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- The Fortune of the Rougons - 66/66 -

with the remains of the dinner. At last the Rougons were nibbling at the pleasures of the wealthy! Their appetites, sharpened by thirty years of restrained desire, now fell to with wolfish teeth. These fierce, insatiate wild beasts, scarcely entering upon indulgence, exulted at the birth of the Empire--the dawn of the Rush for the Spoils. The Coup d'Etat, which retrieved the fortune of the Bonapartes, also laid the foundation for that of the Rougons.

Pierre stood up, held out his glass, and exclaimed: "I drink to Prince Louis--to the Emperor!"

The gentlemen, who had drowned their jealousies in champagne, rose in a body and clinked glasses with deafening shouts. It was a fine spectacle. The bourgeois of Plassans, Roudier, Granoux, Vuillet, and all the others, wept and embraced each other over the corpse of the Republic, which as yet was scarcely cold. But a splendid idea occurred to Sicardot. He took from Felicite's hair a pink satin bow, which she had placed over her right ear in honour of the occasion, cut off a strip of the satin with his dessert knife, and then solemnly fastened it to Rougon's button-hole. The latter feigned modesty, and pretended to resist. But his face beamed with joy, as he murmured: "No, I beg you, it is too soon. We must wait until the decree is published."

"Zounds!" Sicardot exclaimed, "will you please keep that! It's an old soldier of Napoleon who decorates you!"

The whole company burst into applause. Felicite almost swooned with delight. Silent Granoux jumped up on a chair in his enthusiasm, waving his napkin and making a speech which was lost amid the uproar. The yellow drawing-room was wild with triumph.

But the strip of pink satin fastened to Pierre's button-hole was not the only red spot in that triumph of the Rougons. A shoe, with a blood-stained heel, still lay forgotten under the bedstead in the adjoining room. The taper burning at Monsieur Peirotte's bedside, over the way, gleamed too with the lurid redness of a gaping wound amidst the dark night. And yonder, far away, in the depths of the Aire Saint- Mittre, a pool of blood was congealing upon a tombstone.

The Fortune of the Rougons - 66/66

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