A B C D E F
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
Henceforth Florent spent almost all his time on the premises,
lingering on a chair in the kitchen or leaning against the marble-work
in the shop. At meal times Quenu plied him with food, and evinced
considerable vexation when he proved such a small eater and left half
the contents of his liberally filled plate untouched. Lisa had resumed
her old life, evincing a kindly tolerance of her brother-in-law's
presence, even in the morning, when he somewhat interfered with the
work. Then she would momentarily forget him, and on suddenly perceiving
his black form in front of her give a slight start of surprise,
followed, however, by one of her sweet smiles, lest he might feel at
all hurt. This skinny man's disinterestedness had impressed her, and she
regarded him with a feeling akin to respect, mingled with vague fear.
Florent had for his part only felt that there was great affection around
him.

When bedtime came he went upstairs, a little wearied by his lazy day,
with the two young men whom Quenu employed as assistants, and who slept
in attics adjoining his own. Leon, the apprentice, was barely fifteen
years of age. He was a slight, gentle looking lad, addicted to stealing
stray slices of ham and bits of sausages. These he would conceal under
his pillow, eating them during the night without any bread. Several
times at about one o'clock in the morning Florent almost fancied that
Leon was giving a supper-party; for he heard low whispering followed by
a sound of munching jaws and rustling paper. And then a rippling girlish
laugh would break faintly on the deep silence of the sleeping house like
the soft trilling of a flageolet.

The other assistant, Auguste Landois, came from Troyes. Bloated with
unhealthy fat, he had too large a head, and was already bald, although
only twenty-eight years of age. As he went upstairs with Florent on the
first evening, he told him his story in a confused, garrulous way. He
had at first come to Paris merely for the purpose of perfecting himself
in the business, intending to return to Troyes, where his cousin,
Augustine Landois, was waiting for him, and there setting up for himself
as a pork butcher. He and she had had the game godfather and bore
virtually the same Christian name. However, he had grown ambitious; and
now hoped to establish himself in business in Paris by the aid of the
money left him by his mother, which he had deposited with a notary
before leaving Champagne.

Auguste had got so far in his narrative when the fifth floor was
reached; however, he still detained Florent, in order to sound the
praises of Madame Quenu, who had consented to send for Augustine Landois
to replace an assistant who had turned out badly. He himself was now
thoroughly acquainted with his part of the business, and his cousin was
perfecting herself in shop management. In a year or eighteen months they
would be married, and then they would set up on their own account in
some populous corner of Paris, at Plaisance most likely. They were in no
great hurry, he added, for the bacon trade was very bad that year.
Then he proceeded to tell Florent that he and his cousin had been
photographed together at the fair of St. Ouen, and he entered the attic
to have another look at the photograph, which Augustine had left on
the mantelpiece, in her desire that Madame Quenu's cousin should have a
pretty room. Auguste lingered there for a moment, looking quite livid
in the dim yellow light of his candle, and casting his eyes around the
little chamber which was still full of memorials of the young girl.
Next, stepping up to the bed, he asked Florent if it was comfortable.
His cousin slept below now, said he, and would be better there in the
winter, for the attics were very cold. Then at last he went off, leaving
Florent alone with the bed, and standing in front of the photograph.
As shown on the latter Auguste looked like a sort of pale Quenu, and
Augustine like an immature Lisa.

Florent, although on friendly terms with the assistants, petted by his
brother, and cordially treated by Lisa, presently began to feel very
bored. He had tried, but without success, to obtain some pupils;
moreover, he purposely avoided the students' quarter for fear of being
recognised. Lisa gently suggested to him that he had better try to
obtain a situation in some commercial house, where he could take charge
of the correspondence and keep the books. She returned to this subject
again and again, and at last offered to find a berth for him herself.
She was gradually becoming impatient at finding him so often in her way,
idle, and not knowing what to do with himself. At first this impatience
was merely due to the dislike she felt of people who do nothing but
cross their arms and eat, and she had no thought of reproaching him for
consuming her substance.

"For my own part," she would say to him, "I could never spend the whole
day in dreamy lounging. You can't have any appetite for your meals. You
ought to tire yourself."

