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And when they grew tired of the lower levels they ascended
still higher, venturing up the iron ladders, on which Cadine's skirts
flapped like flags. Then they ran along the second tier of roofs beneath
the open heavens. There was nothing save the stars above them. All sorts
of sounds rose up from the echoing markets, a clattering and rumbling,
a vague roar as of a distant tempest heard at nighttime. At that height
the morning breeze swept away the evil smells, the foul breath of
the awaking markets. They would kiss one another on the edge of the
gutterings like sparrows frisking on the house-tops. The rising fires
of the sun illumined their faces with a ruddy glow. Cadine laughed
with pleasure at being so high up in the air, and her neck shone with
iridescent tints like a dove's; while Marjolin bent down to look at
the street still wrapped in gloom, with his hands clutching hold of
the leads like the feet of a wood-pigeon. When they descended to earth
again, joyful from their excursion in the fresh air, they would remark
to one another that they were coming back from the country.

It was in the tripe market that they had made the acquaintance of Claude
Lantier. They went there every day, impelled thereto by an animal taste
for blood, the cruel instinct of urchins who find amusement in the sight
of severed heads. A ruddy stream flowed along the gutters round the
pavilion; they dipped the tips of their shoes in it, and dammed it up
with leaves, so as to form large pools of blood. They took a strong
interest in the arrival of the loads of offal in carts which always
smelt offensively, despite all the drenchings of water they got; they
watched the unloading of the bundles of sheep's trotters, which were
piled up on the ground like filthy paving-stones, of the huge stiffened
tongues, bleeding at their torn roots, and of the massive bell-shaped
bullocks' hearts. But the spectacle which, above all others, made
them quiver with delight was that of the big dripping hampers, full of
sheep's heads, with greasy horns and black muzzles, and strips of woolly
skin dangling from bleeding flesh. The sight of these conjured up in
their minds the idea of some guillotine casting into the baskets the
heads of countless victims.

They followed the baskets into the depths of the cellar, watching them
glide down the rails laid over the steps, and listening to the rasping
noise which the casters of these osier waggons made in their descent.
Down below there was a scene of exquisite horror. They entered into a
charnel-house atmosphere, and walked along through murky puddles, amidst
which every now and then purple eyes seem to be glistening. At times
the soles of their boots stuck to the ground, at others they splashed
through the horrible mire, anxious and yet delighted. The gas jets
burned low, like blinking, bloodshot eyes. Near the water-taps, in the
pale light falling through the gratings, they came upon the blocks; and
there they remained in rapture watching the tripe men, who, in aprons
stiffened by gory splashings, broke the sheep's heads one after another
with a blow of their mallets. They lingered there for hours, waiting
till all the baskets were empty, fascinated by the crackling of the
bones, unable to tear themselves away till all was over. Sometimes an
attendant passed behind them, cleansing the cellar with a hose; floods
of water rushed out with a sluice-like roar, but although the violence
of the discharge actually ate away the surface of the flagstones, it was
powerless to remove the ruddy stains and stench of blood.

Cadine and Marjolin were sure of meeting Claude between four and five in
the afternoon at the wholesale auction of the bullocks' lights. He
was always there amidst the tripe dealers' carts backed up against the
kerb-stones and the blue-bloused, white-aproned men who jostled him and
deafened his ears by their loud bids. But he never felt their elbows; he
stood in a sort of ecstatic trance before the huge hanging lights, and
often told Cadine and Marjolin that there was no finer sight to be seen.
The lights were of a soft rosy hue, gradually deepening and turning at
the lower edges to a rich carmine; and Claude compared them to watered
satin, finding no other term to describe the soft silkiness of those
flowing lengths of flesh which drooped in broad folds like ballet
dancers' skirts. He thought, too, of gauze and lace allowing a glimpse
of pinky skin; and when a ray of sunshine fell upon the lights and
girdled them with gold an expression of languorous rapture came into his
eyes, and he felt happier than if he had been privileged to contemplate
the Greek goddesses in their sovereign nudity, or the chatelaines of
romance in their brocaded robes.

