Émile Zola.

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wine. The zinc-worker would have preferred to booze in a less
pretentious place, but he was impressed by the aristocratic tastes of
Lantier, who would discover on the bill of fare dishes with the most
extraordinary names.

It was hard to understand a man so hard to please. Maybe it was from
being a southerner. Lantier didn't like anything too rich and argued
about every dish, sending back meat that was too salty or too peppery.
He hated drafts. If a door was left open, he complained loudly. At the
same time, he was very stingy, only giving the waiter a tip of two sous
for a meal of seven or eight francs. He was treated with respect in
spite of that.

The pair were well known along the exterior boulevards, from Batignolles
to Belleville. They would go to the Grand Rue des Batignolles to eat
tripe cooked in the Caen style. At the foot of Montmartre they obtained
the best oysters in the neighborhood at the "Town of Bar-le-Duc." When
they ventured to the top of the height as far as the "Galette Windmill"
they had a stewed rabbit. The "Lilacs," in the Rue des Martyrs, had a
reputation for their calf's head, whilst the restaurant of the "Golden
Lion" and the "Two Chestnut Trees," in the Chaussee Clignancourt, served
them stewed kidneys which made them lick their lips. Usually they went
toward Belleville where they had tables reserved for them at some places
of such excellent repute that you could order anything with your eyes
closed. These eating sprees were always surreptitious and the next day
they would refer to them indirectly while playing with the potatoes
served by Gervaise. Once Lantier brought a woman with him to the
"Galette Windmill" and Coupeau left immediately after dessert.

One naturally cannot both guzzle and work; so that ever since the hatter
was made one of the family, the zinc-worker, who was already pretty
lazy, had got to the point of never touching a tool. When tired of doing
nothing, he sometimes let himself be prevailed upon to take a job. Then
his comrade would look him up and chaff him unmercifully when he found
him hanging to his knotty cord like a smoked ham, and he would call
to him to come down and have a glass of wine. And that settled it. The
zinc-worker would send the job to blazes and commence a booze which
lasted days and weeks. Oh, it was a famous booze - a general review of
all the dram shops of the neighborhood, the intoxication of the morning
slept off by midday and renewed in the evening; the goes of "vitriol"
succeeded one another, becoming lost in the depths of the night,
like the Venetian lanterns of an illumination, until the last candle
disappeared with the last glass! That rogue of a hatter never kept on
to the end. He let the other get elevated, then gave him the slip and
returned home smiling in his pleasant way. He could drink a great deal
without people noticing it. When one got to know him well one could only
tell it by his half-closed eyes and his overbold behavior to women.
The zinc-worker, on the contrary, became quite disgusting, and could no
longer drink without putting himself into a beastly state.

Thus, towards the beginning of November, Coupeau went in for a booze
which ended in a most dirty manner, both for himself and the others. The
day before he had been offered a job. This time Lantier was full of fine
sentiments; he lauded work, because work ennobles a man. In the morning
he even rose before it was light, for he gravely wished to accompany his
friend to the workshop, honoring in him the workman really worthy of the
name. But when they arrived before the "Little Civet," which was just
opening, they entered to have a plum in brandy, only one, merely to
drink together to the firm observance of a good resolution. On a
bench opposite the counter, and with his back against the wall,
Bibi-the-Smoker was sitting smoking with a sulky look on his face.

"Hallo! Here's Bibi having a snooze," said Coupeau. "Are you down in the
dumps, old bloke?"

"No, no," replied the comrade, stretching his arm. "It's the employers
who disgust me. I sent mine to the right about yesterday. They're all
toads and scoundrels."

Bibi-the-Smoker accepted a plum. He was, no doubt, waiting there on that
bench for someone to stand him a drink. Lantier, however, took the part
of the employers; they often had some very hard times, as he who had
been in business himself well knew. The workers were a bad lot, forever
getting drunk! They didn't take their work seriously. Sometimes they
quit in the middle of a job and only returned when they needed something
in their pockets. Then Lantier would switch his attack to the employers.
They were nasty exploiters, regular cannibals. But he could sleep with a
clear conscience as he had always acted as a friend to his employees. He
didn't want to get rich the way others did.

"Let's be off, my boy," he said, speaking to Coupeau. "We must be going
or we shall be late."

