A Marriage to the People
Gervaise did not care for any great wedding. Why should they spend their money so foolishly? Then, too, she felt a little ashamed and did not care to parade their marriage before the whole _Quartier_. But Coupeau objected. It would never do not to have some festivities–a little drive and a supper, perhaps, at a restaurant; he would ask for nothing more. He vowed that no one should drink too much and finally obtained the young woman’s consent and organized a picnic at five francs per head at the Moulin d’Argent, Boulevard de la Chapelle. He was a small wine merchant who had a garden back of his restaurant. He made out a list. Among others appeared the names of two of his comrades, Bibi-la-Grillade and Mes-Bottes. It was true that Mes-Bottes crooked his elbow, but he was so deliciously funny that he was always invited to picnics. Gervaise said she, in her turn, would bring her employer, Mme Fauconnier–all told, there would be fifteen at the table. That was quite enough.
Now as Coupeau was literally penniless, he borrowed fifty francs from his employer. He first bought his wedding ring; it cost twelve francs out of the shop, but his brother-in-law purchased it for him for nine at the factory. He then ordered an overcoat, pantaloons and vest from a tailor to whom he paid twenty-five francs on account. His patent-leather shoes and his bolivar could last awhile longer. Then he put aside his ten francs for the picnic, which was what he and Gervaise must pay, and they had precisely six francs remaining, the price of a Mass at the altar of the poor. He had no liking for those black frocks, and it broke his heart to give these beloved francs to them. But a marriage without a Mass, he had heard, was really no marriage at all.
He went to the church to see if he could not drive a better bargain, and for an hour he fought with a stout little priest in a dirty soutane who, finally declaring that God could never bless such a union, agreed that the Mass should cost only five francs. Thus Coupeau had twenty sous in hand with which to begin the world!
Gervaise, in her turn, had made her preparations, had worked late into the night and laid aside thirty francs. She had set her heart on a silk mantelet marked thirteen francs, which she had seen in a shopwindow. She paid for it and bought for ten francs from the husband of a laundress who had died in Mme Fauconnier’s house a delaine dress of a deep blue, which she made over entirely. With the seven francs that remained she bought a rose for her cap, a pair of white cotton gloves and shoes for Claude. Fortunately both the boys had nice blouses. She worked for four days mending and making; there was not a hole or a rip in anything. At last the evening before the important day arrived; Gervaise and Coupeau sat together and talked, happy that matters were so nearly concluded. Their arrangements were all made. They were to go to the mayor’s office–the two sisters of Coupeau declared they would remain at home, their presence not being necessary there. Then Mother Coupeau began to weep, saying she wished to go early and hide in a corner, and they promised to take her.
The hour fixed for the party to assemble at the Moulin d’Argent was one o’clock sharp. From then they were to seek an appetite on the Plaine-St-Denis and return by rail. Saturday morning, as he dressed, Coupeau thought with some anxiety of his scanty funds; he supposed he ought to offer a glass of wine and a slice of ham to his witnesses while waiting for dinner; unexpected expenses might arise; no, it was clear that twenty sous was not enough. He consequently, after taking Claude and Etienne to Mlle Boche, who promised to appear with them at dinner, ran to his brother-in-law and borrowed ten francs; he did it with reluctance, and the words stuck in his throat, for he half expected a refusal. Lorilleux grumbled and growled but finally lent the money. But Coupeau heard his sister mutter under her breath, "That is a good beginning.”
The civil marriage was fixed for half-past ten. The day was clear and the sun intensely hot. In order not to excite observation the bridal pair, the mother and the four witnesses, separated–Gervaise walked in front, having the arm of Lorilleux, while M. Madinier gave his to Mamma Coupeau; on the opposite sidewalk were Coupeau, Boche and Bibi-la-Grillade. These three wore black frock coats and walked with their arms dangling from their rounded shoulders. Boche wore yellow pantaloons. Bibi-la-Grillade’s coat was buttoned to the chin, as he had no vest, and a wisp of a cravat was tied around his neck.
