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"What has all that got to do with me? Even supposing it were
true, what then? Have I ever advised you to practise dishonest courses?
Have I ever prompted you to dishonour your acceptances, or cheat your
customers, or pile up money by fraudulent practices? Really, you'll end
by making me quite angry! We are honest folks, and we don't pillage or
assassinate anybody. That's quite sufficient. What other folks do is no
concern of ours. If they choose to be rogues it's their affair."

She looked quite majestic and triumphant; and again pacing the room,
drawing herself up to her full height, she resumed: "A pretty notion
it is that people are to let their business go to rack and ruin just to
please those who are penniless. For my part, I'm in favour of making hay
while the sun shines, and supporting a Government which promotes trade.
If it does do dishonourable things, I prefer to know nothing about them.
I know that I myself commit none, and that no one in the neighbourhood
can point a finger at me. It's only fools who go tilting at windmills.
At the time of the last elections, you remember, Gavard said that the
Emperor's candidate had been bankrupt, and was mixed up in all sorts of
scandalous matters. Well, perhaps that was true, I don't deny it; but
all the same, you acted wisely in voting for him, for all that was not
in question; you were not asked to lend the man any money or to transact
any business with him, but merely to show the Government that you were
pleased with the prosperity of the pork trade."

At this moment Quenu called to mind a sentence of Charvet's, asserting
that "the bloated bourgeois, the sleek shopkeepers, who backed up that
Government of universal gormandising, ought to be hurled into the sewers
before all others, for it was owing to them and their gluttonous egotism
that tyranny had succeeded in mastering and preying upon the nation." He
was trying to complete this piece of eloquence when Lisa, carried off by
her indignation, cut him short.

"Don't talk such stuff! My conscience doesn't reproach me with anything.
I don't owe a copper to anybody; I'm not mixed up in any dishonest
business; I buy and sell good sound stuff; and I charge no more than
others do. What you say may perhaps apply to people like our cousins,
the Saccards. They pretend to be even ignorant that I am in Paris; but
I am prouder than they are, and I don't care a rap for their millions.
It's said that Saccard speculates in condemned buildings, and cheats and
robs everybody. I'm not surprised to hear it, for he was always that way
inclined. He loves money just for the sake of wallowing in it, and then
tossing it out of his windows, like the imbecile he is. I can understand
people attacking men of his stamp, who pile up excessive fortunes. For
my part, if you care to know it, I have but a bad opinion of Saccard.
But we--we who live so quietly and peaceably, who will need at least
fifteen years to put by sufficient money to make ourselves comfortably
independent, we who have no reason to meddle in politics, and whose
only aim is to bring up our daughter respectably, and to see that our
business prospers--why you must be joking to talk such stuff about us.
We are honest folks!"

She came and sat down on the edge of the bed. Quenu was already much
shaken in his opinions.

"Listen to me, now," she resumed in a more serious voice. "You surely
don't want to see your own shop pillaged, your cellar emptied, and your
money taken from you? If these men who meet at Monsieur Lebigre's should
prove triumphant, do you think that you would then lie as comfortably
in your bed as you do now? And on going down into the kitchen, do you
imagine that you would set about making your galantines as peacefully
as you will presently? No, no, indeed! So why do you talk about
overthrowing a Government which protects you, and enables you to put
money by? You have a wife and a daughter, and your first duty is towards
them. You would be in fault if you imperilled their happiness. It is
only those who have neither home nor hearth, who have nothing to lose,
who want to be shooting people. Surely you don't want to pull the
chestnuts out of the fire for _them_! So stay quietly at home, you
foolish fellow, sleep comfortably, eat well, make money, keep an easy
conscience, and leave France to free herself of the Empire if the Empire
annoys her. France can get on very well without _you_."

