“Do not be uneasy,” said the druggist, when he returned to his friends. “Monsieur Binet has assured me that all precautions have been taken. No sparks have fallen; the pumps are full. Let us go to rest.”
“Ma foi! I want it,” said Madame Homais, yawning at large. “But never mind; we’ve had a beautiful day for our fete.”
Rodolphe repeated in a low voice, and with a tender look, “Oh, yes! very beautiful!”
And having bowed to one another, they separated.
Two days later, in the “Final de Rouen,” there was a long article on the show. Homais had composed it with verve the very next morning.
“Why these festoons, these flowers, these garlands? Whither hurries this crowd like the waves of a furious sea under the torrents of a tropical sun pouring its heat upon our heads?”
Then he spoke of the condition of the peasants. Certainly the Government was doing much, but not enough. “Courage!” he cried to it; “a thousand reforms are indispensable; let us accomplish them!” Then touching on the entry of the councillor, he did not forget “the martial air of our militia;” nor “our most merry village maidens;” nor the “bald-headed old men like patriarchs who were there, and of whom some, the remnants of our phalanxes, still felt their hearts beat at the manly sound of the drums.” He cited himself among the first of the members of the jury, and he even called attention in a note to the fact that Monsieur Homais, chemist, had sent a memoir on cider to the agricultural society.
When he came to the distribution of the prizes, he painted the joy of the prize-winners in dithyrambic strophes. “The father embraced the son, the brother the brother, the husband his consort. More than one showed his humble medal with pride; and no doubt when he got home to his good housewife, he hung it up weeping on the modest walls of his cot.
“About six o’clock a banquet prepared in the meadow of Monsieur Leigeard brought together the principal personages of the fete. The greatest cordiality reigned here. Divers toasts were proposed: Monsieur Lieuvain, the King; Monsieur Tuvache, the Prefect; Monsieur Derozerays, Agriculture; Monsieur Homais, Industry and the Fine Arts, those twin sisters; Monsieur Leplichey, Progress. In the evening some brilliant fireworks on a sudden illumined the air. One would have called it a veritable kaleidoscope, a real operatic scene; and for a moment our little locality might have thought itself transported into the midst of a dream of the ‘Thousand and One Nights.’ Let us state that no untoward event disturbed this family meeting.” And he added “Only the absence of the clergy was remarked. No doubt the priests understand progress in another fashion. Just as you please, messieurs the followers of Loyola!”
Six weeks passed. Rodolphe did not come again. At last one evening he appeared.