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For the first time Florent began to
feel that he was in the way, and to recognise the unmannerly fashion in
which he, thin and artless, had tumbled into this world of fat people;
and he frankly admitted to himself that his presence was disturbing
the whole neighbourhood, and that he was a source of discomfort to the
Quenus--a spurious cousin of far too compromising appearance. These
reflections made him very sad; not, indeed, that they had noticed the
slightest harshness on the part of his brother or Lisa: it was their
very kindness, rather, that was troubling him, and he accused himself of
a lack of delicacy in quartering himself upon them. He was beginning to
doubt the propriety of his conduct. The recollection of the conversation
in the shop during the afternoon caused him a vague disquietude. The
odour of the viands on Lisa's counter seemed to penetrate him; he felt
himself gliding into nerveless, satiated cowardice. Perhaps he had acted
wrongly in refusing the inspectorship offered him. This reflection gave
birth to a stormy struggle in his mind, and he was obliged to brace and
shake himself before he could recover his wonted rigidity of principles.
However, a moist breeze had risen, and was blowing along the covered
way, and he regained some degree of calmness and resolution on being
obliged to button up his coat. The wind seemingly swept from his clothes
all the greasy odour of the pork shop, which had made him feel so
languid.

He was returning home when he met Claude Lantier. The artist, hidden
in the folds of his greenish overcoat, spoke in a hollow voice full of
suppressed anger. He was in a passion with painting, declared that it
was a dog's trade, and swore that he would not take up a brush again as
long as he lived. That very afternoon he had thrust his foot through a
study which he had been making of the head of that hussy Cadine.

Claude was subject to these outbursts, the fruit of his inability to
execute the lasting, living works which he dreamed of. And at such times
life became an utter blank to him, and he wandered about the streets,
wrapped in the gloomiest thoughts, and waiting for the morning as for a
sort of resurrection. He used to say that he felt bright and cheerful in
the morning, and horribly miserable in the evening.[*] Each of his days
was a long effort ending in disappointment. Florent scarcely recognised
in him the careless night wanderer of the markets. They had already met
again at the pork shop, and Claude, who knew the fugitive's story, had
grasped his hand and told him that he was a sterling fellow. It was very
seldom, however, that the artist went to the Quenus'.

[*] Claude Lantier's struggle for fame is fully described in
M. Zola's novel, _L'Oeuvre_ ("His Masterpiece").
--Translator.

"Are you still at my aunt's?" he asked. "I can't imagine how you manage
to exist amidst all that cookery. The places reeks with the smell of
meat. When I've been there for an hour I feel as though I shouldn't want
anything to eat for another three days. I ought not to have gone there
this morning; it was that which made me make a mess of my work."

Then, after he and Florent had taken a few steps in silence, he resumed:

"Ah! the good people! They quite grieve me with their fine health. I had
thought of painting their portraits, but I've never been able to succeed
with such round faces, in which there is never a bone. Ah! You wouldn't
find my aunt Lisa kicking her foot through her pans! I was an idiot to
have destroyed Cadine's head! Now that I come to think of it, it wasn't
so very bad, perhaps, after all."

Then they began to talk about Aunt Lisa. Claude said that his mother[*]
had not seen anything of her for a long time, and he hinted that the
pork butcher's wife was somewhat ashamed of her sister having married
a common working man; moreover, she wasn't at all fond of unfortunate
folks. Speaking of himself, he told Florent that a benevolent gentleman
had sent him to college, being very pleased with the donkeys and old
women that he had managed to draw when only eight years old; but the
good soul had died, leaving him an income of a thousand francs, which
just saved him from perishing of hunger.

[*] Gervaise, the heroine of the _Assommoir_.

"All the same, I would rather have been a working man," continued
Claude. "Look at the carpenters, for instance. They are very happy
folks, the carpenters. They have a table to make, say; well, they make
it, and then go off to bed, happy at having finished the table, and
perfectly satisfied with themselves. Now I, on the other hand, scarcely
get any sleep at nights. All those confounded pictures which I can't
finish go flying about my brain. I never get anything finished and done
with--never, never!"