Bibi-the-Smoker followed them, swinging his arms. Outside the sun
was scarcely rising, the pale daylight seemed dirtied by the muddy
reflection of the pavement; it had rained the night before and it
was very mild. The gas lamps had just been turned out; the Rue des
Poissonniers, in which shreds of night rent by the houses still floated,
was gradually filling with the dull tramp of the workmen descending
towards Paris. Coupeau, with his zinc-worker's bag slung over his
shoulder, walked along in the imposing manner of a fellow who feels in
good form for a change. He turned round and asked:

"Bibi, do you want a job. The boss told me to bring a pal if I could."

"No thanks," answered Bibi-the-Smoker; "I'm purging myself. You should
ask My-Boots. He was looking for something yesterday. Wait a minute.
My-Boots is most likely in there."

And as they reached the bottom of the street they indeed caught sight of
My-Boots inside Pere Colombe's. In spite of the early hour l'Assommoir
was flaring, the shutters down, the gas lighted. Lantier stood at the
door, telling Coupeau to make haste, because they had only ten minutes

"What! You're going to work for that rascal Bourguignon?" yelled
My-Boots, when the zinc-worker had spoken to him. "You'll never catch
me in his hutch again! No, I'd rather go till next year with my tongue
hanging out of my mouth. But, old fellow, you won't stay three days, and
it's I who tell you so."

"Really now, is it such a dirty hole?" asked Coupeau anxiously.

"Oh, it's about the dirtiest. You can't move there. The ape's for ever
on your back. And such queer ways too - a missus who always says you're
drunk, a shop where you mustn't spit. I sent them to the right about the
first night, you know."

"Good; now I'm warned. I shan't stop there for ever. I'll just go this
morning to see what it's like; but if the boss bothers me, I'll catch
him up and plant him upon his missus, you know, bang together like two
fillets of sole!"

Then Coupeau thanked his friend for the useful information and shook his
hand. As he was about to leave, My-Boots cursed angrily. Was that lousy
Bourguignon going to stop them from having a drink? Weren't they free
any more? He could well wait another five minutes. Lantier came in to
share in the round and they stood together at the counter. My-Boots,
with his smock black with dirt and his cap flattened on his head had
recently been proclaimed king of pigs and drunks after he had eaten a
salad of live beetles and chewed a piece of a dead cat.

"Say there, old Borgia," he called to Pere Colombe, "give us some of
your yellow stuff, first class mule's wine."

And when Pere Colombe, pale and quiet in his blue-knitted waistcoat, had
filled the four glasses, these gentlemen tossed them off, so as not to
let the liquor get flat.

"That does some good when it goes down," murmured Bibi-the-Smoker.

The comic My-Boots had a story to tell. He was so drunk on the Friday
that his comrades had stuck his pipe in his mouth with a handful of
plaster. Anyone else would have died of it; he merely strutted about and
puffed out his chest.

"Do you gentlemen require anything more?" asked Pere Colombe in his oily

"Yes, fill us up again," said Lantier. "It's my turn."

Now they were talking of women. Bibi-the-Smoker had taken his girl to an
aunt's at Montrouge on the previous Sunday. Coupeau asked for the news
of the "Indian Mail," a washerwoman of Chaillot who was known in the
establishment. They were about to drink, when My-Boots loudly called to
Goujet and Lorilleux who were passing by. They came just to the door,
but would not enter. The blacksmith did not care to take anything. The
chainmaker, pale and shivering, held in his pocket the gold chains
he was going to deliver; and he coughed and asked them to excuse him,
saying that the least drop of brandy would nearly make him split his

"There are hypocrites for you!" grunted My-Boots. "I bet they have their
drinks on the sly."

And when he had poked his nose in his glass he attacked Pere Colombe.

"Vile druggist, you've changed the bottle! You know it's no good your
trying to palm your cheap stuff off on me."

The day had advanced; a doubtful sort of light lit up l'Assommoir, where
the landlord was turning out the gas. Coupeau found excuses for his
brother-in-law who could not stand drink, which after all was no crime.
He even approved Goujet's behavior for it was a real blessing never to
be thirsty. And as he talked of going off to his work Lantier, with his
grand air of a gentleman, sharply gave him a lesson. One at least stood
one's turn before sneaking off; one should not leave one's friends like
a mean blackguard, even when going to do one's duty.

"Is he going to badger us much longer about his work?" cried My-Boots.

"So this is your turn, sir?" asked Pere Colombe of Coupeau.

