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Macquart, amidst this perfumed soporific
atmosphere fell asleep, thinking that those scoundrels, the rich, "were
very fortunate, all the same." He had covered himself with a blanket
which had been given to him, and with his head and back and arms
reposing on the cushions, he stretched himself out on the couch until
morning. When he opened his eyes, a ray of sunshine was gliding through
the opening above. Still he did not leave the sofa. He felt warm, and
lay thinking as he gazed around him. He bethought himself that he would
never again have such a place to wash in. The washstand particularly
interested him. It was by no means hard, he thought, to keep oneself
spruce when one had so many little pots and phials at one's disposal.
This made him think bitterly of his own life of privation. The idea
occurred to him that perhaps he had been on the wrong track. There
is nothing to be gained by associating with beggars. He ought to have
played the scamp; he should have acted in concert with the Rougons.

Then, however, he rejected this idea. The Rougons were villains who had
robbed him. But the warmth and softness of the sofa, continued to work
upon his feelings, and fill him with vague regrets. After all, the
insurgents were abandoning him, and allowing themselves to be beaten
like idiots. Eventually he came to the conclusion that the Republic was
mere dupery. Those Rougons were lucky! And he recalled his own bootless
wickedness and underhand intrigues. Not one member of the family had
ever been on his side; neither Aristide, nor Silvere's brother, nor
Silvere himself, who was a fool to grow so enthusiastic about the
Republic and would never do any good for himself. Then Macquart
reflected that his wife was dead, that his children had left him, and
that he would die alone, like a dog in some wretched corner, without a
copper to bless himself with. Decidedly, he ought to have sold himself
to the reactionary party. Pondering in this fashion, he eyed the
washstand, feeling a strong inclination to go and wash his hands with a
certain powder soap which he saw in a glass jar. Like all lazy fellows
who live upon their wives or children, he had foppish tastes. Although
he wore patched trousers, he liked to inundate himself with aromatic
oil. He spent hours with his barber, who talked politics, and brushed
his hair for him between their discussions. So, at last, the temptation
became too strong, and Macquart installed himself before the washstand.
He washed his hands and face, dressed his hair, perfumed himself, in
fact went through a complete toilet. He made use in turn of all the
bottles, all the various soaps and powders; but his greatest pleasure
was to dry his hands with the mayor's towels, which were so soft and
thick. He buried his wet face in them, and inhaled, with delight, all
the odour of wealth. Then, having pomaded himself, and smelling sweetly
from head to foot, he once more stretched himself on the sofa, feeling
quite youthful again, and disposed to the most conciliatory thoughts. He
felt yet greater contempt for the Republic since he had dipped his nose
into Monsieur Garconnet's phials. The idea occurred to him that there
was, perhaps, still time for him to make peace with his brother. He
wondered what he might well ask in return for playing the traitor. His
rancour against the Rougons still gnawed at his heart; but he was in one
of those moods when, lying on one's back in silence, one is apt to admit
stern facts, and scold oneself for neglecting to feather a comfortable
nest in which one may wallow in slothful ease, even at the cost of
relinquishing one's most cherished animosities. Towards evening Antoine
determined to send for his brother on the following day. But when, in
the morning, he saw Felicite enter the room he understood that his aid
was wanted, so he remained on his guard.

The negotiations were long and full of pitfalls, being conducted on
either side with infinite skill. At first they both indulged in vague
complaints, then Felicite, who was surprised to find Macquart almost
polite, after the violent manner in which he had behaved at her house on
the Sunday evening, assumed a tone of gentle reproach. She deplored
the hatred which severed their families. But, in truth, he had so
calumniated his brother, and manifested such bitter animosity towards
him, that he had made poor Rougon quite lose his head.

"But, dash it, my brother has never behaved like a brother to me,"
Macquart replied, with restrained violence. "Has he ever given me
any assistance? He would have let me die in my hovel! When he behaved
differently towards me--you remember, at the time he gave me two hundred
francs--I am sure no one can reproach me with having said a single
unpleasant word about him. I said everywhere that he was a very
good-hearted fellow."

This clearly signified: "If you had continued to supply me with money,
I should have been very pleasant towards you, and would have helped you,
instead of fighting against you. It's your own fault. You ought to have
bought me."

