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"You hardly expected me, did you?" he resumed. "I
understand things now; you have been laying plots against me. You
wretched fellow; see what your vices and disorderly life have brought
you to!"

Macquart shrugged his shoulders. "Shut up," he replied; "go to the
devil. You're an old rogue. He laughs best who laughs last."

Thereupon Rougon, who had formed no definite plan with regard to him,
thrust him into a dressing-room whither Monsieur Garconnet retired to
rest sometimes. This room lighted from above, had no other means of
exit than the doorway by which one entered. It was furnished with a few
arm-chairs, a sofa, and a marble wash-stand. Pierre double-locked the
door, after partially unbinding his brother's hands. Macquart was then
heard to throw himself on the sofa, and start singing the "Ca Ira" in a
loud voice, as though he were trying to sing himself to sleep.

Rougon, who at last found himself alone, now in his turn sat down in
the mayor's arm-chair. He heaved a sigh as he wiped his brow. How hard,
indeed, it was to win fortune and honours! However, he was nearing the
end at last. He felt the soft seat of the arm-chair yield beneath him,
while with a mechanical movement he caressed the mahogany writing-table
with his hands, finding it apparently quite silky and delicate, like the
skin of a beautiful woman. Then he spread himself out, and assumed
the dignified attitude which Macquart had previously affected while
listening to the proclamation. The silence of the room seemed fraught
with religious solemnity, which inspired Rougon with exquisite delight.
Everything, even the dust and the old documents lying in the corners,
seemed to exhale an odour of incense, which rose to his dilated
nostrils. This room, with its faded hangings redolent of petty
transactions, all the trivial concerns of a third-rate municipality,
became a temple of which he was the god.

Nevertheless, amidst his rapture, he started nervously at every shout
from Macquart. The words aristocrat and lamp-post, the threats of
hanging that form the refrain of the famous revolutionary song, the "Ca
Ira," reached him in angry bursts, interrupting his triumphant dream in
the most disagreeable manner. Always that man! And his dream, in which
he saw Plassans at his feet, ended with a sudden vision of the Assize
Court, of the judges, the jury, and the public listening to Macquart's
disgraceful revelations; the story of the fifty thousand francs, and
many other unpleasant matters; or else, while enjoying the softness of
Monsieur Garconnet's arm-chair, he suddenly pictured himself suspended
from a lamp-post in the Rue de la Banne. Who would rid him of that
wretched fellow? At last Antoine fell asleep, and then Pierre enjoyed
ten good minutes' pure ecstasy.

Roudier and Granoux came to rouse him from this state of beatitude.
They had just returned from the prison, whither they had taken the
insurgents. Daylight was coming on apace, the town would soon be awake,
and it was necessary to take some decisive step. Roudier declared that,
before anything else, it would be advisable to issue a proclamation to
the inhabitants. Pierre was, at that moment, reading the one which the
insurgents had left upon the table.

"Why," cried he, "this will suit us admirably! There are only a few
words to be altered."

And, in fact, a quarter of an hour sufficed for the necessary changes,
after which Granoux read out, in an earnest voice: "Inhabitants of
Plassans--The hour of resistance has struck, the reign of order has

It was decided that the proclamation should be printed at the office of
the "Gazette," and posted at all the street corners.

"Now listen," said Rougon; "we'll go to my house; and in the meantime
Monsieur Granoux will assemble here the members of the municipal council
who had not been arrested and acquaint them with the terrible events of
the night." Then he added, majestically: "I am quite prepared to accept
the responsibility of my actions. If what I have already done appears a
satisfactory pledge of my desire for order, I am willing to place myself
at the head of a municipal commission, until such time as the regular
authorities can be reinstated. But, in order, that nobody may accuse me
of ambitious designs, I shall not re-enter the Town Hall unless called
upon to do so by my fellow-citizens."

At this Granoux and Roudier protested that Plassans would not be
ungrateful. Their friend had indeed saved the town. And they recalled
all that he had done for the cause of order: the yellow drawing-room
always open to the friends of authority, his services as spokesman in
the three quarters of the town, the store of arms which had been his
idea, and especially that memorable night--that night of prudence and
heroism--in which he had rendered himself forever illustrious. Granoux
added that he felt sure of the admiration and gratitude of the municipal

"Don't stir from your house," he concluded; "I will come and fetch you
to lead you back in triumph."

