The Coqueville Spree
or, The Fête at Coqueville
— I —
Coqueville is a little village stuck in a cleft in the rocks, five miles from Grandport. A fine sand beach stretches out in front of the hovels, which cling halfway up the face of the bluff, like shells left there by the tide. When you climb the heights to the left of Grandport, you can see the yellow sheet of beach quite plainly to the westward, like a wave of gold-dust that might have flowed out from the gaping cleft of the rock; and with good eyes you can even make out the houses, like rust spots on the stone, throwing streaks of bluish smoke from their chimneys up to the crest of the huge headland that bars the sky.
It is an out-of-the-way hole. Coqueville has never succeeded in reaching the figure of two hundred inhabitants. The gorge which opens upon the sea, and at the threshold of which the village lies, runs back into the land by such abrupt turns and steep ascents that it is all but impossible to pass through it on wheels. This cuts off all communication and isolates the place, in which you seem to be hundreds of miles away from the neighboring hamlets. The inhabitants have communication with Grand-port by water only. They are nearly all fishermen, who make their livelihood out of the ocean and take their fish there every day in their boats. The large commission house of Dufeu buys their fish in bulk. Old Dufeu has been dead some years, but the widow Dufeu carries on the business; she has merely taken a clerk, M. Mouchel, a big sandy-haired devil whose business it is to beat the shore and bargain with the fishermen. This M. Mouchel is the only connecting link between Coqueville and civilization.
Coqueville deserves an historian. It seems certain that, in the night of ages, the village was founded by the Mahés, a family which came to establish itself there and throve sturdily at the foot of the bluff. These Mahés must have prospered at first, always intermarrying among themselves; for you find nobody but Mahés there for centuries. Then, under Louis XIII, a Floche appeared. No one quite knows whence he came. He married a Mahé, and from that moment this phenomenon was noticeable: the Floches throve in their turn and multiplied to such an extent that at last they gradually absorbed the Mahés, whose numbers diminished while their fortunes passed into the hands of the new-comers. No doubt the Floches brought in fresh blood, more vigorous organs, a constitution better adapted to those hard conditions of high wind and open sea. At all events, they now own Coqueville.
It may be conceived that this shifting of numbers and property was not accomplished without some terrific shocks. The Mahés and Floches hate each other. There is an enmity of centuries between them. In spite of their downfall, the Mahés still nurture a pride as of ancient conquerors. After all, they were the founders, the ancestors. They speak with contempt of the first Floche, a beggar, a vagabond whom they took in from compassion, and to whom it will be their eternal despair ever to have given one of their daughters. According to their account, this Floche begot only a progeny of rakes and thieves, who spent their nights in siring children and their days in hankering after legacies. And there are no insults which they do not hurl at the powerful tribe of Floche, bitten with the bitter rage of those ruined and decimated nobles who see a swarming bourgeoisie masters of their incomes and chateaux. Of course the Floches, on their side, take their triumph saucily. They are in possession, and this makes them insolent. Continually jeering at the ancient race of Mahés, they swear they will hunt them out of the village if they do not bow the neck. In their eyes they are a set of starving rascals who, instead of draping themselves in their rags, had much better mend them. So Coqueville is a prey to two ferocious factions, something like a hundred and thirty inhabitants bent upon annihilating the fifty others, for the simple reason that they have the upper hand. The struggle between two empires has no other history.
Among the squabbles that have lately upset Coqueville are cited the famous enmity between the brothers Fouasse and Tupain and the noisy altercations in the Rouget household. You must know that in old times every inhabitant was given a nickname, which has now grown to be a real surname; for it was impossible to keep one's bearings amidst all the crossings of Mahés with Floches. Rouget surely had a red-haired ancestor; as for Fouasse and Tupain, no one ever knew how they got their names, many surnames having lost all rational meaning in the course of time. Now, old Francoise, a strapping old woman of eighty who was still alive, had had Fouasse by a Mahé; then, after being widowed, she married a second time with a Floche, and bore Tupain. Hence the two brothers' mutual hatred; all the more that this hatred was kept alive by considerations of heritage. At the Rougets' the family pounded each other to a jelly because Rouget accused his wife of being false to him with a Floche, the big Brisemotte a dark, stalwart fellow upon whom he had twice fallen with a knife, bellowing that he would rip up his belly for him. Rouget was a sinewy little man, and very hot tempered.
But what most excited Coqueville about this time was neither Rouget's fits of fury nor the wranglings between Tupain and Fouasse. An astonishing rumor went the rounds: Delphin, a young chap of twenty and a Mahé, had dared to fall in love with the beautiful Margot, daughter of La Queue, the richest of the Floches and mayor of the place. This La Queue was verily a considerable personage. He was called La Queue because his father, under Louis Philippe, had been the last to tie up his hair with a string, sticking to the fashions of his younger days with an old man's obstinacy. Now, La Queue owned one of the two large fishing boats in Coqueville, the Zephyr,—the better one by far, for she was still quite new and stanch at sea. The other large boat, the Whale, a rotten old craft, belonged to Rouget, whose hands were Delphin and Fouasse, whereas La Queue had Tupain and Brisemotte. These last two never ran dry of contemptuous laughter at the Whale, calling her a wooden clog that would founder under a sea some day like a handful of mud. And when La Queue heard that that beggar of a Delphin, the cabin boy of the Whale, had the cheek to be loafing round his daughter, he gave her a couple of very particular cuffs on the ear, just to warn her that she should never be a Mahé's wife. At this Margot cried out in a fury that she would pass on the pair of cuffs to Delphin if ever he should have the impudence to come rubbing up against her skirts. It was annoying to be cuffed for a young man whom she had never so much as looked in the face. Margot at sixteen was strong as a man and handsome as a lady; she had the name of being pretty high and mighty and particularly hard on lovers. Considering all of which, the story of the two cuffs, of Delphin's presumption and Margot's rage, the endless gossip in Coqueville is quite sufficiently explained.
