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Florent is up to
some evil trick, I'm certain of it! I have just learned quite sufficient
to show me where he is going. He's going back to Cayenne, do you hear?"

Then, after a pause, she continued in calmer ones: "Oh, the unhappy man!
He had everything here that he could wish for. He might have redeemed
his character; he had nothing but good examples before him. But no,
it is in his blood! He will come to a violent end with his politics! I
insist upon there being an end to all this! You hear me, Quenu? I gave
you due warning long ago!"

She spoke the last words very incisively. Quenu bent his head, as if
awaiting sentence.

"To begin with," continued Lisa, "he shall cease to take his meals here.
It will be quite sufficient if we give him a bed. He is earning money;
let him feed himself."

Quenu seemed on the point of protesting, but his wife silenced him by
adding energetically:

"Make your choice between him and me. If he remains here, I swear to
you that I will go away, and take my daughter with me. Do you want me to
tell you the whole truth about him? He is a man capable of anything; he
has come here to bring discord into our household. But I will set things
right, you may depend on it. You have your choice between him and me;
you hear me?"

Then, leaving her husband in silent consternation, she returned to the
shop, where she served a customer with her usual affable smile. The fact
was that, having artfully inveigled Gavard into a political discussion,
the poultry dealer had told her that she would soon see how the land
lay, that they were going to make a clean sweep of everything, and that
two determined men like her brother-in-law and himself would suffice to
set the fire blazing. This was the evil trick of which she had spoken
to Quenu, some conspiracy to which Gavard was always making mysterious
allusions with a sniggering grin from which he seemingly desired a great
deal to be inferred. And in imagination Lisa already saw the gendarmes
invading the pork shop, gagging herself, her husband, and Pauline, and
casting them into some underground dungeon.

In the evening, at dinner, she evinced an icy frigidity. She made no
offers to serve Florent, but several times remarked: "It's very strange
what an amount of bread we've got through lately."

Florent at last understood. He felt that he was being treated like a
poor relation who is gradually turned out of doors. For the last two
months Lisa had dressed him in Quenu's old trousers and coats; and, as
he was as thin as his brother was fat, these ragged garments had a most
extraordinary appearance upon him. She also turned her oldest linen over
to him: pocket-handkerchiefs which had been darned a score of times,
ragged towels, sheets which were only fit to be cut up into dusters and
dish-cloths, and worn-out shirts, distended by Quenu's corpulent
figure, and so short that they would have served Florent as under-vests.
Moreover, he no longer found around him the same good-natured kindliness
as in the earlier days. The whole household seemed to shrug its
shoulders after the example set by handsome Lisa. Auguste and Augustine
turned their backs upon him, and little Pauline, with the cruel
frankness of childhood, let fall some bitter remarks about the stains
on his coat and the holes in his shirt. However, during the last days he
suffered most at table. He scarcely dared to eat, as he saw the mother
and daughter fix their gaze upon him whenever he cut himself a piece of
bread. Quenu meantime peered into his plate, to avoid having to take any
part in what went on.

That which most tortured Florent was his inability to invent a reason
for leaving the house. During a week he kept on revolving in his mind a
sentence expressing his resolve to take his meals elsewhere, but could
not bring himself to utter it. Indeed, this man of tender nature lived
in such a world of illusions that he feared he might hurt his brother
and sister-in-law by ceasing to lunch and dine with them. It had taken
him over two months to detect Lisa's latent hostility; and even now he
was sometimes inclined to think that he must be mistaken, and that
she was in reality kindly disposed towards him. Unselfishness with
him extended to forgetfulness of his requirements; it was no longer
a virtue, but utter indifference to self, an absolute obliteration of
personality. Even when he recognised that he was being gradually turned
out of the house, his mind never for a moment dwelt upon his share in
old Gradelle's fortune, or upon the accounts which Lisa had offered him.
He had already planned out his expenditure for the future; reckoning
that with what Madame Verlaque still allowed him to retain of his
salary, and the thirty francs a month which a pupil, obtained through
La Normande, paid him he would be able to spend eighteen sous on his
breakfast and twenty-six sous on his dinner. This, he thought, would be
ample. And so, at last, taking as his excuse the lessons which he was
giving his new pupil, he emboldened himself one morning to pretend
that it would be impossible for him in future to come to the house
at mealtimes. He blushed as he gave utterance to this laboriously
constructed lie, which had given him so much trouble, and continued
apologetically:

"You mustn't be offended; the boy only has those hours free. I can
easily get something to eat, you know; and I will come and have a chat
with you in the evenings."

