Ball of Fat 12
"I thought at first that I should be able to stay," she said. "My house was well
stocked with provisions, and it seemed better to put up with feeding a few
soldiers than to banish myself goodness knows where. But when I saw these
Prussians it was too much for me! My blood boiled with rage; I wept the whole
day for very shame. Oh, if only I had been a man! I looked at them from my
window—the fat swine, with their pointed helmets!—and my maid held my hands to
keep me from throwing my furniture down on them. Then some of them were
quartered on me; I flew at the throat of the first one who entered. They are
just as easy to strangle as other men! And I'd have been the death of that one
if I hadn't been dragged away from him by my hair. I had to hide after that. And
as soon as I could get an opportunity I left the place, and here I am."
She was warmly congratulated. She rose in the estimation of her companions, who had not been so brave; and Cornudet listened to her with the approving and benevolent smile of an apostle, the smile a priest might wear in listening to a devotee praising God; for long-bearded democrats of his type have a monopoly of patriotism, just as priests have a monopoly of religion. He held forth in turn, with dogmatic self-assurance, in the style of the proclamations daily pasted on the walls of the town, winding up with a specimen of stump oratory in which he reviled "that besotted fool of a Louis-Napoleon."
But Ball of Fat was indignant, for she was an ardent Bonapartist. She turned as red as a cherry, and stammered in her wrath: "I'd just like to have seen you in his place—you and your sort! There would have been a nice mix-up. Oh, yes! It was you who betrayed that man. It would be impossible to live in France if we were governed by such rascals as you!"
Cornudet, unmoved by this tirade, still smiled a superior, contemptuous smile; and one felt that high words were impending, when the count interposed, and, not without difficulty, succeeded in calming the exasperated woman, saying that all sincere opinions ought to be respected. But the countess and the manufacturer's wife, imbued with the unreasoning hatred of the upper classes for the Republic, and instinct, moreover, with the affection felt by all women for the pomp and circumstance of despotic government, were drawn, in spite of themselves, toward this dignified young woman, whose opinions coincided so closely with their own.
The basket was empty. The ten people had finished its contents without difficulty amid general regret that it did not hold more. Conversation went on a little longer, though it flagged somewhat after the passengers had finished eating.
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