M. Madinier was the only one who wore a dress coat, a superb coat with square tails, and people stared as he passed with the stout Mamma Coupeau in a green shawl and black bonnet with black ribbons. Gervaise was very sweet and gentle, wearing her blue dress and her trim little silk mantle. She listened graciously to Lorilleux, who, in spite of the warmth of the day, was nearly lost in the ample folds of a loose overcoat. Occasionally she would turn her head and glance across the street with a little smile at Coupeau, who was none too comfortable in his new clothes. They reached the mayor’s office a half-hour too early, and their turn was not reached until nearly eleven. They sat in the corner of the office, stiff and uneasy, pushing back their chairs a little out of politeness each time one of the clerks passed them, and when the magistrate appeared they all rose respectfully. They were bidden to sit down again, which they did, and were the spectators of three marriages–the brides in white and the bridesmaids in pink and blue, quite fine and stylish.
When their own turn came Bibi-la-Grillade had disappeared, and Boche hunted him up in the square, where he had gone to smoke a pipe. All the forms were so quickly completed that the party looked at each other in dismay, feeling as if they had been defrauded of half the ceremony. Gervaise listened with tears in her eyes, and the old lady wept audibly.
Then they turned to the register and wrote their names in big, crooked letters–all but the newly made husband, who, not being able to write, contented himself with making a cross.
Then the clerk handed the certificate to Coupeau. He, admonished by a touch of his wife’s elbow, presented him with five sous.
It was quite a long walk from the mayor’s office to the church. The men stopped midway to take a glass of beer, and Gervaise and Mamma Coupeau drank some cassis with water. There was not a particle of shade, for the sun was directly above their heads. The beadle awaited them in the empty church; he hurried them toward a small chapel, asking them indignantly if they were not ashamed to mock at religion by coming so late. A priest came toward them with an ashen face, faint with hunger, preceded by a boy in a dirty surplice. He hurried through the service, gabbling the Latin phrases with sidelong glances at the bridal party. The bride and bridegroom knelt before the altar in considerable embarrassment, not knowing when it was necessary to kneel and when to stand and not always understanding the gestures made by the clerk.
The witnesses thought it more convenient to stand all the time, while Mamma Coupeau, overcome by her tears again, shed them on a prayer book which she had borrowed from a neighbor.
It was high noon. The last Mass was said, and the church was noisy with the movements of the sacristans, who were putting the chairs in their places. The center altar was being prepared for some fete, for the hammers were heard as the decorations were being nailed up. And in the choking dust raised by the broom of the man who was sweeping the corner of the small altar the priest laid his cold and withered hand on the heads of Gervaise and Coupeau with a sulky air, as if he were uniting them as a mere matter of business or to occupy the time between the two Masses.
When the signatures were again affixed to the register in the vestry and the party stood outside in the sunshine, they had a sensation as if they had been driven at full speed and were glad to rest.
“I feel as if I had been at the dentist’s. We had no time to cry out before it was all over!”
“Yes,” muttered Lorilleux, “they take less than five minutes to do what can’t be undone in all one’s life! Poor Cadet-Cassis!”
Gervaise kissed her new mother with tears in her eyes but with smiling lips. She answered the old woman gently:
“Do not be afraid. I will do my best to make him happy. If things turn out ill it shall not be my fault.”
The party went at once to the Moulin d’Argent. Coupeau now walked with his wife some little distance in advance of the others. They whispered and laughed together and seemed to see neither the people nor the houses nor anything that was going on about them.
At the restaurant Coupeau ordered at once some bread and ham; then seeing that Boche and Bibi-la-Grillade were really hungry, he ordered more wine and more meat. His mother could eat nothing, and Gervaise, who was dying of thirst, drank glass after glass of water barely reddened with wine.
“This is my affair,” said Coupeau, going to the counter where he paid four francs, five sous.
The guests began to arrive. Mme Fauconnier, stout and handsome, was the first. She wore a percale gown, ecru ground with bright figures, a rose-colored cravat and a bonnet laden with flowers. Then came Mlle Remanjon in her scanty black dress, which seemed so entirely a part of herself that it was doubtful if she laid it aside at night. The Gaudron household followed. The husband, enormously stout, looked as if his vest would burst at the least movement, and his wife, who was nearly as huge as himself, was dressed in a delicate shade of violet which added to her apparent size.
“Ah,” cried Mme Lerat as she entered, “we are going to have a tremendous shower!” And she bade them all look out the window to see how black the clouds were.
