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Angele, however,
adored sky-blue ribbons and roast beef. She was the daughter of a
retired captain who was called Commander Sicardot, a good-hearted old
gentleman, who had given her a dowry of ten thousand francs--all his
savings. Pierre, in selecting Angele for his son had considered that
he had made an unexpected bargain, so lightly did he esteem Aristide.
However, that dowry of ten thousand francs, which determined his choice,
ultimately became a millstone round his neck. His son, who was already
a cunning rogue, deposited the ten thousand francs with his father,
with whom he entered into partnership, declining, with the most sincere
professions of devotion, to keep a single copper.

"We have no need of anything," he said; "you will keep my wife and
myself, and we will reckon up later on."

Pierre was short of money at the time, and accepted, not, however,
without some uneasiness at Aristide's disinterestedness. The latter
calculated that it would be years before his father would have ten
thousand francs in ready money to repay him, so that he and his wife
would live at the paternal expense so long as the partnership could not
be dissolved. It was an admirable investment for his few bank-notes.
When the oil-dealer understood what a foolish bargain he had made he
was not in a position to rid himself of Aristide; Angele's dowry was
involved in speculations which were turning out unfavourably. He
was exasperated, stung to the heart, at having to provide for his
daughter-in-law's voracious appetite and keep his son in idleness. Had
he been able to buy them out of the business he would twenty times have
shut his doors on those bloodsuckers, as he emphatically expressed it.
Felicite secretly defended them; the young man, who had divined her
dreams of ambition, would every evening describe to her the elaborate
plans by which he would shortly make a fortune. By a rare chance she
had remained on excellent terms with her daughter-in-law. It must be
confessed that Angele had no will of her own--she could be moved and
disposed of like a piece of furniture.

Meantime Pierre became enraged whenever his wife spoke to him of the
success their youngest son would ultimately achieve; he declared that
he would really bring them to ruin. During the four years that the young
couple lived with him he stormed in this manner, wasting his impotent
rage in quarrels, without in the least disturbing the equanimity of
Aristide and Angele. They were located there, and there they intended
to remain like blocks of wood. At last Pierre met with a stroke of luck
which enabled him to return the ten thousand francs to his son. When,
however, he wanted to reckon up accounts with him, Aristide interposed
so much chicanery that he had to let the couple go without deducting
a copper for their board and lodging. They installed themselves but
a short distance off, in a part of the old quarter called the Place
Saint-Louis. The ten thousand francs were soon consumed. They had
everything to get for their new home. Moreover Aristide made no change
in his mode of living as long as any money was left in the house. When
he had reached the last hundred-franc note he felt rather nervous. He
was seen prowling about the town in a suspicious manner. He no longer
took his customary cup of coffee at the club; he watched feverishly
whilst play was going on, without touching a card. Poverty made him more
spiteful than he would otherwise have been. He bore the blow for a long
time, obstinately refusing to do anything in the way of work.

In 1840 he had a son, little Maxime, whom his grandmother Felicite
fortunately sent to college, paying his fees clandestinely. That made
one mouth less at home; but poor Angele was dying of hunger, and her
husband was at last compelled to seek a situation. He secured one at the
Sub-Prefecture. He remained there nearly ten years, and only attained a
salary of eighteen hundred francs per annum. From that time forward it
was with ever increasing malevolence and rancour that he hungered for
the enjoyments of which he was deprived. His lowly position exasperated
him; the paltry hundred and fifty francs which he received every month
seemed to him an irony of fate. Never did man burn with such desire for
self-gratification. Felicite, to whom he imparted his sufferings, was
by no means grieved to see him so eager. She thought his misery would
stimulate his energies. At last, crouching in ambush as it were, with
his ears wide open, he began to look about him like a thief seeking his
opportunity. At the beginning of 1848, when his brother left for Paris,
he had a momentary idea of following him. But Eugene was a bachelor;
and he, Aristide, could not take his wife so far without money. So he
waited, scenting a catastrophe, and ready to fall on the first prey that
might come within his reach.