Yet certain persons did say that Margot was not so very furious, at bottom, at seeing Delphin hover round her. This Delphin was a little sandy-haired fellow, with a complexion tanned by the sea, and a shock of curly hair that came down to his eyes and over his neck. And very strong, with all his slim waist—quite up to thrashing any one three times his size. It was told of him that he would sometimes run away and stay over night at Grandport. This gave him the reputation of a rake with the girls, who would accuse him among themselves of seeing life—a vague expression in which they included all sorts of unknown pleasures. Whenever Margot spoke of Delphin, she would get too excited. He would smile in his sly way and look at her out of his narrow, sparkling eyes, without caring the least bit in the world for her disdain nor her outbursts of anger. He would pass in front of her door and creep along by the thorn hedges, watching her for hours together with the patience and suppleness of a cat stalking a titmouse; and when she suddenly discovered him behind her skirts—so close at limes that she guessed he was thereby the warmth of his breath—he did not run away, but gave her a tender, melancholy look that left her abashed and choking, so that she could not find her anger till he was gone. Surely, if her father were to see her, he would box her ears again. It could not last so. But she might swear as much as she pleased that Delphin should some day have the pair of cuffs she had promised him, she never seized the right opportunity to give them, when he was there; which made people say she ought not to talk so much about it, as the upshot would be that she kept the cuffs for herself.
No one, however, supposed that she could ever be Delphin's wife. People saw in her case the weakness of a coquettish girl. As for a marriage between the most beggarly of the Mahé's, a fellow who had not six shirts to his back to set up housekeeping on, and the mayor's daughter, the richest heiress of the Floches, that would have been thought simply monstrous. Some invidious tongues hinted that she might keep company with him all the same, but that she certainly would not marry him. A rich girl can enjoy herself in her own way; only, when she has a head on her shoulders, she does not make a fool of herself. Upon the whole, all Coqueville was interested in the business, curious to see what turn matters would take. Would Delphin get his two cuffs? or would Margot let him kiss her on the cheek in some hole in the bluff? It remained to be seen. Some were for the cuffs, some for the kisses. Coqueville was in a state of revolution.
Only two persons in the village, the curé and the constable, belonged neither to the Mahés nor the Floches. The constable was a tall, spare man whose name nobody knew, but who was called the Emperor, no doubt because he had served under Charles X; he did not really exercise any serious supervision over the district, which was all bare rock and waste heath. A sub-prefect whose protégé he was had given him this sinecure, in which he lived in peace on a very small salary. As for the abbé Radiguet, he was one of the priestly pure in heart whom bishops bury in some out-of-the-way hole to get rid of them. He lived, good man that he was, as one who had turned peasant again, digging in his little garden which he had reclaimed from the rock, smoking his pipe, and watching his salads grow. His one failing was a fondness for good living, which he could not cultivate with any of the refinements of the table, reduced as he was to doting on mackerel and drinking cider, at times more than was good for him. Upon the whole, he was the father of his parishioners, who would come to hear mass from time to time to please him.
But the time came when curé and constable had to take sides, after long succeeding in remaining neutral. Now, the Emperor was for the Mahés, whereas the abbé Radiguet backed up the Floches. Hence arose complications. As the Emperor lived a life of leisure from morning till night and would get tired of counting the boats that put out from Grandport, he took it into his head to pry into all sorts of village matters. Being a partisan of the Mahés, from secret instincts in favor of social conservatism, he upheld Fouasse against Tupain, tried to catch Rouget's wife in flagrante with Brisemotte, and above all shut his eyes whenever he saw Delphin slip into Margot's courtyard. The worst of it was that this led to some lively squabbles between the Emperor and his natural superior, mayor La Queue. As he was imbued with a profound respect for discipline, the former would listen to the other's reprimands, and then go his own way as before; which disorganized the public authorities of Coqueville. You could not pass by the shed dignified by the name of mayor's office without being deafened by the noise of a quarrel. On the other hand, the abbé Radiguet rallied under the banner of the triumphant Floches, who overwhelmed him with superb mackerel; and he secretly encouraged the Rouget woman's resistance, and threatened Margot with hell-fire if she should ever let Delphin touch her with the tip of his finger. The upshot of it all was complete anarchy: the army in a state of mutiny against the civil power, religion winking complacently at the pleasures of the bourgeoisie, an entire population of a hundred and eighty-five souls devouring one another in a cranny, in the face of the boundless sea and the infinitude of the sky.
Alone in the midst of this topsyturvied Coqueville, Delphin stuck to his lover's smile, caring not a whit for the rest, so long as Margot was for him. He was setting snares for her as you do for rabbits. Being very steady, with all his apparent flightiness, he wanted to have the curé marry them, so that the pleasure might last forever.
At last Margot raised her hand one evening in a footpath where he was dogging her steps. But she stopped short, turning red in the face; for he did not wait for the blow, but grasped the hand that threatened him and was kissing it furiously.
As she stood there trembling, he whispered, "I love you; will you have me?"
"Never!" she cried, deeply offended.
He shrugged his shoulders; then said quietly and tenderly, "Now, don't say that…We shall get on very well together. You'll see how good it is."
— II —
The weather that Sunday was appalling; it was one of those sudden September storms that beat upon the rocky shores of Grandport in terrible hurricanes. At nightfall Coqueville espied a ship in distress running before the wind; but darkness was setting in, and there could be no thought of putting out to her aid. Ever since the day before, the Zephyr and the Whale had lain at their moorings between two banks of granite in the little natural harbor to the left of the beach. Neither La Queue nor Rouget dared put out to sea. The worst of it was that M. Mouchel, representing the widow Dufeu, had taken the trouble to come in person on Saturday, to promise them a premium if they would bestir themselves in earnest: he was short of fish, and complaints had come in from the market. So Coqueville was grumbling, in high dudgeon, as it went to its bed amid the gusts of rain on Sunday evening. It was the everlasting story; orders would come in when the sea kept its fish to itself. And the whole village talked of that ship they had seen pass by in the hurricane, which must now be sleeping at the bottom of the sea.
Next day, Monday, the sky was still dark. The sea still ran high, roaring as if it could never calm down again, although the gale had abated. It stopped wholly, but the waves kept up their furious tossing. Nevertheless the two boats put out in the afternoon. The Zephyr put back again about four, having caught nothing. While the two hands, Tupain and Brisemotte, were mooring her in the little harbor. La Queue stood on the beach, shaking his fist in exasperation at the ocean. And M. Mouchel was waiting! Margot was there together with half Coqueville, watching the last great swell of the storm, sharing her father's grudge against the sea and sky.
"Where can the Whale be?" asked some one.
"Over there behind the point, said La Queue. "If that old hulk gets back whole to-day, she'll be in luck."
He was full of contempt. Then he gave out that it was all very well for the Mahés to risk their skin in that way: when you haven't a red sou, you might as well go and die. He had rather break his promise to M, Mouchel.
Meanwhile Margot was watching the point of rocks behind which the Whale was.
"Father," she asked at last," have they caught anything?"