Mme Lerat, Coupeau’s eldest sister, was a tall, thin woman, very masculine in appearance and talking through her nose, wearing a puce-colored dress that was much too loose for her. It was profusely trimmed with fringe, which made her look like a lean dog just coming out of the water. She brandished an umbrella as she talked, as if it had been a walking stick. As she kissed Gervaise she said:
“You have no idea how the wind blows, and it is as hot as a blast from a furnace!”
Everybody at once declared they had felt the storm coming all the morning. Three days of extreme heat, someone said, always ended in a gust.
“It will blow over,” said Coupeau with an air of confidence, “but I wish my sister would come, all the same.”
Mme Lorilleux, in fact, was very late. Mme Lerat had called for her, but she had not then begun to dress. “And,” said the widow in her brother’s ear, “you never saw anything like the temper she was in!”
They waited another half-hour. The sky was growing blacker and blacker. Clouds of dust were rising along the street, and down came the rain. And it was in the first shower that Mme Lorilleux arrived, out of temper and out of breath, struggling with her umbrella, which she could not close.
“I had ten minds,” she exclaimed, “to turn back. I wanted you to wait until next Saturday. I knew it would rain today–I was certain of it!”
Coupeau tried to calm her, but she quickly snubbed him. Was it he, she would like to know, who was to pay for her dress if it were spoiled?
She wore black silk, so tight that the buttonholes were burst out, and it showed white on the shoulders,–while the skirt was so scant that she could not take a long step.
The other women, however, looked at her silk with envy.
She took no notice of Gervaise, who sat by the side of her mother-in-law. She called to Lorilleux and with his aid carefully wiped every drop of rain from her dress with her handkerchief.
Meanwhile the shower ceased abruptly, but the storm was evidently not over, for sharp flashes of lightning darted through the black clouds.
Suddenly the rain poured down again. The men stood in front of the door with their hands in their pockets, dismally contemplating the scene. The women crouched together with their hands over their eyes. They were in such terror they could not talk; when the thunder was heard farther off they all plucked up their spirits and became impatient, but a fine rain was falling that looked interminable.
“What are we to do?” cried Mme Lorilleux crossly.
Then Mlle Remanjon timidly observed that the sun perhaps would soon be out, and they might yet go into the country; upon this there was one general shout of derision.
“Nice walking it would be! And how pleasant the grass would be to sit upon!”
Something must be done, however, to get rid of the time until dinner. Bibi-la-Grillade proposed cards; Mme Lerat suggested storytelling. To each proposition a thousand objections were offered. Finally when Lorilleux proposed that the party should visit the tomb of Abelard and Heloise his wife’s indignation burst forth.
She had dressed in her best only to be drenched in the rain and to spend the day in a wineshop, it seemed! She had had enough of the whole thing and she would go home. Coupeau and Lorilleux held the door, she exclaiming violently:
“Let me go; I tell you I will go!”
Her husband having induced her to listen to reason, Coupeau went to Gervaise, who was calmly conversing with her mother-in-law and Mme Fauconnier.
“Have you nothing to propose?” he asked, not venturing to add any term of endearment.
“No,” she said with a smile, “but I am ready to do anything you wish. I am very well suited as I am.”
Her face was indeed as sunny as a morning in May. She spoke to everyone kindly and sympathetically. During the storm she had sat with her eyes riveted on the clouds, as if by the light of those lurid flashes she was reading the solemn book of the future.
M. Madinier had proposed nothing; he stood leaning against the counter with a pompous air; he spat upon the ground, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and rolled his eyes about.
“We could go to the Musee du Louvre, I suppose,” and he smoothed his chin while awaiting the effect of this proposition.
“There are antiquities there–statues, pictures, lots of things. It is very instructive. Have any of you been there?” he asked.
They all looked at each other. Gervaise had never even heard of the place, nor had Mme Fauconnier nor Boche. Coupeau thought he had been there one Sunday, but he was not sure, but Mme Lorilleux, on whom Madinier’s air of importance had produced a profound impression, approved of the idea. The day was wasted anyway; therefore, if a little instruction could be got it would be well to try it. As the rain was still falling, they borrowed old umbrellas of every imaginable hue from the establishment and started forth for the Musee du Louvre.
There were twelve of them, and they walked in couples, Mme Lorilleux with Madinier, to whom she grumbled all the way.
“We know nothing about her,” she said, “not even where he picked her up. My husband has already lent them ten francs, and whoever heard of a bride without a single relation? She said she had a sister in Paris. Where is she today, I should like to know!”
She checked herself and pointed to Gervaise, whose lameness was very perceptible as she descended the hill.
“Just look at her!” she muttered. “Wooden legs!”
This epithet was heard by Mme Fauconnier, who took up the cudgels for Gervaise who, she said, was as neat as a pin and worked like a tiger.
The wedding party, coming out of La Rue St-Denis, crossed the boulevard under their umbrellas amid the pouring rain, driving here and there among the carriages. The drivers, as they pulled up their horses, shouted to them to look out, with an oath. On the gray and muddy sidewalk the procession was very conspicuous–the blue dress of the bride, the canary-colored breeches of one of the men, Madinier’s square-tailed coat–all gave a carnivallike air to the group. But it was the hats of the party that were the most amusing, for they were of all heights, sizes and styles. The shopkeepers on the boulevard crowded to their windows to enjoy the drollery of the sight. The wedding procession, quite undisturbed by the observation it excited, went gaily on. They stopped for a moment on the Place des Victoire–the bride’s shoestring was untied–she fastened it at the foot of the statue of Louis XIV, her friends waiting as she did so.
Finally they reached the Louvre. Here Madinier politely asked permission to take the head of the party; the place was so large, he said, that it was a very easy thing to lose oneself; he knew the prettiest rooms and the things best worth seeing, because he had often been there with an artist, a very intelligent fellow, from whom a great manufacturer of pasteboard boxes bought pictures.
The party entered the museum of Assyrian antiquities. They shivered and walked about, examining the colossal statues, the gods in black marble, strange beasts and monstrosities, half cats and half women. This was not amusing, and an inscription in Phoenician characters appalled them. Who on earth had ever read such stuff as that? It was meaningless nonsense!
But Madinier shouted to them from the stairs, “Come on! That is nothing! Much more interesting things up here, I assure you!”
The severe nudity of the great staircase cast a gloom over their spirits; an usher in livery added to their awe, and it was with great respect and on the tips of their toes they entered the French gallery.
How many statues! How many pictures! They wished they had all the money they had cost.
In the Gallerie d’Apollon the floor excited their admiration; it was smooth as glass; even the feet of the sofas were reflected in it. Madinier bade them look at the ceiling and at its many beauties of decoration, but they said they dared not look up. Then before entering the Salon Carre he pointed to the window and said:
“That is the balcony where Charles IX fired on the people!”
With a magnificent gesture he ordered his party to stand still in the center of the Salon Carre.
“There are only chefs-d’oeuvres here,” he whispered as solemnly as if he had been in a church.
They walked around the salon. Gervaise asked the meaning of one of the pictures, the _Noces de Cana_; Coupeau stopped before _La Joconde_, declaring that it was like one of his aunts.
Boche and Bibi-la-Grillade snickered and pushed each other at the sight of the nude female figures, and the Gaudrons, husband and wife, stood open-mouthed and deeply touched before Murillo’s Virgin.
When they had been once around the room Madinier, who was quite attentive to Mme Lorilleux on account of her silk gown, proposed they should do it over again; it was well worth it, he said.
He never hesitated in replying to any question which she addressed to him in her thirst for information, and when she stopped before Titian’s Mistress, whose yellow hair struck her as like her own, he told her it was a mistress of Henri IV, who was the heroine of a play then running at the Ambigu.
The wedding party finally entered the long gallery devoted to the Italian and Flemish schools of art. The pictures were all meaningless to them, and their heads were beginning to ache. They felt a thrill of interest, however, in the copyists with their easels, who painted without being disturbed by spectators. The artists scattered through the rooms had heard that a primitive wedding party was making a tour of the Louvre and hurried with laughing faces to enjoy the scene, while the weary bride and bridegroom, accompanied by their friends, clumsily moved about over the shining, resounding floors much like cattle let loose and with quite as keen an appreciation of the marvelous beauties about them.
The women vowed their backs were broken standing so long, and Madinier, declaring he knew the way, said they would leave after he had shown them a certain room to which he could go with his eyes shut. But he was very much mistaken. Salon succeeded to salon, and finally the party went up a flight of stairs and found themselves among cannons and other instruments of war. Madinier, unwilling to confess that he had lost himself, wandered distractedly about, declaring that the doors had been changed. The party began to feel that they were there for life, when suddenly to their great joy they heard the cry of the janitors resounding from room to room.
