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Title: The Fête At Coqueville - 1907
Author: Zola, Émile
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Fête At Coqueville - 1907" ***


By Emile Zola

Translated by L. G. Meyer.

Copyright, 1907, by P. F. Collier & Son


Coqueville is a little village planted in a cleft in the rocks, two
leagues from Grandport. A fine sandy beach stretches in front of the
huts lodged half-way up in the side of the cliff like shells left there
by the tide. As one climbs to the heights of Grandport, on the left the
yellow sheet of sand can be very clearly seen to the west like a river
of gold dust streaming from the gaping cleft in the rock; and with good
eyes one can even distinguish the houses, whose tones of rust spot the
rock and whose chimneys send up their bluish trails to the very crest
of the great slope, streaking the sky. It is a deserted hole. Coqueville
has never been able to attain to the figure of two hundred inhabitants.
The gorge which opens into the sea, and on the threshold of which the
village is planted, burrows into the earth by turns so abrupt and
by descents so steep that it is almost impossible to pass there with
wagons. It cuts off all communication and isolates the country so that
one seems to be a hundred leagues from the neighboring hamlets.

Moreover, the inhabitants have communication with Grandport only by
water. Nearly all of them fishermen, living by the ocean, they carry
their fish there every day in their barks. A great commission house, the
firm of Dufeu, buys their fish on contract. The father Dufeu has been
dead some years, but the widow Dufeu has continued the business; she
has simply engaged a clerk, M. Mouchel, a big blond devil, charged with
beating up the coast and dealing with the fishermen. This M. Mouchel is
the sole link between Coque-ville and the civilized world.

Coqueville merits a historian. It seems certain that the village, in
the night of time, was founded by the Mahés; a family which happened to
establish itself there and which grew vigorous at the foot of the cliff.
These Mahés continued to prosper at first, marrying continually among
themselves, for during centuries one finds none but Mahés there. Then
under Louis XIII appeared one Floche. No one knew too much of where
he came from.. He married a Mahé, and from that time a phenomenon
was brought forth; the Floches in their turn prospered and multiplied
exceedingly, so that they ended little by little in absorbing the Mahés,
whose numbers diminished until their fortune passed entirely into the
hands of the newcomers. Without doubt, the Floches brought new blood,
more vigorous physical organs, a temperament which adapted itself better
to that hard condition of high wind and of high sea. At any rate, they
are to-day masters of Coqueville.

It can easily be understood that this displacement of numbers and of
riches was not accomplished without terrible disturbances. The Mahés and
the Hoches detest each other. Between them is a hatred of centuries. The
Mahés in spite of their decline retain the pride of ancient conquerors.
After all they are the founders, the ancestors. They speak with contempt
of the first Floche, a beggar, a vagabond picked up by them from
feelings of pity, and to have given away one of their daughters to
whom was their eternal regret. This Floche, to hear them speak, had
engendered nothing but a descent of libertines and thieves, who pass
their nights in raising children and their days in coveting legacies.
And there is not an insult they do not heap upon the powerful tribe of
Floche, seized with that bitter rage of nobles, decimated, ruined, who
see the spawn of the bourgeoisie master of their rents and of their
château. The Floches, on their side, naturally have the insolence of
those who triumph. They are in full possession, a thing to make them
insolent. Full of contempt for the ancient race of the Mahés, they
threaten to drive them from the village if they do not bow their heads.
To them they are starvelings, who instead of draping themselves in their
rags would do much better to mend them.

So Coqueville finds itself a prey to two fierce factions--something like
one hundred and thirty inhabitants bent upon devouring the other fifty
for the simple reason that they are the stronger.

The struggle between two great empires has no other history.

Among the quarrels which have lately upset Coqueville, they cite the
famous enmity of the brothers, Fouasse and Tupain, and the ringing
battles of the Rouget ménage. You must know that every inhabitant in
former days received a surname, which has become to-day the regular name
of the family; for it was difficult to distinguish one’s self among the
cross-breedings of the Mahés and the Floches. Rouget assuredly had an
ancestor of fiery blood. As for Fouasse and Tupain, they were called
thus without knowing why, many surnames having lost all rational meaning
in course of time. Well, old Françoise, a wanton of eighty years who
lived forever, had had Fouasse by a Mahé, then becoming a widow, she
remarried with a Floche and brought forth Tupain. Hence the hatred of
the two brothers, made specially lively by the question of inheritance.
At the Rouget’s they beat each other to a jelly because Rouget accused
his wife, Marie, of being unfaithful to him for a Floche, the tall
Brisemotte, a strong, dark man, on whom he had already twice thrown
himself with a knife, yelling that he would rip open his belly. Rouget,
a small, nervous man, was a great spitfire.

But that which interested Coqueville most deeply was neither the
tantrums of Rouget nor the differences between Tupain and Fouasse. A
great rumor circulated: Delphin, a Mahé, a rascal of twenty years, dared
to love the beautiful Margot, the daughter of La Queue, the richest of
the Floches and chief man of the country. This La Queue was, in truth, a
considerable personage. They called him La Queue because his father, in
the days of Louis Philippe, had been the last to tie up his hair, with
the obstinacy of old age that clings to the fashions of its youth. Well,
then, La Queue owned one of the two large fishing smacks of Coqueville,
the “Zephir,” by far the best, still quite new and seaworthy. The other
big boat, the “Baleine,” a rotten old patache, {1} belonged to Rouget,
whose sailors were Delphin and Fouasse, while La Queue took with
him Tupain and Brisemotte. These last had grown weary of laughing
contemptuously at the “Baleine”; a sabot, they said, which would
disappear some fine day under the billows like a handful of mud. So when
La Queue learned that that ragamuffin of a Delphin, the froth of the
“Baleine,” allowed himself to go prowling around his daughter, he
delivered two sound whacks at Margot, a trifle merely to warn her that
she should never be the wife of a Mahé. As a result, Margot, furious,
declared that she would pass that pair of slaps on to Delphin if he ever
ventured to rub against her skirts. It was vexing to be boxed on the
ears for a boy whom she had never looked in the face!

     1 Naval term signifying a rickety old concern.

Margot, at sixteen years strong as a man and handsome as a lady, had
the reputation of being a scornful person, very hard on lovers. And from
that, added to the trifle of the two slaps, of the presumptuousness of
Delphin, and of the wrath of Margot, one ought easily to comprehend the
endless gossip of Coqueville.

