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´╗┐Title: Selected Writings of Guy De Maupassant
Author: Maupassant, Guy de, 1850-1893
Language: English
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A SELECTION from the WRITINGS of GUY DE MAUPASSANT



SHORT STORIES of the TRAGEDY AND COMEDY OF LIFE

WITH A CRITICAL PREFACE BY PAUL BOURGET of the French Academy

AND AN INTRODUCTION BY ROBERT ARNOT, M.A.

VOL. I {of III ??}


TABLE OF CONTENTS.[*]

VOLUME I.

   1.  MADEMOISELLE FIFI
   2.  AN AFFAIR OF STATE
   3.  THE ARTIST
   4.  THE HORLA
   5.  MISS HARRIET
   6.  THE HOLE
   7.  LOVE
   8.  THE INN
   9.  A FAMILY
  10.  BELLFLOWER
  11.  WHO KNOWS?
  12.  THE DEVIL
  13.  EPIPHANY
  14.  SIMON'S PAPA
  15.  WAITER, A "BOCK"
  16.  THE SEQUEL TO A DIVORCE
  17.  THE MAD WOMAN
  18.  IN VARIOUS ROLES
  19.  THE FALSE GEMS
  20.  COUNTESS SATAN
  21.  THE COLONEL'S IDEAS
  22.  TWO LITTLE SOLDIERS
  23.  GHOSTS
  24.  WAS IT A DREAM?
  25.  THE DIARY OF A MADMAN
  26.  AN UNFORTUNATE LIKENESS
  27.  A COUNTRY EXCURSION


[*] At the close of the last volume will be found a complete list of
the French Titles of De Maupassant's writings, with their English
equivalents.



GUY DE MAUPASSANT

Of the French writers of romance of the latter part of the nineteenth
century no one made a reputation as quickly as did Guy de Maupassant.
Not one has preserved that reputation with more ease, not only during
life, but in death. None so completely hides his personality in his
glory. In an epoch of the utmost publicity, in which the most
insignificant deeds of a celebrated man are spied, recorded, and
commented on, the author of "Boule de Suif," of "Pierre et Jean," of
"Notre Coeur," found a way of effacing his personality in his work.

Of De Maupassant we know that he was born in Normandy about 1850; that
he was the favorite pupil, if one may so express it, the literary
protege, of Gustave Flaubert; that he made his debut late in 1880, with
a novel inserted in a small collection, published by Emile Zola and his
young friends, under the title: "The Soirees of Medan"; that
subsequently he did not fail to publish stories and romances every year
up to 1891, when a disease of the brain struck him down in the fullness
of production; and that he died, finally, in 1893, without having
recovered his reason.

We know, too, that he passionately loved a strenuous physical life and
long journeys, particularly long journeys upon the sea. He owned a
little sailing yacht, named after one of his books, "Bel-Ami," in which
he used to sojourn for weeks and months. These meager details are
almost the only ones that have been gathered as food for the curiosity
of the public.

I leave the legendary side, which is always in evidence in the case of
a celebrated man,--that gossip, for example, which avers that
Maupassant was a high liver and a worldling. The very number of his
volumes is a protest to the contrary. One could not write so large a
number of pages in so small a number of years without the virtue of
industry, a virtue incompatible with habits of dissipation. This does
not mean that the writer of these great romances had no love for
pleasure and had not tasted the world, but that for him these were
secondary things. The psychology of his work ought, then, to find an
interpretation other than that afforded by wholly false or exaggerated
anecdotes. I wish to indicate here how this work, illumined by the
three or four positive data which I have given, appears to me to demand
it.

And first, what does that anxiety to conceal his personality prove,
carried as it was to such an extreme degree? The answer rises
spontaneously in the minds of those who have studied closely the
history of literature. The absolute silence about himself, preserved by
one whose position among us was that of a Tourgenief, or of a Merimee,
and of a Moliere or a Shakespeare among the classic great, reveals, to
a person of instinct, a nervous sensibility of extreme depth. There are
many chances for an artist of his kind, however timid, or for one who
has some grief, to show the depth of his emotion. To take up again only
two of the names just cited, this was the case with the author of
"Terres Vierges," and with the writer of "Colomba."

A somewhat minute analysis of the novels and romances of Maupassant
would suffice to demonstrate, even if we did not know the nature of the
incidents which prompted them, that he also suffered from an excess of
nervous emotionalism. Nine times out of ten, what is the subject of
these stories to which freedom of style gives the appearance of health?
A tragic episode. I cite, at random, "Mademoiselle Fifi," "La Petite
Roque," "Inutile Beaute," "Le Masque," "Le Horla," "L'Epreuve," "Le
Champ d'Oliviers," among the novels, and among the romances, "Une Vie,"
"Pierre et Jean," "Fort comme la Mort," "Notre Coeur." His imagination
aims to represent the human being as imprisoned in a situation at once
insupportable and inevitable. The spell of this grief and trouble
exerts such a power upon the writer that he ends stories commenced in
pleasantry with some sinister drama. Let me instance "Saint-Antonin,"
"A Midnight Revel," "The Little Cask," and "Old Amable." You close the
book at the end of these vigorous sketches, and feel how surely they
point to constant suffering on the part of him who executed them.

This is the leading trait in the literary physiognomy of Maupassant, as
it is the leading and most profound trait in the psychology of his
work, viz, that human life is a snare laid by nature, where joy is
always changed to misery, where noble words and the highest professions
of faith serve the lowest plans and the most cruel egoism, where
chagrin, crime, and folly are forever on hand to pursue implacably our
hopes, nullify our virtues, and annihilate our wisdom. But this is not
the whole.

Maupassant has been called a literary nihilist--but (and this is the
second trait of his singular genius) in him nihilism finds itself
coexistent with an animal energy so fresh and so intense that for a
long time it deceives the closest observer. In an eloquent discourse,
pronounced over his premature grave, Emile Zola well defined this
illusion: "We congratulated him," said he, "upon that health which
seemed unbreakable, and justly credited him with the soundest
constitution of our band, as well as with the clearest mind and the
sanest reason. It was then that this frightful thunderbolt destroyed
him."

It is not exact to say that the lofty genius of De Maupassant was that
of an absolutely sane man. We comprehend it to-day, and, on re-reading
him, we find traces everywhere of his final malady. But it is exact to
say that this wounded genius was, by a singular circumstance, the
genius of a robust man. A physiologist would without doubt explain this
anomaly by the coexistence of a nervous lesion, light at first, with a
muscular, athletic temperament. Whatever the cause, the effect is
undeniable. The skilled and dainty pessimism of De Maupassant was
accompanied by a vigor and physique very unusual. His sensations are in
turn those of a hunter and of a sailor, who have, as the old French
saying expressively puts it, "swift foot, eagle eye," and who are
attuned to all the whisperings of nature.

The only confidences that he has ever permitted his pen to tell of the
intoxication of a free, animal existence are in the opening pages of
the story entitled "Mouche," where he recalls, among the sweetest
memories of his youth, his rollicking canoe parties upon the Seine, and
in the description in "La Vie Errante" of a night spent on the
sea,--"to be alone upon the water under the sky, through a warm
night,"--in which he speaks of the happiness of those "who receive
sensations through the whole surface of their flesh, as they do through
their eyes, their mouth, their ears, and sense of smell."

His unique and too scanty collection of verses, written in early youth,
contains the two most fearless, I was going to say the most ingenuous,
paeans, perhaps, that have been written since the Renaissance: "At the
Water's Edge" (Au Bord de l'Eau) and the "Rustic Venus" (La Venus
Rustique). But here is a paganism whose ardor, by a contrast which
brings up the ever present duality of his nature, ends in an
inexpressible shiver of scorn:

     "We look at each other, astonished, immovable,
        And both are so pale that it makes us fear."
      *      *      *      *      *
     "Alas! through all our senses slips life itself away."


This ending of the "Water's Edge" is less sinister than the murder and
the vision of horror which terminate the pantheistic hymn of the
"Rustic Venus." Considered as documents revealing the cast of mind of
him who composed them, these two lyrical essays are especially
significant, since they were spontaneous. They explain why De
Maupassant, in the early years of production, voluntarily chose, as the
heroes of his stories, creatures very near to primitive existence,
peasants, sailors, poachers, girls of the farm, and the source of the
vigor with which he describes these rude figures. The robustness of his
animalism permits him fully to imagine all the simple sensations of
these beings, while his pessimism, which tinges these sketches of
brutal customs with an element of delicate scorn, preserves him from
coarseness. It is this constant and involuntary antithesis which gives
unique value to those Norman scenes which have contributed so much to
his glory. It corresponds to, those two contradictory tendencies in
literary art, which seek always to render life in motion with the most
intense coloring, and still to make more and more subtle the impression
of this life. How is one ambition to be satisfied at the same time as
the other, since all gain in color and movement brings about a
diminution of sensibility, and conversely? The paradox of his
constitution permitted to Maupassant this seemingly impossible accord,
aided as he was by an intellect whose influence was all powerful upon
his development--the writer I mention above, Gustave Flaubert.

These meetings of a pupil and a master, both great, are indeed rare.
They present, in fact, some troublesome conditions, the first of which
is a profound analogy between two types of thought. There must have
been, besides, a reciprocity of affection, which does not often obtain
between a renowned senior who is growing old and an obscure junior,
whose renown is increasing. From generation to generation, envy
reascends no less than she redescends. For the honor of French men of
letters, let us add that this exceptional phenomenon has manifested
itself twice in the nineteenth century. Merimee, whom I have also
named, received from Stendhal, at twenty, the same benefits that
Maupassant received from Flaubert.

The author of "Une Vie" and the writer of "Clara Jozul" resemble each
other, besides, in a singular and analogous circumstance. Both achieved
renown at the first blow, and by a masterpiece which they were able to
equal but never surpass. Both were misanthropes early in life, and
practised to the end the ancient advice that the disciple of Beyle
carried upon his seal: [Greek: memneso apistein]--"Remember to
distrust." And, at the same time, both had delicate, tender hearts
under this affectation of cynicism, both were excellent sons,
irreproachable friends, indulgent masters, and both were idolized by
their inferiors. Both were worldly, yet still loved a wanderer's life;
both joined to a constant taste for luxury an irresistible desire for
solitude. Both belonged to the extreme left of the literature of their
epoch, but kept themselves from excess and used with a judgment
marvelously sure the sounder principles of their school. They knew how
to remain lucid and classic, in taste as much as in form--Merimee
through all the audacity of a fancy most exotic, and Maupassant in the
realism of the most varied and exact observation. At a little distance
they appear to be two patterns, identical in certain traits, of the
same family of minds, and Tourgenief, who knew and loved the one and
the other, never failed to class them as brethren.

They are separated, however, by profound differences, which perhaps
belong less to their nature than to that of the masters from whom they
received their impulses: Stendhal, so alert, so mobile, after a youth
passed in war and a ripe age spent in vagabond journeys, rich in
experiences, immediate and personal; Flaubert so poor in direct
impressions, so paralyzed by his health, by his family, by his theories
even, and so rich in reflections, for the most part solitary.

Among the theories of the anatomist of "Madame Bovary," there are two
which appear without ceasing in his Correspondence, under one form or
another, and these are the ones which are most strongly evident in the
art of De Maupassant. We now see the consequences which were inevitable
by reason of them, endowed as Maupassant was with a double power of
feeling life bitterly, and at the same time with so much of animal
force. The first theory bears upon the choice of personages and the
story of the romance, the second upon the character of the style. The
son of a physician, and brought up in the rigors of scientific method,
Flaubert believed this method to be efficacious in art as in science.
For instance, in the writing of a romance, he seemed to be as
scientific as in the development of a history of customs, in which the
essential is absolute exactness and local color. He therefore naturally
wished to make the most scrupulous and detailed observation of the
environment.

Thus is explained the immense labor in preparation which his stories
cost him--the story of "Madame Bovary," of "The Sentimental Education,"
and "Bouvard and Pecuchet," documents containing as much minutiae as
his historical stories. Beyond everything he tried to select details
that were eminently significant. Consequently he was of the opinion
that the romance writer should discard all that lessened this
significance, that is, extraordinary events and singular heroes. The
exceptional personage, it seemed to him, should be suppressed, as
should also high dramatic incident, since, produced by causes less
general, these have a range more restricted. The truly scientific
romance writer, proposing to paint a certain class, will attain his end
more effectively if he incarnate personages of the middle order, and,
consequently, paint traits common to that class. And not only
middle-class traits, but middle-class adventures.

From this point of view, examine the three great romances of the Master
from Rouen, and you will see that he has not lost sight of this first
and greatest principle of his art, any more than he has of the second,
which was that these documents should be drawn up in prose of
absolutely perfect technique. We know with what passionate care he
worked at his phrases, and how indefatigably he changed them over and
over again. Thus he satisfied that instinct of beauty which was born of
his romantic soul, while he gratified the demand of truth which inhered
from his scientific training by his minute and scrupulous exactness.

The theory of the mean of truth on one side, as the foundation of the
subject,--"the humble truth," as he termed it at the beginning of "Une
Vie,"--and of the agonizing of beauty on the other side, in
composition, determines the whole use that Maupassant made of his
literary gifts. It helped to make more intense and more systematic that
dainty yet dangerous pessimism which in him was innate. The
middle-class personage, in wearisome society like ours, is always a
caricature, and the happenings are nearly always vulgar. When one
studies a great number of them, one finishes by looking at humanity
from the angle of disgust and despair. The philosophy of the romances
and novels of De Maupassant is so continuously and profoundly
surprising that one becomes overwhelmed by it. It reaches limitation;
it seems to deny that man is susceptible to grandeur, or that motives
of a superior order can uplift and ennoble the soul, but it does so
with a sorrow that is profound. All that portion of the sentimental and
moral world which in itself is the highest remains closed to it.

In revenge, this philosophy finds itself in a relation cruelly exact
with the half-civilization of our day. By that I mean the poorly
educated individual who has rubbed against knowledge enough to justify
a certain egoism, but who is too poor in faculty to conceive an ideal,
and whose native grossness is corrupted beyond redemption. Under his
blouse, or under his coat--whether he calls himself Renardet, as does
the foul assassin in "Petite Roque," or Duroy, as does the sly hero of
"Bel-Ami," or Bretigny, as does the vile seducer of "Mont Oriol," or
Cesaire, the son of Old Amable in the novel of that name,--this
degraded type abounds in Maupassant's stories, evoked with a ferocity
almost jovial where it meets the robustness of temperament which I have
pointed out, a ferocity which gives them a reality more exact still
because the half-civilized person is often impulsive and, in
consequence, the physical easily predominates. There, as elsewhere, the
degenerate is everywhere a degenerate who gives the impression of being
an ordinary man.

There are quantities of men of this stamp in large cities. No writer
has felt and expressed this complex temperament with more justice than
De Maupassant, and, as he was an infinitely careful observer of milieu
and landscape and all that constitutes a precise middle distance, his
novels can be considered an irrefutable record of the social classes
which he studied at a certain time and along certain lines. The Norman
peasant and the Provencal peasant, for example; also the small
officeholder, the gentleman of the provinces, the country squire, the
clubman of Paris, the journalist of the boulevard, the doctor at the
spa, the commercial artist, and, on the feminine side, the servant
girl, the working girl, the demigrisette, the street girl, rich or
poor, the gallant lady of the city and of the provinces, and the
society woman--these are some of the figures that he has painted at
many sittings, and whom he used to such effect that the novels and
romances in which they are painted have come to be history. Just as it
is impossible to comprehend the Rome of the Caesars without the work of
Petronius, so is it impossible to fully comprehend the France of
1850-90 without these stories of Maupassant. They are no more the whole
image of the country than the "Satyricon" was the whole image of Rome,
but what their author has wished to paint, he has painted to the life
and with a brush that is graphic in the extreme.

If Maupassant had only painted, in general fashion, the characters and
the phase of literature mentioned he would not be distinguished from
other writers of the group called "naturalists." His true glory is in
the extraordinary superiority of his art. He did not invent it, and his
method is not alien to that of "Madame Bovary," but he knew how to give
it a suppleness, a variety, and a freedom which were always wanting in
Flaubert. The latter, in his best pages, is always strained. To use the
expressive metaphor of the Greek athletes, he "smells of the oil." When
one recalls that when attacked by hysteric epilepsy, Flaubert postponed
the crisis of the terrible malady by means of sedatives, this strained
atmosphere of labor--I was going to say of stupor--which pervades his
work is explained. He is an athlete, a runner, but one who drags at his
feet a terrible weight. He is in the race only for the prize of effort,
an effort of which every motion reveals the intensity.

Maupassant, on the other hand, if he suffered from a nervous lesion,
gave no sign of it, except in his heart. His intelligence was bright
and lively, and above all, his imagination, served by senses always on
the alert, preserved for some years an astonishing freshness of direct
vision. If his art was due to Flaubert, it is no more belittling to him
than if one call Raphael an imitator of Perugini.

Like Flaubert, he excelled in composing a story, in distributing the
facts with subtle gradation, in bringing in at the end of a familiar
dialogue something startlingly dramatic; but such composition, with
him, seems easy, and while the descriptions are marvelously well
established in his stories, the reverse is true of Flaubert's, which
always appear a little veneered. Maupassant's phrasing, however
dramatic it may be, remains easy and flowing.

Maupassant always sought for large and harmonious rhythm in his
deliberate choice of terms, always chose sound, wholesome language,
with a constant care for technical beauty. Inheriting from his master
an instrument already forged, he wielded it with a surer skill. In the
quality of his style, at once so firm and clear, so gorgeous yet so
sober, so supple and so firm, he equals the writers of the seventeenth
century. His method, so deeply and simply French, succeeds in giving an
indescribable "tang" to his descriptions. If observation from nature
imprints upon his tales the strong accent of reality, the prose in
which they are shrined so conforms to the genius of the race as to
smack of the soil.

It is enough that the critics of to-day place Guy de Maupassant among
our classic writers. He has his place in the ranks of pure French
genius, with the Regniers, the La Fontaines, the Molieres. And those
signs of secret ill divined everywhere under this wholesome prose
surround it for those who knew and loved him with a pathos that is
inexpressible.      {signature}



INTRODUCTION

BORN in the middle year of the nineteenth century, and fated
unfortunately never to see its close, Guy de Maupassant was probably
the most versatile and brilliant among the galaxy of novelists who
enriched French literature between the years 1800 and 1900. Poetry,
drama, prose of short and sustained effort, and volumes of travel and
description, each sparkling with the same minuteness of detail and
brilliancy of style, flowed from his pen during the twelve years of his
literary life.

Although his genius asserted itself in youth, he had the patience of
the true artist, spending his early manhood in cutting and polishing
the facets of his genius under the stern though paternal mentorship of
Gustave Flaubert. Not until he had attained the age of thirty did he
venture on publication, challenging criticism for the first time with a
volume of poems.

Many and various have been the judgments passed upon Maupassant's work.
But now that the perspective of time is lengthening, enabling us to
form a more deliberate, and therefore a juster, view of his complete
achievement, we are driven irresistibly to the conclusion that the
force that shaped and swayed Maupassant's prose writings was the
conviction that in life there could be no phase so noble or so mean, so
honorable or so contemptible, so lofty or so low as to be unworthy of
chronicling,--no groove of human virtue or fault, success or failure,
wisdom or folly that did not possess its own peculiar psychological
aspect and therefore demanded analysis.

To this analysis Maupassant brought a facile and dramatic pen, a
penetration as searching as a probe, and a power of psychological
vision that in its minute detail, now pathetic, now ironical, in its
merciless revelation of the hidden springs of the human heart, whether
of aristocrat, bourgeois, peasant, or priest, allow one to call him a
Meissonier in words.

The school of romantic realism which was founded by Merimee and Balzac
found its culmination in De Maupassant. He surpassed his mentor,
Flaubert, in the breadth and vividness of his work, and one of the
greatest of modern French critics has recorded the deliberate opinion,
that of all Taine's pupils Maupassant had the greatest command of
language and the most finished and incisive style. Robust in
imagination and fired with natural passion, his psychological curiosity
kept him true to human nature, while at the same time his mental eye,
when fixed upon the most ordinary phases of human conduct, could see
some new motive or aspect of things hitherto unnoticed by the careless
crowd.

It has been said by casual critics that Maupassant lacked one quality
indispensable to the production of truly artistic work, viz: an
absolutely normal, that is, moral, point of view. The answer to this
criticism is obvious. No dissector of the gamut of human passion and
folly in all its tones could present aught that could be called new, if
ungifted with a viewpoint totally out of the ordinary plane. Cold and
merciless in the use of this point de vue De Maupassant undoubtedly is,
especially in such vivid depictions of love, both physical and
maternal, as we find in "L'histoire d'une fille de ferme" and "La femme
de Paul." But then the surgeon's scalpel never hesitates at giving
pain, and pain is often the road to health and ease. Some of
Maupassant's short stories are sermons more forcible than any moral
dissertation could ever be.

Of De Maupassant's sustained efforts "Une Vie" may bear the palm. This
romance has the distinction of having changed Tolstoi from an adverse
critic into a warm admirer of the author. To quote the Russian moralist
upon the book:

"'Une Vie' is a romance of the best type, and in my judgment the
greatest that has been produced by any French writer since Victor Hugo
penned 'Les Miserables.' Passing over the force and directness of the
narrative, I am struck by the intensity, the grace, and the insight
with which the writer treats the new aspects of human nature which he
finds in the life he describes."

And as if gracefully to recall a former adverse criticism, Tolstoi adds:

"I find in the book, in almost equal strength, the three cardinal
qualities essential to great work, viz: moral purpose, perfect style,
and absolute sincerity.... Maupassant is a man whose vision has
penetrated the silent depths of human life, and from that
vantage-ground interprets the struggle of humanity."

"Bel-Ami" appeared almost two years after "Une Vie," that is to say,
about 1885. Discussed and criticised as it has been, it is in reality a
satire, an indignant outburst against the corruption of society which
in the story enables an ex-soldier, devoid of conscience, honor, even
of the commonest regard for others, to gain wealth and rank. The
purport of the story is clear to those who recognize the ideas that
governed Maupassant's work, and even the hasty reader or critic, on
reading "Mont Oriol," which was published two years later and is based
on a combination of the motifs which inspired "Une Vie" and "Bel-Ami,"
will reconsider former hasty judgments, and feel, too, that beneath the
triumph of evil which calls forth Maupassant's satiric anger there lies
the substratum on which all his work is founded, viz: the persistent,
ceaseless questioning of a soul unable to reconcile or explain the
contradiction between love in life and inevitable death. Who can read
in "Bel-Ami" the terribly graphic description of the consumptive
journalist's demise, his frantic clinging to life, and his refusal to
credit the slow and merciless approach of death, without feeling that
the question asked at Naishapur many centuries ago is still waiting for
the solution that is always promised but never comes?

In the romances which followed, dating from 1888 to 1890, a sort of
calm despair seems to have settled down upon De Maupassant's attitude
toward life. Psychologically acute as ever, and as perfect in style and
sincerity as before, we miss the note of anger. Fatality is the
keynote, and yet, sounding low, we detect a genuine subtone of sorrow.
Was it a prescience of 1893? So much work to be done, so much work
demanded of him, the world of Paris, in all its brilliant and
attractive phases, at his feet, and yet--inevitable, ever advancing
death, with the question of life still unanswered.

This may account for some of the strained situations we find in his
later romances. Vigorous in frame and hearty as he was, the atmosphere
of his mental processes must have been vitiated to produce the dainty
but dangerous pessimism that pervades some of his later work. This was
partly a consequence of his honesty and partly of mental despair. He
never accepted other people's views on the questions of life. He looked
into such problems for himself, arriving at the truth, as it appeared
to him, by the logic of events, often finding evil where he wished to
find good, but never hoodwinking himself or his readers by adapting or
distorting the reality of things to suit a preconceived idea.

Maupassant was essentially a worshiper of the eternal feminine. He was
persuaded that without the continual presence of the gentler sex man's
existence would be an emotionally silent wilderness. No other French
writer has described and analyzed so minutely and comprehensively the
many and various motives and moods that shape the conduct of a woman in
life. Take for instance the wonderfully subtle analysis of a woman's
heart as wife and mother that we find in "Une Vie." Could aught be more
delicately incisive? Sometimes in describing the apparently
inexplicable conduct of a certain woman he leads his readers to a point
where a false step would destroy the spell and bring the reproach of
banality and ridicule upon the tale. But the catastrophe never occurs.
It was necessary to stand poised upon the brink of the precipice to
realize the depth of the abyss and feel the terror of the fall.

Closely allied to this phase of Maupassant's nature was the peculiar
feeling of loneliness that every now and then breaks irresistibly forth
in the course of some short story. Of kindly soul and genial heart, he
suffered not only from the oppression of spirit caused by the lack of
humanity, kindliness, sanity, and harmony which he encountered daily in
the world at large, but he had an ever abiding sense of the invincible,
unbanishable solitariness of his own inmost self. I know of no more
poignant expression of such a feeling than the cry of despair which
rings out in the short story called "Solitude," in which he describes
the insurmountable barrier which exists between man and man, or man and
woman, however intimate the friendship between them. He could picture
but one way of destroying this terrible loneliness, the attainment of a
spiritual--a divine--state of love, a condition to which he would give
no name utterable by human lips, lest it be profaned, but for which his
whole being yearned. How acutely he felt his failure to attain his
deliverance may be drawn from his wail that mankind has no UNIVERSAL
measure of happiness.

"Each one of us," writes De Maupassant, "forms for himself an illusion
through which he views the world, be it poetic, sentimental, joyous,
melancholy, or dismal; an illusion of beauty, which is a human
convention; of ugliness, which is a matter of opinion; of truth, which,
alas, is never immutable." And he concludes by asserting that the
happiest artist is he who approaches most closely to the truth of
things as he sees them through his own particular illusion.

Salient points in De Maupassant's genius were that he possessed the
rare faculty of holding direct communion with his gifts, and of writing
from their dictation as it was interpreted by his senses. He had no
patience with writers who in striving to present life as a whole
purposely omit episodes that reveal the influence of the senses. "As
well," he says, "refrain from describing the effect of intoxicating
perfumes upon man as omit the influence of beauty on the temperament of
man."

De Maupassant's dramatic instinct was supremely powerful. He seems to
select unerringly the one thing in which the soul of the scene is
prisoned, and, making that his keynote, gives a picture in words which
haunt the memory like a strain of music. The description of the ride of
Madame Tellier and her companions in a country cart through a Norman
landscape is an admirable example. You smell the masses of the colza in
blossom, you see the yellow carpets of ripe corn spotted here and there
by the blue coronets of the cornflower, and rapt by the red blaze of
the poppy beds and bathed in the fresh greenery of the landscape, you
share in the emotions felt by the happy party in the country cart. And
yet with all his vividness of description, De Maupassant is always
sober and brief. He had the genius of condensation and the reserve
which is innate in power, and to his reader could convey as much in a
paragraph as could be expressed in a page by many of his predecessors
and contemporaries, Flaubert not excepted.

Apart from his novels, De Maupassant's tales may be arranged under
three heads: Those that concern themselves with Norman peasant life;
those that deal with Government employees (Maupassant himself had long
been one) and the Paris middle classes, and those that represent the
life of the fashionable world, as well as the weird and fantastic ideas
of the later years of his career. Of these three groups the tales of
the Norman peasantry perhaps rank highest. He depicts the Norman farmer
in surprisingly free and bold strokes, revealing him in all his
caution, astuteness, rough gaiety, and homely virtue.