“Time to close the doors!”
They meekly followed one of them, and when they were outside they uttered a sigh of relief as they put up their umbrellas once more, but one and all affected great pleasure at having been to the Louvre.
The clock struck four. There were two hours to dispose of before dinner. The women would have liked to rest, but the men were more energetic and proposed another walk, during which so tremendous a shower fell that umbrellas were useless and dresses were irretrievably ruined. Then M. Madinier suggested that they should ascend the column on the Place Vendome.
“It is not a bad idea,” cried the men. And the procession began the ascent of the spiral staircase, which Boche said was so old that he could feel it shake. This terrified the ladies, who uttered little shrieks, but Coupeau said nothing; his arm was around his wife’s waist, and just as they emerged upon the platform he kissed her.
“Upon my word!” cried Mme Lorilleux, much scandalized.
Madinier again constituted himself master of ceremonies and pointed out all the monuments, but Mme Fauconnier would not put her foot outside the little door; she would not look down on that pavement for all the world, she said, and the party soon tired of this amusement and descended the stairs. At the foot Madinier wished to pay, but Coupeau interfered and put into the hand of the guard twenty-four sous–two for each person. It was now half-past five; they had just time to get to the restaurant, but Coupeau proposed a glass of vermouth first, and they entered a cabaret for that purpose.
When they returned to the Moulin d’Argent they found Mme Boche with the two children, talking to Mamma Coupeau near the table, already spread and waiting. When Gervaise saw Claude and Etienne she took them both on her knees and kissed them lovingly.
“Have they been good?” she asked.
“I should think Coupeau would feel rather queer!” said Mme Lorilleux as she looked on grimly.
Gervaise had been calm and smiling all day, but she had quietly watched her husband with the Lorilleuxs. She thought Coupeau was afraid of his sister–cowardly, in fact. The evening previous he had said he did not care a sou for their opinion on any subject and that they had the tongues of vipers, but now he was with them, he was like a whipped hound, hung on their words and anticipated their wishes. This troubled his wife, for it augured ill, she thought, for their future happiness.
“We won’t wait any longer for Mes-Bottes,” cried Coupeau. “We are all here but him, and his scent is good! Surely he can’t be waiting for us still at St-Denis!”
The guests, in good spirits once more, took their seats with a great clatter of chairs.
Gervaise was between Lorilleux and Madinier, and Coupeau between Mme Fauconnier and his sister Mme Lorilleux. The others seated themselves.
“No one has asked a blessing,” said Boche as the ladies pulled the tablecloth well over their skirts to protect them from spots.
But Mme Lorilleux frowned at this poor jest. The vermicelli soup, which was cold and greasy, was eaten with noisy haste. Two _garcons_ served them, wearing aprons of a very doubtful white and greasy vests.
Through the four windows, open on the courtyard and its acacias, streamed the light, soft and warm, after the storm. The trees, bathed in the setting sun, imparted a cool, green tinge to the dingy room, and the shadows of the waving branches and quivering leaves danced over the cloth.
There were two fly-specked mirrors at either end of the room, which indefinitely lengthened the table spread with thick china. Every time the _garcons_ opened the door into the kitchen there came a strong smell of burning fat.
“Don’t let us all talk at once!” said Boche as a dead silence fell on the room, broken by the abrupt entrance of Mes-Bottes.
“You are nice people!” he exclaimed. “I have been waiting for you until I am wet through and have a fishpond in each pocket.”
This struck the circle as the height of wit, and they all laughed while he ordered the _garcon_ to and fro. He devoured three plates of soup and enormous slices of bread. The head of the establishment came and looked in in considerable anxiety; a laugh ran around the room. Mes-Bottes recalled to their memories a day when he had eaten twelve hard-boiled eggs and drunk twelve glasses of wine while the clock was striking twelve.
There was a brief silence. A waiter placed on the table a rabbit stew in a deep dish. Coupeau turned round.
“Say, boy, is that a gutter rabbit? It mews still.”
And the low mewing of a cat seemed, indeed, to come from the dish. This delicate joke was perpetrated by Coupeau in the throat, without the smallest movement of his lips. This feat always met with such success that he never ordered a meal anywhere without a rabbit stew. The ladies wiped their eyes with their napkins because they laughed so much.
