No, let me alone, went on the druggist let me alone, hang it! My word! One might as well set up for a grocer. Thats it! go it! respect nothing! break, smash, let loose the leeches, burn the mallow-paste, pickle the gherkins in the window jars, tear up the bandages!
I thought you had said Emma.
Presently! Do you know to what you exposed yourself? Didnt you see anything in the corner, on the left, on the third shelf? Speak, answer, articulate something.
Idontknow, stammered the young fellow.
Ah! you dont know! Well, then, I do know! You saw a bottle of blue glass, sealed with yellow wax, that contains a white powder, on which I have even written Dangerous! And do you know what is in it? Arsenic! And you go and touch it! You take a pan that was next to it!
Next to it! cried Madame Hoinais, clasping her hands. Arsenic! You might have poisoned us all.
And the children began howling as if they already had frightful pains in their entrails.
Or poison a patient! continued the druggist. Do you want to see me in the prisoners dock with criminals, in a court of justice? To see me dragged to the scaffold? Dont you know what care I take in managing things, although I am so thoroughly used to it? Often I am horrified myself when I think of my responsibility; for the Government persecutes us, and the absurd legislation that rules us is a veritable Damocles sword over our heads.
Emma no longer dreamed of asking what they wanted her for, and the druggist went on in breathless phrases
That is your return for all the kindness we have shown you! That is how you recompense me for the really paternal care that I lavish on you! For without me where would you be? What would you be doing? Who provides you with food, education, clothes, and all the means of figuring one day with honour in the ranks of society? But you must pull hard at the oar if youre to do that, and get, as, people say, callosities upon your hands. Fabricando fit faber, age quod agis.1
He was so exasperated he quoted Latin. He would have quoted Chinese or Greenlandish had he known those two languages, for he was in one of those crises in which the whole soul shows indistinctly what it contains, like the ocean, which, in the storm, opens itself from the seaweeds on its shores down to the sands of its abysses.
And he went on
I am beginning to repent terribly of having taken you up! I should certainly have done better to have left you to rot in your poverty and the dirt in which you were born. Oh, youll never be fit for anything but to herd animals with horns! You have no aptitude for science! You hardly know how to stick on a label! And there you are, dwelling with me snug as a parson, living in clover, taking your ease!
But Emma, turning to Madame Homais, I was told to come here
Oh, dear me! interrupted the good woman, with a sad air, how am I to tell you? It is a misfortune!
She could not finish, the druggist was thunderingEmpty it! Clean it! Take it back! Be quick!
And seizing Justin by the collar of his blouse, he shook a book out of his pocket. The lad stooped, but Homais was the quicker, and, having picked up the volume, contemplated it with staring eyes and open mouth.
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