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"Those who sent you to Cayenne must have
been very simple-minded folks to fear such a man as you! Why, my good
fellow, if ever you do put yourself at the head of a rising, you won't
dare to fire a shot. You'll be too much afraid of killing somebody."

Florent got up without making any reply. He had become very gloomy, his
face was furrowed by deep wrinkles; and he walked off, leaving Claude to
go back to the cellar alone. As he made his way towards the fish market
his thoughts returned to his plan of attack, to the levies of armed men
who were to invade the Palais Bourbon. Cannon would roar from the Champs
Elysees; the gates would be burst open; blood would stain the steps, and
men's brains would bespatter the pillars. A vision of the fight passed
rapidly before him; and he beheld himself in the midst of it, deadly
pale, and hiding his face in his hands, not daring to look around him.

As he was crossing the Rue du Pont Neuf he fancied he espied Auguste's
pale face peering round the corner of the fruit pavilion. The assistant
seemed to be watching for someone, and his eyes were starting from his
head with an expression of intense excitement. Suddenly, however, he
vanished and hastened back to the pork shop.

"What's the matter with him?" thought Florent. "Is he frightened of me,
I wonder?"

Some very serious occurrences had taken place that morning at the
Quenu-Gradelles'. Soon after daybreak, Auguste, breathless with
excitement, had awakened his mistress to tell her that the police
had come to arrest Monsieur Florent. And he added, with stammering
incoherence, that the latter had gone out, and that he must have done so
with the intention of escaping. Lisa, careless of appearances, at once
hurried up to her brother-in-law's room in her dressing-wrapper, and
took possession of La Normande's photograph, after glancing round to
see if there was anything lying about that might compromise herself and
Quenu. As she was making her way downstairs again, she met the police
agents on the first floor. The commissary requested her to accompany
them to Florent's room, where, after speaking to her for a moment in a
low tone, he installed himself with his men, bidding her open the shop
as usual so as to avoid giving the alarm to anyone. The trap was set.

Lisa's only worry in the matter was the terrible blow that the arrest
would prove to poor Quenu. She was much afraid that if he learned that
the police were in the house, he would spoil everything by his tears; so
she made Auguste swear to observe the most rigid silence on the subject.
Then she went back to her room, put on her stays, and concocted some
story for the benefit of Quenu, who was still drowsy. Half an hour later
she was standing at the door of the shop with all her usual neatness
of appearance, her hair smooth and glossy, and her face glowing rosily.
Auguste was quietly setting out the window. Quenu came for a moment on
to the footway, yawning slightly, and ridding himself of all sleepiness
in the fresh morning air. There was nothing to indicate the drama that
was in preparation upstairs.

The commissary himself, however, gave the alarm to the neighbourhood by
paying a domiciliary visit to the Mehudins' abode in the Rue Pirouette.
He was in possession of the most precise information. In the anonymous
letters which had been sent to the Prefecture, all sorts of statements
were made respecting Florent's alleged intrigue with the beautiful
Norman. Perhaps, thought the commissary, he had now taken refuge with
her; and so, accompanied by two of his men, he proceeded to knock at the
door in the name of the law. The Mehudins had only just got up. The old
woman opened the door in a fury; but suddenly calmed down and began
to smile when she learned the business on hand. She seated herself and
fastened her clothes, while declaring to the officers: "We are honest
folks here, and have nothing to be afraid of. You can search wherever
you like."

However, as La Normande delayed to open the door of her room, the
commissary told his men to break it open. The young woman was scarcely
clad when the others entered, and this unceremonious invasion, which she
could not understand, fairly exasperated her. She flushed crimson from
anger rather than from shame, and seemed as though she were about to
fly at the officers. The commissary, at the sight, stepped forward to
protect his men, repeating in his cold voice: "In the name of the law!
In the name of the law!"

Thereupon La Normande threw herself upon a chair, and burst into a wild
fit of hysterical sobbing at finding herself so powerless. She was quite
at a loss to understand what these men wanted with her. The commissary,
however, had noticed how scantily she was clad, and taking a shawl from
a peg, he flung it over her. Still she did not wrap it round her, but
only sobbed the more bitterly as she watched the men roughly searching
the apartment.

"But what have I done?" she at last stammered out. "What are you looking
for here?"

