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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. However, Antoine had soon eaten and drunk the two hundred
francs he received from Pierre. He never for a moment thought of
investing them in some little business which would have helped him to
live. When he was again penniless, having no trade, and being, moreover,
unwilling to work, he again sought to slip a hand into the Rougons'
purse. Circumstances were not the same as before, however, and he failed
to intimidate them. Pierre even took advantage of this opportunity to
turn him out, and forbade him ever to set foot in his house again.
It was of no avail for Antoine to repeat his former accusations. The
townspeople, who were acquainted with his brother's munificence from
the publicity which Felicite had given to it, declared him to be in
the wrong, and called him a lazy, idle fellow. Meantime his hunger was
pressing. He threatened to turn smuggler like his father, and perpetrate
some crime which would dishonour his family. At this the Rougons
shrugged their shoulders; they knew he was too much of a coward to risk
his neck. At last, blindly enraged against his relatives in particular
and society in general, Antoine made up his mind to seek some work.

In a tavern of the Faubourg he made the acquaintance of a basket-maker
who worked at home. He offered to help him. In a short time he learnt to
plait baskets and hampers--a coarse and poorly-paid kind of labour which
finds a ready market. He was very soon able to work on his own account.
This trade pleased him, as it was not over laborious. He could still
indulge his idleness, and that was what he chiefly cared for. He would
only take to his work when he could no longer do otherwise; then he
would hurriedly plait a dozen baskets and go and sell them in the
market. As long as the money lasted he lounged about, visiting all
the taverns and digesting his drink in the sunshine. Then, when he had
fasted a whole day, he would once more take up his osier with a low
growl and revile the wealthy who lived in idleness. The trade of a
basket-maker, when followed in such a manner, is a thankless one.
Antoine's work would not have sufficed to pay for his drinking bouts
if he had not contrived a means of procuring his osier at low cost. He
never bought any at Plassans, but used to say that he went each month to
purchase a stock at a neighbouring town, where he pretended it was
sold cheaper. The truth, however, was that he supplied himself from
the osier-grounds of the Viorne on dark nights. A rural policeman even
caught him once in the very act, and Antoine underwent a few days'
imprisonment in consequence. It was from that time forward that he posed
in the town as a fierce Republican. He declared that he had been quietly
smoking his pipe by the riverside when the rural policeman arrested him.
And he added: "They would like to get me out of the way because they
know what my opinions are. But I'm not afraid of them, those rich

At last, at the end of ten years of idleness, Antoine considered that
he had been working too hard. His constant dream was to devise some
expedient by which he might live at his ease without having to do
anything. His idleness would never have rested content with bread and
water; he was not like certain lazy persons who are willing to put up
with hunger provided they can keep their hands in their pockets. He
liked good feeding and nothing to do. He talked at one time of taking a
situation as servant in some nobleman's house in the Saint-Marc quarter.
But one of his friends, a groom, frightened him by describing the
exacting ways of his masters. Finally Macquart, sick of his baskets,
and seeing the time approach when he would be compelled to purchase
the requisite osier, was on the point of selling himself as an army
substitute and resuming his military life, which he preferred a thousand
times to that of an artisan, when he made the acquaintance of a woman,
an acquaintance which modified his plans.

Josephine Gavaudan, who was known throughout the town by the familiar
diminutive of Fine, was a tall, strapping wench of about thirty. With
a square face of masculine proportions, and a few terribly long hairs
about her chin and lips, she was cited as a doughty woman, one who could
make the weight of her fist felt. Her broad shoulders and huge arms
consequently inspired the town urchins with marvellous respect; and they
did not even dare to smile at her moustache. Notwithstanding all this,
Fine had a faint voice, weak and clear like that of a child. Those who
were acquainted with her asserted that she was as gentle as a lamb, in
spite of her formidable appearance. As she was very hard-working, she
might have put some money aside if she had not had a partiality for
liqueurs. She adored aniseed, and very often had to be carried home on
Sunday evenings.

