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PAGE 3

The Rabbit
by [?]

Twelve o’clock had just struck when the brigadier, followed by his man, knocked gently three times at the door of a little lonely house, situated at the corner of a wood, five hundred yards from the village.

They had been standing close against the wall, so as not to be seen from within, and they waited. As nobody answered, the brigadier knocked again in a minute or two. It was so quiet that the house seemed uninhabited; but Lenient, the gendarme, who had very quick ears, said that he heard somebody moving about inside, and then Senateur got angry. He would not allow any one to resist the authority of the law for a moment, and, knocking at the door with the hilt of his sword, he cried out:

“Open the door, in the name of the law.”

As this order had no effect, he roared out:

“If you do not obey, I shall smash the lock. I am the brigadier of the gendarmerie, by G–! Here, Lenient.”

He had not finished speaking when the door opened and Senateur saw before him a fat girl, with a very red, blowzy face, with drooping breasts, a big stomach and broad hips, a sort of animal, the wife of the shepherd Severin, and he went into the cottage.

“I have come to pay you a visit, as I want to make a little search,” he said, and he looked about him. On the table there was a plate, a jug of cider and a glass half full, which proved that a meal was in progress. Two knives were lying side by side, and the shrewd gendarme winked at his superior officer.

“It smells good,” the latter said.

“One might swear that it was stewed rabbit,” Lenient added, much amused.

“Will you have a glass of brandy?” the peasant woman asked.

“No, thank you; I only want the skin of the rabbit that you are eating.”

She pretended not to understand, but she was trembling.

“What rabbit?”

The brigadier had taken a seat, and was calmly wiping his forehead.

“Come, come, you are not going to try and make us believe that you live on couch grass. What were you eating there all by yourself for your dinner?”

“I? Nothing whatever, I swear to you. A mite of butter on my bread.”

“You are a novice, my good woman. A mite of butter on your bread. You are mistaken; you ought to have said: a mite of butter on the rabbit. By G–, your butter smells good! It is special butter, extra good butter, butter fit for a wedding; certainly, not household butter!”

The gendarme was shaking with laughter, and repeated:

“Not household butter certainly.”

As Brigadier Senateur was a joker, all the gendarmes had grown facetious, and the officer continued:

“Where is your butter?”

“My butter?”

“Yes, your butter.”

“In the jar.”

“Then where is the butter jar?”

“Here it is.”

She brought out an old cup, at the bottom of which there was a layer of rancid salt butter, and the brigadier smelled of it, and said, with a shake of his head:

“It is not the same. I want the butter that smells of the rabbit. Come, Lenient, open your eyes; look under the sideboard, my good fellow, and I will look under the bed.”

Having shut the door, he went up to the bed and tried to move it; but it was fixed to the wall, and had not been moved for more than half a century, apparently. Then the brigadier stooped, and made his uniform crack. A button had flown off.

“Lenient,” he said.

“Yes, brigadier?”

“Come here, my lad, and look under the bed; I am too tall. I will look after the sideboard.”

He got up and waited while his man executed his orders.

Lenient, who was short and stout, took off his kepi, laid himself on his stomach, and, putting his face on the floor, looked at the black cavity under the bed, and then, suddenly, he exclaimed: