Émile Zola.

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mamma, mamma!"

And he recommenced crying like a child. Then he drank the glass of wine,
hoping to put out the flame searing his breast. Lantier soon left, using
the excuse of informing the family and filing the necessary declaration
at the town hall. Really though, he felt the need of fresh air, and so
he took his time, smoking cigarettes and enjoying the morning air.
When he left Madame Lerat's house, he went into a dairy place on Les
Batignolles for a cup of hot coffee and remained there an hour, thinking
things over.

Towards nine o'clock the family were all united in the shop, the
shutters of which were kept up. Lorilleux did not cry. Moreover he had
some pressing work to attend to, and he returned almost directly to his
room, after having stalked about with a face put on for the occasion.
Madame Lorilleux and Madame Lerat embraced the Coupeaus and wiped their
eyes, from which a few tears were falling. But Madame Lorilleux, after
giving a hasty glance round the death chamber, suddenly raised her voice
to say that it was unheard of, that one never left a lighted lamp beside
a corpse; there should be a candle, and Nana was sent to purchase a
packet of tall ones. Ah, well! It made one long to die at Clump-clump's,
she laid one out in such a fine fashion! What a fool, not even to know
what to do with a corpse! Had she then never buried anyone in her life?
Madame Lerat had to go to the neighbors and borrow a crucifix; she
brought one back which was too big, a cross of black wood with a Christ
in painted cardboard fastened to it, which covered the whole of mother
Coupeau's chest, and seemed to crush her under its weight. Then they
tried to obtain some holy water, but no one had any, and it was again
Nana who was sent to the church to bring some back in a bottle. In
practically no time the tiny room presented quite another appearance;
on a little table a candle was burning beside a glass full of holy water
into which a sprig of boxwood was dipped. Now, if anyone came, it would
at least look decent. And they arranged the chairs in a circle in the
shop for receiving people.

Lantier only returned at eleven o'clock. He had been to the undertaker's
for information.

"The coffin is twelve francs," said he. "If you desire a mass, it
will be ten francs more. Then there's the hearse, which is charged for
according to the ornaments."

"Oh! it's quite unnecessary to be fancy," murmured Madame Lorilleux,
raising her head in a surprised and anxious manner. "We can't bring
mamma to life again, can we? One must do according to one's means."

"Of course, that's just what I think," resumed the hatter. "I merely
asked the prices to guide you. Tell me what you desire; and after lunch
I will give the orders."

They were talking in lowered voices. Only a dim light came into the room
through the cracks in the shutters. The door to the little room stood
half open, and from it came the deep silence of death. Children's
laughter echoed in the courtyard. Suddenly they heard the voice of
Nana, who had escaped from the Boches to whom she had been sent. She was
giving commands in her shrill voice and the children were singing a song
about a donkey.

Gervaise waited until it was quiet to say:

"We're not rich certainly; but all the same we wish to act decently. If
mother Coupeau has left us nothing, it's no reason for pitching her into
the ground like a dog. No; we must have a mass, and a hearse with a few

"And who will pay for them?" violently inquired Madame Lorilleux. "Not
we, who lost some money last week; and you either, as you're stumped.
Ah! you ought, however, to see where it has led you, this trying to
impress people!"

Coupeau, when consulted, mumbled something with a gesture of profound
indifference, and then fell asleep again on his chair. Madame Lerat said
that she would pay her share. She was of Gervaise's opinion, they should
do things decently. Then the two of them fell to making calculations
on a piece of paper: in all, it would amount to about ninety francs,
because they decided, after a long discussion, to have a hearse
ornamented with a narrow scallop.

"We're three," concluded the laundress. "We'll give thirty francs each.
It won't ruin us."

But Madame Lorilleux broke out in a fury.

"Well! I refuse, yes, I refuse! It's not for the thirty francs. I'd give
a hundred thousand, if I had them, and if it would bring mamma to life
again. Only, I don't like vain people. You've got a shop, you only dream
of showing off before the neighborhood. We don't fall in with it, we
don't. We don't try to make ourselves out what we are not. Oh! you can
manage it to please yourself. Put plumes on the hearse if it amuses

"No one asks you for anything," Gervaise ended by answering. "Even
though I should have to sell myself, I'll not have anything to reproach
myself with. I've fed mother Coupeau without your help, and I can
certainly bury her without your help also. I already once before gave
you a bit of my mind; I pick up stray cats, I'm not likely to leave your
mother in the mire."

