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The day broke mournfully
with the grey melancholy of a winter-morning. The inhabitants, hearing
nothing further, ventured forth, weary of trembling beneath their
sheets. At first some ten or fifteen appeared. Later on, when a rumour
spread that the insurgents had taken flight, leaving their dead in
every gutter, Plassans rose in a body and descended upon the town-hall.
Throughout the morning people strolled inquisitively round the four
corpses. They were horribly mutilated, particularly one, which had three
bullets in the head. But the most horrible to look upon was the body
of a national guard, who had fallen under the porch; he had received a
charge of the small shot, used by the Republicans in lieu of bullets,
full in the face; and blood oozed from his torn and riddled countenance.
The crowd feasted their eyes upon this horror, with the avidity for
revolting spectacles which is so characteristic of cowards. The national
guard was freely recognised; he was the pork-butcher Dubruel, the man
whom Roudier had accused on the Monday morning of having fired with
culpable eagerness. Of the three other corpses, two were journeymen
hatters; the third was not identified. For a long while gaping groups
remained shuddering in front of the red pools which stained the
pavement, often looking behind them with an air of mistrust, as though
that summary justice which had restored order during the night by force
of arms, were, even now, watching and listening to them, ready to shoot
them down in their turn, unless they kissed with enthusiasm the hand
that had just rescued them from the demagogy.

The panic of the night further augmented the terrible effect produced
in the morning by the sight of the four corpses. The true history of
the fusillade was never known. The firing of the combatants, Granoux's
hammering, the helter-skelter rush of the national guards through the
streets, had filled people's ears with such terrifying sounds that most
of them dreamed of a gigantic battle waged against countless enemies.
When the victors, magnifying the number of their adversaries with
instinctive braggardism, spoke of about five hundred men, everybody
protested against such a low estimate. Some citizens asserted that they
had looked out of their windows and seen an immense stream of fugitives
passing by for more than an hour. Moreover everybody had heard the
bandits running about. Five hundred men would never have been able to
rouse a whole town. It must have been an army, and a fine big army too,
which the brave militia of Plassans had "driven back into the ground."
This phrase of their having been "driven back into the ground," first
used by Rougon, struck people as being singularly appropriate, for the
guards who were charged with the defence of the ramparts swore by all
that was holy that not a single man had entered or quitted the town,
a circumstance which tinged what had happened with mystery, even
suggesting the idea of horned demons who had vanished amidst flames, and
thus fairly upsetting the minds of the multitude. It is true the guards
avoided all mention of their mad gallops; and so the more rational
citizens were inclined to believe that a band of insurgents had really
entered the town either by a breach in the wall or some other channel.
Later on, rumours of treachery were spread abroad, and people talked of
an ambush. The cruel truth could no longer be concealed by the men whom
Macquart had led to slaughter, but so much terror still prevailed,
and the sight of blood had thrown so many cowards into the arms of the
reactionary party, that these rumours were attributed to the rage of
the vanquished Republicans. It was asserted, on the other hand, that
Macquart had been made prisoner by Rougon, who kept him in a damp cell,
where he was letting him slowly die of starvation. This horrible tale
made people bow to the very ground whenever they encountered Rougon.

Thus it was that this grotesque personage, this pale, flabby,
tun-bellied citizen became, in one night, a terrible captain, whom
nobody dared to ridicule any more. He had steeped his foot in blood.
The inhabitants of the old quarter stood dumb with fright before the
corpses. But towards ten o'clock, when the respectable people of the new
town arrived, the whole square hummed with subdued chatter. People spoke
of the other attack, of the seizure of the mayor's office, in which a
mirror only had been wounded; but this time they no longer pooh-poohed
Rougon, they spoke of him with respectful dismay; he was indeed a hero,
a deliverer. The corpses, with open eyes, stared at those gentlemen, the
lawyers and householders, who shuddered as they murmured that civil war
had many cruel necessities. The notary, the chief of the deputation
sent to the town-hall on the previous evening, went from group to group,
recalling the proud words "I am prepared!" then used by the energetic
man to whom the town owed its safety. There was a general feeling of
humiliation. Those who had railed most cruelly against the forty-one,
those, especially, who had referred to the Rougons as intriguers and
cowards who merely fired shots in the air, were the first to speak of
granting a crown of laurels "to the noble citizen of whom Plassans would
be for ever proud." For the pools of blood were drying on the pavement,
and the corpses proclaimed to what a degree of audacity the party of
disorder, pillage, and murder had gone, and what an iron hand had been
required to put down the insurrection.