The tragic stage of De Maupassant's life may, I think, be set down as
beginning just before the drama of "Musotte" was issued, in conjunction
with Jacques Normand, in 1891. He had almost given up the hope of
interpreting his puzzles, and the struggle between the falsity of the
life which surrounded him and the nobler visions which possessed him
was wearing him out. Doubtless he resorted to unwise methods for the
dispelling of physical lassitude or for surcease from troubling mental
problems. To this period belong such weird and horrible fancies as are
contained in the short stories known as "He" and "The Diary of a
Madman." Here and there, we know, were rising in him inklings of a
finer and less sordid attitude 'twixt man and woman throughout the
world and of a purer constitution of existing things which no exterior
force should blemish or destroy. But with these yearningly prophetic
gleams came a period of mental death. Then the physical veil was torn
aside and for Guy de Maupassant the riddle of existence was answered.
{signature}



MADEMOISELLE FIFI

The Major Graf[1] von Farlsberg, the Prussian commandant, was reading
his newspaper, lying back in a great armchair, with his booted feet on
the beautiful marble fireplace, where his spurs had made two holes,
which grew deeper every day, during the three months that he had been
in the chateau of Urville.

A cup of coffee was smoking on a small inlaid table, which was stained
with liquors burnt by cigars, notched by the penknife of the victorious
officer, who occasionally would stop while sharpening a pencil, to jot
down figures, or to make a drawing on it, just as it took his fancy.

When he had read his letters and the German newspapers, which his
baggage-master had brought him, he got up, and after throwing three or
four enormous pieces of green wood on to the fire--for these gentlemen
were gradually cutting down the park in order to keep themselves
warm--he went to the window. The rain was descending in torrents, a
regular Normandy rain, which looked as if it were being poured out by
some furious hand, a slanting rain, which was as thick as a curtain,
and which formed a kind of wall with oblique stripes, and which deluged
everything, a regular rain, such as one frequently experiences in the
neighborhood of Rouen, which is the watering-pot of France.

For a long time the officer looked at the sodden turf, and at the
swollen Andelle beyond it, which was overflowing its banks, and he was
drumming a waltz from the Rhine on the window-panes, with his fingers,
when a noise made him turn round; it was his second in command, Captain
Baron von Kelweinstein.

The major was a giant, with broad shoulders, and a long, fair beard,
which hung like a cloth on to his chest. His whole, solemn person
suggested the idea of a military peacock, a peacock who was carrying
his tail spread out on to his breast. He had cold, gentle, blue eyes,
and the scar from a sword-cut, which he had received in the war with
Austria; he was said to be an honorable man, as well as a brave officer.

The captain, a short, red-faced man, who was tightly girthed in at the
waist, had his red hair cropped quite close to his head, and in certain
lights almost looked as if he had been rubbed over with phosphorus. He
had lost two front teeth one night, though he could not quite remember
how. This defect made him speak so that he could not always be
understood, and he had a bald patch on the top of his head, which made
him look rather like a monk, with a fringe of curly, bright, golden
hair round the circle of bare skin.

The commandant shook hands with him, and drank his cup of coffee (the
sixth that morning) at a draught, while he listened to his
subordinate's report of what had occurred; and then they both went to
the window, and declared that it was a very unpleasant outlook. The
major, who was a quiet man, with a wife at home, could accommodate
himself to everything; but the captain, who was rather fast, being in
the habit of frequenting low resorts, and much given to women, was mad
at having been shut up for three months in the compulsory chastity of
that wretched hole.

There was a knock at the door, and when the commandant said, "Come in,"
one of their automatic soldiers appeared, and by his mere presence
announced that breakfast was ready. In the dining-room, they met three
other officers of lower rank: a lieutenant, Otto von Grossling, and two
sub-lieutenants, Fritz Scheunebarg, and Count von Eyrick a very short,
fair-haired man, who was proud and brutal toward men, harsh toward
prisoners, and very violent.

Since he had been in France, his comrades had called him nothing but
"Mademoiselle Fifi." They had given him that nickname on account of his
dandified style and small waist, which looked as if he wore stays, from
his pale face, on which his budding mustache scarcely showed, and on
account of the habit he had acquired of employing the French
expression, fi, fi donc, which he pronounced with a slight whistle,
when he wished to express his sovereign contempt for persons or things.

The dining-room of the chateau was a magnificent long room, whose fine
old mirrors, now cracked by pistol bullets, and Flemish tapestry, now
cut to ribbons and hanging in rags in places, from sword-cuts, told too
well what Mademoiselle Fifi's occupation was during his spare time.

There were three family portraits on the walls; a steel-clad knight, a
cardinal, and a judge, who were all smoking long porcelain pipes, which
had been inserted into holes in the canvas, while a lady in a long,
pointed waist proudly exhibited an enormous pair of mustaches, drawn
with a piece of charcoal.

The officers ate their breakfast almost in silence in that mutilated
room, which looked dull in the rain, and melancholy under its
vanquished appearance, although its old, oak floor had become as solid
as the stone floor of a public-house.

When they had finished eating, and were smoking and drinking, they
began, as usual, to talk about the dull life they were leading. The
bottles of brandy and of liquors passed from hand to hand, and all sat
back in their chairs, taking repeated sips from their glasses, and
scarcely removing the long, bent stems, which terminated in china bowls
painted in a manner to delight a Hottentot, from their mouths.

As soon as their glasses were empty, they filled them again, with a
gesture of resigned weariness, but Mademoiselle Fifi emptied his every
minute, and a soldier immediately gave him another. They were enveloped
in a cloud of strong tobacco smoke; they seemed to be sunk in a state
of drowsy, stupid intoxication, in that dull state of drunkenness of
men who have nothing to do, when suddenly, the baron sat up, and said:
"By heavens! This cannot go on; we must think of something to do." And
on hearing this, Lieutenant Otto and Sub-lieutenant Fritz, who
pre-eminently possessed the grave, heavy German countenance, said:
"What, Captain?"

He thought for a few moments, and then replied "What? Well, we must get
up some entertainment; if the commandant will allow us."

"What sort of an entertainment, captain?" the major asked, taking his
pipe out of his mouth.

"I will arrange all that, commandant," the baron said. "I will send Le
Devoir to Rouen, who will bring us some ladies. I know where they can
be found. We will have supper here, as all the materials are at hand,
and, at least, we shall have a jolly evening."

Graf von Farlsberg shrugged his shoulders with a smile: "You must
surely be mad, my friend."

But all the other officers got up, surrounded their chief, and said:
"Let the captain have his own way, commandant; it is terribly dull
here."

And the major ended by yielding. "Very well," he replied, and the baron
immediately sent for Le Devoir.

The latter was an old corporal who had never been seen to smile, but
who carried out all the orders of his superiors to the letter, no
matter what they might be. He stood there, with an impassive face while
he received the baron's instructions, and then went out; five minutes
later a large wagon belonging to the military train, covered with a
miller's tilt, galloped off as fast as four horses could take it, under
the pouring rain, and the officers all seemed to awaken from their
lethargy, their looks brightened, and they began to talk.

Although it was raining as hard as ever, the major declared that it was
not so dull, and Lieutenant von Grossling said with conviction, that
the sky was clearing up, while Mademoiselle Fifi did not seem to be
able to keep in his place. He got up, and sat down again, and his
bright eyes seemed to be looking for something to destroy. Suddenly,
looking at the lady with the mustaches, the young fellow pulled out his
revolver, and said: "You shall not see it." And without leaving his
seat he aimed, and with two successive bullets cut out both the eyes of
the portrait.

"Let us make a mine!" he then exclaimed, and the conversation was
suddenly interrupted, as if they had found some fresh and powerful
subject of interest. The mine was his invention, his method of
destruction, and his favorite amusement.

When he left the chateau, the lawful owner, Count Fernand d'Amoys
d'Urville, had not had time to carry away or to hide anything, except
the plate, which had been stowed away in a hole made in one of the
walls, so that, as he was very rich and had good taste, the large
drawing-room, which opened into the dining-room, had looked like the
gallery in a museum, before his precipitate flight.

Expensive oil-paintings, water-colors, and drawings hung upon the
walls, while on the tables, on the hanging shelves, and in elegant
glass cupboards, there were a thousand knickknacks: small vases,
statuettes, groups in Dresden china, grotesque Chinese figures, old
ivory, and Venetian glass, which filled the large room with their
precious and fantastical array.

Scarcely anything was left now; not that the things had been stolen,
for the major would not have allowed that, but Mademoiselle Fifi WOULD
HAVE A MINE, and on that occasion all the officers thoroughly enjoyed
themselves for five minutes. The little marquis went into the
drawing-room to get what he wanted, and he brought back a small,
delicate china teapot, which he filled with gunpowder, and carefully
introduced a piece of German tinder into it, through the spout. Then he
lighted it, and took this infernal machine into the next room; but he
came back immediately and shut the door. The Germans all stood
expectantly, their faces full of childish, smiling curiosity, and as
soon as the explosion had shaken the chateau, they all rushed in at
once.

Mademoiselle Fifi, who got in first, clapped his hands in delight at
the sight of a terra-cotta Venus, whose head had been blown off, and
each picked up pieces of porcelain, and wondered at the strange shape
of the fragments, while the major was looking with a paternal eye at
the large drawing-room which had been wrecked in such a Neronic
fashion, and which was strewn with the fragments of works of art. He
went out first, and said, with a smile: "He managed that very well!"

But there was such a cloud of smoke in the dining-room, mingled with
the tobacco smoke, that they could not breathe, so the commandant
opened the window, and all the officers, who had gone into the room for
a glass of cognac, went up to it.

The moist air blew into the room, and brought a sort of spray with it,
which powdered their beards. They looked at the tall trees which were
dripping with the rain, at the broad valley which was covered with
mist, and at the church spire in the distance, which rose up like a
gray point in the beating rain.

The bells had not rung since their arrival. That was the only
resistance which the invaders had met with in the neighborhood. The
parish priest had not refused to take in and to feed the Prussian
soldiers; he had several times even drunk a bottle of beer or claret
with the hostile commandant, who often employed him as a benevolent
intermediary; but it was no use to ask him for a single stroke of the
bells; he would sooner have allowed himself to be shot. That was his
way of protesting against the invasion, a peaceful and silent protest,
the only one, he said, which was suitable to a priest, who was a man of
mildness, and not of blood; and everyone, for twenty-five miles round,
praised Abbe Chantavoine's firmness and heroism, in venturing to
proclaim the public mourning by the obstinate silence of his church
bells.

The whole village grew enthusiastic over his resistance, and was ready
to back up their pastor and to risk anything, as they looked upon that
silent protest as the safeguard of the national honor. It seemed to the
peasants that thus they had deserved better of their country than
Belfort and Strassburg, that they had set an equally valuable example,
and that the name of their little village would become immortalized by
that; but with that exception, they refused their Prussian conquerors
nothing.

The commandant and his officers laughed among themselves at that
inoffensive courage, and as the people in the whole country round
showed themselves obliging and compliant toward them, they willingly
tolerated their silent patriotism. Only little Count Wilhelm would have
liked to have forced them to ring the bells. He was very angry at his
superior's politic compliance with the priest's scruples, and every day
he begged the commandant to allow him to sound "ding-dong, ding-dong,"
just once, only just once, just by way of a joke. And he asked it like
a wheedling woman, in the tender voice of some mistress who wishes to
obtain something, but the commandant would not yield, and to console
HERSELF, Mademoiselle Fifi made A MINE in the chateau.

The five men stood there together for some minutes, inhaling the moist
air, and at last, Lieutenant Fritz said, with a laugh: "The ladies will
certainly not have fine weather for their drive." Then they separated,
each to his own duties, while the captain had plenty to do in seeing
about the dinner.

When they met again, as it was growing dark, they began to laugh at
seeing each other as dandified and smart as on the day of a grand
review. The commandant's hair did not look as gray as it did in the
morning, and the captain had shaved--had only kept his mustache on,
which made him look as if he had a streak of fire under his nose.

In spite of the rain, they left the window open, and one of them went
to listen from time to time. At a quarter past six the baron said he
heard a rumbling in the distance. They all rushed down, and soon the
wagon drove up at a gallop with its four horses, splashed up to their
backs, steaming and panting. Five women got out at the bottom of the
steps, five handsome girls whom a comrade of the captain, to whom Le
Dervoir had taken his card, had selected with care.

They had not required much pressing, as they were sure of being well
treated, for they had got to know the Prussians in the three months
during which they had had to do with them. So they resigned themselves
to the men as they did to the state of affairs. "It is part of our
business, so it must be done," they said as they drove along; no doubt
to allay some slight, secret scruples of conscience.

They went into the dining-room immediately, which looked still more
dismal in its dilapidated state, when it was lighted up; while the
table covered with choice dishes, the beautiful china and glass, and
the plate, which had been found in the hole in the wall where its owner
had hidden it, gave to the place the look of a bandits' resort, where
they were supping after committing a robbery. The captain was radiant;
he took hold of the women as if he were familiar with them; appraising
them, kissing them, valuing them for what they were worth as LADIES OF
PLEASURE; and when the three young men wanted to appropriate one each,
he opposed them authoritatively, reserving to himself the right to
apportion them justly, according to their several ranks, so as not to
wound the hierarchy. Therefore, so as to avoid all discussion, jarring,
and suspicion of partiality, he placed them all in a line according to
height, and addressing the tallest, he said in a voice of command:

"What is your name?"

"Pamela," she replied, raising her voice.

Then he said: "Number One, called Pamela, is adjudged to the
commandant."

Then, having kissed Blondina, the second, as a sign of proprietorship,
he proffered stout Amanda to Lieutenant Otto! Eva, "the Tomato," to
Sub-lieutenant Fritz, and Rachel, the shortest of them all, a very
young, dark girl, with eyes as black as ink, a Jewess, whose snub nose
confirmed by exception the rule which allots hooked noses to all her
race, to the youngest officer, frail Count Wilhelm von Eyrick.

They were all pretty and plump, without any distinctive features, and
all were very much alike in look and person, from their daily
dissipation, and the life common to houses of public accommodation.

The three younger men wished to carry off their women immediately,
under the pretext of finding them brushes and soap; but the captain
wisely opposed this, for he said they were quite fit to sit down to
dinner, and that those who went up would wish for a change when they
came down, and so would disturb the other couples, and his experience
in such matters carried the day. There were only many kisses; expectant
kisses.

Suddenly Rachel choked, and began to cough until the tears came into
her eyes, while smoke came through her nostrils. Under pretense of
kissing her, the count had blown a whiff of tobacco into her mouth. She
did not fly into a rage, and did not say a word, but she looked at her
possessor with latent hatred in her dark eyes.

They sat down to dinner. The commandant seemed delighted; he made
Pamela sit on his right, and Blondina on his left, and said, as he
unfolded his table napkin: "That was a delightful idea of yours,
captain."

Lieutenants Otto and Fritz, who were as polite as if they had been with
fashionable ladies, rather intimidated their neighbors, but Baron von
Kelweinstein gave the reins to all his vicious propensities, beamed,
made doubtful remarks, and seemed on fire with his crown of red hair.
He paid them compliments in French from the other side of the Rhine,
and sputtered out gallant remarks, only fit for a low pot-house, from
between his two broken teeth.

They did not understand him, however, and their intelligence did not
seem to be awakened until he uttered nasty words and broad expressions,
which were mangled by his accent. Then all began to laugh at once, like
mad women, and fell against each other, repeating the words, which the
baron then began to say all wrong, in order that he might have the
pleasure of hearing them say doubtful things. They gave him as much of
that stuff as he wanted, for they were drunk after the first bottle of
wine, and, becoming themselves once more, and opening the door to their
usual habits, they kissed the mustaches on the right and left of them,
pinched their arms, uttered furious cries, drank out of every glass,
and sang French couplets, and bits of German songs, which they had
picked up in their daily intercourse with the enemy.

Soon the men themselves, intoxicated by that which was displayed to
their sight and touch, grew very amorous, shouted and broke the plates
and dishes, while the soldiers behind them waited on them stolidly. The
commandant was the only one who put any restraint upon himself.

Mademoiselle Fifi had taken Rachel on to his knees, and, getting
excited, at one moment kissed the little black curls on her neck,
inhaling the pleasant warmth of her body, and all the savor of her
person, through the slight space there was between her dress and her
skin, and at another pinched her furiously through the material, and
made her scream, for he was seized with a species of ferocity, and
tormented by his desire to hurt her. He often held her close to him, as
if to make her part of himself, and put his lips in a long kiss on the
Jewess's rosy mouth, until she lost her breath; and at last he bit her
until a stream of blood ran down her chin and on to her bodice.

For the second time, she looked him full in the face, and as she bathed
the wound, she said: "You will have to pay for that!"

But he merely laughed a hard laugh, and said: "I will pay."

At dessert, champagne was served, and the commandant rose, and in the
same voice in which he would have drunk to the health of the Empress
Augusta, he drank: "To our ladies!" Then a series of toasts began,
toasts worthy of the lowest soldiers and of drunkards, mingled with
filthy jokes, which were made still more brutal by their ignorance of
the language. They got up, one after the other, trying to say something
witty, forcing themselves to be funny, and the women, who were so drunk
that they almost fell off their chairs, with vacant looks and clammy
tongues, applauded madly each time.

The captain, who no doubt wished to impart an appearance of gallantry
to the orgy, raised his glass again, and said: "To our victories over
hearts!" Thereupon Lieutenant Otto, who was a species of bear from the
Black Forest, jumped up, inflamed and saturated with drink, and seized
by an access of alcoholic patriotism, cried: "To our victories over
France!"

Drunk as they were, the women were silent, and Rachel turned round with
a shudder, and said: "Look here, I know some Frenchmen, in whose
presence you would not dare to say that." But the little count, still
holding her on his knees, began to laugh, for the wine had made him
very merry, and said: "Ha! ha! ha! I have never met any of them,
myself. As soon as we show ourselves, they run away!"

The girl, who was in a terrible rage, shouted into his face: "You are
lying, you dirty scoundrel!"

For a moment, he looked at her steadily, with his bright eyes upon her,
as he had looked at the portrait before he destroyed it with revolver
bullets, and then he began to laugh: "Ah! yes, talk about them, my
dear! Should we be here now, if they were brave?" Then getting excited,
he exclaimed: "We are the masters! France belongs to us!" She jumped
off his knees with a bound, and threw herself into her chair, while he
rose, held out his glass over the table, and repeated: "France and the
French, the woods, the fields, and the houses of France belong to us!"

The others, who were quite drunk, and who were suddenly seized by
military enthusiasm, the enthusiasm of brutes, seized their glasses,
and shouting, "Long live Prussia!" emptied them at a draught.

The girls did not protest, for they were reduced to silence, and were
afraid. Even Rachel did not say a word, as she had no reply to make,
and then the little count put his champagne glass, which had just been
refilled, on to the head of the Jewess, and exclaimed: "All the women
in France belong to us, also!"

At that she got up so quickly that the glass upset, spilling the amber
colored wine on to her black hair as if to baptize her, and broke into
a hundred fragments as it fell on to the floor. With trembling lips,
she defied the looks of the officer, who was still laughing, and she
stammered out, in a voice choked with rage: "That--that--that--is not
true,--for you shall certainly not have any French women."

He sat down again, so as to laugh at his ease, and trying ineffectually
to speak in the Parisian accent, he said: "That is good, very good!
Then what did you come here for, my dear?"

She was thunderstruck, and made no reply for a moment, for in her
agitation she did not understand him at first; but as soon as she
grasped his meaning, she said to him indignantly and vehemently: "I! I!
I am not a woman; I am only a strumpet, and that is all that Prussians
want."

Almost before she had finished, he slapped her full in her face; but as
he was raising his hand again as if he would strike her, she, almost
mad with passion, took up a small dessert knife from the table, and
stabbed him right in the neck, just above the breastbone. Something
that he was going to say, was cut short in his throat, and he sat
there, with his mouth half open, and a terrible look in his eyes.

All the officers shouted in horror, and leaped up tumultuously; but
throwing her chair between Lieutenant Otto's legs, who fell down at
full length, she ran to the window, opened it before they could seize
her, and jumped out into the night and pouring rain.

In two minutes, Mademoiselle Fifi was dead. Fritz and Otto drew their
swords and wanted to kill the women, who threw themselves at their feet
and clung to their knees. With some difficulty the major stopped the
slaughter, and had the four terrified girls locked up in a room under
the care of two soldiers. Then he organized the pursuit of the
fugitive, as carefully as if he were about to engage in a skirmish,
feeling quite sure that she would be caught.

The table, which had been cleared immediately, now served as a bed on
which to lay Fifi out, and the four officers made for the window, rigid
and sobered, with the stern faces of soldiers on duty, and tried to
pierce through the darkness of the night, amid the steady torrent of
rain. Suddenly, a shot was heard, and then another, a long way off; and
for four hours they heard, from time to time, near or distant reports
and rallying cries, strange words uttered as a call, in guttural voices.

In the morning they all returned. Two soldiers had been killed and
three others wounded by their comrades in the ardor of that chase, and
in the confusion of such a nocturnal pursuit, but they had not caught
Rachel.

Then the inhabitants of the district were terrorized, the houses were
turned topsy-turvy, the country was scoured and beaten up, over and
over again, but the Jewess did not seem to have left a single trace of
her passage behind her.

When the general was told of it, he gave orders to hush up the affair,
so as not to set a bad example to the army, but he severely censured
the commandant, who in turn punished his inferiors. The general had
said: "One does not go to war in order to amuse oneself, and to caress
prostitutes." And Graf von Farlsberg, in his exasperation, made up his
mind to have his revenge on the district, but as he required a pretext
for showing severity, he sent for the priest and ordered him to have
the bell tolled at the funeral of Count von Eyrick.

Contrary to all expectation, the priest showed himself humble and most
respectful, and when Mademoiselle Fifi's body left the Chateau
d'Urville on its way to the cemetery, carried by soldiers, preceded,
surrounded, and followed by soldiers, who marched with loaded rifles,
for the first time the bell sounded its funereal knell in a lively
manner, as if a friendly hand were caressing it. At night it sounded
again, and the next day, and every day; it rang as much as anyone could
desire. Sometimes even, it would start at night, and sound gently
through the darkness, seized by strange joy, awakened, one could not
tell why. All the peasants in the neighborhood declared that it was
bewitched, and nobody, except the priest and the sacristan would now go
near the church tower, and they went because a poor girl was living
there in grief and solitude, secretly nourished by those two men.

She remained there until the German troops departed, and then one
evening the priest borrowed the baker's cart, and himself drove his
prisoner to Rouen. When they got there, he embraced her, and she
quickly went back on foot to the establishment from which she had come,
where the proprietress, who thought that she was dead, was very glad to
see her.

A short time afterward, a patriot who had no prejudices, who liked her
because of her bold deed, and who afterward loved her for herself,
married her, and made a lady of her.

[1] Count.



AN AFFAIR OF STATE.

Paris had just heard of the disaster of Sedan. The Republic was
proclaimed. All France was panting from a madness that lasted until the
time of the Commonwealth. Everybody was playing at soldier from one end
of the country to the other.

Capmakers became colonels, assuming the duties of generals; revolvers
and daggers were displayed on large rotund bodies, enveloped in red
sashes; common citizens turned warriors, commanding battalions of noisy
volunteers, and swearing like troopers to emphasize their importance.

The very fact of bearing arms and handling guns with a system excited a
people who hitherto had only handled scales and measures, and made them
formidable to the first comer, without reason. They even executed a few
innocent people to prove that they knew how to kill; and, in roaming
through virgin fields still belonging to the Prussians, they shot stray
dogs, cows chewing the cud in peace, or sick horses put out to pasture.
Each believed himself called upon to play a great role in military
affairs. The cafes of the smallest villages, full of tradesmen in
uniform, resembled barracks or field hospitals.

Now, the town of Canneville did not yet know the exciting news of the
army and the Capital. It had, however, been greatly agitated for a
month over an encounter between the rival political parties. The mayor,
Viscount de Varnetot, a small, thin man, already old, remained true to
the Empire, especially since he saw rising up against him a powerful
adversary, in the great, sanguine form of Doctor Massarel, head of the
Republican party in the district, venerable chief of the Masonic lodge,
president of the Society of Agriculture and of the Fire Department, and
organizer of the rural militia designed to save the country.

In two weeks he had induced sixty-three men to volunteer in defense of
their country--married men, fathers of families, prudent farmers and
merchants of the town. These he drilled every morning in front of the
mayor's window.

Whenever the mayor happened to appear, Commander Massarel, covered with
pistols, passing proudly up and down in front of his troops, would make
them shout, "Long live our country!" And this, they noticed, disturbed
the little viscount, who no doubt heard in it menace and defiance, and
perhaps some odious recollection of the great Revolution.

On the morning of the fifth of September, in uniform, his revolver on
the table, the doctor gave consultation to an old peasant couple. The
husband had suffered with a varicose vein for seven years, but had
waited until his wife had one too, so that they might go and hunt up a
physician together, guided by the postman when he should come with the
newspaper.

Dr. Massarel opened the door, grew pale, straightened himself abruptly
and, raising his arms to heaven in a gesture of exaltation, cried out
with all his might, in the face of the amazed rustics:

"Long live the Republic! Long live the Republic! Long live the
Republic!"

Then he dropped into his armchair weak with emotion.

When the peasant explained that this sickness commenced with a feeling
as if ants were running up and down in his legs, the doctor exclaimed:
"Hold your peace. I have spent too much time with you stupid people.
The Republic is proclaimed! The Emperor is a prisoner! France is saved!
Long live the Republic!" And, running to the door, he bellowed:
"Celeste! Quick! Celeste!"

The frightened maid hastened in. He stuttered, so rapidly did he try to
speak: "My boots, my saber--my cartridge box--and--the Spanish dagger,
which is on my night table. Hurry now!"

The obstinate peasant, taking advantage of the moment's silence, began
again: "This seemed like some cysts that hurt me when I walked."

The exasperated physician shouted: "Hold your peace! For Heaven's sake!
If you had washed your feet oftener, it would not have happened." Then,
seizing him by the neck, he hissed in his face: "Can you not comprehend
that we are living in a Republic, stupid?"

But professional sentiment calmed him suddenly, and he let the
astonished old couple out of the house, repeating all the time:

"Return to-morrow, return to-morrow, my friends; I have no more time
to-day."

While equipping himself from head to foot, he gave another series of
urgent orders to the maid:

"Run to Lieutenant Picard's and to Sub-lieutenant Pommel's and say to
them that I want them here immediately. Send Torcheboeuf to me, too,
with his drum. Quick, now! Quick!" And when Celeste was gone, he
collected his thoughts and prepared to surmount the difficulties of the
situation.

The three men arrived together. They were in their working clothes. The
Commander, who had expected to see them in uniform, had a fit of
surprise.

"You know nothing, then? The Emperor has been taken prisoner. A
Republic is proclaimed. My position is delicate, not to say perilous."

He reflected for some minutes before the astonished faces of his
subordinates and then continued:

"It is necessary to act, not to hesitate. Minutes now are worth hours
at other times. Everything depends upon promptness of decision. You,
Picard, go and find the curate and get him to ring the bell to bring
the people together, while I get ahead of them. You, Torcheboeuf, beat
the call to assemble the militia in arms, in the square, from even as
far as the hamlets of Gerisaie and Salmare. You, Pommell put on your
uniform at once, that is, the jacket and cap. We, together, are going
to take possession of the mairie and summon M. de Varnetot to transfer
his authority to me. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"Act, then, and promptly. I will accompany you to your house, Pommel,
since we are to work together."

Five minutes later, the Commander and his subaltern, armed to the
teeth, appeared in the square, just at the moment when the little
Viscount de Varnetot, with hunting gaiters on and his rifle on his
shoulder, appeared by another street, walking rapidly and followed by
three guards in green jackets, each carrying a knife at his side and a
gun over his shoulder.

While the doctor stopped, half stupefied, the four men entered the
mayor's house and the door closed behind them.

"We are forestalled," murmured the doctor; "it will be necessary now to
wait for re-enforcements; nothing can be done for a quarter of an hour."

Here Lieutenant Picard appeared: "The curate refuses to obey," said he;
"he has even shut himself up in the church with the beadle and the
porter."

On the other side of the square, opposite the white, closed front of
the mairie, the church, mute and black, showed its great oak door with
the wrought-iron trimmings.

Then, as the puzzled inhabitants put their noses out of the windows, or
came out upon the steps of their houses, the rolling of a drum was
heard, and Torcheboeuf suddenly appeared, beating with fury the three
quick strokes of the call to arms. He crossed the square with
disciplined step, and then disappeared on a road leading to the country.

