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As he had no money to buy clothes with, he went out on the
following day in his regimental cap and trousers. He had the good
fortune to find, at the bottom of a cupboard, an old yellowish velveteen
jacket, threadbare and patched, which had belonged to Macquart. In this
strange attire he walked about the town, relating his story to everyone,
and demanding justice.

The people whom he went to consult received him with a contempt which
made him shed tears of rage. Provincial folks are inexorable towards
fallen families. In the general opinion it was only natural that the
Rougon-Macquarts should seek to devour each other; the spectators,
instead of separating them, were more inclined to urge them on. Pierre,
however, was at that time already beginning to purify himself of his
early stains. People laughed at his roguery; some even went so far as to
say that he had done quite right, if he really had taken possession of
the money, and that it would be a good lesson to the dissolute folks of
the town.

Antoine returned home discouraged. A lawyer had advised him, in a
scornful manner, to wash his dirty linen at home, though not until he
had skilfully ascertained whether Antoine possessed the requisite
means to carry on a lawsuit. According to this man, the case was very
involved, the pleadings would be very lengthy, and success was doubtful.
Moreover, it would require money, and plenty of it.

Antoine treated his mother yet more harshly that evening. Not knowing
on whom else to wreak his vengeance, he repeated his accusation of the
previous day; he kept the wretched woman up till midnight, trembling
with shame and fright. Adelaide having informed him that Pierre made
her an allowance, he now felt certain that his brother had pocketed
the fifty thousand francs. But, in his irritation, he still affected to
doubt it, and did not cease to question the poor woman, again and again
reproaching her with misconduct.

Antoine soon found out that, alone and without resources, he could not
successfully carry on a contest with his brother. He then endeavoured
to gain Adelaide to his cause; an accusation lodged by her might have
serious consequences. But, at Antoine's first suggestion of it, the
poor, lazy, lethargic creature firmly refused to bring trouble on her
eldest son.

"I am an unhappy woman," she stammered; "it is quite right of you to get
angry. But I should feel too much remorse if I caused one of my sons to
be sent to prison. No; I'd rather let you beat me."

He saw that he would get nothing but tears out of her, and contented
himself with saying that she was justly punished, and that he had no
pity for her. In the evening, upset by the continual quarrels which her
son had sought with her, Adelaide had one of those nervous attacks which
kept her as rigid as if she had been dead. The young man threw her on
her bed, and then began to rummage the house to see if the wretched
woman had any savings hidden away. He found about forty francs. He took
possession of them, and, while his mother still lay there, rigid and
scarce able to breathe, he quietly took the diligence to Marseilles.

He had just bethought himself that Mouret, the journeyman hatter who had
married his sister Ursule, must be indignant at Pierre's roguery, and
would no doubt be willing to defend his wife's interests. But he did
not find in him the man he expected. Mouret plainly told him that he had
become accustomed to look upon Ursule as an orphan, and would have no
contentions with her family at any price. Their affairs were prospering.
Antoine was received so coldly that he hastened to take the diligence
home again. But, before leaving, he was anxious to revenge himself for
the secret contempt which he read in the workman's eyes; and, observing
that his sister appeared rather pale and dejected, he said to her
husband, in a slyly cruel way, as he took his departure: "Have a care,
my sister was always sickly, and I find her much changed for the worse;
you may lose her altogether."

The tears which rushed to Mouret's eyes convinced him that he had
touched a sore wound. But then those work-people made too great a
display of their happiness.

When he was back again in Plassans, Antoine became the more menacing
from the conviction that his hands were tied. During a whole month he
was seen all over the place. He paraded the streets, recounting his
story to all who would listen to him. Whenever he succeeded in extorting
a franc from his mother, he would drink it away at some tavern, where he
would revile his brother, declaring that the rascal should shortly hear
from him. In places like these, the good-natured fraternity which reigns
among drunkards procured him a sympathetic audience; all the scum of the
town espoused his cause, and poured forth bitter imprecations against
that rascal Rougon, who left a brave soldier to starve; the discussion
generally terminating with an indiscriminate condemnation of the rich.
Antoine, the better to revenge himself, continued to march about in his
regimental cap and trousers and his old yellow velvet jacket, although
his mother had offered to purchase some more becoming clothes for him.
But no; he preferred to make a display of his rags, and paraded them on
Sundays in the most frequented parts of the Cours Sauvaire.

