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A sufficiently serious outburst of public dissatisfaction
furnished an opportunity for launching his insurrectionary forces
upon Paris. The Corps Legislatif, whose members had lately shown great
variance of opinion respecting certain grants to the Imperial family,
was now discussing a bill for the imposition of a very unpopular tax, at
which the lower orders had already begun to growl. The Ministry, fearing
a defeat, was straining every nerve. It was probable, thought Florent,
that no better pretext for a rising would for a long time present
itself.

One morning, at daybreak, he went to reconnoitre the neighbourhood of
the Palais Bourbon. He forgot all about his duties as inspector, and
lingered there, studying the approaches of the palace, till eight
o'clock, without ever thinking that his absence would revolutionise the
fish market. He perambulated all the surrounding streets, the Rue de
Lille, the Rue de l'Universite, the Rue de Bourgogne, the Rue Saint
Dominique, and even extended his examination to the Esplanade des
Invalides, stopping at certain crossways, and measuring distances as he
walked along. Then, on coming back to the Quai d'Orsay, he sat down
on the parapet, and determined that the attack should be made
simultaneously from all sides. The contingents from the Gros-Caillou
district should arrive by way of the Champ de Mars; the sections from
the north of Paris should come down by the Madeleine; while those from
the west and the south would follow the quays, or make their way in
small detachments through the then narrow streets of the Faubourg Saint
Germain. However, the other side of the river, the Champs Elysees, with
their open avenues, caused him some uneasiness; for he foresaw that
cannon would be stationed there to sweep the quays. He thereupon
modified several details of his plan, and marked down in a
memorandum-book the different positions which the several sections
should occupy during the combat. The chief attack, he concluded, must
certainly be made from the Rue de Bourgogne and the Rue de l'Universite,
while a diversion might be effected on the side of the river.

Whilst he thus pondered over his plans the eight o'clock sun, warming
the nape of his neck, shone gaily on the broad footways, and gilded
the columns of the great structure in front of him. In imagination he
already saw the contemplated battle; clusters of men clinging round
those columns, the gates burst open, the peristyle invaded; and then
scraggy arms suddenly appearing high aloft and planting a banner there.

At last he slowly went his way homewards again with his gaze fixed upon
the ground. But all at once a cooing sound made him look up, and he saw
that he was passing through the garden of the Tuileries. A number of
wood-pigeons, bridling their necks, were strutting over a lawn near by.
Florent leant for a moment against the tub of an orange-tree, and looked
at the grass and the pigeons steeped in sunshine. Right ahead under the
chestnut-trees all was black. The garden was wrapped in a warm silence,
broken only by the distant rumbling which came from behind the railings
of the Rue de Rivoli. The scent of all the greenery affected Florent,
reminding him of Madame Francois. However, a little girl ran past,
trundling a hoop, and alarmed the pigeons. They flew off, and settled in
a row on the arm of a marble statue of an antique wrestler standing
in the middle of the lawn, and once more, but with less vivacity, they
began to coo and bridle their necks.

As Florent was returning to the markets by way of the Rue Vauvilliers,
he heard Claude Lantier calling to him. The artist was going down into
the basement of the poultry pavilion. "Come with me!" he cried. "I'm
looking for that brute Marjolin."

Florent followed, glad to forget his thoughts and to defer his return
to the fish market for a little longer. Claude told him that his friend
Marjolin now had nothing further to wish for: he had become an utter
animal. Claude entertained an idea of making him pose on all-fours in
future. Whenever he lost his temper over some disappointing sketch he
came to spend whole hours in the idiot's company, never speaking, but
striving to catch his expression when he laughed.

"He'll be feeding his pigeons, I dare say," he said; "but unfortunately
I don't know whereabouts Monsieur Gavard's storeroom is."

They groped about the cellar. In the middle of it some water was
trickling from a couple of taps in the dim gloom. The storerooms here
are reserved for pigeons exclusively, and all along the trellising they
heard faint cooings, like the hushed notes of birds nestling under the
leaves when daylight is departing. Claude began to laugh as he heard it.

"It sounds as though all the lovers in Paris were embracing each other
inside here, doesn't it?" he exclaimed to his companion.

However, they could not find a single storeroom open, and were beginning
to think that Marjolin could not be in the cellar, when a sound of
loud, smacking kisses made them suddenly halt before a door which stood
slightly ajar. Claude pulled it open and beheld Marjolin, whom Cadine
was kissing, whilst he, a mere dummy, offered his face without feeling
the slightest thrill at the touch of her lips.