The Commander drew his sword, advanced alone to the middle distance
between the two buildings where the enemy was barricaded and, waving
his weapon above his head, roared at the top of his lungs: "Long live
the Republic! Death to traitors!" Then he fell back where his officers
were. The butcher, the baker, and the apothecary, feeling a little
uncertain, put up their shutters and closed their shops. The grocery
alone remained open.

Meanwhile the men of the militia were arriving, little by little,
variously clothed, but all wearing caps, the cap constituting the whole
uniform of the corps. They were armed with their old, rusty guns, guns
that had hung on chimney-pieces in kitchens for thirty years, and
looked quite like a detachment of country soldiers.

When there were about thirty around him, the Commander explained in a
few words, the state of affairs. Then, turning toward his major, he
said: "Now, we must act."

While the inhabitants collected, talked over and discussed the matter,
the doctor quickly formed his plan of campaign:

"Lieutenant Picard, you advance to the windows of the mayor's house and
order M. de Varnetot to turn over the townhall to me, in the name of
the Republic."

But the lieutenant was a master-mason and refused.

"You are a scamp, you are. Trying to make a target of me! Those fellows
in there are good shots, you know that. No, thanks! Execute your
commissions yourself!"

The Commander turned red: "I order you to go in the name of
discipline," said he.

"I am not spoiling my features without knowing why," the lieutenant
returned.

Men of influence, in a group near by, were heard laughing. One of them
called out: "You are right, Picard, it is not the proper time." The
doctor, under his breath, muttered: "Cowards!" And, placing his sword
and his revolver in the hands of a soldier, he advanced with measured
step, his eye fixed on the windows, as if he expected to see a gun or a
cannon pointed at him.

When he was within a few steps of the building the doors at the two
extremities, affording an entrance to two schools, opened, and a flood
of little creatures, boys on one side, girls on the other, poured out
and began playing in the open space, chattering around the doctor like
a flock of birds. He scarcely knew what to make of it.

As soon as the last were out, the doors closed. The greater part of the
little monkeys finally scattered and then the Commander called out in a
loud voice,

"Monsieur de Varnetot?" A window in the first story opened and M. de
Varnetot appeared.

The Commander began: "Monsieur, you are aware of the great events which
have changed the system of Government. The party you represent no
longer exists. The side I represent now comes into power. Under these
sad, but decisive circumstances, I come to demand you, in the name of
the Republic, to put in my hand the authority vested in you by the
outgoing power."

M. de Varnetot replied: "Doctor Massarel, I am mayor of Canneville, so
placed by the proper authorities, and mayor of Canneville I shall
remain until the title is revoked and replaced by an order from my
superiors. As mayor, I am at home in the mairie, and there I shall
stay. Furthermore, just try to put me out." And he closed the window.

The Commander returned to his troops. But, before explaining anything,
measuring Lieutenant Picard from head to foot, he said:

"You are a numskull, you are,--a goose, the disgrace of the army. I
shall degrade you."

The Lieutenant replied: "I'll attend to that myself." And he went over
to a group of muttering civilians.

Then the doctor hesitated. What should he do? Make an assault? Would
his men obey him? And then, was he surely in the right? An idea burst
upon him. He ran to the telegraph office, on the other side of the
square, and hurriedly sent three dispatches: "To the Members of the
Republican Government, at Paris"; "To the New Republican Prefect of the
Lower Seine, at Rouen"; "To the New Republican Sub-Prefect of Dieppe."

He exposed the situation fully; told of the danger run by the
commonwealth from remaining in the hands of the monarchistic mayor,
offered his devout services, asked for orders and signed his name,
following it up with all his titles. Then he returned to his army corps
and, drawing ten francs out of his pocket, said:

"Now, my friends, go and eat and drink a little something. Only leave
here a detachment of ten men, so that no one leaves the mayor's house."

Ex-Lieutenant Picard chatting with the watch-maker, overheard this.
With a sneer he remarked:

"Pardon me, but if they go out, there will be an opportunity for you to
go in. Otherwise, I can't see how you are to get in there!"

The doctor made no reply, but went away to luncheon. In the afternoon,
he disposed of offices all about town, having the air of knowing of an
impending surprise. Many times he passed before the doors of the mairie
and of the church, without noticing anything suspicious; one could have
believed the two buildings empty.

The butcher, the baker, and the apothecary re-opened their shops, and
stood gossiping on the steps. If the Emperor had been taken prisoner,
there must be a traitor somewhere. They did not feel sure of the
revenue of a new Republic.

Night came on. Toward nine o'clock, the doctor returned quietly and
alone to the mayor's residence, persuaded that his adversary had
retired. And, as he was trying to force an entrance with a few blows of
a pickaxe, the loud voice of a guard demanded suddenly: "Who goes
there?" Monsieur Massarel beat a retreat at the top of his speed.

Another day dawned without any change in the situation. The militia in
arms occupied the square. The inhabitants stood around awaiting the
solution. People from neighboring villages came to look on. Finally,
the doctor, realizing that his reputation was at stake, resolved to
settle the thing in one way or another. He had just decided that it
must be something energetic, when the door of the telegraph office
opened and the little servant of the directress appeared, holding in
her hand two papers.

She went directly to the Commander and gave him one of the dispatches;
then, crossing the square, intimidated by so many eyes fixed upon her,
with lowered head and mincing steps, she rapped gently at the door of
the barricaded house, as if ignorant that a part of the army was
concealed there.

The door opened slightly; the hand of a man received the message, and
the girl returned, blushing and ready to weep, from being stared at.

The doctor demanded, with stirring voice: "A little silence, if you
please." And, after the populace became quiet, he continued proudly:

"Here is a communication which I have received from the Government."
And raising the dispatch, he read:

  "Old mayor deposed. Advise us of what is most necessary,
  Instructions later.
  "For the Sub-Prefect,
  "SAPIN, Counselor."


He had triumphed. His heart was beating with joy. His hand trembled,
when Picard, his old subaltern, cried out to him from a neighboring
group: "That's all right; but if the others in there won't go out, your
paper hasn't a leg to stand on." The doctor grew a little pale. If they
would not go out--in fact, he must go ahead now. It was not only his
right, but his duty. And he looked anxiously at the house of the
mayoralty, hoping that he might see the door open and his adversary
show himself. But the door remained closed. What was to be done? The
crowd was increasing, surrounding the militia. Some laughed.

One thought, especially, tortured the doctor. If he should make an
assault, he must march at the head of his men; and as, with him dead,
all contest would cease, it would be at him, and at him alone that M.
de Varnetot and the three guards would aim. And their aim was good,
very good! Picard had reminded him of that.

But an idea shone in upon him, and turning to Pommel, he said: "Go,
quickly, and ask the apothecary to send me a napkin and a pole."

The Lieutenant hurried off. The doctor was going to make a political
banner, a white one, that would perhaps, rejoice the heart of that old
legitimist, the mayor.

Pommel returned with the required linen and a broom handle. With some
pieces of string, they improvised a standard, which Massarel seized in
both hands. Again, he advanced toward the house of mayoralty, bearing
the standard before him. When in front of the door, he called out:
"Monsieur de Varnetot!"

The door opened suddenly, and M. de Varnetot and the three guards
appeared on the threshold. The doctor recoiled, instinctively. Then, he
saluted his enemy courteously, and announced, almost strangled by
emotion: "I have come, sir, to communicate to you the instructions I
have just received."

That gentleman, without any salutation whatever, replied: "I am going
to withdraw, sir, but you must understand that it is not because of
fear, or in obedience to an odious government that has usurped the
power." And, biting off each word, he declared: "I do not wish to have
the appearance of serving the Republic for a single day. That is all."

Massarel, amazed, made no reply; and M, de Varnetot, walking off at a
rapid pace, disappeared around the corner, followed closely by his
escort. Then the doctors slightly dismayed, returned to the crowd. When
he was near enough to be heard, he cried: "Hurrah! Hurrah! The Republic
triumphs all along the line!"

But no emotion was manifested. The doctor tried again. "The people are
free! You are free and independent! Do you understand? Be proud of it!"

The listless villagers looked at him with eyes unlit by glory. In his
turn, he looked at them, indignant at their indifference, seeking for
some word that could make a grand impression, electrify this placid
country and make good his mission. The inspiration come, and turning to
Pommel, he said: "Lieutenant, go and get the bust of the ex-Emperor,
which is in the Council Hall, and bring it to me with a chair."

And soon the man reappears, carrying on his right shoulder, Napoleon
III. in plaster, and holding in his left hand a straw-bottomed chair.

Massarel met him, took the chair, placed it on the ground, put the
white image upon it, fell back a few steps and called out, in sonorous
voice:

"Tyrant! Tyrant! Here do you fall! Fall in the dust and in the mire. An
expiring country groans under your feet. Destiny has called you the
Avenger. Defeat and shame cling to you. You fall conquered, a prisoner
to the Prussians, and upon the ruins of the crumbling Empire the young
and radiant Republic arises, picking up your broken sword."

He awaited applause. But there was no voice, no sound. The bewildered
peasants remained silent. And the bust, with its pointed mustaches
extending beyond the cheeks on each side, the bust, so motionless and
well groomed as to be fit for a hairdressers sign, seemed to be looking
at M. Massarel with a plaster smile, a smile ineffaceable and mocking.

They remained thus face to face, Napoleon on the chair, the doctor in
front of him about three steps away. Suddenly the Commander grew angry.
What was to be done? What was there that would move this people, and
bring about a definite victory in opinion? His hand happened to rest on
his hip and to come in contact there with the butt end of his revolver,
under his red sash. No inspiration, no further word would come. But he
drew his pistol, advanced two steps, and, taking aim, fired at the late
monarch. The ball entered the forehead, leaving a little, black hole,
like a spot, nothing more. There was no effect. Then he fired a second
shot, which made a second hole, then, a third; and then, without
stopping, he emptied his revolver. The brow of Napoleon disappeared in
white powder, but the eyes, the nose, and the fine points of the
mustaches remained intact. Then, exasperated, the doctor overturned the
chair with a blow of his fist and, resting a foot on the remainder of
the bust in a position of triumph, he shouted: "So let all tyrants
perish!"

Still no enthusiasm was manifest, and as the spectators seemed to be in
a kind of stupor from astonishment, the Commander called to the
militiamen: "You may now go to your homes." And he went toward his own
house with great strides, as if he were pursued.

His maid, when he appeared, told him that some patients had been
waiting in his office for three hours. He hastened in. There were the
two varicose-vein patients, who had returned at daybreak, obstinate but
patient.

The old man immediately began his explanation: "This began by a feeling
like ants running up and down the legs."



THE ARTIST

"Bah! Monsieur," the old mountebank said to me; "it is a matter of
exercise and habit, that is all! Of course, one requires to be a little
gifted that way and not to be butter-fingered, but what is chiefly
necessary is patience and daily practice for long, long years."

His modesty surprised me all the more, because of all performers who
are generally infatuated with their own skill, he was the most
wonderfully clever one I had met. Certainly I had frequently seen him,
for everybody had seen him in some circus or other, or even in
traveling shows, performing the trick that consists of putting a man or
woman with extended arms against a wooden target, and in throwing
knives between their fingers and round their heads, from a distance.
There is nothing very extraordinary in it, after all, when one knows
THE TRICKS OF THE TRADE, and that the knives are not the least sharp,
and stick into the wood at some distance from the flesh. It is the
rapidity of the throws, the glitter of the blades, and the curve which
the handles make toward their living object, which give an air of
danger to an exhibition that has become commonplace, and only requires
very middling skill.

But here there was no trick and no deception, and no dust thrown into
the eyes. It was done in good earnest and in all sincerity. The knives
were as sharp as razors, and the old mountebank planted them close to
the flesh, exactly in the angle between the fingers. He surrounded the
head with a perfect halo of knives, and the neck with a collar from
which nobody could have extricated himself without cutting his carotid
artery, while, to increase the difficulty, the old fellow went through
the performance without seeing, his whole face being covered with a
close mask of thick oilcloth.

Naturally, like other great artists, he was not understood by the
crowd, who confounded him with vulgar tricksters, and his mask only
appeared to them a trick the more, and a very common trick into the
bargain.

"He must think us very stupid," they said. "How could he possibly aim
without having his eyes open?"

And they thought there must be imperceptible holes in the oilcloth, a
sort of latticework concealed in the material. It was useless for him
to allow the public to examine the mask for themselves before the
exhibition began. It was all very well that they could not discover any
trick, but they were only all the more convinced that they were being
tricked. Did not the people know that they ought to be tricked?

I had recognized a great artist in the old mountebank, and I was quite
sure that he was altogether incapable of any trickery. I told him so,
while expressing my admiration to him; and he had been touched by my
open admiration and above all by the justice I had done him. Thus we
became good friends, and he explained to me, very modestly, the real
trick which the crowd do not understand, the eternal trick contained in
these simple words: "To be gifted by nature and to practice every day
for long, long years."

He had been especially struck by the certainty which I expressed that
any trickery must become impossible to him. "Yes," he said to me;
"quite impossible! Impossible to a degree which you cannot imagine. If
I were to tell you! But where would be the use?"

His face clouded over, and his eyes filled with tears. I did not
venture to force myself into his confidence. My looks, however, were
not so discreet as my silence, and begged him to speak; so he responded
to their mute appeal.

"After all," he said; "why should I not tell you about it? You will
understand me." And he added, with a look of sudden ferocity: "She
understood it, at any rate!"

"Who?" I asked.

"My strumpet of a wife," he replied. "Ah! Monsieur, what an abominable
creature she was--if you only knew! Yes, she understood it too well,
too well, and that is why I hate her so; even more on that account,
than for having deceived me. For that is a natural fault, is it not,
and may be pardoned? But the other thing was a crime, a horrible crime."

The woman, who stood against the wooden target every night with her
arms stretched out and her finger extended, and whom the old mountebank
fitted with gloves and with a halo formed of his knives, which were as
sharp as razors and which he planted close to her, was his wife. She
might have been a woman of forty, and must have been fairly pretty, but
with a perverse prettiness; she had an impudent mouth, a mouth that was
at the same time sensual and bad, with the lower lip too thick for the
thin, dry upper lip.

I had several times noticed that every time he planted a knife in the
board, she uttered a laugh, so low as scarcely to be heard, but which
was very significant when one heard it, for it was a hard and very
mocking laugh. I had always attributed that sort of reply to an
artifice which the occasion required. It was intended, I thought, to
accentuate the danger she incurred and the contempt that she felt for
it, thanks to the sureness of the thrower's hands, and so I was very
much surprised when the mountebank said to me:

"Have you observed her laugh, I say? Her evil laugh which makes fun of
me, and her cowardly laugh which defies me? Yes, cowardly, because she
knows that nothing can happen to her, nothing, in spite of all she
deserves, in spite of all that I ought to do to her, in spite of all
that I WANT to do to her."

"What do you want to do?"

"Confound it! Cannot you guess? I want to kill her."

"To kill her, because she has--"

"Because she has deceived me? No, no, not that, I tell you again. I
have forgiven her for that a long time ago, and I am too much
accustomed to it! But the worst of it is that the first time I forgave
her, when I told her that all the same I might some day have my revenge
by cutting her throat, if I chose, without seeming to do it on purpose,
as if it were an accident, mere awkwardness--"

"Oh! So you said that to her?"

"Of course I did, and I meant it. I thought I might be able to do it,
for you see I had the perfect right to do so. It was so simple, so
easy, so tempting! Just think! A mistake of less than half an inch, and
her skin would be cut at the neck where the jugular vein is, and the
jugular would be severed. My knives cut very well! And when once the
jugular is cut--good-bye. The blood would spurt out, and one, two,
three red jets, and all would be over; she would be dead, and I should
have had my revenge!"

"That is true, certainly, horribly true!"

"And without any risk to me, eh? An accident, that is all; bad luck,
one of those mistakes which happen every day in our business. What
could they accuse me of? Whoever would think of accusing me, even?
Homicide through imprudence, that would be all! They would even pity
me, rather than accuse me. 'My wife! My poor wife!' I should say,
sobbing. 'My wife, who is so necessary to me, who is half the
breadwinner, who takes part in my performance!' You must acknowledge
that I should be pitied!"

"Certainly; there is not the least doubt about that."

"And you must allow that such a revenge would he a very nice revenge,
the best possible revenge which I could have with assured impunity."

"Evidently that is so."

"Very well! But when I told her so, as I have told you, and more
forcibly still; threatening her as I was mad with rage and ready to do
the deed that I had dreamed of on the spot, what do you think she said?"

"That you were a good fellow, and would certainly not have the
atrocious courage to--"

"Tut! tut! tut! I am not such a good fellow as you think. I am not
frightened of blood, and that I have proved already, though it would be
useless to tell you how and where. But I had no necessity to prove it
to her, for she knows that I am capable of a good many things; even of
crime; especially of one crime."

"And she was not frightened?"

"No. She merely replied that I could not do what I said; you
understand. That I could not do it!"

"Why not?"

"Ah! Monsieur, so you do not understand? Why do you not? I have I not
explained to you by what constant, long, daily practice I have learned
to plant my knives without seeing what I am doing?"

"Yes, well, what then?"

"Well! Cannot you understand what she has understood with such terrible
results, that now my hand would no longer obey me if I wished to make a
mistake as I threw?"

"Is it possible?"

"Nothing is truer, I am sorry to say. For I really have wished to have
the revenge which I have dreamed of, and which I thought so easy.
Exasperated by that bad woman's insolence and confidence in her own
safety, I have several times made up my mind to kill her, and have
exerted all my energy and all my skill to make my knives fly aside when
I threw them to make a border round her neck. I have tried with all my
might to make them deviate half an inch, just enough to cut her throat.
I wanted to, and I have never succeeded, never. And always the slut's
horrible laugh makes fun of me, always, always."

And with a deluge of tears, with something like a roar of unsatiated
and muzzled rage, he ground his teeth as he wound up: "She knows me,
the jade; she is in the secret of my work, of my patience, of my trick,
routine, whatever you may call it! She lives in my innermost being, and
sees into it more closely than you do, or than I do myself. She knows
what a faultless machine I have become, the machine of which she makes
fun, the machine which is too well wound up, the machine which cannot
get out of order--and she knows that I CANNOT make a mistake."



THE HORLA

MAY 8. What a lovely day! I have spent all the morning lying on the
grass in front of my house, under the enormous plantain tree which
covers and shades and shelters the whole of it. I like this part of the
country; I am fond of living here because I am attached to it by deep
roots, the profound and delicate roots which attach a man to the soil
on which his ancestors were born and died, to their traditions, their
usages, their food, the local expressions, the peculiar language of the
peasants, the smell of the soil, the hamlets, and to the atmosphere
itself.

I love the house in which I grew up. From my windows I can see the
Seine, which flows by the side of my garden, on the other side of the
road, almost through my grounds, the great and wide Seine, which goes
to Rouen and Havre, and which is covered with boats passing to and fro.

On the left, down yonder, lies Rouen, populous Rouen with its blue
roofs massing under pointed, Gothic towers. Innumerable are they,
delicate or broad, dominated by the spire of the cathedral, full of
bells which sound through the blue air on fine mornings, sending their
sweet and distant iron clang to me, their metallic sounds, now stronger
and now weaker, according as the wind is strong or light.

What a delicious morning it was! About eleven o'clock, a long line of
boats drawn by a steam-tug, as big a fly, and which scarcely puffed
while emitting its thick smoke, passed my gate.

After two English schooners, whose red flags fluttered toward the sky,
there came a magnificent Brazilian three-master; it was perfectly white
and wonderfully clean and shining. I saluted it, I hardly know why,
except that the sight of the vessel gave me great pleasure.

May 12. I have had a slight feverish attack for the last few days, and
I feel ill, or rather I feel low-spirited.

Whence come those mysterious influences which change our happiness into
discouragement, and our self-confidence into diffidence? One might
almost say that the air, the invisible air, is full of unknowable
Forces, whose mysterious presence we have to endure. I wake up in the
best of spirits, with an inclination to sing in my heart. Why? I go
down by the side of the water, and suddenly, after walking a short
distance, I return home wretched, as if some misfortune were awaiting
me there. Why? Is it a cold shiver which, passing over my skin, has
upset my nerves and given me a fit of low spirits? Is it the form of
the clouds, or the tints of the sky, or the colors of the surrounding
objects which are so change-able, which have troubled my thoughts as
they passed before my eyes? Who can tell? Everything that surrounds us,
everything that we see without looking at it, everything that we touch
without knowing it, everything that we handle without feeling it,
everything that we meet without clearly distinguishing it, has a rapid,
surprising, and inexplicable effect upon us and upon our organs, and
through them on our ideas and on our being itself.

How profound that mystery of the Invisible is! We cannot fathom it with
our miserable senses: our eyes are unable to perceive what is either
too small or too great, too near to or too far from us; we can see
neither the inhabitants of a star nor of a drop of water; our ears
deceive us, for they transmit to us the vibrations of the air in
sonorous notes. Our senses are fairies who work the miracle of changing
that movement into noise, and by that metamorphosis give birth to
music, which makes the mute agitation of nature a harmony. So with our
sense of smell, which is weaker than that of a dog, and so with our
sense of taste, which can scarcely distinguish the age of a wine!

Oh! If we only had other organs which could work other miracles in our
favor, what a number of fresh things we might discover around us!

May 16. I am ill, decidedly! I was so well last month! I am feverish,
horribly feverish, or rather I am in a state of feverish enervation,
which makes my mind suffer as much as my body. I have without ceasing
the horrible sensation of some danger threatening me, the apprehension
of some coming misfortune or of approaching death, a presentiment which
is no doubt, an attack of some illness still unnamed, which germinates
in the flesh and in the blood.

May 18. I have just come from consulting my medical man, for I can no
longer get any sleep. He found that my pulse was high, my eyes dilated,
my nerves highly strung, but no alarming symptoms. I must have a course
of shower baths and of bromide of potassium.

May 25. No change! My state is really very peculiar. As the evening
comes on, an incomprehensible feeling of disquietude seizes me, just as
if night concealed some terrible menace toward me. I dine quickly, and
then try to read, but I do not understand the words, and can scarcely
distinguish the letters. Then I walk up and down my drawing-room,
oppressed by a feeling of confused and irresistible fear, a fear of
sleep and a fear of my bed.

About ten o'clock I go up to my room. As soon as I have entered I lock
and bolt the door. I am frightened--of what? Up till the present time I
have been frightened of nothing. I open my cupboards, and look under my
bed; I listen--I listen--to what? How strange it is that a simple
feeling of discomfort, of impeded or heightened circulation, perhaps
the irritation of a nervous center, a slight congestion, a small
disturbance in the imperfect and delicate functions of our living
machinery, can turn the most light-hearted of men into a melancholy
one, and make a coward of the bravest? Then, I go to bed, and I wait
for sleep as a man might wait for the executioner. I wait for its
coming with dread, and my heart beats and my legs tremble, while my
whole body shivers beneath the warmth of the bedclothes, until the
moment when I suddenly fall asleep, as a man throws himself into a pool
of stagnant water in order to drown. I do not feel this perfidious
sleep coming over me as I used to, but a sleep which is close to me and
watching me, which is going to seize me by the head, to close my eyes
and annihilate me.

I sleep--a long time--two or three hours perhaps--then a dream--no--a
nightmare lays hold on me. I feel that I am in bed and asleep--I feel
it and I know it--and I feel also that somebody is coming close to me,
is looking at me, touching me, is getting on to my bed, is kneeling on
my chest, is taking my neck between his hands and squeezing
it--squeezing it with all his might in order to strangle me.

I struggle, bound by that terrible powerlessness which paralyzes us in
our dreams; I try to cry out--but I cannot; I want to move--I cannot; I
try, with the most violent efforts and out of breath, to turn over and
throw off this being which is crushing and suffocating me--I cannot!

And then suddenly I wake up, shaken and bathed in perspiration; I light
a candle and find that I am alone, and after that crisis, which occurs
every night, I at length fall asleep and slumber tranquilly till
morning.

June 2. My state has grown worse. What is the matter with me? The
bromide does me no good, and the shower-baths have no effect whatever.
Sometimes, in order to tire myself out, though I am fatigued enough
already, I go for a walk in the forest of Roumare. I used to think at
first that the fresh light and soft air, impregnated with the odor of
herbs and leaves, would instill new life into my veins and impart fresh
energy to my heart. One day I turned into a broad ride in the wood, and
then I diverged toward La Bouille, through a narrow path, between two
rows of exceedingly tall trees, which placed a thick, green, almost
black roof between the sky and me.

A sudden shiver ran through me, not a cold shiver, but a shiver of
agony, and so I hastened my steps, uneasy at being alone in the wood,
frightened stupidly and without reason, at the profound solitude.
Suddenly it seemed as if I were being followed, that somebody was
walking at my heels, close, quite close to me, near enough to touch me.

I turned round suddenly, but I was alone. I saw nothing behind me
except the straight, broad ride, empty and bordered by high trees,
horribly empty; on the other side also it extended until it was lost in
the distance, and looked just the same--terrible.

I closed my eyes. Why? And then I began to turn round on one heel very
quickly, just like a top. I nearly fell down, and opened my eyes; the
trees were dancing round me and the earth heaved; I was obliged to sit
down. Then, ah! I no longer remembered how I had come! What a strange
idea! What a strange, strange idea! I did not the least know. I started
off to the right, and got back into the avenue which had led me into
the middle of the forest.

June 3. I have had a terrible night. I shall go away for a few weeks,
for no doubt a journey will set me up again.

July 2. I have come back, quite cured, and have had a most delightful
trip into the bargain. I have been to Mont Saint-Michel, which I had
not seen before.

What a sight, when one arrives as I did, at Avranches toward the end of
the day! The town stands on a hill, and I was taken into the public
garden at the extremity of the town. I uttered a cry of astonishment.
An extraordinarily large bay lay extended before me, as far as my eyes
could reach, between two hills which were lost to sight in the mist;
and in the middle of this immense yellow bay, under a clear, golden
sky, a peculiar hill rose up, somber and pointed in the midst of the
sand. The sun had just disappeared, and under the still flaming sky
stood out the outline of that fantastic rock which bears on its summit
a picturesque monument.

At daybreak I went to it. The tide was low, as it had been the night
before, and I saw that wonderful abbey rise up before me as I
approached it. After several hours' walking, I reached the enormous
mass of rock which supports the little town, dominated by the great
church. Having climbed the steep and narrow street, I entered the most
wonderful Gothic building that has ever been erected to God on earth,
large as a town, and full of low rooms which seem buried beneath
vaulted roofs, and of lofty galleries supported by delicate columns.

I entered this gigantic granite jewel, which is as light in its effect
as a bit of lace and is covered with towers, with slender belfries to
which spiral staircases ascend. The flying buttresses raise strange
heads that bristle with chimeras, with devils, with fantastic ani-mals,
with monstrous flowers, are joined together by finely carved arches, to
the blue sky by day, and to the black sky by night.

When I had reached the summit. I said to the monk who accompanied me:
"Father, how happy you must be here!" And he replied: "It is very
windy, Monsieur"; and so we began to talk while watching the rising
tide, which ran over the sand and covered it with a steel cuirass.

And then the monk told me stories, all the old stories belonging to the
place--legends, nothing but legends.

One of them struck me forcibly. The country people, those belonging to
the Mornet, declare that at night one can hear talking going on in the
sand, and also that two goats bleat, one with a strong, the other with
a weak voice. Incredulous people declare that it is nothing but the
screaming of the sea birds, which occasionally resembles bleatings, and
occasionally human lamentations; but belated fishermen swear that they
have met an old shepherd, whose cloak covered head they can never see,
wandering on the sand, between two tides, round the little town placed
so far out of the world. They declare he is guiding and walking before
a he-goat with a man's face and a she-goat with a woman's face, both
with white hair, who talk incessantly, quarreling in a strange
language, and then suddenly cease talking in order to bleat with all
their might.

