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"You've only made
me waste my time."

Marjolin, however, began rapidly explaining the killing of the poultry
to her. Five huge stone slabs stretched out in the direction of the Rue
Rambuteau under the yellow light of the gas jets. A woman was killing
fowls at one end; and this led him to tell Lisa that the birds were
plucked almost before they were dead, the operation thus being much
easier. Then he wanted her to feel the feathers which were lying in
heaps on the stone slabs; and told her that they were sorted and sold
for as much as nine sous the pound, according to their quality. To
satisfy him, she was also obliged to plunge her hand into the big
hampers full of down. Then he turned the water-taps, of which there was
one by every pillar. There was no end to the particulars he gave. The
blood, he said, streamed along the stone blocks, and collected into
pools on the paved floor, which attendants sluiced with water every two
hours, removing the more recent stains with coarse brushes.

When Lisa stooped over the drain which carries away the swillings,
Marjolin found a fresh text for talk. On rainy days, said he, the water
sometimes rose through this orifice and flooded the place. It had
once risen a foot high; and they had been obliged to transport all the
poultry to the other end of the cellar, which is on a higher level.
He laughed as he recalled the wild flutter of the terrified creatures.
However, he had now finished, and it seemed as though there remained
nothing else for him to show, when all at once he bethought himself of
the ventilator. Thereupon he took Lisa off to the far end of the cellar,
and told her to look up; and inside one of the turrets at the corner
angles of the pavilion she observed a sort of escape-pipe, by which the
foul atmosphere of the storerooms ascended into space.

Here, in this corner, reeking with abominable odours, Marjolin's
nostrils quivered, and his breath came and went violently. His long
stroll with Lisa in these cellars, full of warm animal perfumes, had
gradually intoxicated him.

She had again turned towards him. "Well," said she, "it was very kind of
you to show me all this, and when you come to the shop I will give you
something."

Whilst speaking she took hold of his soft chin, as she often did,
without recognising that he was no longer a child; and perhaps she
allowed her hand to linger there a little longer than was her wont. At
all events, Marjolin, usually so bashful, was thrilled by the caress,
and all at once he impetuously sprang forward, clasped Lisa by the
shoulders, and pressed his lips to her soft cheeks. She raised no
cry, but turned very pale at this sudden attack, which showed her how
imprudent she had been. And then, freeing herself from the embrace, she
raised her arm, as she had seen men do in slaughter houses, clenched
her comely fist, and knocked Marjolin down with a single blow, planted
straight between his eyes; and as he fell his head came into collision
with one of the stone slabs, and was split open. Just at that moment the
hoarse and prolonged crowing of a cock sounded through the gloom.

Handsome Lisa, however, remained perfectly cool. Her lips were tightly
compressed, and her bosom had recovered its wonted immobility. Up
above she could hear the heavy rumbling of the markets, and through the
vent-holes alongside the Rue Rambuteau the noise of the street traffic
made its way into the oppressive silence of the cellar. Lisa reflected
that her own strong arm had saved her; and then, fearing lest some
one should come and find her there, she hastened off, without giving a
glance at Marjolin. As she climbed the steps, after passing through the
grated entrance of the cellars, the daylight brought her great relief.

She returned to the shop, quite calm, and only looking a little pale.

"You've been a long time," Quenu said to her.

"I can't find Gavard. I have looked for him everywhere," she quietly
replied. "We shall have to eat our leg of mutton without him."

Then she filled the lard pot, which she noticed was empty; and cut some
pork chops for her friend Madame Taboureau, who had sent her little
servant for them. The blows which she dealt with her cleaver reminded
her of Marjolin. She felt that she had nothing to reproach herself with.
She had acted like an honest woman. She was not going to disturb her
peace of mind; she was too happy to do anything to compromise herself.
However, she glanced at Quenu, whose neck was coarse and ruddy, and
whose shaven chin looked as rough as knotted wood; whereas Marjolin's
chin and neck resembled rosy satin. But then she must not think of him
any more, for he was no longer a child. She regretted it, and could not
help thinking that children grew up much too quickly.

A slight flush came back to her cheeks, and Quenu considered that she
looked wonderfully blooming. He came and sat down beside her at the
counter for a moment or two. "You ought to go out oftener," said he; "it
does you good. We'll go to the theatre together one of these nights, if
you like; to the Gaite, eh? Madame Taboureau has been to see the piece
they are playing there, and she declares it's splendid."

