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Sometimes, when he had
squandered the week's money in advance, he accused her, poor thing, who
worked herself to death, of being stupid and not knowing how to manage.
Fine, as gentle as a lamb, replied, in her soft, clear voice, which
contrasted so strangely with her big figure, that she was no longer
twenty years old, and that money was becoming hard to earn. In order
to console herself, she would buy a pint of aniseed, and drink little
glassfuls of it with her daughter of an evening, after Antoine had gone
back to the cafe. That was their dissipation. Jean went to bed, while
the two women remained at the table, listening attentively in order to
remove the bottle and glasses at the first sound.

When Macquart was late, they often became intoxicated by the many "nips"
they thus thoughtlessly imbibed. Stupefied and gazing at each other
with vague smiles, this mother and daughter would end by stuttering.
Red patches appeared on Gervaise's cheeks; her delicate doll-like face
assumed a look of maudlin beatitude. Nothing could be more heart-rending
than to see this wretched, pale child, aglow with drink and wearing the
idiotic smile of a confirmed sot about her moist lips. Fine, huddled
up on her chair, became heavy and drowsy. They sometimes forgot to keep
watch, or even lacked the strength to remove the bottle and glasses when
Antoine's footsteps were heard on the stairs. On these occasions
blows were freely exchanged among the Macquarts. Jean had to get up
to separate his father and mother and make his sister go to bed, as
otherwise she would have slept on the floor.

Every political party numbers its grotesques and its villains. Antoine
Macquart, devoured by envy and hatred, and meditating revenge against
society in general, welcomed the Republic as a happy era when he would
be allowed to fill his pockets from his neighbour's cash-box, and even
strangle the neighbour if the latter manifested any displeasure.
His cafe life and all the newspaper articles he had read without
understanding them had made him a terrible ranter who enunciated the
strangest of political theories. It is necessary to have heard one of
those malcontents who ill digest what they read, haranguing the company
in some provincial taproom, in order to conceive the degree of hateful
folly at which Macquart had arrived. As he talked a good deal, had
seen active service, and was naturally regarded as a man of energy and
spirit, he was much sought after and listened to by simpletons. Although
he was not the chief of any party, he had succeeded in collecting
round him a small group of working-men who took his jealous ravings for
expressions of honest and conscientious indignation.

Directly after the Revolution of February '48, he persuaded himself that
Plassans was his own, and, as he strolled along the streets, the
jeering manner in which he regarded the little retail traders who stood
terrified at their shop doors clearly signified: "Our day has come,
my little lambs; we are going to lead you a fine dance!" He had grown
insolent beyond belief; he acted the part of a victorious despot to
such a degree that he ceased to pay for his drinks at the cafe, and the
landlord, a simpleton who trembled whenever Antoine rolled his eyes,
dared not present his bill. The number of cups of coffee he consumed
during this period was incalculable; sometimes he invited his friends,
and shouted for hours together that the people were dying of hunger, and
that the rich ought to share their wealth with them. He himself would
never have given a sou to a beggar.

That which chiefly converted him into a fierce Republican was the hope
of at last being able to revenge himself on the Rougons, who had openly
ranged themselves on the side of the reactionary party. Ah, what a
triumph if he could only hold Pierre and Felicite at his mercy! Although
the latter had not succeeded over well in business, they had at
last become gentlefolks, while he, Macquart, had still remained a
working-man. That exasperated him. Perhaps he was still more mortified
because one of their sons was a barrister, another a doctor, and the
third a clerk, while his son Jean merely worked at a carpenter's shop,
and his daughter Gervaise at a washerwoman's. When he compared the
Macquarts with the Rougons, he was still more ashamed to see his wife
selling chestnuts in the market, and mending the greasy old straw-seated
chairs of the neighbourhood in the evening. Pierre, after all, was but
his brother, and had no more right than himself to live fatly on his
income. Moreover, this brother was actually playing the gentleman with
money stolen from him. Whenever Macquart touched upon this subject, he
became fiercely enraged; he clamoured for hours together, incessantly
repeating his old accusations, and never wearying of exclaiming: "If
my brother was where he ought to be, I should be the moneyed man at the
present time!"

And when anyone asked him where his brother ought to be, he would reply,
"At the galleys!" in a formidable voice.

