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"I am the head of the family, and I forbid you to leave this
house. You're risking both your honour and ours. To-morrow I will try to
get you across the frontier."

But Silvere shrugged his shoulders. "Let me pass," he calmly replied.
"I'm not a police-spy; I shall not reveal your hiding-place, never
fear." And as Rougon continued to speak of the family dignity and the
authority with which his seniority invested him: "Do I belong to your
family?" the young man continued. "You have always disowned me. To-day,
fear has driven you here, because you feel that the day of judgment has
arrived. Come, make way! I don't hide myself; I have a duty to perform."

Rougon did not stir. But Aunt Dide, who had listened with a sort of
delight to Silvere's vehement language, laid her withered hand on her
son's arm. "Get out of the way, Pierre," she said; "the lad must go."

The young man gave his uncle a slight shove, and dashed outside. Then
Rougon, having carefully shut the door again, said to his mother in an
angry, threatening tone: "If any mischief happens to him it will be your
fault. You're an old mad-woman; you don't know what you've just done."

Adelaide, however, did not appear to hear him. She went and threw some
vine-branches on the fire, which was going out, and murmured with a
vague smile: "I'm used to it. He would remain away for months together,
and then come back to me in much better health."

She was no doubt speaking of Macquart.

In the meantime, Silvere hastily regained the market-place. As he
approached the spot where he had left Miette, he heard a loud uproar of
voices and saw a crowd which made him quicken his steps. A cruel scene
had just occurred. Some inquisitive people were walking among the
insurgents, while the latter quietly partook of their meal. Amongst
these onlookers was Justin Rebufat, the son of the farmer of the
Jas-Meiffren, a youth of twenty years old, a sickly, squint-eyed
creature, who harboured implacable hatred against his cousin Miette.
At home he grudged her the bread she ate, and treated her like a beggar
picked up from the gutter out of charity. It is probable that the young
girl had rejected his advances. Lank and pale, with ill-proportioned
limbs and face all awry, he revenged himself upon her for his own
ugliness, and the contempt which the handsome, vigorous girl must have
evinced for him. He ardently longed to induce his father to send her
about her business; and for this reason he was always spying upon her.
For some time past, he had become aware of the meetings with Silvere,
and had only awaited a decisive opportunity to reveal everything to his
father, Rebufat.

On the evening in question, having seen her leave home at about eight
o'clock, Justin's hatred had overpowered him, and he had been unable
to keep silent any longer. Rebufat, on hearing his story, fell into a
terrible rage, and declared that he would kick the gadabout out of his
house should she have the audacity to return. Justin then went to
bed, relishing beforehand the fine scene which would take place on the
morrow. Then, however, a burning desire came upon him for some immediate
foretaste of his revenge. So he dressed himself again and went out.
Perhaps he might meet Miette. In that case he was resolved to treat
her insolently. This is how he came to witness the arrival of the
insurgents, whom he followed to the town-hall with a vague presentiment
that he would find the lovers there. And, indeed, he at last caught
sight of his cousin on the seat where she was waiting for Silvere.
Seeing her wrapped in her long pelisse, with the red flag at her side,
resting against a market pillar, he began to sneer and deride her in
foul language. The girl, thunderstruck at seeing him, was unable
to speak. She wept beneath his abuse, and whist she was overcome by
sobbing, bowing her head and hiding her face, Justin called her a
convict's daughter, and shouted that old Rebufat would give her a good
thrashing should she ever dare to return to Jas-Meiffren.

For a quarter of an hour he thus kept her smarting and trembling. Some
people had gathered round, and grinned stupidly at the painful scene.
At last a few insurgents interfered, and threatened the young man with
exemplary chastisement if he did not leave Miette alone. But Justin,
although he retreated, declared that he was not afraid of them. It was
just at this moment that Silvere came up. Young Rebufat, on catching
sight of him, made a sudden bound, as if to take flight; for he was
afraid of him, knowing that he was much stronger than himself. He could
not, however, resist the temptation to cast a parting insult on the girl
in her lover's presence.

"Ah! I knew very well," he cried, "that the wheelwright could not be
far off! You left us to run after that crack-brained fellow, eh? You
wretched girl! When's the baptism to be?"

Then he retreated a few steps further on seeing Silvere clench his
fists.

"And mind," he continued, with a vile sneer, "don't come to our house
again. My father will kick you out if you do! Do you hear?"

