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On several occasions she thought of
running away and joining her lover on the frontier. It was only
because she did not know whither to go that she remained in the house,
submitting to her son's contemptuous silence and secret brutality.
Pierre divined that she would have left long ago if she had only had a
refuge. He was waiting an opportunity to take a little apartment for her
somewhere, when a fortuitous occurrence, which he had not ventured
to anticipate, abruptly brought about the realisation of his desires.
Information reached the Faubourg that Macquart had just been killed on
the frontier by a shot from a custom-house officer, at the moment when
he was endeavouring to smuggle a load of Geneva watches into France. The
story was true. The smuggler's body was not even brought home, but was
interred in the cemetery of a little mountain village. Adelaide's grief
plunged her into stupor. Her son, who watched her curiously, did not see
her shed a tear. Macquart had made her sole legatee. She inherited
his hovel in the Impasse Saint-Mittre, and his carbine, which a
fellow-smuggler, braving the balls of the custom-house officers, loyally
brought back to her. On the following day she retired to the little
house, hung the carbine above the mantelpiece, and lived there estranged
from all the world, solitary and silent.

Pierre was at last sole master of the house. The Fouques' land belonged
to him in fact, if not in law. He never thought of establishing himself
on it. It was too narrow a field for his ambition. To till the ground
and cultivate vegetables seemed to him boorish, unworthy of his
faculties. He was in a hurry to divest himself of everything
recalling the peasant. With his nature refined by his mother's nervous
temperament, he felt an irresistible longing for the enjoyments of the
middle classes. In all his calculations, therefore, he had regarded the
sale of the Fouques' property as the final consummation. This sale, by
placing a round sum of money in his hands, would enable him to marry the
daughter of some merchant who would take him into partnership. At this
period the wars of the First Empire were greatly thinning the ranks of
eligible young men. Parents were not so fastidious as previously in the
choice of a son-in-law. Pierre persuaded himself that money would
smooth all difficulties, and that the gossip of the Faubourg would be
overlooked; he intended to pose as a victim, as an honest man suffering
from a family disgrace, which he deplored, without being soiled by it or
excusing it.

For several months already he had cast his eyes on a certain Felicite
Puech, the daughter of an oil-dealer. The firm of Puech & Lacamp, whose
warehouses were in one of the darkest lanes of the old quarter, was
far from prosperous. It enjoyed but doubtful credit in the market, and
people talked vaguely of bankruptcy. It was precisely in consequence of
these evil reports that Pierre turned his batteries in this direction.
No well-to-do trader would have given him his daughter. He meant to
appear on the scene at the very moment when old Puech should no longer
know which way to turn; he would then purchase Felicite of him, and
re-establish the credit of the house by his own energy and intelligence.
It was a clever expedient for ascending the first rung of the social
ladder, for raising himself above his station. Above all things, he
wished to escape from that frightful Faubourg where everybody reviled
his family, and to obliterate all these foul legends, by effacing even
the very name of the Fouques' enclosure. For that reason the filthy
streets of the old quarter seemed to him perfect paradise. There, only,
he would be able to change his skin.

The moment which he had been awaiting soon arrived. The firm of Puech
and Lacamp seemed to be at the last gasp. The young man then negotiated
the match with prudent skill. He was received, if not as a deliverer, at
least as a necessary and acceptable expedient. The marriage agreed upon,
he turned his attention to the sale of the ground. The owner of the
Jas-Meiffren, desiring to enlarge his estate, had made him repeated
offers. A low, thin, party-wall alone separated the two estates. Pierre
speculated on the eagerness of his wealthy neighbour, who, to gratify
his caprice, offered as much as fifty thousand francs for the land. It
was double its value. Pierre, whoever, with the craftiness of a peasant,
pulled a long face, and said that he did not care to sell; that his
mother would never consent to get rid of the property where the Fouques
had lived from father to son for nearly two centuries. But all the time
that he was seemingly holding back he was really making preparations for
the sale. Certain doubts had arisen in his mind. According to his own
brutal logic, the property belonged to him; he had the right to dispose
of it as he chose. Beneath this assurance, however, he had vague
presentiments of legal complications. So he indirectly consulted a
lawyer of the Faubourg.

