When Monsieur de Bleriot offered his hand to Rougon on the square below Felicite began to weep. “Oh! see, see,” she said to Aristide. “He has shaken hands with him. Look! he is doing it again!” And casting a glance at the windows, where groups of people were congregated, she added: “How wild they must be! Look at Monsieur Peirotte’s wife, she’s biting her handkerchief. And over there, the notary’s daughter, and Madame Massicot, and the Brunet family, what faces, eh? how angry they look! Ah, indeed, it’s our turn now.”
She followed the scene which was being acted outside the Sub-Prefecture with thrills of delight, which shook her ardent, grasshopper-like figure from head to foot. She interpreted the slightest gesture, invented words which she was unable to catch, and declared that Pierre bowed very well indeed. She was a little vexed when the prefect deigned to speak to poor Granoux, who was hovering about him fishing for a word of praise. No doubt Monsieur de Bleriot already knew the story of the hammer, for the retired almond-dealer turned as red as a young girl, and seemed to be saying that he had only done his duty. However, that which angered Felicite still more was her husband’s excessive amiability in presenting Vuillet to the authorities. Vuillet, it is true, pushed himself forward amongst them, and Rougon was compelled to mention him.
“What a schemer!” muttered Felicite. “He creeps in everywhere. How confused my poor dear husband must be! See, there’s the colonel speaking to him. What can he be saying to him?”
“Ah! little one,” the marquis replied with a touch of irony, “he is complimenting him for having closed the gates so carefully.”
“My father has saved the town,” Aristide retorted curtly. “Have you seen the corpses, sir?”
Monsieur de Carnavant did not answer. He withdrew from the window, and sat down in an arm-chair, shaking his head with an air of some disgust. At that moment, the prefect having taken his departure, Rougon came upstairs and threw himself upon his wife’s neck.
“Ah! my dear!” he stammered.
He was unable to say more. Felicite made him kiss Aristide after telling him of the superb article which the young man had inserted in the “Independant.” Pierre would have kissed the marquis as well, he was deeply affected. However, his wife took him aside, and gave him Eugene’s letter which she had sealed up in an envelope again. She pretended that it had just been delivered. Pierre read it and then triumphantly held it out to her.
“You are a sorceress,” he said to her laughing. “You guessed everything. What folly I should have committed without you! We’ll manage our little affairs together now. Kiss me: you’re a good woman.”
He clasped her in his arms, while she discreetly exchanged a knowing smile with the marquis.