One of his most exquisite pleasures was to pass Pierre's shop ten
times a day. He would enlarge the holes in his jacket with his fingers,
slacken his step, and sometimes stand talking in front of the door, so
as to remain longer in the street. On these occasions, too, he would
bring one of his drunken friends and gossip to him; telling him about
the theft of the fifty thousand francs, accompanying his narrative
with loud insults and menaces, which could be heard by everyone in
the street, and taking particular care that his abuse should reach the
furthest end of the shop.

"He'll finish by coming to beg in front of our house," Felicite used to
say in despair.

The vain little woman suffered terribly from this scandal. She even at
this time felt some regret at ever having married Rougon; his family
connections were so objectionable. She would have given all she had in
the world to prevent Antoine from parading his rags. But Pierre, who
was maddened by his brother's conduct, would not allow his name to be
mentioned. When his wife tried to convince him that it would perhaps
be better to free himself from all annoyance by giving Antoine a little
money: "No, nothing; not a sou," he cried with rage. "Let him starve!"

He confessed, however, at last that Antoine's demeanour was becoming
intolerable. One day, Felicite, desiring to put an end to it, called to
"that man," as she styled him with a disdainful curl on her lip. "That
man" was in the act of calling her a foul name in the middle of the
street, where he stood with one of his friends, even more ragged than
himself. They were both drunk.

"Come, they want us in there," said Antoine to his companion in a
jeering tone.

But Felicite drew back, muttering: "It's you alone we wish to speak to."

"Bah!" the young man replied, "my friend's a decent fellow. You needn't
mind him hearing. He'll be my witness."

The witness sank heavily on a chair. He did not take off his hat, but
began to stare around him, with the maudlin, stupid grin of drunkards
and coarse people who know that they are insolent. Felicite was so
ashamed that she stood in front of the shop door in order that
people outside might not see what strange company she was receiving.
Fortunately her husband came to the rescue. A violent quarrel ensued
between him and his brother. The latter, after stammering insults,
reiterated his old grievances twenty times over. At last he even began
to cry, and his companion was near following his example. Pierre had
defended himself in a very dignified manner.

"Look here," he said at last, "you're unfortunate, and I pity you.
Although you have cruelly insulted me, I can't forget that we are
children of the same mother. If I give you anything, however, you must
understand I give it you out of kindness, and not from fear. Would you
like a hundred francs to help you out of your difficulties?"

This abrupt offer of a hundred francs dazzled Antoine's companion. He
looked at the other with an air of delight, which clearly signified: "As
the gentleman offers a hundred francs, it is time to leave off
abusing him." But Antoine was determined to speculate on his brother's
favourable disposition. He asked him whether he took him for a fool; it
was his share, ten thousand francs, that he wanted.

"You're wrong, you're wrong," stuttered his friend.

At last, as Pierre, losing all patience, was threatening to turn
them both out, Antoine lowered his demands and contented himself with
claiming one thousand francs. They quarrelled for another quarter of
an hour over this amount. Finally, Felicite interfered. A crowd was
gathering round the shop.

"Listen," she said, excitedly; "my husband will give you two hundred
francs. I'll undertake to buy you a suit of clothes, and hire a room for
a year for you."

Rougon got angry at this. But Antoine's comrade cried, with transports
of delight: "All right, it's settled, then; my friend accepts."

Antoine did, in fact, declare, in a surly way, that he would accept.
He felt he would not be able to get any more. It was arranged that the
money and clothes should be sent to him on the following day, and that a
few days later, as soon as Felicite should have found a room for him, he
would take up his quarters there. As they were leaving, the young
man's sottish companion became as respectful as he had previously been
insolent. He bowed to the company more than a dozen times, in an awkward
and humble manner, muttering many indistinct thanks, as if the Rougons'
gifts had been intended for himself.

A week later Antoine occupied a large room in the old quarter, in which
Felicite, exceeding her promises, had placed a bed, a table, and some
chairs, on the young man formally undertaking not to molest them in
future. Adelaide felt no regret at her son leaving her; the short stay
he had made with her had condemned her to bread and water for more than
three months.

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