Émile Zola.

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go off in liquids. Since the money would disappear anyway, surely it was
better to pay it to the butcher. Gervaise used that excuse to justify
overeating, saying it was Coupeau's fault if they could no longer save a
sou. She had grown considerably fatter, and she limped more than before
because her leg, now swollen with fat, seemed to be getting gradually

That year they talked about her saint's day a good month beforehand.
They thought of dishes and smacked their lips in advance. All the shop
had a confounded longing to junket. They wanted a merry-making of the
right sort - something out of the ordinary and highly successful. One
does not have so many opportunities for enjoyment. What most troubled
the laundress was to decide whom to invite; she wished to have twelve
persons at table, no more, no less. She, her husband, mother Coupeau,
and Madame Lerat, already made four members of the family. She would
also have the Goujets and the Poissons. Originally, she had decided not
to invite her workwomen, Madame Putois and Clemence, so as not to make
them too familiar; but as the projected feast was being constantly
spoken of in their presence, and their mouths watered, she ended by
telling them to come. Four and four, eight, and two are ten. Then,
wishing particularly to have twelve, she became reconciled with the
Lorilleuxs, who for some time past had been hovering around her; at
least it was agreed that the Lorilleuxs should come to dinner, and that
peace should be made with glasses in hand. You really shouldn't
keep family quarrels going forever. When the Boches heard that a
reconciliation was planned, they also sought to make up with Gervaise,
and so they had to be invited to the dinner too. That would make
fourteen, not counting the children. Never before had she given such
a large dinner and the thought frightened and excited her at the same

The saint's day happened to fall on a Monday. It was a piece of luck.
Gervaise counted on the Sunday afternoon to begin the cooking. On the
Saturday, whilst the workwomen hurried with their work, there was a long
discussion in the shop with the view of finally deciding upon what the
feast should consist of. For three weeks past one thing alone had been
chosen - a fat roast goose. There was a gluttonous look on every face
whenever it was mentioned. The goose was even already bought. Mother
Coupeau went and fetched it to let Clemence and Madame Putois feel its
weight. And they uttered all kinds of exclamations; it looked such an
enormous bird, with its rough skin all swelled out with yellow fat.

"Before that there will be the pot-au-feu," said Gervaise, "the soup and
just a small piece of boiled beef, it's always good. Then we must have
something in the way of a stew."

Tall Clemence suggested rabbit, but they were always having that,
everyone was sick of it. Gervaise wanted something more distinguished.
Madame Putois having spoken of stewed veal, they looked at one another
with broad smiles. It was a real idea, nothing would make a better
impression than a veal stew.

"And after that," resumed Gervaise, "we must have some other dish with a

Mother Coupeau proposed fish. But the others made a grimace, as they
banged down their irons. None of them liked fish; it was not a
bit satisfying; and besides that it was full of bones. Squint-eyed
Augustine, having dared to observe that she liked skate, Clemence
shut her mouth for her with a good sound clout. At length the mistress
thought of stewed pig's back and potatoes, which restored the smiles
to every countenance. Then Virginie entered like a puff of wind, with a
strange look on her face.

"You've come just at the right time!" exclaimed Gervaise. "Mother
Coupeau, do show her the bird."

And mother Coupeau went a second time and fetched the goose, which
Virginie had to take in her hands. She uttered no end of exclamations.
By Jove! It was heavy! But she soon laid it down on the work-table,
between a petticoat and a bundle of shirts. Her thoughts were elsewhere.
She dragged Gervaise into the back-room.

"I say, little one," murmured she rapidly, "I've come to warn you.
You'll never guess who I just met at the corner of the street. Lantier,
my dear! He's hovering about on the watch; so I hastened here at once.
It frightened me on your account, you know."

The laundress turned quite pale. What could the wretched man want with
her? Coming, too, like that, just in the midst of the preparations for
the feast. She had never had any luck; she could not even be allowed to
enjoy herself quietly. But Virginie replied that she was very foolish to
put herself out about it like that. Why! If Lantier dared to follow her
about, all she had to do was to call a policeman and have him locked up.
In the month since her husband had been appointed a policeman, Virginie
had assumed rather lordly manners and talked of arresting everybody. She
began to raise her voice, saying that she wished some passer-by would
pinch her bottom so that she could take the fresh fellow to the police
station herself and turn him over to her husband. Gervaise signaled her
to be quiet since the workwomen were listening and led the way back into
the shop, reopening the discussion about the dinner.