"They?" cried he. "Nothing at all!"
He calmed down and added more quietly, seeing that the Emperor was grinning, "I don't know whether they've caught anything or not, but as they never do…"
"Maybe they've caught something today, all the same," said the Emperor maliciously. "Such things have been known to happen."
La Queue was about to reply angrily. But the abbé Radiguet, who had just joined them, pacified him. The abbé had caught sight of the Whale from the flat church roof; the boat seemed to be giving chase to some big fish. This news threw Coqueville into a fever of excitement. There were Mahés and Floches in the crowd gathered on the beach; some longed to have the boat come in with a miraculous draught of fishes, others sent up prayers that she might return empty.
Margot stood there erect, never taking her eyes off the sea.
"There they are," she said simply.
It was true; a black spot came in sight round the point. All looked. It was like a cork dancing on the water. The Emperor could not even see the black spot. You had to be from Coqueville to make out the Whale and her crew at that distance.
"See!" said Margot, who had the best eyes of the whole coast, "Fouasse and Rouget are rowing…The young one's standing up in the bow."
She called Delphin "the young one" so as not to mention him by name. From that minute they followed the boat's course, trying to account for her strange movements. As the curé said, she seemed to be giving chase to some fish which was swimming before her as for dear life. They thought it extraordinary. The Emperor guessed their net had been carried away. But La Queue cried out that they were a pack of do-nothings having some fun. They surely could not be fishing for seal! All the Floches laughed heartily at this joke, while the annoyed Mahés declared Rouget to be a brick, all the same, risking his skin where others, at the least capful of wind, preferred to come ashore. The abbé Radiguet had to interpose again, for there were hard knocks in the wind.
"What's the matter with them?" said Margot suddenly, "There they are, off again."
The fight stopped before it had begun, and all eyes were fixed upon the horizon. The Whale was once more hidden behind the point. This time La Queue himself grew anxious. He could not explain such manoeuvres. The fear that Rouget might really be in the way of catching some fish made him beside himself. No one left the beach, although nothing of interest had turned up yet. They stayed on for nearly two hours, still waiting for the boat, which would appear from time to time and then disappear again. At last she stopped appearing at all. La Queue was furious, and, with the atrocious wish in his heart, declared that she must have foundered; and, as Rouget's wife happened to be there with Brisemotte, he looked at the two with a sardonic grin, while he slapped Tupain on the back to console him already for the loss of his brother Fouasse. But he stopped laughing when he saw his daughter Margot, silent and on tiptoe, with her eyes fixed upon the distance.Perhaps it was for Delphin.
"What are you about there?" he growled. "Will you cut home?…Look out, Margot!"
She did not stir.Then, all of a sudden, "Ah! there they are!"
There was a shout of surprise. Margot, with her good eyes, swore she could not see a soul in the boat. Neither Rouget, nor Fouasse, nor anybody! The Whale was drifting before the wind as if she had been abandoned, putting about every minute and rocking lazily on the waves. Luckily a westerly breeze had sprung up and was blowing her in toward shore, but with singular caprices which tossed her from right to left. Then all Coqueville came down to the beach. Some called the others; there was not a girl left in the houses to mind the soup. It was a disaster, something inexplicable, the strangeness of which turned their heads. Marie, Rouget's wife, thought best, after a moment's reflection, to burst into tears. Tupain did not succeed in putting on a look of affliction. All the Mahés were wild with grief, while the Floches tried to behave decently. Margot sat down as if her legs had given way under her.
"What are you up to there again?" shouted La Queue as he found her between his feet.
"I'm tired,"she answered simply.
She turned her face to the sea, with her cheeks between her hands, shading her eyes with the tips of her fingers, and looked fixedly at the boat as it rocked still more lazily on the waves, like a light-hearted boat that had drunk more than was good for it.
Meanwhile suppositions went on at a great rate. Perhaps the three men had fallen overboard? Only, all three at once; that seemed queer. La Queue would have had them believe that the Whale had gone to pieces like a rotten egg; but the boat was still afloat, and people shrugged their shoulders. Then, as if the three men were really lost, he remembered that he was mayor and spoke of formalities.
" Get out!" cried the Emperor. " Folks don't die so stupidly as that! If they'd fallen overboard, that little Delphin would be here by this time!"
All Coqueville had to agree that Delphin swam like a herring. But then, where could the three men be? They screamed, "I tell you it's so!…I tell you it isn't!…Fool!…Fool yourself!" And matters got to the pitch of an exchange of blows. The abbé Radiguet had to make a conciliatory appeal, while the Emperor shoved people this way and that to establish order once more. Meanwhile the boat did not hurry herself, but continued to dance before the company. She waltzed, she seemed to be making fun of the crowd. The tide washed her in toward shore, saluting the land in a series of long, rhythmic courtesies. A crazy boat, and no mistake.
Margot, with her cheeks in her hands, still kept up her watch. A skiff was just putting out from shore to go and meet the Whale. It was Brisemotte who was so impatient, as if he could not wait to give Rouget's wife some definite assurance. From that moment all Coqueville became engrossed in the skiff. Voices were raised. Well! could he see anything? The Whale drifted nearer, with her mysterious, jeering air. At last they saw him stand up and look into the boat, after managing to get hold of one of her hawsers. Every one held his breath. But suddenly he burst out laughing. This was a surprise. What was he laughing at?
"What do you see? what is it?" they called out furiously to him.
He did not answer, but only laughed the harder. He made signs as if to tell them that they would see. Then, after making the Whale fast to the skiff, he towed her in; and an unlooked-for spectacle struck Coqueville dumb.
The three men, Rouget, Delphin, and Fouasse, were lying blissfully on their backs in the bottom of the boat, snoring with clenched fists, dead drunk. Between them lay a small cask, staved in; a full cask which they must have picked up out of the water and the contents of which they had tasted. It was doubtless very good, for they had drunk it all up, except about a litre's worth, which had run out into the boat and got mixed with the sea water.
"Oh! The hog!"cried Rouget's wife brutally, stopping her snivelling.
"Well! a nice catch theirs is! "said La Queue, affecting profound disgust.
"Pshaw!" replied the Emperor, "folks catch what they can. They've fished up a cask anyhow, while some folks haven't caught anything at all."
