G H I J K L M 

Total read books on site:
more than 10 000

You can read its for free!

Text on one page: Few Medium Many
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. When no more than six years old she
had consented to remain quietly on her chair the whole day through on
condition that she should be rewarded with a cake in the evening.

[*] See M. Zola's novel, _The Fortune of the Rougons_.--Translator

At Gradelle's establishment Lisa went on leading the calm, methodical
life which her exquisite smiles illumined. She had not accepted the pork
butcher's offer at random. She reckoned upon finding a guardian in him;
with the keen scent of those who are born lucky she perhaps foresaw that
the gloomy shop in the Rue Pirouette would bring her the comfortable
future she dreamed of--a life of healthy enjoyment, and work without
fatigue, each hour of which would bring its own reward. She attended to
her counter with the quiet earnestness with which she had waited upon
the postmaster's widow; and the cleanliness of her aprons soon became
proverbial in the neighbourhood. Uncle Gradelle was so charmed with this
pretty girl that sometimes, as he was stringing his sausages, he would
say to Quenu: "Upon my word, if I weren't turned sixty, I think I should
be foolish enough to marry her. A wife like she'd make is worth her
weight in gold to a shopkeeper, my lad."

Quenu himself was growing still fonder of her, though he laughed merrily
one day when a neighbour accused him of being in love with Lisa. He was
not worried with love-sickness. The two were very good friends, however.
In the evening they went up to their bedrooms together. Lisa slept in a
little chamber adjoining the dark hole which the young man occupied.
She had made this room of hers quite bright by hanging it with muslin
curtains. The pair would stand together for a moment on the landing,
holding their candles in their hands, and chatting as they unlocked
their doors. Then, as they closed them, they said in friendly tones:

"Good night, Mademoiselle Lisa."

"Good night, Monsieur Quenu."

As Quenu undressed himself he listened to Lisa making her own
preparations. The partition between the two rooms was very thin. "There,
she is drawing her curtains now," he would say to himself; "what can she
be doing, I wonder, in front of her chest of drawers? Ah! she's sitting
down now and taking off her shoes. Now she's blown her candle out. Well,
good night. I must get to sleep"; and at times, when he heard her bed
creak as she got into it, he would say to himself with a smile, "Dash
it all! Mademoiselle Lisa is no feather." This idea seemed to amuse him,
and presently he would fall asleep thinking about the hams and salt pork
that he had to prepare the next morning.

This state of affairs went on for a year without causing Lisa a single
blush or Quenu a moment's embarrassment. When the girl came into the
kitchen in the morning at the busiest moment of the day's work, they
grasped hands over the dishes of sausage-meat. Sometimes she helped him,
holding the skins with her plump fingers while he filled them with meat
and fat. Sometimes, too, with the tips of their tongues they just tasted
the raw sausage-meat, to see if it was properly seasoned. She was able
to give Quenu some useful hints, for she knew of many favourite southern
recipes, with which he experimented with much success. He was often
aware that she was standing behind his shoulder, prying into the pans.
If he wanted a spoon or a dish, she would hand it to him. The heat of
the fire would bring their blood to their skins; still, nothing in
the world would have induced the young man to cease stirring the fatty
_bouillis_ which were thickening over the fire while the girl stood
gravely by him, discussing the amount of boiling that was necessary.
In the afternoon, when the shop lacked customers, they quietly chatted
together for hours at a time. Lisa sat behind the counter, leaning back,
and knitting in an easy, regular fashion; while Quenu installed himself
on a big oak block, dangling his legs and tapping his heels against the
wood. They got on wonderfully well together, discussing all sorts of
subjects, generally cookery, and then Uncle Gradelle and the neighbours.
Lisa also amused the young man with stories, just as though he were a
child. She knew some very pretty ones--some miraculous legends, full of
lambs and little angels, which she narrated in a piping voice, with all
her wonted seriousness. If a customer happened to come in, she saved
herself the trouble of moving by asking Quenu to get the required pot of
lard or box of snails. And at eleven o'clock they went slowly up to
bed as on the previous night. As they closed their doors, they calmly
repeated the words:

"Good night, Mademoiselle Lisa."

"Good night, Monsieur Quenu."