Lisa smiled, and said they would see about it, and then once more she
took herself off. Quenu thought that it was too good of her to take so
much trouble in running about after that brute Gavard. In point of fact,
however, she had simply gone upstairs to Florent's bedroom, the key
of which was hanging from a nail in the kitchen. She hoped to find out
something or other by an inspection of this room, since the poultry
dealer had failed her. She went slowly round it, examining the bed, the
mantelpiece, and every corner. The window with the little balcony was
open, and the budding pomegranate was steeped in the golden beams of the
setting sun. The room looked to her as though Augustine had never left
it--had slept there only the night before. There seemed to be nothing
masculine about the place. She was quite surprised, for she had expected
to find some suspicious-looking chests, and coffers with strong locks.
She went to feel Augustine's summer gown, which was still hanging
against the wall. Then she sat down at the table, and began to read an
unfinished page of manuscript, in which the word "revolution" occurred
twice. This alarmed her, and she opened the drawer, which she saw was
full of papers. But her sense of honour awoke within her in presence of
the secret which the rickety deal table so badly guarded. She remained
bending over the papers, trying to understand them without touching
them, in a state of great emotion, when the shrill song of the
chaffinch, on whose cage streamed a ray of sunshine, made her start. She
closed the drawer. It was a base thing that she had contemplated, she
thought.

Then, as she lingered by the window, reflecting that she ought to go
and ask counsel of Abbe Roustan, who was a very sensible man, she saw a
crowd of people round a stretcher in the market square below. The night
was falling, still she distinctly recognised Cadine weeping in the midst
of the crowd; while Florent and Claude, whose boots were white with
dust, stood together talking earnestly at the edge of the footway.
She hurried downstairs again, surprised to see them back so soon, and
scarcely had she reached her counter when Mademoiselle Saget entered the
shop.

"They have found that scamp of a Marjolin in the cellar, with his head
split open," exclaimed the old maid. "Won't you come to see him, Madame
Quenu?"

Lisa crossed the road to look at him. The young fellow was lying on his
back on the stretcher, looking very pale. His eyes were closed, and
a stiff wisp of his fair hair was clotted with blood. The bystanders,
however, declared that there was no serious harm done, and, besides, the
scamp had only himself to blame, for he was always playing all sorts of
wild pranks in the cellars. It was generally supposed that he had
been trying to jump over one of the stone blocks--one of his favourite
amusements--and had fallen with his head against the slab.

"I dare say that hussy there gave him a shove," remarked Mademoiselle
Saget, pointing to Cadine, who was weeping. "They are always larking
together."

Meantime the fresh air had restored Marjolin to consciousness, and he
opened his eyes in wide astonishment. He looked round at everybody, and
then, observing Lisa bending over him, he gently smiled at her with
an expression of mingled humility and affection. He seemed to have
forgotten all that had happened. Lisa, feeling relieved, said that he
ought to be taken to the hospital at once, and promised to go and see
him there, and take him some oranges and biscuits. However, Marjolin's
head had fallen back, and when the stretcher was carried away Cadine
followed it, with her flat basket slung round her neck, and her hot
tears rolling down upon the bunches of violets in their mossy bed. She
certainly had no thoughts for the flowers that she was thus scalding
with her bitter grief.

As Lisa went back to her shop, she heard Claude say, as he shook hands
with Florent and parted from him: "Ah! the confounded young scamp! He's
quite spoiled my day for me! Still, we had a very enjoyable time, didn't
we?"

Claude and Florent had returned both worried and happy, bringing with
them the pleasant freshness of the country air. Madame Francois had
disposed of all her vegetables that morning before daylight; and they
had all three gone to the Golden Compasses, in the Rue Montorgueil, to
get the cart. Here, in the middle of Paris, they found a foretaste of
the country. Behind the Restaurant Philippe, with its frontage of gilt
woodwork rising to the first floor, there was a yard like that of a
farm, dirty, teeming with life, reeking with the odour of manure
and straw. Bands of fowls were pecking at the soft ground. Sheds and
staircases and galleries of greeny wood clung to the old houses around,
and at the far end, in a shanty of big beams, was Balthazar, harnessed
to the cart, and eating the oats in his nosebag. He went down the Rue
Montorgueil at a slow trot, seemingly well pleased to return to Nanterre
so soon.



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