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The commissary, who was waiting for him
there, seemed almost touched by his gentle submissiveness, and asked
him: "Would you like to say good-bye to your brother?"

For a moment Florent hesitated. He looked at the door. A tremendous
noise of cleavers and pans came from the kitchen. Lisa, with the
design of keeping her husband occupied, had persuaded him to make the
black-puddings in the morning instead of in the evening, as was his
wont. The onions were simmering on the fire, and over all the noisy
uproar Florent could hear Quenu's joyous voice exclaiming, "Ah, dash it
all, the pudding will be excellent, that it will! Auguste, hand me the
fat!"

Florent thanked the commissary, but refused his offer. He was afraid
to return any more into that warm kitchen, reeking with the odour of
boiling onions, and so he went on past the door, happy in the thought
that his brother knew nothing of what had happened to him, and hastening
his steps as if to spare the establishment all further worry. However,
on emerging into the open sunshine of the street he felt a touch of
shame, and got into the cab with bent back and ashen face. He was
conscious that the fish market was gazing at him in triumph; it seemed
to him, indeed, as though the whole neighbourhood had gathered there to
rejoice at his fall.

"What a villainous expression he's got!" said Mademoiselle Saget.

"Yes, indeed, he looks just like a thief caught with his hand in
somebody's till," added Madame Lecoeur.

"I once saw a man guillotined who looked exactly like he does," asserted
La Sarriette, showing her white teeth.

They stepped forward, lengthened their necks, and tried to see into the
cab. Just as it was starting, however, the old maid tugged sharply at
the skirts of her companions, and pointed to Claire, who was coming
round the corner of the Rue Pirouette, looking like a mad creature,
with her hair loose and her nails bleeding. She had at last succeeded
in opening her door. When she discovered that she was too late, and
that Florent was being taken off, she darted after the cab, but checked
herself almost immediately with a gesture of impotent rage, and shook
her fists at the receding wheels. Then, with her face quite crimson
beneath the fine plaster dust with which she was covered, she ran back
again towards the Rue Pirouette.

"Had he promised to marry her, eh?" exclaimed La Sarriette, laughing.
"The silly fool must be quite cracked."

Little by little the neighbourhood calmed down, though throughout the
day groups of people constantly assembled and discussed the events of
the morning. The pork shop was the object of much inquisitive curiosity.
Lisa avoided appearing there, and left the counter in charge of
Augustine. In the afternoon she felt bound to tell Quenu of what had
happened, for fear the news might cause him too great a shock should
he hear it from some gossiping neighbour. She waited till she was alone
with him in the kitchen, knowing that there he was always most cheerful,
and would weep less than if he were anywhere else. Moreover, she
communicated her tidings with all sorts of motherly precautions.
Nevertheless, as soon as he knew the truth he fell on the
chopping-block, and began to cry like a calf.

"Now, now, my poor dear, don't give way like that; you'll make yourself
quite ill," exclaimed Lisa, taking him in her arms.

His tears were inundating his white apron, the whole of his massive,
torpid form quivered with grief. He seemed to be sinking, melting away.
When he was at last able to speak, he stammered: "Oh, you don't know how
good he was to me when we lived together in the Rue Royer-Collard! He
did everything. He swept the room and cooked the meals. He loved me as
though I were his own child; and after his day's work he used to come
back splashed with mud, and so tired that he could scarcely move, while
I stayed warm and comfortable in the house, and had nothing to do but
eat. And now they're going to shoot him!"

At this Lisa protested, saying that he would certainly not be shot. But
Quenu only shook his head.

"I haven't loved him half as much as I ought to have done," he
continued. "I can see that very well now. I had a wicked heart, and I
hesitated about giving him his half of the money."

"Why, I offered it to him a dozen times and more!" Lisa interrupted.
"I'm sure we've nothing to reproach ourselves with."

"Oh, yes, I know that you are everything that is good, and that you
would have given him every copper. But I hesitated, I didn't like to
part with it; and now it will be a sorrow to me for the rest of my life.
I shall always think that if I'd shared the fortune with him he wouldn't
have gone wrong a second time. Oh, yes; it's my fault! It is I who have
driven him to this."

