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Of an evening, in the yellow
drawing-room, when Granoux's growl was rendered indistinct by fright, he
would draw near to Felicite and whisper in her ear: "Come, little one,
the fruit is ripe--but you must make yourself useful."

Felicite, who continued to read Eugene's letters, and knew that
a decisive crisis might any day occur, had already often felt the
necessity of making herself useful, and reflected as to the manner in
which the Rougons should employ themselves. At last she consulted the
marquis.

"It all depends upon circumstances," the little old man replied. "If the
department remains quiet, if no insurrection occurs to terrify Plassans,
it will be difficult for you to make yourselves conspicuous and render
any services to the new government. I advise you, in that case, to
remain at home, and peacefully await the bounties of your son Eugene.
But if the people rise, and our brave bourgeois think themselves in
danger, there will be a fine part to play. Your husband is somewhat
heavy--"

"Oh!" said Felicite, "I'll undertake to make him supple. Do you think
the department will revolt?"

"To my mind it's a certainty. Plassans, perhaps, will not make a
stir; the reaction has secured too firm a hold here for that. But the
neighbouring towns, especially the small ones and the villages, have
long been worked by certain secret societies, and belong to the advanced
Republican party. If a Coup d'Etat should burst forth, the tocsin will
be heard throughout the entire country, from the forests of the Seille
to the plateau of Sainte-Roure."

Felicite reflected. "You think, then," she resumed, "that an
insurrection is necessary to ensure our fortune!"

"That's my opinion," replied Monsieur de Carnavant. And he added, with a
slightly ironical smile: "A new dynasty is never founded excepting upon
an affray. Blood is good manure. It will be a fine thing for the Rougons
to date from a massacre, like certain illustrious families."

These words, accompanied by a sneer, sent a cold chill through
Felicite's bones. But she was a strong-minded woman, and the sight of
Monsieur Peirotte's beautiful curtains, which she religiously viewed
every morning, sustained her courage. Whenever she felt herself
giving way, she planted herself at the window and contemplated the
tax-receiver's house. For her it was the Tuileries. She had determined
upon the most extreme measures in order to secure an entree into the new
town, that promised land, on the threshold of which she had stood with
burning longing for so many years.

The conversation which she had held with the marquis had at last clearly
revealed the situation to her. A few days afterwards, she succeeded in
reading one of Eugene's letters, in which he, who was working for the
Coup d'Etat, seemed also to rely upon an insurrection as the means of
endowing his father with some importance. Eugene knew his department
well. All his suggestions had been framed with the object of placing
as much influence as possible in the hands of the yellow drawing-room
reactionaries, so that the Rougons might be able to hold the town at the
critical moment. In accordance with his desires, the yellow drawing-room
was master of Plassans in November, 1851. Roudier represented the rich
citizens there, and his attitude would certainly decide that of the
entire new town. Granoux was still more valuable; he had the Municipal
Council behind him: he was its most powerful member, a fact which
will give some idea of its other members. Finally, through Commander
Sicardot, whom the marquis had succeeded in getting appointed as chief
of the National Guard, the yellow drawing-room had the armed forces at
their disposal.

The Rougons, those poor disreputable devils, had thus succeeded
in rallying round themselves the instruments of their own fortune.
Everyone, from cowardice or stupidity, would have to obey them and work
in the dark for their aggrandisement. They simply had to fear those
other influences which might be working with the same object as
themselves, and might partially rob them of the merit of victory. That
was their great fear, for they wanted to reserve to themselves the role
of deliverers. They knew beforehand that they would be aided rather than
hindered by the clergy and the nobility. But if the sub-prefect, the
mayor, and the other functionaries were to take a step in advance and at
once stifle the insurrection they would find themselves thrown into the
shade, and even arrested in their exploits; they would have neither time
nor means to make themselves useful. What they longed for was complete
abstention, general panic among the functionaries. If only all regular
administration should disappear, and they could dispose of the destinies
of Plassans for a single day, their fortune would be firmly established.