The other son, Pascal, born between Eugene and Aristide, did not appear
to belong to the family. He was one of those frequent cases which give
the lie to the laws of heredity. During the evolution of a race nature
often produces some one being whose every element she derives from her
own creative powers. Nothing in the moral or physical constitution of
Pascal recalled the Rougons. Tall, with a grave and gentle face, he
had an uprightness of mind, a love of study, a retiring modesty which
contrasted strangely with the feverish ambitions and unscrupulous
intrigues of his relatives. After acquitting himself admirably of his
medical studies in Paris, he had retired, by preference, to Plassans,
notwithstanding the offers he received from his professors. He loved a
quiet provincial life; he maintained that for a studious man such a life
was preferable to the excitement of Paris. Even at Plassans he did
not exert himself to extend his practice. Very steady, and despising
fortune, he contented himself with the few patients sent him by chance.
All his pleasures were centred in a bright little house in the new town,
where he shut himself up, lovingly devoting his whole time to the study
of natural history. He was particularly fond of physiology. It was known
in the town that he frequently purchased dead bodies from the hospital
grave-digger, a circumstance which rendered him an object of horror to
delicate ladies and certain timid gentlemen. Fortunately, they did not
actually look upon him as a sorcerer; but his practice diminished,
and he was regarded as an eccentric character, to whom people of good
society ought not to entrust even a finger-tip, for fear of being
compromised. The mayor's wife was one day heard to say: "I would sooner
die than be attended by that gentleman. He smells of death."

From that time, Pascal was condemned. He seemed to rejoice at the mute
terror which he inspired. The fewer patients he had, the more time he
could devote to his favourite sciences. As his fees were very moderate,
the poorer people remained faithful to him; he earned just enough to
live, and lived contentedly, a thousand leagues away from the rest
of the country, absorbed in the pure delight of his researches and
discoveries. From time to time he sent a memoir to the Academie des
Sciences at Paris. Plassans did not know that this eccentric character,
this gentleman who smelt of death was well-known and highly-esteemed
in the world of science. When people saw him starting on Sundays for an
excursion among the Garrigues hills, with a botanist's bag hung round
his neck and a geologist's hammer in his hand, they would shrug their
shoulders and institute a comparison between him and some other doctor
of the town who was noted for his smart cravat, his affability to the
ladies, and the delicious odour of violets which his garments always
diffused. Pascal's parents did not understand him any better than other
people. When Felicite saw him adopting such a strange, unpretentious
mode of life she was stupefied, and reproached him for disappointing
her hopes. She, who tolerated Aristide's idleness because she thought it
would prove fertile, could not view without regret the slow progress
of Pascal, his partiality for obscurity and contempt for riches, his
determined resolve to lead a life of retirement. He was certainly not
the child who would ever gratify her vanities.

"But where do you spring from?" she would sometimes say to him. "You
are not one of us. Look at your brothers, how they keep their eyes open,
striving to profit by the education we have given them, whilst you waste
your time on follies and trifles. You make a very poor return to us, who
have ruined ourselves for your education. No, you are certainly not one
of us."

Pascal, who preferred to laugh whenever he was called upon to feel
annoyed, replied cheerfully, but not without a sting of irony: "Oh,
you need not be frightened, I shall never drive you to the verge of
bankruptcy; when any of you are ill, I will attend you for nothing."

Moreover, though he never displayed any repugnance to his relatives,
he very rarely saw them, following in this wise his natural instincts.
Before Aristide obtained a situation at the Sub-Prefecture, Pascal
had frequently come to his assistance. For his part he had remained a
bachelor. He had not the least suspicion of the grave events that were
preparing. For two or three years he had been studying the great problem
of heredity, comparing the human and animal races together, and becoming
absorbed in the strange results which he obtained. Certain observations
which he had made with respect to himself and his relatives had been, so
to say, the starting-point of his studies. The common people, with their
natural intuition, so well understood that he was quite different from
the other Rougons, that they invariably called him Monsieur Pascal,
without ever adding his family name.

Three years prior to the Revolution of 1848 Pierre and Felicite retired
from business. Old age was coming on apace; they were both past fifty
and were weary enough of the struggle. In face of their ill fortune,
they were afraid of being ultimately ruined if they obstinately
persisted in the fight.



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Keywords: retired, gentleman, relatives, ultimately, fortune, plassans, natural, obstinately, obtained, during
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