"Now, don't we need a vegetable?"

"Why not peas with bacon?" said Virginie. "I like nothing better."

"Yes, peas with bacon." The others approved. Augustine was so
enthusiastic that she jabbed the poker into the stove harder than ever.

By three o'clock on the morrow, Sunday, mother Coupeau had lighted their
two stoves and also a third one of earthenware which they had borrowed
from the Boches. At half-past three the pot-au-feu was boiling away in
an enormous earthenware pot lent by the eating-house keeper next door,
the family pot having been found too small. They had decided to cook the
veal and the pig's back the night before, since both of those dishes
are better when reheated. But the cream sauce for the veal would not be
prepared until just before sitting down for the feast.

There was still plenty of work left for Monday: the soup, the peas with
bacon, the roast goose. The inner room was lit by three fires. Butter
was sizzling in the pans and emitting a sharp odor of burnt flour.

Mother Coupeau and Gervaise, with white aprons tied on, were bustling
all around, cleaning parsley, dashing for salt and pepper, turning the
meat. They had sent Coupeau away so as not to have him underfoot, but
they still had plenty of people looking in throughout the afternoon. The
luscious smells from the kitchen had spread through the entire building
so that neighboring ladies came into the shop on various pretexts, very
curious to see what was being cooked.

Virginie put in an appearance towards five o'clock. She had again seen
Lantier; really, it was impossible to go down the street now without
meeting him. Madame Boche also had just caught sight of him standing at
the corner of the pavement with his head thrust forward in an uncommonly
sly manner. Then Gervaise who had at that moment intended going for a
sou's worth of burnt onions for the pot-au-feu, began to tremble from
head to foot and did not dare leave the house; the more so, as the
concierge and the dressmaker put her into a terrible fright by relating
horrible stories of men waiting for women with knives and pistols hidden
beneath their overcoats. Well, yes! one reads of such things every day
in the newspapers. When one of those scoundrels gets his monkey up
on discovering an old love leading a happy life he becomes capable
of everything. Virginie obligingly offered to run and fetch the burnt
onions. Women should always help one another, they could not let that
little thing be murdered. When she returned she said that Lantier was no
longer there; he had probably gone off on finding he was discovered.
In spite of that thought, he was the subject of conversation around
the saucepans until night-time. When Madame Boche advised her to inform
Coupeau, Gervaise became really terrified, and implored her not to say
a word about it. Oh, yes, wouldn't that be a nice situation! Her husband
must have become suspicious already because for the last few days, at
night, he would swear to himself and bang the wall with his fists. The
mere thought that the two men might destroy each other because of her
made her shudder. She knew that Coupeau was jealous enough to attack
Lantier with his shears.

While the four of them had been deep in contemplating this drama, the
saucepans on the banked coals of the stoves had been quietly simmering.
When mother Coupeau lifted the lids, the veal and the pig's back
were discreetly bubbling. The pot-au-feu was steadily steaming with
snore-like sounds. Eventually each of them dipped a piece of bread into
the soup to taste the bouillon.

At length Monday arrived. Now that Gervaise was going to have fourteen
persons at table, she began to fear that she would not be able to find
room for them all. She decided that they should dine in the shop; and
the first thing in the morning she took measurements so as to settle
which way she should place the table. After that they had to remove all
the clothes and take the ironing-table to pieces; the top of this laid
on to some shorter trestles was to be the dining-table. But just in the
midst of all this moving a customer appeared and made a scene because
she had been waiting for her washing ever since the Friday; they were
humbugging her, she would have her things at once. Then Gervaise
tried to excuse herself and lied boldly; it was not her fault, she was
cleaning out her shop, the workmen would not be there till the morrow;
and she pacified her customer and got rid of her by promising to busy
herself with her things at the earliest possible moment. Then, as soon
as the woman had left, she showed her temper. Really, if you listened
to all your customers, you'd never have time to eat. You could work
yourself to death like a dog on a leash! Well! No matter who came in
to-day, even if they offered one hundred thousand francs, she wouldn't
touch an iron on this Monday, because it was her turn to enjoy herself.