Then Madame Lorilleux burst into tears and Lantier had to prevent her
from leaving. The argument became so noisy that Madame Lerat felt she
had to go quietly into the little room and glance tearfully at her dead
mother, as though fearing to find her awake and listening. Just at this
moment the girls playing in the courtyard, led by Nana, began singing

"_Mon Dieu!_ how those children grate on one's nerves with their
singing!" said Gervaise, all upset and on the point of sobbing with
impatience and sadness. Turning to the hatter, she said:

"Do please make them leave off, and send Nana back to the concierge's
with a kick."

Madame Lerat and Madame Lorilleux went away to eat lunch, promising
to return. The Coupeaus sat down to eat a bite without much appetite,
feeling hesitant about even raising a fork. After lunch Lantier went
to the undertaker's again with the ninety francs. Thirty had come from
Madame Lerat and Gervaise had run, with her hair all loose, to borrow
sixty francs from Goujet.

Several of the neighbors called in the afternoon, mainly out of
curiosity. They went into the little room to make the sign of the cross
and sprinkle some holy water with the boxwood sprig. Then they sat in
the shop and talked endlessly about the departed. Mademoiselle Remanjou
had noticed that her right eye was still open. Madame Gaudron maintained
that she had a fine complexion for her age. Madame Fauconnier kept
repeating that she had seen her having coffee only three days earlier.

Towards evening the Coupeaus were beginning to have had enough of it.
It was too great an affliction for a family to have to keep a corpse so
long a time. The government ought to have made a new law on the subject.
All through another evening, another night, and another morning - no!
it would never come to an end. When one no longer weeps, grief turns to
irritation; is it not so? One would end by misbehaving oneself. Mother
Coupeau, dumb and stiff in the depths of the narrow chamber, was
spreading more and more over the lodging and becoming heavy enough to
crush the people in it. And the family, in spite of itself, gradually
fell into the ordinary mode of life, and lost some portion of its

"You must have a mouthful with us," said Gervaise to Madame Lerat and
Madame Lorilleux, when they returned. "We're too sad; we must keep

They laid the cloth on the work-table. Each one, on seeing the plates,
thought of the feastings they had had on it. Lantier had returned.
Lorilleux came down. A pastry-cook had just brought a meat pie, for the
laundress was too upset to attend to any cooking. As they were taking
their seats, Boche came to say that Monsieur Marescot asked to be
admitted, and the landlord appeared, looking very grave, and wearing
a broad decoration on his frock-coat. He bowed in silence and went
straight to the little room, where he knelt down. All the family,
leaving the table, stood up, greatly impressed. Monsieur Marescot,
having finished his devotions, passed into the shop and said to the

"I have come for the two quarters' rent that's overdue. Are you prepared
to pay?"

"No, sir, not quite," stammered Gervaise, greatly put out at hearing
this mentioned before the Lorilleuxs. "You see, with the misfortune
which has fallen upon us - "

"No doubt, but everyone has their troubles," resumed the landlord,
spreading out his immense fingers, which indicated the former workman.
"I am very sorry, but I cannot wait any longer. If I am not paid by the
morning after to-morrow, I shall be obliged to have you put out."

Gervaise, struck dumb, imploringly clasped her hands, her eyes full
of tears. With an energetic shake of his big bony head, he gave her to
understand that supplications were useless. Besides, the respect due
to the dead forbade all discussion. He discreetly retired, walking

"A thousand pardons for having disturbed you," murmured he. "The morning
after to-morrow; do not forget."

And as on withdrawing he again passed before the little room, he saluted
the corpse a last time through the wide open door by devoutly bending
his knee.

They began eating and gobbled the food down very quickly, so as not to
seem to be enjoying it, only slowing down when they reached the dessert.
Occasionally Gervaise or one of the sisters would get up, still holding
her napkin, to look into the small room. They made plenty of strong
coffee to keep them awake through the night. The Poissons arrived about
eight and were invited for coffee.

Then Lantier, who had been watching Gervaise's face, seemed to seize
an opportunity that he had been waiting for ever since the morning. In
speaking of the indecency of landlords who entered houses of mourning to
demand their money, he said:

"He's a Jesuit, the beast, with his air of officiating at a mass! But in
your place, I'd just chuck up the shop altogether."

