"That is your opinion," replied the doctor; "there's an end of you, then! Good evening. And I wish you a deluge in order to sail in your basin!"
"And I, too, am going," said M. Foureau the next moment; and, pointing to the pocket where the Abd-el-Kader was, "If I feel the want of another, I'll come back."
The curé, before departing, timidly confided to Pécuchet that he did not think this imitation of a tomb in the midst of vegetables quite decorous. Hurel, as he withdrew, made a low bow to the company. M. Marescot had disappeared after dessert. Madame Bordin again went over her recipe for gherkins, promised a second for plums with brandy, and made three turns in the large walk; but, passing close to the linden tree, the end of her dress got caught, and they heard her murmuring:
"My God! what a piece of idiocy this tree is!"
At midnight the two hosts, beneath the arbour, gave vent to their resentment.
No doubt one might find fault with two or three little details here and there in the dinner; and yet the guests had gorged themselves like ogres, showing that it was not so bad. But, as for the garden, so much depreciation sprang from the blackest jealousy. And both of them, lashing themselves into a rage, went on:
"Ha! water is needed in the basin, is it? Patience! they may see even a swan and fishes in it!"
"They scarcely noticed the pagoda."
"To pretend that the ruins are not proper is an imbecile's view."
"And the tomb objectionable! Why objectionable? Hasn't a man the right to erect one in his own demesne? I even intend to be buried in it!"
"Don't talk like that!" said Pécuchet.
Then they passed the guests in review.
"The doctor seems to me a nice snob!"
"Did you notice the sneer of M. Marescot before the portrait?"
"What a low fellow the mayor is! When you dine in a house, hang it! you should show some respect towards the curios."
"Madame Bordin!" said Bouvard.
"Ah! that one's a schemer. Don't annoy me by talking about her."
Disgusted with society, they resolved to see nobody any more, but live exclusively by themselves and for themselves.
And they spent days in the wine-cellar, picking the tartar off the bottles, re-varnished all the furniture, enamelled the rooms; and each evening, as they watched the wood burning, they discussed the best system of fuel.
Through economy they tried to smoke hams, and attempted to do the washing themselves. Germaine, whom they inconvenienced, used to shrug her shoulders. When the time came for making preserves she got angry, and they took up their station in the bakehouse. It was a disused wash-house, where there was, under the faggots, a big, old-fashioned tub, excellently fitted for their projects, the ambition having seized them to manufacture preserves.
Fourteen glass bottles were filled with tomatoes and green peas. They coated the stoppers with quicklime and cheese, attached to the rims silk cords, and then plunged them into boiling water. It evaporated; they poured in cold water; the difference of temperature caused the bowls to burst. Only three of them were saved. Then they procured old sardine boxes, put veal cutlets into them, and plunged them into a vessel of boiling water. They came out as round as balloons. The cold flattened them out afterwards. To continue their experiments, they shut up in other boxes eggs, chiccory, lobsters, a hotchpotch of fish, and a soup! – and they applauded themselves like M. Appert, "on having fixed the seasons." Such discoveries, according to Pécuchet, carried him beyond the exploits of conquerors.
They improved upon Madame Bordin's pickles by spicing the vinegar with pepper; and their brandy plums were very much superior. By the process of steeping ratafia, they obtained raspberry and absinthe. With honey and angelica in a cask of Bagnolles, they tried to make Malaga wine; and they likewise undertook the manufacture of champagne! The bottles of Châblis diluted with water must burst of themselves. Then he no longer was doubtful of success.
Their studies widening, they came to suspect frauds in all articles of food. They cavilled with the baker on the colour of his bread; they made the grocer their enemy by maintaining that he adulterated his chocolate. They went to Falaise for a jujube, and, even under the apothecary's own eyes, they submitted his paste to the test of water. It assumed the appearance of a piece of bacon, which indicated gelatine.