Then Roudier said that he quite understood the tact and modesty of their
friend, and approved it. Nobody would think of accusing him of ambition,
but all would appreciate the delicacy which prompted him to take no
office save with the consent of his fellow-citizens. That was very
dignified, very noble, altogether grand.

Under this shower of eulogies, Rougon humbly bowed his head. "No, no;
you go too far," he murmured, with voluptuous thrillings of exquisite
pleasure. Each sentence that fell from the retired hosier and the old
almond-merchant, who stood on his right and left respectively, fell
sweetly on his ears; and, leaning back in the mayor's arm-chair, steeped
in the odour of officiality which pervaded the room, he bowed to the
right and to the left, like a royal pretender whom a _coup d'etat_ is
about to convert into an emperor.

When they were tired of belauding each other, they all three went
downstairs. Granoux started off to call the municipal council together,
while Roudier told Rougon to go on in front, saying that he would join
him at his house, after giving the necessary orders for guarding the
Town Hall. The dawn was now fast rising, and Pierre proceeded to the Rue
de la Banne, tapping his heels in a martial manner on the still deserted
pavement. He carried his hat in his hand in spite of the bitter cold;
for puffs of pride sent all his blood to his head.

On reaching his house he found Cassoute at the bottom of the stairs. The
navvy had not stirred, for he had seen nobody enter. He sat there, on
the first step, resting his big head in his hands, and gazing fixedly in
front of him, with the vacant stare and mute stubbornness of a faithful

"You were waiting for me, weren't you?" Pierre said to him, taking in
the situation at a glance. "Well, go and tell Monsieur Macquart that
I've come home. Go and ask for him at the Town Hall."

Cassoute rose and took himself off, with an awkward bow. He was going
to get himself arrested like a lamb, to the great delight of Pierre,
who laughed as he went upstairs, asking himself, with a feeling of vague
surprise: "I have certainly plenty of courage; shall I turn out as good
a diplomatist?"

Felicite had not gone to bed last night. He found her dressed in her
Sunday clothes, wearing a cap with lemon-coloured ribbons, like a lady
expecting visitors. She had sat at the window in vain; she had heard
nothing, and was dying with curiosity.

"Well?" she asked, rushing to meet her husband.

The latter, quite out of breath, entered the yellow drawing-room,
whither she followed him, carefully closing the door behind her. He sank
into an arm-chair, and, in a gasping voice, faltered: "It's done; we
shall get the receivership."

At this she fell on his neck and kissed him.

"Really? Really?" she cried. "But I haven't heard anything. Oh, my
darling husband, do tell me; tell me all!"

She felt fifteen years old again, and began to coax him and whirl round
him like a grasshopper fascinated by the light and heat. And Pierre,
in the effusion of his triumph, poured out his heart to her. He did not
omit a single detail. He even explained his future projects, forgetting
that, according to his theories, wives were good for nothing, and that
his must be kept in complete ignorance of what went on if he wished to
remain master. Felicite leant over him and drank in his words. She made
him repeat certain parts of his story, declaring she had not heard; in
fact, her delight bewildered her so much that at times she seemed quite
deaf. When Pierre related the events at the Town Hall, she burst into a
fit of laughter, changed her chair three times, and moved the furniture
about, quite unable to sit still. After forty years of continuous
struggle, fortune had at last yielded to them. Eventually she became so
mad over it that she forgot all prudence.

"It's to me you owe all this!" she exclaimed, in an outburst of triumph.
"If I hadn't looked after you, you would have been nicely taken in by
the insurgents. You booby, it was Garconnet, Sicardot, and the others,
that had got to be thrown to those wild beasts."

Then, showing her teeth, loosened by age, she added, with a girlish
smile: "Well, the Republic for ever! It has made our path clear."

But Pierre had turned cross. "That's just like you!" he muttered; "you
always fancy that you've foreseen everything. It was I who had the idea
of hiding myself. As though women understood anything about politics!
Bah, my poor girl, if you were to steer the bark we should very soon be

Felicite bit her lip. She had gone too far and forgotten her
self-assigned part of good, silent fairy. Then she was seized with one
of those fits of covert exasperation, which she generally experienced
when her husband tried to crush her with his superiority. And she again
promised herself, when the right time should arrive, some exquisite
revenge, which would deliver this man into her power, bound hand and

"Ah! I was forgetting!" resumed Rougon, "Monsieur Peirotte is amongst

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