The latter paid. But when it came to Bibi-the-Smoker's turn he
whispered to the landlord who refused with a shake of the head. My-Boots
understood, and again set to abusing the old Jew Colombe. What! A rascal
like him dared to behave in that way to a comrade! Everywhere else one
could get drink on tick! It was only in such low boozing-dens that one
was insulted! The landlord remained calm, leaning his big fists on the
edge of the counter. He politely said:

"Lend the gentleman some money - that will be far simpler."

"_Mon Dieu!_ Yes, I'll lend him some," yelled My-Boots. "Here! Bibi,
throw this money in his face, the limb of Satan!"

Then, excited and annoyed at seeing Coupeau with his bag slung over his
shoulder, he continued speaking to the zinc-worker:

"You look like a wet-nurse. Drop your brat. It'll give you a hump-back."

Coupeau hesitated an instant; and then, quietly, as though he had only
made up his mind after considerable reflection, he laid his bag on the
ground saying:

"It's too late now. I'll go to Bourguignon's after lunch. I'll tell him
that the missus was ill. Listen, Pere Colombe, I'll leave my tools under
this seat and I'll call for them at twelve o'clock."

Lantier gave his blessing to this arrangement with an approving nod.
Labor was necessary, yes, but when you're with good friends, courtesy
comes first. Now the four had five hours of idleness before them. They
were full of noisy merriment. Coupeau was especially relieved. They had
another round and then went to a small bar that had a billiard table.

At first Lantier turned up his nose at this establishment because it
was rather shabby. So much liquor had been spilled on the billiard table
that the balls stuck to it. Once the game got started though, Lantier
recovered his good humor and began to flaunt his extraordinary knack
with a cue.

When lunch time came Coupeau had an idea. He stamped his feet and cried:

"We must go and fetch Salted-Mouth. I know where he's working. We'll
take him to Mere Louis' to have some pettitoes."

The idea was greeted with acclamation. Yes, Salted-Mouth, otherwise
Drink-without-Thirst, was no doubt in want of some pettitoes. They
started off. Coupeau took them to the bolt factory in the Rue Marcadet.
As they arrived a good half hour before the time the workmen came out,
the zinc-worker gave a youngster two sous to go in and tell Salted-Mouth
that his wife was ill and wanted him at once. The blacksmith made his
appearance, waddling in his walk, looking very calm, and scenting a

"Ah! you jokers!" said he, as soon as he caught sight of them hiding in
a doorway. "I guessed it. Well, what are we going to eat?"

At mother Louis', whilst they sucked the little bones of the pettitoes,
they again fell to abusing the employers. Salted-Mouth, otherwise
Drink-without-Thirst, related that they had a most pressing order to
execute at the shop. Oh! the ape was pleasant for the time being. One
could be late, and he would say nothing; he no doubt considered himself
lucky when one turned up at all. At any rate, no boss would dare to
throw Salted-Mouth out the door, because you couldn't find lads of his
capacity any more. After the pettitoes they had an omelet. When each of
them had emptied his bottle, Mere Louis brought out some Auvergne wine,
thick enough to cut with a knife. The party was really warming up.

"What do you think is the ape's latest idea?" cried Salted-Mouth at
dessert. "Why, he's been and put a bell up in his shed! A bell! That's
good for slaves. Ah, well! It can ring to-day! They won't catch me again
at the anvil! For five days past I've been sticking there; I may give
myself a rest now. If he deducts anything, I'll send him to blazes."

"I," said Coupeau, with an air of importance, "I'm obliged to leave you;
I'm off to work. Yes, I promised my wife. Amuse yourselves; my spirit
you know remains with my pals."

The others chuffed him. But he seemed so decided that they all
accompanied him when he talked of going to fetch his tools from Pere
Colombe's. He took his bag from under the seat and laid it on the ground
before him whilst they had a final drink. But at one o'clock the party
was still standing drinks. Then Coupeau, with a bored gesture placed the
tools back again under the seat. They were in his way; he could not get
near the counter without stumbling against them. It was too absurd;
he would go to Bourguignon's on the morrow. The other four, who were
quarrelling about the question of salaries, were not at all surprised
when the zinc-worker, without any explanation, proposed a little stroll
on the Boulevard, just to stretch their legs. They didn't go very far.
They seemed to have nothing to say to each other out in the fresh air.
Without even consulting each other with so much as a nudge, they slowly
and instinctively ascended the Rue des Poissonniers, where they went to
Francois's and had a glass of wine out of the bottle. Lantier pushed his
comrades inside the private room at the back; it was a narrow place with
only one table in it, and was separated from the shop by a dull glazed
partition. He liked to do his drinking in private rooms because it
seemed more respectable. Didn't they like it here? It was as comfortable
as being at home. You could even take a nap here without being
embarrassed. He called for the newspaper, spread it out open before
him, and looked through it, frowning the while. Coupeau and My-Boots had
commenced a game of piquet. Two bottles of wine and five glasses were
scattered about the table.

