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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. Then she hastily went downstairs again, without even glancing
at the papers which were lying on the table. She stopped on the first
floor, went into her own room, and dressed herself.

In this critical emergency Lisa arranged her hair with scrupulous care
and perfect calmness. She was quite resolute; not a quiver of hesitation
disturbed her; but a sterner expression than usual had come into her
eyes. As she fastened her black silk dress, straining the waistband with
all the strength of her fingers, she recalled Abbe Roustan's words; and
she questioned herself, and her conscience answered that she was going
to fulfil a duty. By the time she drew her broidered shawl round her
broad shoulders, she felt that she was about to perform a deed of high
morality. She put on a pair of dark mauve gloves, secured a thick
veil to her bonnet; and before leaving the room she double-locked the
secretaire, with a hopeful expression on her face which seemed to say
that that much worried piece of furniture would at last be able to sleep
in peace again.

Quenu was exhibiting his white paunch at the shop door when his wife
came down. He was surprised to see her going out in full dress at ten
o'clock in the morning. "Hallo! Where are you off to?" he asked.

She pretended that she was going out with Madame Taboureau, and added
that she would call at the Gaite Theatre to buy some tickets. Quenu
hurried after her to tell her to secure some front seats, so that they
might be able to see well. Then, as he returned to the shop, Lisa made
her way to the cab-stand opposite St. Eustache, got into a cab, pulled
down the blinds, and told the driver to go to the Gaite Theatre. She
felt afraid of being followed. When she had booked two seats, however,
she directed the cabman to drive her to the Palais de Justice. There,
in front of the gate, she discharged him, and then quietly made her way
through the halls and corridors to the Prefecture of Police.

She soon lost herself in a noisy crowd of police officers and gentlemen
in long frock-coats, but at last gave a man half a franc to guide her to
the Prefect's rooms. She found, however, that the Prefect only received
such persons as came with letters of audience; and she was shown into a
small apartment, furnished after the style of a boarding-house parlour.
A fat, bald-headed official, dressed in black from head to foot,
received her there with sullen coldness. What was her business? he
inquired. Thereupon she raised her veil, gave her name, and told her
story, clearly and distinctly, without a pause. The bald man listened
with a weary air.

"You are this man's sister-in-law, are you not?" he inquired, when she
had finished.

"Yes," Lisa candidly replied. "We are honest, straight-forward people,
and I am anxious that my husband should not be compromised."

The official shrugged his shoulders, as though to say that the whole
affair was a great nuisance.

"Do you know," he said impatiently, "that I have been pestered with this
business for more than a year past? Denunciation after denunciation has
been sent to me, and I am being continually goaded and pressed to take
action. You will understand that if I haven't done so as yet, it is
because I prefer to wait. We have good reasons for our conduct in the
matter. Stay, now, here are the papers relating to it. I'll let you see
them."

He laid before her an immense collection of papers in a blue wrapper.
Lisa turned them over. They were like detached chapters of the story she
had just been relating. The commissaires of police at Havre, Rouen, and
Vernon notified Florent's arrival within their respective jurisdictions.
Then came a report which announced that he had taken up his residence
with the Quenu-Gradelles. Next followed his appointment at the markets,
an account of his mode of life, the spending of his evenings at Monsieur
Lebigre's; not a detail was deficient. Lisa, quite astounded as she
was, noticed that the reports were in duplicate, so that they must have
emanated from two different sources. And at last she came upon a pile of
letters, anonymous letters of every shape, and in every description of
handwriting. They brought her amazement to a climax. In one letter she
recognised the villainous hand of Mademoiselle Saget, denouncing the
people who met in the little sanctum at Lebigre's. On a large piece of
greasy paper she identified the heavy pot-hooks of Madame Lecoeur;
and there was also a sheet of cream-laid note-paper, ornamented with a
yellow pansy, and covered with the scrawls of La Sarriette and Monsieur
Jules. These two letters warned the Government to beware of Gavard.
Farther on Lisa recognised the coarse style of old Madame Mehudin, who
in four pages of almost indecipherable scribble repeated all the wild
stories about Florent that circulated in the markets. However, what
startled her more than anything else was the discovery of a bill-head
of her own establishment, with the inscription _Quenu-Gradelle, Pork
Butcher_, on its face, whilst on the back of it Auguste had penned
a denunciation of the man whom he looked upon as an obstacle to his
marriage.

