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for a month he lived by taking his children's old clothes, one by one,
to a second-hand dealer's, and in the same way, little by little, he
sold all the small articles in the house. Soon nothing remained but
a table, a chair, his bed, and the clothes on his back. He ended by
exchanging the walnut-wood bedstead for a plain strap one. When he had
exhausted all his resources, he cried with rage; and, with the fierce
pallor of a man who is resigned to suicide, he went to look for the
bundle of osier that he had forgotten in some corner for a quarter of
a century past. As he took it up he seemed to be lifting a mountain.
However, he again began to plait baskets and hampers, while denouncing
the human race for their neglect.

It was particularly at this time that he talked of dividing and sharing
the riches of the wealthy. He showed himself terrible. His speeches
kept up a constant conflagration in the tavern, where his furious looks
secured him unlimited credit. Moreover, he only worked when he had been
unable to get a five-franc piece out of Silvere or a comrade. He was
no longer "Monsieur" Macquart, the clean-shaven workman, who wore his
Sunday clothes every day and played the gentleman; he again became the
big slovenly devil who had once speculated on his rags. Felicite did not
dare to go to market now that he was so often coming there to sell
his baskets. He once had a violent quarrel with her there. His hatred
against the Rougons grew with his wretchedness. He swore, with horrible
threats, that he would wreak justice himself, since the rich were
leagued together to compel him to toil.

In this state of mind, he welcomed the Coup d'Etat with the ardent,
obstreperous delight of a hound scenting the quarry. As the few honest
Liberals in the town had failed to arrive at an understanding amongst
themselves, and therefore kept apart, he became naturally one of
the most prominent agents of the insurrection. The working classes,
notwithstanding the unfavourable opinion which they at last entertained
of this lazy fellow, would, when the time arrived, have to accept him
as a rallying flag. On the first few days, however, the town remained
quiet, and Macquart thought that his plans were frustrated. It was not
until the news arrived of the rising of the rural districts that he
recovered hope. For his own part he would not have left Plassans for all
the world; accordingly he invented some pretext for not following those
workmen who, on the Sunday morning, set off to join the insurrectionary
band of La Palud and Saint-Martin-de-Vaulx.

On the evening of the same day he was sitting in some disreputable
tavern of the old quarter with a few friends, when a comrade came to
inform him that the insurgents were only a few miles from Plassans. This
news had just been brought by an express, who had succeeded in making
his way into the town, and had been charged to get the gates opened
for the column. There was an outburst of triumph. Macquart, especially,
appeared to be delirious with enthusiasm. The unforeseen arrival of the
insurgents seemed to him a delicate attention of Providence for his own
particular benefit. His hands trembled at the idea that he would soon
hold the Rougons by the throat.

He hastily quitted the tavern with his friends. All the Republicans who
had not yet left the town were soon assembled on the Cours Sauvaire. It
was this band that Rougon had perceived as he was hastening to conceal
himself in his mother's house. When the band had reached the top of
the Rue de la Banne, Macquart, who had stationed himself at the rear,
detained four of his companions, big fellows who were not over-burdened
with brains and whom he swayed by his tavern bluster. He easily
persuaded them that the enemies of the Republic must be arrested
immediately if they wished to prevent the greatest calamities. The truth
was that he feared Pierre might escape him in the midst of the confusion
which the entry of the insurgents would produce. However, the four big
fellows followed him with exemplary docility, and knocked violently
at the door of the Rougons' abode. In this critical situation Felicite
displayed admirable courage. She went down and opened the street door
herself.

"We want to go upstairs into your rooms," Macquart said to her brutally.

"Very well, gentlemen, walk up," she replied with ironical politeness,
pretending that she did not recognise her brother-in-law.

Once upstairs, Macquart ordered her to fetch her husband.

"My husband is not here," she said with perfect calmness; "he is
travelling on business. He took the diligence for Marseilles at six
o'clock this evening."

Antoine at this declaration, which Felicite uttered in a clear voice,
made a gesture of rage. He rushed through the drawing-room, and then
into the bedroom, turned the bed up, looked behind the curtains and
under the furniture. The four big fellows assisted him. They searched
the place for a quarter of an hour. Felicite meantime quietly seated
herself on the drawing-room sofa, and began to fasten the strings of her
petticoats, like a person who has been surprised in her sleep and has
not had time to dress properly.

