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You'll see how he'll turn
his coat. And his brother, the illustrious Eugene, that big blockhead
of whom the Rougons make such a fuss! Why, they've got the impudence to
assert that he occupies a good position in Paris! I know something about
his position; he's employed at the Rue de Jerusalem; he's a police spy."

"Who told you so? You know nothing about it," interrupted Silvere, whose
upright spirit at last felt hurt by his uncle's lying accusations.

"Ah! I know nothing about it? Do you think so? I tell you he is a
police spy. You'll be shorn like a lamb one of these days, with your
benevolence. You're not manly enough. I don't want to say anything
against your brother Francois; but, if I were in your place, I shouldn't
like the scurvy manner in which he treats you. He earns a heap of money
at Marseilles, and yet he never sends you a paltry twenty-franc pierce
for pocket money. If ever you become poor, I shouldn't advise you to
look to him for anything."

"I've no need of anybody," the young man replied in a proud and slightly
injured tone of voice. "My own work suffices for aunt Dide and myself.
You're cruel, uncle."

"I only say what's true, that's all. I should like to open your eyes.
Our family is a disreputable lot; it's sad but true. Even that little
Maxime, Aristide's son, that little nine-year-old brat, pokes his
tongue out at me when me meets me. That child will some day beat his
own mother, and a good job too! Say what you like, all those folks don't
deserve their luck; but it's always like this in families, the good ones
suffer while the bad ones make their fortunes."

All this dirty linen, which Macquart washed with such complacency before
his nephew, profoundly disgusted the young man. He would have liked to
soar back into his dream. As soon as he began to show unmistakable signs
of impatience, Antoine would employ strong expedients to exasperate him
against their relatives.

"Defend them! Defend them!" he would say, appearing to calm down. "I,
for my part, have arranged to have nothing more to do with them. I only
mention the matter out of pity for my poor mother, whom all that gang
treat in a most revolting manner."

"They are wretches!" Silvere murmured.

"Oh! you don't know, you don't understand. These Rougons pour all sorts
of insults and abuse on the good woman. Aristide has forbidden his son
even to recognise her. Felicite talks of having her placed in a lunatic

The young man, as white as a sheet, abruptly interrupted his uncle:
"Enough!" he cried. "I don't want to know any more about it. There will
have to be an end to all this."

"I'll hold my tongue, since it annoys you," the old rascal replied,
feigning a good-natured manner. "Still, there are some things that
you ought not to be ignorant of, unless you want to play the part of a

Macquart, while exerting himself to set Silvere against the Rougons,
experienced the keenest pleasure on drawing tears of anguish from the
young man's eyes. He detested him, perhaps, more than he did the others,
and this because he was an excellent workman and never drank. He brought
all his instincts of refined cruelty into play, in order to invent
atrocious falsehoods which should sting the poor lad to the heart; then
he revelled in his pallor, his trembling hands and his heart-rending
looks, with the delight of some evil spirit who measures his stabs and
finds that he has struck his victim in the right place. When he thought
that he had wounded and exasperated Silvere sufficiently, he would at
last touch upon politics.

"I've been assured," he would say, lowering his voice, "that the Rougons
are preparing some treachery."

"Treachery?" Silvere asked, becoming attentive.

"Yes, one of these nights they are going to seize all the good citizens
of the town and throw them into prison."

The young man was at first disposed to doubt it, but his uncle gave
precise details; he spoke of lists that had been drawn up, he mentioned
the persons whose names were on these lists, he indicated in what
manner, at what hour, and under what circumstances the plot would be
carried into effect. Silvere gradually allowed himself to be taken in
by this old woman's tale, and was soon raving against the enemies of the

"It's they that we shall have to reduce to impotence if they persist in
betraying the country!" he cried. "And what do they intend to do with
the citizens whom they arrest?"

"What do they intend to do with them? Why, they will shoot them in the
lowest dungeons of the prison, of course," replied Macquart, with a
hoarse laugh. And as the young man, stupefied with horror, looked at
him without knowing what to say: "This will not be the first lot to be
assassinated there," he continued. "You need only go and prowl about the
Palais de Justice of an evening to hear the shots and groans."

"Oh, the wretches!" Silvere murmured.

