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It kept appearing and disappearing so rapidly that it
seemed as though the room was full of revolvers. Those were the firearms
of which Mademoiselle Saget had spoken to Madame Quenu. On another
evening she was much puzzled by the sight of endless lengths of some
material or other, and came to the conclusion that the men must be
manufacturing cartridges. The next morning, however, she made her
appearance in the wine shop by eleven o'clock, on the pretext of asking
Rose if she could let her have a candle, and, glancing furtively into
the little sanctum, she espied a heap of red material lying on the
table. This greatly alarmed her, and her next budget of news was one of
decisive gravity.

"I don't want to alarm you, Madame Quenu," she said, "but matters are
really looking very serious. Upon my word, I'm quite alarmed. You must
on no account repeat what I am going to confide to you. They would
murder me if they knew I had told you."

Then, when Lisa had sworn to say nothing that might compromise her, she
told her about the red material.

"I can't think what it can be. There was a great heap of it. It looked
just like rags soaked in blood. Logre, the hunchback, you know, put one
of the pieces over his shoulder. He looked like a headsman. You may be
sure this is some fresh trickery or other."

Lisa made no reply, but seemed deep in thought whilst with lowered eyes,
she handled a fork and mechanically arranged some piece of salt pork on
a dish.

"If I were you," resumed Mademoiselle Saget softly, "I shouldn't be easy
in mind; I should want to know the meaning of it all. Why shouldn't you
go upstairs and examine your brother-in-law's bedroom?"

At this Lisa gave a slight start, let the fork drop, and glanced
uneasily at the old maid, believing that she had discovered her
intentions. But the other continued: "You would certainly be justified
in doing so. There's no knowing into what danger your brother-in-law may
lead you, if you don't put a check on him. They were talking about you
yesterday at Madame Taboureau's. Ah! you have a most devoted friend in
her. Madame Taboureau said that you were much too easy-going, and that
if she were you she would have put an end to all this long ago."

"Madame Taboureau said that?" murmured Lisa thoughtfully.

"Yes, indeed she did; and Madame Taboureau is a woman whose advice is
worth listening to. Try to find out the meaning of all those red bands;
and if you do, you'll tell me, won't you?"

Lisa, however, was no longer listening to her. She was gazing
abstractedly at the edible snails and Gervais cheeses between the
festoons of sausages in the window. She seemed absorbed in a mental
conflict, which brought two little furrows to her brow. The old maid,
however, poked her nose over the dishes on the counter.

"Ah, some slices of saveloy!" she muttered, as though she were
speaking to herself. "They'll get very dry cut up like that. And that
black-pudding's broken, I see--a fork's been stuck into it, I expect. It
might be taken away--it's soiling the dish."

Lisa, still absent-minded, gave her the black-pudding and slices of
saveloy. "You may take them," she said, "if you would care for them."

The black bag swallowed them up. Mademoiselle Saget was so accustomed
to receiving presents that she had actually ceased to return thanks for
them. Every morning she carried away all the scraps of the pork shop.
And now she went off with the intention of obtaining her dessert from La
Sarriette and Madame Lecoeur, by gossiping to them about Gavard.

When Lisa was alone again she installed herself on the bench, behind the
counter, as though she thought she would be able to come to a sounder
decision if she were comfortably seated. For the last week she had
been very anxious. Florent had asked Quenu for five hundred francs one
evening, in the easy, matter-of-course way of a man who had money lying
to his credit at the pork shop. Quenu referred him to his wife. This
was distasteful to Florent, who felt somewhat uneasy on applying to
beautiful Lisa. But she immediately went up to her bedroom, brought
the money down and gave it to him, without saying a word, or making the
least inquiry as to what he intended to do with it. She merely remarked
that she had made a note of the payment on the paper containing the
particulars of Florent's share of the inheritance. Three days later he
took a thousand francs.

"It was scarcely worth while trying to make himself out so
disinterested," Lisa said to Quenu that night, as they went to bed. "I
did quite right, you see, in keeping the account. By the way, I haven't
noted down the thousand francs I gave him to-day."

She sat down at the secretaire, and glanced over the page of figures.
Then she added: "I did well to leave a blank space. I'll put down what
I pay him on the margin. You'll see, now, he'll fritter it all away by
degrees. That's what I've been expecting for a long time past."