"Do you believe it?" I asked the monk. "I scarcely know," he replied;
and I continued: "If there are other beings besides ourselves on this
earth, how comes it that we have not known it for so long a time, or
why have you not seen them? How is it that I have not seen them?"

He replied: "Do we see the hundred-thousandth part of what exists? Look
here; there is the wind, which is the strongest force in nature. It
knocks down men, and blows down buildings, uproots trees, raises the
sea into mountains of water, destroys cliffs and casts great ships on
to the breakers; it kills, it whistles, it sighs, it roars. But have
you ever seen it, and can you see it? Yet it exists for all that."

I was silent before this simple reasoning. That man was a philosopher,
or perhaps a fool; I could not say which exactly, so I held my tongue.
What he had said had often been in my own thoughts.

July 3. I have slept badly; certainly there is some feverish influence
here, for my coachman is suffering in the same way as I am. When I went
back home yesterday, I noticed his singular paleness, and I asked him:
"What is the matter with you, Jean?"

"The matter is that I never get any rest, and my nights devour my days.
Since your departure, Monsieur, there has been a spell over me."

However, the other servants are all well, but I am very frightened of
having another attack, myself.

July 4. I am decidedly taken again; for my old nightmares have
returned. Last night I felt somebody leaning on me who was sucking my
life from between my lips with his mouth. Yes, he was sucking it out of
my neck like a leech would have done. Then he got up, satiated, and I
woke up, so beaten, crushed, and annihilated that I could not move. If
this continues for a few days, I shall certainly go away again.

July 5. Have I lost my reason? What has happened? What I saw last night
is so strange that my head wanders when I think of it!

As I do now every evening, I had locked my door; then, being thirsty, I
drank half a glass of water, and I accidentally noticed that the
water-bottle was full up to the cut-glass stopper.

Then I went to bed and fell into one of my terrible sleeps, from which
I was aroused in about two hours by a still more terrible shock.

Picture to yourself a sleeping man who is being murdered, who wakes up
with a knife in his chest, a gurgling in his throat, is covered with
blood, can no longer breathe, is going to die and does not understand
anything at all about it--there you have it.

Having recovered my senses, I was thirsty again, so I lighted a candle
and went to the table on which my water-bottle was. I lifted it up and
tilted it over my glass, but nothing came out. It was empty! It was
completely empty! At first I could not understand it at all; then
suddenly I was seized by such a terrible feeling that I had to sit
down, or rather fall into a chair! Then I sprang up with a bound to
look about me; then I sat down again, overcome by astonishment and
fear, in front of the transparent crystal bottle! I looked at it with
fixed eyes, trying to solve the puzzle, and my hands trembled! Some
body had drunk the water, but who? I? I without any doubt. It could
surely only be I? In that case I was a somnambulist--was living,
without knowing it, that double, mysterious life which makes us doubt
whether there are not two beings in us--whether a strange, unknowable,
and invisible being does not, during our moments of mental and physical
torpor, animate the inert body, forcing it to a more willing obedience
than it yields to ourselves.

Oh! Who will understand my horrible agony? Who will understand the
emotion of a man sound in mind, wide-awake, full of sense, who looks in
horror at the disappearance of a little water while he was asleep,
through the glass of a water-bottle! And I remained sitting until it
was daylight, without venturing to go to bed again.

July 6. I am going mad. Again all the contents of my water-bottle have
been drunk during the night; or rather I have drunk it!

But is it I? Is it I? Who could it be? Who? Oh! God! Am I going mad?
Who will save me?

July 10. I have just been through some surprising ordeals. Undoubtedly
I must be mad! And yet!

On July 6, before going to bed, I put some wine, milk, water, bread,
and strawberries on my table. Somebody drank--I drank--all the water
and a little of the milk, but neither the wine, nor the bread, nor the
strawberries were touched.

On the seventh of July I renewed the same experiment, with the same
results, and on July 8 I left out the water and the milk and nothing
was touched.

Lastly, on July 9 I put only water and milk on my table, taking care to
wrap up the bottles in white muslin and to tie down the stoppers. Then
I rubbed my lips, my beard, and my hands with pencil lead, and went to
bed.

Deep slumber seized me, soon followed by a terrible awakening. I had
not moved, and my sheets were not marked. I rushed to the table. The
muslin round the bottles remained intact; I undid the string, trembling
with fear. All the water had been drunk, and so had the milk! Ah! Great
God! I must start for Paris immediately.

July 12. Paris. I must have lost my head during the last few days! I
must be the plaything of my enervated imagination, unless I am really a
somnambulist, or I have been brought under the power of one of those
influences--hypnotic suggestion, for example--which are known to exist,
but have hitherto been inexplicable. In any case, my mental state
bordered on madness, and twenty-four hours of Paris sufficed to restore
me to my equilibrium.

Yesterday after doing some business and paying some visits, which
instilled fresh and invigorating mental air into me, I wound up my
evening at the Theatre Francais. A drama by Alexander Dumas the Younger
was being acted, and his brilliant and powerful play completed my cure.
Certainly solitude is dangerous for active minds. We need men who can
think and can talk, around us. When we are alone for a long time, we
people space with phantoms.

I returned along the boulevards to my hotel in excellent spirits. Amid
the jostling of the crowd I thought, not without irony, of my terrors
and surmises of the previous week, because I believed, yes, I believed,
that an invisible being lived beneath my roof. How weak our mind is;
how quickly it is terrified and unbalanced as soon as we are confronted
with a small, incomprehensible fact. Instead of dismissing the problem
with: "We do not understand because we cannot find the cause," we
immediately imagine terrible mysteries and supernatural powers.

July 14. Fete of the Republic. I walked through the streets, and the
crackers and flags amused me like a child. Still, it is very foolish to
make merry on a set date, by Government decree. People are like a flock
of sheep, now steadily patient, now in ferocious revolt. Say to it:
"Amuse yourself," and it amuses itself. Say to it: "Go and fight with
your neighbor," and it goes and fights. Say to it: "Vote for the
Emperor," and it votes for the Emperor; then say to it: "Vote for the
Republic," and it votes for the Republic.

Those who direct it are stupid, too; but instead of obeying men they
obey principles, a course which can only be foolish, ineffective, and
false, for the very reason that principles are ideas which are
considered as certain and unchangeable, whereas in this world one is
certain of nothing, since light is an illusion and noise is deception.

July 16. I saw some things yesterday that troubled me very much. I was
dining at my cousin's, Madame Sable, whose husband is colonel of the
Seventy-sixth Chasseurs at Limoges. There were two young women there,
one of whom had married a medical man, Dr. Parent, who devotes himself
a great deal to nervous diseases and to the extraordinary
manifestations which just now experiments in hypnotism and suggestion
are producing.

He related to us at some length the enormous results obtained by
English scientists and the doctors of the medical school at Nancy, and
the facts which he adduced appeared to me so strange, that I declared
that I was altogether incredulous.

"We are," he declared, "on the point of discovering one of the most
important secrets of nature, I mean to say, one of its most important
secrets on this earth, for assuredly there are some up in the stars,
yonder, of a different kind of importance. Ever since man has thought,
since he has been able to express and write down his thoughts, he has
felt himself close to a mystery which is impenetrable to his coarse and
imperfect senses, and he endeavors to supplement the feeble penetration
of his organs by the efforts of his intellect. As long as that
intellect remained in its elementary stage, this intercourse with
invisible spirits assumed forms which were commonplace though
terrifying. Thence sprang the popular belief in the supernatural, the
legends of wandering spirits, of fairies, of gnomes, of ghosts, I might
even say the conception of God, for our ideas of the Workman-Creator,
from whatever religion they may have come down to us, are certainly the
most mediocre, the stupidest, and the most unacceptable inventions that
ever sprang from the frightened brain of any human creature. Nothing is
truer than what Voltaire says: 'If God made man in His own image, man
has certainly paid Him back again.'

"But for rather more than a century, men seem to have had a
presentiment of something new. Mesmer and some others have put us on an
unexpected track, and within the last two or three years especially, we
have arrived at results really surprising."

My cousin, who is also very incredulous, smiled, and Dr. Parent said to
her: "Would you like me to try and send you to sleep, Madame?"

"Yes, certainly."

She sat down in an easy-chair, and he began to look at her fixedly, as
if to fascinate her. I suddenly felt myself somewhat discomposed; my
heart beat rapidly and I had a choking feeling in my throat. I saw that
Madame Sable's eyes were growing heavy, her mouth twitched, and her
bosom heaved, and at the end of ten minutes she was asleep.

"Go behind her," the doctor said to me; so I took a seat behind her. He
put a visiting-card into her hands, and said to her: "This is a
looking-glass; what do you see in it?"

She replied: "I see my cousin."

"What is he doing?"

"He is twisting his mustache."

"And now?"

"He is taking a photograph out of his pocket."

"Whose photograph is it?"

"His own."

That was true, for the photograph had been given me that same evening
at the hotel.

"What is his attitude in this portrait?"

"He is standing up with his hat in his hand."

She saw these things in that card, in that piece of white pasteboard,
as if she had seen them in a looking-glass.

The young women were frightened, and exclaimed: "That is quite enough!
Quite, quite enough!"

But the doctor said to her authoritatively: "You will get up at eight
o'clock to-morrow morning; then you will go and call on your cousin at
his hotel and ask him to lend you the five thousand francs which your
husband asks of you, and which he will ask for when he sets out on his
coming journey."

Then he woke her up.

On returning to my hotel, I thought over this curious seance and I was
assailed by doubts, not as to my cousin's absolute and undoubted good
faith, for I had known her as well as if she had been my own sister
ever since she was a child, but as to a possible trick on the doctor's
part. Had not he, perhaps, kept a glass hidden in his hand, which he
showed to the young woman in her sleep at the same time as he did the
card? Professional conjurers do things which are just as singular.

However, I went to bed, and this morning, at about half past eight, I
was awakened by my footman, who said to me: "Madame Sable has asked to
see you immediately, Monsieur." I dressed hastily and went to her.

She sat down in some agitation, with her eyes on the floor, and without
raising her veil said to me: "My dear cousin, I am going to ask a great
favor of you."

"What is it, cousin?"

"I do not like to tell you, and yet I must. I am in absolute want of
five thousand francs."

"What, you?"

"Yes, I, or rather my husband, who has asked me to procure them for
him."

I was so stupefied that I hesitated to answer. I asked myself whether
she had not really been making fun of me with Dr. Parent, if it were
not merely a very well-acted farce which had been got up beforehand. On
looking at her attentively, however, my doubts disappeared. She was
trembling with grief, so painful was this step to her, and I was sure
that her throat was full of sobs.

I knew that she was very rich and so I continued: "What! Has not your
husband five thousand francs at his disposal? Come, think. Are you sure
that he commissioned you to ask me for them?"

She hesitated for a few seconds, as if she were making a great effort
to search her memory, and then she replied: "Yes--yes, I am quite sure
of it."

"He has written to you?"

She hesitated again and reflected, and I guessed the torture of her
thoughts. She did not know. She only knew that she was to borrow five
thousand francs of me for her husband. So she told a lie.

"Yes, he has written to me."

"When, pray? You did not mention it to me yesterday."

"I received his letter this morning."

"Can you show it to me?"

"No; no--no--it contained private matters, things too personal to
ourselves. I burned it."

"So your husband runs into debt?"

She hesitated again, and then murmured: "I do not know."

Thereupon I said bluntly: "I have not five thousand francs at my
disposal at this moment, my dear cousin."

She uttered a cry, as if she were in pair; and said: "Oh! oh! I beseech
you, I beseech you to get them for me."

She got excited and clasped her hands as if she were praying to me! I
heard her voice change its tone; she wept and sobbed, harassed and
dominated by the irresistible order that she had received.

"Oh! oh! I beg you to--if you knew what I am suffering--I want them
to-day."

I had pity on her: "You shall have them by and by, I swear to you."

"Oh! thank you! thank you! How kind you are."

I continued: "Do you remember what took place at your house last night?"

"Yes."

"Do you remember that Dr. Parent sent you to sleep?"

"Yes."

"Oh! Very well then; he ordered you to come to me this morning to
borrow five thousand francs, and at this moment you are obeying that
suggestion."

She considered for a few moments, and then replied: "But as it is my
husband who wants them--"

For a whole hour I tried to convince her, but could not succeed, and
when she had gone I went to the doctor. He was just going out, and he
listened to me with a smile, and said: "Do you believe now?"

"Yes, I cannot help it."

"Let us go to your cousin's."

She was already resting on a couch, overcome with fatigue. The doctor
felt her pulse, looked at her for some time with one hand raised toward
her eyes, which she closed by degrees under the irresistible power of
this magnetic influence. When she was asleep, he said:

"Your husband does not require the five thousand francs any longer! You
must, therefore, forget that you asked your cousin to lend them to you,
and, if he speaks to you about it, you will not understand him."

Then he woke her up, and I took out a pocket-book and said: "Here is
what you asked me for this morning, my dear cousin." But she was so
surprised, that I did not venture to persist; nevertheless, I tried to
recall the circumstance to her, but she denied it vigorously, thought
that I was making fun of her, and in the end, very nearly lost her
temper.

There! I have just come back, and I have not been able to eat any
lunch, for this experiment has altogether upset me.

July 19. Many people to whom I have told the adventure have laughed at
me. I no longer know what to think. The wise man says: Perhaps?

July 21. I dined at Bougival, and then I spent the evening at a
boatmen's ball. Decidedly everything depends on place and surroundings.
It would be the height of folly to believe in the supernatural on the
Ile de la Grenouilliere.[1] But on the top of Mont Saint-Michel or in
India, we are terribly under the influence of our surroundings. I shall
return home next week.

July 30. I came back to my own house yesterday. Everything is going on
well.

August 2. Nothing fresh; it is splendid weather, and I spend my days in
watching the Seine flow past.

August 4. Quarrels among my servants. They declare that the glasses are
broken in the cupboards at night. The footman accuses the cook, she
accuses the needlewoman, and the latter accuses the other two. Who is
the culprit? It would take a clever person to tell.

August 6. This time, I am not mad. I have seen--I have seen--I have
seen!--I can doubt no longer--I have seen it!

I was walking at two o'clock among my rose-trees, in the full
sunlight--in the walk bordered by autumn roses which are beginning to
fall. As I stopped to look at a Geant de Bataille, which had three
splendid blooms, I distinctly saw the stalk of one of the roses bend
close to me, as if an invisible hand had bent it, and then break, as if
that hand had picked it! Then the flower raised itself, following the
curve which a hand would have described in carrying it toward a mouth,
and remained suspended in the transparent air, alone and motionless, a
terrible red spot, three yards from my eyes. In desperation I rushed at
it to take it! I found nothing; it had disappeared. Then I was seized
with furious rage against myself, for it is not wholesome for a
reasonable and serious man to have such hallucinations.

But was it a hallucination? I turned to look for the stalk, and I found
it immediately under the bush, freshly broken, between the two other
roses which remained on the branch. I returned home, then, with a much
disturbed mind; for I am certain now, certain as I am of the
alternation of day and night, that there exists close to me an
invisible being who lives on milk and on water, who can touch objects,
take them and change their places; who is, consequently, endowed with a
material nature, although imperceptible to sense, and who lives as I
do, under my roof--

August 7. I slept tranquilly. He drank the water out of my decanter,
but did not disturb my sleep.

I ask myself whether I am mad. As I was walking just now in the sun by
the riverside, doubts as to my own sanity arose in me; not vague doubts
such as I have had hitherto, but precise and absolute doubts. I have
seen mad people, and I have known some who were quite intelligent,
lucid, even clear-sighted in every concern of life, except on one
point. They could speak clearly, readily, profoundly on everything;
till their thoughts were caught in the breakers of their delusions and
went to pieces there, were dispersed and swamped in that furious and
terrible sea of fogs and squalls which is called MADNESS.

I certainly should think that I was mad, absolutely mad, if I were not
conscious that I knew my state, if I could not fathom it and analyze it
with the most complete lucidity. I should, in fact, be a reasonable man
laboring under a hallucination. Some unknown disturbance must have been
excited in my brain, one of those disturbances which physiologists of
the present day try to note and to fix precisely, and that disturbance
must have caused a profound gulf in my mind and in the order and logic
of my ideas. Similar phenomena occur in dreams, and lead us through the
most unlikely phantasmagoria, without causing us any surprise, because
our verifying apparatus and our sense of control have gone to sleep,
while our imaginative faculty wakes and works. Was it not possible that
one of the imperceptible keys of the cerebral finger-board had been
paralyzed in me? Some men lose the recollection of proper names, or of
verbs, or of numbers, or merely of dates, in consequence of an
accident. The localization of all the avenues of thought has been
accomplished nowadays; what, then, would there be surprising in the
fact that my faculty of controlling the unreality of certain
hallucinations should be destroyed for the time being?

I thought of all this as I walked by the side of the water. The sun was
shining brightly on the river and made earth delightful, while it
filled me with love for life, for the swallows, whose swift agility is
always delightful in my eyes, for the plants by the riverside, whose
rustling is a pleasure to my ears.

By degrees, however, an inexplicable feeling of discomfort seized me.
It seemed to me as if some unknown force were numbing and stopping me,
were preventing me from going further and were calling me back. I felt
that painful wish to return which comes on you when you have left a
beloved invalid at home, and are seized by a presentiment that he is
worse.

I, therefore, returned despite of myself, feeling certain that I should
find some bad news awaiting me, a letter or a telegram. There was
nothing, however, and I was surprised and uneasy, more so than if I had
had another fantastic vision.

August 8. I spent a terrible evening, yesterday. He does not show
himself any more, but I feel that He is near me, watching me, looking
at me, penetrating me, dominating me, and more terrible to me when He
hides himself thus than if He were to manifest his constant and
invisible presence by supernatural phenomena. However, I slept.

August 9. Nothing, but I am afraid.

August 10. Nothing; but what will happen to-morrow?

August 11. Still nothing. I cannot stop at home with this fear hanging
over me and these thoughts in my mind; I shall go away.

August 12. Ten o'clock at night. All day long I have been trying to get
away, and have not been able. I contemplated a simple and easy act of
liberty, a carriage ride to Rouen--and I have not been able to do it.
What is the reason?

August 13. When one is attacked by certain maladies, the springs of our
physical being seem broken, our energies destroyed, our muscles
relaxed, our bones to be as soft as our flesh, and our blood as liquid
as water. I am experiencing the same in my moral being, in a strange
and distressing manner. I have no longer any strength, any courage, any
self-control, nor even any power to set my own will in motion. I have
no power left to WILL anything, but some one does it for me and I obey.

August 14. I am lost! Somebody possesses my soul and governs it!
Somebody orders all my acts, all my movements, all my thoughts. I am no
longer master of myself, nothing except an enslaved and terrified
spectator of the things which I do. I wish to go out; I cannot. HE does
not wish to; and so I remain, trembling and distracted in the armchair
in which he keeps me sitting. I merely wish to get up and to rouse
myself, so as to think that I am still master of myself: I cannot! I am
riveted to my chair, and my chair adheres to the floor in such a manner
that no force of mine can move us.

Then suddenly, I must, I MUST go to the foot of my garden to pick some
strawberries and eat them--and I go there. I pick the strawberries and
I eat them! Oh! my God! my God! Is there a God? If there be one,
deliver me! save me! succor me! Pardon! Pity! Mercy! Save me! Oh! what
sufferings! what torture! what horror!

August 15. Certainly this is the way in which my poor cousin was
possessed and swayed, when she came to borrow five thousand francs of
me. She was under the power of a strange will which had entered into
her, like another soul, a parasitic and ruling soul. Is the world
coming to an end?

But who is he, this invisible being that rules me, this unknowable
being, this rover of a supernatural race?

Invisible beings exist, then! how is it, then, that since the beginning
of the world they have never manifested themselves in such a manner as
they do to me? I have never read anything that resembles what goes on
in my house. Oh! If I could only leave it, if I could only go away and
flee, and never return, I should be saved; but I cannot.

August 16. I managed to escape to-day for two hours, like a prisoner
who finds the door of his dungeon accidentally open. I suddenly felt
that I was free and that He was far away, and so I gave orders to put
the horses in as quickly as possible, and I drove to Rouen. Oh! how
delightful to be able to say to my coachman: "Go to Rouen!"

I made him pull up before the library, and I begged them to lend me Dr.
Herrmann Herestauss's treatise on the unknown inhabitants of the
ancient and modern world.

Then, as I was getting into my carriage, I intended to say: "To the
railway station!" but instead of this I shouted--I did not speak; but I
shouted--in such a loud voice that all the passers-by turned round:
"Home!" and I fell back on to the cushion of my carriage, overcome by
mental agony. He had found me out and regained possession of me.

August 17. Oh! What a night! what a night! And yet it seems to me that
I ought to rejoice. I read until one o'clock in the morning!
Herestauss, Doctor of Philosophy and Theogony, wrote the history and
the manifestation of all those invisible beings which hover around man,
or of whom he dreams. He describes their origin, their domains, their
power; but none of them resembles the one which haunts me. One might
say that man, ever since he has thought, has had a foreboding and a
fear of a new being, stronger than himself, his successor in this
world, and that, feeling him near, and not being able to foretell the
nature of the unseen one, he has, in his terror, created the whole race
of hidden beings, vague phantoms born of fear.

Having, therefore, read until one o'clock in the morning, I went and
sat down at the open window, in order to cool my forehead and my
thoughts in the calm night air. It was very pleasant and warm! How I
should have enjoyed such a night formerly!

There was no moon, but the stars darted out their rays in the dark
heavens. Who inhabits those worlds? What forms, what living beings,
what animals are there yonder? Do those who are thinkers in those
distant worlds know more than we do? What can they do more than we?
What do they see which we do not? Will not one of them, some day or
other, traversing space, appear on our earth to conquer it, just as
formerly the Norsemen crossed the sea in order to subjugate nations
feebler than themselves?

We are so weak, so powerless, so ignorant, so small--we who live on
this particle of mud which revolves in liquid air.

I fell asleep, dreaming thus in the cool night air, and then, having
slept for about three quarters of an hour, I opened my eyes without
moving, awakened by an indescribably confused and strange sensation. At
first I saw nothing, and then suddenly it appeared to me as if a page
of the book, which had remained open on my table, turned over of its
own accord. Not a breath of air had come in at my window, and I was
surprised and waited. In about four minutes, I saw, I saw--yes I saw
with my own eyes--another page lift itself up and fall down on the
others, as if a finger had turned it over. My armchair was empty,
appeared empty, but I knew that He was there, He, and sitting in my
place, and that He was reading. With a furious bound, the bound of an
enraged wild beast that wishes to disembowel its tamer, I crossed my
room to seize him, to strangle him, to kill him! But before I could
reach it, my chair fell over as if somebody had run away from me. My
table rocked, my lamp fell and went out, and my window closed as if
some thief had been surprised and had fled out into the night, shutting
it behind him.

So He had run away; He had been afraid; He, afraid of me!

So to-morrow, or later--some day or other, I should be able to hold him
in my clutches and crush him against the ground! Do not dogs
occasionally bite and strangle their masters?

August 18. I have been thinking the whole day long. Oh! yes, I will
obey Him, follow His impulses, fulfill all His wishes, show myself
humble, submissive, a coward. He is the stronger; but an hour will come.

August 19. I know, I know, I know all! I have just read the following
in the "Revue du Monde Scientifique": "A curious piece of news comes to
us from Rio de Janeiro. Madness, an epidemic of madness, which may be
compared to that contagious madness which attacked the people of Europe
in the Middle Ages, is at this moment raging in the Province of
San-Paulo. The frightened inhabitants are leaving their houses,
deserting their villages, abandoning their land, saying that they are
pursued, possessed, governed like human cattle by invisible, though
tangible beings, by a species of vampire, which feeds on their life
while they are asleep, and which, besides, drinks water and milk
without appearing to touch any other nourishment.

"Professor Don Pedro Henriques, accompanied by several medical savants,
has gone to the Province of San-Paulo, in order to study the origin and
the manifestations of this surprising madness on the spot, and to
propose such measures to the Emperor as may appear to him to be most
fitted to restore the mad population to reason."

Ah! Ah! I remember now that fine Brazilian three-master which passed in
front of my windows as it was going up the Seine, on the eighth of last
May! I thought it looked so pretty, so white and bright! That Being was
on board of her, coming from there, where its race sprang from. And it
saw me! It saw my house, which was also white, and He sprang from the
ship on to the land. Oh! Good heavens!

Now I know, I can divine. The reign of man is over, and he has come. He
whom disquieted priests exorcised, whom sorcerers evoked on dark
nights, without seeing him appear, He to whom the imaginations of the
transient masters of the world lent all the monstrous or graceful forms
of gnomes, spirits, genii, fairies, and familiar spirits. After the
coarse conceptions of primitive fear, men more enlightened gave him a
truer form. Mesmer divined him, and ten years ago physicians accurately
discovered the nature of his power, even before He exercised it
himself. They played with that weapon of their new Lord, the sway of a
mysterious will over the human soul, which had become enslaved. They
called it mesmerism, hypnotism, suggestion, I know not what? I have
seen them diverting themselves like rash children with this horrible
power! Woe to us! Woe to man! He has come, the--the--what does He call
himself--the--I fancy that he is shouting out his name to me and I do
not hear him--the--yes--He is shouting it out--I am listening--I
cannot--repeat--it--Horla--I have heard--the Horla--it is He--the
Horla--He has come!--

Ah! the vulture has eaten the pigeon, the wolf has eaten the lamb; the
lion has devoured the sharp-horned buffalo; man has killed the lion
with an arrow, with a spear, with gunpowder; but the Horla will make of
man what man has made of the horse and of the ox: his chattel, his
slave, and his food, by the mere power of his will. Woe to us!

But, nevertheless, sometimes the animal rebels and kills the man who
has subjugated it. I should also like--I shall be able to--but I must
know Him, touch Him, see Him! Learned men say that eyes of animals, as
they differ from ours, do not distinguish as ours do. And my eye cannot
distinguish this newcomer who is oppressing me.

Why? Oh! Now I remember the words of the monk at Mont Saint-Michel:
"Can we see the hundred-thousandth part of what exists? Listen; there
is the wind which is the strongest force in nature; it knocks men down,
blows down buildings, uproots trees, raises the sea into mountains of
water, destroys cliffs, and casts great ships on to the breakers; it
kills, it whistles, it sighs, it roars,--have you ever seen it, and can
you see it? It exists for all that, however!"

And I went on thinking: my eyes are so weak, so imperfect, that they do
not even distinguish hard bodies, if they are as transparent as glass!
If a glass without quicksilver behind it were to bar my way, I should
run into it, just like a bird which has flown into a room breaks its
head against the windowpanes. A thousand things, moreover, deceive a
man and lead him astray. How then is it surprising that he cannot
perceive a new body which is penetrated and pervaded by the light?

A new being! Why not? It was assuredly bound to come! Why should we be
the last? We do not distinguish it, like all the others created before
us? The reason is, that its nature is more delicate, its body finer and
more finished than ours. Our makeup is so weak, so awkwardly conceived;
our body is encumbered with organs that are always tired, always being
strained like locks that are too complicated; it lives like a plant and
like an animal nourishing itself with difficulty on air, herbs, and
flesh; it is a brute machine which is a prey to maladies, to
malformations, to decay; it is broken-winded, badly regulated, simple
and eccentric, ingeniously yet badly made, a coarse and yet a delicate
mechanism, in brief, the outline of a being which might become
intelligent and great.

There are only a few--so few--stages of development in this world, from
the oyster up to man. Why should there not be one more, when once that
period is accomplished which separates the successive products one from
the other?

Why not one more? Why not, also, other trees with immense, splendid
flowers, perfuming whole regions? Why not other elements beside fire,
air, earth, and water? There are four, only four, nursing fathers of
various beings! What a pity! Why should not there be forty, four
hundred, four thousand! How poor everything is, how mean and
wretched--grudgingly given, poorly invented, clumsily made! Ah! the
elephant and the hippopotamus, what power! And the camel, what
suppleness!