Notwithstanding, certain persons said that Margot, at bottom, was not so
very furious at sight of Delphin circling around her. This Delphin was
a little blonde, with skin bronzed by the sea-glare, and with a mane of
curly hair that fell over his eyes and in his neck. And very powerful
despite his slight figure; quite capable of thrashing any one three
times his size. They said that at times he ran away and passed the night
in Grandport. That gave him the reputation of a werwolf with the girls,
who accused him, among themselves, of “making a life of it”--a vague
expression in which they included all sorts of unknown pleasures.
Margot, when she spoke of Delphin, betrayed too much feeling. He,
smiling with an artful air, looked at her with eyes half shut and
glittering, without troubling himself the least in the world over her
scorn or her transports of passion. He passed before her door, he
glided along by the bushes watching for her hours at a time, full of the
patience and the I cunning of a cat lying in wait for a tomtit; and when
suddenly she discovered him behind her skirts, so close to her at times
that she guessed it by the warmth of his breath, he did not fly, he took
on an air gentle and melancholy which left her abashed, stifled, not
regaining her wrath until he was some distance away. Surely, if her
father saw her he would smite her again. But she boasted in vain that
Delphin would some day get that pair of slaps she had promised him;
she never seized the moment to apply them when he was there; which made
people say that she ought not to talk so much, since in the end she kept
the slaps herself.

No one, however, supposed she could ever be Delphin’s wife. In her case
they saw the weakness of a coquette. As for a marriage between the
most beggardly of the Mahés, a fellow who had not six shirts to set up
housekeeping with, and the daughter of the mayor, the richest heiress of
the Floches, it would seem simply monstrous.

Evil tongues insinuated that she could perfectly go with him all the
same, but that she would certainly not marry him. A rich girl takes her
pleasure as it suits her; only, if she has a head, she does not commit a
folly. Finally all Coque-ville interested itself in the matter, curious
to know how things would turn out. Would Delphin get his two slaps? or
else Margot, would she let herself be kissed on both cheeks in some hole
in the cliff? They must see! There were some for the slaps and there
were some for the kisses. Coqueville was in revolution.

In the village two people only, the curé and the _garde champêtre?_
belonged neither to the Mahés nor to the Floches. The _garde champêtre_,
{2} a tall, dried-up fellow, whose name no one knew, but who was called
the Emperor, no doubt because he had served under Charles X, as a matter
of fact exercised no burdensome supervision over the commune which was
all bare rocks and waste lands. A sub-prefect who patronized him had
created for him the sinecure where he devoured in peace his very small

     2 Watchman.

As for the Abbé Radiguet, he was one of those simple-minded priests whom
the bishop, in his desire to be rid of him, buries in some out of the
way hole. He lived the life of an honest man, once more turned peasant,
hoeing his little garden redeemed from the rock, smoking his pipe and
watching his salads grow. His sole fault was a gluttony which he knew
not how to refine, reduced to adoring mackerel and to drinking, at
times, more cider than he could contain. In other respects, the father
of his parishioners, who came at long intervals to hear a mass to please

But the curé and the _garde champêtre_ were obliged to take sides after
having succeeded for a long time in remaining neutral. Now, the Emperor
held for the Mahés, while the Abbé Radiguet supported the Floches.
Hence complications. As the Emperor, from morning to night, lived like
a bourgeois [citizen], and as he wearied of counting the boats which put
out from Grand-port, he took it upon himself to act as village police.
Having become the partizan of the Mahés, through native instinct for the
preservation of society, he sided with Fouasse against Tupain; he tried
to catch the wife of Rouget in _flagrante delicto_ with Brisemotte, and
above all he closed his eyes when he saw Delphin slipping into Margot’s
courtyard. The worst of it was that these tactics brought about heated
quarrels between the Emperor and his natural superior, the mayor La
Queue. Respectful of discipline, the former heard the reproaches of the
latter, then recommenced to act as his head dictated; which disorganized
the public authority of Coqueville. One could not pass before the shed
ornamented with the name of the town hall without being deafened by the
noise of some dispute. On the other hand, the Abbé Radiguet rallied to
the triumphant Floches, who loaded him with superb mackerel, secretly
encouraged the resistance of Rouget’s wife and threatened Margot with
the flames of hell if she should ever allow Delphin to touch her with
his finger. It was, to sum up, complete anarchy; the army in revolt
against the civil power, religion making itself complaisant toward
the pleasures of the bourgeoisie; a whole people, a hundred and eighty
inhabitants, devouring each other in a hole, in face of the vast sea,
and of the infinite sky.

Alone, in the midst of topsy-turvy Coqueville, Delphin preserved the
laughter of a love-sick boy, who scorned the rest, provided Margot
was for him. He followed her zigzags as one follows hares. Very wise,
despite his simple look, he wanted the curé to marry them, so that his
bliss might last forever.

One evening, in a byway where he was watching for her, Margot at last
raised her hand. But she stopped, all red; for without waiting for
the slap, he had seized the hand that threatened him and kissed it
furiously. As she trembled, he said to her in a low voice: “I love you.
Won’t you have me?”

“Never!” she cried, in rebellion.

He shrugged his shoulders, then with an air, calm and tender, “Pray do
not say that--we shall be very comfortable together, we two. You will
see how nice it is.”


That Sunday the weather was appalling, one of those sudden calamities
of September that unchain such fearful tempests on the rocky coast of
Grandport. At nightfall Coqueville sighted a ship in distress driven by
the wind. But the shadows deepened, they could not dream of rendering
help. Since the evening before, the “Zéphir” and the “Baleine” had been
moored in the little natural harbor situated at the left of the beach,
between two walls of granite. Neither La Queue nor Rouget had dared
to go out, the worst of it was that M. Mouchel, representing the Widow
Dufeu, had taken the trouble to come in person that Saturday to promise
them a reward if they would make a serious effort; fish was scarce, they
were complaining at the markets. So, Sunday evening, going to bed
under squalls of rain, Coqueville growled in a bad humor. It was the
everlasting story: orders kept coming in while the sea guarded its fish.
And all the village talked of the ship which they had seen passing in
the hurricane, and which must assuredly by that time be sleeping at the
bottom of the water. The next day, Monday, the sky was dark as ever. The
sea, still high, raged without being able to calm itself, although the
wind was blowing less strong. It fell completely, but the waves kept up
their furious motion. In spite of everything, the two boats went out in
the afternoon. Toward four o’clock, the “Zéphir” came in again, having
caught nothing. While the sailors, Tupain and Brisemotte, anchored in
the little harbor, La Queue, exasperated, on the shore, shook his fist
at the ocean. And M. Mouchel was waiting! Margot was there, with the
half of Coqueville, watching the last surg-ings of the tempest, sharing
her father’s rancor against the sea and the sky.

“But where is the ‘Baleine’?” demanded some one.

“Out there beyond the point,” said La Queue. “If that carcass comes back
whole to-day, it will be by a chance.”

