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But fear now overcame him,
and he repeated, in a tone of despair: "I come from Poujols--I come from
Poujols!"

Then he threw himself on the ground, rolling at the gendarme's feet,
breaking out into prayers for mercy, and imagining that he was being
mistaken for some one else.

"What does it matter to me that you come from Poujols?" Rengade
muttered.

And as the wretched man, shivering and crying with terror, and quite
unable to understand why he was going to die, held out his trembling
hands--his deformed, hard, labourer's hands--exclaiming in his patois
that he had done nothing and ought to be pardoned, the one-eyed man grew
quite exasperated at being unable to put the pistol to his temple, owing
to his constant movements.

"Will you hold your tongue?" he shouted.

Thereupon Mourgue, mad with fright and unwilling to die, began to howl
like a beast--like a pig that is being slaughtered.

"Hold your tongue, you scoundrel!" the gendarme repeated.

And he blew his brains out. The peasant fell with a thud. His body
rolled to the foot of a timber-stack, where it remained doubled up. The
violence of the shock had severed the rope which fastened him to his
companion. Silvere fell on his knees before the tombstone.

It was to make his vengeance the more terrible that Rengade had killed
Mourgue first. He played with his second pistol, raising it slowly in
order to relish Silvere's agony. But the latter looked at him quietly.
Then again the sight of this man, with the one fierce, scorching eye,
made him feel uneasy. He averted his glance, fearing that he might die
cowardly if he continued to look at that feverishly quivering gendarme,
with blood-stained bandage and bleeding moustache. However, as he raised
his eyes to avoid him, he perceived Justin's head just above the wall,
at the very spot where Miette had been wont to leap over.

Justin had been at the Porte de Rome, among the crowd, when the gendarme
had led the prisoners away. He had set off as fast as he could by way of
the Jas-Meiffren, in his eagerness to witness the execution. The thought
that he alone, of all the Faubourg scamps, would view the tragedy at
his ease, as from a balcony, made him run so quickly that he twice fell
down. And in spite of his wild chase, he arrived too late to witness the
first shot. He climbed the mulberry tree in despair; but he smiled when
he saw that Silvere still remained. The soldiers had informed him of
his cousin's death, and now the murder of the wheelwright brought his
happiness to a climax. He awaited the shot with that delight which the
sufferings of others always afforded him--a delight increased tenfold by
the horror of the scene, and a feeling of exquisite fear.

Silvere, on recognising that vile scamp's head all by itself above the
wall--that pale grinning face, with hair standing on end--experienced a
feeling of fierce rage, a sudden desire to live. It was the last revolt
of his blood--a momentary mutiny. He again sank down on his knees,
gazing straight before him. A last vision passed before his eyes in
the melancholy twilight. At the end of the path, at the entrance of the
Impasse Saint-Mittre, he fancied he could see aunt Dide standing erect,
white and rigid like the statue of a saint, while she witnessed his
agony from a distance.

At that moment he felt the cold pistol on his temple. There was a smile
on Justin's pale face. Closing his eyes, Silvere heard the long-departed
dead wildly summoning him. In the darkness, he now saw nothing save
Miette, wrapped in the banner, under the trees, with her eyes turned
towards heaven. Then the one-eyed man fired, and all was over; the lad's
skull burst open like a ripe pomegranate; his face fell upon the stone,
with his lips pressed to the spot which Miette's feet had worn--that
warm spot which still retained a trace of his dead love.

And in the evening at dessert, at the Rougons' abode, bursts of laughter
arose with the fumes from the table, which was still warm with the
remains of the dinner. At last the Rougons were nibbling at the
pleasures of the wealthy! Their appetites, sharpened by thirty years
of restrained desire, now fell to with wolfish teeth. These fierce,
insatiate wild beasts, scarcely entering upon indulgence, exulted at
the birth of the Empire--the dawn of the Rush for the Spoils. The Coup
d'Etat, which retrieved the fortune of the Bonapartes, also laid the
foundation for that of the Rougons.

Pierre stood up, held out his glass, and exclaimed: "I drink to Prince
Louis--to the Emperor!"

The gentlemen, who had drowned their jealousies in champagne, rose in a
body and clinked glasses with deafening shouts. It was a fine spectacle.
The bourgeois of Plassans, Roudier, Granoux, Vuillet, and all the
others, wept and embraced each other over the corpse of the Republic,
which as yet was scarcely cold. But a splendid idea occurred to
Sicardot. He took from Felicite's hair a pink satin bow, which she had
placed over her right ear in honour of the occasion, cut off a strip
of the satin with his dessert knife, and then solemnly fastened it
to Rougon's button-hole. The latter feigned modesty, and pretended to
resist. But his face beamed with joy, as he murmured: "No, I beg you, it
is too soon. We must wait until the decree is published."

"Zounds!" Sicardot exclaimed, "will you please keep that! It's an old
soldier of Napoleon who decorates you!"

The whole company burst into applause. Felicite almost swooned with
delight. Silent Granoux jumped up on a chair in his enthusiasm, waving
his napkin and making a speech which was lost amid the uproar. The
yellow drawing-room was wild with triumph.

But the strip of pink satin fastened to Pierre's button-hole was not
the only red spot in that triumph of the Rougons. A shoe, with a
blood-stained heel, still lay forgotten under the bedstead in the
adjoining room. The taper burning at Monsieur Peirotte's bedside, over
the way, gleamed too with the lurid redness of a gaping wound amidst
the dark night. And yonder, far away, in the depths of the Aire
Saint-Mittre, a pool of blood was congealing upon a tombstone.



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Keywords: gendarme, rougons, pistol, before, delight, fierce, fastened, mourgue, feeling, one-eyed
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