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His slain ambitions embittered him. It was long before he
could bring himself to bow to his fate, and accept with equanimity the
painful lot of a poor, plain, commonplace man. At last, to guard against
the temptations of wickedness, he plunged into ideal goodness, and
sought refuge in a self-created sphere of absolute truth and justice. It
was then that he became a republican, entering into the republican idea
even as heart-broken girls enter a convent. And not finding a republic
where sufficient peace and kindliness prevailed to lull his troubles to
sleep, he created one for himself. He took no pleasure in books. All
the blackened paper amidst which he lived spoke of evil-smelling
class-rooms, of pellets of paper chewed by unruly schoolboys, of long,
profitless hours of torture. Besides, books only suggested to him a
spirit of mutiny and pride, whereas it was of peace and oblivion that he
felt most need. To lull and soothe himself with the ideal imaginings, to
dream that he was perfectly happy, and that all the world would likewise
become so, to erect in his brain the republican city in which he would
fain have lived, such now became his recreation, the task, again and
again renewed, of all his leisure hours. He no longer read any books
beyond those which his duties compelled him to peruse; he preferred
to tramp along the Rue Saint Jacques as far as the outer boulevards,
occasionally going yet a greater distance and returning by the Barriere
d'Italie; and all along the road, with his eyes on the Quartier
Mouffetard spread out at his feet, he would devise reforms of great
moral and humanitarian scope, such as he thought would change that city
of suffering into an abode of bliss. During the turmoil of February
1848, when Paris was stained with blood he became quite heartbroken, and
rushed from one to another of the public clubs demanding that the blood
which had been shed should find atonement in "the fraternal embrace
of all republicans throughout the world." He became one of those
enthusiastic orators who preached revolution as a new religion, full of
gentleness and salvation. The terrible days of December 1851, the days
of the Coup d'Etat, were required to wean him from his doctrines of
universal love. He was then without arms; allowed himself to be captured
like a sheep, and was treated as though he were a wolf. He awoke from
his sermon on universal brotherhood to find himself starving on the cold
stones of a casemate at Bicetre.

Quenu, when two and twenty, was distressed with anguish when his brother
did not return home. On the following day he went to seek his corpse at
the cemetery of Montmartre, where the bodies of those shot down on the
boulevards had been laid out in a line and covered with straw, from
beneath which only their ghastly heads projected. However, Quenu's
courage failed him, he was blinded by his tears, and had to pass twice
along the line of corpses before acquiring the certainty that Florent's
was not among them. At last, at the end of a long and wretched week, he
learned at the Prefecture of Police that his brother was a prisoner. He
was not allowed to see him, and when he pressed the matter the police
threatened to arrest him also. Then he hastened off to his uncle
Gradelle, whom he looked upon as a person of importance, hoping that he
might be able to enlist his influence in Florent's behalf. But Gradelle
waxed wrathful, declared that Florent deserved his fate, that he ought
to have known better than to have mixed himself up with those rascally
republicans. And he even added that Florent was destined to turn out
badly, that it was written on his face.

Quenu wept copiously and remained there, almost choked by his sobs. His
uncle, a little ashamed of his harshness, and feeling that he ought to
do something for him, offered to receive him into his house. He wanted
an assistant, and knew that his nephew was a good cook. Quenu was so
much alarmed by the mere thought of going back to live alone in the
big room in the Rue Royer Collard, that then and there he accepted
Gradelle's offer. That same night he slept in his uncle's house, in
a dark hole of a garret just under the room, where there was scarcely
space for him to lie at full length. However, he was less wretched there
than he would have been opposite his brother's empty couch.

He succeeded at length in obtaining permission to see Florent; but on
his return from Bicetre he was obliged to take to his bed. For nearly
three weeks he lay fever-stricken, in a stupefied, comatose state.
Gradelle meantime called down all sorts of maledictions on his
republican nephew; and one morning, when he heard of Florent's departure
for Cayenne, he went upstairs, tapped Quenu on the hands, awoke him, and
bluntly told him the news, thereby bringing about such a reaction that
on the following day the young man was up and about again. His grief
wore itself out, and his soft flabby flesh seemed to absorb his tears.
A month later he laughed again, and then grew vexed and unhappy with
himself for having been merry; but his natural light-heartedness soon
gained the mastery, and he laughed afresh in unconscious happiness.

