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She did not, however, inherit the latter's animal
devotion and endurance. Macquart had implanted in her a most decided
longing for ease and comfort. While she was a child she would consent to
work for a whole day in return for a cake. When she was scarcely seven
years old, the wife of the postmaster, who was a neighbour of the
Macquarts, took a liking to her. She made a little maid of her. And when
she lost her husband in 1839, and went to live in Paris, she took Lisa
with her. The parents had almost given her their daughter.

[*] The pork-butcher's wife in _Le Ventre de Paris_ (_The
Fat and the Thin_).

The second girl, Gervaise,[*] born the following year, was a cripple
from birth. Her right thigh was smaller than the left and showed signs
of curvature, a curious hereditary result of the brutality which her
mother had to endure during her fierce drunken brawls with Macquart.
Gervaise remained puny, and Fine, observing her pallor and weakness,
put her on a course of aniseed, under the pretext that she required
something to strengthen her. But the poor child became still more
emaciated. She was a tall, lank girl, whose frocks, invariably too
large, hung round her as if they had nothing under them. Above a
deformed and puny body she had a sweet little doll-like head, a tiny
round face, pale and exquisitely delicate. Her infirmity almost became
graceful. Her body swayed gently at every step with a sort of rhythmical
swing.

[*] The chief female character in _L'Assommoir_ (_The Dramshop_).

The Macquarts' son, Jean,[*] was born three years later. He was a robust
child, in no respect recalling Gervaise. Like the eldest girl, he took
after his mother, without having any physical resemblance to her. He
was the first to import into the Rougon-Macquart stock a fat face with
regular features, which showed all the coldness of a grave yet not
over-intelligent nature. This boy grew up with the determination of
some day making an independent position for himself. He attended school
diligently, and tortured his dull brain to force a little arithmetic and
spelling into it. After that he became an apprentice, repeating much
the same efforts with a perseverance that was the more meritorious as it
took him a whole day to learn what others acquired in an hour.

[*] Figures prominently in _La Terre_ (_The Earth_) and _La
Debacle_ (_The Downfall_).

As long as these poor little things remained a burden to the house,
Antoine grumbled. They were useless mouths that lessened his own share.
He vowed, like his brother, that he would have no more children, those
greedy creatures who bring their parents to penury. It was something to
hear him bemoan his lot when they sat five at table, and the mother gave
the best morsels to Jean, Lisa, and Gervaise.

"That's right," he would growl; "stuff them, make them burst!"

Whenever Fine bought a garment or a pair of boots for them, he would
sulk for days together. Ah! if he had only known, he would never had had
that pack of brats, who compelled him to limit his smoking to four sous'
worth of tobacco a day, and too frequently obliged him to eat stewed
potatoes for dinner, a dish which he heartily detested.

Later on, however, as soon as Jean and Gervaise earned their first
francs, he found some good in children after all. Lisa was no longer
there. He lived upon the earnings of the two others without compunction,
as he had already lived upon their mother. It was a well-planned
speculation on his part. As soon as little Gervaise was eight years old,
she went to a neighbouring dealer's to crack almonds; she there earned
ten sous a day, which her father pocketed right royally, without even
a question from Fine as to what became of the money. The young girl was
next apprenticed to a laundress, and as soon as she received two francs
a day for her work, the two francs strayed in a similar manner into
Macquart's hands. Jean, who had learnt the trade of a carpenter, was
likewise despoiled on pay-days, whenever Macquart succeeded in catching
him before he had handed the money to his mother. If the money escaped
Macquart, which sometimes happened, he became frightfully surly. He
would glare at his wife and children for a whole week, picking a quarrel
for nothing, although he was, as yet, ashamed to confess the real cause
of his irritations. On the next pay-day, however, he would station
himself on the watch, and as soon as he had succeeded in pilfering the
youngster's earnings, he disappeared for days together.

Gervaise, beaten and brought up in the streets among all the lads of the
neighbourhood, became a mother when she was fourteen years of age. The
father of her child was not eighteen years old. He was a journeyman
tanner named Lantier. At first Macquart was furious, but he calmed
down somewhat when he learnt that Lantier's mother, a worthy woman, was
willing to take charge of the child. He kept Gervaise, however; she was
then already earning twenty-five sous a day, and he therefore avoided
all question of marriage. Four years later she had a second child, which
was likewise taken in by Lantier's mother. This time Macquart shut his
eyes altogether. And when Fine timidly suggested that it was time to
come to some understanding with the tanner, in order to end a state of
things which made people chatter, he flatly declared that his daughter
should not leave him, and that he would give her to her lover later on,
"when he was worthy of her, and had enough money to furnish a home."