The mayor held his tongue, much vexed. Coqueville was in an uproar. They saw it all now. When boats are drunk, they dance, just like men; and this one had her belly full of liquor, sure enough. Ah! the villain, what a jag! She zigzagged on the ocean like a drunk-and-incapable who couldn't tell his own house. And Coqueville laughed and was angry, the Mahé's calling it fun, whereas the Floches thought it disgusting. They crowded round the Whale, stretching out their necks and opening their eyes wide, to see those three fellows sleeping there, making a show of their holiday faces, without a suspicion of the crowd that was bending over them. The insults and laughter did not trouble them much. Rouget could not hear his wife accuse him of drinking up everything. Fouasse did not feel the sly kicks his brother Tupain kept giving him in the ribs. As for Delphin, he was pretty as a picture when he had been drinking, with his fair hair, pink cheeks, and his face drowned in rapture. Margot got up and was now looking at the young one in silence, with a hard expression in her eye.
"They must be put to bed!" cried a voice.
But just then Delphin opened his eyes. He looked round at the people as if highly delighted. He was questioned on every hand, with a vehemence that rather stunned him, all the more for his being full as a tick.
"Well! what's the matter?" he stammered out. "It's a little cask…There ain't any fish. So then, we caught a little cask."
This was all that could be got out of him. He only added, with every sentence, "It was mighty good."
"But what was there in the cask?" they all asked furiously.
"Oh! I don't know…It was mighty good."
By this time Coqueville was burning to know all about it. Every one stuck his nose down into the boat, sniffing with all his might. According to the unanimous opinion, it smelt of liquor; only no one knew what liquor. The Emperor, who flattered himself that he had tasted of everything a man could drink, said he would see. He gravely took a little of the liquid that was in the bottom of the boat in the hollow of his hand. The crowd was suddenly hushed. They were waiting. But the Emperor shook his head after swallowing a mouthful, as if he were not sure yet. He tasted twice, in greater and greater perplexity, looking anxious and surprised. He had to own up, "I don't know…It's odd…If it weren't for the salt water, I could tell; no doubt about it…My word of honor, it's very odd!"
They looked at one another. They were struck by the Emperor himself not daring to give an opinion. Coqueville looked at the empty cask with respect.
"It's mighty good," said Delphin once more, as if he did not care a rap for anybody.
Then he pointed out to sea with a comprehensive sweep of his arm and added, "If you want any, there's more of 'em…I saw a lot o' little casks…little casks…little casks…"
And he seemed as if he would rock himself to sleep with this refrain, which he kept humming, looking tenderly at Margot the while. He had just noticed her. She, in a fury, made as if she would box his ears for him; but he did not even shut his eyes, waiting there for the cuff without changing his tender gaze.
The abbé Radiguet, too, puzzled by this unknown delicacy, dipped his finger into the boat and sucked it, Like the Emperor, he shook his head: no, he didn't know what that was; it was very astonishing. They could agree only on one point: the cask must have come from the wreck of the ship in distress which was signalled on Sunday evening—English vessels often brought cargoes of liquor and fine wines to Grandport.
Little by little the daylight faded, and the crowd withdrew into the dark; but La Queue stayed behind, absorbed, tormented by an idea which he told to no one. He stopped, listening for the last time to Delphin, who was being carried off and kept repeating in his singsong voice, "Little casks…little casks…little casks…If you want any, there's more of 'em!"
— III —
The weather changed completely that night. When Coqueville awoke next morning, the sun was shining bright, the sea lay stretched out without a ripple, like a huge piece of green satin. And it was hot, one of those white autumn heats.
La Queue was the first in the village to get up, still conscious of a confused jumble of dreams he had had in the course of the night. He took a long look at the sea, to the right and left. At last he said sulkily that M. Mouchel's orders must be attended to, at any rate. So he set out at once with Tupain and Brisemotte, threatening to fondle Margot on the ribs if she didn't walk straight. But when the Zephyr put out from the harbor, and he saw the Whale rocking lazily at her moorings, he brightened up a bit, crying out sarcastically, "To-day, not much!…Dowse the glim, Jeanneton, the gentlemen have turned in!"
And as soon as the Zephyr was standing out to sea, he let out his nets.He next went to look at his "jambins,"—a sort of elongated hoop-net, used especially for catching the large, spiny lobsters (called langoustes) and the red mullet. But, though the sea was calm, it did not matter how carefully he searched his "jambins" one by one, they were all empty; at the bottom of the last one, as if by way of mockery, he found one small mackerel, which he threw back furiously into the sea. It was a veritable trick of fate. There would come weeks like that, when the fish wouldn't care a damn for Coqueville, and always just when M. Mouchel wanted them. When he drew in his nets an hour later, all he found was a bunch of seaweed. At this he swore with clenched fists, and all the harder that the sea was one boundless, lazy, dreamy calm, like a sheet of burnished silver beneath the blue sky. The Zephyr glided on, slowly and gently, without a roll. La Queue made up his mind to put back again after letting out his nets once more. He would come and see in the afternoon; and he threatened God and all the saints, sacréing abominable oaths.
Meanwhile Rouget, Fouasse, and Delphin were still asleep. They could not be got upon their feet till break fast-time. They could remember nothing, being only conscious of having treated themselves to something extraordinary, they did not know what. As they were all three down at the harbor in the afternoon, the Emperor tried to pump them, now that they had come to their senses. It was perhaps a little like brandy with licorice in it; or else rather more like rum, sugared and burnt? They said yes, they said no. The Emperor suspected from their answers that it might have been ratafia; but he would not have sworn to it. Rouget and his men felt too sore round the ribs to go fishing that day. Besides, they knew that La Queue had gone out for nothing in the morning, and spoke of waiting till afternoon before looking at their "jambins." All three sat there on blocks of stone, watching the tide come in, with rounded shoulders and pasty mouths, half asleep.
But all of a sudden Delphin woke up. He jumped up upon the stone with his eyes staring seaward, and cried out, "Look there, skipper…out there!"
"What?" asked Rouget, stretching himself.
Rouget and Fouasse were on their feet at once, searching the horizon with glistening eyes.
"Where is it, young one? where's your cask? " replied the skipper, greatly excited.
"Over yonder…to the left…that black dot."
The others could see nothing. Then Rouget exclaimed with an oath, "By God!"
He had just spied out the cask, the size of a bean on the white water, in a slanting ray of the setting sun; and he ran to the Whale followed by Delphin and Fouasse, who rushed after him, kicking up their heels behind and making the pebbles fly.
As the Whale was putting out from the harbor the news spread through Coqueville that a cask had been sighted outside. The women and children set off on the run, screaming, "A cask! a cask!"
"Do you see it ? The current is carrying it to Grandport."
"Ah, yes, to the left there…a cask! Come quick!"