Beautiful Lisa maintained her icy reserve, and this increased Florent's
feeling of trouble. In order to have no cause for self-reproach she had
been unwilling to send him about his business, preferring to wait till
he should weary of the situation and go of his own accord. Now he was
going, and it was a good riddance; and she studiously refrained from
all show of kindliness for fear it might induce him to remain. Quenu,
however, showed some signs of emotion, and exclaimed: "Don't think of
putting yourself about; take your meals elsewhere by all means, if it
is more convenient. It isn't we who are turning you way; you'll at all
events dine with us sometimes on Sundays, eh?"

Florent hurried off. His heart was very heavy. When he had gone, the
beautiful Lisa did not venture to reproach her husband for his weakness
in giving that invitation for Sundays. She had conquered, and again
breathed freely amongst the light oak of her dining-room, where she
would have liked to burn some sugar to drive away the odour of perverse
leanness which seemed to linger about. Moreover, she continued to remain
on the defensive; and at the end of another week she felt more alarmed
than ever. She only occasionally saw Florent in the evenings, and
began to have all sorts of dreadful thoughts, imagining that her
brother-in-law was constructing some infernal machine upstairs in
Augustine's bedroom, or else making signals which would result in
barricades covering the whole neighbourhood. Gavard, who had become
gloomy, merely nodded or shook his head when she spoke to him, and left
his stall for days together in Marjolin's charge. The beautiful Lisa,
however, determined that she would get to the bottom of affairs. She
knew that Florent had obtained a day's leave, and intended to spend
it with Claude Lantier, at Madame Francois's, at Nanterre. As he would
start in the morning, and remain away till night, she conceived the idea
of inviting Gavard to dinner. He would be sure to talk freely, at table,
she thought. But throughout the morning she was unable to meet the
poultry dealer, and so in the afternoon she went back again to the
markets.

Marjolin was in the stall alone. He used to drowse there for hours,
recouping himself from the fatigue of his long rambles. He generally sat
upon one chair with his legs resting upon another, and his head leaning
against a little dresser. In the wintertime he took a keen delight in
lolling there and contemplating the display of game; the bucks hanging
head downwards, with their fore-legs broken and twisted round their
necks; the larks festooning the stall like garlands; the big ruddy
hares, the mottled partridges, the water-fowl of a bronze-grey hue, the
Russian black cocks and hazel hens, which arrived in a packing of oat
straw and charcoal;[*] and the pheasants, the magnificent pheasants,
with their scarlet hoods, their stomachers of green satin, their mantles
of embossed gold, and their flaming tails, that trailed like trains of
court robes. All this show of plumage reminded Marjolin of his rambles
in the cellars with Cadine amongst the hampers of feathers.

[*] The baskets in which these are sent to Paris are
identical with those which in many provinces of Russia serve
the _moujiks_ as cradles for their infants.--Translator.

That afternoon the beautiful Lisa found Marjolin in the midst of the
poultry. It was warm, and whiffs of hot air passed along the narrow
alleys of the pavilion. She was obliged to stoop before she could see
him stretched out inside the stall, below the bare flesh of the birds.
From the hooked bar up above hung fat geese, the hooks sticking in the
bleeding wounds of their long stiffened necks, while their huge bodies
bulged out, glowing ruddily beneath their fine down, and, with their
snowy tails and wings, suggesting nudity encompassed by fine linen.
And also hanging from the bar, with ears thrown back and feet parted
as though they were bent on some vigorous leap, were grey rabbits whose
turned-up tails gleamed whitely, whilst their heads, with sharp teeth
and dim eyes, laughed with the grin of death. On the counter of the
stall plucked fowls showed their strained fleshy breasts; pigeons,
crowded on osier trays, displayed the soft bare skin of innocents;
ducks, with skin of rougher texture, exhibited their webbed feet; and
three magnificent turkeys, speckled with blue dots, like freshly-shaven
chins, slumbered on their backs amidst the black fans of their expanded
tails. On plates near by were giblets, livers, gizzards, necks, feet,
and wings; while an oval dish contained a skinned and gutted rabbit,
with its four legs wide apart, its head bleeding, and is kidneys showing
through its gashed belly.



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