Even at that time, however, there were critics who inclined to view more favourably.
He could explain even the escapement of the pump, that thick, long breathing that went on without ceasing, and which seemed to be the monster’s congested respiration. There were not men enough; there never were such wages. Nothing but misery in the country; every one is being sent away; workshops closing one after the other.
The workman, expanding his back at the tipping-cradle, had not even lifted his eyes on Étienne, and the latter was about to pick up his little bundle, which had fallen to the earth, when a spasm of coughing announced the carman’s return. The old man expectorated, then replied in the wind: “Oh, it isn’t factories that are lacking. It is not the emperor’s fault, perhaps; but why should he go and fight in America?
He could not even see the black soil before him, and only felt the immense flat horizon by the gusts of March wind, squalls as strong as on the sea, and frozen from sweeping leagues of marsh and naked earth.
No tree could be seen against the sky, and the road unrolled as straight as a pier in the midst of the blinding spray of darkness.
My time was taken up with preliminary but as yet unfruitful preparation for what I regarded as my own special task in life, and I felt that I must not neglect the opportunity of spending my spare time in making a modest addition to my income.
My wife readily fell into the project and agreed, on the understanding that we shared the proceeds, to act as my amanuensis.
I will not here discuss Zola’s literary art (I have done so in my book of ); it is enough to say that, though he was not a great master of style, Zola never again wrote so finely as here.
A word may be added to explain how this translation fell to the lot of one whose work has been in other fields. Texeira de Mattos was arranging for private issue a series of complete versions of some of Zola’s chief novels and offered to assign to me.
The book was produced when Zola had at length achieved the full mastery of his art and before his hand had, as in his latest novels, begun to lose its firm grasp.