She laughed her bright melodious laugh as she finished; and Quenu was
now altogether convinced. Yes, she was right, after all; and she looked
so charming, he thought, as she sat there on the edge of the bed, so
trim, although it was so early, so bright, and so fresh in the dazzling
whiteness of her linen. As he listened to her his eyes fell on their
portraits hanging on either side of the fireplace. Yes, they were
certainly honest folks; they had such a respectable, well-to-do air in
their black clothes and their gilded frames! The bedroom, too, looked
as though it belonged to people of some account in the world. The lace
squares seemed to give a dignified appearance to the chairs; and
the carpet, the curtains, and the vases decorated with painted
landscapes--all spoke of their exertions to get on in the world and
their taste for comfort. Thereupon he plunged yet further beneath the
eider-down quilt, which kept him in a state of pleasant warmth. He
began to feel that he had risked losing all these things at Monsieur
Lebigre's--his huge bed, his cosy room, and his business, on which
his thoughts now dwelt with tender remorse. And from Lisa, from the
furniture, from all his cosy surroundings, he derived a sense of comfort
which thrilled him with a delightful, overpowering charm.

"You foolish fellow!" said his wife, seeing that he was now quite
conquered. "A pretty business it was that you'd embarked upon; but you'd
have had to reckon with Pauline and me, I can tell you! And now don't
bother your head any more about the Government. To begin with, all
Governments are alike, and if we didn't have this one, we should have
another. A Government is necessary. But the one thing is to be able to
live on, to spend one's savings in peace and comfort when one grows old,
and to know that one has gained one's means honestly."

Quenu nodded his head in acquiescence, and tried to commence a
justification of his conduct.

"It was Gavard--," he began.

But Lisa's face again assumed a serious expression, and she interrupted
him sharply.

"No, it was not Gavard. I know very well who it was; and it would be
a great deal better if he would look after his own safety before
compromising that of others."

"Is it Florent you mean?" Quenu timidly inquired after a pause.

Lisa did not immediately reply. She got up and went back to the
secretaire, as if trying to restrain herself.

"Yes, it is Florent," she said presently, in incisive tones. "You know
how patient I am. I would bear almost anything rather than come between
you and your brother. The tie of relationship is a sacred thing. But the
cup is filled to overflowing now. Since your brother came here things
have been constantly getting worse and worse. But now, I won't say
anything more; it is better that I shouldn't."

There was another pause. Then, as her husband gazed up at the ceiling
with an air of embarrassment, she continued, with increased violence:

"Really, he seems to ignore all that we have done for him. We have
put ourselves to great inconvenience for his sake; we have given him
Augustine's bedroom, and the poor girl sleeps without a murmur in a
stuffy little closet where she can scarcely breathe. We board and lodge
him and give him every attention--but no, he takes it all quite as a
matter of course. He is earning money, but what he does with it nobody
knows; or, rather, one knows only too well."

"But there's his share of the inheritance, you know," Quenu ventured to
say, pained at hearing his brother attacked.

Lisa suddenly stiffened herself as though she were stunned, and her
anger vanished.

"Yes, you are right; there is his share of the inheritance. Here is
the statement of it, in this drawer. But he refused to take it; you
remember, you were present, and heard him. That only proves that he is a
brainless, worthless fellow. If he had had an idea in his head, he would
have made something out of that money by now. For my own part, I should
be very glad to get rid of it; it would be a relief to us. I have told
him so twice, but he won't listen to me. You ought to persuade him to
take it. Talk to him about it, will you?"

Quenu growled something in reply; and Lisa refrained from pressing the
point further, being of opinion that she had done all that could be
expected of her.

"He is not like other men," she resumed. "He's not a comfortable sort of
person to have in the house. I shouldn't have said this if we hadn't got
talking on the subject. I don't busy myself about his conduct, though
it's setting the whole neighbourhood gossiping about us. Let him eat
and sleep here, and put us about, if he likes; we can get over that; but
what I won't tolerate is that he should involve us in his politics. If
he tries to lead you off again, or compromises us in the least degree,
I shall turn him out of the house without the least hesitation. I warn
you, and now you understand!"

Florent was doomed. Lisa was making a great effort to restrain herself,
to prevent the animosity which had long been rankling in her heart
from flowing forth. But Florent and his ways jarred against her every
instinct; he wounded her, frightened her, and made her quite miserable.

"A man who has made such a discreditable career," she murmured, "who has
never been able to get a roof of his own over his head! I can very well
understand his partiality for bullets! He can go and stand in their way
if he chooses; but let him leave honest folks to their families! And
then, he isn't pleasant to have about one! He reeks of fish in the
evening at dinner! It prevents me from eating. He himself never lets a
mouthful go past him, though it's little better he seems to be for it
all!



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