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The insurgents, these sceptics hinted, had no doubt left
the town of their own accord. There were no indications of a combat,
no corpses, no blood-stains. So the deliverers had certainly had a very
easy task.

"But the mirror, the mirror!" repeated the enthusiasts. "You can't deny
that the mayor's mirror has been smashed; go and see it for yourselves."

And, in fact, until night-time, quite a stream of town's-people flowed,
under one pretext or another, into the mayor's private office, the door
of which Rougon left wide open. The visitors planted themselves in front
of the mirror, which the bullet had pierced and starred, and they all
gave vent to the same exclamation: "By Jove; that ball must have had
terrible force!"

Then they departed quite convinced.

Felicite, at her window, listened with delight to all the rumours and
laudatory and grateful remarks which arose from the town. At that moment
all Plassans was talking of her husband. She felt that the two districts
below her were quivering, wafting her the hope of approaching triumph.
Ah! how she would crush that town which she had been so long in getting
beneath her feet! All her grievances crowded back to her memory, and her
past disappointments redoubled her appetite for immediate enjoyment.

At last she left the window, and walked slowly round the drawing-room.
It was there that, a little while previously, everybody had held out
their hands to her husband and herself. He and she had conquered; the
citizens were at their feet. The yellow drawing-room seemed to her a
holy place. The dilapidated furniture, the frayed velvet, the chandelier
soiled with fly-marks, all those poor wrecks now seemed to her like
the glorious bullet-riddled debris of a battle-field. The plain of
Austerlitz would not have stirred her to deeper emotion.

When she returned to the window, she perceived Aristide wandering about
the place of the Sub-Prefecture, with his nose in the air. She beckoned
to him to come up, which he immediately did. It seemed as if he had only
been waiting for this invitation.

"Come in," his mother said to him on the landing, seeing that he
hesitated. "Your father is not here."

Aristide evinced all the shyness of a prodigal son returning home. He
had not been inside the yellow drawing-room for nearly four years. He
still carried his arm in a sling.

"Does your hand still pain you?" his mother asked him, ironically.

He blushed as he answered with some embarrassment: "Oh! it's getting
better; it's nearly well again now."

Then he lingered there, loitering about and not knowing what to say.
Felicite came to the rescue. "I suppose you've heard them talking about
your father's noble conduct?" she resumed.

He replied that the whole town was talking of it. And then, as he
regained his self-possession, he paid his mother back for her raillery
in her own coin. Looking her full in the face he added: "I came to see
if father was wounded."

"Come, don't play the fool!" cried Felicite, petulantly. "If I were you
I would act boldly and decisively. Confess now that you made a false
move in joining those good-for-nothing Republicans. You would be very
glad, I'm sure, to be well rid of them, and to return to us, who are the
stronger party. Well, the house is open to you!"

But Aristide protested. The Republic was a grand idea. Moreover, the
insurgents might still carry the day.

"Don't talk nonsense to me!" retorted the old woman, with some
irritation. "You're afraid that your father won't have a very warm
welcome for you. But I'll see to that. Listen to me: go back to your
newspaper, and, between now and to-morrow, prepare a number strongly
favouring the Coup d'Etat. To-morrow evening, when this number has
appeared, come back here and you will be received with open arms."

Then seeing that the young man remained silent: "Do you hear?" she
added, in a lower and more eager tone; "it is necessary for our sake,
and for your own, too, that it should be done. Don't let us have any
more nonsense and folly. You've already compromised yourself enough in
that way."

The young man made a gesture--the gesture of a Caesar crossing the
Rubicon--and by doing so escaped entering into any verbal engagement. As
he was about to withdraw, his mother, looking for the knot in his sling,
remarked: "First of all, you must let me take off this rag. It's getting
a little ridiculous, you know!"

Aristide let her remove it. When the silk handkerchief was untied,
he folded it neatly and placed it in his pocket. And as he kissed his
mother he exclaimed: "Till to-morrow then!"

