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The Fat and the Thin

CHAPTER III
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 busy, sprang over the heaps, tore away the straw at the tops of the
baskets, emptied the latter, and tossed them aside. They then speedily transferred their
contents in lots to huge wickerwork trays, arranging them with a turn of the hand so that
they might show to the best advantage. And when the large tray-like baskets were all
set out, Florent could almost fancy that a whole shoal of fish had got stranded there, still
quivering with life, and gleaming with rosy nacre, scarlet coral, and milky pearl, all the
soft, pale, sheeny hues of the ocean.
The deep-lying forests of seaweed, in which the mysterious life of the ocean slumbers,
seemed at one haul of the nets to have yielded up all they contained. There were cod,
keeling, whiting, flounders, plaice, dabs, and other sorts of common fish of a dingy grey
with whitish splotches; there were conger-eels, huge serpent-like creatures, with small
 
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