But the butterfly, you will say, a flying flower! I dream of one that
should be as large as a hundred worlds, with wings whose shape, beauty,
colors, and motion I cannot even express. But I see it--it flutters
from star to star, refreshing them and perfuming them with the light
and harmonious breath of its flight! And the people up there gaze at it
as it passes in an ecstasy of delight!

What is the matter with me? It is He, the Horla who haunts me, and who
makes me think of these foolish things! He is within me, He is becoming
my soul; I shall kill him!

August 20. I shall kill Him. I have seen Him! Yesterday I sat down at
my table and pretended to write very assiduously. I knew quite well
that He would come prowling round me, quite close to me, so close that
I might perhaps be able to touch him, to seize him. And then--then I
should have the strength of desperation; I should have my hands, my
knees, my chest, my forehead, my teeth to strangle him, to crush him,
to bite him, to tear him to pieces. And I watched for him with all my
overexcited nerves.

I had lighted my two lamps and the eight wax candles on my mantelpiece,
as if, by this light I should discover Him.

My bed, my old oak bed with its columns, was opposite to me; on my
right was the fireplace; on my left the door, which was carefully
closed, after I had left it open for some time, in order to attract
Him; behind me was a very high wardrobe with a looking-glass in it,
which served me to dress by every day, and in which I was in the habit
of inspecting myself from head to foot every time I passed it.

So I pretended to be writing in order to deceive Him, for He also was
watching me, and suddenly I felt, I was certain, that He was reading
over my shoulder, that He was there, almost touching my ear.

I got up so quickly, with my hands extended, that I almost fell.
Horror! It was as bright as at midday, but I did not see myself in the
glass! It was empty, clear, profound, full of light! But my figure was
not reflected in it--and I, I was opposite to it! I saw the large,
clear glass from top to bottom, and I looked at it with unsteady eyes.
I did not dare advance; I did not venture to make a movement; feeling
certain, nevertheless, that He was there, but that He would escape me
again, He whose imperceptible body had absorbed my reflection.

How frightened I was! And then suddenly I began to see myself through a
mist in the depths of the looking-glass, in a mist as it were, or
through a veil of water; and it seemed to me as if this water were
flowing slowly from left to right, and making my figure clearer every
moment. It was like the end of an eclipse. Whatever hid me did not
appear to possess any clearly defined outlines, but was a sort of
opaque transparency, which gradually grew clearer.

At last I was able to distinguish myself completely, as I do every day
when I look at myself.

I had seen Him! And the horror of it remained with me, and makes me
shudder even now.

August 21. How could I kill Him, since I could not get hold of Him?
Poison? But He would see me mix it with the water; and then, would our
poisons have any effect on His impalpable body? No--no--no doubt about
the matter. Then?--then?

August 22. I sent for a blacksmith from Rouen and ordered iron shutters
of him for my room, such as some private hotels in Paris have on the
ground floor, for fear of thieves, and he is going to make me a similar
door as well. I have made myself out a coward, but I do not care about
that!

September 10. Rouen, Hotel Continental. It is done; it is done--but is
He dead? My mind is thoroughly upset by what I have seen.

Well then, yesterday, the locksmith having put on the iron shutters and
door, I left everything open until midnight, although it was getting
cold.

Suddenly I felt that He was there, and joy, mad joy took possession of
me. I got up softly, and I walked to the right and left for some time,
so that He might not guess anything; then I took off my boots and put
on my slippers carelessly; then I fastened the iron shutters and going
back to the door quickly I double-locked it with a padlock, putting the
key into my pocket.

Suddenly I noticed that He was moving restlessly round me, that in his
turn He was frightened and was ordering me to let Him out. I nearly
yielded, though I did not quite, but putting my back to the door, I
half opened it, just enough to allow me to go out backward, and as I am
very tall, my head touched the lintel. I was sure that He had not been
able to escape, and I shut Him up quite alone, quite alone. What
happiness! I had Him fast. Then I ran downstairs into the drawing-room
which was under my bedroom. I took the two lamps and poured all the oil
on to the carpet, the furniture, everywhere; then I set fire to it and
made my escape, after having carefully double locked the door.

I went and hid myself at the bottom of the garden, in a clump of laurel
bushes. How long it was! how long it was! Everything was dark, silent,
motionless, not a breath of air and not a star, but heavy banks of
clouds which one could not see, but which weighed, oh! so heavily on my
soul.

I looked at my house and waited. How long it was! I already began to
think that the fire had gone out of its own accord, or that He had
extinguished it, when one of the lower windows gave way under the
violence of the flames, and a long, soft, caressing sheet of red flame
mounted up the white wall, and kissed it as high as the roof. The light
fell on to the trees, the branches, and the leaves, and a shiver of
fear pervaded them also! The birds awoke; a dog began to howl, and it
seemed to me as if the day were breaking! Almost immediately two other
windows flew into fragments, and I saw that the whole of the lower part
of my house was nothing but a terrible furnace. But a cry, a horrible,
shrill, heart-rending cry, a woman's cry, sounded through the night,
and two garret windows were opened! I had forgotten the servants! I saw
the terror-struck faces, and the frantic waving of their arms!

Then, overwhelmed with horror, I ran off to the village, shouting:
"Help! help! fire! fire!" Meeting some people who were already coming
on to the scene, I went back with them to see!

By this time the house was nothing but a horrible and magnificent
funeral pile, a monstrous pyre which lit up the whole country, a pyre
where men were burning, and where He was burning also, He, He, my
prisoner, that new Being, the new Master, the Horla!

Suddenly the whole roof fell in between the walls, and a volcano of
flames darted up to the sky. Through all the windows which opened on to
that furnace, I saw the flames darting, and I reflected that He was
there, in that kiln, dead.

Dead? Perhaps? His body? Was not his body, which was transparent,
indestructible by such means as would kill ours?

If He were not dead? Perhaps time alone has power over that Invisible
and Redoubtable Being. Why this transparent, unrecognizable body, this
body belonging to a spirit, if it also had to fear ills, infirmities,
and premature destruction?

Premature destruction? All human terror springs from that! After man
the Horla. After him who can die every day, at any hour, at any moment,
by any accident, He came, He who was only to die at his own proper hour
and minute, because He had touched the limits of his existence!

No--no--there is no doubt about it--He is not dead. Then--then--I
suppose I must kill MYSELF!


[1] Frog-island.



MISS HARRIET

There were seven of us in a four-in-hand, four women and three men, one
of whom was on the box seat beside the coachman. We were following, at
a foot pace, broad highway which serpentines along the coast.

Setting out from Etretat at break of day, in order to visit the ruins
of Tancarville, we were still asleep, chilled by the fresh air of the
morning. The women, especially, who were but little accustomed to these
early excursions, let their eyelids fall and rise every moment, nodding
their heads or yawning, quite insensible to the glory of the dawn.

It was autumn. On both sides of the road the bare fields stretched out,
yellowed by the corn and wheat stubble which covered the soil like a
bristling growth of beard. The spongy earth seemed to smoke. Larks were
singing high up in the air, while other birds piped in the bushes.

At length the sun rose in front of us, a bright red on the plane of the
horizon; and as it ascended, growing clearer from minute to minute, the
country seemed to awake, to smile, to shake and stretch itself, like a
young girl who is leaving her bed in her white airy chemise. The Count
d'Etraille, who was seated on the box, cried:

"Look! look! a hare!" and he pointed toward the left, indicating a
piece of hedge. The leveret threaded its way along, almost concealed by
the field, only its large ears visible. Then it swerved across a deep
rut, stopped, again pursued its easy course, changed its direction,
stopped anew, disturbed, spying out every danger, and undecided as to
the route it should take. Suddenly it began to run, with great bounds
from its hind legs, disappearing finally in a large patch of beet-root.
All the men had woke up to watch the course of the beast.

Rene Lemanoir then exclaimed

"We are not at all gallant this morning," and looking at his neighbor,
the little Baroness of Serennes, who was struggling with drowsiness, he
said to her in a subdued voice: "You are thinking of your husband,
Baroness. Reassure yourself; he will not return before Saturday, so you
have still four days."

She responded to him with a sleepy smile.

"How rude you are." Then, shaking off her torpor, she added: "Now, let
somebody say something that will make us all laugh. You, Monsieur
Chenal who have the reputation of possessing a larger fortune than the
Duke of Richelieu, tell us a love story in which you have been mixed
up, anything you like."

Leon Chenal, an old painter, who had once keen very handsome, very
strong, who was very proud of his physique and very amiable, took his
long white beard in his hand and smiled; then, after a few moments'
reflection, he became suddenly grave.

"Ladies, it will not be an amusing tale; for I am going to relate to
you the most lamentable love affair of my life, and I sincerely hope
that none of my friends has ever passed through a similar experience."


I.

"At that time I was twenty-five years old, and was making daubs along
the coast of Normandy. I call 'making daubs' that wandering about, with
a bag on one's back, from mountain to mountain, under the pretext of
studying and of sketching nature. I know nothing more enjoyable than
that happy-go-lucky wandering life, in which you are perfectly free;
without shackles of any kind, without care, without preoccupation,
without thought even of to-morrow. You go in any direction you please,
without any guide save your fancy, without any counselor save your
eyes. You pull up, because a running brook seduces you, or because you
are attracted, in front of an inn, by the smell of potatoes frying.
Sometimes it is the perfume of clematis which decides you in your
choice, or the naive glance of the servant at an inn. Do not despise me
for my affection for these rustics. These girls have soul as well as
feeling, not to mention firm cheeks and fresh lips; while their hearty
and willing kisses have the flavor of wild fruit. Love always has its
price, come whence it may. A heart that beats when you make your
appearance, an eye that weeps when you go away, these are things so
rare, so sweet, so precious, that they must never be despised.

"I have had rendezvous in ditches in which cattle repose, and in barns
among the straw, still steaming from the heat of the day. I have
recollections of canvas spread on rude and creaky benches, and of
hearty, fresh, free kisses, more delicate, free from affectation, and
sincere than the subtle attractions of charming and distinguished women.

"But what you love most amid all these varied adventures are the
country, the woods, the risings of the sun, the twilight, the light of
the moon. For the painter these are honeymoon trips with Nature. You
are alone with her in that long and tranquil rendezvous. You go to bed
in the fields amid marguerites and wild poppies, and, with eyes wide
open, you watch the going down of the sun, and descry in the distance
the little village, with its pointed clock-tower, which sounds the hour
of midnight.

"You sit down by the side of a spring which gushes out from the foot of
an oak, amid a covering of fragile herbs, growing and redolent of life.
You go down on your knees, bend forward, and drink the cold and
pellucid water, wetting your mustache and nose; you drink it with a
physical pleasure, as though you were kissing the spring, lip to lip.
Sometimes, when you encounter a deep hole, along the course of these
tiny brooks, you plunge into it, quite naked, and on your skin, from
head to foot, like an icy and delicious caress, you feel the lovely and
gentle quivering of the current.

"You are gay on the hills, melancholy on the verge of pools, exalted
when the sun is crowned in an ocean of blood-red shadows, and when it
casts on the rivers its red reflection. And at night, under the moon,
as it passes across the vault of heaven, you think of things, singular
things, which would never have occurred to your mind under the
brilliant light of day.

"So, in wandering through the same country we are in this year, I came
to the little village of Benouville, on the Falaise, between Yport and
Etretat. I came from Fecamp, following the coast, a high coast,
perpendicular as a wall, with projecting and rugged rocks falling sheer
down into the sea. I had walked since the morning on the close clipped
grass, as smooth and as yielding as a carpet. Singing lustily, I walked
with long strides, looking sometimes at the slow and lazy flight of a
gull, with its short, white wings, sailing in the blue heavens,
sometimes at the green sea, or at the brown sails of a fishing bark. In
short, I had passed a happy day, a day of listlessness and of liberty.

"I was shown a little farmhouse, where travelers were put up, a kind of
inn, kept by a peasant, which stood in the center of a Norman court,
surrounded by a double row of beeches.

"Quitting the Falaise. I gained the hamlet, which was hemmed in by
great trees, and I presented myself at the house of Mother Lecacheur.

"She was an old, wrinkled, and austere rustic, who always seemed to
yield to the pressure of new customs with a kind of contempt.

"It was the month of May: the spreading apple-trees covered the court
with a whirling shower of blossoms which rained unceasingly both upon
people and upon the grass.

"I said:

"'Well, Madame Lecacheur, have you a room for me?'

"Astonished to find that I knew her name, she answered:

"'That depends; everything is let; but, all the same, there will be no
harm in looking.'

"In five minutes we were in perfect accord, and I deposited my bag upon
the bare floor of a rustic room, furnished with a bed, two chairs, a
table, and a washstand. The room opened into the large and smoky
kitchen, where the lodgers took their meals with the people of the farm
and with the farmer himself, who was a widower.

"I washed my hands, after which I went out. The old woman was
fricasseeing a chicken for dinner in a large fireplace, in which hung
the stew-pot, black with smoke.

"'You have travelers, then, at the present time?' said I to her.

"She answered in an offended tone of voice:

"'I have a lady, an English lady, who has attained to years of
maturity. She is occupying my other room.'

"By means of an extra five sous a day, I obtained the privilege of
dining out in the court when the weather was fine.

"My cover was then placed in front of the door, and I commenced to gnaw
with hunger the lean members of the Normandy chicken, to drink the
clear cider, and to munch the hunk of white bread, which, though four
days old, was excellent.

"Suddenly, the wooden barrier which opened on to the highway was
opened, and a strange person directed her steps toward the house. She
was very slender, very tall, enveloped in a Scotch shawl with red
borders. You would have believed that she had no arms, if you had not
seen a long hand appear just above the hips, holding a white tourist
umbrella. The face of a mummy, surrounded with sausage rolls of plaited
gray hair, which bounded at every step she took, made me think, I know
not why, of a sour herring adorned with curling papers. Lowering her
eyes, she passed quickly in front of me, and entered the house.

"This singular apparition made me curious. She undoubtedly was my
neighbor, the aged English lady of whom our hostess had spoken.

"I did not see her again that day. The next day, when I had begun to
paint at the end of that beautiful valley, which you know extends as
far as Etretat, lifting my eyes suddenly, I perceived something
singularly attired standing on the crest of the declivity; it looked
like a pole decked out with flags. It was she. On seeing me, she
suddenly disappeared. I re-entered the house at midday for lunch, and
took my seat at the common table, so as to make the acquaintance of
this old and original creature. But she did not respond to my polite
advances, was insensible even to my little attentions. I poured water
out for her with great alacrity, I passed her the dishes with great
eagerness. A slight, almost imperceptible movement of the head, and an
English word, murmured so low that I did not understand it, were her
only acknowledgments.

"I ceased occupying myself with her, although she had disturbed my
thoughts. At the end of three days, I knew as much about her as did
Madame Lecacheur herself.

"She was called Miss Harriet. Seeking out a secluded village in which
to pass the summer, she had been attracted to Benouville, some six
months before, and did not seem disposed to quit it. She never spoke at
table, ate rapidly, reading all the while a small book, treating of
some Protestant propaganda. She gave a copy of it to everybody. The
cure himself had received no less than four copies, at the hands of an
urchin to whom she had paid two sous' commission. She said sometimes to
our hostess, abruptly, without preparing herin the least for the
declaration:

"'I love the Saviour more than all; I worship him in all creation; I
adore him in all nature; I carry him always in my heart.'

"And she would immediately present the old woman with one of her
brochures which were destined to convert the universe.

"In the village she was not liked. In fact, the schoolmaster had
declared that she was an atheist, and that a sort of reproach attached
to her. The cure, who had been consulted by Madame Lecacheur, responded:

"'She is a heretic, but God does not wish the death of the sinner, and
I believe her to be a person of pure morals.'

"These words, 'atheist,' 'heretic,' words which no one can precisely
define, threw doubts into some minds. It was asserted, however, that
this English-woman was rich, and that she had passed her life in
traveling through every country in the world, because her family had
thrown her off. Why had her family thrown her off? Because of her
natural impiety?

"She was, in fact, one of those people of exalted principles, one of
those opinionated puritans of whom England produces so many, one of
those good and insupportable old women who haunt the tables d'hote of
every hotel in Europe, who spoil Italy, poison Switzerland, render the
charming cities of the Mediterranean uninhabitable, carry everywhere
their fantastic manias, their petrified vestal manners, their
indescribable toilettes, and a certain odor of india-rubber, which
makes one believe that at night they slip themselves into a case of
that material. When I meet one of these people in a hotel, I act like
birds which see a manikin in a field.

"This woman, however, appeared so singular that she did not displease
me.

"Madame Lecacheur, hostile by instinct to everything that was not
rustic, felt in her narrow soul a kind of hatred for the ecstatic
extravagances of the old girl. She had found a phrase by which to
describe her, I know not how, but a phrase assuredly contemptuous,
which had sprung to her lips, invented probably by some confused and
mysterious travail of soul. She said: 'That woman is a demoniac.' This
phrase, as uttered by that austere and sentimental creature, seemed to
me irresistibly comic. I, myself, never called her now anything else
but 'the demoniac.' feeling a singular pleasure in pronouncing this
word on seeing her.

"I would ask Mother Lecacheur: 'Well, what is our demoniac about
to-day?' To which my rustic friend would respond, with an air of having
been scandalized:

"'What do you think, sir? She has picked up a toad which has had its
leg battered, and carried it to her room, and has put it in her
washstand, and dressed it up like a man. If that is not profanation, I
should like to know what is!'

"On another occasion, when walking along the Falaise, she had bought a
large fish which had just been caught, simply to throw it back into the
sea again. The sailor, from whom she had bought it, though paid
handsomely, was greatly provoked at this act--more exasperated, indeed,
than if she had put her hand into his pocket and taken his money. For a
whole month he could not speak of the circumstance without getting into
a fury and denouncing it as an outrage. Oh yes! She was indeed a
demoniac, this Miss Harriet, and Mother Lecacheur must have had an
inspiration of genius in thus christening her.

"The stable-boy, who was called Sapeur, because he had served in Africa
in his youth, entertained other aversions. He said, with a roguish air:
'She is an old hag who has lived her days.' If the poor woman had but
known!

"Little kind-hearted Celeste did not wait upon her willingly, but I was
never able to understand why. Probably her only reason was that she was
a stranger, of another race, of a different tongue, and of another
religion. She was in good truth a demoniac!

"She passed her time wandering about the country, adoring and searching
for God in nature. I found her one evening on her knees in a cluster of
bushes. Having discovered something red through the leaves, I brushed
aside the branches, and Miss Harriet at once rose to her feet, confused
at having been found thus, looking at me with eyes as terrible as those
of a wild cat surprised in open day.

"Sometimes, when I was working among the rocks, I would suddenly descry
her on the banks of the Falaise standing like a semaphore signal. She
gazed passionately at the vast sea, glittering in the sunlight, and the
boundless sky empurpled with fire. Sometimes I would distinguish her at
the bottom of a valley, walking quickly, with her elastic English step;
and I would go toward her, attracted by I know not what, simply to see
her illuminated visage, her dried-up features, which seemed to glow
with an ineffable, inward, and profound happiness.

"Often I would encounter her in the corner of a field sitting on the
grass, under the shadow of an apple-tree, with her little Bible lying
open on her knee, while she looked meditatively into the distance.

"I could no longer tear myself away from that quiet country
neighborhood, bound to it as I was by a thousand links of love for its
soft and sweeping landscapes. At this farm I was out of the world, far
removed from everything, but in close proximity to the soil, the good,
healthy, beautiful green soil. And, must I avow it, there was something
besides curiosity which retained me at the residence of Mother
Lecacheur. I wished to become acquainted a little with this strange
Miss Harriet, and to learn what passes in the solitary souls of those
wandering old, English dames."


II.

"We became acquainted in a rather singular manner. I had just finished
a study which appeared to me to display genius and power; as it must
have, since it was sold for ten thousand francs, fifteen years later.
It was as simple, however, as that two and two make four, and had
nothing to do with academic rules. The whole of the right side of my
canvas represented a rock, an enormous rock, covered with sea-wrack,
brown, yellow, and red, across which the sun poured like a stream of
oil. The light, without which one could see the stars concealed in the
background, fell upon the stone, and gilded it as if with fire. That
was all. A first stupid attempt at dealing with light, with burning
rays, with the sublime.

"On the left was the sea, not the blue sea, the slate-colored sea, but
a sea of jade, as greenish, milky, and thick as the overcast sky.

"I was so pleased with my work that I danced from sheer delight as I
carried it back to the inn. I wished that the whole world could have
seen it at one and the same moment. I can remember that I showed it to
a cow, which was browsing by the wayside, exclaiming, at the same time:
'Look at that, my old beauty; you will not often see its like again.'

"When I had reached the front of the house, I immediately called out to
Mother Lecacheur, shouting with all my might:

"'Ohe! Ohe! my mistress, come here and look at this.'

"The rustic advanced and looked at my work with stupid eyes, which
distinguished nothing, and did not even recognize whether the picture
was the representation of an ox or a house.

"Miss Harriet came into the house, and passed in rear of me just at the
moment when, holding out my canvas at arm's length, I was exhibiting it
to the female innkeeper. The 'demoniac' could not help but see it, for
I took care to exhibit the thing in such a way that it could not escape
her notice. She stopped abruptly and stood motionless, stupefied. It
was her rock which was depicted, the one which she usually climbed to
dream away her time undisturbed.

"She uttered a British 'Oh,' which was at once so accentuated and so
flattering, that I turned round to her, smiling, and said:

"This is my last work, Mademoiselle.'

"She murmured ecstatically, comically, and tenderly:

"'Oh! Monsieur, you must understand what it is to have a palpitation.'

"I colored up, of course, and was more excited by that compliment than
if it had come from a queen. I was seduced, conquered, vanquished. I
could have embraced her--upon my honor.

"I took my seat at the table beside her, as I had always done. For the
first time, she spoke, drawling out in a loud voice:

"'Oh! I love nature so much.'

"I offered her some bread, some water, some wine. She now accepted
these with the vacant smile of a mummy. I then began to converse with
her about the scenery.

"After the meal, we rose from the table together and walked leisurely
across the court; then, attracted by the fiery glow which the setting
sun cast over the surface of the sea, I opened the outside gate which
faced in the direction of the Falaise, and we walked on side by side,
as satisfied as any two persons could be who have just learned to
understand and penetrate each other's motives and feelings.

"It was a misty, relaxing evening, one of those enjoyable evenings
which impart happiness to mind and body alike. All is joy, all is
charm. The luscious and balmy air, loaded with the perfumes of herbs,
with the perfumes of grass-wrack, with the odor of the wild flowers,
caresses the soul with a penetrating sweetness. We were going to the
brink of the abyss which overlooked the vast sea and rolled past us at
the distance of less than a hundred meters.

"We drank with open mouth and expanded chest, that fresh breeze from
the ocean which glides slowly over the skin, salted as it is by long
contact with the waves.

"Wrapped up in her square shawl, inspired by the balmy air and with
teeth firmly set, the English-woman gazed fixedly at the great
sun-ball, as it descended toward the sea. Soon its rim touched the
waters, just in rear of a ship which had appeared on the horizon,
until, by degrees, it was swallowed up by the ocean. We watched it
plunge, diminish, and finally disappear.

"Miss Harriet contemplated with passionate regard the last glimmer of
the flaming orb of day.

"She muttered: 'Oh! I love--I love--' I saw a tear start in her eye.
She continued: 'I wish I were a little bird, so that I could mount up
into the firmament.'

"She remained standing as I had often before seen her, perched on the
river bank, her face as red as her flaming shawl. I should have liked
to have sketched her in my album. It would have been an ecstatic
caricature. I turned my face away from her so as to be able to laugh.

"I then spoke to her of painting, as I would have done to a
fellow-artist, using the technical terms common among the devotees of
the profession. She listened attentively to me, eagerly seeking to
divine the sense of the obscure words, so as to penetrate my thoughts.
From time to time, she would exclaim: 'Oh! I understand, I understand.
This is very interesting.' We returned home.

"The next day, on seeing me, she approached me eagerly, holding out her
hand; and we became firm friends immediately.

"She was a brave creature, with an elastic sort of a soul, which became
enthusiastic at a bound. She lacked equilibrium, like all women who are
spinsters at the age of fifty. She seemed to be pickled in vinegary
innocence, though her heart still retained something of youth and of
girlish effervescence. She loved both nature and animals with a fervent
ardor, a love like old wine, mellow through age, with a sensual love
that she had never bestowed on men.

"One thing is certain: a mare roaming in a meadow with a foal at its
side, a bird's nest full of young ones, squeaking, with their open
mouths and enormous heads, made her quiver with the most violent
emotion.

"Poor solitary beings! Sad wanderers from table d'hote to table d'hote,
poor beings, ridiculous and lamentable, I love you ever since I became
acquainted with Miss Harriet!

"I soon discovered that she had something she would like to tell me,
but dared not, and I was amused at her timidity. When I started out in
the morning with my box on my back, she would accompany me as far as
the end of the village, silent, but evidently struggling inwardly to
find words with which to begin a conversation. Then she would leave me
abruptly, and, with jaunty step, walk away quickly.

"One day, however, she plucked up courage:

"'I would like to see how you paint pictures? Will you show me? I have
been very curious.'

"And she colored up as though she had given utterance to words
extremely audacious.

"I conducted her to the bottom of the Petit-Val, where I had commenced
a large picture.

"She remained standing near me, following all my gestures with
concentrated attention. Then, suddenly, fearing, perhaps, that she was
disturbing me, she said to me: 'Thank you,' and walked away.

"But in a short time she became more familiar, and accompanied me every
day, her countenance exhibiting visible pleasure. She carried her
folding stool under her arm; would not consent to my carrying it, and
she sat always by my side. She would remain there for hours immovable
and mute, following with her eye the point of my brush in its every
movement. When I would obtain, by a large splatch of color spread on
with a knife, a striking and unexpected effect, she would, in spite of
herself, give vent to a half-suppressed 'Oh!' of astonishment, of joy,
of admiration. She had the most tender respect for my canvases, an
almost religious respect for that human reproduction of a part of
nature's work divine. My studies appeared to her to be pictures of
sanctity, and sometimes she spoke to me of God, with the idea of
converting me.

"Oh! He was a queer good-natured being, this God of hers. He was a sort
of village philosopher without any great resources, and without great
power; for she always figured him to herself as a being quivering over
injustices committed under his eyes, and helpless to prevent them.

"She was, however, on excellent terms with him, affecting even to be
the confidant of his secrets and of his whims. She said:

"'God wills, or God does not will,' just like a sergeant announcing to
a recruit: 'The colonel has commanded.'

"At the bottom of her heart she deplored my ignorance of the intentions
of the Eternal, which she strove, nay, felt herself compelled, to
impart to me.

"Almost every day, I found in my pockets, in my hat when I lifted it
from the ground, in my box of colors, in my polished shoes, standing in
the mornings in front of my door, those little pious brochures, which
she, no doubt, received directly from Paradise.

"I treated her as one would an old friend, with unaffected cordiality.
But I soon perceived that she had changed somewhat in her manner; but,
for a while, I paid little attention to it.

"When I walked about, whether to the bottom of the valley, or through
some country lanes, I would see her suddenly appear, as though she were
returning from a rapid walk. She would then sit down abruptly, out of
breath, as though she had been running or overcome by some profound
emotion. Her face would be red, that English red which is denied to the
people of all other countries; then, without any reason, she would grow
pale, become the color of the ground, and seem ready to faint away.
Gradually, however, I would see her regain her ordinary color,
whereupon she would begin to speak.

"Then, without warning, she would break off in the middle of a
sentence, spring up from her seat, and march off so rapidly and so
strangely, that it would, sometimes, put me to my wits' end to try and
discover whether I had done or said anything to displease or offend her.

"I finally came to the conclusion that this arose from her early habits
and training, somewhat modified, no doubt, in honor of me, since the
first days of our acquaintanceship.