The entire morning was spent in completing the purchases. Three times
Gervaise went out and returned laden like a mule. But just as she was
going to order wine she noticed that she had not sufficient money left.
She could easily have got it on credit; only she could not be without
money in the house, on account of the thousand little expenses that one
is liable to forget. And mother Coupeau and she had lamented together
in the back-room as they reckoned that they required at least twenty
francs. How could they obtain them, those four pieces of a hundred sous
each? Mother Coupeau who had at one time done the charring for a little
actress of the Theatre des Batignolles, was the first to suggest the
pawn-shop. Gervaise laughed with relief. How stupid she was not to have
thought of it! She quickly folded her black silk dress upon a towel
which she then pinned together. Then she hid the bundle under mother
Coupeau's apron, telling her to keep it very flat against her stomach,
on account of the neighbors who had no need to know; and she went and
watched at the door to see that the old woman was not followed. But the
latter had only gone as far as the charcoal dealer's when she called her

"Mamma! Mamma!"

She made her return to the shop, and taking her wedding-ring off her
finger said:

"Here, put this with it. We shall get all the more."

When mother Coupeau brought her twenty-five francs, she danced for joy.
She would order an extra six bottles of wine, sealed wine to drink with
the roast. The Lorilleuxs would be crushed.

For a fortnight past it had been the Coupeaus' dream to crush the
Lorilleuxs. Was it not true that those sly ones, the man and his wife, a
truly pretty couple, shut themselves up whenever they had anything nice
to eat as though they had stolen it? Yes, they covered up the window
with a blanket to hide the light and make believe that they were already
asleep in bed. This stopped anyone from coming up, and so the Lorilleuxs
could stuff everything down, just the two of them. They were even
careful the next day not to throw the bones into the garbage so that no
one would know what they had eaten. Madame Lorilleux would walk to
the end of the street to toss them into a sewer opening. One morning
Gervaise surprised her emptying a basket of oyster shells there.
Oh, those penny-pinchers were never open-handed, and all their mean
contrivances came from their desire to appear to be poor. Well, we'd
show them, we'd prove to them that we weren't mean.

Gervaise would have laid her table in the street, had she been able to,
just for the sake of inviting each passer-by. Money was not invented
that it should be allowed to grow moldy, was it? It is pretty when it
shines all new in the sunshine. She resembled them so little now, that
on the days when she had twenty sous she arranged things to let people
think that she had forty.

Mother Coupeau and Gervaise talked of the Lorilleuxs whilst they laid
the cloth about three o'clock. They had hung some big curtains at the
windows; but as it was very warm the door was left open and the whole
street passed in front of the little table. The two women did not place
a decanter, or a bottle, or a salt-cellar, without trying to arrange
them in such a way as to annoy the Lorilleuxs. They had arranged their
seats so as to give them a full view of the superbly laid cloth, and
they had reserved the best crockery for them, well knowing that the
porcelain plates would create a great effect.

"No, no, mamma," cried Gervaise; "don't give them those napkins! I've
two damask ones."

"Ah, good!" murmured the old woman; "that'll break their hearts, that's

And they smiled to each other as they stood up on either side of that
big white table on which the fourteen knives and forks, placed all
round, caused them to swell with pride. It had the appearance of the
altar of some chapel in the middle of the shop.

"That's because they're so stingy themselves!" resumed Gervaise. "You
know they lied last month when the woman went about everywhere saying
that she had lost a piece of gold chain as she was taking the work home.
The idea! There's no fear of her ever losing anything! It was simply a
way of making themselves out very poor and of not giving you your five

"As yet I've only seen my five francs twice," said mother Coupeau.

"I'll bet next month they'll concoct some other story. That explains
why they cover their window up when they have a rabbit to eat. Don't
you see? One would have the right to say to them: 'As you can afford a
rabbit you can certainly give five francs to your mother!' Oh! they're
just rotten! What would have become of you if I hadn't taken you to live
with us?"