Moreover, the whole crowd was eager to congratulate Granoux, and shake
hands with him. The story of the hammer had become known. By an innocent
falsehood, however, of which he himself soon became unconscious, he
asserted that, having been the first to see the insurgents, he had set
about striking the bell, in order to sound the alarm, so that, but for
him, the national guards would have been massacred. This doubled his
importance. His achievement was declared prodigious. People spoke of him
now as "Monsieur Isidore, don't you know? the gentleman who sounded
the tocsin with a hammer!" Although the sentence was somewhat lengthy,
Granoux would willingly have accepted it as a title of nobility; and
from that day forward he never heard the word "hammer" pronounced
without imagining it to be some delicate flattery.

While the corpses were being removed, Aristide came to look at them. He
examined them on all sides, sniffing and looking inquisitively at
their faces. His eyes were bright, and he had a sharp expression of
countenance. In order to see some wound the better he even lifted up the
blouse of one corpse with the very hand which on the previous day had
been suspended in a sling. This examination seemed to convince him and
remove all doubt from his mind. He bit his lips, remained there for a
moment in silence, and then went off for the purpose of hastening the
issue of the "Independant," for which he had written a most important
article. And as he hurried along beside the houses he recalled his
mother's words: "You will see to-morrow!" Well, he had seen now; it was
very clever; it even frightened him somewhat.

In the meantime, Rougon's triumph was beginning to embarrass him. Alone
in Monsieur Garconnet's office, hearing the buzzing of the crowd, he
became conscious of a strange feeling, which prevented him from showing
himself on the balcony. That blood, in which he had stepped, seemed to
have numbed his legs. He wondered what he should do until the evening.
His poor empty brain, upset by the events of the night, sought
desperately for some occupation, some order to give, or some measure to
be taken, which might afford him some distraction. But he could think
about nothing clearly. Whither was Felicite leading him? Was it really
all finished now, or would he still have to kill somebody else? Then
fear again assailed him, terrible doubts arose in his mind, and he
already saw the ramparts broken down on all sides by an avenging army
of the Republicans, when a loud shout: "The insurgents! The insurgents!"
burst forth under the very windows of his room. At this he jumped up,
and raising a curtain, saw the crowd rushing about the square in a state
of terror. What a thunderbolt! In less than a second he pictured himself
ruined, plundered, and murdered; he cursed his wife, he cursed the whole
town. Then, as he looked behind him in a suspicious manner, seeking
some means of escape, he heard the mob break out into applause, uttering
shouts of joy, making the very glass rattle with their wild
delight. Then he returned to the window; the women were waving their
handkerchiefs, and the men were embracing each other. There were some
among them who joined hands and began to dance. Rougon stood there
stupefied, unable to comprehend it all, and feeling his head swimming.
The big, deserted, silent building, in which he was alone, quite
frightened him.

When he afterwards confessed his feelings to Felicite, he was unable to
say how long his torture had lasted. He only remembered that a noise of
footsteps, re-echoing through the vast halls, had roused him from his
stupor. He expected to be attacked by men in blouses, armed with scythes
and clubs, whereas it was the Municipal Commission which entered, quite
orderly and in evening dress, each member with a beaming countenance.
Not one of them was absent. A piece of good news had simultaneously
cured all these gentlemen. Granoux rushed into the arms of his dear

"The soldiers!" he stammered, "the soldiers!"

A regiment had, in fact, just arrived, under the command of Colonel
Masson and Monsieur de Bleriot, prefect of the department. The
gunbarrels which had been observed from the ramparts, far away in the
plain, had at first suggested the approach of the insurgents. Rougon was
so deeply moved on learning the truth, that two big tears rolled down
his cheeks. He was weeping, the great citizen! The Municipal Commission
watched those big tears with most respectful admiration. But Granoux
again threw himself on his friend's neck, crying:

"Ah! how glad I am! You know I'm a straightforward man.

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Keywords: entered, plassans, ramparts, cowards, monsieur, evening, against, hammer, republicans, ground
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