His hatred further increased when the Rougons had gathered the
Conservatives round them, and thus acquired a certain influence in
Plassans. The famous yellow drawing-room became, in his hare-brained
chatter at the cafe, a cave of bandits, an assembly of villains who
every evening swore on their daggers that they would murder the people.
In order to incite the starvelings against Pierre, Macquart went so far
as to circulate a report that the retired oil-dealer was not so poor as
he pretended, but that he concealed his treasures through avarice and
fear of robbery. His tactics thus tended to rouse the poor people by a
repetition of absurdly ridiculous tales, which he often came to believe
in himself. His personal animosity and his desire for revenge were ill
concealed beneath his professions of patriotism; but he was heard so
frequently, and he had such a loud voice, that no one would have dared
to doubt the genuineness of his convictions.

At bottom, all the members of this family had the same brutish passions.
Felicite, who clearly understood that Macquart's wild theories were
simply the fruit of restrained rage and embittered envy, would much have
liked to purchase his silence. Unfortunately, she was short of money,
and did not dare to interest him in the dangerous game which her husband
was playing. Antoine now injured them very much among the well-to-do
people of the new town. It sufficed that he was a relation of theirs.
Granoux and Roudier often scornfully reproached them for having such a
man in their family. Felicite consequently asked herself with anguish
how they could manage to cleanse themselves of such a stain.

It seemed to her monstrous and indecent that Monsieur Rougon should have
a brother whose wife sold chestnuts, and who himself lived in crapulous
idleness. She at last even trembled for the success of their secret
intrigues, so long as Antoine seemingly took pleasure in compromising
them. When the diatribes which he levelled at the yellow drawing-room
were reported to her, she shuddered at the thought that he was capable
of becoming desperate and ruining all their hopes by force of scandal.

Antoine knew what consternation his demeanour must cause the Rougons,
and it was solely for the purpose of exhausting their patience that he
from day to day affected fiercer opinions. At the cafe he frequented
he used to speak of "my brother Pierre" in a voice which made everybody
turn round; and if he happened to meet some reactionary from the yellow
drawing-room in the street, he would mutter some low abuse which the
worthy citizen, amazed at such audacity, would repeat to the Rougons
in the evening, as though to make them responsible for his disagreeable

One day Granoux arrived in a state of fury.

"Really," he exclaimed, when scarcely across the threshold, "it's
intolerable; one can't move a step without being insulted." Then,
addressing Pierre, he added: "When one has a brother like yours, sir,
one should rid society of him. I was just quietly walking past the
Sub-Prefecture, when that rascal passed me muttering something in which
I could clearly distinguish the words 'old rogue.'"

Felicite turned pale, and felt it necessary to apologise to Granoux, but
he refused to accept any excuses, and threatened to leave altogether.
The marquis, however, exerted himself to arrange matters.

"It is very strange," he said, "that the wretched fellow should have
called you an old rogue. Are you sure that he intended the insult for

Granoux was perplexed; he admitted at last, however, that Antoine might
have muttered: "So you are again going to that old rogue's?"

At this Monsieur de Carnavant stroked his chin to conceal the smile
which rose to his lips in spite of himself.

Then Rougon, with superb composure, replied: "I thought as much; the
'old rogue' was no doubt intended for me. I've very glad that this
misunderstanding is now cleared up. Gentlemen, pray avoid the man in
question, whom I formally repudiate."

Felicite, however, did not take matters so coolly; every fresh scandal
caused by Macquart made her more and more uneasy; she would sometimes
pass the whole night wondering what those gentlemen must think of the

A few months before the Coup d'Etat, the Rougons received an anonymous
letter, three pages of foul insults, in which they were warned that
if their party should ever triumph, the scandalous story of Adelaide's
amours would be published in some newspaper, together with an account
of the robbery perpetrated by Pierre, when he had compelled his mother,
driven out of her senses by debauchery, to sign a receipt for fifty
thousand francs. This letter was a heavy blow for Rougon himself.
Felicite could not refrain from reproaching her husband with his
disreputable family; for the husband and wife never for a moment doubted
that this letter was Antoine's work.

"We shall have to get rid of the blackguard at any price," said Pierre
in a gloomy tone. "He's becoming too troublesome by far."

In the meantime, Macquart, resorting to his former tactics, looked round
among his own relatives for accomplices who would join him against the

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