And Coqueville slithered down its rock, the children turning cart-wheels, the women picking up their skirts in their hands, to get down faster. Soon the whole village was on the beach, as on the day before.
Margot showed herself for a minute, then ran home again as fast as her legs could carry her, to notify her father, who was discussing a report with the Emperor, At last La Queue appeared. He was livid as he said to the constable, "Shut up!… That Rouget sent you to call off my attention. Well! he sha'n't get this one, you'll see."
His rage redoubled when he saw the Whale over three hundred yards off, rowing hard toward the black spot that was bobbing up and down in the distance. He shoved Tupain and Brisemotte into the Zephyr and put out from port in his turn, repeating, "No, they sha'n't get it; I'll die first."
Then Coqueville had a fine sight, a desperate race between the Zephyr and the Whale. When the latter saw the other put out from the harbor she realized the danger and spurted ahead at full speed. She might have a start of somewhat over four hundred yards; but it was an even thing, for the Zephyr was lighter and faster. The excitement, too, was at its height on the beach. The Mahés and Floches instinctively formed two groups, following with breathless interest the changes of luck in the struggle, each group backing its own boat. At first the Whale kept the advantage she had gained at the start; but when the Zephyr was well under way she was seen to be creeping up upon her rival, little by little. Then the Whale put on a tremendous spurt and managed to keep her distance for some minutes; but she was again overhauled, the Zephyr gaining on her with astonishing speed. From this moment it was plain that the two boats would come alongside somewhere near the cask. The victory would hang upon an accident, upon the least slip.
"The Whale! the Whale! cried the Mahés; but they stopped shouting. Just as the Whale was almost touching the cask, the Zephyr steered across her bow by a bold manoeuvre, throwing the cask over to the left where La Queue caught hold of it with his boat-hook.
"The Zephyr! the Zephyr!" howled the Floches.
The Emperor claimed a foul, and there was an interchange of strong language. Margot clapped her hands. The abbé Radiguet, who had strolled down with his breviary, made a profound remark which calmed every one down and threw all into consternation. "Maybe they'll drink it all up, too," he murmured sadly.
Outside, a quarrel had broken out between the Whale and the Zephyr. Rouget called La Queue a thief, while the latter called him a good-for-nothing. The men even took up their oars to, knock each other down; and it wanted little to turn the adventure into a naval battle. But they agreed to meet on shore, shaking their fists at one another and threatening to empty each other's bellies as soon as they came together.
"The low rascals!" grunted Rouget. "The cask is bigger than the one yesterday. . . . This one's yellow. There must be famous stuff in it." Then, in despairing accents, "Let's go and take a look at the hoop-nets…Perhaps there's lobsters in 'em."
And the Whale went lumbering off, heading for the point, toward the left.
On board the Zephyr, La Queue had to get into a passion to keep Tupain and Brisemotte within bounds about the cask. The boat-hook had broken a hoop and let a little red liquid weep out, which the two men were tasting on the lips of their fingers and found delicious. They might as well drink one glass; it wouldn't matter to any one. But La Queue wouldn't have it. He made the cask fast in the bottom of the boat, and declared that the first man who took a suck at it would have to talk to him. They would see about it on shore.
"Then," asked Tupain in a huff, "we'll go and haul in the hoop-nets?"
"Yes, by and by, there's no hurry," answered La Queue.
He, too, was eyeing the barrel caressingly. He felt as if his limbs were all limp and longed to go ashore at once, to taste the stuff. Fish made him tired.
"Bah !" said he, after a moment's silence, "let's put back; it's getting late…We'll come out again to-morrow,"
And he was just letting his fishing slide when he caught sight of another cask on his right, a little bit of a one this time, standing up straight and spinning round like a top. It was all up with his nets and "jambins." He did not even mention them again. The Zephyr gave chase to the little barrel, which, for matter of that, she fished up very easily.
All this time the Whale was having a similar adventure. Just as Rouget had finished looking into five hoop-nets, which he found quite empty, Delphin, who was still on the lookout, called out that he saw something. But it didn't look like a cask, it was too long.
"It's a piece of timber," said Fouasse.
Rouget let go his sixth hoop-net before he had quite got it out of the water.
"Let's go and see, all the same," said he.
As they drew nearer they thought they made out a plank, a packing case, the trunk of a tree. Then they raised a shout of joy. It was a real cask, but a right funny one, the like of which they had never seen. It looked like a tube, swelled out in the middle and closed at both ends with plaster.
"Ah! it's a comical one!" cried Rouget in delight. "I want the Emperor to taste this one…Come, boys, let's go in!"
They agreed not to taste a drop of it, and the Whale got back to Coqueville at the very moment that the Zephyr, on her part, reached her moorings in the little harbor. Not an inquisitive soul had left the beach. Shouts of joy greeted this unhoped-for catch of three casks. The boys tossed their caps into the air, while the women ran for glasses. It was decided outright to taste the liquids on the spot. Everything coming from a wreck belonged to the village. There was no dispute on this head. Only, two groups were formed: the Mahés crowded round Rouget, the Floches would not let go of La Queue.
"Emperor, the first glass for you!" cried Rouget. "Tell us what it is."
The liquor was a beautiful golden yellow. The constable raised his glass, looked at it, smelt of it, and then made up his mind to drink.
"That comes from Holland," he said after a long silence.
He vouchsafed nothing further. All the Mahés drank with respect. It was a little thick, and they were surprised at a taste of flowers it had. The women thought it very nice. As for the men, they would have preferred less sugar; but then, after all, it got to be strong by the third or fourth glass. The more of it you drank, the better you liked it. The men got jolly and the women queer.
But, in spite of his recent quarrels with the mayor, the Emperor went to hover round the Floche party. The bigger of their casks gave out a dark red liquor, while from the very small one they drew a white liquid, like rock water; and this one was the stiffest, a regular pepper, something to make your tongue peel. Not one of the Floches knew what they were, neither the red nor the white one; and yet there were sharp fellows among them, too. It bothered them to have a treat, without knowing what it was.
"Here! Emperor, taste that," said La Queue at last, thus taking the first step.
The Emperor, who had been waiting for the invitation, posed once more as a winetaster.
At the red he said, "There's orange in that!"
And at the white he declared, "That's bully, that is!"
They had to put up with these answers, for he wagged his head as if he had made himself understood, with the comfortable expression of a man who felt he had done all that was expected of him.