Thereupon uncle and nephew launched out into high politics. Fine and
Gervaise, on finding them hotly debating things, quietly went to bed
without attracting their attention. Then the two men remained together
till midnight, commenting on the news from Paris and discussing the
approaching and inevitable struggle. Macquart bitterly denounced the men
of his own party, Silvere dreamed his dream of ideal liberty aloud, and
for himself only. Strange conversations these were, during which the
uncle poured out many a little nip for himself, and from which the
nephew emerged quite intoxicated with enthusiasm. Antoine, however,
never succeeded in obtaining from the young Republican any perfidious
suggestion or play of warfare against the Rougons. In vain he tried to
goad him on; he seldom heard him suggest aught but an appeal to eternal
justice, which sooner or later would punish the evil-doers.

The ingenuous youth did indeed speak warmly of taking up arms and
massacring the enemies of the Republic; but, as soon as these enemies
strayed out of his dream or became personified in his uncle Pierre or
any other person of his acquaintance, he relied upon heaven to spare
him the horror of shedding blood. It is very probable that he would have
ceased visiting Macquart, whose jealous fury made him so uncomfortable,
if he had not tasted the pleasure of being able to speak freely of his
dear Republic there. In the end, however, his uncle exercised decisive
influence over his destiny; he irritated his nerves by his everlasting
diatribes, and succeeded in making him eager for an armed struggle, the
conquest of universal happiness by violence.

When Silvere reached his sixteenth year, Macquart had him admitted into
the secret society of the Montagnards, a powerful association whose
influence extended throughout Southern France. From that moment the
young Republican gazed with longing eyes at the smuggler's carbine,
which Adelaide had hung over her chimney-piece. Once night, while his
grandmother was asleep, he cleaned and put it in proper condition. Then
he replaced it on its nail and waited, indulging in brilliant reveries,
fancying gigantic epics, Homeric struggles, and knightly tournaments,
whence the defenders of liberty would emerge victorious and acclaimed by
the whole world.

Macquart meantime was not discouraged. He said to himself that he would
be able to strangle the Rougons alone if he could ever get them into a
corner. His envious rage and slothful greed were increased by certain
successive accidents which compelled him to resume work. In the early
part of 1850 Fine died, almost suddenly, from inflammation of the lungs,
which she had caught by going one evening to wash the family linen in
the Viorne, and carrying it home wet on her back. She returned soaked
with water and perspiration, bowed down by her load, which was terribly
heavy, and she never recovered.

Her death filled Macquart with consternation. His most reliable source
of income was gone. When, a few days later, he sold the caldron in which
his wife had boiled her chestnuts, and the wooden horse which she used
in reseating old chairs, he foully accused the Divinity of having robbed
him of that strong strapping woman of whom he had often felt ashamed,
but whose real worth he now appreciated. He now also fell upon the
children's earnings with greater avidity than ever. But, a month later,
Gervaise, tired of his continual exactions, ran away with her two
children and Lantier, whose mother was dead. The lovers took refuge in
Paris. Antoine, overwhelmed, vented his rage against his daughter by
expressing the hope that she might die in hospital like most of her
kind. This abuse did not, however, improve the situation, which was
decidedly becoming bad. Jean soon followed his sister's example. He
waited for pay-day to come round, and then contrived to receive the
money himself. As he was leaving he told one of his friends, who
repeated it to Antoine, that he would no longer keep his lazy father,
and that if the latter should take it into his head to have him brought
back by the gendarmes he would touch neither saw nor plane.

On the morrow, when Antoine, having vainly sought him, found himself
alone and penniless in the house where for twenty years he had been
comfortably kept, he flew into the most frantic rage, kicked the
furniture about, and yelled the vilest imprecations. Then he sank down
exhausted, and began to drag himself about and moan like a convalescent.
The fear of having to earn his bread made him positively ill. When
Silvere came to see him, he complained, with tears, of his children's
ingratitude. Had he not always been a good father to them? Jean and
Gervaise were monsters, who had made him an evil return for all he had
done for them. Now they abandoned him because he was old, and they could
not get anything more out of him!

"But uncle," said Silvere, "you are not yet too old to work!"

Macquart, coughing and stooping, shook his head mournfully, as if to say
that he could not bear the least fatigue for any length of time. Just
as his nephew was about to withdraw, he borrowed ten francs of him. Then
for a month he lived by taking his children's old clothes, one by one,
to a second-hand dealer's, and in the same way, little by little, he
sold all the small articles in the house.

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