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He knew every nook and corner of them,
and loved them with a filial affection, leading the agile life of a
squirrel in that forest of ironwork. He and Cadine, the hussy whom
Mother Chantemesse had picked up one night in the old Market of the
Innocents, made a pretty couple--he, a splendid foolish fellow, as
glowing as a Rubens, with a ruddy down on his skin which attracted the
sunlight; and she, slight and sly, with a comical phiz under her tangle
of black curly hair.

Whilst talking Claude quickened his steps, and soon brought his
companion back to Saint Eustache again. Florent, whose legs were once
more giving way, dropped upon a bench near the omnibus office. The
morning air was freshening. At the far end of the Rue Rambuteau rosy
gleams were streaking the milky sky, which higher up was slashed by
broad grey rifts. Such was the sweet balsamic scent of this dawn, that
Florent for a moment fancied himself in the open country, on the brow of
a hill. But behind the bench Claude pointed out to him the many aromatic
herbs and bulbs on sale. All along the footway skirting the tripe
market there were, so to say, fields of thyme and lavender, garlic and
shallots; and round the young plane-trees on the pavement the vendors
had twined long branches of laurel, forming trophies of greenery. The
strong scent of the laurel leaves prevailed over every other odour.

At present the luminous dial of Saint Eustache was paling as a
night-light does when surprised by the dawn. The gas jets in the wine
shops in the neighbouring streets went out one by one, like stars
extinguished by the brightness. And Florent gazed at the vast markets
now gradually emerging from the gloom, from the dreamland in which
he had beheld them, stretching out their ranges of open palaces.
Greenish-grey in hue, they looked more solid now, and even more colossal
with their prodigious masting of columns upholding an endless expanse
of roofs. They rose up in geometrically shaped masses; and when all the
inner lights had been extinguished and the square uniform buildings were
steeped in the rising dawn, they seemed typical of some gigantic modern
machine, some engine, some caldron for the supply of a whole people,
some colossal belly, bolted and riveted, built up of wood and glass and
iron, and endowed with all the elegance and power of some mechanical
motive appliance working there with flaring furnaces, and wild,
bewildering revolutions of wheels.

Claude, however, had enthusiastically sprung on to the bench, and stood
upon it. He compelled his companion to admire the effect of the dawn
rising over the vegetables. There was a perfect sea of these extending
between the two clusters of pavilions from Saint Eustache to the Rue des
Halles. And in the two open spaces at either end the flood of greenery
rose to even greater height, and quite submerged the pavements. The dawn
appeared slowly, softly grey in hue, and spreading a light water-colour
tint over everything. These surging piles akin to hurrying waves, this
river of verdure rushing along the roadway like an autumn torrent,
assumed delicate shadowy tints--tender violet, blush-rose, and greeny
yellow, all the soft, light hues which at sunrise make the sky look like
a canopy of shot silk. And by degrees, as the fires of dawn rose higher
and higher at the far end of the Rue Rambuteau, the mass of vegetation
grew brighter and brighter, emerging more and more distinctly from the
bluey gloom that clung to the ground. Salad herbs, cabbage-lettuce,
endive, and succory, with rich soil still clinging to their roots,
exposed their swelling hearts; bundles of spinach, bundles of sorrel,
clusters of artichokes, piles of peas and beans, mounds of cos-lettuce,
tied round with straws, sounded every note in the whole gamut of
greenery, from the sheeny lacquer-like green of the pods to the
deep-toned green of the foliage; a continuous gamut with ascending and
descending scales which died away in the variegated tones of the heads
of celery and bundles of leeks. But the highest and most sonorous notes
still came from the patches of bright carrots and snowy turnips, strewn
in prodigious quantities all along the markets and lighting them up with
the medley of their two colours.

At the crossway in the Rue des Halles cabbages were piled up in
mountains; there were white ones, hard and compact as metal balls, curly
savoys, whose great leaves made them look like basins of green bronze,
and red cabbages, which the dawn seemed to transform into superb masses
of bloom with the hue of wine-lees, splotched with dark purple and
carmine. At the other side of the markets, at the crossway near Saint
Eustache, the end of the Rue Rambuteau was blocked by a barricade of
orange-hued pumpkins, sprawling with swelling bellies in two superposed
rows. And here and there gleamed the glistening ruddy brown of a hamper
of onions, the blood-red crimson of a heap of tomatoes, the quiet yellow
of a display of marrows, and the sombre violet of the fruit of the
eggplant; while numerous fat black radishes still left patches of gloom
amidst the quivering brilliance of the general awakening.