The abbé Radiguet alone did not seem convinced. He wanted to know their names. To believe him, he had the names on the tip of his tongue; and, to make sure, he drank one small glass after another, repeating, "Wait a bit, wait a bit, I know what it is…I'll tell you in a minute."
Meanwhile the groups of Mahés and Floches grew gayer and gayer. The latter laughed particularly loud because they mixed their liquors, and this tickled them the more; but both remained apart. They did not offer one another a drink out of their casks; but they cast sympathetic glances at each other, each party being bitten with an unacknowledged longing to taste its neighbor's liquor, which seemed as if it must be better than its own. The hostile brothers, Tupain and Fouasse, were close together the whole evening without showing their fists. It was also noticed that Rotiget and his wife drank out of the same cup. As for Margot, she passed the liquor round in the Floche set; and, as she filled the glasses too full and the liquor ran over upon her fingers, she was continually sucking them; so that, though she obeyed her father, who had forbidden her to drink, she got as tipsy as a girl at vintage time. It was not unbecoming to her; quite the contrary. She was all rosy, her eyes like candles.
The sun was setting and the evening as mild as spring. Coqueville finished the casks and never thought of going home to dinner. It was too comfortable on the beach. When total darkness had set in, Margot, who was sitting apart from the rest, felt some one blowing upon the nape of her neck. It was Delphin, who had got very jolly, prowling round about her on all fours like a wolf. She stifled a scream so as to not give the alarm to her father, who would have given Delphin a kick in the backside.
"Go away, stupid!" she whispered, half in anger, half laughing." You'll get caught!"
— IV —
When Coqueville awoke next day, it found the sun high above the horizon. The weather was still warmer, a slumbering sea beneath a clear sky, one of those lazy days when it is good to do nothing. It was Wednesday, Coqueville rested up to breakfast-time after its treat of the evening before. Then the folk came down to the beach to see.
That Wednesday, fishing, the widow Dufeu, M. Mouchel, and everything were forgotten. La Queue and Rouget did not even speak of going to look at their hoop-nets. At about three some casks were signalled. Four were dancing opposite the village. The Zephyr and the Whale gave chase; but, as there was enough for all, there was no quarrelling, and each boat got its share.
At six Rouget and La Queue, after searching the little bay, came in with three casks apiece. And the festivities began afresh. The women brought down tables, to be more comfortable. They even brought benches and set up two cafés in the open air, just like those in Grandport. The Mahés were on the left, the Floches on the right, still separated by a sand heap. But that evening, the Emperor, who kept going from one party to another, handed round full glasses, so that everybody could taste the six casks. Toward nine they were much gayer than on the night before. Coqueville never could remember next day how it got to bed.
On Thursday the Zephyr and the Whale only fished up four casks, two apiece; but they were tremendous ones. On Friday the catch was superb, beyond all hope; there were seven casks, three for Rouget and four for La Queue. Then Coqueville entered upon a golden age. Nobody did anything. The fishermen, sleeping off their last night's liquor, did not get up till noon. Then they loafed down to the beach and questioned the sea. Their only care was to speculate upon what liquor the tide would bring them. They would stay there for hours with fixed eyes; they gave shouts of joy as soon as anything from the wreck appeared. From the top of the rocks the women and children would point out with violent gesticulation even the smallest bunches of seaweed washed along by the waves. And presently the Zephyr and Whale would be ready to start. They would put out, beat the bay, fish for casks as you would for tunny, having got by this time to despise the reassured mackerel cutting capers in the sun, and the lazy sole rocking on the surface of the water. Coqueville followed the fishing in fits of laughter on the sand. Then in the evening they would drink up their catch. What filled Coqueville with enthusiasm was that the supply of casks did not give out. When they were all gone, there were more left. Really, the ship that had gone to pieces must have had a pretty cargo on board; and Coqueville, grown selfish and gay, poked fun at that wrecked ship, a regular liquor cellar, enough to get all the fish in the ocean drunk. Besides, they never fished up two casks alike; there were casks of every shape, of every size, of every color. Then, with every cask there was a different liquid. The Emperor was accordingly plunged in profound reveries; he who had drunk of everything completely lost his bearings. La Queue declared that he had never seen a cargo the like of that. The abbé Radiguet guessed it must have been an order from some savage king who meant to set up a cellar. For the rest, Coqueville stopped trying to understand it all, lulled in unknown intoxications.
The ladies preferred the crêmes: there were crêmes of mocha, of cocoa, of peppermint, of vanilla. One evening Marie Rouget drank so much anisette that it made her sick. Margot and the other young misses went in for the curaçao, benedictine, trappistine, and chartreuse. As for the cassis, that was set aside for the small children. Of course the men were gladder when they fished up cognacs, rums, gins, anything that was hot in the mouth. Then there were surprises. A cask of Chios raki, with mastic in it, dumbfounded Coqueville; everyone thought he had fallen foul of a cask of spirits of turpentine; but they drank it all the same, because nothing must be wasted; they remembered it, though, for a long while after. Batavia arrack, Swedish cumin-brandy, Roumanian tuica calugaresta, Servian sliwowitz equally upset all Coqueville's notions of what a man could swallow. Upon the whole, there was a weakness for the Kümmel and Kirsch, liquors clear as water and stiff enough to kill a man. Could it be that so many good things had been invented! At Coqueville they only knew of brandy; and not every one, at that. And their imaginations grew more and more excited, they got to a pitch of veritable devoutness in face of this inexhaustible variety of things that intoxicate. Oh! to get drunk on something new every evening, and not to know its very name! It was like a fairy tale, a rain, a fountain spitting forth extraordinary liquids, flavored with every flower and fruit in all creation.
So on Friday evening there were seven casks on the beach. Coqueville had given up leaving the beach at all. It lived there, thanks to the mildness of the weather. Never had they enjoyed so fine a week in September. The spree had lasted ever since Monday; and there seemed to be no reason why it should not go on forever, if Providence kept sending casks; for the abbé Radiguet saw the finger of Providence in it. All business was suspended; what was the use of running about, when pleasure came to you in your sleep? They were all bourgeois of leisure, bourgeois who drank expensive liquors without having any score to pay at the café. Coqueville sunned itself luxuriously with its hands in its pockets, waiting for the evening's treat. Besides, it stopped sobering up; it passed from the hilarity of Kümmel straight on to that of Kirsch and ratafia; in seven days it made acquaintance with the angers of gin, the lachrymose sensibilities of curaçao, the laughter of cognac. And Coqueville remained innocent as the new-born babe, knowing nothing about anything, drinking in good faith whatever the good God sent it.
