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how glad I am! You know I'm a straightforward man. Well, we were
all of us afraid; it is not so, gentlemen? You, alone, were great,
brave, sublime! What energy you must have had! I was just now saying to
my wife: 'Rougon is a great man; he deserves to be decorated.'"

Then the gentlemen proposed to go and meet the prefect. For a moment
Rougon felt both stunned and suffocated; he was unable to believe
in this sudden triumph, and stammered like a child. However, he drew
breath, and went downstairs with the quiet dignity suited to the
solemnity of the occasion. But the enthusiasm which greeted the
commission and its president outside the town-hall almost upset his
magisterial gravity afresh. His name sped through the crowd, accompanied
this time by the warmest eulogies. He heard everyone repeat Granoux's
avowal, and treat him as a hero who had stood firm and resolute amidst
universal panic. And, as far as the Sub-Prefecture, where the commission
met the prefect, he drank his fill of popularity and glory.

Monsieur de Bleriot and Colonel Masson had entered the town alone,
leaving their troops encamped on the Lyons road. They had lost
considerable time through a misunderstanding as to the direction taken
by the insurgents. Now, however, they knew the latter were at Orcheres;
and it would only be necessary to stop an hour at Plassans, just
sufficient time to reassure the population and publish the cruel
ordinances which decreed the sequestration of the insurgents' property,
and death to every individual who might be taken with arms in his
hands. Colonel Masson smiled when, in accordance with the orders of the
commander of the national guards, the bolts of the Rome Gate were drawn
back with a great rattling of rusty old iron. The detachment on duty
there accompanied the prefect and the colonel as a guard of honour.
As they traversed the Cours Sauvaire, Roudier related Rougon's epic
achievements to the gentlemen--the three days of panic that had
terminated with the brilliant victory of the previous night. When the
two processions came face to face therefore, Monsieur de Bleriot quickly
advanced towards the president of the Commission, shook hands with him,
congratulated him, and begged him to continue to watch over the town
until the return of the authorities. Rougon bowed, while the prefect,
having reached the door of the Sub-Prefecture, where he wished to take
a brief rest, proclaimed in a loud voice that he would not forget to
mention his brave and noble conduct in his report.

In the meantime, in spite of the bitter cold, everybody had come to
their windows. Felicite, leaning forward at the risk of falling out,
was quite pale with joy. Aristide had just arrived with a number of the
"Independant," in which he had openly declared himself in favour of the
Coup d'Etat, which he welcomed "as the aurora of liberty in order and
of order in liberty." He had also made a delicate allusion to the
yellow drawing-room, acknowledging his errors, declaring that "youth is
presumptuous," and that "great citizens say nothing, reflect in silence,
and let insults pass by, in order to rise heroically when the day of
struggle comes." He was particularly pleased with this sentence. His
mother thought his article extremely well written. She kissed her dear
child, and placed him on her right hand. The Marquis de Carnavant, weary
of incarcerating himself, and full of eager curiosity, had likewise come
to see her, and stood on her left, leaning on the window rail.

When Monsieur de Bleriot offered his hand to Rougon on the square below
Felicite began to weep. "Oh! see, see," she said to Aristide. "He has
shaken hands with him. Look! he is doing it again!" And casting a glance
at the windows, where groups of people were congregated, she added: "How
wild they must be! Look at Monsieur Peirotte's wife, she's biting
her handkerchief. And over there, the notary's daughter, and Madame
Massicot, and the Brunet family, what faces, eh? how angry they look!
Ah, indeed, it's our turn now."

She followed the scene which was being acted outside the Sub-Prefecture
with thrills of delight, which shook her ardent, grasshopper-like figure
from head to foot. She interpreted the slightest gesture, invented words
which she was unable to catch, and declared that Pierre bowed very well
indeed. She was a little vexed when the prefect deigned to speak to poor
Granoux, who was hovering about him fishing for a word of praise. No
doubt Monsieur de Bleriot already knew the story of the hammer, for the
retired almond-dealer turned as red as a young girl, and seemed to
be saying that he had only done his duty. However, that which angered
Felicite still more was her husband's excessive amiability in presenting
Vuillet to the authorities. Vuillet, it is true, pushed himself forward
amongst them, and Rougon was compelled to mention him.

"What a schemer!" muttered Felicite. "He creeps in everywhere. How
confused my poor dear husband must be! See, there's the colonel speaking
to him. What can he be saying to him?"