He was full of contempt. Then he informed them that it was good for the
Mahés to risk their skins in that way; when one is not worth a sou, one
may perish. As for him, he preferred to break his word to M. Mouchel.

In the meantime, Margot was examining the point of rocks behind which
the “Baleine” was hidden.

“Father,” she asked at last, “have they caught something?”

“They?” he cried. “Nothing at all.”

He calmed himself and added more gently, seeing the Emperor, who was
sneering at him:

“I do not know whether they have caught anything, but as they never do
catch anything--”

“Perhaps, to-day, all the same, they have taken something,” said the
Emperor ill-naturedly. “Such things have been seen.” La Queue was about
to reply angrily. But the Abbé Radiguet, who came up, calmed him. From
the porch of the church the abbé had happened to observe the “Baleine”;
and the bark seemed to be giving chase to some big fish. This news
greatly interested Coqueville. In the groups reunited on the shore there
were Mahés and Floches, the former praying that the boat might come in
with a miraculous catch, the others making vows that it might come in

Margot, holding herself very straight, did not take her eyes from the
sea. “There they are!” said she simply.

And in fact a black dot showed itself beyond the point. All looked at
it. One would have said a cork dancing on the water. The Emperor did not
see even the black dot. One must be of Coqueville to recognize at that
distance the “Baleine” and those who manned her.

“See!” said Margot, who had the best eyes of the coast, “it is Fouasse
and Rouget who are rowing--The little one is standing up in the bow.”

She called Delphin “the little one” so as not to mention his name. And
from then on they followed the course of the bark, trying to account for
her strange movements. As the curé said, she appeared to be giving
chase to some great fish that might be fleeing before her. That seemed
extraordinary. The Emperor pretended that their net was without doubt
being carried away. But La Queue cried that they were do-nothings, and
that they were just amusing themselves. Quite certain they were not
fishing for seals! All the Floches made merry over that joke; while the
Mahés, vexed, declared that Rouget was a fine fellow all the same, and
that he was risking his skin while others at the least puff of wind
preferred _terra firma_. The Abbé Radiguet was forced to interpose again
for there were slaps in the air.

“What ails them?” said Margot abruptly. “They are off again!” They
ceased menacing one another, and every eye searched the horizon, The
“Baleine” was once more hidden behind the point. This time La Queue
himself became uneasy. He could not account for such maneuvres. The fear
that Rouget was really in a fair way to catch some fish threw him off
his mental balance. No one left the beach, although there was nothing
strange to be seen. They stayed there nearly two hours, they watched
incessantly for the bark, which appeared from time to time, then
disappeared. It finished by not showing itself at all any more. La
Queue, enraged, breathing in his heart the abominable wish, declared
that she must have sunk; and, as just at that moment Rouget’s wife
appeared with Brisemotte, he looked at them both, sneering, while he
patted Tupain on the shoulder to console him already for the death of
his brother, Fouasse. But he stopped laughing when he caught sight of
his daughter Margot, silent and looming, her eyes on the distance; it
was quite possibly for Delphin.

“What are you up to over there?” he scolded. “Be off home with you!
Mind, Margot!”

She did not stir. Then all at once: “Ah! there they are!”

He gave a cry of surprise. Margot, with her good eyes, swore that she no
longer saw a soul in the bark; neither Rouget, nor Fouasse, nor any one!
The “Baleine,” as if abandoned, ran before the wind, tacking about every
minute, rocking herself with a lazy air.

A west wind had fortunately risen and was driving her toward the land,
but with strange caprices which tossed her to right and to left. Then
all Coqueville ran down to the shore. One half shouted to the other
half, there remained not a girl in the houses to look after the soup.
It was a catastrophe; something inexplicable, the strangeness of which
completely turned their heads. Marie, the wife of Rouget, after a
moment’s reflection, thought it her duty to burst into tears. Tupain
succeeded in merely carrying an air of affliction. All the Mahés were in
great distress, while the Floches tried to appear conventional. Margot
collapsed as if she had her legs broken.

“What are you up to again!” cried La Queue, who stumbled upon her.

“I am tired,” she answered simply.

And she turned her face toward the sea, her cheeks between her hands,
shading her eyes with the ends of her fingers, gazing fixedly at the
bark rocking itself idly on the waves with the air of a good fellow who
has drunk too much.

In the meanwhile suppositions were rife. Perhaps the three men had
fallen into the water? Only, all three at a time, that seemed absurd.

La Queue would have liked well to persuade them that the “Baleine” had
gone to pieces like a rotten egg; but the boat still held the sea;
they shrugged their shoulders. Then, as if the three men had actually
perished, he remembered that he was Mayor and spoke of formalities.

“Leave off!” cried the Emperor, “Does one die in such a silly way?” “If
they had fallen overboard, little Delphin would have been here by this!”

All Coqueville had to agree, Delphin swam like a herring. But where then
could the three men be? They shouted: “I tell you, yes!”--“I tell you,
no!”--“Too stupid!”--“Stupid yourself!” And matters came to the point
of exchanging blows. The Abbé Radiguet was obliged to make an appeal for
reconciliation, while the Emperor hustled the crowd about to establish
order. Meanwhile, the bark, without haste, continued to dance before the
world. It waltzed, seeming to mock at the people; the sea carried her
in, making her salute the land in long rhythmic reverences. Surely it
was a bark in a crazy fit. Margot, her cheeks between her hands, kept
always gazing. A yawl had just put out of the harbor to go to meet the
“Baleine.” It was Brisemotte, who had exhibited that impatience, as
if he had been delayed in giving certainty to Rouget’s wife. From that
moment all Coqueville interested itself in the yawl. The voices rose
higher: “Well, does he see anything?”

The “Baleine” advanced with her mysterious and mocking air. At last they
saw him draw himself up and look into the bark that he had succeeded
in taking in tow. All held their breath. But, abruptly, he burst out
laughing. That was a surprise; what had he to be amused at? “What is it?
What have you got there?” they shouted to him furiously.

He, without replying, laughed still louder. He made gestures as if to
say that they would see. Then having fastened the “Baleine” to the yawl,
he towed her back. And an unlooked-for spectacle stunned Coqueville. In
the bottom of the bark, the three men--Rouget, Delphin, Fouasse--were
beatifically stretched out on their backs, snoring, with fists clenched,
dead drunk. In their midst was found a little cask stove in, some full
cask they had come across at sea and which they had appreciated. Without
doubt, it was very good, for they had drunk it all save a liter’s worth
which had leaked into the bark and which was mixed with the sea water.

“Ah! the pig!” cried the wife of Rouget, brutally, ceasing to whimper.

“Well, it’s characteristic--their catch!” said La Queue, who affected
great disgust.

“Forsooth!” replied the Emperor, “they catch what they can! They have at
least caught a cask, while others have not caught anything at all.”

