A B C D E F
G H I J K L M 

Total read books on site:
more than 20000

You can read its for free!


Text on one page: Few Medium Many
He
was just about to leave the room himself, when Macquart awoke and began
to pommel the door of his prison. He declared he was hungry, then asked
what time it was, and when his brother had told him it was five o'clock,
he feigned great astonishment, and muttered, with diabolical malice,
that the insurgents had promised to return much earlier, and that they
were very slow in coming to deliver him. Rougon, having ordered
some food to be taken to him, went downstairs, quite worried by the
earnestness with which the rascal spoke of the return of the insurgents.

When he reached the street, his disquietude increased. The town seemed
to him quite altered. It was assuming a strange aspect; shadows were
gliding along the footpaths, which were growing deserted and silent,
while gloomy fear seemed, like fine rain, to be slowly, persistently
falling with the dusk over the mournful-looking houses. The babbling
confidence of the daytime was fatally terminating in groundless panic,
in growing alarm as the night drew nearer; the inhabitants were so weary
and so satiated with their triumph that they had no strength left but to
dream of some terrible retaliation on the part of the insurgents. Rougon
shuddered as he passed through this current of terror. He hastened his
steps, feeling as if he would choke. As he passed a cafe on the Place
des Recollets, where the lamps had just been lit, and where the petty
cits of the new town were assembled, he heard a few words of terrifying
conversation.

"Well! Monsieur Picou," said one man in a thick voice, "you've heard the
news? The regiment that was expected has not arrived."

"But nobody expected any regiment, Monsieur Touche," a shrill voice
replied.

"I beg your pardon. You haven't read the proclamation, then?"

"Oh yes, it's true the placards declare that order will be maintained by
force, if necessary."

"You see, then, there's force mentioned; that means armed forces, of
course."

"What do people say then?"

"Well, you know, folks are beginning to feel rather frightened; they say
that this delay on the part of the soldiers isn't natural, and that the
insurgents may well have slaughtered them."

A cry of horror resounded through the cafe. Rougon was inclined to go in
and tell those bourgeois that the proclamation had never announced the
arrival of a regiment, that they had no right to strain its meaning
to such a degree, nor to spread such foolish theories abroad. But he
himself, amidst the disquietude which was coming over him, was not quite
sure he had not counted upon a despatch of troops; and he did, in fact,
consider it strange that not a single soldier had made his appearance.
So he reached home in a very uneasy state of mind. Felicite, still
petulant and full of courage, became quite angry at seeing him upset by
such silly trifles. Over the dessert she comforted him.

"Well, you great simpleton," she said, "so much the better, if the
prefect does forget us! We shall save the town by ourselves. For my
part, I should like to see the insurgents return, so that we might
receive them with bullets and cover ourselves with glory. Listen to
me, go and have the gates closed, and don't go to bed; bustle about all
night; it will all be taken into account later on."

Pierre returned to the town-hall in rather more cheerful spirits. He
required some courage to remain firm amidst the woeful maunderings of
his colleagues. The members of the Provisional Commission seemed to reek
with panic, just as they might with damp in the rainy season. They all
professed to have counted upon the despatch of a regiment, and began to
exclaim that brave citizens ought not to be abandoned in such a manner
to the fury of the rabble. Pierre, to preserve peace, almost promised
they should have a regiment on the morrow. Then he announced, in a
solemn manner, that he was going to have the gates closed. This came as
a relief. Detachments of the national guards had to repair immediately
to each gate and double-lock it. When they had returned, several members
confessed that they really felt more comfortable; and when Pierre
remarked that the critical situation of the town imposed upon them the
duty of remaining at their posts, some of them made arrangements with
the view of spending the night in an arm-chair. Granoux put on a black
silk skull cap which he had brought with him by way of precaution.
Towards eleven o'clock, half of the gentlemen were sleeping round
Monsieur Garconnet's writing table. Those who still managed to keep
their eyes open fancied, as they listened to the measured tramp of
the national guards in the courtyard, that they were heroes and were
receiving decorations. A large lamp, placed on the writing-table,
illumined this strange vigil. All at once, however, Rougon, who had
seemed to be slumbering, jumped up, and sent for Vuillet. He had just
remembered that he had not received the "Gazette."

The bookseller made his appearance in a very bad humour.

"Well!" Rougon asked him as he took him aside, "what about the article
you promised me? I haven't seen the paper."

"Is that what you disturbed me for?" Vuillet angrily retorted. "The
'Gazette' has not been issued; I've no desire to get myself murdered
to-morrow, should the insurgents come back."

Rougon tried to smile as he declared that, thank heaven, nobody would be
murdered at all. It was precisely because false and disquieting rumours
were running about that the article in question would have rendered
great service to the good cause.