Then Lisa, expostulating still more gently, assured him that he had
nothing to blame himself for, and even expressed some pity for Florent.
But he was really very culpable, she said, and if he had had more money
he would probably have perpetrated greater follies. Gradually she gave
her husband to understand that it was impossible matters could have had
any other termination, and that now everything would go on much better.
Quenu was still weeping, wiping his cheeks with his apron, trying to
suppress his sobs to listen to her, and then breaking into a wilder
fit of tears than before. His fingers had mechanically sought a heap
of sausage-meat lying on the block, and he was digging holes in it, and
roughly kneading it together.

"And how unwell you were feeling, you know," Lisa continued. "It was all
because our life had got so shifted out of its usual course. I was very
anxious, though I didn't tell you so, at seeing you getting so low."

"Yes, wasn't I?" he murmured, ceasing to sob for a moment.

"And the business has been quite under a cloud this year. It was as
though a spell had been cast on it. Come, now, don't take on so; you'll
see that everything will look up again now. You must take care of
yourself, you know, for my sake and your daughter's. You have duties to
us as well as to others, remember."

Quenu was now kneading the sausage-meat more gently. Another burst
of emotion was thrilling him, but it was a softer emotion, which was
already bringing a vague smile to his grief-stricken face. Lisa felt
that she had convinced him, and she turned and called to Pauline, who
was playing in the shop, and sat her on Quenu's knee.

"Tell your father, Pauline, that he ought not to give way like this. Ask
him nicely not to go on distressing us so."

The child did as she was told, and their fat, sleek forms united in a
general embrace. They all three looked at one another, already feeling
cured of that twelve months' depression from which they had but just
emerged. Their big, round faces smiled, and Lisa softly repeated, "And
after all, my dear, there are only we three, you know, only we three."

Two months later Florent was again sentenced to transportation. The
affair caused a great stir. The newspapers published all possible
details, and gave portraits of the accused, sketches of the banners and
scarves, and plans of the places where the conspirators had met. For a
fortnight nothing but the great plot of the central markets was talked
of in Paris. The police kept on launching more and more alarming
reports, and it was at last even declared that the whole of the
Montmartre Quarter was undermined. The excitement in the Corps
Legislatif was so intense that the members of the Centre and the Right
forgot their temporary disagreement over the Imperial Grant Bill, and
became reconciled. And then by an overwhelming majority they voted the
unpopular tax, of which even the lower classes, in the panic which was
sweeping over the city, dared no longer complain.

The trial lasted a week. Florent was very much surprised at the number
of accomplices with which he found himself credited. Out of the twenty
and more who were placed in the dock with him, he knew only some six
or seven. After the sentence of the court had been read, he fancied
he could see Robine's innocent-looking hat and back going off quietly
through the crowd. Logre was acquitted, as was also Lacaille; Alexandre
was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for his child-like complicity
in the conspiracy; while as for Gavard, he, like Florent, was condemned
to transportation. This was a heavy blow, which quite crushed him amidst
the final enjoyment that he derived from those lengthy proceedings in
which he had managed to make himself so conspicuous. He was paying
very dearly for the way in which he had vented the spirit of perpetual
opposition peculiar to the Paris shopkeeping classes. Two big tears
coursed down his scared face--the face of a white-haired child.

And then one morning in August, amidst the busy awakening of the
markets, Claude Lantier, sauntering about in the thick of the arriving
vegetables, with his waist tightly girded by his red sash, came to grasp
Madame Francois's hand close by Saint Eustache. She was sitting on her
carrots and turnips, and her long face looked very sad. The artist, too,
was gloomy, notwithstanding the bright sun which was already softening
the deep-green velvet of the mountains of cabbages.

"Well, it's all over now," he said. "They are sending him back again.
He's already on his way to Brest, I believe."

Madame Francois made a gesture of mute grief. Then she gently waved her
hand around, and murmured in a low voice; "Ah, it is all Paris's doing,
this villainous Paris!"

"No, no, not quite that; but I know whose doing it is, the contemptible
creatures!" exclaimed Claude, clenching his fists. "Do you know, Madame
Francois, there was nothing too ridiculous for those fellows in the
court to say! Why, they even went ferreting in a child's copy-books!
That great idiot of a Public Prosecutor made a tremendous fuss over
them, and ranted about the respect due to children, and the wickedness
of demagogical education! It makes me quite sick to think of it all!"

A shudder of disgust shook him, and then, burying himself more deeply
in his discoloured cloak, he resumed: "To think of it!



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