At Rasseneur’s, Lantier eats and goes to sleep immediately, too exhausted even to undress. At dusk he wakes up groggy and disoriented; he walks outside for some fresh air and ends up near Le Voreux, where he sees the day shift workers filing out of the mine. He watches a woman chastise her son-in-law for not sticking up for her, and then he sees Zacharie meeting his friend Mouquet as planned but telling him he cannot come with him to the dance hall. Now Zacharie pushes a reluctant Philomène down a deserted path. She is complaining about always having to be together outside and in the damp, but he insists he has something to tell her.
When they stop, he asks her for money for his family, but she knows he plans to go out with Mouquet with it and is angry. He invites her to come along, but she has to go take care of their baby. He whines enough that she finally frees a few coins from the hem of her jacket where she hides her overtime money from her mother. As he takes them, she makes Zacharie promise to convince his mother to let them marry soon. He agrees and tickles the sickly girl until she laughs and then they go their separate ways.
Lantier sees another confrontation, this one between Jeanlin, Lydie, and his friend Bébert. Jeanlin had an idea while he was collecting dandelion greens for his mother; he gathered more than his family could eat and he sent Lydie go to the bourgeois houses to sell the greens while Bébert kept watch over her. He believes girls can sell anything they decide to sell. In a sales frenzy, they sold everything they had for eleven sous; now they argue about how to divide the money.
Jeanlin wants to keep seven for his labor and the idea; the other two do not think this is fair. Jeanlin is clearly the dominant one and he offers them two coins each, take it or not. Bébert takes his but Jeanlin withdraws his hand just as Lydie is about to take hers. He will keep it, and if she ever needs money she can ask him. Now those two begin to play “mums and dads” as they often do, though they are too young to do anything properly.
Bébert, angry because he is never allowed to touch Lydie, tells them they are being watched by Lantier. The children leave and, though he understands what motivates their actions, he is depressed by them. He walks on to Réquillart, a ruined mine, where amorous couples are having sex everywhere. The caretaker is La Mouquette’s father; La Mouquette has been having sex with eagerness in these ruins for years. Old Mouquet and Bonnemort take a walk each night; it cheers the old men up to reflect on old times together.
Lantier thinks of the terrible cycle which is being played out before him: exhausted girls coming here...
(The entire section contains 772 words.)
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