L'Assommoir HTML version
Three weeks later, towards half-past eleven, one beautiful sunshiny day, Gervaise and
Coupeau, the zinc-worker, were each partaking of a plum preserved in brandy, at
"l'Assommoir" kept by Pere Colombe. Coupeau, who had been smoking a cigarette on
the pavement, had prevailed on her to go inside as she returned from taking home a
customer's washing; and her big square laundress's basket was on the floor beside her,
behind the little zinc covered table.
Pere Colombe's l'Assommoir was at the corner of Rue des Poissonniers and Boulevard
de Rochechouart. The sign, in tall blue letters stretching from one end to the other said:
Distillery. Two dusty oleanders planted in half casks stood beside the doorway. A long
bar with its tin measuring cups was on the left as you entered. The large room was
decorated with casks painted a gay yellow, bright with varnish, and gleaming with
copper taps and hoops.
On the shelves above the bar were liquor bottles, jars of fruit preserved in brandy, and
flasks of all shapes. They completely covered the wall and were reflected in the mirror
behind the bar as colorful spots of apple green, pale gold, and soft brown. The main
feature of the establishment, however, was the distilling apparatus. It was at the rear,
behind an oak railing in a glassed-in area. The customers could watch its functioning,
long-necked still-pots, copper worms disappearing underground, a devil's kitchen
alluring to drink-sodden work men in search of pleasant dreams.
L'Assommoir was nearly empty at the lunch hour. Pere Colombe, a heavy man of forty,
was serving a ten year old girl who had asked him to place four sous' worth of brandy
into her cup. A shaft of sunlight came through the entrance to warm the floor which was
always damp from the smokers' spitting. From everything, the casks, the bar, the entire
room, a liquorish odor arose, an alcoholic aroma which seemed to thicken and befuddle
the dust motes dancing in the sunlight.
Coupeau was making another cigarette. He was very neat, in a short blue linen blouse
and cap, and was laughing and showing his white teeth. With a projecting under jaw
and a slightly snub nose, he had handsome chestnut eyes, and the face of a jolly dog
and a thorough good fellow. His coarse curly hair stood erect. His skin still preserved
the softness of his twenty-six years. Opposite to him, Gervaise, in a thin black woolen
dress, and bareheaded, was finishing her plum which she held by the stalk between the
tips of her fingers. They were close to the street, at the first of the four tables placed
alongside the barrels facing the bar.
When the zinc-worker had lit his cigarette, he placed his elbows on the table, thrust his
face forward, and for an instant looked without speaking at the young woman, whose
pretty fair face had that day the milky transparency of china. Then, alluding to a matter