The Mayor shut up, greatly vexed. Coqueville brayed. They understood
now. When barks are intoxicated, they dance as men do; and that one,
in truth, had her belly full of liquor. Ah, the slut! What a minx!
She festooned over the ocean with the air of a sot who could no longer
recognize his home. And Coqueville laughed, and fumed, the Mahés found
it funny, while the Floches found it disgusting. They surrounded the
“Baleine,” they craned their necks, they strained their eyes to see
sleeping there the three jolly dogs who were exposing the secret springs
of their jubilation, oblivious of the crowd hanging over them. The abuse
and the laughter troubled them but little. Rouget did not hear his
wife accuse him of drinking up all they had; Fouasse did not feel the
stealthy kicks with which his brother Tupain rammed his sides. As for
Del-phin, he was pretty, after he had drunk, with his blond hair, his
rosy face drowned in bliss. Mar-got had gotten up, and silently, for the
present, she contemplated the little fellow with a hard expression.

“Must put them to bed!” cried a voice.

But just then Delphin opened his eyes. He rolled looks of rapture over
the people. They questioned him on all sides with an eagerness that
dazed him somewhat, the more easily since he was still as drunk as a

“Well! What?” he stuttered; “it was a little cask--There is no fish.
Therefore, we have caught a little cask.”

He did not get beyond that. To every sentence he added simply: “It was
very good!”

“But what was it in the cask?” they asked him hotly.

“Ah! I don’t know--it was very good.”

By this time Coqueville was burning to know. Every one lowered their
noses to the boat, sniffing vigorously. With one opinion, it smelt of
liquor; only no one could guess what liquor. The Emperor, who flattered
himself that he had drunk of everything that a man can drink, said that
he would see. He solemnly took in the palm of his hand a little of the
liquor that was swimming in the bottom of the bark. The crowd became
all at once silent. They waited. But the Emperor, after sucking up a
mouthful, shook his head as if still badly informed. He sucked twice,
more and more embarrassed, with an air of uneasiness and surprise. And
he was bound to confess:

“I do not know--It’s strange--If there was no salt water in it, I would
know, no doubt--My word of honor, it is very strange!”

They looked at him. They stood struck with awe before that which the
Emperor himself did not venture to pronounce. Coqueville contemplated
with respect the little empty cask.

“It was very good!” once more said Delphin, who seemed to be making game
of the people. Then, indicating the sea with a comprehensive sweep,
he added: “If you want some, there is more there--I saw them--little
casks--little casks--little casks--”

And he rocked himself with the refrain which he kept singing, gazing
tenderly at Margot. He had just caught sight of her. Furious, she made a
motion as if to slap him; but he did not even close his eyes; he awaited
the slap with an air of tenderness.

The Abbé Radiguet, puzzled by that unknown tipple, he, too, dipped his
finger in the bark and sucked it. Like the Emperor, he shook his head:
no, he was not familiar with that, it was very extraordinary. They
agreed on but one point: the cask must have been wreckage from the ship
in distress, signaled Sunday evening. The English ships often carried to
Grandport such cargoes of liquor and fine wines.

Little by little the day faded and the people were withdrawn into
shadow. But La Queue remained absorbed, tormented by an idea which he no
longer expressed. He stopped, he listened a last time to Delphin, whom
they were carrying along, and who was repeating in his sing-song voice:
“Little casks--little casks--little casks--if you want some, there are


That night the weather changed completely. When Coqueville awoke the
following day an unclouded sun was shining; the sea spread out without
a wrinkle, like a great piece of green satin. And it was warm, one of
those pale glows of autumn.

First of the village, La Queue had risen, still clouded from the dreams
of the night. He kept looking for a long time toward the sea, to the
right, to the left. At last, with a sour look, he said that he must in
any event satisfy M. Mouchel. And he went away at once with Tupain and
Brisemotte, threatening Margot to touch up her sides if she did not walk
straight. As the “Zéphir” left the harbor, and as he saw the “Baleine”
 swinging heavily at her anchor, he cheered up a little saying: “To-day,
I guess, not a bit of it! Blow out the candle, Jeanetton! those
gentlemen have gone to bed!”

And as soon as the “Zéphir” had reached the open sea, La Queue cast his
nets. After that he went to visit his “jambins.” The jambins are a kind
of elongated eel-pot in which they catch more, especially lobsters and
red garnet. But in spite of the calm sea, he did well to visit his
jambins one by one. All were empty; at the bottom of the last one, as
if in mockery, he found a little mackerel, which he threw back angrily
into the sea. It was fate; there were weeks like that when the fish
flouted Coqueville, and always at a time when M. Mouchel had expressed
a particular desire for them. When La Queue drew in his nets, an hour
later, he found nothing but a bunch of seaweed. Straightway he swore,
his fists clenched, raging so much the more for the vast serenity of the
ocean, lazy and sleeping like a sheet of burnished silver under the
blue sky. The “Zéphir,” without a waver, glided along in gentle ease. La
Queue decided to go in again, after having cast his nets once more. In
the afternoon he came to see them, and he menaced God and the saints,
cursing in abominable words. In the meanwhile, Rouget, Fouasse, and
Del-phin kept on sleeping. They did not succeed in standing up until
the dinner hour. They recollected nothing, they were conscious only of
having been treated to something extraordinary, something which they
did not understand. In the afternoon, as they were all three down at the
harbor, the Emperor tried to question them concerning the liquor, now
that they had recovered their senses. It was like, perhaps, eau-de-vie
with liquorice-juice in it; or rather one might say rum, sugared and
burned. They said “Yes”; they said “No.” From their replies, the
Emperor suspected that it was ratafia; but he would not have sworn to
it. That day Rouget and his men had too many pains in their sides to
go a-fishing. Moreover, they knew that La Queue had gone out without
success that morning, and they talked of waiting until the next day
before visiting their jambins. All three of them, seated on blocks
of stone, watched the tide come in, their backs rounded, their mouths
clammy, half-asleep.

But suddenly Delphin woke up; he jumped on to the stone, his eyes on the
distance, crying: “Look, Boss, off there!”

“What?” asked Rouget, who stretched his limbs.

“A cask.”

Rouget and Fouasse were at once on their feet, their eyes gleaming,
sweeping the horizon.

“Where is it, lad? Where is the cask?” repeated the boss, greatly moved.

“Off there--to the left--that black spot.”

The others saw nothing. Then Rouget swore an oath. “Nom de Dieu!”

He had just spotted the cask, big as a lentil on the white water in a
slanting ray of the setting sun. And he ran to the “Baleine,” followed
by Delphin and Fouasse, who darted forward tapping their backs with
their heels and making the pebbles roll.