Mme Fauconnier begged for the head–she adored the head–and Boche asked especially for onions.
Mme Lerat compressed her lips and said morosely:
“Of course. I might have known that!”
Mme Lerat was a hard-working woman. No man had ever put his nose within her door since her widowhood, and yet her instincts were thoroughly bad; every word uttered by others bore to her ears a double meaning, a coarse allusion sometimes so deeply veiled that no one but herself could grasp its meaning.
Boche leaned over her with a sensual smile and entreated an explanation. She shook her head.
“Of course,” she repeated. “Onions! I knew it!”
Everybody was talking now, each of his own trade. Madinier declared that boxmaking was an art, and he cited the New Year bonbon boxes as wonders of luxury. Lorilleux talked of his chains, of their delicacy and beauty. He said that in former times jewelers wore swords at their sides. Coupeau described a weathercock made by one of his comrades out of tin. Mme Lerat showed Bibi-la-Grillade how a rose stem was made by rolling the handle of her knife between her bony fingers, and Mme Fauconnier complained loudly of one of her apprentices who the night before had badly scorched a pair of linen sheets.
“It is no use to talk!” cried Lorilleux, striking his fist on the table. “Gold is gold!”
A profound silence followed the utterance of this truism, amid which arose from the other end of the table the piping tones of Mlle Remanjon’s voice as she said:
“And then I sew on the skirt. I stick a pin in the head to hold on the cap, and it is done. They sell for three cents.”
She was describing her dolls to Mes-Bottes, whose jaws worked steadily, like machinery.
He did not listen, but he nodded at intervals, with his eyes fixed on the _garcons_ to see that they carried away no dishes that were not emptied.
There had been veal cutlets and string beans served. As a _roti,_ two lean chickens on a bed of water cresses were brought in. The room was growing very warm; the sun was lingering on the tops of the acacias, but the room was growing dark. The men threw off their coats and ate in their shirt sleeves.
“Mme Boche,” cried Gervaise, “please don’t let those children eat so much.”
But Mme Coupeau interposed and declared that for once in a while a little fit of indigestion would do them no harm.
Mme Boche accused her husband of holding Mme Lerat’s hand under the table.
Madinier talked politics. He was a Republican, and Bibi-la-Grillade and himself were soon in a hot discussion.
“Who cares,” cried Coupeau, “whether we have a king, an emperor or a president, so long as we earn our five francs per day!”
Lorilleux shook his head. He was born on the same day as the Comte de Chambord, September 29, 1820, and this coincidence dwelt in his mind. He seemed to feel that there was a certain connection between the return of the king to France and his own personal fortunes. He did not say distinctly what he expected, but it was clear that it was something very agreeable.
The dessert was now on the table–a floating island flanked by two plates of cheese and two of fruit. The floating island was a great success. Mes-Bottes ate all the cheese and called for more bread. And then as some of the custard was left in the dish, he pulled it toward him and ate it as if it had been soup.
“How extraordinary!” said Madinier, filled with admiration.
The men rose to light their pipes and, as they passed Mes-Bottes, asked him how he felt.
Bibi-la-Grillade lifted him from the floor, chair and all.
“Zounds!” he cried. “The fellow’s weight has doubled!”
Coupeau declared his friend had only just begun his night’s work, that he would eat bread until dawn. The waiters, pale with fright, disappeared. Boche went downstairs on a tour of inspection and stated that the establishment was in a state of confusion, that the proprietor, in consternation, had sent out to all the bakers in the neighborhood, that the house, in fact, had an utterly ruined aspect.
“I should not like to take you to board,” said Mme Gaudron.
“Let us have a punch,” cried Mes-Bottes.
But Coupeau, seeing his wife’s troubled face, interfered and said no one should drink anything more. They had all had enough.
This declaration met with the approval of some of the party, but the others sided with Mes-Bottes.
“Those who are thirsty are thirsty,” he said. “No one need drink that does not wish to do so, I am sure.” And he added with a wink, “There will be all the more for those who do!”
Then Coupeau said they would settle the account, and his friend could do as he pleased afterward.
Alas! Mes-Bottes could produce only three francs; he had changed his five-franc piece, and the remainder had melted away somehow on the road from St-Denis. He handed over the three francs, and Coupeau, greatly indignant, borrowed the other two from his brother-in-law, who gave the money secretly, being afraid of his wife.