Mother Coupeau slowly shook her head. That day she was all against the
Lorilleuxs, because of the great feast the Coupeaus were giving. She
loved cooking, the little gossipings round the saucepans, the place
turned topsy-turvy by the revels of saints' days. Besides she generally
got on pretty well with Gervaise. On other days when they plagued one
another as happens in all families, the old woman grumbled saying she
was wretchedly unfortunate in thus being at her daughter-in-law's mercy.
In point of fact she probably had some affection for Madame Lorilleux
who after all was her daughter.

"Ah!" continued Gervaise, "you wouldn't be so fat, would you, if you
were living with them? And no coffee, no snuff, no little luxuries of
any sort! Tell me, would they have given you two mattresses to your

"No, that's very certain," replied mother Coupeau. "When they arrive
I shall place myself so as to have a good view of the door to see the
faces they'll make."

Thinking of the faces they would make gave them pleasure ahead of time.
However, they couldn't remain standing there admiring the table. The
Coupeaus had lunched very late on just a bite or two, because the stoves
were already in use, and because they did not want to dirty any dishes
needed for the evening. By four o'clock the two women were working very
hard. The huge goose was being cooked on a spit. Squint-eyed
Augustine was sitting on a low bench solemnly basting the goose with a
long-handled spoon. Gervaise was busy with the peas with bacon. Mother
Coupeau, kept spinning around, a bit confused, waiting for the right
time to begin reheating the pork and the veal.

Towards five o'clock the guests began to arrive. First of all came the
two workwomen, Clemence and Madame Putois, both in their Sunday best,
the former in blue, the latter in black; Clemence carried a geranium,
Madame Putois a heliotrope, and Gervaise, whose hands were just then
smothered with flour, had to kiss each of them on both cheeks with her
arms behind her back. Then following close upon their heels entered
Virginie dressed like a lady in a printed muslin costume with a sash and
a bonnet though she had only a few steps to come. She brought a pot of
red carnations. She took the laundress in her big arms and squeezed her
tight. At length Boche appeared with a pot of pansies and Madame Boche
with a pot of mignonette; then came Madame Lerat with a balm-mint,
the pot of which had dirtied her violet merino dress. All these people
kissed each other and gathered together in the back-room in the midst of
the three stoves and the roasting apparatus, which gave out a stifling
heat. The noise from the saucepans drowned the voices. A dress catching
in the Dutch oven caused quite an emotion. The smell of roast goose
was so strong that it made their mouths water. And Gervaise was very
pleasant, thanking everyone for their flowers without however letting
that interfere with her preparing the thickening for the stewed veal at
the bottom of a soup plate. She had placed the pots in the shop at one
end of the table without removing the white paper that was round them. A
sweet scent of flowers mingled with the odor of cooking.

"Do you want any assistance?" asked Virginie. "Just fancy, you've been
three days preparing all this feast and it will be gobbled up in no

"Well, you know," replied Gervaise, "it wouldn't prepare itself. No,
don't dirty your hands. You see everything's ready. There's only the
soup to warm."

Then they all made themselves comfortable. The ladies laid their shawls
and their caps on the bed and pinned up their skirts so as not to soil
them. Boche sent his wife back to the concierge's lodge until time to
eat and had cornered Clemence in a corner trying to find out if she
was ticklish. She was gasping for breath, as the mere thought of being
tickled sent shivers through her. So as not to bother the cooks, the
other ladies had gone into the shop and were standing against the wall
facing the table. They were talking through the door though, and as they
could not hear very well, they were continually invading the back-room
and crowding around Gervaise, who would forget what she was doing to
answer them.

There were a few stories which brought sly laughter. When Virginie
mentioned that she hadn't eaten for two days in order to have more room
for today's feast, tall Clemence said that she had cleaned herself out
that morning with an enema like the English do. Then Boche suggested
a way of digesting the food quickly by squeezing oneself after each
course, another English custom. After all, when you were invited to
dinner, wasn't it polite to eat as much as you could? Veal and pork and
goose are placed out for the cats to eat. The hostess didn't need to
worry a bit, they were going to clean their plates so thoroughly that
she wouldn't have to wash them.