The “Baleine” was just putting out from the harbor when the news that
they saw a cask out at sea was circulated in Coqueville. The children,
the women, began to run. They shouted: “A cask! a cask!”

“Do you see it? The current is driving it toward Grandport.”

“Ah, yes! on the left--a cask! Come, quick!”

And Coqueville came; tumbled down from its rock; the children arrived
head over heels, while the women picked up their skirts with both hands
to descend quickly. Soon the entire village was on the beach as on the
night before.

Margot showed herself for an instant, then she ran back at full speed to
the house, where she wished to forestall her father, who was discussing
an official process with the Emperor. At last La Queue appeared. He was
livid; he said to the _garde champêtre_: “Hold your peace! It’s Rouget
who has sent you here to beguile me. Well, then, he shall not get it.
You’ll see!”

When he saw the “Baleine,” three hundred metres out, making with all her
oars toward the black dot, rocking in the distance, his fury redoubled.
And he shoved Tupain and Brisemotte into the “Zéphir,” and he pulled out
in turn, repeating: “No, they shall not have it; I’ll die sooner!”

Then Coqueville had a fine spectacle; a mad race between the “Zéphir”
 and the “Baleine.” When the latter saw the first leave the harbor, she
understood the danger, and shot off with all her speed. She may have
been four hundred metres ahead; but the chances remained even, for the
“Zéphir” was otherwise light and swift; so excitement was at its height
on the beach. The Mahès and the Floches had instinctively formed into
two groups, following eagerly the vicissitudes of the struggle, each
upholding its own boat. At first the “Baleine” kept her advantage, but
as soon as the “Zéphir” spread herself, they saw that she was gaining
little by little. The “Baleine” made a supreme effort and succeeded
for a few minutes in holding her distance. Then the “Zéphir” once more
gained upon the “Baleine,” came up with her at extraordinary speed.
From that moment on, it was evident that the two barks would meet in
the neighborhood of the cask. Victory hung on a circumstance, on the
slightest mishap.

“The ‘Baleine’! The ‘baleine’!” cried the Mahés.

But they soon ceased shouting. When the “Baleine” was almost touching
the cask, the “Zephir,” by a bold maneuvre, managed to pass in front of
her and throw the cask to the left, where La Queue harpooned it with a
thrust of the boat-hook.

“The ‘Zéphir’! the ‘Zéphir!” screamed the Floches.

And the Emperor, having spoken of foul play, big words were exchanged.
Margot clapped her hands. The Abbé Radiguet came down with his breviary,
made a profound remark which abruptly calmed the people, and then threw
them into consternation.

“They will, perhaps, drink it all, these, too,” he murmured with a
melancholy air.

At sea, between the “Baleine” and the “Zéphir,” a violent quarrel broke
out. Rouget called La Queue a thief, while the latter called Rouget a
good-for-nothing. The men even took up their oars to beat each other
down, and the adventure lacked little of turning into a naval combat.
More than this, they engaged to meet on land, showing their fists and
threatening to disembowel each other as soon as they found each other

“The rascal!” grumbled Rouget. “You know, that cask is bigger than the
one of yesterday. It’s yellow, this one--it ought to be great.” Then
in accents of despair: “Let’s go and see the jambins; there may very
possibly be lobsters in them.”

And the “Baleine” went on heavily to the left, steering toward the

In the “Zëphir,” La Queue had to get in a passion in order to hold
Tupain and Brisemotte from the cask. The boat-hook, in smashing a hoop,
had made a leaking for the red liquid, which the two men tasted from the
ends of their fingers and which they found exquisite. One might easily
drink a glass without its producing much effect. But La Queue would not
have it. He caulked the cask and declared that the first who sucked it
should have a talk with him. On land, they would see.

“Then,” asked Tupain, sullenly, “are we going to draw out the jambins?”

“Yes, right away; there is no hurry!” replied La Queue.

He also gazed lovingly at the barrel. He felt his limbs melt with
longing to go in at once and taste it. The fish bored him.

“Bah!” said he at the end of a silence. “Let’s go back, for it’s late.
We will return to-morrow.” And he was relaxing his fishing when he
noticed another cask at his right, this one very small, and which stood
on end, turning on itself like a top. That was the last straw for the
nets and the jambins. No one even spoke of them any longer. The “Zéphir”
 gave chase to the little barrel, which was caught very easily.

During this time a similar adventure overtook the “Baleine.” After
Rouget had already visited five jambins completely empty, Delphin,
always on the watch, cried out that he saw something. But it did not
have the appearance of a cask, it was too long.

“It’s a beam,” said Fouasse.

Rouget let fall his sixth jambin without drawing it out of the water.
“Let’s go and see, all the same,” said he.

As they advanced, they thought they recognized at first a beam, a chest,
the trunk of a tree. Then they gave a cry of joy.

It was a real cask, but a very queer cask, such as they had never seen
before. One would have said a tube, bulging in the middle and closed at
the two ends by a layer of plaster.

“Ah, that’s comical!” cried Rouget, in rapture. “This one I want the
Emperor to taste. Come, children, let’s go in.”

They all agreed not to touch it, and the “Baleine” returned to
Coqueville at the same moment as the “Zéphir,” in its turn, anchored in
the little harbor. Not one inquisitive had left the beach. Cries of joy
greeted that unexpected catch of three casks. The _gamins_ hurled their
caps into the air, while the women had at once gone on the run to
look for glasses. It was decided to taste the liquid on the spot. The
wreckage belonged to the village. Not one protest arose. Only they
formed into two groups, the Mahés surrounded Rouget, the Floches would
not let go of La Queue.

“Emperor, the first glass for you!” cried Rouget. “Tell us what it is.”

The liquor was of a beautiful golden yellow. The _garde champêtre_
raised his glass, looked at it, smelt it, then decided to drink.

“That comes from Holland,” said he, after a long silence.

He did not give any other information. All the Mahés drank with
deference. It was rather thick, and they stood surprised, for it tasted
of flowers. The women found it very good. As for the men, they would
have preferred less sugar. Nevertheless, at the bottom it ended by being
strong at the third or fourth glass. The more they drank, the better
they liked it. The men became jolly, the women grew funny.

But the Emperor, in spite of his recent quarrels with the Mayor, had
gone to hang about the group of Floches.

The biggest cask gave out a dark-red liquor, while they drew from the
smallest a liquid white as water from the rock; and it was this latter
that was the stiff est, a regular pepper, something that skinned the

Not one of the Floches recognized it, neither the red nor the white.

There were, however, some wags there. It annoyed them to be regaling
themselves without knowing over what.

“I say, Emperor, taste that for me!” said La Queue, thus taking the
first step.