He now learned his uncle's business, from which he derived even more
enjoyment than from cookery. Gradelle told him, however, that he must
not neglect his pots and pans, that it was rare to find a pork butcher
who was also a good cook, and that he had been lucky in serving in a
restaurant before coming to the shop. Gradelle, moreover, made full use
of his nephew's acquirements, employed him to cook the dinners sent out
to certain customers, and placed all the broiling, and the preparation
of pork chops garnished with gherkins in his special charge. As the
young man was of real service to him, he grew fond of him after his
own fashion, and would nip his plump arms when he was in a good humour.
Gradelle had sold the scanty furniture of the room in the Rue Royer
Collard and retained possession of the proceeds--some forty francs or
so--in order, said he, to prevent the foolish lad, Quenu, from making
ducks and drakes of the cash. After a time, however, he allowed his
nephew six francs a month a pocket-money.

Quenu now became quite happy, in spite of the emptiness of his purse and
the harshness with which he was occasionally treated. He liked to have
life doled out to him; Florent had treated him too much like an indolent
girl. Moreover, he had made a friend at his uncle's. Gradelle, when his
wife died, had been obliged to engage a girl to attend to the shop, and
had taken care to choose a healthy and attractive one, knowing that a
good-looking girl would set off his viands and help to tempt custom.
Amongst his acquaintances was a widow, living in the Rue Cuvier, near
the Jardin des Plantes, whose deceased husband had been postmaster at
Plassans, the seat of a sub-prefecture in the south of France. This
lady, who lived in a very modest fashion on a small annuity, had brought
with her from Plassans a plump, pretty child, whom she treated as her
own daughter. Lisa, as the young one was called, attended upon her with
much placidity and serenity of disposition. Somewhat seriously inclined,
she looked quite beautiful when she smiled. Indeed, her great charm came
from the exquisite manner in which she allowed this infrequent smile
of hers to escape her. Her eyes then became most caressing, and her
habitual gravity imparted inestimable value to these sudden, seductive
flashes. The old lady had often said that one of Lisa's smiles would
suffice to lure her to perdition.

When the widow died she left all her savings, amounting to some ten
thousand francs, to her adopted daughter. For a week Lisa lived alone in
the Rue Cuvier; it was there that Gradelle came in search of her. He had
become acquainted with her by often seeing her with her mistress when
the latter called on him in the Rue Pirouette; and at the funeral
she had struck him as having grown so handsome and sturdy that he had
followed the hearse all the way to the cemetery, though he had not
intended to do so. As the coffin was being lowered into the grave, he
reflected what a splendid girl she would be for the counter of a pork
butcher's shop. He thought the matter over, and finally resolved to
offer her thirty francs a month, with board and lodging. When he made
this proposal, Lisa asked for twenty-four hours to consider it. Then
she arrived one morning with a little bundle of clothes, and her ten
thousand francs concealed in the bosom of her dress. A month later the
whole place belonged to her; she enslaved Gradelle, Quenu, and even the
smallest kitchen-boy. For his part, Quenu would have cut off his fingers
to please her. When she happened to smile, he remained rooted to the
floor, laughing with delight as he gazed at her.

Lisa was the eldest daughter of the Macquarts of Plassans, and her
father was still alive.[*] But she said that he was abroad, and never
wrote to him. Sometimes she just dropped a hint that her mother, now
deceased, had been a hard worker, and that she took after her. She
worked, indeed, very assiduously. However, she sometimes added that
the worthy woman had slaved herself to death in striving to support her
family. Then she would speak of the respective duties of husband and
wife in such a practical though modest fashion as to enchant Quenu. He
assured her that he fully shared her ideas. These were that everyone,
man or woman, ought to work for his or her living, that everyone was
charged with the duty of achieving personal happiness, that great harm
was done by encouraging habits of idleness, and that the presence of so
much misery in the world was greatly due to sloth. This theory of hers
was a sweeping condemnation of drunkenness, of all the legendary loafing
ways of her father Macquart. But, though she did not know it, there was
much of Macquart's nature in herself. She was merely a steady, sensible
Macquart with a logical desire for comfort, having grasped the truth
of the proverb that as you make your bed so you lie on it. To sleep in
blissful warmth there is no better plan than to prepare oneself a soft
and downy couch; and to the preparation of such a couch she gave all
her time and all her thoughts.



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