M. Madinier had taken a plate. The ladies each laid down their five francs quietly and timidly, and then the men retreated to the other end of the room and counted up the amount, and each man added to his subscription five sous for the _garcon_.
But when M. Madinier sent for the proprietor the little assembly were shocked at hearing him say that this was not all; there were “extras.”
As this was received with exclamations of rage, he went into explanations. He had furnished twenty-five liters of wine instead of twenty, as he agreed. The floating island was an addition, on seeing that the dessert was somewhat scanty, whereupon ensued a formidable quarrel. Coupeau declared he would not pay a sou of the extras.
“There is your money,” he said; “take it, and never again will one of us step a foot under your roof!”
“I want six francs more,” muttered the man.
The women gathered about in great indignation; not a centime would they give, they declared.
Mme Fauconnier had had a wretched dinner; she said she could have had a better one at home for forty sous. Such arrangements always turned out badly, and Mme Gaudron declared aloud that if people wanted their friends at their weddings they usually invited them out and out.
Gervaise took refuge with her mother-in-law in a distant window, feeling heartily ashamed of the whole scene.
M. Madinier went downstairs with the man, and low mutterings of the storm reached the party. At the end of a half-hour he reappeared, having yielded to the extent of paying three francs, but no one was satisfied, and they all began a discussion in regard to the extras.
The evening was spoiled, as was Mme Lerat’s dress; there was no end to the chapter of accidents.
“I know,” cried Mme Lorilleux, “that the _garcon_ spilled gravy from the chickens down my back.” She twisted and turned herself before the mirror until she succeeded in finding the spot.
“Yes, I knew it,” she cried, “and he shall pay for it, as true as I live. I wish I had remained at home!”
She left in a rage, and Lorilleux at her heels.
When Coupeau saw her go he was in actual consternation, and Gervaise saw that it was best to make a move at once. Mme Boche had agreed to keep the children with her for a day or two.
Coupeau and his wife hurried out in the hope of overtaking Mme Lorilleux which they soon did. Lorilleux, with the kindly desire of making all smooth said:
“We will go to your door with you.”
“Your door, indeed!” cried his wife, and then pleasantly went on to express her surprise that they did not postpone their marriage until they had saved enough to buy a little furniture and move away from that hole up under the roof.
“But I have given up that room,” said her brother. “We shall have the one Gervaise occupies; it is larger.”
Mme Lorilleux forgot herself; she wheeled around suddenly.
“What!” she exclaimed. “You are going to live in Wooden Legs’ room?”
Gervaise turned pale. This name she now heard for the first time, and it was like a slap in the face. She heard much more in her sister-in-law’s exclamation than met the ear. That room to which allusion was made was the one where she had lived with Lantier for a whole month, where she had wept such bitter tears, but Coupeau did not understand that; he was only wounded by the name applied to his wife.
“It is hardly wise of you,” he said sullenly, “to nickname people after that fashion, as perhaps you are not aware of what you are called in your _Quartier_. Cow’s-Tail is not a very nice name, but they have given it to you on account of your hair. Why should we not keep that room? It is a very good one.”
Mme Lorilleux would not answer. Her dignity was sadly disturbed at being called Cow’s-Tail.
They walked on in silence until they reached the Hotel Boncoeur, and just as Coupeau gave the two women a push toward each other and bade them kiss and be friends, a man who wished to pass them on the right gave a violent lurch to the left and came between them.
“Look out!” cried Lorilleux. “It is Father Bazonge. He is pretty full tonight.”
Gervaise, in great terror, flew toward the door. Father Bazonge was a man of fifty; his clothes were covered with mud where he had fallen in the street.
“You need not be afraid,” continued Lorilleux; “he will do you no harm. He is a neighbor of ours–the third room on the left in our corridor.”
But Father Bazonge was talking to Gervaise. “I am not going to eat you, little one,” he said. “I have drunk too much, I know very well, but when the work is done the machinery should be greased a little now and then.”
Gervaise retreated farther into the doorway and with difficulty kept back a sob. She nervously entreated Coupeau to take the man away.
Bazonge staggered off, muttering as he did so:
“You won’t mind it so much one of these days, my dear. I know something about women. They make a great fuss, but they get used to it all the same.”