Gervaise, quite worn out and feeling weak and nervous, gave way and

"Yes, I shall certainly not wait for the bailiffs. Ah! it's more than I
can bear - more than I can bear."

The Lorilleuxs, delighted at the idea that Clump-clump would no longer
have a shop, approved the plan immensely. One could hardly conceive
the great cost a shop was. If she only earned three francs working for
others she at least had no expenses; she did not risk losing large sums
of money. They repeated this argument to Coupeau, urging him on; he
drank a great deal and remained in a continuous fit of sensibility,
weeping all day by himself in his plate. As the laundress seemed to be
allowing herself to be convinced, Lantier looked at the Poissons and
winked. And tall Virginie intervened, making herself most amiable.

"You know, we might arrange the matter between us. I would relieve you
of the rest of the lease and settle your matter with the landlord. In
short, you would not be worried nearly so much."

"No thanks," declared Gervaise, shaking herself as though she felt a
shudder pass over her. "I'll work; I've got my two arms, thank heaven!
to help me out of my difficulties."

"We can talk about it some other time," the hatter hastened to put in.
"It's scarcely the thing to do so this evening. Some other time - in the
morning for instance."

At this moment, Madame Lerat, who had gone into the little room, uttered
a faint cry. She had had a fright because she had found the candle burnt
out. They all busied themselves in lighting another; they shook their
heads, saying that it was not a good sign when the light went out beside
a corpse.

The wake commenced. Coupeau had gone to lie down, not to sleep, said he,
but to think; and five minutes afterwards he was snoring. When they sent
Nana off to sleep at the Boches' she cried; she had been looking
forward ever since the morning to being nice and warm in her good friend
Lantier's big bed. The Poissons stayed till midnight. Some hot wine had
been made in a salad-bowl because the coffee affected the ladies' nerves
too much. The conversation became tenderly effusive. Virginie talked of
the country: she would like to be buried at the corner of a wood with
wild flowers on her grave. Madame Lerat had already put by in her
wardrobe the sheet for her shroud, and she kept it perfumed with a bunch
of lavender; she wished always to have a nice smell under her nose when
she would be eating the dandelions by the roots. Then, with no sort of
transition, the policeman related that he had arrested a fine girl that
morning who had been stealing from a pork-butcher's shop; on undressing
her at the commissary of police's they had found ten sausages hanging
round her body. And Madame Lorilleux having remarked, with a look of
disgust, that she would not eat any of those sausages, the party burst
into a gentle laugh. The wake became livelier, though not ceasing to
preserve appearances.

But just as they were finishing the hot wine a peculiar noise, a dull
trickling sound, issued from the little room. All raised their heads and
looked at each other.

"It's nothing," said Lantier quietly, lowering his voice. "She's

The explanation caused the others to nod their heads in a reassured way,
and they replaced their glasses on the table.

When the Poissons left for home, Lantier left also, saying he would
sleep with a friend and leave his bed for the ladies in case they wanted
to take turns napping. Lorilleux went upstairs to bed. Gervaise and the
two sisters arranged themselves by the stove where they huddled together
close to the warmth, talking quietly. Coupeau was still snoring.

Madame Lorilleux was complaining that she didn't have a black dress and
asked Gervaise about the black skirt they had given mother Coupeau on
her saint's day. Gervaise went to look for it. Madame Lorilleux then
wanted some of the old linen and mentioned the bed, the wardrobe, and
the two chairs as she looked around for other odds and ends. Madame
Lerat had to serve as peace maker when a quarrel nearly broke out.
She pointed out that as the Coupeaus had cared for their mother, they
deserved to keep the few things she had left. Soon they were all dozing
around the stove.

The night seemed terribly long to them. Now and again they shook
themselves, drank some coffee and stretched their necks in the direction
of the little room, where the candle, which was not to be snuffed, was
burning with a dull red flame, flickering the more because of the black
soot on the wick. Towards morning, they shivered, in spite of the great
heat of the stove. Anguish, and the fatigue of having talked too much
was stifling them, whilst their mouths were parched, and their eyes
ached. Madame Lerat threw herself on Lantier's bed, and snored as loud
as a man; whilst the other two, their heads falling forward, and almost
touching their knees, slept before the fire. At daybreak, a shudder
awoke them. Mother Coupeau's candle had again gone out; and as, in the
obscurity, the dull trickling sound recommenced, Madame Lorilleux gave
the explanation of it anew in a loud voice, so as to reassure herself:

"She's emptying," repeated she, lighting another candle.

