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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! A man who was
as gentle as a girl! Why, I saw him turn quite faint at seeing a pigeon
killed! I couldn't help smiling with pity when I saw him between two
gendarmes. Ah, well, we shall never see him again! He won't come back
this time."

"He ought to have listened to me," said Madame Francois, after a pause,
"and have come to live at Nanterre with my fowls and rabbits. I was
very fond of him, you see, for I could tell that he was a good-hearted
fellow. Ah, we might have been so happy together! It's a sad pity. Well,
we must bear it as best we can, Monsieur Claude. Come and see me one of
these days. I'll have an omelet ready for you."

Her eyes were dim with tears; but all at once she sprang up like a brave
woman who bears her sorrows with fortitude.

"Ah!" she exclaimed, "here's old Mother Chantemesse coming to buy some
turnips of me. The fat old lady's as sprightly as ever!"

Claude went off, and strolled about the footways. The dawn had risen in
the white sheaf of light at the end of the Rue Rambuteau; and the sun,
now level with the house-tops, was diffusing rosy rays which already
fell in warm patches on the pavements. Claude was conscious of a
gay awakening in the huge resonant markets--indeed, all over the
neighbourhood--crowded with piles of food. It was like the joy that
comes after cure, the mirth of folks who are at last relieved of a heavy
weight which has been pulling them down. He saw La Sarriette displaying
a gold chain and singing amidst her plums and strawberries, while she
playfully pulled the moustaches of Monsieur Jules, who was arrayed in a
velvet jacket. He also caught sight of Madame Lecoeur and Mademoiselle
Saget passing along one of the covered ways, and looking less sallow
than usual--indeed, almost rosy--as they laughed like bosom friends
over some amusing story. In the fish market, old Madame Mehudin, who
had returned to her stall, was slapping her fish, abusing customers, and
snubbing the new inspector, a presumptuous young man whom she had sworn
to spank; while Claire, seemingly more languid and indolent than ever,
extended her hands, blue from immersion in the water of her tanks, to
gather together a great heap of edible snails, shimmering with silvery
slime. In the tripe market Auguste and Augustine, with the foolish
expression of newly-married people, had just been purchasing some
pigs' trotters, and were starting off in a trap for their pork shop at
Montrouge. Then, as it was now eight o'clock and already quite warm,
Claude, on again coming to the Rue Rambuteau, perceived Muche and
Pauline playing at horses. Muche was crawling along on all-fours, while
Pauline sat on his back, and clung to his hair to keep herself from
falling. However, a moving shadow which fell from the eaves of the
market roof made Claude look up; and he then espied Cadine and Marjolin
aloft, kissing and warming themselves in the sunshine, parading their
loves before the whole neighbourhood like a pair of light-hearted
animals.

Claude shook his fist at them. All this joyousness down below and on
high exasperated him. He reviled the Fat; the Fat, he declared, had
conquered the Thin. All around him he could see none but the Fat
protruding their paunches, bursting with robust health, and greeting
with delight another day of gorging and digestion. And a last blow was
dealt to him by the spectacle which he perceived on either hand as he
halted opposite the Rue Pirouette.

On his right, the beautiful Norman, or the beautiful Madame Lebigre, as
she was now called, stood at the door of her shop. Her husband had at
length been granted the privilege of adding a State tobacco agency[*] to
his wine shop, a long-cherished dream of his which he had finally
been able to realise through the great services he had rendered to the
authorities. And to Claude the beautiful Madame Lebigre looked superb,
with her silk dress and her frizzed hair, quite ready to take her seat
behind her counter, whither all the gentlemen in the neighbourhood
flocked to buy their cigars and packets of tobacco. She had become
quite distinguished, quite the lady. The shop behind her had been newly
painted, with borders of twining vine-branches showing against a soft
background; the zinc-plated wine-counter gleamed brightly, and in the
tall mirror the flasks of liqueurs set brighter flashes of colour than
ever. And the mistress of all these things stood smiling radiantly at
the bright sunshine.

[*] Most readers will remember that the tobacco trade is a
State monopoly in France. The retail tobacconists are merely
Government agents.--Translator.

Then, on Claude's left, the beautiful Lisa blocked up the doorway of
her shop as she stood on the threshold. Never before had her linen shone
with such dazzling whiteness; never had her serene face and rosy cheeks
appeared in a more lustrous setting of glossy locks. She displayed the
deep calmness of repletion, a massive tranquillity unruffled even by a
smile. She was a picture of absolute quietude, of perfect felicity, not
only cloudless but lifeless, the simple felicity of basking in the warm
atmosphere. Her tightly stretched bodice seemed to be still digesting
the happiness of yesterday; while her dimpled hands, hidden in the folds
of her apron, did not even trouble to grasp at the happiness of to-day,
certain as they were that it would come of itself. And the shop-window
at her side seemed to display the same felicity. It had recovered from
its former blight; the tongues lolled out, red and healthy; the hams
had regained their old chubbiness of form; the festoons of sausages no
longer wore that mournful air which had so greatly distressed Quenu.
Hearty laughter, accompanied by a jubilant clattering of pans, sounded
from the kitchen in the rear. The whole place again reeked with fat
health. The flitches of bacon and the sides of pork that hung against
the marble showed roundly like paunches, triumphant paunches, whilst
Lisa, with her imposing breadth of shoulders and dignity of mien, bade
the markets good morning with those big eyes of hers which so clearly
bespoke a gross feeder.

However, the two women bowed to each other. Beautiful Madame Lebigre and
beautiful Madame Quenu exchanged a friendly salute.

And then Claude, who had certainly forgotten to dine on the previous
day, was thrilled with anger at seeing them standing there, looking so
healthy and well-to-do with their buxom bosoms; and tightening his sash,
he growled in a tone of irritation:

"What blackguards respectable people are!"



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