He learnt some fine things from him. According to the lawyer, his hands
were completely tied. His mother alone could alienate the property, and
he doubted whether she would. But what he did not know, what came as a
heavy blow to him, was that Ursule and Antoine, those young wolves,
had claims on the estate. What! they would despoil him, rob him, the
legitimate child! The lawyer's explanations were clear and precise,
however; Adelaide, it is true, had married Rougon under the common
property system; but as the whole fortune consisted of land, the young
woman, according to law, again came into possession of everything at her
husband's death. Moreover, Macquart and Adelaide had duly acknowledged
their children when declaring their birth for registration, and thus
these children were entitled to inherit from their mother. For
sole consolation, Pierre learnt that the law reduced the share of
illegitimate children in favour of the others. This, however, did not
console him at all. He wanted to have everything. He would not have
shared ten sous with Ursule and Antoine.

This vista of the intricacies of the Code opened up a new horizon, which
he scanned with a singularly thoughtful air. He soon recognised that
a shrewd man must always keep the law on his side. And this is what he
devised without consulting anyone, even the lawyer, whose suspicions he
was afraid of arousing. He knew how to turn his mother round his finger.
One fine morning he took her to a notary and made her sign a deed of
sale. Provided she were left the hovel in the Impasse Saint-Mittre,
Adelaide would have sold all Plassans. Besides, Pierre assured her an
annual income of six hundred francs, and made the most solemn promises
to watch over his brother and sister. This oath satisfied the good
woman. She recited, before the notary, the lesson which it had pleased
her son to teach her. On the following day the young man made her place
her name at the foot of a document in which she acknowledged having
received fifty thousand francs as the price of the property. This was
his stroke of genius, the act of a rogue. He contented himself with
telling his mother, who was a little surprised at signing such a receipt
when she had not seen a centime of the fifty thousand francs, that it
was a pure formality of no consequence whatever. As he slipped the paper
into his pocket, he thought to himself, "Now, let the young wolves ask
me to render an account. I will tell them the old woman has squandered
everything. They will never dare to go to law with me about it." A week
afterwards, the party-wall no longer existed: a plough had turned up
the vegetable beds; the Fouques' enclosure, in accordance with young
Rougon's wish, was about to become a thing of the past. A few months
later, the owner of the Jas-Meiffren even had the old market-gardener's
house, which was falling to pieces, pulled down.

When Pierre had secured the fifty thousand francs he married Felicite
Puech with as little delay as possible. Felicite was a short, dark
woman, such as one often meets in Provence. She looked like one of
those brown, lean, noisy grasshoppers, which in their sudden leaps often
strike their heads against the almond-trees. Thin, flat-breasted, with
pointed shoulders and a face like that of a pole-cat, her features
singularly sunken and attenuated, it was not easy to tell her age;
she looked as near fifteen as thirty, although she was in reality only
nineteen, four years younger than her husband. There was much feline
slyness in the depths of her little black eyes, which suggested gimlet
holes. Her low, bumpy forehead, her slightly depressed nose with
delicate quivering nostrils, her thin red lips and prominent chin,
parted from her cheeks by strange hollows, all suggested the countenance
of an artful dwarf, a living mask of intrigue, an active, envious
ambition. With all her ugliness, however, Felicite possessed a sort of
gracefulness which rendered her seductive. People said of her that she
could be pretty or ugly as she pleased. It would depend on the fashion
in which she tied her magnificent hair; but it depended still more on
the triumphant smile which illumined her golden complexion when she
thought she had got the better of somebody. Born under an evil star,
and believing herself ill-used by fortune, she was generally content
to appear an ugly creature. She did not, however, intend to abandon the
struggle, for she had vowed that she would some day make the whole town
burst with envy, by an insolent display of happiness and luxury. Had
she been able to act her part on a more spacious stage, where full play
would have been allowed her ready wit, she would have quickly brought
her dream to pass. Her intelligence was far superior to that of the
girls of her own station and education. Evil tongues asserted that her
mother, who had died a few years after she was born, had, during the
early period of her married life, been familiar with the Marquis de
Carnavant, a young nobleman of the Saint-Marc quarter. In fact, Felicite
had the hands and feet of a marchioness, and, in this respect, did not
appear to belong to that class of workers from which she was descended.

Her marriage with Pierre Rougon, that semi-peasant, that man of the
Faubourg, whose family was in such bad odour, kept the old quarter in
a state of astonishment for more than a month.

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