They emptied their glasses. Then Lantier read out loud:

"A frightful crime has just spread consternation throughout the Commune
of Gaillon, Department of Seine-et-Marne. A son has killed his father
with blows from a spade in order to rob him of thirty sous."

They all uttered a cry of horror. There was a fellow whom they would
have taken great pleasure in seeing guillotined! No, the guillotine was
not enough; he deserved to be cut into little pieces. The story of an
infanticide equally aroused their indignation; but the hatter, highly
moral, found excuses for the woman, putting all the wrong on the back
of her husband; for after all, if some beast of a man had not put the
wretched woman into the way of bleak poverty, she could not have drowned
it in a water closet.

They were most delighted though by the exploit of a Marquis who, coming
out of a dance hall at two in the morning, had defended himself against
an attack by three blackguards on the Boulevard des Invalides. Without
taking off his gloves, he had disposed of the first two villains by
ramming his head into their stomachs, and then had marched the third one
off to the police. What a man! Too bad he was a noble.

"Listen to this now," continued Lantier. "Here's some society news:
'A marriage is arranged between the eldest daughter of the Countess de
Bretigny and the young Baron de Valancay, aide-de-camp to His Majesty.
The wedding trousseau will contain more than three hundred thousand
francs' worth of lace."

"What's that to us?" interrupted Bibi-the-Smoker. "We don't want to know
the color of her mantle. The girl can have no end of lace; nevertheless
she'll see the folly of loving."

As Lantier seemed about to continue his reading, Salted-Mouth, otherwise
Drink-without-Thirst, took the newspaper from him and sat upon it,

"Ah! no, that's enough! This is all the paper is good for."

Meanwhile, My-Boots, who had been looking at his hand, triumphantly
banged his fist down on the table. He scored ninety-three.

"I've got the Revolution!" he exulted.

"You're out of luck, comrade," the others told Coupeau.

They ordered two fresh bottles. The glasses were filled up again as fast
as they were emptied, the booze increased. Towards five o'clock it began
to get disgusting, so much so that Lantier kept very quiet, thinking of
how to give the others the slip; brawling and throwing the wine
about was no longer his style. Just then Coupeau stood up to make
the drunkard's sign of the cross. Touching his head he pronounced
Montpernasse, then Menilmonte as he brought his hand to his right
shoulder, Bagnolet giving himself a blow in the chest, and wound up by
saying stewed rabbit three times as he hit himself in the pit of the
stomach. Then the hatter took advantage of the clamor which greeted the
performance of this feat and quietly made for the door. His comrades did
not even notice his departure. He had already had a pretty good dose.
But once outside he shook himself and regained his self-possession; and
he quietly made for the shop, where he told Gervaise that Coupeau was
with some friends.

Two days passed by. The zinc-worker had not returned. He was reeling
about the neighborhood, but no one knew exactly where. Several persons,
however, stated that they had seen him at mother Baquet's, at the
"Butterfly," and at the "Little Old Man with a Cough." Only some said
that he was alone, whilst others affirmed that he was in the company of
seven or eight drunkards like himself. Gervaise shrugged her shoulders
in a resigned sort of way. _Mon Dieu!_ She just had to get used to it.
She never ran about after her old man; she even went out of her way if
she caught sight of him inside a wineshop, so as to not anger him; and
she waited at home till he returned, listening at night-time to hear if
he was snoring outside the door. He would sleep on a rubbish heap, or on
a seat, or in a piece of waste land, or across a gutter. On the morrow,
after having only badly slept off his booze of the day before, he would
start off again, knocking at the doors of all the consolation dealers,
plunging afresh into a furious wandering, in the midst of nips of
spirits, glasses of wine, losing his friends and then finding them
again, going regular voyages from which he returned in a state of
stupor, seeing the streets dance, the night fall and the day break,
without any other thought than to drink and sleep off the effects
wherever he happened to be. When in the latter state, the world was
ended so far as he was concerned. On the second day, however, Gervaise
went to Pere Colombe's l'Assommoir to find out something about him; he
had been there another five times, they were unable to tell her anything
more. All she could do was to take away his tools which he had left
under a seat.