The artist became a great friend of the two young scapegraces. He loved
beautiful animals, and such undoubtedly they were. For a long time he
dreamt of a colossal picture which should represent the loves of Cadine
and Marjolin in the central markets, amidst the vegetables, the fish,
and the meat. He would have depicted them seated on some couch of food,
their arms circling each other's waists, and their lips exchanging an
idyllic kiss. In this conception he saw a manifesto proclaiming the
positivism of art--modern art, experimental and materialistic. And it
seemed to him also that it would be a smart satire on the school which
wishes every painting to embody an "idea," a slap for the old traditions
and all they represented. But during a couple of years he began study
after study without succeeding in giving the particular "note" he
desired. In this way he spoilt fifteen canvases. His failure filled him
with rancour; however, he continued to associate with his two models
from a sort of hopeless love for his abortive picture. When he met them
prowling about in the afternoon, he often scoured the neighbourhood
with them, strolling around with his hands in his pockets, and deeply
interested in the life of the streets.

They all three trudged along together, dragging their heels over the
footways and monopolising their whole breadth so as to force others to
step down into the road. With their noses in the air they sniffed in the
odours of Paris, and could have recognised every corner blindfold by the
spirituous emanations of the wine shops, the hot puffs that came from
the bakehouses and confectioners', and the musty odours wafted from the
fruiterers'. They would make the circuit of the whole district. They
delighted in passing through the rotunda of the corn market, that huge
massive stone cage where sacks of flour were piled up on every side, and
where their footsteps echoed in the silence of the resonant roof. They
were fond, too, of the little narrow streets in the neighbourhood, which
had become as deserted, as black, and as mournful as though they formed
part of an abandoned city. These were the Rue Babille, the Rue Sauval,
the Rue des Deux Ecus, and the Rue de Viarmes, this last pallid from its
proximity to the millers' stores, and at four o'clock lively by reason
of the corn exchange held there. It was generally at this point that
they started on their round. They made their way slowly along the
Rue Vauvilliers, glancing as they went at the windows of the low
eating-houses, and thus reaching the miserably narrow Rue des
Prouvaires, where Claude blinked his eyes as he saw one of the covered
ways of the market, at the far end of which, framed round by this huge
iron nave, appeared a side entrance of St. Eustache with its rose and
its tiers of arched windows. And then, with an air of defiance, he would
remark that all the middle ages and the Renaissance put together were
less mighty than the central markets. Afterwards, as they paced the
broad new streets, the Rue du Pont Neuf and the Rue des Halles, he
explained modern life with its wide footways, its lofty houses, and its
luxurious shops, to the two urchins. He predicted, too, the advent of
new and truly original art, whose approach he could divine, and despair
filled him that its revelation should seemingly be beyond his own
powers.

Cadine and Marjolin, however, preferred the provincial quietness of the
Rue des Bourdonnais, where one can play at marbles without fear of
being run over. The girl perked her head affectedly as she passed the
wholesale glove and hosiery stores, at each door of which bareheaded
assistants, with their pens stuck in their ears, stood watching her with
a weary gaze. And she and her lover had yet a stronger preference for
such bits of olden Paris as still existed: the Rue de la Poterie and the
Rue de la Lingerie, with their butter and egg and cheese dealers; the
Rue de la Ferronerie and the Rue de l'Aiguillerie (the beautiful streets
of far-away times), with their dark narrow shops; and especially the Rue
Courtalon, a dank, dirty by-way running from the Place Sainte Opportune
to the Rue Saint Denis, and intersected by foul-smelling alleys where
they had romped in their younger days. In the Rue Saint Denis they
entered into the land of dainties; and they smiled upon the dried
apples, the "Spanishwood," the prunes, and the sugar-candy in the
windows of the grocers and druggists. Their ramblings always set them
dreaming of a feast of good things, and inspired them with a desire to
glut themselves on the contents of the windows. To them the district
seemed like some huge table, always laid with an everlasting dessert
into which they longed to plunge their fingers.

They devoted but a moment to visiting the other blocks of tumble-down
old houses, the Rue Pirouette, the Rue de Mondetour, the Rue de la
Petite Truanderie, and the Rue de la Grande Truanderie, for they took
little interest in the shops of the dealers in edible snails, cooked
vegetables, tripe, and drink. In the Rue de la Grand Truanderie,
however, there was a soap factory, an oasis of sweetness in the midst of
all the foul odours, and Marjolin was fond of standing outside it till
some one happened to enter or come out, so that the perfume which swept
through the doorway might blow full in his face. Then with all speed
they returned to the Rue Pierre Lescot and the Rue Rambuteau.



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