Summary of The Flood by Emile Zola

There lived a farmer named Louis Roubien, who is seventy years of age. And was born in the village of Saint-Jory, several miles up the Garonne from Toulouse. Louis battled the ground for 14 years in order to have bread and wine. Louis is the richest farmer in the parish. He is fully blessed he cannot recall any bad crop for this past few months.

They were dozen of them in the field.

There was Louis himself, still hale and hearty, leading the children to work; then his young brother, Pierre, an old bachelor and retired sergeant; then his sister, Agathe, who came to us after the death of her husband. She was a commanding woman, enormous and gay, whose laugh could be heard at the other end of the village. Then came all the brood: Louis son, Jacques; his wife, Rosie, and their three daughters, Aimee, Veronique, and Marie. The first named was married to Cyprica Bouisson, a big jolly fellow, by whom she had two children, one two years old and the other ten months. Veronique was just betrothed and was soon to marry Gaspard Rabuteau. The third, Marie, was a real young lady, so white, so fair, that she looked as if born in the city.

Louis was a great grandfather. When they are at the table they eat joyfully. The kids have a hearty appetite. Their farm sang every corner. Pierre invented games and related stories of his regiment. Agathe made cakes for the girls. Marie knew some canticles, which she sang like a chorister. She looked like a saint, with her blond hair falling on her neck and her hands folded on her apron.

The month of May was magnificent. Their crops had grown promising. Louis and his son Jacques went to a tour on the farm. They found so many surprising blessings on the farm. Especially the vines, wheat, the grass, everything was so amusing. And after a while, there was another blessing. One of their cows had a new calf. We had been obliged recently to enlarge the stables, where we had nearly one hundred head of animals–cows and sheep, without counting the horses.

Meanwhile, Rose took us aside and told them that Gaspard, Veronique’s betrothed, had come to arrange the day for the wedding. She had invited him to remain for dinner. And they all dined in for the dinner and there were 11 of them now in the table. After eating Louis went to the window and Gaspard joined him. They talk about the recent rains that happen just past few days. They were worried about the crops. After a while, I went back to the center of the room where the girls were chattering. They listened to them, smiling.

Suddenly a terrible cry rang out. “Garonne, Garonne” they rushed out to the yard. But they could not see anything. But still, the cry rang out. “Garonne, Garonne.” Suddenly, on the wide road before us, appeared two men and three women, one of them holding a child in her arms. It was they who were crying out, distracted, running with long strides. They turned at times, looking behind with terrified faces as if a band of wolves was pursuing them.

Behind the fugitives there appeared, between the trunks of the poplars, amongst the large tufts of grass, what looked like a pack of gray beasts speckled with yellow. They sprang up from all directions, waves crowding waves, a helter-skelter of masses of foaming water, shaking the sod with the rumbling gallop of their hordes. They went inside the house in a hurry and went upstairs. And it is their turn to cry out loud. “Garonne, Garonne”.

They ask their servants to come upstairs and leave the animals, it’s impossible to save the animals.

Then the water has risen to the room they went up to the attic and settled themselves. But the two servants died, they were drowned. The water was within a yard of the roof. It was losing its tranquility; currents were being formed. In less than an hour, the water became threatening, dashing against the house, bearing drifting barrels, pieces of wood, clumps of weeds. In the distance, there were attacks upon walls, and we could hear the resounding shocks. Poplar trees fell, houses crumbled, like a cartload of stones emptied by the roadside.

They had a plan to go to the church by jumping across each roof of the neighboring house. But one house was so tall: The house of the Raimbeaus is too high. Cyprien was the one who volunteered to survey the route if there is a safe way to the church. But his wife saw him and insists to come with him, and Cyprien let her wife join him.

After a while, Cyrpien had arrived at the Raimbeaus house. But it did not stop him, he jumps to the chimney of the house with such agility. But unfortunately, the house collapsed. Leaving Cyprien hanging between two beams. Her wife was frightened.

Louis and Pierre tried to help Cyprien but when they started heading for the second house, the second house collapsed. Nowhere to go. Cyrpien tried to free himself from the entanglement but it was no use. The current is getting stronger and the water had covered his hair. A few moments later Cyprien will die.

And they all experienced the effect of rolling as if the roof had become detached and turned into a raft. The swift currents seemed to be drifting them away. Then, when they looked at the church clock, immovable opposite them, the dizziness ceased; they found themselves in the same place in the midst of the waves.

The water attacks them; Soon ten, a dozen, beams were attacking them on all sides. The water roared. their feet were spattered with foam. We heard the dull moaning of the house full of water. There were moments when the attacks became frenzied when the beams battered fiercely; and then they thought that the end was near, that the walls would open and deliver them to the river.

There was a silence that pass through them, they are all in grieve. There was a black object that was gently drifting toward the house. It was the roof of a shed, made of strong boards, and that was floating like a raft. They jumped into it and tried to maneuver it but it was hopeless the raft is still attached to the roof.

But as soon as they emerged into the street a cry escaped. The current, which had again seized them, carried them back against our house. They were whirled round like a leaf, so rapidly that their cry was cut short by the smashing of the raft against the tiles. There was a rending sound, the planks were loosened and wrenched apart, and they were all thrown into the water.

There were only five of them left now. Most of them died due to massive currents splashing through them. One moment they thought they heard the dip of oars. Ah! what hopeful music! How we all strained our eyes into space! They held our breath. But they could see nothing. The yellow sheet stretched away, spotted with black shadows. But none of those shadows–tops of trees, remnants of walls–moved. Driftwood, weeds, empty barrels caused us false joy. They waved our handkerchiefs until, realizing their error, they succumbed again to their anxiety.

Pierre had enough. He surrendered, he has it. He drowned himself in the water. He cannot take it anymore. Then Gaspard suddenly suggested that he will swim towards the church with Veronique at the back. He will do what it takes to make them safe. but he did not succeed.