In the evening Lantier, seeing that the laundress seemed very worried,
offered to take her to a music-hall, just by way of passing a pleasant
hour or two. She refused at first, she was in no mood for laughing.
Otherwise she would not have said, "No," for the hatter made the
proposal in too straightforward a manner for her to feel any mistrust.
He seemed to feel for her in quite a paternal way. Never before had
Coupeau slept out two nights running. So that in spite of herself, she
would go every ten minutes to the door, with her iron in her hand, and
look up and down the street to see if her old man was coming.

It might be that Coupeau had broken a leg, or fallen under a wagon and
been crushed and that might be good riddance to bad rubbish. She saw no
reason for cherishing in her heart any affection for a filthy character
like him, but it was irritating, all the same, to have to wonder every
night whether he would come in or not. When it got dark, Lantier again
suggested the music-hall, and this time she accepted. She decided it
would be silly to deny herself a little pleasure when her husband had
been out on the town for three days. If he wasn't coming in, then she
might as well go out herself. Let the entire dump burn up if it felt
like it. She might even put a torch to it herself. She was getting tired
of the boring monotony of her present life.

They ate their dinner quickly. Then, when she went off at eight o'clock,
arm-in-arm with the hatter, Gervaise told mother Coupeau and Nana to go
to bed at once. The shop was shut and the shutters up. She left by the
door opening into the courtyard and gave Madame Boche the key, asking
her, if her pig of a husband came home, to have the kindness to put him
to bed. The hatter was waiting for her under the big doorway, arrayed
in his best and whistling a tune. She had on her silk dress. They walked
slowly along the pavement, keeping close to each other, lighted up by
the glare from the shop windows which showed them smiling and talking
together in low voices.

The music-hall was in the Boulevard de Rochechouart. It had originally
been a little cafe and had been enlarged by means of a kind of wooden
shed erected in the courtyard. At the door a string of glass globes
formed a luminous porch. Tall posters pasted on boards stood upon the
ground, close to the gutter.

"Here we are," said Lantier. "To-night, first appearance of Mademoiselle
Amanda, serio-comic."

Then he caught sight of Bibi-the-Smoker, who was also reading the
poster. Bibi had a black eye; some punch he had run up against the day

"Well! Where's Coupeau?" inquired the hatter, looking about. "Have you,
then, lost Coupeau?"

"Oh! long ago, since yesterday," replied the other. "There was a bit of
a free-for-all on leaving mother Baquet's. I don't care for fisticuffs.
We had a row, you know, with mother Baquet's pot-boy, because he wanted
to make us pay for a quart twice over. Then I left. I went and had a bit
of a snooze."

He was still yawning; he had slept eighteen hours at a stretch. He was,
moreover, quite sobered, with a stupid look on his face, and his jacket
smothered with fluff; for he had no doubt tumbled into bed with his
clothes on.

"And you don't know where my husband is, sir?" asked the laundress.

"Well, no, not a bit. It was five o'clock when we left mother Baquet's.
That's all I know about it. Perhaps he went down the street. Yes, I
fancy now that I saw him go to the 'Butterfly' with a coachman. Oh! how
stupid it is! Really, we deserve to be shot."

Lantier and Gervaise spent a very pleasant evening at the music-hall.
At eleven o'clock when the place closed, they strolled home without
hurrying themselves. The cold was quite sharp. People seemed to be in
groups. Some of the girls were giggling in the darkness as their men
pressed close to them. Lantier was humming one of Mademoiselle Amanda's
songs. Gervaise, with her head spinning from too much drink, hummed the
refrain with him. It had been very warm at the music-hall and the two
drinks she had had, along with all the smoke, had upset her stomach a
bit. She had been quite impressed with Mademoiselle Amanda. She wouldn't
dare to appear in public wearing so little, but she had to admit that
the lady had lovely skin.

"Everyone's asleep," said Gervaise, after ringing three times without
the Boches opening the door.

At length the door opened, but inside the porch it was very dark, and

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