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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. Claire,
however, shook herself free.

"Coward! Coward!" she cried; "I'll go and tell the poor fellow that it
is you who have betrayed him."

Her mother, however, blocked the doorway, and would not let her pass,
while La Normande seized her from behind, and then, Mademoiselle Saget
coming to the assistance of the other two, the three of them dragged
Claire into her bedroom and locked the door upon her, in spite of all
her frantic resistance. In her rage she tried to kick the door down, and
smashed everything in the room. Soon afterwards, however, nothing could
be heard except a furious scratching, the sound of metal scarping at the
plaster. The girl was trying to loosen the door hinges with the points
of her scissors.

"She would have murdered me if she had had a knife," said La Normande,
looking about for her clothes, in order to dress herself. "She'll be
doing something dreadful, you'll see, one of these days, with that
jealousy of hers! We mustn't let her get out on any account: she'd bring
the whole neighbourhood down upon us!"

Mademoiselle Saget went off in all haste. She reached the corner of the
Rue Pirouette just as the commissary of police was re-entering the side
passage of the Quenu-Gradelles' house. She grasped the situation at
once, and entered the shop with such glistening eyes that Lisa enjoined
silence by a gesture which called her attention to the presence of
Quenu, who was hanging up some pieces of salt pork. As soon as he had
returned to the kitchen, the old maid in a low voice described the
scenes that had just taken place at the Mehudins'. Lisa, as she bent
over the counter, with her hand resting on a dish of larded veal,
listened to her with the happy face of one who triumphs. Then, as a
customer entered the shop, and asked for a couple of pig's trotters,
Lisa wrapped them up, and handed them over with a thoughtful air.

"For my own part, I bear La Normande no ill-will," she said to
Mademoiselle Saget, when they were alone again. "I used to be very
fond of her, and have always been sorry that other people made mischief
between us. The proof that I've no animosity against her is here in this
photograph, which I saved from falling into the hands of the police, and
which I'm quite ready to give her back if she will come and ask me for
it herself."

She took the photograph out of her pocket as she spoke. Mademoiselle
Saget scrutinised it and sniggered as she read the inscription, "Louise,
to her dear friend Florent."

"I'm not sure you'll be acting wisely," she said in her cutting voice.
"You'd do better to keep it."

"No, no," replied Lisa; "I'm anxious for all this silly nonsense to
come to an end. To-day is the day of reconciliation. We've had enough
unpleasantness, and the neighbourhood's now going to be quiet and
peaceful again."

"Well, well, shall I go and tell La Normande that you are expecting
her?" asked the old maid.

"Yes; I shall be very glad if you will."

Mademoiselle Saget then made her way back to the Rue Pirouette, and
greatly frightened the fish-girl by telling her that she had just seen
her photograph in Lisa's pocket. She could not, however, at once prevail
upon her to comply with her rival's terms. La Normande propounded
conditions of her own. She would go, but Madame Quenu must come to the
door of the shop to receive her. Thus the old maid was obliged to make
another couple of journeys between the two rivals before their meeting
could be satisfactorily arranged. At last, however, to her great
delight, she succeeded in negotiating the peace which was destined to
cause so much talk and excitement. As she passed Claire's door for the
last time she still heard the sound of the scissors scraping away at the
plaster.

When she had at last carried a definite reply to Madame Quenu,
Mademoiselle Saget hurried off to find Madame Lecoeur and La Sarriette;
and all three of them took up their position on the footway at the
corner of the fish market, just in front of the pork shop. Here they
would be certain to have a good view of every detail of the meeting.
They felt extremely impatient, and while pretending to chat together
kept an anxious look-out in the direction of the Rue Pirouette, along
which La Normande must come. The news of the reconciliation was already
travelling through the markets, and while some saleswomen stood up
behind their stalls trying to get a view of what was taking place,
others, still more inquisitive, actually left their places and took up a
position in the covered way. Every eye in the markets was directed
upon the pork shop; the whole neighbourhood was on the tip-toe of
expectation.

It was a very solemn affair. When La Normande at last turned the corner
of the Rue Pirouette the excitement was so great that the women held
their breath.

"She has got her diamonds on," murmured La Sarriette.

"Just look how she stalks along," added Madame Lecoeur; "the stuck-up
creature!"

