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They conversed together in low tones. The
sunlight was departing from the stained windows, the church was growing
dark, and the retreating footsteps of the last worshippers sounded but
faintly over the flagstones.

Lisa explained her doubts and scruples to Abbe Roustan. There had never
been any question of religion between them; she never confessed, but
merely consulted him in cases of difficulty, because he was shrewd
and discreet, and she preferred him, as she sometimes said, to shady
business men redolent of the galleys. The abbe, on his side, manifested
inexhaustible complaisance. He looked up points of law for her in
the Code, pointed out profitable investments, resolved her moral
difficulties with great tact, recommended tradespeople to her,
invariably having an answer ready however diverse and complicated
her requirements might be. And he supplied all this help in a natural
matter-of-fact way, without ever introducing the Deity into his talk,
or seeking to obtain any advantage either for himself or the cause of
religion. A word of thanks and a smile sufficed him. He seemed glad to
have an opportunity of obliging the handsome Madame Quenu, of whom his
housekeeper often spoke to him in terms of praise, as of a woman who was
highly respected in the neighbourhood.

Their consultation that afternoon was of a peculiarly delicate nature.
Lisa was anxious to know what steps she might legitimately take, as a
woman of honour, with respect to her brother-in-law. Had she a right
to keep a watch upon him, and to do what she could to prevent him from
compromising her husband, her daughter, and herself? And then how far
might she go in circumstances of pressing danger? She did not bluntly
put these questions to the abbe, but asked them with such skilful
circumlocutions that he was able to discuss the matter without entering
into personalities. He brought forward arguments on both sides of the
question, but the conclusion he came to was that a person of integrity
was entitled, indeed bound, to prevent evil, and was justified in using
whatever means might be necessary to ensure the triumph of that which
was right and proper.

"That is my opinion, dear lady," he said in conclusion. "The question
of means is always a very grave one. It is a snare in which souls
of average virtue often become entangled. But I know your scrupulous
conscience. Deliberate carefully over each step you think of taking, and
if it contains nothing repugnant to you, go on boldly. Pure natures have
the marvelous gift of purifying all that they touch."

Then, changing his tone of voice, he continued: "Pray give my kind
regards to Monsieur Quenu. I'll come in to kiss my dear little Pauline
some time when I'm passing. And now good-bye, dear lady; remember that
I'm always at your service."

Thereupon he returned to the vestry. Lisa, on her way out, was curious
to see if Claire was still praying, but the girl had gone back to
her eels and carp; and in front of the Lady-chapel, which was already
shrouded in darkness, there was now but a litter of chairs overturned by
the ardent vehemence of the woman who had knelt there.

When the handsome Lisa again crossed the square, La Normande, who
had been watching for her exit from the church, recognised her in the
twilight by the rotundity of her skirts.

"Good gracious!" she exclaimed, "she's been more than an hour in there!
When the priests set about cleansing her of her sins, the choir-boys
have to form in line to pass the buckets of filth and empty them in the
street!"

The next morning Lisa went straight up to Florent's bedroom and settled
herself there with perfect equanimity. She felt certain that she would
not be disturbed, and, moreover, she had made up her mind to tell a
falsehood and say that she had come to see if the linen was clean,
should Florent by any chance return. Whilst in the shop, however, she
had observed him busily engaged in the fish market. Seating herself in
front of the little table, she pulled out the drawer, placed it upon her
knees, and began to examine its contents, taking the greatest care to
restore them to their original positions.