This was a fine time for Antoine Macquart. He dressed like a gentleman,
in frock-coats and trousers of the finest cloth. Cleanly shaved, and
almost fat, he was no longer the emaciated ragged vagabond who had been
wont to frequent the taverns. He dropped into cafes, read the papers,
and strolled on the Cours Sauvaire. He played the gentleman as long as
he had any money in his pocket. At times of impecuniosity he remained at
home, exasperated at being kept in his hovel and prevented from taking
his customary cup of coffee. On such occasions he would reproach the
whole human race with his poverty, making himself ill with rage and
envy, until Fine, out of pity, would often give him the last silver coin
in the house so that he might spend his evening at the cafe. This dear
fellow was fiercely selfish. Gervaise, who brought home as much as sixty
francs a month, wore only thin cotton frocks, while he had black satin
waistcoats made for him by one of the best tailors in Plassans.

Jean, the big lad who earned three or four francs a day, was perhaps
robbed even more impudently. The cafe where his father passed entire
days was just opposite his master's workshop, and while he had plane or
saw in hand he could see "Monsieur" Macquart on the other side of the
way, sweetening his coffee or playing piquet with some petty annuitant.
It was his money that the lazy old fellow was gambling away. He, Jean,
never stepped inside a cafe, he never had so much as five sous to pay
for a drink. Antoine treated him like a little girl, never leaving him a
centime, and always demanding an exact account of the manner in which he
had employed his time. If the unfortunate lad, led away by some of
his mates, wasted a day somewhere in the country, on the banks of the
Viorne, or on the slopes of Garrigues, his father would storm and raise
his hand, and long bear him a grudge on account of the four francs less
that he received at the end of the fortnight. He thus held his son in
a state of dependence, sometimes even looking upon the sweethearts whom
the young carpenter courted as his own. Several of Gervaise's friends
used to come to the Macquarts' house, work-girls from sixteen to
eighteen years of age, bold and boisterous girls who, on certain
evenings, filled the room with youth and gaiety. Poor Jean, deprived of
all pleasure, ever kept at home by the lack of money, looked at these
girls with longing eyes; but the childish life which he was compelled
to lead had implanted invincible shyness in him; in playing with his
sister's friends, he was hardly bold enough to touch them with the tips
of his fingers. Macquart used to shrug his shoulders with pity.

"What a simpleton!" he would mutter, with an air of ironical
superiority.

And it was he who would kiss the girls, when his wife's back was turned.
He carried his attentions even further with a little laundress whom Jean
pursued rather more earnestly than the others. One fine evening he stole
her almost from his arms. The old rogue prided himself on his gallantry.

There are some men who live upon their mistresses. Antoine Macquart
lived on his wife and children with as much shamelessness and impudence.
He did not feel the least compunction in pillaging the home and going
out to enjoy himself when the house was bare. He still assumed a
supercilious air, returning from the cafe only to rail against the
poverty and wretchedness that awaited him at home. He found the dinner
detestable, he called Gervaise a blockhead, and declared that Jean would
never be a man. Immersed in his own selfish indulgence, he rubbed his
hands whenever he had eaten the best piece in the dish; and then he
smoked his pipe, puffing slowly, while the two poor children, overcome
with fatigue, went to sleep with their heads resting on the table.
Thus Macquart passed his days in lazy enjoyment. It seemed to him quite
natural that he should be kept in idleness like a girl, to sprawl about
on the benches of some tavern, or stroll in the cool of the day along
the Cours or the Mail. At last he went so far as to relate his amorous
escapades in the presence of his son, who listened with glistening
eyes. The children never protested, accustomed as they were to see their
mother humble herself before her husband.

Fine, that strapping woman who drubbed him soundly when they were both
intoxicated, always trembled before him when she was sober, and allowed
him to rule despotically at home. He robbed her in the night of the
coppers which she had earned during the day at the market, but she
never dared to protest, except by veiled rebukes.



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