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I know many things, I do. My
brother kept you informed of what was going on, and you have never given
me the faintest hint that might have been useful to me."

"You know that, do you?" exclaimed Felicite, becoming serious and
distrustful. "Well, you're not so foolish as I thought, then. Do you
open letters like some one of my acquaintance?"

"No; but I listen at doors," Aristide replied, with great assurance.

This frankness did not displease the old woman. She began to smile
again, and asked more softly: "Well, then, you blockhead, how is it you
didn't rally to us sooner?"

"Ah! that's where it is," the young man said, with some embarrassment.
"I didn't have much confidence in you. You received such idiots: my
father-in-law, Granoux, and the others!--And then, I didn't want to go
too far. . . ." He hesitated, and then resumed, with some uneasiness:
"To-day you are at least quite sure of the success of the Coup d'Etat,
aren't you?"

"I!" cried Felicite, wounded by her son's doubts; "no, I'm not sure of

"And yet you sent word to say that I was to take off my sling!"

"Yes; because all the gentlemen are laughing at you."

Aristide remained stock still, apparently contemplating one of the
flowers of the orange-coloured wall-paper. And his mother felt sudden
impatience as she saw him hesitating thus.

"Ah! well," she said, "I've come back again to my former opinion; you're
not very shrewd. And you think you ought to have had Eugene's letters
to read? Why, my poor fellow you would have spoilt everything, with
your perpetual vacillation. You never can make up your mind. You are
hesitating now."

"I hesitate?" he interrupted, giving his mother a cold, keen glance.
"Ah! well, you don't know me. I would set the whole town on fire if it
were necessary, and I wanted to warm my feet. But, understand me, I've
no desire to take the wrong road! I'm tired of eating hard bread, and I
hope to play fortune a trick. But I only play for certainties."

He spoke these words so sharply, with such a keen longing for success,
that his mother recognised the cry of her own blood.

"Your father is very brave," she whispered.

"Yes, I've seen him," he resumed with a sneer. "He's got a fine look on
him! He reminded me of Leonidas at Thermopylae. Is it you, mother, who
have made him cut this figure?"

And he added cheerfully, with a gesture of determination: "Well, so much
the worse! I'm a Bonapartist! Father is not the man to risk the chance
of being killed unless it pays him well."

"You're quite right," his mother replied; "I mustn't say anything; but
to-morrow you'll see."

He did not press her, but swore that she would soon have reason to be
proud of him; and then he took his departure, while Felicite, feeling
her old preference reviving, said to herself at the window, as she
watched him going off, that he had the devil's own wit, that she would
never have had sufficient courage to let him leave without setting him
in the right path.

And now for the third time a night full of anguish fell upon Plassans.
The unhappy town was almost at its death-rattle. The citizens hastened
home and barricaded their doors with a great clattering of iron bolts
and bars. The general feeling seemed to be that, by the morrow, Plassans
would no longer exist, that it would either be swallowed up by the earth
or would evaporate in the atmosphere. When Rougon went home to dine, he
found the streets completely deserted. This desolation made him sad and
melancholy. As a result of this, when he had finished his meal, he
felt some slight misgivings, and asked his wife if it were necessary to
follow up the insurrection that Macquart was preparing.

"Nobody will run us down now," said he. "You should have seen those
gentlemen of the new town, how they bowed to me! It seems to me quite
unnecessary now to kill anybody--eh? What do you think? We shall feather
our nest without that."

"Ah! what a nerveless fellow you are!" Felicite cried angrily. "It was
your own idea to do it, and now you back out! I tell you that you'll
never do anything without me! Go then, go your own way. Do you think the
Republicans would spare you if they got hold of you?"

Rougon went back to the town-hall, and prepared for the ambush. Granoux
was very useful to him. He despatched him with orders to the different
posts guarding the ramparts. The national guards were to repair to the
town-hall in small detachments, as secretly as possible. Roudier, that
bourgeois who was quite out of his element in the provinces, and who
would have spoilt the whole affair with his humanitarian preaching, was
not even informed of it. Towards eleven o'clock, the court-yard of the
town-hall was full of national guards. Then Rougon frightened them; he
told them that the Republicans still remaining in Plassans were about
to attempt a desperate _coup de main_, and plumed himself on having been
warned in time by his secret police. When he had pictured the bloody
massacre which would overtake the town, should these wretches get the
upper hand, he ordered his men to cease speaking, and extinguish all
lights. He took a gun himself. Ever since the morning he had been living
as in a dream; he no longer knew himself; he felt Felicite behind him.
The crisis of the previous night had thrown him into her hands, and he
would have allowed himself to be hanged, thinking: "It does not matter,
my wife will come and cut me down." To augment the tumult, and prolong
the terror of the slumbering town, he begged Granoux to repair to the
cathedral and have the tocsin rung at the first shots he might hear. The
marquis's name would open the beadle's door. And then, in darkness and
dismal silence, the national guards waited in the yard, in a terrible
state of anxiety, their eyes fixed on the porch, eager to fire, as
though they were lying in wait for a pack of wolves.