Felicite understood this so well that she replied: "I know you have
accused us of being hard upon you, because you imagine we are in
comfortable circumstances; but you are mistaken, my dear brother; we are
poor people; we have never been able to act towards you as our hearts
would have desired." She hesitated a moment, and then continued: "If it
were absolutely necessary in some serious contingency, we might perhaps
be able to make a sacrifice; but, truly, we are very poor, very poor!"

Macquart pricked up his ears. "I have them!" he thought. Then, without
appearing to understand his sister-in-law's indirect offer, he detailed
the wretchedness of his life in a doleful manner, and spoke of his
wife's death and his children's flight. Felicite, on her side, referred
to the crisis through which the country was passing, and declared that
the Republic had completely ruined them. Then from word to word she
began to bemoan the exigencies of a situation which compelled one
brother to imprison another. How their hearts would bleed if justice
refused to release its prey! And finally she let slip the word
"galleys!"

"Bah! I defy you," said Macquart calmly.

But she hastily exclaimed: "Oh! I would rather redeem the honour of the
family with my own blood. I tell you all this to show you that we shall
not abandon you. I have come to give you the means of effecting your
escape, my dear Antoine."

They gazed at each other for a moment, sounding each other with a look,
before engaging in the contest.

"Unconditionally?" he asked, at length.

"Without any condition," she replied.

Then she sat down beside him on the sofa, and continued, in a determined
voice: "And even, before crossing the frontier, if you want to earn a
thousand-franc note, I can put you in the way of doing so."

There was another pause.

"If it's all above board I shall have no objection," Antoine muttered,
apparently reflecting. "You know I don't want to mix myself up with your
underhand dealings."

"But there are no underhand dealings about it," Felicite resumed,
smiling at the old rascal's scruples. "Nothing can be more simple: you
will presently leave this room, and go and conceal yourself in your
mother's house, and this evening you can assemble your friends and come
and seize the town-hall again."

Macquart did not conceal his extreme surprise. He did not understand it
at all.

"I thought," he said, "that you were victorious."

"Oh! I haven't got time now to tell you all about it," the old woman
replied, somewhat impatiently. "Do you accept or not?"

"Well, no; I don't accept--I want to think it over. It would be very
stupid of me to risk a possible fortune for a thousand francs."

Felicite rose. "Just as you like my dear fellow," she said, coldly. "You
don't seem to realise the position you are in. You came to my house and
treated me as though I were a mere outcast; and then, when I am kind
enough to hold out a hand to you in the hole into which you have
stupidly let yourself fall, you stand on ceremony, and refuse to be
rescued. Well, then, stay here, wait till the authorities come back. As
for me, I wash my hands of the whole business."

With these words she reached the door.

"But give me some explanations," he implored. "I can't strike a bargain
with you in perfect ignorance of everything. For two days past I have
been quite in the dark as to what's going on. How do I know that you are
not cheating me?"

"Bah! you're a simpleton," replied Felicite, who had retraced her steps
at Antoine's doleful appeal. "You are very foolish not to trust yourself
implicitly to us. A thousand francs! That's a fine sum, a sum that one
would only risk in a winning cause. I advise you to accept."

He still hesitated.

"But when we want to seize the place, shall we be allowed to enter
quietly?"

"Ah! I don't know," she said, with a smile. "There will perhaps be a
shot or two fired."

He looked at her fixedly.

"Well, but I say, little woman," he resumed in a hoarse voice, "you
don't intend, do you, to have a bullet lodged in my head?"

Felicite blushed. She was, in fact, just thinking that they would be
rendered a great service, if, during the attack on the town-hall, a
bullet should rid them of Antoine. It would be a gain of a thousand
francs, besides all the rest. So she muttered with irritation: "What an
idea! Really, it's abominable to think such things!"

Then, suddenly calming down, she added:

"Do you accept? You understand now, don't you?"

Macquart had understood perfectly. It was an ambush that they were
proposing to him. He did not perceive the reasons or the consequences
of it, and this was what induced him to haggle. After speaking of the
Republic as though it were a mistress whom, to his great grief, he could
no longer love, he recapitulated the risks which he would have to run,
and finished by asking for two thousand francs. But Felicite abided
by her original offer. They debated the matter until she promised to
procure him, on his return to France, some post in which he would
have nothing to do, and which would pay him well.



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Keywords: behaved, understand, yourself, nothing, should, accept, underhand, before, evening, through
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