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The porters arranged them symmetrically,
tier by tier, on the vehicles. When the pile rose, however, to the
height of a first floor, the porter who stood below balancing the next
batch of hampers had to make a spring in order to toss them up to his
mate, who was perched aloft with arms extended. Claude, who delighted
in feats of strength and dexterity, would stand for hours watching the
flight of these masses of osier, and would burst into a hearty laugh
whenever too vigorous a toss sent them flying over the pile into the
roadway beyond. He was fond, too, of the footways of the Rue Rambuteau
and the Rue du Pont Neuf, near the fruit market, where the retail
dealers congregated. The sight of the vegetables displayed in the open
air, on trestle-tables covered with damp black rags, was full of charm
for him. At four in the afternoon the whole of this nook of greenery was
aglow with sunshine; and Claude wandered between the stalls, inspecting
the bright-coloured heads of the saleswomen with keen artistic relish.
The younger ones, with their hair in nets, had already lost all
freshness of complexion through the rough life they led; while the older
ones were bent and shrivelled, with wrinkled, flaring faces showing
under the yellow kerchiefs bound round their heads. Cadine and Marjolin
refused to accompany him hither, as they could perceive old Mother
Chantemesse shaking her fist at them, in her anger at seeing them
prowling about together. He joined them again, however, on the opposite
footway, where he found a splendid subject for a picture in the
stallkeepers squatting under their huge umbrellas of faded red, blue,
and violet, which, mounted upon poles, filled the whole market-side with
bumps, and showed conspicuously against the fiery glow of the sinking
sun, whose rays faded amidst the carrots and the turnips. One tattered
harridan, a century old, was sheltering three spare-looking lettuces
beneath an umbrella of pink silk, shockingly split and stained.

Cadine and Marjolin had struck up an acquaintance with Leon, Quenu's
apprentice, one day when he was taking a pie to a house in the
neighbourhood. They saw him cautiously raise the lid of his pan in a
secluded corner of the Rue de Mondetour, and delicately take out a ball
of forcemeat. They smiled at the sight, which gave them a very high
opinion of Leon. And the idea came to Cadine that she might at last
satisfy one of her most ardent longings. Indeed, the very next time that
she met the lad with his basket she made herself very agreeable, and
induced him to offer her a forcemeat ball. But, although she laughed and
licked her fingers, she experienced some disappointment. The forcemeat
did not prove nearly so nice as she had anticipated. On the other hand,
the lad, with his sly, greedy phiz and his white garments, which made
him look like a girl going to her first communion, somewhat took her
fancy.

She invited him to a monster lunch which she gave amongst the hampers
in the auction room at the butter market. The three of them--herself,
Marjolin, and Leon--completely secluded themselves from the world within
four walls of osier. The feast was laid out on a large flat basket.
There were pears, nuts, cream-cheese, shrimps, fried potatoes,
and radishes. The cheese came from a fruiterer's in the Rue de la
Cossonnerie, and was a present; and a "frier" of the Rue de la Grande
Truanderie had given Cadine credit for two sous' worth of potatoes. The
rest of the feast, the pears, the nuts, the shrimps, and the radishes,
had been pilfered from different parts of the market. It was a delicious
treat; and Leon, desirous of returning the hospitality, gave a supper
in his bedroom at one o'clock in the morning. The bill of fare included
cold black-pudding, slices of polony, a piece of salt pork, some
gherkins, and some goose-fat. The Quenu-Gradelles' shop had provided
everything. And matters did not stop there. Dainty suppers alternated
with delicate luncheons, and invitation upon invitation. Three times a
week there were banquets, either amidst the hampers or in Leon's garret,
where Florent, on the nights when he lay awake, could hear a stifled
sound of munching and rippling laughter until day began to break.

The loves of Cadine and Marjolin now took another turn. The youth played
the gallant, and just as another might entertain his _innamorata_ at a
champagne supper _en tete a tete_ in a private room, he led Cadine into
some quiet corner of the market cellars to munch apples or sprigs of
celery. One day he stole a red-herring, which they devoured with immense
enjoyment on the roof of the fish market beside the guttering. There was
not a single shady nook in the whole place where they did not indulge in
secret feasts. The district, with its rows of open shops full of fruit
and cakes and preserves, was no longer a closed paradise, in front of
which they prowled with greedy, covetous appetites. As they passed
the shops they now extended their hands and pilfered a prune, a few
cherries, or a bit of cod. They also provisioned themselves at the
markets, keeping a sharp look-out as they made their way between the
stalls, picking up everything that fell, and often assisting the fall by
a push of their shoulders.

