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It so happened that the Boches had left the Rue des Poissonniers at the April quarter,
and were now taking charge of the great house in the Rue de la Goutte-d'Or. It was a
curious coincidence, all the same! One thing that worried Gervaise who had lived so
quietly in her lodgings in the Rue Neuve, was the thought of again being under the
subjection of some unpleasant person, with whom she would be continually quarrelling,
either on account of water spilt in the passage or of a door shut too noisily at night-time.
Concierges are such a disagreeable class! But it would be a pleasure to be with the
Boches. They knew one another—they would always get on well together. It would be
just like members of the same family.
On the day the Coupeaus went to sign their lease, Gervaise felt her heart swollen with
pride as she passed through the high doorway. She was then at length going to live in
that house as vast as a little town, with its interminable staircases, and passages as
long and winding as streets. She was excited by everything: the gray walls with
varicolored rugs hanging from windows to dry in the sun, the dingy courtyard with as
many holes in its pavement as a public square, the hum of activity coming through the
walls. She felt joy that she was at last about to realize her ambition. She also felt fear
that she would fail and be crushed in the endless struggle against the poverty and
starvation she could feel breathing down her neck. It seemed to her that she was doing
something very bold, throwing herself into the midst of some machinery in motion, as
she listened to the blacksmith's hammers and the cabinetmakers' planes, hammering
and hissing in the depths of the work-shops on the ground floor. On that day the water
flowing from the dyer's under the entrance porch was a very pale apple green. She
smilingly stepped over it; to her the color was a pleasant omen.
The meeting with the landlord was to take place in the Boches' room. Monsieur
Marescot, a wealthy cutler of the Rue de la Paix, had at one time turned a grindstone
through the streets. He was now stated to be worth several millions. He was a man of
fifty-five, large and big-boned. Even though he now wore a decoration in his button-hole,
his huge hands were still those of a former workingman. It was his joy to carry off the
scissors and knives of his tenants, to sharpen them himself, for the fun of it. He often
stayed for hours with his concierges, closed up in the darkness of their lodges, going
over the accounts. That's where he did all his business. He was now seated by Madame
Boche's kitchen table, listening to her story of how the dressmaker on the third floor,
staircase A, had used a filthy word in refusing to pay her rent. He had had to work
precious hard once upon a time. But work was the high road to everything. And, after
counting the two hundred and fifty francs for the first two quarters in advance, and
dropping them into his capacious pocket, he related the story of his life, and showed his
Gervaise, however, felt rather ill at ease on account of the Boches' behavior. They
pretended not to know her. They were most assiduous in their attentions to the landlord,
bowing down before him, watching for his least words, and nodding their approval of