Thereupon the commissary pronounced the name of Florent; and La
Normande, catching sight of the old woman, who was standing at the door,
cried out: "Oh, the wretch! This is her doing!" and she rushed at her
mother.

She would have struck her if she had reached her; but the police agents
held her back, and forcibly wrapped her in the shawl. Meanwhile, she
struggled violently, and exclaimed in a choking voice:

"What do you take me for? That Florent has never been in this room, I
tell you. There was nothing at all between us. People are always trying
to injure me in the neighbourhood; but just let anyone come here and
say anything before my face, and then you'll see! You'll lock me up
afterwards, I dare say, but I don't mind that! Florent, indeed! What a
lie! What nonsense!"

This flood of words seemed to calm her; and her anger now turned
against Florent, who was the cause of all the trouble. Addressing the
commissary, she sought to justify herself.

"I did not know his real character, sir," she said. "He had such a mild
manner that he deceived us all. I was unwilling to believe all I heard,
because I know people are so malicious. He only came here to give
lessons to my little boy, and went away directly they were over. I gave
him a meal here now and again, that's true and sometimes made him a
present of a fine fish. That's all. But this will be a warning to me,
and you won't catch me showing the same kindness to anyone again."

"But hasn't he given you any of his papers to take care of?" asked the
commissary.

"Oh no, indeed! I swear it. I'd give them up to you at once if he had.
I've had quite enough of this, I can tell you! It's no joke to see you
tossing all my things about and ferreting everywhere in this way. Oh!
you may look; there's nothing."

The officers, who examined every article of furniture, now wished to
enter the little closet where Muche slept. The child had been awakened
by the noise, and for the last few moments he had been crying bitterly,
as though he imagined that he was going to be murdered.

"This is my boy's room," said La Normande, opening the door.

Muche, quite naked, ran up and threw his arms round his mother's neck.
She pacified him, and laid him down in her own bed. The officers came
out of the little room again almost immediately, and the commissary
had just made up his mind to retire, when the child, still in tears,
whispered in his mother's ear: "They'll take my copy-books. Don't let
them have my copy-books."

"Oh, yes; that's true," cried La Normande; "there are some copy-books.
Wait a moment, gentlemen, and I'll give them to you. I want you to see
that I'm not hiding anything from you. Then, you'll find some of his
writing inside these. You're quite at liberty to hang him as far as I'm
concerned; you won't find me trying to cut him down."

Thereupon she handed Muche's books and the copies set by Florent to the
commissary. But at this the boy sprang angrily out of bed, and began to
scratch and bite his mother, who put him back again with a box on the
ears. Then he began to bellow.

In the midst of the uproar, Mademoiselle Saget appeared on the
threshold, craning her neck forward. Finding all the doors open, she had
come in to offer her services to old Madame Mehudin. She spied about and
listened, and expressed extreme pity for these poor women, who had
no one to defend them. The commissary, however, had begun to read
the copies with a grave air. The frequent repetition of such words as
"tyrannically," "liberticide," "unconstitutional," and "revolutionary"
made him frown; and on reading the sentence, "When the hour strikes, the
guilty shall fall," he tapped his fingers on the paper and said: "This
is very serious, very serious indeed."

Thereupon he gave the books to one of his men, and went off. Claire,
who had hitherto not shown herself, now opened her door, and watched
the police officers go down the stairs. And afterwards she came into
her sister's bedroom, which she had not entered for a year. Mademoiselle
Saget appeared to be on the best of terms with La Normande, and was
hanging over her in a caressing way, bringing the shawl forward to
cover her the better, and listening to her angry indignation with an
expression of the deepest sympathy.

"You wretched coward!" exclaimed Claire, planting herself in front of
her sister.

La Normande sprang up, quivering with anger, and let the shawl fall to
the floor.

"Ah, you've been playing the spy, have you?" she screamed. "Dare to
repeat what you've just said!"

"You wretched coward!" repeated Claire, in still more insulting tones
than before.

Thereupon La Normande struck Claire with all her force; and in return
Claire, turning terribly pale, sprang upon her sister and dug her nails
into her neck. They struggled together for a moment or two, tearing
at each other's hair and trying to choke one another. Claire, fragile
though she was, pushed La Normande backward with such tremendous
violence that they both fell against the wardrobe, smashing the mirror
on its front. Muche was roaring, and old Madame Mehudin called to
Mademoiselle Saget to come and help her separate the sisters.



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