First of all she came upon the opening chapters of the work on Cayenne;
then upon the drafts of Florent's various plans and projects, his
schemes for converting the Octroi duties into taxes upon sales, for
reforming the administrative system of the markets, and all the others.
These pages of small writing, which she set herself to read, bored her
extremely, and she was about to restore the drawer to its place, feeling
convinced that Florent concealed the proofs of his wicked designs
elsewhere, and already contemplating a searching visitation of his
mattress, when she discovered a photograph of La Normande in an
envelope. The impression was rather dark. La Normande was standing up
with her right arm resting on a broken column. Decked out with all
her jewels, and attired in a new silk dress, the fish-girl was smiling
impudently, and Lisa, at the sight, forgot all about her brother-in-law,
her fears, and the purpose for which she had come into the room. She
became quite absorbed in her examination of the portrait, as often
happens when one woman scrutinises the photograph of another at her
ease, without fear of being seen. Never before had she so favourable an
opportunity to study her rival. She scrutinised her hair, her nose, her
mouth; held the photograph at a distance, and then brought it closer
again. And, finally, with compressed lips, she read on the back of it,
in a big, ugly scrawl: "Louise, to her friend, Florent." This quite
scandalised her; to her mind it was a confession, and she felt a strong
impulse to take possession of the photograph, and keep it as a weapon
against her enemy. However, she slowly replaced it in the envelope on
coming to the conclusion that this course would be wrong, and reflecting
that she would always know where to find it should she want it again.

Then, as she again began turning over the loose sheets of paper, it
occurred to her to look at the back end of the drawer, where Florent had
relegated Augustine's needles and thread; and there, between the missal
and the Dream-book, she discovered what she sought, some extremely
compromising memoranda, simply screened from observation by a wrapper of
grey paper.

That idea of an insurrection, of the overthrow of the Empire by means
of an armed rising, which Logre had one evening propounded at Monsieur
Lebigre's, had slowly ripened in Florent's feverish brain. He soon grew
to see a duty, a mission in it. Therein undoubtedly lay the task to
which his escape from Cayenne and his return to Paris predestined him.
Believing in a call to avenge his leanness upon the city which wallowed
in food while the upholders of right and equity were racked by hunger
in exile, he took upon himself the duties of a justiciary, and dreamt of
rising up, even in the midst of those markets, to sweep away the reign
of gluttony and drunkenness. In a sensitive nature like his, this idea
quickly took root. Everything about him assumed exaggerated proportions,
the wildest fancies possessed him. He imagined that the markets had been
conscious of his arrival, and had seized hold of him that they might
enervate him and poison him with their stenches. Then, too, Lisa wanted
to cast a spell over him, and for two or three days at a time he would
avoid her, as though she were some dissolving agency which would destroy
all his power of will should he approach too closely. However, these
paroxysms of puerile fear, these wild surgings of his rebellious brain,
always ended in thrills of the gentlest tenderness, with yearnings to
love and be loved, which he concealed with a boyish shame.

It was more especially in the evening that his mind became blurred by
all his wild imaginings. Depressed by his day's work, but shunning sleep
from a covert fear--the fear of the annihilation it brought with it--he
would remain later than ever at Monsieur Lebigre's, or at the Mehudins';
and on his return home he still refrained from going to bed, and sat
up writing and preparing for the great insurrection. By slow degrees he
devised a complete system of organisation. He divided Paris into twenty
sections, one for each arrondissement. Each section would have a
chief, a sort of general, under whose orders there were to be twenty
lieutenants commanding twenty companies of affiliated associates. Every
week, among the chiefs, there would be a consultation, which was to be
held in a different place each time; and, the better to ensure secrecy
and discretion, the associates would only come in contact with their
respective lieutenants, these alone communicating with the chiefs of the
sections. It also occurred to Florent that it would be as well that the
companies should believe themselves charged with imaginary missions, as
a means of putting the police upon a wrong scent.

As for the employment of the insurrectionary forces, that would be all
simplicity. It would, of course, be necessary to wait till the companies
were quite complete, and then advantage would be taken of the first
public commotion. They would doubtless only have a certain number of
guns used for sporting purposes in their possession, so they would
commence by seizing the police stations and guard-houses, disarming the
soldiers of the line; resorting to violence as little as possible, and
inviting the men to make common cause with the people. Afterwards they
would march upon the Corps Legislatif, and thence to the Hotel de Ville.
This plan, to which Florent returned night after night, as though it
were some dramatic scenario which relieved his over-excited nervous
system, was as yet simply jotted down on scraps of paper, full of
erasures, which showed how the writer had felt his way, and revealed
each successive phase of his scientific yet puerile conception. When
Lisa had glanced through the notes, without understanding some of them,
she remained there trembling with fear; afraid to touch them further
lest they should explode in her hands like live shells.

A last memorandum frightened her more than any of the others.



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