In spite, however, of all the marauding, some terrible scores had to be
run up with the "frier" of the Rue de la Grand Truanderie. This "frier,"
whose shanty leaned against a tumble-down house, and was propped up by
heavy joists, green with moss, made a display of boiled mussels lying in
large earthenware bowls filled to the brim with clear water; of dishes
of little yellow dabs stiffened by too thick a coating of paste; of
squares of tripe simmering in a pan; and of grilled herrings, black and
charred, and so hard that if you tapped them they sounded like wood. On
certain weeks Cadine owed the frier as much as twenty sous, a crushing
debt, which required the sale of an incalculable number of bunches of
violets, for she could count upon no assistance from Marjolin. Moreover,
she was bound to return Leon's hospitalities; and she even felt some
little shame at never being able to offer him a scrap of meat. He
himself had now taken to purloining entire hams. As a rule, he stowed
everything away under his shirt; and at night when he reached his
bedroom he drew from his bosom hunks of polony, slices of _pate de foie
gras_, and bundles of pork rind. They had to do without bread, and there
was nothing to drink; but no matter. One night Marjolin saw Leon kiss
Cadine between two mouthfuls; however, he only laughed. He could have
smashed the little fellow with a blow from his fist, but he felt no
jealousy in respect of Cadine. He treated her simply as a comrade with
whom he had chummed for years.

Claude never participated in these feasts. Having caught Cadine one day
stealing a beet-root from a little hamper lined with hay, he had pulled
her ears and given her a sound rating. These thieving propensities made
her perfect as a ne'er-do-well. However, in spite of himself, he could
not help feeling a sort of admiration for these sensual, pilfering,
greedy creatures, who preyed upon everything that lay about, feasting
off the crumbs that fell from the giant's table.

At last Marjolin nominally took service under Gavard, happy in having
nothing to do except to listen to his master's flow of talk, while
Cadine still continued to sell violets, quite accustomed by this time to
old Mother Chantemesse's scoldings. They were still the same children as
ever, giving way to their instincts and appetites without the slightest
shame--they were the growth of the slimy pavements of the market
district, where, even in fine weather, the mud remains black and sticky.
However, as Cadine walked along the footways, mechanically twisting her
bunches of violets, she was sometimes disturbed by disquieting reveries;
and Marjolin, too, suffered from an uneasiness which he could not
explain. He would occasionally leave the girl and miss some ramble or
feast in order to go and gaze at Madame Quenu through the windows of her
pork shop. She was so handsome and plump and round that it did him good
to look at her. As he stood gazing at her, he felt full and satisfied,
as though he had just eaten or drunk something extremely nice. And when
he went off, a sort of hunger and thirst to see her again suddenly came
upon him. This had been going on for a couple of months. At first he
had looked at her with the respectful glance which he bestowed upon the
shop-fronts of the grocers and provision dealers; but subsequently, when
he and Cadine had taken to general pilfering, he began to regard her
smooth cheeks much as he regarded the barrels of olives and boxes of
dried apples.

For some time past Marjolin had seen handsome Lisa every day, in the
morning. She would pass Gavard's stall, and stop for a moment or two to
chat with the poultry dealer. She now did her marketing herself, so
that she might be cheated as little as possible, she said. The truth,
however, was that she wished to make Gavard speak out. In the pork shop
he was always distrustful, but at his stall he chatted and talked with
the utmost freedom. Now, Lisa had made up her mind to ascertain from him
exactly what took place in the little room at Monsieur Lebigre's; for
she had no great confidence in her secret police office, Mademoiselle
Saget. In a short time she learnt from the incorrigible chatterbox a
lot of vague details which very much alarmed her. Two days after her
explanation with Quenu she returned home from the market looking very
pale. She beckoned to her husband to follow her into the dining-room,
and having carefully closed the door she said to him: "Is your brother
determined to send us to the scaffold, then? Why did you conceal from me
what you knew?"

Quenu declared that he knew nothing. He even swore a great oath that he
had not returned to Monsieur Lebigre's, and would never go there again.

"You will do well not to do so," replied Lisa, shrugging her shoulders,
"unless you want to get yourself into a serious scrape. Florent is up to
some evil trick, I'm certain of it!



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