Happily for them, there was not a man in the government service whose
convictions were so firm or whose circumstances were so needy as to
make him disposed to risk the game. The sub-prefect was a man of liberal
spirit whom the executive had forgetfully left at Plassans, owing, no
doubt, to the good repute of the town. Of timid character and incapable
of exceeding his authority, he would no doubt be greatly embarrassed in
the presence of an insurrection. The Rougons, who knew that he was in
favour of the democratic cause, and who consequently never dreaded his
zeal, were simply curious to know what attitude he would assume. As for
the municipality, this did not cause them much apprehension. The mayor,
Monsieur Garconnet, was a Legitimist whose nomination had been procured
by the influence of the Saint-Marc quarter in 1849. He detested the
Republicans and treated them with undisguised disdain; but he was too
closely united by bonds of friendship with certain members of the
church to lend any active hand in a Bonapartist Coup d'Etat. The other
functionaries were in exactly the same position. The justices of the
peace, the post-master, the tax-collector, as well as Monsieur Peirotte,
the chief receiver of taxes, were all indebted for their posts to
the Clerical reaction, and could not accept the Empire with any great
enthusiasm. The Rougons, though they did not quite see how they might
get rid of these people and clear the way for themselves, nevertheless
indulged in sanguine hopes on finding there was little likelihood of
anybody disputing their role as deliverers.

The denouement was drawing near. In the last few days of November, as
the rumour of a Coup d'Etat was circulating, the prince-president was
accused of seeking the position of emperor.

"Eh! we'll call him whatever he likes," Granoux exclaimed, "provided he
has those Republican rascals shot!"

This exclamation from Granoux, who was believed to be asleep, caused
great commotion. The marquis pretended not to have heard it; but all
the bourgeois nodded approval. Roudier, who, being rich, did not fear to
applaud the sentiment aloud, went so far as to declare, while glancing
askance at Monsieur de Carnavant, that the position was no longer
tenable, and that France must be chastised as soon as possible, never
mind by what hand.

The marquis still maintained a silence which was interpreted as
acquiescence. And thereupon the Conservative clan, abandoning the cause
of Legitimacy, ventured to offer up prayers in favour of the Empire.

"My friends," said Commander Sicardot, rising from his seat, "only a
Napoleon can now protect threatened life and property. Have no fear,
I've taken the necessary precautions to preserve order at Plassans."

As a matter of fact the commander, in concert with Rougon, had
concealed, in a kind of cart-house near the ramparts, both a supply of
cartridges and a considerable number of muskets; he had also taken steps
to secure the co-operation of the National Guard, on which he believed
he could rely. His words produced a very favourable impression.
On separating for the evening, the peaceful citizens of the yellow
drawing-room spoke of massacring the "Reds" if they should dare to stir.

On December 1, Pierre Rougon received a letter from Eugene which he went
to read in his bedroom, in accordance with his prudent habit. Felicite
observed, however, that he was very agitated when he came out again.
She fluttered round the secretaire all day. When night came, she could
restrain her impatience no longer. Her husband had scarcely fallen
asleep, when she quietly got up, took the key of the secretaire from
the waistcoat pocket, and gained possession of the letter with as little
noise as possible. Eugene, in ten lines, warned his father that the
crisis was at hand, and advised him to acquaint his mother with the
situation of affairs. The hour for informing her had arrived; he might
stand in need of her advice.

Felicite awaited, on the morrow, a disclosure which did not come. She
did not dare to confess her curiosity; but continued to feign ignorance,
though enraged at the foolish distrust of her husband, who, doubtless,
considered her a gossip, and weak like other women. Pierre, with
that marital pride which inspires a man with the belief in his own
superiority at home, had ended by attributing all their past ill-luck to
his wife. From the time that he fancied he had been conducting matters
alone everything seemed to him to have gone as he desired. He had
decided, therefore, to dispense altogether with his consort's counsels,
and to confide nothing to her, in spite of his son's recommendations.

Felicite was piqued to such a degree that she would have upset the whole
affair had she not desired the triumph as ardently as Pierre. So she
continued to work energetically for victory, while endeavouring to take
her revenge.

"Ah! if he could only have some great fright," thought she; "if he would
only commit some act of imprudence! Then I should see him come to me and
humbly ask for advice; it would be my turn to lay down the law."

She felt somewhat uneasy at the imperious attitude Pierre would
certainly assume if he were to triumph without her aid. On marrying this
peasant's son, in preference to some notary's clerk, she had intended to
make use of him as a strongly made puppet, whose strings she would pull
in her own way; and now, at the decisive moment, the puppet, in his
blind stupidity, wanted to work alone!



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Keywords: possible, succeeded, fortune, husband, certain, herself, position, functionaries, commander, granoux
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