In the meanwhile, Rougon was taking official possession of the mayor's
offices. There were only eight municipal councillors left; the others
were in the hands of the insurgents, as well as the mayor and his two
assessors. The eight remaining gentlemen, who were all on a par with
Granoux, perspired with fright when the latter explained to them the
critical situation of the town. It requires an intimate knowledge of the
kind of men who compose the municipal councils of some of the smaller
towns, in order to form an idea of the terror with which these timid
folk threw themselves into Rougon's arms. At Plassans, the mayor had
the most incredible blockheads under him, men without any ideas of their
own, and accustomed to passive obedience. Consequently, as Monsieur
Garconnet was no longer there, the municipal machine was bound to get
out of order, and fall completely under the control of the man who might
know how to set it working. Moreover, as the sub-prefect had left the
district, Rougon naturally became sole and absolute master of the town;
and thus, strange to relate, the chief administrative authority fell
into the hands of a man of indifferent repute, to whom, on the previous
evening, not one of his fellow-citizens would have lent a hundred

Pierre's first act was to declare the Provisional Commission "en
permanence." Then he gave his attention to the organisation of the
national guard, and succeeded in raising three hundred men. The
hundred and nine muskets left in the cart-shed were also distributed
to volunteers, thereby bringing up the number of men armed by the
reactionary party to one hundred and fifty; the remaining one hundred
and fifty guards consisted of well-affected citizens and some of
Sicardot's soldiers. When Commander Roudier reviewed the little army in
front of the town-hall, he was annoyed to see the market-people smiling
in their sleeves. The fact is that several of his men had no uniforms,
and some of them looked very droll with their black hats, frock-coats,
and muskets. But, at any rate, they meant well. A guard was left at the
town-hall and the rest of the forces were sent in detachments to the
various town gates. Roudier reserved to himself the command of the guard
stationed at the Grand'-Porte, which seemed to be more liable to attack
than the others.

Rougon, who now felt very conscious of his power, repaired to the Rue
Canquoin to beg the gendarmes to remain in their barracks and interfere
with nothing. He certainly had the doors of the gendarmerie opened--the
keys having been carried off by the insurgents--but he wanted to triumph
alone, and had no intention of letting the gendarmes rob him of any part
of his glory. If he should really have need of them he could always
send for them. So he explained to them that their presence might tend to
irritate the working-men and thus aggravate the situation. The sergeant
in command thereupon complimented him on his prudence. When Rougon was
informed that there was a wounded man in the barracks, he asked to see
him, by way of rendering himself popular. He found Rengade in bed, with
his eye bandaged, and his big moustaches just peeping out from under the
linen. With some high-sounding words about duty, Rougon endeavoured to
comfort the unfortunate fellow who, having lost an eye, was swearing
with exasperation at the thought that his injury would compel him to
quit the service. At last Rougon promised to send the doctor to him.

"I'm much obliged to you, sir," Rengade replied; "but, you know, what
would do me more good than any quantity of doctor's stuff would be to
wring the neck of the villain who put my eye out. Oh! I shall know him
again; he's a little thin, palish fellow, quite young."

Thereupon Pierre bethought himself of the blood he had seen on Silvere's
hand. He stepped back a little, as though he was afraid that Rengade
would fly at his throat, and cry: "It was your nephew who blinded me;
and you will have to pay for it." And whilst he was mentally cursing his
disreputable family, he solemnly declared that if the guilty person were
found he should be punished with all the rigour of the law.

"No, no, it isn't worth all that trouble," the one-eyed man replied;
"I'll just wring his neck for him when I catch him."

Rougon hastened back to the town-hall. The afternoon was employed in
taking various measures. The proclamation posted up about one o'clock
produced an excellent impression. It ended by an appeal to the good
sense of the citizens, and gave a firm assurance that order would not
again be disturbed. Until dusk, in fact, the streets presented a picture
of general relief and perfect confidence. On the pavements, the groups
who were reading the proclamation exclaimed:

"It's all finished now; we shall soon see the troops who have been sent
in pursuit of the insurgents."

This belief that some soldiers were approaching was so general that the
idles of the Cours Sauvaire repaired to the Nice road, in order to
meet and hear the regimental band. But they returned at nightfall
disappointed, having seen nothing; and then a feeling of vague alarm
began to disturb the townspeople.

At the town-hall, the Provisional Commission had talked so much, without
coming to any decision, that the members, whose stomachs were quite
empty, began to feel alarmed again. Rougon dismissed them to dine,
saying that they would meet afresh at nine o'clock in the evening. He
was just about to leave the room himself, when Macquart awoke and began
to pommel the door of his prison.

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