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The whole neighbourhood was in arms against him; it seemed as
though everyone had an immediate interest in exterminating him. Some of
the market people swore that he had sold himself to the police; while
others asserted that he had been seen in the butter-cellar, attempting
to make holes in the wire grating, with the intention of tossing lighted
matches through them. There was a vast increase of slander, a perfect
flood of abuse, the source of which could not be exactly determined.
The fish pavilion was the last one to join in the revolt against the
inspector. The fish-wives liked Florent on account of his gentleness,
and for some time they defended him; but, influenced by the stallkeepers
of the butter and fruit pavilions, they at last gave way. Then
hostilities began afresh between these huge, swelling women and the
lean and lank inspector. He was lost in the whirl of the voluminous
petticoats and buxom bodices which surged furiously around his scraggy
shoulders. However, he understood nothing, but pursued his course
towards the realisation of his one haunting idea.

At every hour of the day, and in every corner of the market,
Mademoiselle Saget's black bonnet was now to be seen in the midst of
this outburst of indignation. Her little pale face seemed to multiply.
She had sworn a terrible vengeance against the company which assembled
in Monsieur Lebigre's little cabinet. She accused them of having
circulated the story that she lived on waste scraps of meat. The truth
was that old Gavard had told the others one evening that the "old
nanny-goat" who came to play the spy upon them gorged herself with the
filth which the Bonapartist clique tossed away. Clemence felt quite ill
on hearing this, and Robine hurriedly gulped down a draught of beer, as
though to wash his throat. In Gavard's opinion, the scraps of meat
left on the Emperor's plate were so much political ordure, the putrid
remnants of all the filth of the reign. Thenceforth the party at
Monsieur Lebigre's looked on Mademoiselle Saget as a creature whom no
one could touch except with tongs. She was regarded as some unclean
animal that battened upon corruption. Clemence and Gavard circulated the
story so freely in the markets that the old maid found herself seriously
injured in her intercourse with the shopkeepers, who unceremoniously
bade her go off to the scrap-stalls when she came to haggle and gossip
at their establishments without the least intention of buying anything.
This cut her off from her sources of information; and sometimes she was
altogether ignorant of what was happening. She shed tears of rage, and
in one such moment of anger she bluntly said to La Sarriette and Madame
Lecoeur: "You needn't give me any more hints: I'll settle your Gavard's
hash for him now--that I will!"

The two women were rather startled, but refrained from all protestation.
The next day, however, Mademoiselle Saget had calmed down, and again
expressed much tender-hearted pity for that poor Monsieur Gavard who was
so badly advised, and was certainly hastening to his ruin.

Gavard was undoubtedly compromising himself. Ever since the conspiracy
had begun to ripen he had carried the revolver, which caused Madame
Leonce so much alarm, in his pocket wherever he went. It was a big,
formidable-looking weapon, which he had bought of the principal gunmaker
in Paris. He exhibited it to all the women in the poultry market, like a
schoolboy who has got some prohibited novel hidden in his desk. First he
would allow the barrel to peer out of his pocket, and call attention
to it with a wink. Then he affected a mysterious reticence, indulged in
vague hints and insinuations--played, in short, the part of a man who
revelled in feigning fear. The possession of this revolver gave
him immense importance, placed him definitely amongst the dangerous
characters of Paris. Sometimes, when he was safe inside his stall, he
would consent to take it out of his pocket, and exhibit it to two or
three of the women. He made them stand before him so as to conceal him
with their petticoats, and then he brandished the weapon, cocked the
lock, caused the breech to revolve, and took aim at one of the geese or
turkeys that were hanging in the stall. He was immensely delighted at
the alarm manifested by the women; but eventually reassured them by
stating that the revolver was not loaded. However, he carried a supply
of cartridges about with him, in a case which he opened with the most
elaborate precautions. When he had allowed his friends to feel
the weight of the cartridges, he would again place both weapon and
ammunition in his pockets. And afterwards, crossing his arms over his
breast, he would chatter away jubilantly for hours.

"A man's a man when he's got a weapon like that," he would say with a
swaggering air. "I don't care a fig now for the gendarmes. A friend and
I went to try it last Sunday on the plain of Saint Denis. Of course,
you know, a man doesn't tell everyone that he's got a plaything of that
sort. But, ah! my dears, we fired at a tree, and hit it every time. Ah,
you'll see, you'll see. You'll hear of Anatole one of these days, I can
tell you."