His voice almost broke into a sob. Then he attempted to laugh; and
afterwards began to swear and pour forth coarse expressions, with the
cold rage of one who, endowed with a delicate, sensitive mind, doubts
his own powers, and dreams of wallowing in the mire. He ended by
squatting down before one of the gratings which admit air into the
cellars beneath the markets--cellars where the gas is continually kept
burning. And in the depths below he pointed out Marjolin and Cadine
tranquilly eating their supper, whilst seated on one of the stone blocks
used for killing the poultry. The two young vagabonds had discovered a
means of hiding themselves and making themselves at home in the cellars
after the doors had been closed.

"What a magnificent animal he is, eh!" exclaimed Claude, with envious
admiration, speaking of Marjolin. "He and Cadine are happy, at all
events! All they care for is eating and kissing. They haven't a care
in the world. Ah, you do quite right, after all, to remain at the pork
shop; perhaps you'll grow sleek and plump there."

Then he suddenly went off. Florent climbed up to his garret, disturbed
by Claude's nervous restlessness, which revived his own uncertainty.
On the morrow, he avoided the pork shop all the morning, and went for
a long walk on the quays. When he returned to lunch, however, he was
struck by Lisa's kindliness. Without any undue insistence she again
spoke to him about the inspectorship, as of something which was well
worth his consideration. As he listened to her, with a full plate in
front of him, he was affected, in spite of himself, by the prim comfort
of his surroundings. The matting beneath his feet seemed very soft;
the gleams of the brass hanging lamp, the soft, yellow tint of
the wallpaper, and the bright oak of the furniture filled him with
appreciation of a life spent in comfort, which disturbed his notions of
right and wrong. He still, however, had sufficient strength to persist
in his refusal, and repeated his reasons; albeit conscious of the bad
taste he was showing in thus ostentatiously parading his animosity and
obstinacy in such a place. Lisa showed no signs of vexation; on the
contrary, she smiled, and the sweetness of her smile embarrassed Florent
far more than her suppressed irritation of the previous evening. At
dinner the subject was not renewed; they talked solely of the great
winter saltings, which would keep the whole staff of the establishment
busily employed.

The evenings were growing cold, and as soon as they had dined they
retired into the kitchen, where it was very warm. The room was so large,
too, that several people could sit comfortably at the square central
table, without in any way impeding the work that was going on. Lighted
by gas, the walls were coated with white and blue tiles to a height
of some five or six feet from the floor. On the left was a great iron
stove, in the three apertures of which were set three large round pots,
their bottoms black with soot. At the end was a small range, which,
fitted with an oven and a smoking-place, served for the broiling; and
up above, over the skimming-spoons, ladles, and long-handled forks, were
several numbered drawers, containing rasped bread, both fine and coarse,
toasted crumbs, spices, cloves, nutmegs, and pepper. On the right,
leaning heavily against the wall, was the chopping-block, a huge mass
of oak, slashed and scored all over. Attached to it were several
appliances, an injecting pump, a forcing-machine, and a mechanical
mincer, which, with their wheels and cranks, imparted to the place an
uncanny and mysterious aspect, suggesting some kitchen of the infernal
regions.

Then, all round the walls upon shelves, and even under the tables,
were iron pots, earthenware pans, dishes, pails, various kinds of tin
utensils, a perfect battery of deep copper saucepans, and swelling
funnels, racks of knives and choppers, rows of larding-pins and
needles--a perfect world of greasy things. In spite of the extreme
cleanliness, grease was paramount; it oozed forth from between the blue
and white tiles on the wall, glistened on the red tiles of the flooring,
gave a greyish glitter to the stove, and polished the edges of the
chopping-block with the transparent sheen of varnished oak. And, indeed,
amidst the ever-rising steam, the continuous evaporation from the three
big pots, in which pork was boiling and melting, there was not a single
nail from ceiling to floor from which grease did not exude.

The Quenu-Gradelles prepared nearly all their stock themselves. All that
they procured from outside were the potted meats of celebrated firms,
with jars of pickles and preserves, sardines, cheese, and edible snails.
They consequently became very busy after September in filling the
cellars which had been emptied during the summer. They continued working
even after the shop had been closed for the night. Assisted by Auguste
and Leon, Quenu would stuff sausages-skins, prepare hams, melt down
lard, and salt the different sorts of bacon. There was a tremendous
noise of cauldrons and cleavers, and the odour of cooking spread through
the whole house. All this was quite independent of the daily business
in fresh pork, _pate de fois gras_, hare patty, galantine, saveloys and
black-puddings.

That evening, at about eleven o'clock, Quenu, after placing a couple of
pots on the fire in order to melt down some lard, began to prepare the
black-puddings.



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