The Emperor, who had been waiting for the invitation, posed once more as

“As for the red,” he said, “there is orange in that! And for the white,”
 he declared, “that--that is excellent!”

They had to content themselves with these replies, for he shook his
head with a knowing air, with the happy look of a man who has given
satisfaction to the world.

The Abbé Radiguet, alone, did not seem convinced. As for him, he had the
names on the tip of his tongue; and to thoroughly reassure himself, he
drank small glasses, one after the other, repeating: “Wait, wait, I know
what it is. In a moment I will tell you.”

In the mean while, little by little, merriment grew in the group of the
Mahés and the group of the Floches. The latter, particularly, laughed
very loud because they had mixed the liquors, a thing that excited them
the more. For the rest, the one and the other of the groups kept
apart. They did not offer each other of their casks, they simply cast
sympathetic glances, seized with the unavowed desire to taste their
neighbor’s liquor, which might possibly be better. The inimical
brothers, Tupain and Fouasse, were in close proximity all the evening
without showing their fists. It was remarked, also, that Rouget and
his wife drank from the same glass. As for Margot, she distributed the
liquor among the Floches, and as she filled the glasses too full, and
the liquor ran over her fingers, she kept sucking them continually,
so well that, though obeying her father who forbade her to drink, she
became as fuddled as a girl in vintage time. It was not unbecoming to
her; on the contrary, she got rosy all over, her eyes were like candles.

The sun set, the evening was like the softness of springtime. Coqueville
had finished the casks and did not dream of going home to dine. They
found themselves too comfortable on the beach. When it was pitch
night, Margot, sitting apart, felt some one blowing on her neck. It was
Del-phin, very gay, walking on all fours, prowling behind her like a
wolf. She repressed a cry so as not to awaken her father, who would have
sent Delphin a kick in the back.

“Go away, imbecile!” she murmured, half angry, half laughing; “you will
get yourself caught!”


The following day Coqueville, in rising, found the sun already high
above the horizon. The air was softer still, a drowsy sea under a clear
sky, one of those times of laziness when it is so good to do nothing. It
was a Wednesday. Until breakfast time, Coqueville rested from the fête
of the previous evening. Then they went down to the beach to see.

That Wednesday the fish, the Widow Dufeu, M. Mouchel, all were
forgotten. La Queue and Rouget did not even speak of visiting their
jam-bins. Toward three o’clock they sighted some casks. Four of them
were dancing before the village. The “Zéphir” and the “Baleine” went in
chase; but as there was enough for all, they disputed no longer. Each
boat had its share. At six o’clock, after having swept all over the
little gulf, Rouget and La Queue came in, each with three casks. And
the fête began again. The women had brought down tables for convenience.
They had brought benches as well; they set up two cafés in the open air,
such as they had at Grandport. The Mahés were on the left; the Floches
on the right, still separated by a bar of sand. Nevertheless, that
evening the Emperor, who went from one group to the other, carried his
glasses full, so at to give every one a taste of the six casks. At about
nine o’clock they were much gayer than the night before.

The next day Coqueville could never remember how it had gone to bed.

Thursday the “Zéphir” and the “Baleine” caught but four casks, two each,
but they were enormous. Friday the fishing was superb, undreamed
of; there were seven casks, three for Rouget and four for La Queue.
Coqueville was entering upon a golden age. They never did anything
any more. The fishermen, working off the alcohol of the night before,
slept till noon. Then they strolled down to the beach and interrogated
the sea. Their sole anxiety was to know what liquor the sea was going
to bring them. They waited there for hours, their eyes strained; they
raised shouts of joy when wreckage appeared.

The women and the children, from the tops of the rocks, pointed with
sweeping gestures even to the least bunch of seaweed rolled in by the
waves. And, at all hours, the “Zéphir” and the “Baleine” stood ready to
leave. They put out, they beat the gulf, they fished for casks, as they
had fished for tun; disdaining now the tame mackerel who capered
about in the sun, and the lazy sole rocked on the foam of the water.
Coqueville watched the fishing, dying of laughter on the sands. Then in
the evening they drank the catch.

That which enraptured Coqueville was that the casks did not cease. When
there were no more, there were still more! The ship that had been lost
must truly have had a pretty cargo aboard; and Coqueville became egoist
and merry, joked over the wrecked ship, a regular wine-cellar, enough
to intoxicate all the fish of the ocean. Added to that, never did they
catch two casks alike; they were of all shapes, of all sizes, of all
colors. Then, in every cask there was a different liquor. So the Emperor
was plunged into profound reveries; he who had drunk everything, he
could identify nothing any more. La Queue declared that never had he
seen such a cargo. The Abbé Radiguet guessed it was an order from some
savage king, wishing to set up his wine-cellar. Coqueville, rocked in
mysterious intoxication, no longer tried to understand.

The ladies preferred the “creams”; they had cream of moka, of cacao, of
mint, of vanilla. Marie Rouget drank one night so much anisette that she
was sick.

Margot and the other young ladies tapped the curaçao, the bénédictine,
the trappistine, the chartreuse. As to the cassis, it was reserved for
the little children. Naturally the men rejoiced more when they caught
cognacs, rums, gins, everything that burned the mouth. Then surprises
produced themselves. A cask of _raki_ of Chio, flavored with mastic,
stupefied Coqueville, which thought that it had fallen on a cask of
essence of turpentine. All the same they drank it, for they must lose
nothing; but they talked about it for a long time. Arrack from Batavia,
Swedish eau-de-vie with cumin, tuica calugaresca from Rumania, slivowitz
from Servia, all equally overturned every idea that Coqueville had of
what one should endure. At heart they had a weakness for kümmel and
kirschwasser, for liqueurs as pale as water and stiff enough to kill a

Heavens! was it possible so many good things had been invented! At
Coqueville they had known nothing but eau-de-vie; and, moreover, not
every one at that. So their imaginations finished in exultation; they
arrived at a state of veritable worship, in face of that inexhaustible
variety, for that which intoxicates. Oh! to get drunk every night on
something new, on something one does not even know the name of!
It seemed like a fairy-tale, a rain, a fountain, that would spout
extraordinary liquids, all the distilled alcohols, perfumed with all the
flowers and all the fruits of creation.

So then, Friday evening, there were seven casks on the beach! Coqueville
did not leave the beach. They lived there, thanks to the mildness of the
season. Never in September had they enjoyed so fine a week. The fête
had lasted since Monday, and there was no reason why it should not last
forever if Providence should continue to send them casks; for the Abbé
Radiguet saw therein the hand of Providence. All business was suspended;
what use drudging when pleasure came to them in their sleep? They were
all bourgeois, bourgeois who were drinking expensive liquors without
having to pay anything at the café. With hands in pocket, Coqueville
basked in the sunshine waiting for the evening’s spree. Moreover, it
did not sober up; it enjoyed side by side the gaieties of kümmel, of
kirsch-wasser, of ratafia; in seven days they knew the wraths of gin,
the tendernesses of curaçao, the laughter of cognac. And Coqueville
remained as innocent as a new-born child, knowing nothing about
anything, drinking with conviction that which the good Lord sent them.