On week days she would toil with the stubbornness of an animal. She had
three or four different occupations; she sold fruit or boiled chestnuts
in the market, according to the season; went out charring for a few
well-to-do people; washed up plates and dishes at houses when parties
were given, and employed her spare time in mending old chairs. She was
more particularly known in the town as a chair-mender. In the South
large numbers of straw-bottomed chairs are used.

Antoine Macquart formed an acquaintance with Fine at the market. When he
went to sell his baskets in the winter he would stand beside the stove
on which she cooled her chestnuts and warm himself. He was astonished
at her courage, he who was frightened of the least work. By degrees he
discerned, beneath the apparent roughness of this strapping creature,
signs of timidity and kindliness. He frequently saw her give handfuls of
chestnuts to the ragged urchins who stood in ecstasy round her smoking
pot. At other times, when the market inspector hustled her, she very
nearly began to cry, apparently forgetting all about her heavy fists.
Antoine at last decided that she was exactly the woman he wanted. She
would work for both and he would lay down the law at home. She would
be his beast of burden, an obedient, indefatigable animal. As for her
partiality for liqueurs, he regarded this as quite natural. After well
weighing the advantages of such an union, he declared himself to Fine,
who was delighted with his proposal. No man had ever yet ventured to
propose to her. Though she was told that Antoine was the most worthless
of vagabonds, she lacked the courage to refuse matrimony. The very
evening of the nuptials the young man took up his abode in his wife's
lodgings in the Rue Civadiere, near the market. These lodgings,
consisting of three rooms, were much more comfortably furnished than his
own, and he gave a sigh of satisfaction as he stretched himself out on
the two excellent mattresses which covered the bedstead.

Everything went on very well for the first few days. Fine attended to
her various occupations as in the past; Antoine, seized with a sort of
marital self-pride which astonished even himself, plaited in one week
more baskets than he had ever before done in a month. On the first
Sunday, however, war broke out. The couple had a goodly sum of money in
the house, and they spent it freely. During the night, when they were
both drunk, they beat each other outrageously, without being able to
remember on the morrow how it was that the quarrel had commenced. They
had remained on most affectionate terms until about ten o'clock, when
Antoine had begun to beat Fine brutally, whereupon the latter, growing
exasperated and forgetting her meekness, had given him back as much as
she received. She went to work again bravely on the following day, as
though nothing had happened. But her husband, with sullen rancour,
rose late and passed the remainder of the day smoking his pipe in the

From that time forward the Macquarts adopted the kind of life which
they were destined to lead in the future. It became, as it were, tacitly
understood between them that the wife should toil and moil to keep her
husband. Fine, who had an instinctive liking for work, did not object
to this. She was as patient as a saint, provided she had had no drink,
thought it quite natural that her husband should remain idle, and even
strove to spare him the most trifling labour. Her little weakness,
aniseed, did not make her vicious, but just. On the evenings when
she had forgotten herself in the company of a bottle of her favourite
liqueur, if Antoine tried to pick a quarrel with her, she would set
upon him with might and main, reproaching him with his idleness and
ingratitude. The neighbours grew accustomed to the disturbances which
periodically broke out in the couple's room. The two battered each other
conscientiously; the wife slapped like a mother chastising a naughty
child; but the husband, treacherous and spiteful as he was, measured his
blows, and, on several occasions, very nearly crippled the unfortunate

"You'll be in a fine plight when you've broken one of my arms or legs,"
she would say to him. "Who'll keep you then, you lazy fellow?"

Excepting for these turbulent scenes, Antoine began to find his new mode
of existence quite endurable. He was well clothed, and ate and drank his
fill. He had laid aside the basket work altogether; sometimes, when he
was feeling over-bored, he would resolve to plait a dozen baskets for
the next market day; but very often he did not even finish the first
one. He kept, under a couch, a bundle of osier which he did not use up
in twenty years.

The Macquarts had three children, two girls and a boy. Lisa,[*] born
the first, in 1827, one year after the marriage, remained but little
at home. She was a fine, big, healthy, full-blooded child, greatly
resembling her mother. She did not, however, inherit the latter's animal
devotion and endurance. Macquart had implanted in her a most decided
longing for ease and comfort. While she was a child she would consent to
work for a whole day in return for a cake.

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