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Pierre no longer looked as if he wanted to go out.
Thanks to his wife, whose skilful tactics escaped him, however, and
whose secret complicity he never for a moment suspected, he had just
lighted on a whole plan of campaign.

"We must deliberate before taking any decision," he said to the
commander. "My wife is perhaps not wrong in accusing us of forgetting
the true interests of our families."

"No, indeed, madame is not wrong," cried Granoux, who had been listening
to Felicite's terrified cries with the rapture of a coward.

Thereupon the commander energetically clapped his hat on his head, and
said in a clear voice: "Right or wrong, it matters little to me. I am
commander of the National Guard. I ought to have been at the mayor's
before now. Confess that you are afraid, that you leaven me to act
alone. . . . Well, good-night."

He was just turning the handle of the door, when Rougon forcibly
detained him.

"Listen, Sicardot," he said.

He drew him into a corner, on seeing Vuillet prick up his big ears. And
there he explained to him, in an undertone, that it would be a good plan
to leave a few energetic men behind the insurgents, so as to restore
order in the town. And as the fierce commander obstinately refused to
desert his post, Pierre offered to place himself at the head of such a
reserve corps.

"Give me the key of the cart-shed in which the arms and ammunition are
kept," he said to him, "and order some fifty of our men not to stir
until I call for them."

Sicardot ended by consenting to these prudent measures. He entrusted
Pierre with the key of the cart-shed, convinced as he was of the
inexpediency of present resistance, but still desirous of sacrificing

During this conversation, the marquis had whispered a few words in
Felicite's ear with a knowing look. He complimented her, no doubt, on
her theatrical display. The old woman could not repress a faint smile.
But, as Sicardot shook hands with Rougon and prepared to go, she again
asked him with an air of fright: "Are you really determined to leave

"It is not for one of Napoleon's old soldiers to let himself be
intimidated by the mob," he replied.

He was already on the landing, when Granoux hurried after him, crying:
"If you go to the mayor's tell him what's going on. I'll just run home
to my wife to reassure her."

Then Felicite bent towards the marquis's ear, and whispered with
discreet gaiety: "Upon my word, it is best that devil of a commander
should go and get himself arrested. He's far too zealous."

However, Rougon brought Granoux back to the drawing-room. Roudier, who
had quietly followed the scene from his corner, making signs in support
of the proposed measures of prudence, got up and joined them. When the
marquis and Vuillet had likewise risen, Pierre began:

"Now that we are alone, among peaceable men, I propose that we should
conceal ourselves so as to avoid certain arrest, and be at liberty as
soon as ours again becomes the stronger party."

Granoux was ready to embrace him. Roudier and Vuillet breathed more

"I shall want you shortly, gentlemen," the oil-dealer continued, with
an important air. "It is to us that the honour of restoring order in
Plassans is reserved."

"You may rely upon us!" cried Vuillet, with an enthusiasm which
disturbed Felicite.

Time was pressing. These singular defenders of Plassans, who hid
themselves the better to protect the town, hastened away, to bury
themselves in some hole or other. Pierre, on being left alone with
his wife, advised her not to make the mistake of barricading herself
indoors, but to reply, if anybody came to question her, that he, Pierre,
had simply gone on a short journey. And as she acted the simpleton,
feigning terror and asking what all this was coming to, he replied
abruptly: "It's nothing to do with you. Let me manage our affairs alone.
They'll get on all the better."

A few minutes later he was rapidly threading his way along the Rue de
la Banne. On reaching the Cours Sauvaire, he saw a band of armed workmen
coming out of the old quarter and singing the "Marseillaise."

"The devil!" he thought. "It was quite time, indeed; here's the town
itself in revolt now!"

He quickened his steps in the direction of the Porte de Rome. Cold
perspiration came over him while he waited there for the dilatory keeper
to open the gate. Almost as soon as he set foot on the high road, he
perceived in the moonlight at the other end of the Faubourg the column
of insurgents, whose gun barrels gleamed like white flames. So it was
at a run that he dived into the Impasse Saint-Mittre, and reached his
mother's house, which he had not visited for many a long year.