"When she returned to the farm, after walking for hours on the
wind-beaten coast, her long curled hair would be shaken out and hanging
loose, as though it had broken away from its bearings. It was seldom
that this gave her any concern; though sometimes she looked as though
she had been dining sans ceremonie; her locks having become disheveled
by the breezes.

"She would then go up to her room in order to adjust what I called her
glass lamps. When I would say to her, in familiar gallantry, which,
however, always offended her:

"'You are as beautiful as a planet to-day, Miss Harriet,' a little
blood would immediately mount into her cheeks, the blood of a young
maiden, the blood of sweet fifteen.

"Then she would become abruptly savage and cease coming to watch me
paint. But I always thought:

"'This is only a fit of temper she is passing through.'

"But it did not always pass away. When I spoke to her sometimes, she
would answer me, either with an air of affected indifference, or in
sullen anger; and she became by turns rude, impatient, and nervous. For
a time I never saw her except at meals, and we spoke but little. I
concluded, at length, that I must have offended her in something: and,
accordingly, I said to her one evening:

"'Miss Harriet, why is it that you do not act toward me as formerly?
What have I done to displease you? You are causing me much pain!'

"She responded, in an angry tone, in a manner altogether sui generis:

"'I am always with you the same as formerly. It is not true, not true,'
and she ran upstairs and shut herself up in her room.

"At times she would look upon me with strange eyes. Since that time I
have often said to myself that those condemned to death must look thus
when informed that their last day has come. In her eye there lurked a
species of folly, a folly at once mysterious and violent--even more, a
fever, an exasperated desire, impatient, at once incapable of being
realized and unrealizable!

"Nay, it seemed to me that there was also going on within her a combat,
in which her heart struggled against an unknown force that she wished
to overcome--perhaps, even, something else. But what could I know? What
could I know?"


III.

"This was indeed a singular revelation.

"For some time I had commenced to work, as soon as daylight appeared,
on a picture, the subject of which was as follows:

"A deep ravine, steep banks dominated by two declivities, lined with
brambles and long rows of trees, hidden, drowned in milky vapor, clad
in that misty robe which sometimes floats over valleys at break of day.
At the extreme end of that thick and transparent fog, you see coming,
or rather already come, a human couple, a stripling and a maiden
embraced, interlaced, she, with head leaning on him, he; inclined
toward hers and lip to lip.

"A ray of the sun, glistening through the branches, has traversed the
fog of dawn and illuminated it with a rosy reflection, just behind the
rustic lovers, whose vague shadows are reflected on it in clear silver.
It was well done, yes, indeed, well done.

"I was working on the declivity which led to the Val d'Etretat. This
particular morning, I had, by chance, the sort of floating vapor which
was necessary for my purpose. Suddenly, an object appeared in front of
me, a kind of phantom; it was Miss Harriet. On seeing me, she took to
flight. But I called after her saying: 'Come here, come here,
Mademoiselle, I have a nice little picture for you.'

"She came forward, though with seeming reluctance. I handed her my
sketch. She said nothing, but stood for a long time motionless, looking
at it. Suddenly she burst into tears. She wept spasmodically, like men
who have been struggling hard against shedding tears, but who can do so
no longer, and abandon themselves to grief, though unwillingly. I got
up, trembling, moved myself by the sight of a sorrow I did not
comprehend, and I took her by the hand with a gesture of brusque
affection, a true French impulse which impels one quicker than one
thinks.

"She let her hands rest in mine for a few seconds, and I felt them
quiver, as if her whole nervous system was twisting and turning. Then
she withdrew her hands abruptly, or, rather, tore them out of mine.

"I recognized that shiver as soon as I had felt it: I was deceived in
nothing. Ah! the love shudder of a woman, whether she is fifteen or
fifty years of age, whether she is one of the people or one of the
monde, goes so straight to my heart that I never had any difficulty in
understanding it!

"Her whole frail being trembled, vibrated, yielded. I knew it. She
walked away before I had time to say a word, leaving me as surprised as
if I had witnessed a miracle, and as troubled as if I had committed a
crime.

"I did not go in to breakfast. I took a walk on the banks of the
Falaise, feeling that I could just as soon weep as laugh, looking on
the adventure as both comic and deplorable, and my position as
ridiculous, fain to believe that I had lost my head.

"I asked myself what I ought to do. I debated whether I ought not to
take my leave of the place and almost immediately my resolution was
formed.

"Somewhat sad and perplexed, I wandered about until dinner time, and
entered the farmhouse just when the soup had been served up.

"I sat down at the table, as usual. Miss Harriet was there, munching
away solemnly, without speaking to anyone, without even lifting her
eyes. She wore, however, her usual expression, both of countenance and
manner.

"I waited, patiently, till the meal had been finished. Then, turning
toward the landlady, I said: 'Madame Lecacheur, it will not be long now
before I shall have to take my leave of you.'

"The good woman, at once surprised and troubled, replied in a quivering
voice: 'My dear sir, what is it I have just heard you say? Are you
going to leave us, after I have become so much accustomed to you?'

"I looked at Miss Harriet from the corner of my eye. Her countenance
did not change in the least; but the under-servant came toward me with
eyes wide open. She was a fat girl, of about eighteen years of age,
rosy, fresh, strong as a horse, yet possessing a rare attribute in one
in her position--she was very neat and clean. I had kissed her at odd
times, in out of the way corners, in the manner of a mountain guide,
nothing more.

"The dinner being over, I went to smoke my pipe under the apple-trees,
walking up and down at my ease, from one end of the court to the other.
All the reflections which I had made during the day, the strange
discovery of the morning, that grotesque and passionate attachment for
me, the recollections which that revelation had suddenly called up,
recollections at once charming and perplexing, perhaps, also, that look
which the servant had cast on me at the announcement of my
departure--all these things, mixed up and combined, put me now in an
excited bodily state, with the tickling sensation of kisses on my lips,
and in my veins something which urged me on to commit some folly.

"Night having come on, casting its dark shadows under the trees, I
descried Celeste, who had gone to shut the hen-coops, at the other end
of the inclosure. I darted toward her, running so noiselessly that she
heard nothing, and as she got up from closing the small traps by which
the chickens went in and out, I clasped her in my arms and rained on
her coarse, fat face a shower of kisses. She made a struggle, laughing
all the same, as she was accustomed to do in such circumstances. What
made me suddenly loose my grip of her? Why did I at once experience a
shock? What was it that I heard behind me?

"It was Miss Harriet who had come upon us, who had seen us, and who
stood in front of us, as motionless as a specter. Then she disappeared
in the darkness.

"I was ashamed, embarrassed, more annoyed at having been surprised by
her than if she had caught me committing some criminal act.

"I slept badly that night; I was worried and haunted by sad thoughts. I
seemed to hear loud weeping; but in this I was no doubt deceived.
Moreover, I thought several times that I heard some one walking up and
down in the house, and that some one opened my door from the outside.

"Toward morning, I was overcome by fatigue, and sleep seized on me. I
got up late and did not go downstairs until breakfast time, being still
in a bewildered state, not knowing what kind of face to put on.

"No one had seen Miss Harriet. We waited for her at table, but she did
not appear. At length, Mother Lecacheur went to her room. The
English-woman had gone out. She must have set out at break of day, as
she was wont to do, in order to see the sun rise.

"Nobody seemed astonished at this and we began to eat in silence.

"The weather was hot, very hot, one of those still sultry days when not
a leaf stirs. The table had been placed out of doors, under an
apple-tree; and from time to time Sapeur had gone to the cellar to draw
a jug of cider, everybody was so thirsty. Celeste brought the dishes
from the kitchen, a ragout of mutton with potatoes, a cold rabbit, and
a salad. Afterward she placed before us a dish of strawberries, the
first of the season.

"As I wanted to wash and freshen these, I begged the servant to go and
bring a pitcher of cold water."

"In about five minutes she returned, declaring that the well was dry.
She had lowered the pitcher to the full extent of the cord, and had
touched the bottom, but on drawing the pitcher up again, it was empty.
Mother Lecacheur, anxious to examine the thing for herself, went and
looked down the hole. She returned announcing that one could see
clearly something in the well, something altogether unusual. But this,
no doubt, was pottles of straw, which, out of spite, had been cast down
it by a neighbor.

"I wished also to look down the well, hoping to clear up the mystery,
and perched myself close to its brink. I perceived, indistinctly, a
white object. What could it be? I then conceived the idea of lowering a
lantern at the end of a cord. When I did so, the yellow flame danced on
the layers of stone and gradually became clearer. All four of us were
leaning over the opening, Sapeur and Celeste having now joined us. The
lantern rested on a black and white, indistinct mass, singular,
incomprehensible. Sapeur exclaimed:

"'It is a horse. I see the hoofs. It must have escaped from the meadow,
during the night, and fallen in headlong.'

"But, suddenly, a cold shiver attacked my spine, I first recognized a
foot, then a clothed limb; the body was entire, but the other limb had
disappeared under the water.

"I groaned and trembled so violently that the light of the lamp danced
hither and thither over the object, discovering a slipper.

"'It is a woman! who--who--can it be? It is Miss Harriet.'

"Sapeur alone did not manifest horror. He had witnessed many such
scenes in Africa.

"Mother Lecacheur and Celeste began to scream and to shriek, and ran
away.

"But it was necessary to recover the corpse of the dead. I attached the
boy securely by the loins to the end of the pulley-rope; then I lowered
him slowly, and watched him disappear in the darkness. In the one hand
he had a lantern, and held on to the rope with the other. Soon I
recognized his voice, which seemed to come from the center of the
earth, crying:

"'Stop.'

"I then saw him fish something out of the water. It was the other limb.
He bound the two feet together, and shouted anew:

"'Haul up.'

"I commenced to wind him up, but I felt my arms strain, my muscles
twitch, and was in terror lest I should let the boy fall to the bottom.
When his head appeared over the brink, I asked:

"'What is it?' as though I only expected that he would tell me what he
had discovered at the bottom.

"We both got on to the stone slab at the edge of the well, and, face to
face, hoisted the body.

"Mother Lecacheur and Celeste watched us from a distance, concealed
behind the wall of the house. When they saw, issuing from the well, the
black slippers and white stockings of the drowned person, they
disappeared.

"Sapeur seized the ankles of the poor chaste woman, and we drew it up,
inclined, as it was, in the most immodest posture. The head was in a
shocking state, bruised and black; and the long, gray hair, hanging
down, was tangled and disordered.

"'In the name of all that is holy, how lean she is!' exclaimed Sapeur,
in a contemptuous tone.

"We carried her into the room, and as the women did not put in an
appearance, I, with the assistance of the lad, dressed the corpse for
burial.

"I washed her disfigured face. By the touch of my hand an eye was
slightly opened; it seemed to scan me with that pale stare, with that
cold, that terrible look which corpses have, a look which seems to come
from the beyond. I plaited up, as well as I could, her disheveled hair,
and I adjusted on her forehead a novel and singularly formed lock. Then
I took off her dripping wet garments, baring, not without a feeling of
shame, as though I had been guilty of some profanation, her shoulders
and her chest, and her long arms, slim as the twigs of branches.

"I next went to fetch some flowers, corn poppies, blue beetles,
marguerites, and fresh and perfumed herbs, with which to strew her
funeral couch.

"Being the only person near her, it was necessary for me to perform the
usual ceremonies. In a letter found in her pocket, written at the last
moment, she asked that her body be buried in the village in which she
had passed the last days of her life. A frightful thought then
oppressed my heart. Was it not on my account that she wished to be laid
at rest in this place?

"Toward the evening, all the female gossips of the locality came to
view the remains of the defunct; but I would not allow a single person
to enter; I wanted to be alone; and I watched by the corpse the whole
night.

"By the flickering light of the candles, I looked at the body of this
miserable woman, wholly unknown, who had died so lamentably and so far
away from home. Had she left no friends, no relatives behind her? What
had her infancy been? What had been her life? Whence had she come
thither, all alone, a wanderer, like a dog driven from home? What
secrets of suffering and of despair were sealed up in that disagreeable
body, in that spent and withered body, that impenetrable hiding place
of a mystery which had driven her far away from affection and from love?

"How many unhappy beings there are! I felt that upon that human
creature weighed the eternal injustice of implacable nature! Life was
over with her, without her ever having experienced, perhaps, that which
sustains the most miserable of us all--to wit, the hope of being once
loved! Otherwise, why should she thus have concealed herself, have fled
from the face of others? Why did she love everything so tenderly and so
passionately, everything living that was not a man?

"I recognized, also, that she believed in a God, and that she hoped for
compensation from him for the miseries she had endured. She had now
begun to decompose, and to become, in turn, a plant. She who had
blossomed in the sun was now to be eaten up by the cattle, carried away
in herbs, and in the flesh of beasts, again to become human flesh. But
that which is called the soul had been extinguished at the bottom of
the dark well. She suffered no longer. She had changed her life for
that of others yet to be born.

"Hours passed away in this silent and sinister communion with the dead.
A pale light at length announced the dawn of a new day, and a bright
ray glistened on the bed, shedding a dash of fire on the bedclothes and
on her hands. This was the hour she had so much loved, when the waking
birds began to sing in the trees.

"I opened the window to its fullest extent, I drew back the curtains,
so that the whole heavens might look in upon us. Then bending toward
the glassy corpse, I took in my hands the mutilated head, and slowly,
without terror or disgust, imprinted a long, long kiss upon those lips
which had never before received the salute of love."

      *      *      *      *      *

Leon Chenal remained silent. The women wept. We heard on the box seat
Count d'Etraille blow his nose, from time to time. The coachman alone
had gone to sleep. The horses, which felt no longer the sting of the
whip, had slackened their pace and dragged softly along. And the
four-in-hand, hardly moving at all, became suddenly torpid, as if laden
with sorrow.



THE HOLE

CUTS AND WOUNDS WHICH CAUSED DEATH. That was the heading of the charge
which brought Leopold Renard, upholsterer, before the Assize Court.

Round him were the principal witnesses, Madame Flameche, widow of the
victim, Louis Ladureau, cabinetmaker, and Jean Durdent, plumber.

Near the criminal was his wife, dressed in black, a little ugly woman,
who looked like a monkey dressed as a lady.

This is how Renard described the drama:

"Good heavens, it is a misfortune of which I am the first and last
victim, and with which my will has nothing to do. The facts are their
own commentary, Monsieur le President. I am an honest man, a
hard-working man, an upholsterer in the same street for the last
sixteen years, known, liked, respected, and esteemed by all, as my
neighbors have testified, even the porter, who is not folatre every
day. I am fond of work, I am fond of saving, I like honest men, and
respectable pleasures. That is what has ruined me, so much the worse
for me; but as my will had nothing to do with it, I continue to respect
myself.

"Every Sunday for the last five years, my wife and I have spent the day
at Passy. We get fresh air, not to say that we are fond of fishing--as
fond of it as we are of small onions. Melie inspired me with that
passion, the jade; she is more enthusiastic than I am, the scold, and
all the mischief in this business is her fault, as you will see
immediately.

"I am strong and mild-tempered, without a pennyworth of malice in me.
But she! oh! la! la! she looks insignificant, she is short and thin,
but she does more mischief than a weasel. I do not deny that she has
some good qualities; she has some, and those very important to a man in
business. But her character! Just ask about it in the neighborhood;
even the porter's wife, who has just sent me about my business--she
will tell you something about it.

"Every day she used to find fault with my mild temper: 'I would not put
up with this! I would not put up with that.' If I had listened to her,
Monsieur le President, I should have had at least three bouts of
fisticuffs a month."

Madame Renard interrupted him: "And for good reasons too; they laugh
best who laugh last."

He turned toward her frankly: "Oh! very well, I can blame you, since
you were the cause of it."

Then, facing the President again he said:

"I will continue. We used to go to Passy every Saturday evening, so as
to be able to begin fishing at daybreak the next morning. It is a habit
which has become second nature with us, as the saying is. Three years
ago this summer I discovered a place, oh! such a spot! There, in the
shade, were eight feet of water at least and perhaps ten, a hole with a
retour under the bank, a regular retreat for fish and a paradise for
any fisherman. I might look upon that hole as my property, Monsieur le
President, as I was its Christopher Columbus. Everybody in the
neighborhood knew it, without making any opposition. They used to say:
'That is Renard's place'; and nobody would have gone to it, not even
Monsieur Plumsay, who is renowned, be it said without any offense, for
appropriating other people's places.

"Well, I went as usual to that place, of which I felt as certain as if
I had owned it. I had scarcely got there on Saturday, when I got into
'Delila,' with my wife. 'Delila' is my Norwegian boat, which I had
built by Fourmaise, and which is light and safe. Well, as I said, we
got into the boat and we were going to bait, and for baiting there is
nobody to be compared with me, and they all know it. You want to know
with what I bait? I cannot answer that question; it has nothing to do
with the accident; I cannot answer, that is my secret. There are more
than three hundred people who have asked me; I have been offered
glasses of brandy and liquors, fried fish, matelots,[1] to make me
tell! But just go and try whether the chub will come. Ah! they have
patted my stomach to get at my secret, my recipe. Only my wife knows,
and she will not tell it, any more than I shall! Is not that so, Melie?"

The President of the Court interrupted him:

"Just get to the facts as soon as you can."

The accused continued: "I am getting to them; I am getting to them.
Well, on Saturday. July 8, we left by the five twenty-five train, and
before dinner we went to ground-bait as usual. The weather promised to
keep fine, and I said to Melie: 'All right for to-morrow!' And she
replied: 'It looks like it.' We never talk more than that together.

"And then we returned to dinner. I was happy and thirsty, and that was
the cause of everything. I said to Melie: 'Look here Melie, it is fine
weather, so suppose I drink a bottle of Casque a meche. That is a
little white wine which we have christened so, because if you drink too
much of it it prevents you from sleeping and is the opposite of a
nightcap. Do you understand me?

"She replied: 'You can do as you please, but you will be ill again, and
will not be able to get up to-morrow.' That was true, sensible,
prudent, and clear-sighted, I must confess. Nevertheless, I could not
withstand it, and I drank my bottle. It all comes from that.

"Well, I could not sleep. By Jove! It kept me awake till two o'clock in
the morning, and then I went to sleep so soundly that I should not have
heard the angel shouting at the Last Judgment.

"In short, my wife woke me at six o'clock and I jumped out of bed,
hastily put on my trousers and jersey, washed my face and jumped on
board 'Delila.' But it was too late, for when I arrived at my hole it
was already taken! Such a thing had never happened to me in three
years, and it made me feel as if I were being robbed under my own eyes.
I said to myself, Confound it all! confound it! And then my wife began
to nag at me. 'Eh! What about your Casque a meche! Get along, you
drunkard! Are you satisfied, you great fool?' I could say nothing,
because it was all quite true, and so I landed all the same near the
spot and tried to profit by what was left. Perhaps after all the fellow
might catch nothing, and go away.

"He was a little thin man, in white linen coat and waistcoat, and with
a large straw hat, and his wife, a fat woman who was doing embroidery,
was behind him.

"When she saw us take up our position close to their place, she
murmured: 'I suppose there are no other places on the river!' And my
wife, who was furious, replied: 'People who know how to behave make
inquiries about the habits of the neighborhood before occupying
reserved spots.'

"As I did not want a fuss, I said to her: 'Hold your tongue, Melie. Let
them go on, let them go on; we shall see.'

"Well, we had fastened 'Delila' under the willow-trees, and had landed
and were fishing side by side, Melie and I, close to the two others;
but here, Monsieur, I must enter into details.

"We had only been there about five minutes when our male neighbor's
float began to go down two or three times, and then he pulled out a
chub as thick as my thigh, rather less, perhaps, but nearly as big! My
heart beat, and the perspiration stood on my forehead, and Melie said
to me: 'Well, you sot, did you see that?'

"Just then, Monsieur Bru, the grocer of Poissy, who was fond of gudgeon
fishing, passed in a boat, and called out to me: So somebody has taken
your usual place, Monsieur Renard? And I replied: 'Yes, Monsieur Bru,
there are some people in this world who do not know the usages of
common politeness.'

"The little man in linen pretended not to hear, nor his fat lump of a
wife, either."

Here the President interrupted him a second time: "Take care, you are
insulting the widow, Madame Flameche, who is present."

Renard made his excuses: "I beg your pardon, I beg your pardon, my
anger carried me away. Well, not a quarter of an hour had passed when
the little man caught another chub and another almost immediately, and
another five minutes later.

"The tears were in my eyes, and then I knew that Madame Renard was
boiling with rage, for she kept on nagging at me: 'Oh! how horrid!
Don't you see that he is robbing you of your fish? Do you think that
you will catch anything? Not even a frog, nothing whatever. Why, my
hands are burning, just to think of it.'

"But I said to myself: 'Let us wait until twelve o clock. Then this
poaching fellow will go to lunch, and I shall get my place again. As
for me, Monsieur le President, I lunch on the spot every Sunday; we
bring our provisions in 'Delila.' But there! At twelve o'clock, the
wretch produced a fowl out of a newspaper, and while he was eating,
actually he caught another chub!

"Melie and I had a morsel also, just a mouthful, a mere nothing, for
our heart was not in it.

"Then I took up my newspaper, to aid my digestion. Every Sunday I read
the 'Gil Blas' in the shade like that, by the side of the water. It is
Columbine's day, you know, Columbine who writes the articles in the
'Gil Blas.' I generally put Madame Renard into a passion by pretending
to know this Columbine. It is not true, for I do not know her, and have
never seen her, but that does not matter; she writes very well, and
then she says things straight out for a woman. She suits me, and there
are not many of her sort.

"Well, I began to tease my wife, but she got angry immediately, and
very angry, and so I held my tongue. At that moment our two witnesses,
who are present here, Monsieur Ladureau and Monsieur Durdent, appeared
on the other side of the river. We knew each other by sight. The little
man began to fish again, and he caught so many that I trembled with
vexation, and his wife said: 'It is an uncommonly good spot, and we
will come here always, Desire.' As for me, a cold shiver ran down my
back, and Madame Renard kept repeating: 'You are not a man; you have
the blood of a chicken in your veins'; and suddenly I said to her:
'Look here, I would rather go away, or I shall only be doing something
foolish.'

"And she whispered to me as if she had put a red-hot iron under my
nose: 'You are not a man. Now you are going to run away, and surrender
your place! Off you go, Bazaine!'

"Well, I felt that, but yet I did not move, while the other fellow
pulled out a bream, Oh! I never saw such a large one before, never! And
then my wife began to talk aloud, as if she were thinking, and you can
see her trickery. She said: 'That is what one might call stolen fish,
seeing that we baited the place ourselves. At any rate, they ought to
give us back the money we have spent on bait.'

"Then the fat woman in the cotton dress said in turn: 'Do you mean to
call us thieves, Madame?' And they began to explain, and then they came
to words. Oh! Lord! those creatures know some good ones. They shouted
so loud, that our two witnesses, who were on the other bank, began to
call out by way of a joke: 'Less noise over there; you will prevent
your husbands from fishing.'

"The fact is that neither of us moved any more than if we had been two
tree-stumps. We remained there, with our noses over the water, as if we
had heard nothing, but by Jove, we heard all the same. 'You are a mere
liar.'

"'You are nothing better than a street-walker.'

"'You are only a trollop.'

"'You are a regular strumpet.'

"And so on, and so on; a sailor could not have said more.

"Suddenly I heard a noise behind me, and turned round. It was the other
one, the fat woman who had fallen on to my wife with her parasol.
WHACK! WHACK! Melie got two of them, but she was furious, and she hits
hard when she is in a rage, so she caught the fat woman by the hair and
then, THUMP, THUMP. Slaps in the face rained down like ripe plums. I
should have let them go on--women among themselves, men among
themselves--it does not do to mix the blows, but the little man in the
linen jacket jumped up like a devil and was going to rush at my wife.
Ah! no, no, not that, my friend! I caught the gentleman with the end of
my fist, CRASH, CRASH, one on the nose, the other in the stomach. He
threw up his arms and legs and fell on his back into the river, just
into the hole.

"I should have fished him out most certainly, Monsieur le President, if
I had had the time. But unfortunately the fat woman got the better of
it, and she was drubbing Melie terribly. I know that I ought not to
have assisted her while the man was drinking his fill, but I never
thought that he would drown, and said to myself: 'Bah, it will cool
him.'

"I therefore ran up to the women to separate them, and all I received
was scratches and bites. Good Lord, what creatures! Well, it took me
five minutes, and perhaps ten, to separate those two viragoes. When I
turned round, there was nothing to be seen, and the water was as smooth
as a lake. The others yonder kept shouting: 'Fish him out!' It was all
very well to say that, but I cannot swim and still less dive!

"At last the man from the dam came, and two gentlemen with boat-hooks,
but it had taken over a quarter of an hour. He was found at the bottom
of the hole in eight feet of water, as I have said, but he was dead,
the poor little man in his linen suit! There are the facts, such as I
have sworn to. I am innocent, on my honor."

The witnesses having deposed to the same effect, the accused was
acquitted.


[1] A preparation of several kinds of fish, with a sharp sauce.



LOVE

THREE PAGES FROM A SPORTSMAN'S BOOK

I have just read among the general news in one of the papers a drama of
passion. He killed her and then he killed himself, so he must have
loved her. What matters He or She? Their love alone matters to me; and
it does not interest me because it moves me or astonishes me, or
because it softens me or makes me think, but because it recalls to my
mind a remembrance of my youth, a strange recollection of a hunting
adventure where Love appeared to me, as the Cross appeared to the early
Christians, in the midst of the heavens.

I was born with all the instincts and the senses of primitive man,
tempered by the arguments and the restraints of a civilized being. I am
passionately fond of shooting, yet the sight of the wounded animal, of
the blood on its feathers and on my hands, affects my heart so as
almost to make it stop.

That year the cold weather set in suddenly toward the end of autumn,
and I was invited by one of my cousins, Karl de Rauville, to go with
him and shoot ducks on the marshes, at daybreak.

My cousin was a jolly fellow of forty, with red hair, very stout and
bearded, a country gentleman, an amiable semi-brute, of a happy
disposition and endowed with that Gallic wit which makes even
mediocrity agreeable. He lived in a house, half farmhouse, half
chateau, situated in a broad valley through which a river ran. The
hills right and left were covered with woods, old manorial woods where
magnificent trees still remained, and where the rarest feathered game
in that part of France was to be found. Eagles were shot there
occasionally, and birds of passage, such as rarely venture into our
over-populated part of the country, invariably lighted amid these giant
oaks, as if they knew or recognized some little corner of a primeval
forest which had remained there to serve them as a shelter during their
short nocturnal halt.

In the valley there were large meadows watered by trenches and
separated by hedges; then, further on, the river, which up to that
point had been kept between banks, expanded into a vast marsh. That
marsh was the best shooting ground I ever saw. It was my cousin's chief
care, and he kept it as a preserve. Through the rushes that covered it,
and made it rustling and rough, narrow passages had been cut, through
which the flat-bottomed boats, impelled and steered by poles, passed
along silently over dead water, brushing up against the reeds and
making the swift fish take refuge in the weeds, and the wild fowl, with
their pointed, black heads, dive suddenly.

I am passionately fond of the water: of the sea, though it is too vast,
too full of movement, impossi-ble to hold; of the rivers which are so
beautiful, but which pass on, and flee away and above all of the
marshes, where the whole unknown existence of aquatic animals
palpitates. The marsh is an entire world in itself on the world of
earth--a different world, which has its own life, its settled
inhabitants and its passing travelers, its voices, its noises, and
above all its mystery. Nothing is more impressive, nothing more
disquieting, more terrifying occasionally, than a fen. Why should a
vague terror hang over these low plains covered with water? Is it the
low rustling of the rushes, the strange will-o'-the-wisp lights, the
silence which prevails on calm nights, the still mists which hang over
the surface like a shroud; or is it the almost inaudible splashing, so
slight and so gentle, yet sometimes more terrifying than the cannons of
men or the thunders of the skies, which make these marshes resemble
countries one has dreamed of, terrible countries holding an unknown and
dangerous secret?