The funeral was to take place at half-past ten. A nice morning to add to
the night and the day before! Gervaise, though without a sou, said she
would have given a hundred francs to anybody who would have come and
taken mother Coupeau away three hours sooner. No, one may love people,
but they are too great a weight when they are dead; and the more one has
loved them, the sooner one would like to be rid of their bodies.

The morning of a funeral is, fortunately, full of diversions. One has
all sorts of preparations to make. To begin with, they lunched. Then it
happened to be old Bazouge, the undertaker's helper, who lived on the
sixth floor, who brought the coffin and the sack of bran. He was never
sober, the worthy fellow. At eight o'clock that day, he was still lively
from the booze of the day before.

"This is for here, isn't it?" asked he.

And he laid down the coffin, which creaked like a new box. But as he was
throwing the sack of bran on one side, he stood with a look of amazement
in his eyes, his mouth opened wide, on beholding Gervaise before him.

"Beg pardon, excuse me. I've made a mistake," stammered he. "I was told
it was for you."

He had already taken up the sack again, and the laundress was obliged to
call to him:

"Leave it alone, it's for here."

"Ah! _Mon Dieu!_ Now I understand!" resumed he, slapping his thigh.
"It's for the old lady."

Gervaise had turned quite pale. Old Bazouge had brought the coffin for
her. By way of apology, he tried to be gallant, and continued:

"I'm not to blame, am I? It was said yesterday that someone on the
ground floor had passed away. Then I thought - you know, in our business,
these things enter by one ear and go out by the other. All the same, my
compliments to you. As late as possible, eh? That's best, though life
isn't always amusing; ah! no, by no means."

As Gervaise listened to him, she draw back, afraid he would grab her and
take her away in the box. She remembered the time before, when he had
told her he knew of women who would thank him to come and get them.
Well, she wasn't ready yet. _Mon Dieu!_ The thought sent chills down her
spine. Her life may have been bitter, but she wasn't ready to give it up
yet. No, she would starve for years first.

"He's abominably drunk," murmured she, with an air of disgust mingled
with dread. "They at least oughtn't to send us tipplers. We pay dear

Then he became insolent, and jeered:

"See here, little woman, it's only put off until another time. I'm
entirely at your service, remember! You've only to make me a sign. I'm
the ladies' consoler. And don't spit on old Bazouge, because he's held
in his arms finer ones than you, who let themselves be tucked in without
a murmur, very pleased to continue their by-by in the dark."

"Hold your tongue, old Bazouge!" said Lorilleux severely, having
hastened to the spot on hearing the noise, "such jokes are highly
improper. If we complained about you, you would get the sack. Come, be
off, as you've no respect for principles."

Bazouge moved away, but one could hear him stuttering as he dragged
along the pavement:

"Well! What? Principles! There's no such thing as principles, there's no
such thing as principles - there's only common decency!"

At length ten o'clock struck. The hearse was late. There were already
several people in the shop, friends and neighbors - Monsieur Madinier,
My-Boots, Madame Gaudron, Mademoiselle Remanjou; and every minute, a
man's or a woman's head was thrust out of the gaping opening of the
door between the closed shutters, to see if that creeping hearse was
in sight. The family, all together in the back room, was shaking hands.
Short pauses occurred interrupted by rapid whisperings, a tiresome and
feverish waiting with sudden rushes of skirts - Madame Lorilleux who
had forgotten her handkerchief, or else Madame Lerat who was trying to
borrow a prayer-book. Everyone, on arriving, beheld the open coffin in
the centre of the little room before the bed; and in spite of oneself,
each stood covertly studying it, calculating that plump mother Coupeau
would never fit into it. They all looked at each other with this thought
in their eyes, though without communicating it. But there was a slight
pushing at the front door. Monsieur Madinier, extending his arms, came
and said in a low grave voice:

"Here they are!"