It was on Friday that the Mahés and the Floches fraternized. They were
very jolly that evening. Already, the evening before, distances had
drawn nearer, the most intoxicated had trodden down the bar of sand
which separated the two groups. There remained but one step to take. On
the side of the Floches the four casks were emptying, while the Mahés
were equally finishing their three little barrels; just three liqueurs
which made the French flag; one blue, one white, and one red. The blue
filled the Floches with jealousy, because a blue liqueur seemed to them
something really supernatural. La Queue, grown good-natured since he had
been drunk, advanced, a glass in his hand, feeling that he ought to take
the first step as magistrate.

“See here, Rouget,” he stuttered, “will you drink with me?”

“Willingly,” replied Rouget, who was staggering under a feeling of

And they fell upon each other’s necks. Then they all wept, so great was
their emotion. The Mahés and the Floches embraced, they who had been
devouring one another for three centuries. The Abbé Radiguet, greatly
touched, again spoke of the finger of God. They drank to each other in
the three liqueurs, the blue, the white, and the red.

“_Vive la France!_” cried the Emperor.

The blue was worthless, the white of not much account, but the red was
really a success. Then they tapped the casks of the Floches. Then they
danced. As there was no band, some good-natured boys clapped their
hands, whistling, which excited the girls. The fête became superb. The
seven casks were placed in a row; each could choose that which he liked
best. Those who had had enough stretched themselves out on the sands,
where they slept for a while; and when they awoke they began again.
Little by little the others spread the fun until they took up the whole
beach. Right up to midnight they skipped in the open air. The sea had a
soft sound, the stars shone in a deep sky, a sky of vast peace. It
was the serenity of the infant ages enveloping the joy of a tribe of
savages, intoxicated by their first cask of eau-de-vie.

Nevertheless, Coqueville went home to bed again. When there was nothing
more left to drink, the Floches and the Mahés helped one another,
carried one another, and ended by finding their beds again one way or
another. On Saturday the fête lasted until nearly two o’clock in the
morning. They had caught six casks, two of them enormous. Fouasse and
Tupain almost fought. Tupain, who was wicked when drunk, talked of
finishing his brother. But that quarrel disgusted every one, the Floches
as well as the Mahés. Was it reasonable to keep on quarreling when the
whole village was embracing? They forced the two brothers to drink
together. They were sulky. The Emperor promised to watch them. Neither
did the Rouget household get on well. When Marie had taken anisette she
was prodigal in her attentions to Brisemotte, which Rouget could not
behold with a calm eye, especially since having become sensitive, he
also wished to be loved. The Abbé Radiguet, full of forbearance, did
well in preaching forgiveness; they feared an accident. “Bah!” said La
Queue; “all will arrange itself. If the fishing is good to-morrow, you
will see--Your health!”

However, La Queue himself was not yet perfect. He still kept his eye on
Delphin and leveled kicks at him whenever he saw him approach Margot.
The Emperor was indignant, for there was no common sense in preventing
two young people from laughing. But La Queue always swore to kill his
daughter sooner than give her to “the little one.” Moreover, Margot
would not be willing.

“Isn’t it so? You are too proud,” he cried. “Never would you marry a

“Never, papa!” answered Margot.

Saturday, Margot drank a great deal of sugary liqueur. No one had any
idea of such sugar. As she was no longer on her guard, she soon found
herself sitting close to the cask. She laughed, happy, in paradise; she
saw stars, and it seemed to her that there was music within her, playing
dance tunes. Then it was that Delphin slipped into the shadow of the
casks. He took her hand; he asked: “Say, Margot, will you?”

She kept on smiling. Then she replied: “It is papa who will not.”

“Oh! that’s nothing,” said the little one; “you know the old ones never
will--provided you are willing, you.” And he grew bold, he planted a
kiss on her neck. She bridled; shivers ran along her shoulders. “Stop!
You tickle me.”

But she talked no more of giving him a slap. In the first place, she was
not able to, for her hands were too weak. Then it seemed nice to her,
those little kisses on the neck. It was like the liqueur that enervated
her so deliciously. She ended by turning her head and extending her
chin, just like a cat.

“There!” she stammered, “there under the ear--that tickles me. Oh! that
is nice!”

They had both forgotten La Queue. Fortunately the Emperor was on guard.
He pointed them out to the Abbé.

“Look there, Curé--it would be better to marry them.”

“Morals would gain thereby,” declared the priest sententiously.

And he charged himself with the matter for the morrow. ‘Twas he himself
that would speak to La Queue. Meanwhile La Queue had drunk so much that
the Emperor and the Curé were forced to carry him home. On the way they
tried to reason with him on the subject of his daughter; but they could
draw from him nothing but growls. Behind them, in the untroubled night,
Delphin led Margot home.

The next day by four o’clock the “Zéphir” and the “Baleine” had already
caught seven casks. At six o’clock the “Zéphir” caught two more. That
made nine.

Then Coqueville feted Sunday. It was the seventh day that it had been
drunk. And the fête was complete--a fête such as no one had ever seen,
and which no one will ever see again. Speak of it in Lower Normandy, and
they will tell you with laughter, “Ah! yes, the fête at Coqueville!”


In the mean while, since the Tuesday, M. Mouchel had been surprised at
not seeing either Rouget or La Queue arrive at Grandport. What the devil
could those fellows be doing? The sea was fine, the fishing ought to be
splendid. Very possibly they wished to bring a whole load of soles and
lobsters in all at once. And he was patient until the Wednesday.