It was on Friday that the Mahés fraternized with the Floches. They were very jolly that evening. The distance between them had already grown less the evening before, for the drunker ones trampled down the sand heap that separated the two parties. Only one step more was left to be taken. On the Floche side four casks were being drained, while the Mahés, too, were finishing their three little barrels,— three liquors that just made up the French flag, one blue, one white, and one red. The blue one filled the Floches with envy, because they thought a blue liquor something really astounding. La Queue, grown good-natured ever since he had stopped getting sober, came forward, glass in hand, comprehending that he, as a magistrate, must make the first advance.
"Come, Rouget," he stammered out, will you clink glasses?"
"Don't care if I do," answered Rouget, who was staggering with sentimental emotion.
They fell upon each other's necks. Then everybody broke out into tears, so deeply were they affected. The Mahés and Floches embraced, they who had been devouring each other for centuries. The abbé Radiguet was much touched, and spoke again of the finger of God. They drank a toast in the three liquors, the blue, the white, and the red.
"Hurrah for France!" shouted the Emperor.
The blue was no good, the white not much better, but the red was stunning. They went for the Floche casks next. Then there was dancing. As there was no band, some accommodating young fellows clapped their hands and whistled, which enraptured the girls. The jollification got to be superb. The seven casks were drawn up in a row; every one could choose what he liked best. Those who had had enough stretched themselves out on the sand and took a nap, and when they woke up went at it again. The others spread out the ball little by little, and took up the whole beach. They danced in the open air till midnight. The sea murmured gently, the stars twinkled in the deep sky in immeasurable peace. It was the serenity of the infant ages, encompassing the joy of a tribe of savages drunk with its first cask of brandy.
Nevertheless, Coqueville still went home to bed. When there was nothing left to drink, the Floches and Mahés helped each other, carried each other, and managed to find their way to bed as well as they could. On Saturday the spree lasted up to nearly two in the morning. They had fished up six casks, two of which were enormous. Fouasse and Tupain almost came to blows. Tupain, who was ugly in his cups, talked of finishing off his brother; but everybody was shocked at this quarrel, the Floches as well as the Mahés, Was it reasonable to keep on fighting when the whole village was kissing? They made the two brothers drink together; they did so grudgingly, and the Emperor promised to keep an eye on them. Neither did the Rouget household get on swimmingly. When Marie had drunk some anisette, she heaped attentions upon Brisemotte, which Rouget could not contemplate calmly; the less so that he, growing sentimental, wanted to be loved himself. The abbé Radiguet, full of gentleness, might preach forgiveness of injuries till he was black in the face, an accident was to be feared.
"Bosh," said La Queue, "it'll all come out right. If we have a good catch to-morrow, you'll see…Here's to you!"
Still La Queue was not quite right yet himself. He kept watching Delphin, and would let fly a kick or so at him so soon as he saw him go near Margot. The Emperor was scandalized, for there was no sense in spoiling sport between two young people. But La Queue still swore he would rather kill Margot than give her to the young one. Besides, Margot wouldn't agree to it.
"Isn't that so? you're too proud," he cried." You'll never marry a beggar!"
"Never, papa!" answered Margot.
On Saturday, Margot drank a good deal of a sweet cordial. You couldn't imagine the like of such sugar. As she was off her guard, she very soon found herself sitting on the ground beside the cask. She was laughing, happy, in Paradise; she saw stars, she felt as if she had a band playing dance-tunes in her inside. Just then Delphin glided into the shadow of the cask. He took her hand and asked, "Say, Margot, will you?"
She kept on smiling.Then she replied, "It's all papa who isn't willing."
"Oh! that don't matter," the young one went on, "The old folks never are willing, you know…As long as you're willing yourself."
He grew bolder and gave her a kiss on the neck. She bridled, a shiver ran over her shoulders.
"Have done, you tickle."
But she said nothing more about boxing his ears. She could not have done it, to begin with, her hands were too limp. Then those little kisses on her neck felt good. They were like the cordial that benumbed her so deliciously. At last she rolled her head to one side and stuck out her chin like a cat.
"Here!" she stammered out, "here under my ear, it itches there…Oh! that's nice."
Both had forgotten La Queue. Luckily the Emperor was on the lookout. He called the abbé Radiguet to look at them, saying, "Look here, curé…It would be best to marry them."
"Morality would gain by it," the priest answered sententiously
And he took the matter upon himself for the morrow. He would speak to La Queue. Meanwhile La Queue had drunk so much that the Emperor and curé had to carry him home. They tried to reason with him about his daughter on the way; but they could get nothing out of him but grunts. Behind them Delphin saw Margot home through the bright night.
By four next day the Zephyr and Whale had fished up seven casks. At six the Zephyr fished up two more—That made nine. Then Coqueville celebrated Sunday. And the spree was complete, a spree the like of which was never seen before and will never be seen again. Just mention it in Lower Normandy, and people will say with a laugh, "Ah! yes, the Coqueville spree!"
— V —
Meanwhile M. Mouchel was astonished on Tuesday to see neither Rouget not La Queue come to Grandport. What the devil could those fellows be about? The sea was calm, there ought to be splendid fishing. Perhaps they meant to bring him a whole boatload of soles and lobsters at once. So he waited patiently till Wednesday.
On Wednesday, M. Mouchel began to get angry. You must know that the widow Dufeu was no joke. She was a woman who would come to hard words in a jiffy. Though he was a good-looking fellow, fair-haired and strong, he trembled before her, and all the more because he hoped to marry her; he was very attentive, contenting himself with the prospect of calming her down with a box on the ear, if ever he should get to be her master. So on Wednesday morning the widow Dufeu was in a storming rage, complaining that those people had stopped sending anything in, and that they themselves were short of fish; and she taxed him with running after the girls alongshore, instead of looking after his whiting and mackerel, which ought to be plentiful. M. Mouchel was annoyed, and fell back upon Coqueville's singular breach of faith. The surprise pacified the widow Dufeu for a moment. What could Coqueville be thinking of? It had never acted in that way before. But she declared directly that she didn't care a rap for Coqueville; that it was M. Mouchel's business to keep her advised, and that she would know what to do if he let himself be taken in by the fishermen. At this he got very anxious and wished Rouget and La Queue to the devil. Perhaps they would come to-morrow, all the same.