The official had acted upon a secret idea in placing these papers before
her. "You don't recognise any of these handwritings, do you?" he asked.

"No," she stammered, rising from her seat, quite oppressed by what she
had just learned; and she hastily pulled down her veil again to conceal
the blush of confusion which was rising to her cheeks. Her silk dress
rustled, and her dark gloves disappeared beneath her heavy shawl.

"You see, madame," said the bald man with a faint smile, "your
information comes a little late. But I promise you that your visit shall
not be forgotten. And tell your husband not to stir. It is possible that
something may happen soon that----"

He did not complete his sentence, but, half rising from his armchair,
made a slight bow to Lisa. It was a dismissal, and she took her leave.
In the ante-room she caught sight of Logre and Monsieur Lebigre, who
hastily turned their faces away; but she was more disturbed than they
were. She went her way through the halls and along the corridors,
feeling as if she were in the clutches of this system of police which,
it now seemed to her, saw and knew everything. At last she came out upon
the Place Dauphine. When she reached the Quai de l'Horloge she slackened
her steps, and felt refreshed by the cool breeze blowing from the Seine.

She now had a keen perception of the utter uselessness of what she had
done. Her husband was in no danger whatever; and this thought,
whilst relieving her, left her a somewhat remorseful feeling. She
was exasperated with Auguste and the women who had put her in such a
ridiculous position. She walked on yet more slowly, watching the Seine
as it flowed past. Barges, black with coal-dust, were floating down the
greenish water; and all along the bank anglers were casting their lines.
After all, it was not she who had betrayed Florent. This reflection
suddenly occurred to her and astonished her. Would she have been guilty
of a wicked action, then, if she had been his betrayer? She was quite
perplexed; surprised at the possibility of her conscience having
deceived her. Those anonymous letters seemed extremely base. She herself
had gone openly to the authorities, given her name, and saved innocent
people from being compromised. Then at the sudden thought of old
Gradelle's fortune she again examined herself, and felt ready to throw
the money into the river if such a course should be necessary to
remove the blight which had fallen on the pork shop. No, she was not
avaricious, she was sure she wasn't; it was no thought of money that
had prompted her in what she had just done. As she crossed the Pont au
Change she grew quite calm again, recovering all her superb equanimity.
On the whole, it was much better, she felt, that others should have
anticipated her at the Prefecture. She would not have to deceive Quenu,
and she would sleep with an easier conscience.

"Have you booked the seats?" Quenu asked her when she returned home.

He wanted to see the tickets, and made Lisa explain to him the exact
position the seats occupied in the dress-circle. Lisa had imagined
that the police would make a descent upon the house immediately after
receiving her information, and her proposal to go to the theatre had
only been a wily scheme for getting Quenu out of the way while the
officers were arresting Florent. She had contemplated taking him for
an outing in the afternoon--one of those little jaunts which they
occasionally allowed themselves. They would then drive in an open cab to
the Bois de Boulogne, dine at a restaurant, and amuse themselves for an
hour or two at some cafe concern. But there was no need to go out now,
she thought; so she spent the rest of the day behind her counter, with
a rosy glow on her face, and seeming brighter and gayer, as though she
were recovering from some indisposition.

"You see, I told you it was fresh air you wanted!" exclaimed Quenu.
"Your walk this morning has brightened you up wonderfully!"

"No, indeed," she said after a pause, again assuming her look of
severity; "the streets of Paris are not at all healthy places."

In the evening they went to the Gaite to see the performance of "La
Grace de Dieu." Quenu, in a frock-coat and drab gloves, with his hair
carefully pomatumed and combed, was occupied most of the time in hunting
for the names of the performers in the programme. Lisa looked superb
in her low dress as she rested her hands in their tight-fitting white
gloves on the crimson velvet balustrade. They were both of them deeply
affected by the misfortunes of Marie. The commander, they thought, was
certainly a desperate villain; while Pierrot made them laugh from the
first moment of his appearance on the stage. But at last Madame Quenu
cried.



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