The beautiful Norman was, indeed, advancing with the mien of a queen who
condescends to make peace. She had made a most careful toilet, frizzing
her hair and turning up a corner of her apron to display her cashmere
skirt. She had even put on a new and rich lace bow. Conscious that the
whole market was staring at her, she assumed a still haughtier air as
she approached the pork shop. When she reached the door she stopped.

"Now it's beautiful Lisa's turn," remarked Mademoiselle Saget. "Mind you
pay attention."

Beautiful Lisa smilingly quitted her counter. She crossed the shop-floor
at a leisurely pace, and came and offered her hand to the beautiful
Norman. She also was smartly dressed, with her dazzling linen and
scrupulous neatness. A murmur ran through the crowd of fish-wives, all
their heads gathered close together, and animated chatter ensued. The
two women had gone inside the shop, and the _crepines_ in the window
prevented them from being clearly seen. However, they seemed to be
conversing affectionately, addressing pretty compliments to one another.

"See!" suddenly exclaimed Mademoiselle Saget, "the beautiful Norman's
buying something! What is it she's buying? It's a chitterling, I
believe! Ah! Look! look! You didn't see it, did you? Well, beautiful
Lisa just gave her the photograph; she slipped it into her hand with the
chitterling."

Fresh salutations were then seen to pass between the two women; and
the beautiful Lisa, exceeding even the courtesies which had been agreed
upon, accompanied the beautiful Norman to the footway. There they stood
laughing together, exhibiting themselves to the neighbourhood like
a couple of good friends. The markets were quite delighted; and the
saleswomen returned to their stalls, declaring that everything had
passed off extremely well.

Mademoiselle Saget, however, detained Madame Lecoeur and La Sarriette.
The drama was not over yet. All three kept their eyes fixed on the house
opposite with such keen curiosity that they seemed trying to penetrate
the very walls. To pass the time away they once more began to talk of
the beautiful Norman.

"She's without a lover now," remarked Madame Lecoeur.

"Oh! she's got Monsieur Lebigre," replied La Sarriette, with a laugh.

"But surely Monsieur Lebigre won't have anything more to say to her."

Mademoiselle Saget shrugged her shoulders. "Ah, you don't know him," she
said. "He won't care a straw about all this business. He knows what he's
about, and La Normande is rich. They'll come together in a couple of
months, you'll see. Old Madame Mehudin's been scheming to bring about
their marriage for a long time past."

"Well, anyway," retorted the butter dealer, "the commissary found
Florent at her lodgings."

"No, no, indeed; I'm sure I never told you that. The long spindle-shanks
had gone way," replied the old maid. She paused to take a breath; then
resumed in an indignant tone, "What distressed me most was to hear of
all the abominable things that the villain had taught little Muche.
You'd really never believe it. There was a whole bundle of papers."

"What sort of abominable things?" asked La Sarriette with interest.

"Oh, all kinds of filth. The commissary said there was quite sufficient
there to hang him. The fellow's a perfect monster! To go and demoralise
a child! Why, it's almost past believing! Little Muche is certainly a
scamp, but that's no reason why he should be given over to the 'Reds,'
is it?"

"Certainly not," assented the two others.

"However, all these mysterious goings-on will come to an end now. You
remember my telling you once that there was some strange goings-on at
the Quenus'? Well, you see, I was right in my conclusions, wasn't
I? Thank God, however, the neighbourhood will now be able to breathe
easily. It was high time strong steps were taken, for things had got to
such a pitch that one actually felt afraid of being murdered in broad
daylight. There was no pleasure in life. All the dreadful stories and
reports one heard were enough to worry one to death. And it was all
owing to that man, that dreadful Florent. Now beautiful Lisa and the
beautiful Norman have sensibly made friends again. It was their duty to
do so for the sake of the peace and quietness of us all. Everything will
go on satisfactorily now, you'll find. Ah! there's poor Monsieur Quenu
laughing yonder!"

Quenu had again come on to the footway, and was joking with Madame
Taboureau's little servant. He seemed quite gay and skittish that
morning. He took hold of the little servant's hands, and squeezed her
fingers so tightly, in the exuberance of his spirits, that he made her
cry out. Lisa had the greatest trouble to get him to go back into the
kitchen. She was impatiently pacing about the shop, fearing lest Florent
should make his appearance; and she called to her husband to come away,
dreading a meeting between him and his brother.

"She's getting quite vexed," said Mademoiselle Saget.



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