Antoine Macquart had returned to Plassans after the fall of the first
Napoleon. He had had the incredible good fortune to escape all the
final murderous campaigns of the Empire. He had moved from barracks
to barracks, dragging on his brutifying military life. This mode of
existence brought his natural vices to full development. His idleness
became deliberate; his intemperance, which brought him countless
punishments, became, to his mind, a veritable religious duty. But that
which above all made him the worst of scapegraces was the supercilious
disdain which he entertained for the poor devils who had to earn their

"I've got money waiting for me at home," he often said to his comrades;
"when I've served my time, I shall be able to live like a gentleman."

This belief, together with his stupid ignorance, prevented him from
rising even to the grade of corporal.

Since his departure he had never spent a day's furlough at Plassans, his
brother having invented a thousand pretexts to keep him at a distance.
He was therefore completely ignorant of the adroit manner in which
Pierre had got possession of their mother's fortune. Adelaide, with her
profound indifference, did not even write to him three times to tell him
how she was going on. The silence which generally greeted his numerous
requests for money did not awaken the least suspicion in him; Pierre's
stinginess sufficed to explain the difficulty he experienced in securing
from time to time a paltry twenty-franc piece. This, however, only
increased his animosity towards his brother, who left him to languish
in military service in spite of his formal promise to purchase his
discharge. He vowed to himself that on his return home he would no
longer submit like a child, but would flatly demand his share of the
fortune to enable him to live as he pleased. In the diligence which
conveyed him home he dreamed of a delightful life of idleness. The
shattering of his castles in the air was terrible. When he reached
the Faubourg, and could no longer even recognise the Fouques' plot of
ground, he was stupefied. He was compelled to ask for his mother's new
address. There a terrible scene occurred. Adelaide calmly informed him
of the sale of the property. He flew into a rage, and even raised his
hand against her.

The poor woman kept repeating: "Your brother has taken everything; it is
understood that he will take care of you."

At last he left her and ran off to see Pierre, whom he had previously
informed of his return, and who was prepared to receive him in such a
way as to put an end to the matter at the first word of abuse.

"Listen," the oil-dealer said to him, affecting distant coldness; "don't
rouse my anger, or I'll turn you out. As a matter of fact, I don't know
you. We don't bear the same name. It's quite misfortune enough for me
that my mother misconducted herself, without having her offspring coming
here and insulting me. I was well disposed towards you, but since you
are insolent I shall do nothing for you, absolutely nothing."

Antoine was almost choking with rage.

"And what about my money," he cried; "will you give it up, you thief, or
shall I have to drag you before the judges?"

Pierre shrugged his shoulders.

"I've got no money of yours," he replied, more calmly than ever. "My
mother disposed of her fortune as she thought proper. I am certainly not
going to poke my nose into her business. I willingly renounced all hope
of inheritance. I am quite safe from your foul accusations."

And as his brother, exasperated by this composure, and not knowing what
to think, muttered something, Pierre thrust Adelaide's receipt under his
nose. The reading of this scrap of paper completed Antoine's dismay.

"Very well," he said, in a calmer voice, "I know now what I have to do."

The truth was, however, he did not know what to do. His inability to hit
upon any immediate expedient for obtaining his share of the money and
satisfying his desire of revenge increased his fury. He went back to
his mother and subjected her to a disgraceful cross-examination. The
wretched woman could do nothing but again refer him to Pierre.

"Do you think you are going to make me run to and fro like a shuttle?"
he cried, insolently. "I'll soon find out which of you two has the
hoard. You've already squandered it, perhaps?"

And making an allusion to her former misconduct he asked her if there
were still not some low fellow to whom she gave her last sous? He did
not even spare his father, that drunkard Macquart, as he called him,
who must have lived on her till the day of his death, and who left his
children in poverty. The poor woman listened with a stupefied air; big
tears rolled down her cheeks. She defended herself with the terror of
a child, replying to her son's questions as though he were a judge; she
swore that she was living respectably, and reiterated with emphasis that
she had never had a sou of the money, that Pierre had taken everything.
Antoine almost came to believe it at last.

"Ah! the scoundrel!" he muttered; "that's why he wouldn't purchase my

He had to sleep at his mother's house, on a straw mattress flung in
a corner. He had returned with his pockets perfectly empty, and was
exasperated at finding himself destitute of resources, abandoned like
a dog in the streets, without hearth or home, while his brother, as he
thought, was in a good way of business, and living on the fat of
the land.

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