Gavard, also, was seeking a situation for Florent, but in a very
extraordinary and most mysterious fashion. He would have liked to find
some employment of a dramatic character, or in which there should be a
touch of bitter irony, as was suitable for an outlaw. Gavard was a man
who was always in opposition. He had just completed his fiftieth year,
and he boasted that he had already passed judgment on four Governments.
He still contemptuously shrugged his shoulders at the thought of Charles
X, the priests and nobles and other attendant rabble, whom he had helped
to sweep away. Louis Philippe, with his bourgeois following, had been an
imbecile, and he could tell how the citizen-king had hoarded his coppers
in a woollen stocking. As for the Republic of '48, that had been a
mere farce, the working classes had deceived him; however, he no longer
acknowledged that he had applauded the Coup d'Etat, for he now looked
upon Napoleon III as his personal enemy, a scoundrel who shut himself
up with Morny and others to indulge in gluttonous orgies. He was never
weary of holding forth upon this subject. Lowering his voice a little,
he would declare that women were brought to the Tuileries in closed
carriages every evening, and that he, who was speaking, had one night
heard the echoes of the orgies while crossing the Place du Carrousel. It
was Gavard's religion to make himself as disagreeable as possible to any
existing Government. He would seek to spite it in all sorts of ways,
and laugh in secret for several months at the pranks he played. To begin
with, he voted for candidates who would worry the Ministers at the Corps
Legislatif. Then, if he could rob the revenue, or baffle the police, and
bring about a row of some kind or other, he strove to give the affair as
much of an insurrectionary character as possible. He told a great many
lies, too; set himself up as being a very dangerous man; talked as
though "the satellites of the Tuileries" were well acquainted with him
and trembled at the sight of him; and asserted that one half of them
must be guillotined, and the other half transported, the next time there
was "a flare-up." His violent political creed found food in boastful,
bragging talk of this sort; he displayed all the partiality for a
lark and a rumpus which prompts a Parisian shopkeeper to take down
his shutters on a day of barricade-fighting to get a good view of the
corpses of the slain. When Florent returned from Cayenne, Gavard opined
that he had got hold of a splendid chance for some abominable trick, and
bestowed much thought upon the question of how he might best vent his
spleen on the Emperor and Ministers and everyone in office, down to the
very lowest police constable.

Gavard's manners with Florent were altogether those of a man tasting
some forbidden pleasure. He contemplated him with blinking eyes, lowered
his voice even when making the most trifling remark, and grasped his
hand with all sorts of masonic flummery. He had at last lighted upon
something in the way of an adventure; he had a friend who was really
compromised, and could, without falsehood speak of the dangers he
incurred. He undoubtedly experienced a secret alarm at the sight of
this man who had returned from transportation, and whose fleshlessness
testified to the long sufferings he had endured; however, this touch of
alarm was delightful, for it increased his notion of his own importance,
and convinced him that he was really doing something wonderful in
treating a dangerous character as a friend. Florent became a sort of
sacred being in his eyes: he swore by him alone, and had recourse to his
name whenever arguments failed him and he wanted to crush the Government
once and for all.

Gavard had lost his wife in the Rue Saint Jacques some months after the
Coup d'Etat; however, he had kept on his roasting shop till 1856. At
that time it was reported that he had made large sums of money by going
into partnership with a neighbouring grocer who had obtained a contract
for supplying dried vegetables to the Crimean expeditionary corps. The
truth was, however, that, having sold his shop, he lived on his income
for a year without doing anything. He himself did not care to talk
about the real origin of his fortune, for to have revealed it would have
prevented him from plainly expressing his opinion of the Crimean War,
which he referred to as a mere adventurous expedition, "undertaken
simply to consolidate the throne and to fill certain persons' pockets."
At the end of a year he had grown utterly weary of life in his bachelor
quarters. As he was in the habit of visiting the Quenu-Gradelles almost
daily, he determined to take up his residence nearer to them, and came
to live in the Rue de la Cossonnerie. The neighbouring markets, with
their noisy uproar and endless chatter, quite fascinated him; and he
decided to hire a stall in the poultry pavilion, just for the purpose
of amusing himself and occupying his idle hours with all the gossip.
Thenceforth he lived amidst ceaseless tittle-tattle, acquainted with
every little scandal in the neighbourhood, his head buzzing with
the incessant yelping around him.



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 |

N O P Q R S T
U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.