In the meantime, Macquart had spent the day at aunt Dide's house.
Stretching himself on the old coffer, and lamenting the loss of Monsieur
Garconnet's sofa, he had several times felt a mad inclination to break
into his two hundred francs at some neighbouring cafe. This money was
burning a hole in his waistcoat pocket; however, he whiled away his time
by spending it in imagination. His mother moved about, in her stiff,
automatic way, as if she were not even aware of his presence. During the
last few days her children had been coming to her rather frequently,
in a state of pallor and desperation, but she departed neither from her
taciturnity, nor her stiff, lifeless expression. She knew nothing of
the fears which were throwing the pent-up town topsy-turvy, she was a
thousand leagues away from Plassans, soaring into the one constant
fixed idea which imparted such a blank stare to her eyes. Now and again,
however, at this particular moment, some feeling of uneasiness, some
human anxiety, occasionally made her blink. Antoine, unable to resist
the temptation of having something nice to eat, sent her to get a roast
chicken from an eating-house in the Faubourg. When it was set on the
table: "Hey!" he said to her, "you don't often eat fowl, do you? It's
only for those who work, and know how to manage their affairs. As for
you, you always squandered everything. I bet you're giving all your
savings to that little hypocrite, Silvere. He's got a mistress, the sly
fellow. If you've a hoard of money hidden in some corner, he'll ease you
of it nicely some day."

Macquart was in a jesting mood, glowing with wild exultation. The money
he had in his pocket, the treachery he was preparing, the conviction
that he had sold himself at a good price--all filled him with the
self-satisfaction characteristic of vicious people who naturally
became merry and scornful amidst their evil practices. Of all his talk,
however, aunt Dide only heard Silvere's name.

"Have you seen him?" she asked, opening her lips at last.

"Who? Silvere?" Antoine replied. "He was walking about among the
insurgents with a tall red girl on his arm. It will serve him right if
he gets into trouble."

The grandmother looked at him fixedly, then, in a solemn voice,
inquired: "Why?"

"Eh! Why, he shouldn't be so stupid," resumed Macquart, feeling somewhat
embarrassed. "People don't risk their necks for the sake of ideas. I've
settled my own little business. I'm no fool."

But aunt Dide was no longer listening to him. She was murmuring: "He had
his hands covered with blood. They'll kill him like the other one. His
uncles will send the gendarmes after him."

"What are you muttering there?" asked her son, as he finished picking
the bones of the chicken. "You know I like people to accuse me to
my face. If I have sometimes talked to the little fellow about the
Republic, it was only to bring him round to a more reasonable way of
thinking. He was dotty. I love liberty myself, but it mustn't degenerate
into license. And as for Rougon, I esteem him. He's a man of courage and

"He had the gun, hadn't he?" interrupted aunt Dide, whose wandering mind
seemed to be following Silvere far away along the high road.

"The gun? Ah! yes; Macquart's carbine," continued Antoine, after casting
a glance at the mantel-shelf, where the fire-arm was usually hung. "I
fancy I saw it in his hands. A fine instrument to scour the country
with, when one has a girl on one's arm. What a fool!"

Then he thought he might as well indulge in a few coarse jokes. Aunt
Dide had begun to bustle about the room again. She did not say a word.
Towards the evening Antoine went out, after putting on a blouse, and
pulling over his eyes a big cap which his mother had bought for him.
He returned into the town in the same manner as he had quitted it, by
relating some nonsensical story to the national guards who were on duty
at the Rome Gate. Then he made his way to the old quarter, where he
crept from house to house in a mysterious manner. All the Republicans of
advanced views, all the members of the brotherhood who had not followed
the insurrectionary army, met in an obscure inn, where Macquart had made
an appointment with them.

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