No, something else belongs to it--another mystery, profounder and
graver, floats amid these thick mists, perhaps the mystery of the
creation itself! For was it not in stagnant and muddy water, amid the
heavy humidity of moist land under the heat of the sun, that the first
germ of life pulsated and expanded to the day?

I arrived at my cousin's in the evening. It was freezing hard enough to
split the stones.

During dinner, in the large room whose side-boards, walls, and ceiling
were covered with stuffed birds, with wings extended or perched on
branches  to which they were nailed,--hawks, herons, owls, nightjars,
buzzards, tiercels, vultures, falcons,--my cousin who, dressed in a
sealskin jacket, himself resembled some strange animal from a cold
country, told me what preparations he had made for that same night.

We were to start at half past three in the morning, so as to arrive at
the place which he had chosen for our watching-place at about half past
four. On that spot a hut had been built of lumps of ice, so as to
shelter us somewhat from the trying wind which precedes daybreak, a
wind so cold as to tear the flesh like a saw, cut it like the blade of
a knife, prick it like a poisoned sting, twist it like a pair of
pincers, and burn it like fire.

My cousin rubbed his hands: "I have never known such a frost," he said;
"it is already twelve degrees below zero at six o'clock in the evening."

I threw myself on to my bed immediately after we had finished our meal,
and went to sleep by the light of a bright fire burning in the grate.

At three o'clock he woke me. In my turn, I put on a sheepskin, and
found my cousin Karl covered with a bearskin. After having each
swallowed two cups of scalding coffee, followed by glasses of liqueur
brandy, we started, accompanied by a gamekeeper and our dogs, Plongeon
and Pierrot.

From the first moment that I got outside, I felt chilled to the very
marrow. It was one of those nights on which the earth seems dead with
cold. The frozen air becomes resisting and palpable, such pain does it
cause; no breath of wind moves it, it is fixed and motionless; it bites
you, pierces through you, dries you, kills the trees, the plants, the
insects, the small birds themselves, who fall from the branches on to
the hard ground, and become stiff themselves under the grip of the-cold.

The moon, which was in her last quarter and was inclining all to one
side, seemed fainting in the midst of space, so weak that she was
unable to wane, forced to stay up yonder, seized and paralyzed by the
severity of the weather. She shed a cold, mournful light over the
world, that dying and wan light which she gives us every month, at the
end of her period.

Karl and I walked side by side, our backs bent, our hands in our
pockets and our guns under our arms. Our boots, which were wrapped in
wool so that we might be able to walk without slipping on the frozen
river, made no sound, and I looked at the white vapor which our dogs'
breath made.

We were soon on the edge of the marsh, and entered one of the lanes of
dry rushes which ran through the low forest.

Our elbows, which touched the long, ribbonlike leaves, left a slight
noise behind us, and I was seized, as I had never been before, by the
powerful and singular emotion which marshes cause in me. This one was
dead, dead from cold, since we were walking on it, in the middle of its
population of dried rushes.

Suddenly, at the turn of one of the lanes, I perceived the ice-hut
which had been constructed to shelter us. I went in, and as we had
nearly an hour to wait before the wandering birds would awake, I rolled
myself up in my rug in order to try and get warm. Then, lying on my
back, I began to look at the misshapen moon, which had four horns
through the vaguely transparent walls of this polar house. But the
frost of the frozen marshes, the cold of these walls, the cold from the
firmament penetrated me so terribly that I began to cough. My cousin
Karl became uneasy.

"No matter if we do not kill much to-day," he said: "I do not want you
to catch cold; we will light a fire." And he told the gamekeeper to cut
some rushes.

We made a pile in the middle of our hut which had a hole in the middle
of the roof to let out the smoke, and when the red flames rose up to
the clear, crystal blocks they began to melt, gently, imperceptibly, as
if they were sweating. Karl, who had remained outside, called out to
me: "Come and look here!" I went out of the hut and remained struck
with astonishment. Our hut, in the shape of a cone, looked like an
enormous diamond with a heart of fire which had been suddenly planted
there in the midst of the frozen water of the marsh. And inside, we saw
two fantastic forms, those of our dogs, who were warming themselves at
the fire.

But a peculiar cry, a lost, a wandering cry, passed over our heads, and
the light from our hearth showed us the wild birds. Nothing moves one
so much as the first clamor of a life which one does not see, which
passes through the somber air so quickly and so far off, just before
the first streak of a winter's day appears on the horizon. It seems to
me, at this glacial hour of dawn, as if that passing cry which is
carried away by the wings of a bird is the sigh of a soul from the
world!

"Put out the fire," said Karl, "it is getting daylight."

The sky was, in fact, beginning to grow pale, and the flights of ducks
made long, rapid streaks which were soon obliterated on the sky.

A stream of light burst out into the night; Karl had fired, and the two
dogs ran forward.

And then, nearly every minute, now he, now I, aimed rapidly as soon as
the shadow of a flying flock appeared above the rushes. And Pierrot and
Plongeon, out of breath but happy, retrieved the bleeding birds, whose
eyes still, occasionally, looked at us.

The sun had risen, and it was a bright day with a blue sky, and we were
thinking of taking our departure, when two birds with extended necks
and outstretched wings, glided rapidly over our heads. I fired, and one
of them fell almost at my feet. It was a teal, with a silver breast,
and then, in the blue space above me, I heard a voice, the voice of a
bird. It was a short, repeated, heart-rending lament; and the bird, the
little animal that had been spared began to turn round in the blue sky,
over our heads, looking at its dead companion which I was holding in my
hand.

Karl was on his knees, his gun to his shoulder watching it eagerly,
until it should be within shot. "You have killed the duck," he said,
"and the drake will not fly away."

He certainly did not fly away; he circled over our heads continually,
and continued his cries. Never have any groans of suffering pained me
so much as that desolate appeal, as that lamentable reproach of this
poor bird which was lost in space.

Occasionally he took flight under the menace of the gun which followed
his movements, and seemed ready to continue his flight alone, but as he
could not make up his mind to this, he returned to find his mate.

"Leave her on the ground," Karl said to me, "he will come within shot
by and by." And he did indeed come near us, careless of danger,
infatuated by his animal love, by his affection for his mate, which I
had just killed.

Karl fired, and it was as if somebody had cut the string which held the
bird suspended. I saw something black descend, and I heard the noise of
a fall among the rushes. And Pierrot brought it to me.

I put them--they were already cold--into the same game-bag, and I
returned to Paris the same evening.



THE INN

Like all the little wooden inns in the higher Alps, tiny auberges
situated in the bare and rocky gorges which intersect the white summits
of the mountains, the inn of Schwarenbach is a refuge for travelers who
are crossing the Gemmi.

It is open six months in the year, and is inhabited by the family of
Jean Hauser. As soon as the snow begins to fall, and fills the valley
so as to make the road down to Loeche impassable, the father, with
mother, daughter, and the three sons depart, leaving the house in
charge of the old guide, Gaspard Hari, with the young guide, Ulrich
Kunsi, and Sam, the great mountain dog.

The two men and the dog remain till spring in their snowy prison, with
nothing before their eyes except immense, white slopes of the Balmhorn,
surrounded by light, glistening summits, and shut up, blocked up, and
buried by the snow which rises around them, enveloping and almost
burying the little house up to the eaves.

It was the day on which the Hauser family were going to return to
Loeche, as winter was approaching, and the descent was becoming
dangerous. Three mules started first, laden with baggage and led by the
three sons. Then the mother, Jeanne Hauser, and her daughter Louise
mounted a fourth mule, and set off in their turn. The father followed
them, accompanied by the two men in charge, who were to escort the
family as far as the brow of the descent. First of all they skirted the
small lake, now frozen over, at the foot of the mass of rocks which
stretched in front of the inn; then they followed the valley, which was
dominated on all sides by snow-covered peaks.

A ray of sunlight glinted into that little white, glistening, frozen
desert, illuminating it with a cold and dazzling flame. No living thing
appeared among this ocean of hills; there was no stir in that
immeasurable solitude, no noise disturbed the profound silence.

By degrees the young guide, Ulrich Kunsi, a tall, long-legged Swiss,
left daddy Hauser and old Gaspard behind, in order to catch up with the
mule which carried the two women. The younger one looked at him as he
approached, as if she would call him with her sad eyes. She was a
young, light-haired peasant girl, whose milk-white cheeks and pale hair
seemed to have lost their color by long dwelling amid the ice. When
Ulrich had caught up with the animal which carried the women, he put
his hand on the crupper, and relaxed his speed. Mother Hauser began to
talk to him, and enumerated with minutest detail all that he would have
to attend to during the winter. It was the first winter he would spend
up there, while old Hari had already spent fourteen winters amid the
snow, at the inn of Schwarenbach.

Ulrich Kunsi listened, without appearing to understand, and looked
incessantly at the girl. From time to time he replied: "Yes, Madame
Hauser"; but his thoughts seemed far away, and his calm features
remained unmoved.

They reached Lake Daube, whose broad, frozen surface reached to the
bottom of the valley. On the right, the Daubenhorn showed its black
mass, rising up in a peak above the enormous moraines of the Lommeon
glacier, which soared above the Wildstrubel. As they approached the
neck of the Gemmi, where the descent to Loeche begins, the immense
horizon of the Alps of the Valais, from which the broad, deep valley of
the Rhone separated them, came in view.

In the distance, there was a group of white, unequal, flat or pointed
mountain summits, which glistened in the sun; the Mischabel with its
twin peaks, the huge group of the Weisshorn, the heavy Brunegghorn, the
lofty and formidable pyramid of Mont Cervin, slayer of men, and the
Dent Blanche, that terrible coquette.

Then beneath them, as at the bottom of a terrible abyss, they saw
Loeche, its houses looking like grains of sand which had been thrown
into that enormous crevice which finishes and closes the Gemmi, and
which opens, down below, on to the Rhone.

The mule stopped at the edge of the path, which turns and twists
continually, zigzagging fantastically and strangely along the steep
side of the mountain, as far as the almost invisible little village at
its feet. The women jumped into the snow, and the two old men joined
them.

"Well," father Hauser said, "good-bye, and keep up your spirits till
next year, my friends," and old Hari replied: "Till next year."

They embraced each other, and then Madame Hauser in her turn, offered
her cheek, and the girl did the same. When Ulrich Kunsi's turn came, he
whispered in Louise's ear:

"Do not forget those up yonder," and she replied: "No," in such a low
voice, that he guessed what she had said, without hearing it.

"Well, adieu," Jean Hauser repeated, "and don't fall ill." Then, going
before the two women, he commenced the descent, and soon all three
disappeared at the first turn in the road, while the two men returned
to the inn at Schwarenbach.

They walked slowly side by side, without speaking. The parting was
over, and they would be alone together for four or five months. Then
Gaspard Hari began to relate his life last winter. He had remained with
Michael Canol, who was too old now to stand it; for an accident might
happen during that long solitude. They had not been dull, however; the
only thing was to be resigned to it from the first, and in the end one
would find plenty of distraction, games and other means of whiling away
the time.

Ulrich Kunsi listened to him with his eyes on the ground, for in
thought he was with those who were descending to the village. They soon
came in sight of the inn, which was scarcely visible, so small did it
look, a mere black speck at the foot of that enormous billow of snow.
When they opened the door, Sam, the great curly dog, began to romp
round them.

"Come, my boy," old Gaspard said, "we have no women now, so we must get
our own dinner ready. Go and peel the potatoes." And they both sat down
on wooden stools, and began to put the bread into the soup.

The next morning seemed very long to Kunsi. Old Hari smoked and smoked
beside the hearth, while the young man looked out of the window at the
snow-covered mountain opposite the house. In the afternoon he went out,
and going over the previous day's ground again, he looked for the
traces of the mule that had carried the two women; then when he had
reached the neck of the Gemmi, he laid himself down on his stomach, and
looked at Loeche.

The village, in its rocky pit, was not yet buried under the snow,
although the white masses came quite close to it, balked, however, of
their prey by the pine woods which protected the hamlet. From his
vantage point the low houses looked like paving-stones in a large
meadow. Hauser's little daughter was there now in one of those
gray-colored houses. In which? Ulrich Kunsi was too far away to be able
to make them out separately. How he would have liked to go down while
he was yet able!

But the sun had disappeared behind the lofty crest of the Wildstrubel,
and the young man returned to the chalet. Daddy Hari was smoking, and,
when he saw his mate come in, proposed a game of cards to him. They sat
down opposite each other for a long time and played the simple game
called brisque; then they had supper and went to bed.

The following days were like the first, bright and cold, without any
more snow. Old Gaspard spent his afternoons in watching the eagles and
other rare birds which ventured on to those frozen heights; while
Ulrich journeyed regularly to the neck of the Gemmi to look at the
village. In the evening they played at cards, dice, or dominoes, and
lost and won trifling sums, just to create an interest in the game.

One morning Hari, who was up first, called his companion. A moving
cloud of white spray, deep and light, was falling on them noiselessly,
and burying them by degrees under a dark, thick coverlet of foam. This
lasted four days and four nights. It was necessary to free the door and
the windows, to dig out a passage, and to cut steps to get over this
frozen powder, which a twelve-hours' frost had made as hard as the
granite of the moraines.

They lived like prisoners, not venturing outside their abode. They had
divided their duties and performed them regularly. Ulrich Kunsi
undertook the scouring, washing, and everything that belonged to
cleanliness. He also chopped up the wood, while Gaspard Hari did the
cooking and attended to the fire. Their regular and monotonous work was
relieved by long games at cards or dice, but they never quarreled, and
were always calm and placid. They were never even impatient or
ill-humored, nor did they ever use hard words, for they had laid in a
stock of patience for this wintering on the top of the mountain.

Sometimes old Gaspard took his rifle and went after chamois, and
occasionally killed one. Then there was a feast in the inn at
Schwarenbach, and they reveled in fresh meat. One morning he went out
as usual. The thermometer outside marked eighteen degrees of frost, and
as the sun had not yet risen, the hunter hoped to surprise the animals
at the approaches to the Wildstrubel. Ulrich, being alone, remained in
bed until ten o'clock. He was of a sleepy nature, but would not have
dared to give way like that to his inclination in the presence of the
old guide, who was ever an early riser. He breakfasted leisurely with
Sam, who also spent his days and nights in sleeping in front of the
fire; then he felt low-spirited and even frightened at the solitude,
and was seized by a longing for his daily game of cards, as one is by
the domination of an invincible habit. So he went out to meet his
companion, who was to return at four o'clock.

The snow had leveled the whole deep valley, filled up the crevasses,
obliterated all signs of the two lakes and covered the rocks, so that
between the high summits there was nothing but an immense, white,
regular, dazzling, and frozen surface. For three weeks, Ulrich had not
been to the edge of the precipice, from which he had looked down on to
the village, and he wanted to go there before climbing the slopes which
led to the Wildstrubel. Loeche was now covered by the snow, and the
houses could scarcely be distinguished, hidden as they were by that
white cloak.

Turning to the right, Ulrich reached the Lammern glacier. He strode
along with a mountaineer's long swinging pace, striking the snow, which
was as hard as a rock, with his iron-shod stick, and with piercing eyes
looking for the little black, moving speck in the distance, on that
enormous, white expanse.

When he reached the end of the glacier he stopped, and asked himself
whether the old man had taken that road, and then he began to walk
along the moraines with rapid and uneasy steps. The day was declining;
the snow was assuming a rosy tint, and a dry, frozen wind blew in rough
gusts over its crystal surface. Ulrich uttered a long, shrill,
vibrating call. His voice sped through the deathlike silence in which
the mountains were sleeping; it reached into the distance, over the
profound and motionless waves of glacial foam, like the cry of a bird
over the waves of the sea; then it died away and nothing answered him.

He started off again. The sun had sunk behind the mountain tops, which
still were purpled with the reflection from the heavens; but the depths
of the valley were becoming gray, and suddenly the young man felt
frightened. It seemed to him as if the silence, the cold, the solitude,
the wintry death of these mountains were taking possession of him, were
stopping and freezing his blood, making his limbs grow stiff, and
turning him into a motionless and frozen object; and he began to run
rapidly toward the dwelling. The old man, he thought, would have
returned during his absence. He had probably taken another road; and
would, no doubt, be sitting before the fire, with a dead chamois at his
feet.

He soon came in sight of the inn, but no smoke rose from it. Ulrich ran
faster. Opening the door he met Sam who ran up to him to greet him, but
Gaspard Hari had not returned. Kunsi, in his alarm, turned round
suddenly, as if he had expected to find his comrade hidden in a corner.
Then he relighted the fire and made the soup; hoping every moment to
see the old man come in. From time to time he went out to see if
Gaspard were not in sight. It was night now, that wan night of the
mountain, a livid night, with the crescent moon, yellow and dim, just
disappearing behind the mountain tops, and shining faintly on the edge
of the horizon.

Then the young man went in and sat down to warm his hands and feet,
while he pictured to himself every possible sort of accident. Gaspard
might have broken a leg, have fallen into a crevasse, have taken a
false step and dislocated his ankle. Perhaps he was lying on the snow,
overcome and stiff with the cold, in agony of mind, lost and perhaps
shouting for help, calling with all his might, in the silence of the
night.

But where? The mountain was so vast, so rugged, so dangerous in places,
especially at that time of the year, that it would have required ten or
twenty guides walking for a week in all directions, to find a man in
that immense space. Ulrich Kunsi, however, made up his mind to set out
with Sam, if Gaspard did not return by one in the morning; and he made
his preparations.

He put provisions for two days into a bag, took his steel
climbing-irons, tied a long, thin, strong rope round his waist and
looked to see that his iron-shod stick and his ax, which served to cut
steps in the ice, were in order. Then he waited. The fire was burning
on the hearth, the great dog was snoring in front of it, and the clock
was ticking in its case of resounding wood, as regularly as a heart
beating.

He waited, his ears on the alert for distant sounds, and shivered when
the wind blew against the roof and the walls. It struck twelve, and he
trembled. Then, as he felt frightened and shivery, he put some water on
the fire, so that he might have hot coffee before starting. When the
clock struck one he got up, woke Sam, opened the door and went off in
the direction of the Wildstrubel. For five hours he ascended, scaling
the rocks by means of his climbing-irons, cutting into the ice,
advancing continually, and occasionally hauling up the dog, who
remained below at the foot of some slope that was too steep for him, by
means of the rope. About six o'clock he reached one of the summits to
which old Gaspard often came after chamois, and he waited till it
should be day-light.

The sky was growing pale overhead, and suddenly a strange light,
springing, nobody could tell whence, suddenly illuminated the immense
ocean of pale mountain peaks, which stretched for many leagues around
him. It seemed as if this vague brightness arose from the snow itself,
in order to spread itself into space. By degrees the highest and most
distant summits assumed a delicate, fleshlike rose color, and the red
sun appeared behind the ponderous giants of the Bernese Alps.

Ulrich Kunsi set off again, walking like a hunter, stooping and looking
for any traces, and saying to his dog: "Seek old fellow, seek!"

He was descending the mountain now, scanning the depths closely, and
from time to time shouting, uttering a loud, prolonged familiar cry
which soon died away in that silent vastness. Then, he put his ear to
the ground, to listen. He thought he could distinguish a voice, and so
he began to run and shout again. But he heard nothing more and sat
down, worn out and in despair. Toward midday he breakfasted and gave
Sam, who was as tired as himself, something to eat also; then he
recommenced his search.

When evening came he was still walking, having traveled more than
thirty miles over the mountains. As he was too far away to return home,
and too tired to drag himself along any further, he dug a hole in the
snow and crouched in it with his dog, under a blanket which he had
brought with him. The man and the dog lay side by side, warming
themselves one against the other, but frozen to the marrow,
nevertheless. Ulrich scarcely slept, his mind haunted by visions and
his limbs shaking with cold.

Day was breaking when he got up. His legs were as stiff as iron bars,
and his spirits so low that he was ready to weep, while his heart was
beating so that he almost fell with excitement whenever he thought he
heard a noise.

Suddenly he imagined that he ALSO was going to die of cold in the midst
of this vast solitude. The terror of such a death roused his energies
and gave him renewed vigor. He was descending toward the inn, falling
down and getting up again, and followed at a distance by Sam, who was
limping on three legs. They did not reach Schwarenbach until four
o'clock in the afternoon. The house was empty, and the young man made a
fire, had something to eat, and went to sleep, so worn-out that he did
not think of anything more.

He slept for a long time, for a very long time, the unconquerable sleep
of exhaustion. But suddenly a voice, a cry, a name: "Ulrich," aroused
him from his profound slumber, and made him sit up in bed. Had he been
dreaming? Was it one of those strange appeals which cross the dreams of
disquieted minds? No, he heard it still, that reverberating cry,--which
had entered at his ears and remained in his brain,--thrilling him to
the tips of his sinewy fingers. Certainly, somebody had cried out, and
called: "Ulrich!" There was somebody there, near the house, there could
be no doubt of that, and he opened the door and shouted: "Is it you,
Gaspard?" with all the strength of his lungs. But there was no reply,
no murmur, no groan, nothing. It was quite dark, and the snow looked
wan.

The wind had risen, that icy wind which cracks the rocks, and leaves
nothing alive on those deserted heights. It came in sudden gusts, more
parching and more deadly than the burning wind of the desert, and again
Ulrich shouted: "Gaspard! Gaspard! Gaspard!" Then he waited again.
Everything was silent on the mountain! Then he shook with terror, and
with a bound he was inside the inn. He shut and bolted the door, and
then fell into a chair, trembling all over, for he felt certain that
his comrade had called him at the moment of dissolution.

He was certain of that, as certain as one is of conscious life or of
taste when eating. Old Gaspard Hari had been dying for two days and
three nights somewhere, in some hole, in one of those deep, untrodden
ravines whose whiteness is more sinister than subterranean darkness. He
had been dying for two days and three nights and he had just then died,
thinking of his comrade. His soul, almost before it was released, had
taken its flight to the inn where Ulrich was sleeping, and it had
called him by that terrible and mysterious power which the spirits of
the dead possess. That voiceless soul had cried to the worn-out soul of
the sleeper; it had uttered its last farewell, or its reproach, or its
curse on the man who had not searched carefully enough.

And Ulrich felt that it was there, quite close to him, behind the wall,
behind the door which he had just fastened. It was wandering about,
like a night bird which skims a lighted window with his wings, and the
terrified young man was ready to scream with horror. He wanted to run
away, but did not dare go out; he did not dare, and would never dare in
the future, for that phantom would remain there day and night, round
the inn, as long as the old man's body was not recovered and deposited
in the consecrated earth of a churchyard.

Daylight came, and Kunsi recovered some of his courage with the return
of the bright sun. He prepared his meal, gave his dog some food, and
then remained motionless on a chair, tortured at heart as he thought of
the old man lying on the snow. Then, as soon as night once more covered
the mountains, new terrors assailed him. He now walked up and down the
dark kitchen, which was scarcely lighted by the flame of one candle. He
walked from one end of it to the other with great strides, listening,
listening to hear the terrible cry of the preceding night again break
the dreary silence outside. He felt himself alone, unhappy man, as no
man had ever been alone before! Alone in this immense desert of snow,
alone five thousand feet above the inhabited earth; above human
habitations, above that stirring, noisy, palpitating life, alone under
an icy sky! A mad longing impelled him to run away, no matter where, to
get down to Loeche by flinging himself over the precipice; but he did
not even dare to open the door, as he felt sure that the other, the
DEAD, man would bar his road, so that he might not be obliged to remain
up there alone.

Toward midnight, tired with walking, worn-out by grief and fear, he
fell into a doze in his chair, for he was afraid of his bed, as one is
of a haunted spot. But suddenly the strident cry of the preceding
evening pierced his ears, so shrill that Ulrich stretched out his arms
to repulse the ghost, and he fell on to his back with his chair.

Sam, who was awakened by the noise, began to howl as frightened dogs
do, and trotted all about the house trying to find out where the danger
came from. When he got to the door, he sniffed beneath it, smelling
vigorously, with his coat bristling and his tail stiff while he growled
angrily. Kunsi, who was terrified, jumped up, and holding his chair by
one leg, cried: "Don't come in, don't come in, or I shall kill you."
And the dog, excited by this threat, barked angrily at that invisible
enemy who defied his master's voice. By degrees, however, he quieted
down, came back and stretched himself in front of the fire. But he was
uneasy, and kept his head up, and growled between his teeth.

Ulrich, in turn, recovered his senses, but as he felt faint with
terror, he went and got a bottle of brandy out of the sideboard, and
drank off several glasses, one after another, at a gulp. His ideas
became vague, his courage revived, and a feverish glow ran through his
veins.

He ate scarcely anything the next day, and limited himself to alcohol;
so he lived for several days, like a drunken brute. As soon as he
thought of Gaspard Hari he began to drink again, and went on drinking
until he fell on to the floor, overcome by intoxication. And there he
remained on his face, dead drunk, his limbs benumbed, and snoring with
his face to the ground. But scarcely had he digested the maddening and
burning liquor, than the same cry, "Ulrich," woke him like a bullet
piercing his brain, and he got up, still staggering, stretching out his
hands to save himself from falling, and calling to Sam to help him. And
the dog, who appeared to be going mad like his master, rushed to the
door, scratched it with his claws, and gnawed it with his long white
teeth, while the young man, his neck thrown back, and his head in the
air, drank the brandy in gulps, as if it were cold water, so that it
might by and by send his thoughts, his frantic terror, and his memory,
to sleep again.

In three weeks he had consumed all his stock of ardent spirits. But his
continual drunkenness only lulled his terror, which awoke more
furiously than ever, as soon as it was impossible for him to calm it by
drinking. His fixed idea, which had been intensified by a month of
drunkenness, and which was continually increasing in his absolute
solitude? pene-trated him like a gimlet. He now walked about his house
like a wild beast in its cage, putting his eat to the door to listen if
the other were there, and defying him through the wall. Then as soon as
he dozed, overcome by fatigue, he heard the voice which made him leap
to his feet.

At last one night, as cowards do when driven to extremity, he sprang to
the door and opened it, to see who was calling him, and to force him to
keep quiet. But such a gust of cold wind blew into his face that it
chilled him to the bone. He closed and bolted the door again
immediately, without noticing that Sam had rushed out. Then, as he was
shivering with cold, he threw some wood on the fire, and sat down in
front of it to warm himself. But suddenly he started, for somebody was
scratching at the wall, and crying. In desperation he called out: "Go
away!" but was answered by another long, sorrowful wail.

Then all his remaining senses forsook him, from sheer fright. He
repeated: "Go away!" and turned round to find some corner in which to
hide, while the other person went round the house still crying, and
rubbing against the wall. Ulrich went to the oak sideboard, which was
full of plates and dishes and of provisions, and lifting it up with
superhuman strength, he dragged it to the door, so as to form a
barricade. Then piling up all the rest of the furniture, the
mattresses, paillasses, and chairs, he stopped up the windows as men do
when assailed by an enemy.

But the person outside now uttered long, plaintive, mournful groans, to
which the young man replied by similar groans, and thus days and nights
passed without their ceasing to howl at each other. The one was
continually walking round the house and scraped the walls with his
nails so vigorously that it seemed as if he wished to destroy them,
while the other, inside, followed all his movements, stooping down, and
holding his ear to the walls, and replying to all his appeals with
terrible cries. One evening, however, Ulrich heard nothing more, and he
sat down, so overcome by fatigue that he went to sleep immediately, and
awoke in the morning without a thought, without any recollection of
what had happened, just as if his head had been emptied during his
heavy sleep. But he felt hungry, and he ate.

The winter was over, and the Gemmi pass was practicable again, so the
Hauser family started off to return to their inn. As soon as they had
reached the top of the ascent, the women mounted their mule, and spoke
about the two men who they would meet again shortly. They were, indeed,
rather surprised that neither of them had come down a few days before,
as soon as the road became passable, in order to tell them all about
their long winter sojourn. At last, however, they saw the inn, still
covered with snow, like a quilt. The door and the windows were closed,
but a little smoke was coming out of the chimney, which reassured old
Hauser; on going up to the door, however, he saw the skeleton of an
animal which had been torn to pieces by the eagles, a large skeleton
lying on its side.