He had bestowed the name of Anatole upon the revolver; and he carried
things so far that in a week's time both weapon and cartridges were
known to all the women in the pavilion. His friendship for Florent
seemed to them suspicious; he was too sleek and rich to be visited with
the hatred that was manifested towards the inspector; still, he lost the
esteem of the shrewder heads amongst his acquaintances, and succeeded in
terrifying the timid ones. This delighted him immensely.

"It is very imprudent for a man to carry firearms about with him," said
Mademoiselle Saget. "Monsieur Gavard's revolver will end by playing him
a nasty trick."

Gavard now showed the most jubilant bearing at Monsieur Lebigre's.
Florent, since ceasing to take his meals with the Quenus, had come
almost to live in the little "cabinet." He breakfasted, dined, and
constantly shut himself up there. In fact he had converted the place
almost into a sort of private room of his own, where he left his old
coats and books and papers lying about. Monsieur Lebigre had offered no
objection to these proceedings; indeed, he had even removed one of the
tables to make room for a cushioned bench, on which Florent could
have slept had he felt so inclined. When the inspector manifested any
scruples about taking advantage of Monsieur Lebigre's kindness, the
latter told him to do as he pleased, saying that the whole house was at
his service. Logre also manifested great friendship for him, and even
constituted himself his lieutenant. He was constantly discussing affairs
with him, rendering an account of the steps he was supposed to take, and
furnishing the names of newly affiliated associates. Logre, indeed, had
now assumed the duties of organiser; on him rested the task of bringing
the various plotters together, forming the different sections, and
weaving each mesh of the gigantic net into which Paris was to fall at
a given signal. Florent meantime remained the leader, the soul of the
conspiracy.

However, much as the hunchback seemed to toil, he attained no
appreciable result. Although he had loudly asserted that in each
district of Paris he knew two or three groups of men as determined and
trustworthy as those who met at Monsieur Lebigre's, he had never yet
given any precise information about them, but had merely mentioned a
name here and there, and recounted stories of endless alleged secret
expeditions, and the wonderful enthusiasm that the people manifested
for the cause. He made a great point of the hand-grasps he had received.
So-and-so, whom he thou'd and thee'd, had squeezed his fingers and
declared he would join them. At the Gros Caillou a big, burly fellow,
who would make a magnificent sectional leader, had almost dislocated
his arm in his enthusiasm; while in the Rue Popincourt a whole group
of working men had embraced him. He declared that at a day's notice a
hundred thousand active supporters could be gathered together. Each time
that he made his appearance in the little room, wearing an exhausted
air, and dropping with apparent fatigue on the bench, he launched into
fresh variations of his usual reports, while Florent duly took notes of
what he said, and relied on him to realise his many promises. And soon
in Florent's pockets the plot assumed life. The notes were looked upon
as realities, as indisputable facts, upon which the entire plan of the
rising was constructed. All that now remained to be done was to wait
for a favourable opportunity, and Logre asserted with passionate
gesticulations that the whole thing would go on wheels.

Florent was at last perfectly happy. His feet no longer seemed to tread
the ground; he was borne aloft by his burning desire to pass sentence on
all the wickedness he had seen committed. He had all the credulity of a
little child, all the confidence of a hero. If Logre had told him that
the Genius of Liberty perched on the Colonne de Juillet[*] would have
come down and set itself at their head, he would hardly have expressed
any surprise. In the evenings, at Monsieur Lebigre's, he showed great
enthusiasm and spoke effusively of the approaching battle, as though it
were a festival to which all good and honest folks would be invited. But
although Gavard in his delight began to play with his revolver, Charvet
got more snappish than ever, and sniggered and shrugged his shoulders.
His rival's assumption of the leadership angered him extremely; indeed,
quite disgusted him with politics. One evening when, arriving early,
he happened to find himself alone with Logre and Lebigre, he frankly
unbosomed himself.

[*] The column erected on the Place de la Bastille in memory
of the Revolution of July 1830, by which Charles X was
dethroned.--Translator.

"Why," said he, "that fellow Florent hasn't an idea about politics,
and would have done far better to seek a berth as writing master in a
ladies' school! It would be nothing short of a misfortune if he were to
succeed, for, with his visionary social sentimentalities, he would crush
us down beneath his confounded working men!



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