However, it was the sight of Mouton that chiefly decided him. Mouton was sound asleep, with his stomach turned upwards, one of his paws resting on his nose, and his tail twisted over this side, as though to keep him warm; and he was slumbering with such an expression of feline happiness that Florent, as he gazed at him, murmured: “No, it would be too foolish! I accept the berth. Say that I accept it, Gavard.”
Then Lisa finished eating her black-pudding, and wiped her fingers on the edge of her apron. And next she got her brother-in-law’s candle ready for him, while Gavard and Quenu congratulated him on his decision. It was always necessary for a man to settle down, said they; the breakneck freaks of politics did not provide one with food. And, meantime, Lisa, standing there with the lighted candle in her hand, looked at him with an expression of satisfaction resting on her handsome face, placid like that of some sacred cow.
Three days later the necessary formalities were gone through, and without demur the police authorities at the Prefecture accepted Florent on Monsieur Verlaque’s recommendation as his substitute. Gavard, by the way, had made it a point to accompany them. When he again found himself alone with Florent he kept nudging his ribs with his elbow as they walked along together, and laughed, without saying anything, while winking his eyes in a jeering way. He seemed to find something very ridiculous in the appearance of the police officers whom they met on the Quai de l’Horloge, for, as he passed them, he slightly shrugged his shoulders and made the grimace of a man seeking to restrain himself from laughing in people’s faces.
On the following morning Monsieur Verlaque began to initiate the new inspector into the duties of his office. It had been arranged that during the next few days he should make him acquainted with the turbulent sphere which he would have to supervise. Poor Verlaque, as Gavard called him was a pale little man, swathed in flannels, handkerchiefs, and mufflers. Constantly coughing, he made his way through the cool, moist atmosphere, and running waters of the fish market, on a pair of scraggy legs like those of a sickly child.
When Florent made his appearance on the first morning, at seven o’clock, he felt quite distracted; his eyes were dazed, his head ached with all the noise and riot. Retail dealers were already prowling about the auction pavilion; clerks were arriving with their ledgers, and consigners’ agents, with leather bags slung over their shoulders, sat on overturned chairs by the salesmen’s desks, waiting to receive their cash. Fish was being unloaded and unpacked not only in the enclosure, but even on the footways. All along the latter were piles of small baskets, an endless arrival of cases and hampers, and sacks of mussels, from which streamlets of water trickled. The auctioneers’ assistants, all looking very