But he ran away howling, with bruised visage. For Silvere had bounded
upon him and dealt him a blow full in the face. The young man did
not pursue him. When he returned to Miette he found her standing up,
feverishly wiping her tears away with the palm of her hand. And as
he gazed at her tenderly, in order to console her, she made a sudden
energetic gesture. "No," she said, "I'm not going to cry any more,
you'll see. I'm very glad of it. I don't feel any regret now for having
left home. I am free."

She took up the flag and led Silvere back into the midst of the
insurgents. It was now nearly two o'clock in the morning. The cold was
becoming so intense that the Republicans had risen to their feet and
were marching to and fro in order to warm themselves while they finished
their bread. At last their leaders gave orders for departure. The column
formed again. The prisoners were placed in the middle of it. Besides
Monsieur Garconnet and Commander Sicardot, the insurgents had
arrested Monsieur Peirotte, the receiver of taxes, and several other
functionaries, all of whom they led away.

At this moment Aristide was observed walking about among the groups.
In presence of this formidable rising, the dear fellow had thought it
imprudent not to remain on friendly terms with the Republicans; but as,
on the other hand, he did not desire to compromise himself too much,
he had come to bid them farewell with his arm in a sling, complaining
bitterly of the accursed injury which prevented him from carrying
a weapon. As he walked through the crowd he came across his brother
Pascal, provided with a case of surgical instruments and a little
portable medicine chest. The doctor informed him, in his quiet, way,
that he intended to follow the insurgents. At this Aristide inwardly
pronounced him a great fool. At last he himself slunk away, fearing lest
the others should entrust the care of the town to him, a post which he
deemed exceptionally perilous.

The insurgents could not think of keeping Plassans in their power. The
town was animated by so reactionary a spirit that it seemed impossible
even to establish a democratic municipal commission there, as had
already been done in other places. So they would simply have gone off
without taking any further steps if Macquart, prompted and emboldened by
his own private animosities, had not offered to hold Plassans in awe, on
condition that they left him twenty determined men. These men were given
him, and at their head he marched off triumphantly to take possession
of the town-hall. Meantime the column of insurgents was wending its
way along the Cours Sauvaire, and making its exit by the Grand'-Porte,
leaving the streets, which it had traversed like a tempest, silent
and deserted in its rear. The high road, whitened by the moonshine,
stretched far into the distance. Miette had refused the support of
Silvere's arm; she marched on bravely, steady and upright, holding the
red flag aloft with both hands, without complaining of the cold which
was turning her fingers blue.



CHAPTER V

The high roads stretched far way, white with moonlight.

The insurrectionary army was continuing its heroic march through the
cold, clear country. It was like a mighty wave of enthusiasm. The thrill
of patriotism, which transported Miette and Silvere, big children that
they were, eager for love and liberty, sped, with generous fervour,
athwart the sordid intrigues of the Macquarts and the Rougons. At
intervals the trumpet-voice of the people rose and drowned the prattle
of the yellow drawing-room and the hateful discourses of uncle Antoine.
And vulgar, ignoble farce was turned into a great historical drama.

On quitting Plassans, the insurgents had taken the road to Orcheres.
They expected to reach that town at about ten o'clock in the morning.
The road skirts the course of the Viorne, following at some height the
windings of the hillocks, below which the torrent flows. On the left,
the plain spreads out like an immense green carpet, dotted here and
there with grey villages. On the right, the chain of the Garrigues rears
its desolate peaks, its plateaux of stones, its huge rusty boulders
that look as though they had been reddened by the sun. The high road,
embanked along the riverside, passes on amidst enormous rocks, between
which glimpses of the valley are caught at every step. Nothing could be
wilder or more strikingly grand than this road out of the hillside. At
night time, especially, it inspires one with a feeling of deep awe. The
insurgents advanced under the pale light, along what seemed the chief
street of some ruined town, bordered on either side with fragments
of temples. The moon turned each rock into a broken column, crumbling
capital, or stretch of wall pierced with mysterious arches. On high
slumbered the mass of the Garrigues, suffused with a milky tinge, and
resembling some immense Cyclopean city whose towers, obelisks, houses
and high terraces hid one half of the heavens; and in the depths below,
on the side of the plain, was a spreading ocean of diffused light,
vague and limitless, over which floated masses of luminous haze.



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Keywords: people, having, plassans, rougon, however, should, family, o'clock, column, seeing
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