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Gervaise's saint's day fell on the 19th of June. On such occasions, the Coupeaus
always made a grand display; they feasted till they were as round as balls, and their
stomachs were filled for the rest of the week. There was a complete clear out of all the
money they had. The moment there were a few sous in the house they went in gorging.
They invented saints for those days which the almanac had not provided with any, just
for the sake of giving themselves a pretext for gormandizing. Virginie highly
commended Gervaise for stuffing herself with all sorts of savory dishes. When one has
a husband who turns all he can lay hands on into drink, it's good to line one's stomach
well, and not to let everything go off in liquids. Since the money would disappear
anyway, surely it was better to pay it to the butcher. Gervaise used that excuse to justify
overeating, saying it was Coupeau's fault if they could no longer save a sou. She had
grown considerably fatter, and she limped more than before because her leg, now
swollen with fat, seemed to be getting gradually shorter.
That year they talked about her saint's day a good month beforehand. They thought of
dishes and smacked their lips in advance. All the shop had a confounded longing to
junket. They wanted a merry-making of the right sort—something out of the ordinary
and highly successful. One does not have so many opportunities for enjoyment. What
most troubled the laundress was to decide whom to invite; she wished to have twelve
persons at table, no more, no less. She, her husband, mother Coupeau, and Madame
Lerat, already made four members of the family. She would also have the Goujets and
the Poissons. Originally, she had decided not to invite her workwomen, Madame Putois
and Clemence, so as not to make them too familiar; but as the projected feast was
being constantly spoken of in their presence, and their mouths watered, she ended by
telling them to come. Four and four, eight, and two are ten. Then, wishing particularly to
have twelve, she became reconciled with the Lorilleuxs, who for some time past had
been hovering around her; at least it was agreed that the Lorilleuxs should come to
dinner, and that peace should be made with glasses in hand. You really shouldn't keep
family quarrels going forever. When the Boches heard that a reconciliation was planned,
they also sought to make up with Gervaise, and so they had to be invited to the dinner
too. That would make fourteen, not counting the children. Never before had she given
such a large dinner and the thought frightened and excited her at the same time.
The saint's day happened to fall on a Monday. It was a piece of luck. Gervaise counted
on the Sunday afternoon to begin the cooking. On the Saturday, whilst the workwomen
hurried with their work, there was a long discussion in the shop with the view of finally
deciding upon what the feast should consist of. For three weeks past one thing alone
had been chosen—a fat roast goose. There was a gluttonous look on every face
whenever it was mentioned. The goose was even already bought. Mother Coupeau
went and fetched it to let Clemence and Madame Putois feel its weight. And they
uttered all kinds of exclamations; it looked such an enormous bird, with its rough skin all
swelled out with yellow fat.