"Ah! little one," the marquis replied with a touch of irony, "he is
complimenting him for having closed the gates so carefully."

"My father has saved the town," Aristide retorted curtly. "Have you seen
the corpses, sir?"

Monsieur de Carnavant did not answer. He withdrew from the window, and
sat down in an arm-chair, shaking his head with an air of some disgust.
At that moment, the prefect having taken his departure, Rougon came
upstairs and threw himself upon his wife's neck.

"Ah! my dear!" he stammered.

He was unable to say more. Felicite made him kiss Aristide after telling
him of the superb article which the young man had inserted in the
"Independant." Pierre would have kissed the marquis as well, he was
deeply affected. However, his wife took him aside, and gave him Eugene's
letter which she had sealed up in an envelope again. She pretended that
it had just been delivered. Pierre read it and then triumphantly held it
out to her.

"You are a sorceress," he said to her laughing. "You guessed everything.
What folly I should have committed without you! We'll manage our little
affairs together now. Kiss me: you're a good woman."

He clasped her in his arms, while she discreetly exchanged a knowing
smile with the marquis.


It was not until Sunday, the day after the massacre at Sainte-Roure,
that the troops passed through Plassans again. The prefect and the
colonel, whom Monsieur Garconnet had invited to dinner, once more
entered the town alone. The soldiers went round the ramparts and
encamped in the Faubourg, on the Nice road. Night was falling; the sky,
overcast since the morning, had a strange yellow tint, and illumined
the town with a murky light, similar to the copper-coloured glimmer
of stormy weather. The reception of the troops by the inhabitants was
timid; the bloodstained soldiers, who passed by weary and silent, in
the yellow twilight, horrified the cleanly citizens promenading on
the Cours. They stepped out of the way whispering terrible stories of
fusillades and revengeful reprisals which still live in the recollection
of the region. The Coup d'Etat terror was beginning to make itself felt,
an overwhelming terror which kept the South in a state of tremor for
many a long month. Plassans, in its fear and hatred of the insurgents,
had welcomed the troops on their first arrival with enthusiasm; but now,
at the appearance of that gloomy taciturn regiment, whose men were ready
to fire at a word from their officers, the retired merchants and even
the notaries of the new town anxiously examined their consciences,
asking if they had not committed some political peccadilloes which might
be thought deserving of a bullet.

The municipal authorities had returned on the previous evening in a
couple of carts hired at Sainte-Roure. Their unexpected entry was devoid
of all triumphal display. Rougon surrendered the mayor's arm-chair
without much regret. The game was over; and with feverish longing he now
awaited the recompense for his devotion. On the Sunday--he had not hoped
for it until the following day--he received a letter from Eugene.
Since the previous Thursday Felicite had taken care to send her son
the numbers of the "Gazette" and "Independant" which, in special second
editions had narrated the battle of the night and the arrival of the
prefect at Plassans. Eugene now replied by return of post that the
nomination of a receivership would soon be signed; but added that he
wished to give them some good news immediately. He had obtained the
ribbon of the Legion of Honour for his father. Felicite wept with joy.
Her husband decorated! Her proud dream had never gone as far as that.
Rougon, pale with delight, declared they must give a grand dinner that
very evening. He no longer thought of expense; he would have thrown his
last fifty francs out of the drawing-room windows in order to celebrate
that glorious day.

"Listen," he said to his wife; "you must invite Sicardot: he has annoyed
me with that rosette of his for a long time! Then Granoux and Roudier;
I shouldn't be at all sorry to make them feel that it isn't their purses
that will ever win them the cross. Vuillet is a skinflint, but the
triumph ought to be complete: invite him as well as the small fry. I was
forgetting; you must go and call on the marquis in person; we will seat
him on your right; he'll look very well at our table. You know that
Monsieur Garconnet is entertaining the colonel and the prefect. That is
to make me understand that I am nobody now. But I can afford to laugh at
his mayoralty; it doesn't bring him in a sou! He has invited me, but
I shall tell him that I also have some people coming. The others will
laugh on the wrong side of their mouths to-morrow. And let everything
be of the best. Have everything sent from the Hotel de Provence. We must
outdo the mayor's dinner."

Felicite set to work. Pierre still felt some vague uneasiness amidst his
rapture. The Coup d'Etat was going to pay his debts, his son Aristide
had repented of his faults, and he was at last freeing himself from
Macquart; but he feared some folly on Pascal's part, and was especially
anxious about the lot reserved for Silvere.

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