She went in. The large arm-chair was upset, and even the “Fanal de Rouen” lay on the ground, outspread between two pestles. She pushed open the lobby door, and in the middle of the kitchen, amid brown jars full of picked currants, of powdered sugar and lump sugar, of the scales on the table, and of the pans on the fire, she saw all the Homais, small and large, with aprons reaching to their chins, and with forks in their hands. Justin was standing up with bowed head, and the chemist was screaming—
“Who told you to go and fetch it in the Capharnaum.”
“What is it? What is the matter?”
“What is it?” replied the druggist. “We are making preserves; they are simmering; but they were about to boil over, because there is too much juice, and I ordered another pan. Then he, from indolence, from laziness, went and took, hanging on its nail in my laboratory, the key of the Capharnaum.”
It was thus the druggist called a small room under the leads, full of the utensils and the goods of his trade. He often spent long hours there alone, labelling, decanting, and doing up again; and he looked upon it not as a simple store, but as a veritable sanctuary, whence there afterwards issued, elaborated by his hands, all sorts of pills, boluses, infusions, lotions, and potions, that would bear far and wide his celebrity. No one in the world set foot there, and he respected it so, that he swept it himself. Finally, if the pharmacy, open to all comers, was the spot where he displayed his pride, the Capharnaum was the refuge where, egoistically concentrating himself, Homais delighted in the exercise of his predilections, so that Justin’s thoughtlessness seemed to him a monstrous piece of irreverence, and, redder than the currants, he repeated—
“Yes, from the Capharnaum! The key that locks up the acids and caustic alkalies! To go and get a spare pan! a pan with a lid! and that I shall perhaps never use! Everything is of importance in the delicate operations of our art! But, devil take it! one must make distinctions, and not employ for almost domestic purposes that which is meant for pharmaceutical! It is as if one were to carve a fowl with a scalpel; as if a magistrate—”
“Now be calm,” said Madame Homais.
And Athalie, pulling at his coat, cried “Papa! papa!”
“No, let me alone,” went on the druggist “let me alone, hang it! My word! One might as well set up for a grocer. That’s it! go it! respect nothing! break, smash, let loose the leeches, burn the mallow-paste, pickle the gherkins in the window jars, tear up the bandages!”
“I thought you had—” said Emma.
“Presently! Do you know to what you exposed yourself? Didn’t you see anything in the corner, on the left, on the third shelf? Speak, answer, articulate something.”
“I—don’t—know,” stammered the young fellow.
“Ah! you don’t know! Well, then, I do know! You saw a bottle of blue glass, sealed with yellow wax, that contains a white powder, on which I have even written ‘Dangerous!’ And do you know what is in it? Arsenic! And you go and touch it! You take a pan that was next to it!”