Wednesday, M. Mouchel was angry. You must know that the Widow Dufeu was
not a commodious person. She was a woman who in a flash came to high
words. Although he was a handsome fellow, blond and powerful, he
trembled before her, especially since he had dreams of marrying her,
always with little attentions, free to subdue her with a slap if he ever
became her master. Well, that Wednesday morning the Widow Dufeu stormed,
complaining that the bundles were no longer forwarded, that the sea
failed; and she accused him of running after the girls of the coast
instead of busying himself with the whiting and the mackerel which
ought to be yielding in abundance. M. Mouchel, vexed, fell back on
Coqueville’s singular breach of honor. For a moment surprise calmed
the Widow Dufeu. What was Coqueville dreaming about? Never had it so
conducted itself before. But she declared immediately that she had
nothing to do with Coqueville; that it was M. Mouchel’s business to look
into matters, that she should take a partner if he allowed himself to be
played with again by the fishermen. In a word, much disquieted, he sent
Rouget and La Queue to the devil. Perhaps, after all, they would come

The next day, Thursday, neither the one nor the other appeared.
Toward evening, M. Mouchel, desperate, climbed the rock to the left of
Grandport, from which one could see in the distance Coqueville, with
its yellow spot of beach. He gazed at it a long time. The village had a
tranquil look in the sun, light smoke was rising from the chimneys; no
doubt the women were preparing the soup. M. Mouchel was satisfied that
Coqueville was still in its place, that a rock from the cliff had not
crushed it, and he understood less and less. As he was about to descend
again, he thought he could make out two black points on the gulf; the
“Baleine” and the “Zëphir.” After that he went back to calm the Widow
Dufeu. Coqueville was fishing. The night passed. Friday was here. Still
nothing of Coqueville. M. Mouchel climbed to his rock more than ten
times. He was beginning to lose his head; the Widow Dufeu behaved
abominably to him, without his finding anything to reply. Coqueville was
always there, in the sun, warming itself like a lazy lizard. Only, M.
Mouchel saw no more smoke. The village seemed dead. Had they all died in
their holes? On the beach, there was quite a movement, but that might
be seaweed rocked by the tide. Saturday, still no one. The Widow Dufeu
scolded no more; her eyes were fixed, her lips white. M. Mouchel passed
two hours on the rock. A curiosity grew in him, a purely personal need
of accounting to himself for the strange immobility of the village. The
old walls sleeping beatifically in the sun ended by worrying him. His
resolution was taken; he would set out that Monday very early in the
morning and try to get down there near nine o’clock.

It was not a promenade to go to Coqueville. M. Mouchel preferred to
follow the route by land, in that way he would come upon the village
without their expecting him. A wagon carried him as far as Robineux,
where he left it under a shed, for it would not have been prudent to
risk it in the middle of the gorge. And he set off bravely, having to
make nearly seven kilometers over the most abominable of roads. The
route was otherwise of a wild beauty; it descended by continual turns
between two enormous ledges of rock, so narrow in places that three men
could not walk abreast. Farther on it skirted the precipices; the gorge
opened abruptly; and one caught glimpses of the sea, of immense blue
horizons. But M. Mouchel was not in a state of mind to admire the
landscape. He swore as the pebbles rolled under his feet. It was the
fault of Coqueville, he promised to shake up those do-nothings well.
But, in the meantime, he was approaching. All at once, in the turning
at the last rock, he saw the twenty houses of the village hanging to the
flank of the cliff.

Nine o’clock struck. One would have believed it June, so blue and warm
was the sky; a superb season, limpid air, gilded by the dust of the
sun, refreshed by the good smell of the sea. M. Mouchel entered the only
street of the village, where he came very often; and as he passed before
Rouget’s house, he went in. The house was empty. Then he cast his eye
toward Fouasse’s--Tupain’s--Brisemotte’s. Not a soul; all the doors
open, and no one in the rooms. What did it mean? A light chill began to
creep over his flesh. Then he thought of the authorities. Certainly, the
Emperor would reassure him. But the Emperor’s house was empty like the
others. Even to the _garde champêtre_, there was failure! That village,
silent and deserted, terrified him now. He ran to the Mayor’s. There
another surprise awaited him: the house was found in an abominable mess;
they had not made the beds in three days; dirty dishes littered the
place; chairs seemed to indicate a fight. His mind upset, dreaming of
cataclysms, M. Mouchel determined to go on to the end, and he entered
the church. No more curé than mayor. All the authorities, even religion
itself had vanished. Coqueville abandoned, slept without a breath,
without a dog, without a cat. Not even a fowl; the hens had taken
themselves off. Nothing, a void, silence, a leaden sleep under the great
blue sky.

Parbleu! It was no wonder that Coqueville brought no more fish!
Coqueville had moved away. Coqueville was dead. He must notify the
police. The mysterious catastrophe exalted M. Mouchel, when, with the
idea of descending to the beach, he uttered a cry. In the midst of
the sands, the whole population lay stretched. He thought of a general
massacre. But the sonorous snores came to undeceive him. During the
night of Sunday, Coqueville had feasted so late that it had found itself
in absolute inability to go home to bed. So it had slept on the sand,
just where it had fallen, around the nine casks, completely empty.

Yes, all Coqueville was snoring there; I hear the children, the women,
the old people, and the men. Not one was on his feet. There were some on
their stomachs, there were some on their backs; others held themselves
_en chien de fusils_ {3} As one makes his bed so must one lie on it.
And the fellows found themselves, happen what may, scattered in their
drunkenness like a handful of leaves driven by the wind. The men
had rolled over, heads lower than heels. It was a scene full of
good-fellowship; a dormitory in the open air; honest family folk taking
their ease; for where there is care, there is no pleasure.

     3 Primed for the event

It was just at the new moon. Coqueville, thinking it had blown out its
candle, had abandoned itself to the darkness. Then the day dawned;
and now the sun was flaming, a sun which fell perpendicularly on the
sleepers, powerless to make them open their eyelids. They slept rudely,
all their faces beaming with the fine innocence of drunkards. The hens
at early morning must have strayed down to peck at the casks, for they
were drunk; they, too, sleeping on the sands. There were also five cats
and five dogs, their paws in the air, drunk from licking the glasses
glistening with sugar.

For a moment M. Mouchel walked about among the sleepers, taking care not
to step on any of them. He understood, for at Grandport they, too, had
received casks from the wreck of the English ship. All his wrath left
him. What a touching and moral spectacle! Coqueville reconciled,
the Mahés and the Floches sleeping together! With the last glass the
deadliest enemies had embraced. Tupain and Fouasse lay there snoring,
hand in hand, like brothers, incapable of coming to dispute a legacy. As
to the Rouget household, it offered a still more amiable picture, Marie
slept between Rouget and Brisemotte, as much as to say that henceforth
they were to live thus, happy, all the three.

But one group especially exhibited a scene of family tenderness. It was
Delphin and Margot; one on the neck of the other, they slept cheek to
cheek, their lips still opened for a kiss. At their feet the Emperor,
sleeping crosswise, guarded them. Above them La Queue snored like
a father satisfied at having settled his daughter, while the Abbé
Radiguet, fallen there like the others, with arms outspread, seemed to
bless them. In her sleep Margot still extended her rosy muzzle like an
amorous cat who loves to have one scratch her under the chin.

The fête ended with a marriage. And M. Mouchel himself later married the
Widow Dufeu, whom he beat to a jelly. Speak of that in Lower Normandy,
they will tell you with a laugh, “Ah! yes, the fête at Coqueville!”

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Fête At Coqueville - 1907" ***

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