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Then followed four years of hard work. In the neighborhood, Gervaise and Coupeau had
the reputation of being a happy couple, living in retirement without quarrels, and taking
a short walk regularly every Sunday in the direction of St. Ouen. The wife worked twelve
hours a day at Madame Fauconnier's, and still found means to keep their lodging as
clean and bright as a new coined sou and to prepare the meals for all her little family,
morning and evening. The husband never got drunk, brought his wages home every
fortnight, and smoked a pipe at his window in the evening, to get a breath of fresh air
before going to bed. They were frequently alluded to on account of their nice, pleasant
ways; and as between them they earned close upon nine francs a day, it was reckoned
that they were able to put by a good deal of money.
However, during their first months together they had to struggle hard to get by. Their
wedding had left them owing two hundred francs. Also, they detested the Hotel
Boncoeur as they didn't like the other occupants. Their dream was to have a home of
their own with their own furniture. They were always figuring how much they would need
and decided three hundred and fifty francs at least, in order to be able to buy little items
that came up later.
They were in despair at ever being able to collect such a large sum when a lucky
chance came their way. An old gentleman at Plassans offered to take the older boy,
Claude, and send him to an academy down there. The old man, who loved art, had
previously been much impressed by Claude's sketches. Claude had already begun to
cost them quite a bit. Now, with only Etienne to support, they were able to accumulate
the money in a little over seven months. One day they were finally able to buy their own
furniture from a second-hand dealer on Rue Belhomme. Their hearts filled with
happiness, they celebrated by walking home along the exterior Boulevards.
They had purchased a bed, a night table, a chest of drawers with a marble top, a
wardrobe, a round table covered with oilcloth, and six chairs. All were of dark
mahogany. They also bought blankets, linen, and kitchen utensils that were scarcely
used. It meant settling down and giving themselves a status in life as property owners,
as persons to be respected.
For two months past they had been busy seeking some new apartments. At first they
wanted above everything to hire these in the big house of the Rue de la Goutte-d'Or.
But there was not a single room to let there; so that they had to relinquish their old
dream. To tell the truth, Gervaise was rather glad in her heart; the neighborhood of the
Lorilleux almost door to door, frightened her immensely. Then, they looked about
elsewhere. Coupeau, very properly did not wish to be far from Madame Fauconnier's so
that Gervaise could easily run home at any hour of the day. And at length they met with
exactly what suited them, a large room with a small closet and a kitchen, in the Rue
Neuve de la Goutte-d'Or, almost opposite the laundress's. This was in a small two-story