One morning Uncle Gradelle was struck dead by apoplexy while preparing
a galantine. He fell forward, with his face against the chopping-block.
Lisa did not lose her self-possession. She remarked that the dead man
could not be left lying in the middle of the kitchen, and had the body
removed into a little back room where Gradelle had slept. Then she
arranged with the assistants what should be said. It must be given out
that the master had died in his bed; otherwise the whole district would
be disgusted, and the shop would lose its customers. Quenu helped to
carry the dead man away, feeling quite confused, and astonished at
being unable to shed any tears. Presently, however, he and Lisa cried
together. Quenu and his brother Florent were the sole heirs. The gossips
of the neighbourhood credited old Gradelle with the possession of a
considerable fortune. However, not a single crown could be discovered.
Lisa seemed very restless and uneasy. Quenu noticed how pensive she
became, how she kept on looking around her from morning till night, as
though she had lost something. At last she decided to have a thorough
cleaning of the premises, declaring that people were beginning to talk,
that the story of the old man's death had got about, and that it was
necessary they should make a great show of cleanliness. One afternoon,
after remaining in the cellar for a couple of hours, whither she herself
had gone to wash the salting-tubs, she came up again, carrying something
in her apron. Quenu was just then cutting up a pig's fry. She waited
till he had finished, talking awhile in an easy, indifferent fashion.
But there was an unusual glitter in her eyes, and she smiled her most
charming smile as she told him that she wanted to speak to him. She led
the way upstairs with seeming difficulty, impeded by what she had in her
apron, which was strained almost to bursting.

By the time she reached the third floor she found herself short of
breath, and for a moment was obliged to lean against the balustrade.
Quenu, much astonished, followed her into her bedroom without saying a
word. It was the first time she had ever invited him to enter it. She
closed the door, and letting go the corners of her apron, which her
stiffened fingers could no longer hold up, she allowed a stream of gold
and silver coins to flow gently upon her bed. She had discovered Uncle
Gradelle's treasure at the bottom of a salting-tub. The heap of money
made a deep impression in the softy downy bed.

Lisa and Quenu evinced a quiet delight. They sat down on the edge of the
bed, Lisa at the head and Quenu at the foot, on either side of the heap
of coins, and they counted the money out upon the counterpane, so as to
avoid making any noise. There were forty thousand francs in gold, and
three thousand francs in silver, whilst in a tin box they found bank
notes to the value of forty-two thousand francs. It took them two hours
to count up the treasure. Quenu's hands trembled slightly, and it was
Lisa who did most of the work.

They arranged the gold on the pillow in little heaps, leaving the silver
in the hollow depression of the counterpane. When they had ascertained
the total amount--eighty-five thousand francs, to them an enormous
sum--they began to chat. And their conversation naturally turned upon
their future, and they spoke of their marriage, although there had never
been any previous mention of love between them. But this heap of money
seemed to loosen their tongues. They had gradually seated themselves
further back on the bed, leaning against the wall, beneath the white
muslin curtains; and as they talked together, their hands, playing with
the heap of silver between them, met, and remained linked amidst
the pile of five-franc pieces. Twilight surprised them still sitting
together. Then, for the first time, Lisa blushed at finding the young
man by her side. For a few moments, indeed, although not a thought of
evil had come to them, they felt much embarrassed. Then Lisa went to
get her own ten thousand francs. Quenu wanted her to put them with his
uncle's savings. He mixed the two sums together, saying with a laugh
that the money must be married also. Then it was agreed that Lisa should
keep the hoard in her chest of drawers. When she had locked it up they
both quietly went downstairs. They were now practically husband and

The wedding took place during the following month. The neighbours
considered the match a very natural one, and in every way suitable. They
had vaguely heard the story of the treasure, and Lisa's honesty was the
subject of endless eulogy. After all, said the gossips, she might well
have kept the money herself, and not have spoken a word to Quenu about
it; if she had spoken, it was out of pure honesty, for no one had seen
her find the hoard. She well deserved, they added, that Quenu should
make her his wife. That Quenu, by the way, was a lucky fellow; he
wasn't a beauty himself, yet he had secured a beautiful wife, who had
disinterred a fortune for him. Some even went so far as to whisper that
Lisa was a simpleton for having acted as she had done; but the young
woman only smiled when people speaking to her vaguely alluded to all
these things. She and her husband lived on as previously, in happy
placidity and quiet affection.

Pages: | Prev | | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | 20 | | 21 | | 22 | | 23 | | 24 | | 25 | | 26 | | 27 | | 28 | | 29 | | 30 | | 31 | | 32 | | 33 | | 34 | | 35 | | 36 | | 37 | | 38 | | 39 | | 40 | | 41 | | 42 | | 43 | | 44 | | 45 | | 46 | | 47 | | 48 | | 49 | | 50 | | 51 | | 52 | | 53 | | 54 | | 55 | | 56 | | 57 | | 58 | | 59 | | 60 | | 61 | | 62 | | 63 | | 64 | | 65 | | 66 | | 67 | | 68 | | 69 | | 70 | | 71 | | 72 | | 73 | | 74 | | 75 | | 76 | | 77 | | Next |

U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.