After this triumph, their pride rose to a high pitch. They bought up the stock of a bankrupt distiller, and soon there arrived in the house sieves, barrels, funnels, skimmers, filters, and scales, without counting a bowl of wood with a ball attached and a Moreshead still, which required a reflecting-furnace with a basket funnel. They learned how sugar is clarified, and the different kinds of boilings, the large and the small system of boiling twice over, the blowing system, the methods of making up in balls, the reduction of sugar to a viscous state, and the making of burnt sugar. But they longed to use the still; and they broached the fine liqueurs, beginning with the aniseed cordial. The liquid nearly always drew away the materials with it, or rather they stuck together at the bottom; at other times they were mistaken as to the amount of the ingredients. Around them shone great copper pans; egg-shaped vessels projected their narrow openings; saucepans hung from the walls. Frequently one of them culled herbs on the table, while the other made the ball swing in the suspended bowl. They stirred the ladles; they tasted the mashes.
Bouvard, always in a perspiration, had no garment on save his shirt and his trousers, drawn up to the pit of his stomach by his short braces; but, giddy as a bird, he would forget the opening in the centre of the cucurbit, or would make the fire too strong.
Pécuchet kept muttering calculations, motionless in his long blouse, a kind of child's smock-frock with sleeves; and they looked upon themselves as very serious people engaged in very useful occupations.
At length they dreamed of a cream which would surpass all others. They would put into it coriander as in Kummel, kirsch as in Maraschino, hyssop as in Chartreuse, amber-seed as in Vespetro cordial, and sweet calamus as in Krambambuly; and it would be coloured red with sandalwood. But under what name should they introduce it for commercial purposes? – for they would want a name easy to retain and yet fanciful. Having turned the matter over a long time, they determined that it should be called "Bouvarine."
About the end of autumn stains appeared in the three glass bowls containing the preserves. The tomatoes and green peas were rotten. That must have been due to the way they had stopped up the vessels. Then the problem of stoppage tormented them. In order to try the new methods, they required money; and the farm had eaten up their resources.
Many times tenants had offered themselves; but Bouvard would not have them. His principal farm-servant carried on the cultivation according to his directions, with a risky economy, to such an extent that the crops diminished and everything was imperilled; and they were talking about their embarrassments when Maître Gouy entered the laboratory, escorted by his wife, who remained timidly in the background.
Thanks to all the dressings they had got, the lands were improved, and he had come to take up the farm again. He ran it down. In spite of all their toils, the profits were uncertain; in short, if he wanted it, that was because of his love for the country, and his regret for such good masters.
They dismissed him coldly. He came back the same evening.
Pécuchet had preached at Bouvard; they were on the point of giving way. Gouy asked for a reduction of rent; and when the others protested, he began to bellow rather than speak, invoking the name of God, enumerating his labours, and extolling his merits. When they called on him to state his terms, he hung down his head instead of answering. Then his wife, seated near the door, with a big basket on her knees, made similar protestations, screeching in a sharp voice, like a hen that has been hurt.
At last the lease was agreed on, the rent being fixed at three thousand francs a year – a third less than it had been formerly.
Before they had separated, Maître Gouy offered to buy up the stock, and the bargaining was renewed.
The valuation of the chattels occupied fifteen days. Bouvard was dying of fatigue. He let everything go for a sum so contemptible that Gouy at first opened his eyes wide, and exclaiming, "Agreed!" slapped his palm.
After which the proprietors, following the old custom, proposed that they should take a "nip" at the house, and Pécuchet opened a bottle of his Malaga, less through generosity than in the hope of eliciting eulogies on the wine.
But the husbandman said, with a sour look, "It's like liquorice syrup." And his wife, "in order to get rid of the taste," asked for a glass of brandy.
A graver matter engaged their attention. All the ingredients of the "Bouvarine" were now collected. They heaped them together in the cucurbit, with the alcohol, lighted the fire, and waited. However, Pécuchet, annoyed by the misadventure about the Malaga, took the tin boxes out of the cupboard and pulled the lid off the first, then off the second, and then off the third. He angrily flung them down, and called out to Bouvard. The latter had fastened the cock of the worm in order to try the effect on the preserves.
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