Quenu said nothing, but went to bed feeling very much put out. Every
time that his wife opened the secretaire the drawer gave out a mournful
creak which pierced his heart. He even thought of remonstrating with
his brother, and trying to prevent him from ruining himself with the
Mehudins; but when the time came, he did not dare to do it. Two days
later Florent asked for another fifteen hundred francs. Logre had said
one evening that things would ripen much faster if they could only get
some money. The next day he was enchanted to find these words of his,
uttered quite at random, result in the receipt of a little pile of
gold, which he promptly pocketed, sniggering as he did so, and his hunch
fairly shaking with delight. From that time forward money was constantly
being needed: one section wished to hire a room where they could meet,
while another was compelled to provide for various needy patriots. Then
there were arms and ammunition to be purchased, men to be enlisted, and
private police expenses. Florent would have paid for anything. He
had bethought himself of Uncle Gradelle's treasure, and recalled La
Normande's advice. So he made repeated calls upon Lisa's secretaire,
being merely kept in check by the vague fear with which his
sister-in-law's grave face inspired him. Never, thought he, could
he have spent his money in a holier cause. Logre now manifested
the greatest enthusiasm, and wore the most wonderful rose-coloured
neckerchiefs and the shiniest of varnished boots, the sight of which
made Lacaille glower blackly.

"That makes three thousand francs in seven days," Lisa remarked to
Quenu. "What do you think of that? A pretty state of affairs, isn't
it? If he goes on at this rate his fifty thousand francs will last him
barely four months. And yet it took old Gradelle forty years to put his
fortune together!"

"It's all your own fault!" cried Quenu. "There was no occasion for you
to say anything to him about the money."

Lisa gave her husband a severe glance. "It is his own," she said; "and
he is entitled to take it all. It's not the giving him the money that
vexes me, but the knowledge that he must make a bad use of it. I tell
you again, as I have been telling you for a long time past, all this
must come to an end."

"Do whatever you like; I won't prevent you," at last exclaimed the pork
butcher, who was tortured by his cupidity.

He still loved his brother; but the thought of fifty thousand francs
squandered in four months was agony to him. As for his wife, after all
Mademoiselle Saget's chattering she guessed what became of the money.
The old maid having ventured to refer to the inheritance, Lisa had taken
advantage of the opportunity to let the neighbourhood know that Florent
was drawing his share, and spending it after his own fashion.

It was on the following day that the story of the strips of red material
impelled Lisa to take definite actin. For a few moments she remained
struggling with herself whilst gazing at the depressed appearance of the
shop. The sides of pork hung all around in a sullen fashion, and Mouton,
seated beside a bowl of fat, displayed the ruffled coat and dim eyes of
a cat who no longer digests his meals in peace. Thereupon Lisa called to
Augustine and told her to attend to the counter, and she herself went up
to Florent's room.

When she entered it, she received quite a shock. The bed, hitherto so
spotless, was quite ensanguined by a bundle of long red scarves dangling
down to the floor. On the mantelpiece, between the gilt cardboard boxes
and the old pomatum-pots, were several red armlets and clusters of red
cockades, looking like pools of blood. And hanging from every nail and
peg against the faded grey wallpaper were pieces of bunting, square
flags--yellow, blue, green, and black--in which Lisa recognised the
distinguishing banners of the twenty sections. The childish simplicity
of the room seemed quite scared by all this revolutionary decoration.
The aspect of guileless stupidity which the shop girl had left behind
her, the white innocence of the curtains and furniture, now glared
as with the reflection of a fire; while the photograph of Auguste
and Augustine looked white with terror. Lisa walked round the room,
examining the flags, the armlets, and the scarves, without touching any
of them, as though she feared that the dreadful things might burn her.
She was reflecting that she had not been mistaken, that it was indeed on
these and similar things that Florent's money had been spent. And to her
this seemed an utter abomination, an incredibility which set her whole
being surging with indignation. To think that her money, that money
which had been so honestly earned, was being squandered to organise and
defray the expenses of an insurrection!

She stood there, gazing at the expanded blossoms of the pomegranate on
the balcony--blossoms which seemed to her like an additional supply of
crimson cockades--and listening to the sharp notes of the chaffinch,
which resembled the echo of a distant fusillade. And then it struck her
that the insurrection might break out the next day, or perhaps that very
evening. She fancied she could see the banners streaming in the air and
the scarves advancing in line, while a sudden roll of drums broke on her
ear.



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