"Oh, so this is your little game, is it?" said Claude with a laugh.

"Oh," replied Cadine, quite unabashed, "he likes being kissed, because
he feels afraid now in the dim light. You do feel frightened, don't
you?"

Like the idiot he was, Marjolin stroked his face with his hands as
though trying to find the kisses which the girl had just printed there.
And he was beginning to stammer out that he was afraid, when Cadine
continued: "And, besides, I came to help him; I've been feeding the
pigeons."

Florent looked at the poor creatures. All along the shelves were rows of
lidless boxes, in which pigeons, showing their motley plumage, crowded
closely on their stiffened legs. Every now and then a tremor ran along
the moving mass; and then the birds settled down again, and nothing was
heard but their confused, subdued notes. Cadine had a saucepan near her;
she filled her mouth with the water and tares which it contained, and
then, taking up the pigeons one by one, shot the food down their throats
with amazing rapidity. The poor creatures struggled and nearly choked,
and finally fell down in the boxes with swimming eyes, intoxicated, as
it were, by all the food which they were thus forced to swallow.[*]

[*] This is the customary mode of fattening pigeons at the
Paris markets. The work is usually done by men who make a
specialty of it, and are called _gaveurs_.--Translator.

"Poor creatures!" exclaimed Claude.

"Oh, so much the worse for them," said Cadine, who had now finished.
"They are much nicer eating when they've been well fed. In a couple of
hours or so all those over yonder will be given a dose of salt water.
That makes their flesh white and tender. Then two hours afterwards
they'll be killed. If you would like to see the killing, there are some
here which are quite ready. Marjolin will settle their account for them
in a jiffy."

Marjolin carried away a box containing some fifty pigeons, and Claude
and Florent followed him. Squatting upon the ground near one of the
water-taps, he placed the box by his side. Then he laid a framework of
slender wooden bars on the top of a kind of zinc trough, and forthwith
began to kill the pigeons. His knife flashed rapidly in his fingers,
as he seized the birds by the wings, stunned them by a blow on the head
from the knife-handle, and then thrust the point of the blade into their
throats. They quivered for an instant, and ruffled their feathers as
Marjolin laid them in a row, with their heads between the wooden bars
above the zinc trough, into which their blood fell drop by drop. He
repeated each different movement with the regularity of clockwork, the
blows from the knife-handle falling with a monotonous tick-tack as he
broke the birds' skulls, and his hand working backwards and forwards
like a pendulum as he took up the living pigeons on one side and laid
them down dead on the other. Soon, moreover, he worked with increasing
rapidity, gloating over the massacre with glistening eyes, squatting
there like a huge delighted bull-dog enjoying the sight of slaughtered
vermin. "Tick-tack! Tick-tack!" whilst his tongue clucked as an
accompaniment to the rhythmical movements of his knife. The pigeons hung
down like wisps of silken stuff.

"Ah, you enjoy that, don't you, you great stupid?" exclaimed Cadine.
"How comical those pigeons look when they bury their heads in their
shoulders to hide their necks! They're horrid things, you know, and
would give one nasty bites if they got the chance." Then she laughed
more loudly at Marjolin's increasing, feverish haste; and added: "I've
killed them sometimes myself, but I can't get on as quickly as he does.
One day he killed a hundred in ten minutes."

The wooden frame was nearly full; the blood could be heard falling into
the zinc trough; and as Claude happened to turn round he saw Florent
looking so pale that he hurriedly led him away. When they got
above-ground again he made him sit down on a step.

"Why, what's the matter with you?" he exclaimed, tapping him on the
shoulder. "You're fainting away like a woman!"

"It's the smell of the cellar," murmured Florent, feeling a little
ashamed of himself.

The truth was, however, that those pigeons, which were forced to swallow
tares and salt water, and then had their skulls broken and their throats
slit, had reminded him of the wood-pigeons of the Tuileries gardens,
strutting over the green turf, with their satiny plumage flashing
iridescently in the sunlight. He again heard them cooing on the arm
of the marble wrestler amidst the hushed silence of the garden, while
children trundled their hoops in the deep gloom of the chestnuts. And
then, on seeing that big fair-haired animal massacring his boxful of
birds, stunning them with the handle of his knife and driving its point
into their throats, in the depths of that foul-smelling cellar, he had
felt sick and faint, his legs had almost given way beneath him, while
his eyelids quivered tremulously.

"Well, you'd never do for a soldier!" Claude said to him when he
recovered from his faintness.



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