"It's true then, he's run away, the coward!" Macquart muttered on
returning to the drawing-room.

Nevertheless, he continued to look about him with a suspicious air. He
felt a presentiment that Pierre could not have given up the game at the
decisive moment. At last he approached Felicite, who was yawning: "Show
us the place where your husband is hidden," he said to her, "and I
promise no harm shall be done to him."

"I have told you the truth," she replied impatiently. "I can't deliver
my husband to you, as he's not here. You have searched everywhere,
haven't you? Then leave me alone now."

Macquart, exasperated by her composure, was just going to strike her,
when a rumbling noise arose from the street. It was the column of
insurgents entering the Rue de la Banne.

He then had to leave the yellow drawing-room, after shaking his fist
at his sister-in-law, calling her an old jade, and threatening that he
would soon return. At the foot of the staircase, he took one of the men
who accompanied him, a navvy named Cassoute, the most wooden-headed of
the four, and ordered him to sit on the first step, and remain there.

"You must come and inform me," he said to him, "if you see the scoundrel
from upstairs return."

The man sat down heavily. When Macquart reached the pavement, he
raised his eyes and observed Felicite leaning out of the window of the
yellow-drawing room, watching the march past of the insurgents, as if
it was nothing but a regiment passing through the town to the strains
of its band. This last sign of perfect composure irritated him to such a
degree that he was almost tempted to go up again and throw the old woman
into the street. However, he followed the column, muttering in a hoarse
voice: "Yes, yes, look at us passing. We'll see whether you will station
yourself at your balcony to-morrow."

It was nearly eleven o'clock at night when the insurgents entered the
town by the Porte de Rome. The workmen remaining in Plassans had opened
the gate for them, in spite of the wailings of the keeper, from whom
they could only wrest the keys by force. This man, very jealous of his
office, stood dumbfoundered in the presence of the surging crowd. To
think of it! he, who never allowed more than one person to pass in at
a time, and then only after a prolonged examination of his face! And
he murmured that he was dishonoured. The men of Plassans were still
marching at the head of the column by way of guiding the others; Miette,
who was in the front rank, with Silvere on her left, held up her banner
more proudly than ever now that she could divine behind the closed
blinds the scared looks of well-to-do bourgeois startled out of their
sleep. The insurgents passed along the Rue de Rome and the Rue de la
Banne slowly and warily; at every crossway, although they well knew the
quiet disposition of the inhabitants, they feared they might be received
with bullets. The town seemed lifeless, however; there was scarcely
a stifled exclamation to be heard at the windows. Only five or six
shutters opened. Some old householder then appeared in his night-shirt,
candle in hand, and leant out to obtain a better view; but as soon as he
distinguished the tall red girl who appeared to be drawing that crowd of
black demons behind her, he hastily closed his window again, terrified
by such a diabolical apparition.

The silence of the slumbering town reassured the insurgents, who
ventured to make their way through the lanes of the old quarter, and
thus reached the market-place and the Place de l'Hotel-de-Ville, which
was connected by a short but broad street. These open spaces, planted
with slender trees, were brilliantly illumined by the moon. Against the
clear sky the recently restored town-hall appeared like a large patch of
crude whiteness, the fine black lines of the wrought-iron arabesques of
the first-floor balcony showing in bold relief. Several persons could
be plainly distinguished standing on this balcony, the mayor, Commander
Sicardot, three or four municipal councillors, and other functionaries.
The doors below were closed. The three thousand Republicans, who covered
both open spaces, halted with upraised heads, ready to force the doors
with a single push.

The arrival of the insurrectionary column at such an hour took the
authorities by surprise. Before repairing to the mayor's, Commander
Sicardot had taken time to don his uniform. He then had to run and rouse
the mayor. When the keeper of the Porte de Rome, who had been left free
by the insurgents, came to announce that the villains were already in
the town, the commander had so far only managed to assemble a score of
the national guards. The gendarmes, though their barracks were close by,
could not even be warned. It was necessary to shut the town-hall
doors in all haste, in order to deliberate. Five minutes later a low
continuous rumbling announced the approach of the column.

Monsieur Garconnet, out of hatred to the Republic, would have greatly
liked to offer resistance.



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Keywords: upstairs, behind, through, reached, closed, fellows, commander, balcony, clothes, seemed
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