Claude clapped his hands at the sight. He declared that those
"blackguard vegetables" were wild, mad, sublime! He stoutly maintained
that they were not yet dead, but, gathered in the previous evening,
waited for the morning sun to bid him good-bye from the flag-stones
of the market. He could observe their vitality, he declared, see their
leaves stir and open as though their roots were yet firmly and warmly
embedded in well-manured soil. And here, in the markets, he added, he
heard the death-rattle of all the kitchen gardens of the environs of
Paris.

A crowd of white caps, loose black jackets, and blue blouses was
swarming in the narrow paths between the various piles. The big baskets
of the market porters passed along slowly, above the heads of the
throng. Retail dealers, costermongers, and greengrocers were making
their purchases in haste. Corporals and nuns clustered round the
mountains of cabbages, and college cooks prowled about inquisitively, on
the look-out for good bargains. The unloading was still going on;
heavy tumbrels, discharging their contents as though these were so many
paving-stones, added more and more waves to the sea of greenery which
was now beating against the opposite footways. And from the far end of
the Rue du Pont Neuf fresh rows of carts were still and ever arriving.

"What a fine sight it is!" exclaimed Claude in an ecstasy of enthusiasm.

Florent was suffering keenly. He fancied that all this was some
supernatural temptation, and, unwilling to look at the markets any
longer, turned towards Saint Eustache, a side view of which he obtained
from the spot where he now stood. With its roses, and broad arched
windows, its bell-turret, and roofs of slate, it looked as though
painted in sepia against the blue of the sky. He fixed his eyes at last
on the sombre depths of the Rue Montorgueil, where fragments of
gaudy sign boards showed conspicuously, and on the corner of the Rue
Montmartre, where there were balconies gleaming with letters of gold.
And when he again glanced at the cross-roads, his gaze was solicited by
other sign boards, on which such inscriptions as "Druggist and Chemist,"
"Flour and Grain" appeared in big red and black capital letters upon
faded backgrounds. Near these corners, houses with narrow windows were
now awakening, setting amidst the newness and airiness of the Rue du
Pont Neuf a few of the yellow ancient facades of olden Paris. Standing
at the empty windows of the great drapery shop at the corner of the
Rue Rambuteau a number of spruce-looking counter-jumpers in their shirt
sleeves, with snowy-white wristbands and tight-fitting pantaloons,
were "dressing" their goods. Farther away, in the windows of the severe
looking, barrack-like Guillot establishment, biscuits in gilt wrappers
and fancy cakes on glass stands were tastefully set out. All the shops
were now open; and workmen in white blouses, with tools under their
arms, were hurrying along the road.

Claude had not yet got down from the bench. He was standing on tiptoe in
order to see the farther down the streets. Suddenly, in the midst of the
crowd which he overlooked, he caught sight of a fair head with long wavy
locks, followed by a little black one covered with curly tumbled hair.

"Hallo, Marjolin! Hallo, Cadine!" he shouted; and then, as his voice was
drowned by the general uproar, he jumped to the ground and started off.
But all at once, recollecting that he had left Florent behind him, he
hastily came back. "I live at the end of the Impasse des Bourdonnais,"
he said rapidly. "My name's written in chalk on the door, Claude
Lantier. Come and see the etching of the Rue Pirouette."

Then he vanished. He was quite ignorant of Florent's name, and, after
favouring him with his views on art, parted from him as he had met him,
at the roadside.

Florent was now alone, and at first this pleased him. Ever since Madame
Francoise had picked him up in the Avenue de Neuilly he had been
coming and going in a state of pain fraught somnolence which had quite
prevented him from forming any definite ideas of his surroundings. Now
at last he was at liberty to do what he liked, and he tried to shake
himself free from that intolerable vision of teeming food by which he
was pursued. But his head still felt empty and dizzy, and all that he
could find within him was a kind of vague fear. The day was now growing
quite bright, and he could be distinctly seen. He looked down at his
wretched shabby coat and trousers. He buttoned the first, dusted the
latter, and strove to make a bit of a toilet, fearing lest those black
rags of his should proclaim aloud whence he had come. He was seated in
the middle of the bench, by the side of some wandering vagabonds who
had settled themselves there while waiting for the sunrise. The
neighbourhood of the markets is a favourite spot with vagrants in the
small hours of the morning. However, two constables, still in night
uniform, with cloaks and _kepis_, paced up and down the footway side by
side, their hands resting behind their backs; and every time they passed
the bench they glanced at the game which they scented there.



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