It was not the hearse though. Four helpers entered hastily in single
file, with their red faces, their hands all lumpy like persons in the
habit of moving heavy things, and their rusty black clothes worn and
frayed from constant rubbing against coffins. Old Bazouge walked first,
very drunk and very proper. As soon as he was at work he found his
equilibrium. They did not utter a word, but slightly bowed their heads,
already weighing mother Coupeau with a glance. And they did not dawdle;
the poor old woman was packed in, in the time one takes to sneeze. A
young fellow with a squint, the smallest of the men, poured the bran
into the coffin and spread it out. The tall and thin one spread the
winding sheet over the bran. Then, two at the feet and two at the head,
all four took hold of the body and lifted it. Mother Coupeau was in the
box, but it was a tight fit. She touched on every side.

The undertaker's helpers were now standing up and waiting; the little
one with the squint took the coffin lid, by way of inviting the family
to bid their last farewell, whilst Bazouge had filled his mouth with
nails and was holding the hammer in readiness. Then Coupeau, his two
sisters and Gervaise threw themselves on their knees and kissed the
mamma who was going away, weeping bitterly, the hot tears falling on
and streaming down the stiff face now cold as ice. There was a prolonged
sound of sobbing. The lid was placed on, and old Bazouge knocked the
nails in with the style of a packer, two blows for each; and they none
of them could hear any longer their own weeping in that din, which
resembled the noise of furniture being repaired. It was over. The time
for starting had arrived.

"What a fuss to make at such a time!" said Madame Lorilleux to her
husband as she caught sight of the hearse before the door.

The hearse was creating quite a revolution in the neighborhood. The
tripe-seller called to the grocer's men, the little clockmaker came out
on to the pavement, the neighbors leant out of their windows; and all
these people talked about the scallop with its white cotton fringe. Ah!
the Coupeaus would have done better to have paid their debts. But as
the Lorilleuxs said, when one is proud it shows itself everywhere and in
spite of everything.

"It's shameful!" Gervaise was saying at the same moment, speaking of the
chainmaker and his wife. "To think that those skinflints have not even
brought a bunch of violets for their mother!"

The Lorilleuxs, true enough, had come empty-handed. Madame Lerat had
given a wreath of artificial flowers. And a wreath of immortelles and
a bouquet bought by the Coupeaus were also placed on the coffin. The
undertaker's helpers had to give a mighty heave to lift the coffin
and carry it to the hearse. It was some time before the procession was
formed. Coupeau and Lorilleux, in frock coats and with their hats in
their hands, were chief mourners. The first, in his emotion which two
glasses of white wine early in the morning had helped to sustain, clung
to his brother-in-law's arm, with no strength in his legs, and a violent
headache. Then followed the other men - Monsieur Madinier, very grave
and all in black; My-Boots, wearing a great-coat over his blouse; Boche,
whose yellow trousers produced the effect of a petard; Lantier, Gaudron,
Bibi-the-Smoker, Poisson and others. The ladies came next - in the first
row Madame Lorilleux, dragging the deceased's skirt, which she had
altered; Madame Lerat, hiding under a shawl her hastily got-up mourning,
a gown with lilac trimmings; and following them, Virginie, Madame
Gaudron, Madame Fauconnier, Mademoiselle Remanjou and the rest. When the
hearse started and slowly descended the Rue de la Goutte-d'Or, amidst
signs of the cross and heads bared, the four helpers took the lead, two
in front, the two others on the right and left. Gervaise had remained
behind to close the shop. She left Nana with Madame Boche and ran to
rejoin the procession, whilst the child, firmly held by the concierge
under the porch, watched with a deeply interested gaze her grandmother
disappear at the end of the street in that beautiful carriage.

At the moment when Gervaise caught up with the procession, Goujet
arrived from another direction. He nodded to her so sympathetically
that she was reminded of how unhappy she was, and began to cry again as
Goujet took his place with the men.

The ceremony at the church was soon got through. The mass dragged
a little, though, because the priest was very old. My-Boots and
Bibi-the-Smoker preferred to remain outside on account of the
collection. Monsieur Madinier studied the priests all the while, and
communicated his observations to Lantier. Those jokers, though so glib
with their Latin, did not even know a word of what they were saying.
They buried a person just in the same way that they would have baptized
or married him, without the least feeling in their heart.

Happily, the cemetery was not far off, the little cemetery of La
Chapelle, a bit of a garden which opened on to the Rue Marcadet. The

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