbled against a thousand obstacles--against porters taking up
their burdens, and saleswomen disputing in rough tones. He slipped over
the thick bed of waste leaves and stumps which covered the footway, and
was almost suffocated by the powerful odour of crushed verdure. At last
he halted in a sort of confused stupor, and surrendered to the pushing
of some and the insults of others; and then he became a mere waif, a
piece of wreckage tossed about on the surface of that surging sea.

He was fast losing all self-respect, and would willingly have begged.
The recollection of his foolish pride during the night exasperated him.
If he had accepted Madame Francois's charity, if he had not felt such
idiotic fear of Claude, he would not now have been stranded there
groaning in the midst of these cabbages. And he was especially angry
with himself for not having questioned the artist when they were in the
Rue Pirouette. Now, alas! he was alone and deserted, liable to die in
the streets like a homeless dog.

For the last time he raised his eyes and looked at the markets. At
present they were glittering in the sun. A broad ray was pouring through
the covered road from the far end, cleaving the massy pavilions with an
arcade of light, whilst fiery beams rained down upon the far expanse of
roofs. The huge iron framework grew less distinct, assumed a bluey hue,
became nothing but a shadowy silhouette outlined against the flaming
flare of the sunrise. But up above a pane of glass took fire, drops of
light trickled down the broad sloping zinc plates to the gutterings; and
then, below, a tumultuous city appeared amidst a haze of dancing golden
dust. The general awakening had spread, from the first start of the
market gardeners snoring in their cloaks, to the brisk rolling of the
food-laden railway drays. And the whole city was opening its iron gates,
the footways were humming, the pavilions roaring with life. Shouts and
cries of all kinds rent the air; it was as though the strain, which
Florent had heard gathering force in the gloom ever since four in the
morning, had now attained its fullest volume.



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