All of them kept coming to smell the air above the saucepans and the
roaster. The ladies began to act like young girls, scurrying from room
to room and pushing each other.

Just as they were all jumping about and shouting by way of amusement,
Goujet appeared. He was so timid he scarcely dared enter, but stood
still, holding a tall white rose-tree in his arms, a magnificent plant
with a stem that reached to his face and entangled the flowers in his
beard. Gervaise ran to him, her cheeks burning from the heat of the
stoves. But he did not know how to get rid of his pot; and when she had
taken it from his hands he stammered, not daring to kiss her. It was
she who was obliged to stand on tip-toe and place her cheek against his
lips; he was so agitated that even then he kissed her roughly on the eye
almost blinding her. They both stood trembling.

"Oh! Monsieur Goujet, it's too lovely!" said she, placing the rose-tree
beside the other flowers which it overtopped with the whole of its tuft
of foliage.

"Not at all, not at all!" repeated he, unable to say anything else.

Then, after sighing deeply, he slightly recovered himself and stated
that she was not to expect his mother; she was suffering from an attack
of sciatica. Gervaise was greatly grieved; she talked of putting a piece
of the goose on one side as she particularly wished Madame Goujet to
have a taste of the bird. No one else was expected. Coupeau was no doubt
strolling about in the neighborhood with Poisson whom he had called for
directly after his lunch; they would be home directly, they had promised
to be back punctually at six. Then as the soup was almost ready,
Gervaise called to Madame Lerat, saying that she thought it was time to
go and fetch the Lorilleuxs. Madame Lerat became at once very grave; it
was she who had conducted all the negotiations and who had settled how
everything should pass between the two families. She put her cap and
shawl on again and went upstairs very stiffly in her skirts, looking
very stately. Down below the laundress continued to stir her vermicelli
soup without saying a word. The guests suddenly became serious and
solemnly waited.

It was Madame Lerat who appeared first. She had gone round by the street
so as to give more pomp to the reconciliation. She held the shop-door
wide open whilst Madame Lorilleux, wearing a silk dress, stopped at
the threshold. All the guests had risen from their seats; Gervaise went
forward and kissing her sister-in-law as had been agreed, said:

"Come in. It's all over, isn't it? We'll both be nice to each other."

And Madame Lorilleux replied:

"I shall be only too happy if we're so always."

When she had entered Lorilleux also stopped at the threshold and he
likewise waited to be embraced before penetrating into the shop. Neither
the one nor the other had brought a bouquet. They had decided not to do
so as they thought it would look too much like giving way to Clump-clump
if they carried flowers with them the first time they set foot in her
home. Gervaise called to Augustine to bring two bottles of wine. Then,
filling some glasses on a corner of the table, she called everyone
to her. And each took a glass and drank to the good friendship of the
family. There was a pause whilst the guests were drinking, the ladies
raising their elbows and emptying their glasses to the last drop.

"Nothing is better before soup," declared Boche, smacking his lips.

Mother Coupeau had placed herself opposite the door to see the faces the
Lorilleuxs would make. She pulled Gervaise by the skirt and dragged her
into the back-room. And as they both leant over the soup they conversed
rapidly in a low voice.

"Huh! What a sight!" said the old woman. "You couldn't see them; but I
was watching. When she caught sight of the table her face twisted around
like that, the corners of her mouth almost touched her eyes; and as for
him, it nearly choked him, he coughed and coughed. Now just look at
them over there; they've no saliva left in their mouths, they're chewing
their lips."

"It's quite painful to see people as jealous as that," murmured

Really the Lorilleuxs had a funny look about them. No one of course
likes to be crushed; in families especially when the one succeeds, the
others do not like it; that is only natural. Only one keeps it in, one
does not make an exhibition of oneself. Well! The Lorilleuxs could not
keep it in. It was more than a match for them. They squinted - their
mouths were all on one side. In short it was so apparent that the other
guests looked at them, and asked them if they were unwell. Never would
they be able to stomach this table with its fourteen place-settings, its
white linen table cloth, its slices of bread cut in advance, all in the
style of a first-class restaurant. Mme. Lorilleux went around the table,
surreptitiously fingering the table cloth, tortured by the thought that

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