"Possibly," Vuillet resumed; "but the best of causes at the present
time is to keep one's head on one's shoulders." And he added, with
maliciousness, "And I was under the impression you had killed all the
insurgents! You've left too many of them for me to run any risk."

Rougon, when he was alone again, felt amazed at this mutiny on the part
of a man who was usually so meek and mild. Vuillet's conduct seemed
to him suspicious. But he had no time to seek an explanation; he had
scarcely stretched himself out afresh in his arm-chair, when Roudier
entered, with a big sabre, which he had attached to his belt, clattering
noisily against his legs. The sleepers awoke in a fright. Granoux
thought it was a call to arms.

"Eh? what! What's the matter?" he asked, as he hastily put his black
silk cap into his pocket.

"Gentlemen," said Roudier, breathlessly, without thinking of taking
any oratorical precautions, "I believe that a band of insurgents is
approaching the town."

These words were received with the silence of terror. Rougon alone had
the strength to ask, "Have you seen them?"

"No," the retired hosier replied; "but we hear strange noises out in the
country; one of my men assured me that he had seen fires along the slope
of the Garrigues."

Then, as all the gentlemen stared at each other white and speechless,
"I'll return to my post," he continued. "I fear an attack. You had
better take precautions."

Rougon would have followed him, to obtain further particulars, but he
was already too far away. After this the Commission was by no means
inclined to go to sleep again. Strange noises! Fires! An attack! And
in the middle of the night too! It was very easy to talk of taking
precautions, but what were they to do? Granoux was very near advising
the course which had proved so successful the previous evening: that
is of hiding themselves, waiting till the insurgents has passed through
Plassans, and then triumphing in the deserted streets. Pierre, however,
fortunately remembering his wife's advice, said that Roudier might
have made a mistake, and that the best thing would be to go and see for
themselves. Some of the members made a wry face at this suggestion;
but when it had been agreed that an armed escort should accompany the
Commission, they all descended very courageously. They only left a few
men downstairs; they surrounded themselves with about thirty of the
national guards, and then they ventured into the slumbering town, where
the moon, creeping over the house roofs, slowly cast lengthened shadows.
They went along the ramparts, from one gate to the other, seeing nothing
and hearing nothing. The national guards at the various posts certainly
told them that peculiar sounds occasionally reached them from the
country through the closed gates. When they strained their ears,
however, they detected nothing but a distant murmur, which Granoux said
was merely the noise of the Viorne.

Nevertheless they remained doubtful. And they were about to return to
the town-hall in a state of alarm, though they made a show of shrugging
their shoulders and of treating Roudier as a poltroon and a dreamer,
when Rougon, anxious to reassure them, thought of enabling them to
view the plain over a distance of several leagues. Thereupon he led the
little company to the Saint-Marc quarter and knocked at the door of the
Valqueyras mansion.

At the very outset of the disturbances Count de Valqueyras had left for
his chateau at Corbiere. There was no one but the Marquis de Carnavant
at the Plassans house. He, since the previous evening, had prudently
kept aloof; not that he was afraid, but because he did not care to be
seen plotting with the Rougons at the critical moment. As a matter
of fact, he was burning with curiosity. He had been compelled to shut
himself up in order to resist the temptation of hastening to the yellow
drawing-room. When the footman came to tell him, in the middle of the
night, that there were some gentlemen below asking for him, he could not
hold back any longer. He got up and went downstairs in all haste.

"My dear Marquis," said Rougon, as he introduced to him the members
of the Municipal Commission, "we want to ask a favour of you. Will you
allow us to go into the garden of the mansion?"

"By all means," replied the astonished marquis, "I will conduct you
there myself."

On the way thither he ascertained what their object was. At the end of
the garden rose a terrace which overlooked the plain. A large portion of
the ramparts had there tumbled in, leaving a boundless prospect to the
view.



Pages: | Prev | | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | 20 | | 21 | | 22 | | 23 | | 24 | | 25 | | 26 | | 27 | | 28 | | 29 | | 30 | | 31 | | 32 | | 33 | | 34 | | 35 | | 36 | | 37 | | 38 | | 39 | | 40 | | 41 | | 42 | | 43 | | 44 | | 45 | | 46 | | 47 | | 48 | | 49 | | 50 | | 51 | | 52 | | 53 | | 54 | | 55 | | 56 | | 57 | | 58 | | 59 | | 60 | | 61 | | 62 | | 63 | | 64 | | 65 | | 66 | | 67 | | 68 | | 69 | | 70 | | 71 | | 72 | | 73 | | 74 | | Next |


Keywords: passed, closed, marquis, nothing, precautions, monsieur, downstairs, vuillet, replied, promised
N O P Q R S T
U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.