Next day, Thursday, neither of them appeared. Towards evening M. Mouchel went up in despair to the top of the rock at the left of Grandport, from which you can see Coqueville in the distance, with the yellow spot made by its beach. He looked long. The village looked quiet in the sunshine, light streaks of smoke were coming out from the chimneys; no doubt the women were cooking their soup. M. Mouchel ascertained that Coqueville was still in its place, and that a rock from the bluff had not crushed it; he understood it less than ever. Just as he was on the point of coming down again he thought he made out two black dots in the bay, the Whale and the Zephyr, So he went back to calm down the widow Dufeu. Coqueville was fishing.
The night passed by. Friday came. Still no Coqueville. M. Mouchel climbed up his rock over ten times. He was beginning to lose his head; the widow Dufeu called him the most abominable names, and he could think of no answer to give her. There was Coqueville, still basking in the sun like a lazy lizard. Only, M. Mouchel did not seem to see any more smoke. The village seemed to be dead. Could they all have died in their holes? There was a swarm of something on the beach; but it might be seaweed, washed up by the tide.
On Saturday, nobody yet. The widow Dufeu was past crying: her eyes were fixed and her lips white. M. Mouchel spent two hours on top of his rock. A curiosity was growing within him, a feeling as if he must account to his own satisfaction for the strange stagnation of the village. Those huts blissfully sleeping there in the sun got to the pitch of annoying him. His mind was made up: he would set out very early Monday morning and try to be there about nine.
Going to Coqueville was no pleasure trip. M. Mouchel thought best to take the land road; he would thus come upon the village without being expected. A carriage took him as far as Robigneux, where he left it in a barn; for it would not have been prudent to venture into the gorges with it. He set out briskly, having more than four miles before him over the most atrocious of roads. The walk, however, has a wild beauty of its own; the path leads down with continual turnings between two enormous barriers of rock, and so narrow is it at times that three men cannot pass through abreast. Farther on it runs along the brink of precipices; the gorge opens abruptly, and you catch glimpses of the sea and of boundless blue horizons. But M. Mouchel was in no frame of mind to admire the landscape. He swore when the stones turned under his heel. It was all Coqueville's fault; he promised to shake up those do-nothings in fine style. Meanwhile he was getting nearer. All of a sudden, at the turning round the last rock, he caught sight of the twenty houses of the village, hanging to the side of the bluff.
It was striking nine. It was like June, so blue and warm was the sky; the weather was superb, the clear air gilt with a dust of sunshine and cooled by the good sea smell. M. Mouchel passed into the only street of the village, where he had been often before; when he came to Rouget's house he went in. The house was empty. He next gave a look in at Fouasse's, at Tupain's, at Brisemotte's. Not a soul; all the doors open and nobody in the rooms. What did it mean? He felt a slight chill creep over his skin. Then he bethought him of the authorities. Surely the Emperor would tell him about it. But the Emperor's house was empty like the rest; even the constable was gone! This deserted and silent village frightened him by this time. He ran to the mayor's. There another surprise awaited him: the house was in abominable disorder; the beds had not been made for three days; the crockery was lying round, and the topsyturvied chairs seemed to tell of some fight. Thoroughly upset and imagining all sorts of cataclysms, M. Mouchel made up his mind to see it through to the end, and went to the church. No more curé than mayor. The very powers of religion herself had vanished. Deserted Coqueville slept there without a living breath, without a dog, without a cat. There was not even any poultry left, the hens were gone. Nothing a void, silence, leaden sleep, beneath the broad blue sky.
Egad! no wonder Coqueville had brought no fish! Coqueville had moved, Coqueville was dead. The police must be notified. This mysterious catastrophe was driving M. Mouchel half crazy when, it having occurred to him to go down to the beach, he gave a shriek. The entire population was lying prostrate on the sand. There must have been a general massacre. But a sonorous snoring undeceived him. Coqueville had kept up its spree so late Sunday night that it was absolutely unable to get home to bed. So it slept on the sand just where it fell, round the nine casks, which were all drunk up.
Yes, all Coqueville was snoring there; I mean, the children, women, old people, and men. Not one was left standing. Some were on their bellies, some on their backs; others lay bunched up with their chin between their knees. As you make your bed, so must you lie; and the rascals lay scattered there as drunken luck had thrown them down, like a handful of leaves blown by the wind. Some of the men had tumbled head over heels and were lying head downmost. Women showed their backsides. It was full of artless good-nature, an open-air dormitory, a lot of people making themselves at home among friends; for there is no fun where constraint is.
It was just new moon. Coqueville, thinking it had blown out its candle, had let itself go in the dark. Then daylight came; and now the sun was flaming, a sun that cast its rays straight down upon the sleepers without making them wink an eyelid. They were fast asleep with their jolly faces, in the beautiful innocence of drunkards. The chickens must have come down early in the morning to peck at the casks, for they, too, were lying drunk on the sand. There were even five cats and three dogs with their paws in the air, tipsy from licking the glasses that had trickled with sugar.
M. Mouchel walked round among the sleepers for a moment, taking care not to step on any one. He saw it all, for some casks from the wreck of an English vessel had been picked up in Grandport, too. All his wrath fell. What a touching and moral spectacle! Coqueville in one general reconciliation, the Mahés and Floches lying side by side! At the last glass the worst enemies had fallen into each other's arms. Tupain and Fouasse were snoring hand in hand, like brothers incapable henceforth of contesting a will. As for the Rouget household, it presented a still more amiable picture; Marie slept between Rouget and Brisemotte, as if to say that from this day forward they would live thus, happy all three.
But above all, one group showed a family scene fit to move a stone to sensibility.It was Delphin and Margot, with their arms round each other's necks; they slept there cheek to cheek, with their lips still parted after a kiss. At their feet the Emperor lay crosswise, guarding them. Above them La Queue snored like a father satisfied with having settled his daughter for life, while the abbé Radiguet, who had fallen there like the rest, seemed to be giving them his blessing with his outspread arms. In her sleep Margot still stretched out her rosy face, like a cat in love that likes to be scratched under the chin.
The spree had wound up with a wedding. And M. Mouchel himself afterwards married the widow Dufeu, whom he beats to a jelly. Just mention it in Lower Normandy, and people will say with a laugh, "Ah! yes, the Coqueville spree!"
ENGLISHED BY WILLIAM FOSTER APTHORP
COPELAND AND DAY
ENTERED ACCORDING TO ACT OF CONGRESS IN THE
YEAR 1895, BY COPELAND AND DAY, IN THE OFFICE OF
THE LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS AT WASHINGTON.
THESE TRANSLATIONS ARE AUTHORIZED BY M. ZOLA.
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