Chapter 6 Guide

Chapter 6 – Portrait of a Rat Catcher

“The Pope did not decree that you should have a striped dress to go dancing in, woman.”
Le Louge – Pierre August Renoir – Striped dresses were all the rage in the day. You see them in many of Renoir’s paintings of dancers during the era. Not just fashionable, but in the case of Mere Lessard, they’re slimming.

The Seige of Paris

The boulevards were barricaded and the Prussian army surrounded the city.

Hot-air balloons were lined down the middle of the Champs-Élysées, prepared to try to smuggle out letters as soon as night fell, and most would actually make it.


As the siege had fallen in the autumn, every vegetable garden in Montmartre and the Maquis was brimming with maize and snail-scarred squash.

Montmartre Vegetable Gardens – Vincent Van Gogh – 1886


for a while because they could graze on the back slope of the butte and in the fencerows of the Maquis, the shantytown by the cemetery, but when the grass was nibbled to nubs and the National Guard’s horses were being slaughtered for meat, then even the sad-eyed Sylvie and Astrid found their way into the pot-au-feu, which Madame Jacob salted with her tears.

The Hill of Montmartre with Quarry – Vincent Van Gogh – 1887

This is one of the many quarries around Montmartre at the time. The Cemetery is in one of these. On the other side of this hill is the city of Paris.


He shook the cooper’s hand, then hired a rag picker with a donkey cart to haul the bags of sawdust up the butte.

A Donkey Cart, a Boy, and a Woman – Vincent Van Gogh – 1886


The rag picker wasn’t a scoundrel, but scoundrels envied his laugh.

The Ragpicker– Edouard Manet 1873


But your mother should thank the saints she lives in Louveciennes or there would be fat bitch pie for everyone on the butte, he thought.


The next morning, while Father was still proofing the oaky loaves for baking, Lucien made his way up rue Lepic, past the still blades of the Moulin de la Galette…

casas_lesagradcoeur - maquis

and down through the Maquis, with its row upon row of tiny, ramshackle houses, splintering privies, decimated vegetable gardens fenced with pickets of rough sticks, and the occasional broken wagon or junk pile.

Le Grande Couer– Ramon Casas – 1898

This is nearly 30 years after the war, but you can see how the shacks of the Maquis lined the hill, the poorest neighborhood in the poor neighborhood of Paris. Sacre Coeur, the great white dome in the background, wouldn’t be built until 1880, ten years after the war.

Cemetary Monmartre w raven

There, among the sycamores and chestnut trees…

Cemetarie Montmartre w cat
Cemetarie Montmartre – 2009
(You can see here how you actually go down into the old quarry to get to the cemetery. It’s surrounded by roads now, but in those days it was scrub brambles and meadows.)

Pere La Chaise

the moss-covered monuments and blackened bronze crypt doors, he found his prey.

(This tomb is actually at Pere La Chaise on the other side of Paris, but it had some awesome moss and looked a little creepy, so, you know, it’s in…)

Degas grave

There are a lot of famous people buried at Cemetarié Montmartre. Here is the tomb of the Degas family. Eduard Degas is buried here.

But it is at Pere Lachaise the one will find the graves of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Amedeo Modigliani, and the family Bastard. This tomb was the inspiration for naming Les Proffesseurs, Bastard (It’s pronounced, Bass-tarhd)

4 thoughts on “Chapter 6 Guide

  1. Hi — I finished the book the other day, and I loved it. Lo-oved it. I’m thrilled to have found this site, to keep the fun going (and help make use of all these leftovers!).
    Dear Author, if you come back to this page could you add the info for the two pictures following Manet’s Ragpicker?

  2. Just a minor thing… in the photo you have above of the balloon inflated in the Paris street… it is a gas balloon, as were all of the ones of that period. Hot air balloons, although originating in France, were rarely used at that time as they required fire to keep the air warm enough to rise. Gas, however, did not require this and the balloon would remain inflated for hours, allowing it to to inflated in the daylight and launched at dark.