They all looked closely at it, and the mother said: "That must be Sam."
Then she shouted: "Hi! Gaspard!" A cry from the interior of the house
answered her, so sharp a cry that one might have thought some animal
uttered it. Old Hauser repeated: "Hi! Gaspard!" and they heard another
cry, similar to the first.

Then the three men, the father and the two sons, tried to open the
door, but it resisted their efforts. From the empty cow-stall they took
a beam to serve as a battering-ram, and hurled it against the door with
all their might. The wood gave way, and the boards flew into splinters;
then the house was shaken by a loud voice, and inside, behind the
sideboard which was overturned, they saw a man standing upright, his
hair falling on to his shoulders and a beard descending to his breast,
with shining eyes and nothing but rags to cover him. They did not
recognize him, but Louise Hauser exclaimed: "It is Ulrich, mother." And
her mother declared that it was Ulrich, although his hair was white.

He allowed them to go up to him, and to touch him, but he did not reply
to any of their questions, and they were obliged to take him to Loeche,
where the doctors found that he was mad. Nobody ever knew what had
become of his companion.

Little Louise Hauser nearly died that summer of decline, which the
medical men attributed to the cold air of the mountains.



A FAMILY

I was going to see my friend Simon Radevin once more, for I had not
seen him for fifteen years. Formerly he was my most intimate friend,
and I used to spend long, quiet, and happy evenings with him. He was
one of those men to whom one tells the most intimate affairs of the
heart, and in whom one finds, when quietly talking, rare, clever,
ingenious, and refined thoughts--thoughts which stimulate and capture
the mind.

For years we had scarcely been separated: we had lived, traveled,
thought, and dreamed together; had liked the same things with the same
liking, admired the same books, comprehended the same works, shivered
with the same sensations, and very often laughed at the same
individuals, whom we understood completely, by merely exchanging a
glance.

Then he married--quite unexpectedly married a little girl from the
provinces, who had come to Paris in search of a husband. How ever could
that little, thin, insipidly fair girl, with her weak hands, her light,
vacant eyes, and her clear, silly voice, who was exactly like a hundred
thousand marriageable dolls, have picked up that intelligent, clever
young fellow? Can anyone understand these things? No doubt he had hoped
for happiness, simple, quiet, and long-enduring happiness, in the arms
of a good, tender, and faithful woman; he had seen all that in the
transparent looks of that schoolgirl with light hair.

He had not dreamed of the fact that an active, living, and vibrating
man grows tired as soon as he has comprehended the stupid reality of a
common-place life, unless indeed, he becomes so brutalized as to be
callous to externals.

What would he be like when I met him again? Still lively, witty,
light-hearted, and enthusiastic, or in a state of mental torpor through
provincial life? A man can change a great deal in the course of fifteen
years!

The train stopped at a small station, and as I got out of the carriage,
a stout, a very stout man with red cheeks and a big stomach rushed up
to me with open arms, exclaiming: "George!"

I embraced him, but I had not recognized him, and then I said, in
astonishment: "By Jove! You have not grown thin!"

And he replied with a laugh: "What did you expect? Good living, a good
table, and good nights! Eating and sleeping, that is my existence!"

I looked at him closely, trying to find the features I held so dear in
that broad face. His eyes alone had not altered, but I no longer saw
the same looks in them, and I said to myself: "If looks be the
reflection of the mind, the thoughts in that head are not what they
used to be--those thoughts which I knew so well."

Yet his eyes were bright, full of pleasure and friendship, but they had
not that clear, intelligent expression which tells better than do words
the value of the mind. Suddenly he said to me:

"Here are my two eldest children." A girl of fourteen, who was almost a
woman, and a boy of thirteen, in the dress of a pupil from a lycee,
came forward in a hesitating and awkward manner, and I said in a low
voice: "Are they yours?"

"Of course they are," he replied laughing.

"How many have you?"

"Five! There are three more indoors."

He said that in a proud, self-satisfied, almost triumphant manner, and
I felt profound pity, mingled with a feeling of vague contempt for this
vainglorious and simple reproducer of his species, who spent his nights
in his country house in uxorious pleasures.

I got into a carriage, which he drove himself, and we set off through
the town, a dull, sleepy, gloomy town where nothing was moving in the
streets save a few dogs and two or three maidservants. Here and there a
shopkeeper standing at his door took off his hat, and Simon returned
the salute and told me the man's name--no doubt to show me that he knew
all the inhabitants personally. The thought struck me that he was
thinking of becoming a candidate for the Chamber of Deputies, that
dream of all who have buried themselves in the provinces.

We were soon out of the town; the carriage turned into a garden which
had some pretensions to a park, and stopped in front of a turreted
house, which tried to pass for a chateau.

"That is my den," Simon said, so that he might be complimented on it,
and I replied that it was delightful.

A lady appeared on the steps, dressed up for a visitor, her hair done
for a visitor, and with phrases ready prepared for a visitor. She was
no longer the light-haired, insipid girl I had seen in church fifteen
years previously, but a stout lady in curls and flounces, one of those
ladies of uncertain age, without intellect, without any of those things
which constitute a woman. In short she was a mother, a stout,
commonplace mother, a human layer and brood mare, a machine of flesh
which procreates, without mental care save for her children and her
housekeeping book.

She welcomed me, and I went into the hall, where three children, ranged
according to their height, were ranked for review, like firemen before
a mayor. "Ah! ah! so there are the others?" said I. And Simon, who was
radiant with pleasure, named them: "Jean, Sophie, and Gontran."

The door of the drawing-room was open. I went in, and in the depths of
an easy-chair I saw something trembling, a man, an old, paralyzed man.
Madame Radevin came forward and said: "This is my grandfather,
Monsieur; he is eighty-seven." And then she shouted into the shaking
old man's ears: "This is a friend of Simon's, grandpapa."

The old gentleman tried to say "Good day" to me, and he muttered: "Oua,
oua, oua," and waved his hand.

I took a seat saying: "You are very kind, Monsieur."

Simon had just come in, and he said with a laugh: "So! You have made
grandpapa's acquaintance. He is priceless, is that old man. He is the
delight of the children, and he is so greedy that he almost kills
himself at every meal. You have no idea what he would eat if he were
allowed to do as he pleased. But you will see, you will see. He looks
all the sweets over as if they were so many girls. You have never seen
anything funnier; you will see it presently."

I was then shown to my room to change my dress for dinner, and hearing
a great clatter behind me on the stairs, I turned round and saw that
all the children were following me behind their father--to do me honor,
no doubt.

My windows looked out on to a plain, a bare, interminable plain, an
ocean of grass, of wheat, and of oats, without a clump of trees or any
rising ground, a striking and melancholy picture of the life which they
must be leading in that house.

A bell rang; it was for dinner, and so I went downstairs. Madame
Radevin took my arm in a ceremonious manner, and we went into the
dining-room. A footman wheeled in the old man's arm-chair, who gave a
greedy and curious look at the dessert, as with difficulty he turned
his shaking head from one dish to the other.

Simon rubbed his hands, saying: "You will be amused." All the children
understood that I was going to be indulged with the sight of their
greedy grandfather and they began to laugh accordingly, while their
mother merely smiled and shrugged her shoulders. Simon, making a
speaking trumpet of his hands, shouted at the old man: "This evening
there is sweet rice-cream," and the wrinkled face of the grandfather
brightened, he trembled violently all over, showing that he had
understood and was very pleased. The dinner began.

"Just look!" Simon whispered. The grandfather did not like the soup,
and refused to eat it; but he was made to, on account of his health.
The footman forced the spoon into his mouth, while the old man blew
energetically, so as not to swallow the soup, which was thus scattered
like a stream of water on to the table and over his neighbors. The
children shook with delight at the spectacle, while their father, who
was also amused, said: "Isn't the old man funny?"

During the whole meal they were all taken up solely with him. With his
eyes he devoured the dishes which were put on the table, and with
trembling hands tried to seize them and pull them to him. They put them
almost within his reach to see his useless efforts, his trembling
clutches at them, the piteous appeal of his whole nature, of his eyes,
of his mouth, and of his nose as he smelled them. He slobbered on to
his table napkin with eagerness, while uttering inarticulate grunts,
and the whole family was highly amused at this horrible and grotesque
scene.

Then they put a tiny morsel on to his plate, which he ate with feverish
gluttony, in order to get something more as soon as possible. When the
rice-cream was brought in, he nearly had a fit, and groaned with
greediness. Gontran called out to him: "You have eaten too much
already; you will have no more." And they pretended not to give him
any. Then he began to cry--cry and tremble more violently than ever,
while all the children laughed. At last, however, they gave him his
helping, a very small piece. As he ate the first mouthful of the
pudding, he made a comical and greedy noise in his throat, and a
movement with his neck like ducks do, when they swallow too large a
morsel, and then, when he had done, he began to stamp his feet, so as
to get more.

I was seized with pity for this pitiable and ridiculous Tantalus, and
interposed on his behalf: "Please, will you not give him a little more
rice?"

But Simon replied: "Oh! no my dear fellow, if he were to eat too much,
it might harm him at his age."

I held my tongue, and thought over these words. Oh! ethics! Oh! logic!
Oh! wisdom! At his age! So they deprived him of his only remaining
pleasure out of regard for his health! His health! What would he do
with it, inert and trembling wreck that he was? They were taking care
of his life, so they said. His life? How many days? Ten, twenty, fifty,
or a hundred? Why? For his own sake? Or to preserve for some time
longer, the spectacle of his impotent greediness in the family.

There was nothing left for him to do in this life, nothing whatever. He
had one single wish left, one sole pleasure; why not grant him that
last solace constantly, until he died?

After playing cards for a long time, I went up to my room and to bed: I
was low-spirited and sad, sad, sad! I sat at my window, but I heard
nothing but the beautiful warbling of a bird in a tree, somewhere in
the distance. No doubt the bird was singing thus in a low voice during
the night, to lull his mate, who was sleeping on her eggs.

And I thought of my poor friend's five children, and to myself pictured
him snoring by the side of his ugly wife.



BELLFLOWER[1]

[1] Clochette.

How strange are those old recollections which haunt us, without our
being able to get rid of them!

This one is so very old that I cannot understand how it has clung so
vividly and tenaciously to my memory. Since then I have seen so many
sinister things, either affecting or terrible, that I am astonished at
not being able to pass a single day without the face of Mother
Bellflower recurring to my mind's eye, just as I knew her formerly,
long, long ago, when I was ten or twelve years old.

She was an old seamstress who came to my parents' house once a week,
every Thursday, to mend the linen. My parents lived in one of those
country houses called chateaux, which are merely old houses with
pointed roofs, to which are attached three or four adjacent farms.

The village, a large village, almost a small market town, was a few
hundred yards off, and nestled round the church, a red brick church,
which had become black with age.

Well, every Thursday Mother Bellflower came between half past six and
seven in the morning, and went immediately into the linen-room and
began to work. She was a tall, thin, bearded or rather hairy woman, for
she had a beard all over her face, a surprising, an unexpected beard,
growing in improbable tufts, in curly bunches which looked as if they
had been sown by a madman over that great face, the face of a gendarme
in petticoats. She had them on her nose, under her nose, round her
nose, on her chin, on her cheeks; and her eyebrows, which were
extraordinarily thick and long, and quite gray, bushy and bristling,
looked exactly like a pair of mustaches stuck on there by mistake.

She limped, but not like lame people generally do, but like a ship
pitching. When she planted her great, bony, vibrant body on her sound
leg, she seemed to be preparing to mount some enormous wave, and then
suddenly she dipped as if to disappear in an abyss, and buried herself
in the ground. Her walk reminded one of a ship in a storm, and her
head, which was always covered with an enormous white cap, whose
ribbons fluttered down her back, seemed to traverse the horizon from
North to South and from South to North, at each limp.

I adored Mother Bellflower. As soon as I was up I used to go into the
linen-room, where I found her installed at work, with a foot-warmer
under her feet. As soon as I arrived, she made me take the foot-warmer
and sit upon it, so that I might not catch cold in that large, chilly
room under the roof.

"That draws the blood from your head," she would say to me.

She told me stories, while mending the linen with her long, crooked,
nimble fingers; behind her magnifying spectacles, for age had impaired
her sight, her eyes appeared enormous to me, strangely profound, double.

As far as I can remember from the things which she told me and by which
my childish heart was moved, she had the large heart of a poor woman.
She told me what had happened in the village, how a cow had escaped
from the cowhouse and had been found the next morning in front of
Prosper Malet's mill, looking at the sails turning, or about a hen's
egg which had been found in the church belfry without anyone being able
to understand what creature had been there to lay it, or the queer
story of Jean Pila's dog, who had gone ten leagues to bring back his
master's breeches which a tramp had stolen while they were hanging up
to dry out of doors, after he had been caught in the rain. She told me
these simple adventures in such a manner that in my mind they assumed
the proportions of never-to-be-forgotten dramas, of grand and
mysterious poems; and the ingenious stories invented by the poets,
which my mother told me in the evening, had none of the flavor, none of
the fullness or of the vigor of the peasant woman's narratives.

Well, one Thursday when I had spent all the morning in listening to
Mother Clochette, I wanted to go upstairs to her again during the day,
after picking hazelnuts with the manservant in the wood behind the
farm. I remember it all as clearly as what happened only yesterday.

On opening the door of the linen-room, I saw the old seamstress lying
on the floor by the side of her chair, her face turned down and her
arms stretched out, but still holding her needle in one hand and one of
my shirts in the other. One of her legs in a blue stocking, the longer
one no doubt, was extended under her chair, and her spectacles
glistened by the wall, where they had rolled away from her.

I ran away uttering shrill cries. They all came running, and in a few
minutes I was told that Mother Clochette was dead.

I cannot describe the profound, poignant, terrible emotion which
stirred my childish heart. I went slowly down into the drawing-room and
hid myself in a dark corner, in the depths of a great, old arm-chair,
where I knelt and wept. I remained there for a long time no doubt, for
night came on. Suddenly some one came in with a lamp--without seeing
me, however--and I heard my father and mother talking with the medical
man, whose voice I recognized.

He had been sent for immediately, and he was explaining the cause of
the accident, of which I understood nothing, however. Then he sat down
and had a glass of liqueur and a biscuit.

He went on talking, and what he then said will remain engraved on my
mind until I die! I think that I can give the exact words which he used.

"Ah!" said he, "the poor woman! she broke her leg the day of my arrival
here. I had not even had time to wash my hands after getting off the
diligence before I was sent for in all haste, for it was a bad case,
very bad.

"She was seventeen, and a pretty girl, very pretty! Would anyone
believe it? I have never told her story before, in fact no one but
myself and one other person, who is no longer living in this part of
the country, ever knew it. Now that she is dead, I may be less discreet.

"A young assistant teacher had just come to live in the village; he was
good-looking and had the bearing of a soldier. All the girls ran after
him, but he was disdainful. Besides that, he was very much afraid of
his superior, the schoolmaster, old Grabu, who occasionally got out of
bed the wrong foot first.

"Old Grabu already employed pretty Hortense, who has just died here,
and who was afterward nicknamed Clochette. The assistant master singled
out the pretty young girl, who was no doubt flattered at being chosen
by this disdainful conqueror; at any rate, she fell in love with him,
and he succeeded in persuading her to give him a first meeting in the
hayloft behind the school, at night, after she had done her day's
sewing.

"She pretended to go home, but instead of going downstairs when she
left the Grabus', she went upstairs and hid among the hay, to wait for
her lover. He soon joined her, and he was beginning to say pretty
things to her, when the door of the hayloft opened and the schoolmaster
appeared, and asked: 'What are you doing up there, Sigisbert?' Feeling
sure that he would be caught, the young school-master lost his presence
of mind and replied stupidly: 'I came up here to rest a little among
the bundles of hay, Monsieur Grabu.'

"The loft was very large and absolutely dark. Sigisbert pushed the
frightened girl to the further end and said: 'Go there and hide
yourself. I shall lose my situation, so get away and hide yourself.'

"When the schoolmaster heard the whispering, he continued: 'Why, you
are not by yourself?'

"'Yes I am, Monsieur Grabu!'

"'But you are not, for you are talking.'

"'I swear I am, Monsieur Grabu.'

"'I will soon find out,' the old man replied, and double-locking the
door, he went down to get a light.

"Then the young man, who was a coward such as one sometimes meets, lost
his head, and he repeated, having grown furious all of a sudden: 'Hide
yourself, so that he may not find you. You will deprive me of my bread
for my whole life; you will ruin my whole career! Do hide yourself!'

"They could hear the key turning in the lock again, and Hortense ran to
the window which looked out on to the street, opened it quickly, and
then in a low and determined voice said: 'You will come and pick me up
when he is gone,' and she jumped out.

"Old Grabu found nobody, and went down again in great surprise. A
quarter of an hour later, Monsieur Sigisbert came to me and related his
adventure. The girl had remained at the foot of the wall unable to get
up, as she had fallen from the second story, and I went with him to
fetch her. It was raining in torrents, and I brought the unfortunate
girl home with me, for the right leg was broken in three places, and
the bones had come out through the flesh. She did not complain, and
merely said, with admirable resignation: 'I am punished, well punished!'

"I sent for assistance and for the workgirl's friends and told them a
made-up story of a runaway carriage which had knocked her down and
lamed her, outside my door. They believed me, and the gendarmes for a
whole month tried in vain to find the author of this accident.

"That is all! Now I say that this woman was a heroine, and had the
fiber of those who accomplish the grandest deeds in history.

"That was her only love affair, and she died a virgin. She was a
martyr, a noble soul, a sublimely devoted woman! And if I did not
absolutely admire her, I should not have told you this story, which I
would never tell anyone during her life: you understand why."

The doctor ceased; mamma cried and papa said some words which I did not
catch; then they left the room, and I remained on my knees in the
armchair and sobbed, while I heard a strange noise of heavy footsteps
and something knocking against the side of the staircase.

They were carrying away Clochette's body.



WHO KNOWS?

My God! My God! I am going to write down at last what has happened to
me. But how can I? How dare I? The thing is so bizarre, so
inexplicable, so incomprehensible, so silly!

If I were not perfectly sure of what I have seen, sure that there was
not in my reasoning any defect, any error in my declarations, any
lacuna in the inflexible sequence of my observations, I should believe
myself to be the dupe of a simple hallucination, the sport of a
singular vision. After all, who knows?

Yesterday I was in a private asylum, but I went there voluntarily, out
of prudence and fear. Only one single human being knows my history, and
that is the doctor of the said asylum. I am going to write to him. I
really do not know why? To disembarrass myself? Yea, I feel as though
weighed down by an intolerable nightmare.

Let me explain.

I have always been a recluse, a dreamer, a kind of isolated
philosopher, easy-going, content with but little, harboring ill-feeling
against no man, and without even a grudge against heaven. I have
constantly lived alone; consequently, a kind of torture takes hold of
me when I find myself in the presence of others. How is this to be
explained? I do not know. I am not averse to going out into the world,
to conversation, to dining with friends, but when they are near me for
any length of time, even the most intimate of them, they bore me,
fatigue me, enervate me, and I experience an overwhelming, torturing
desire to see them get up and go, to take themselves away, and to leave
me by myself.

That desire is more than a craving; it is an irresistible necessity.
And if the presence of people with whom I find myself were to be
continued; if I were compelled, not only to listen, but also to follow,
for any length of time, their conversation, a serious accident would
assuredly take place. What kind of accident? Ah! who knows? Perhaps a
slight paralytic stroke? Probably!

I like solitude so much that I cannot even endure the vicinage of other
beings sleeping under the same roof. I cannot live in Paris, because
there I suffer the most acute agony. I lead a moral life, and am
therefore tortured in body and in nerves by that immense crowd which
swarms and lives even when it sleeps. Ah! the sleeping of others is
more painful still than their conversation. And I can never find repose
when I know and feel that on the other side of a wall several
existences are undergoing these regular eclipses of reason.

Why am I thus? Who knows? The cause of it is very simple perhaps. I get
tired very soon of everything that does not emanate from me. And there
are many people in similar case.

We are, on earth, two distinct races. Those who have need of others,
whom others amuse, engage soothe, whom solitude harasses, pains,
stupefies, like the movement of a terrible glacier or the traversing of
the desert; and those, on the contrary, whom others weary, tire, bore,
silently torture, whom isolation calms and bathes in the repose of
independency, and plunges into the humors of their own thoughts. In
fine, there is here a normal, physical phenomenon. Some are constituted
to live a life outside of themselves, others, to live a life within
themselves. As for me, my exterior associations are abruptly and
painfully short-lived, and, as they reach their limits, I experience in
my whole body and in my whole intelligence an intolerable uneasiness.

As a result of this, I became attached, or rather had become much
attached, to inanimate objects, which have for me the importance of
beings, and my house has or had become a world in which I lived an
active and solitary life, surrounded by all manner of things,
furniture, familiar knickknacks, as sympathetic in my eyes as the
visages of human beings. I had filled my mansion with them; little by
little, I had adorned it with them, and I felt an inward content and
satisfaction, was more happy than if I had been in the arms of a
beloved girl, whose wonted caresses had become a soothing and
delightful necessity.

I had had this house constructed in the center of a beautiful garden,
which hid it from the public high-ways, and which was near the entrance
to a city where I could find, on occasion, the resources of society,
for which, at moments, I had a longing. All my domestics slept in a
separate building, which was situated at some considerable distance
from my house, at the far end of the kitchen garden, which in turn was
surrounded by a high wall. The obscure envelopment of night, in the
silence of my concealed habitation, buried under the leaves of great
trees, was so reposeful and so delicious, that before retiring to my
couch I lingered every evening for several hours in order to enjoy the
solitude a little longer.

One day "Signad" had been played at one of the city theaters. It was
the first time that I had listened to that beautiful, musical, and
fairy-like drama, and I had derived from it the liveliest pleasures.

I returned home on foot with a light step, my head full of sonorous
phrases, and my mind haunted by delightful visions. It was night, the
dead of night, and so dark that I could hardly distinguish the broad
highway, and consequently I stumbled into the ditch more than once.
From the custom-house, at the barriers, to my house, was about a mile,
perhaps a little more--a leisurely walk of about twenty minutes. It was
one o'clock in the morning, one o'clock or maybe half-past one; the sky
had by this time cleared somewhat and the crescent appeared, the gloomy
crescent of the last quarter of the moon. The crescent of the first
quarter is that which rises about five or six o'clock in the evening
and is clear, gay, and fretted with silver; but the one which rises
after midnight is reddish, sad, and desolating--it is the true Sabbath
crescent. Every prowler by night has made the same observation. The
first, though slender as a thread, throws a faint, joyous light which
rejoices the heart and lines the ground with distinct shadows; the last
sheds hardly a dying glimmer, and is so wan that it occasions hardly
any shadows.

In the distance, I perceived the somber mass of my garden, and, I know
not why, was seized with a feeling of uneasiness at the idea of going
inside. I slackened my pace, and walked very softly, the thick cluster
of trees having the appearance of a tomb in which my house was buried.

I opened my outer gate and entered the long avenue of sycamores which
ran in the direction of the house, arranged vault-wise like a high
tunnel, traversing opaque masses, and winding round the turf lawns, on
which baskets of flowers, in the pale darkness, could be indistinctly
discerned.

While approaching the house, I was seized by a strange feeling. I could
hear nothing, I stood still. Through the trees there was not even a
breath of air stirring. "What is the matter with me?" I said to myself.
For ten years I had entered and re-entered in the same way, without
ever experiencing the least inquietude. I never had any fear at nights.
The sight of a man, a marauder, or a thief would have thrown me into a
fit of anger, and I would have rushed at him without any hesitation.
Moreover, I was armed--I had my revolver. But I did not touch it, for I
was anxious to resist that feeling of dread with which I was seized.

What was it? Was it a presentiment--that mysterious presentiment which
takes hold of the senses of men who have witnessed something which, to
them, is inexplicable? Perhaps? Who knows?

In proportion as I advanced, I felt my skin quiver more and more, and
when I was close to the wall, near the outhouses of my large residence,
I felt that it would be necessary for me to wait a few minutes before
opening the door and going inside. I sat down, then, on a bench, under
the windows of my drawing-room. I rested there, a little disturbed,
with my head leaning against the wall, my eyes wide open, under the
shade of the foliage. For the first few minutes, I did not observe
anything unusual around me; I had a humming noise in my ears, but that
has happened often to me. Sometimes it seemed to me that I heard trains
passing, that I heard clocks striking, that I heard a multitude on the
march.

Very soon, those humming noises became more distinct, more
concentrated, more determinable, I was deceiving myself. It was not the
ordinary tingling of my arteries which transmitted to my ears these
rumbling sounds, but it was a very distinct, though confused, noise
which came, without any doubt whatever, from the interior of my house.
Through the walls I distinguished this continued noise,--I should
rather say agitation than noise,--an indistinct moving about of a pile
of things, as if people were tossing about, displacing, and carrying
away surreptitiously all my furniture.

I doubted, however, for some considerable time yet, the evidence of my
ears. But having placed my ear against one of the outhouses, the better
to discover what this strange disturbance was, inside my house, I
became convinced, certain, that something was taking place in my
residence which was altogether abnormal and incomprehensible. I had no
fear, but I was--how shall I express it--paralyzed by astonishment. I
did not draw my revolver, knowing very well that there was no need of
my doing so.

I listened a long time, but could come to no resolution, my mind being
quite clear, though in myself I was naturally anxious. I got up and
waited, listening always to the noise, which gradually increased, and
at intervals grew very loud, and which seemed to become an impatient,
angry disturbance, a mysterious commotion.

Then, suddenly, ashamed of my timidity, I seized my bunch of keys. I
selected the one I wanted, guided it into the lock, turned it twice,
and pushing the door with all my might, sent it banging against the
partition.

The collision sounded like the report of a gun, and there responded to
that explosive noise, from roof to basement of my residence, a
formidable tumult. It was so sudden, so terrible, so deafening, that I
recoiled a few steps, and though I knew it to be wholly useless, I
pulled my revolver out of its case.

I continued to listen for some time longer. I could distinguish now an
extraordinary pattering upon the steps of my grand staircase, on the
waxed floors, on the carpets, not of boots, or of naked feet, but of
iron and wooden crutches, which resounded like cymbals. Then I suddenly
discerned, on the threshold of my door, an armchair, my large reading
easy-chair, which set off waddling. It went away through my garden.
Others followed it, those of my drawing-room, then my sofas, dragging
themselves along like crocodiles on their short paws; then all my
chairs, bounding like goats, and the little foot-stools, hopping like
rabbits.

Oh! what a sensation! I slunk back into a clump of bushes where I
remained crouched up, watching, meanwhile, my furniture defile
past--for everything walked away, the one behind the other, briskly or
slowly, according to its weight or size. My piano, my grand piano,
bounded past with the gallop of a horse and a murmur of music in its
sides; the smaller articles slid along the gravel like snails, my
brushes, crystal, cups and saucers, which glistened in the moonlight. I
saw my writing desk appear, a rare curiosity of the last century, which
contained all the letters I had ever received, all the history of my
heart, an old history from which I have suffered so much! Besides,
there were inside of it a great many cherished photographs.

Suddenly--I no longer had any fear--I threw myself on it, seized it as
one would seize a thief, as one would seize a wife about to run away;
but it pursued its irresistible course, and despite my efforts and
despite my anger, I could not even retard its pace. As I was resisting
in desperation that insuperable force, I was thrown to the ground. It
then rolled me over, trailed me along the gravel, and the rest of my
furniture, which followed it, began to march over me, tramping on my
legs and injuring them. When I loosed my hold, other articles had
passed over my body, just as a charge of cavalry does over the body of
a dismounted soldier.

Seized at last with terror, I succeeded in dragging myself out of the
main avenue, and in concealing myself again among the shrubbery, so as
to watch the disappearance of the most cherished objects, the smallest,
the least striking, the least unknown which had once belonged to me.

I then heard, in the distance, noises which came from my apartments,
which sounded now as if the house were empty, a loud noise of shutting
of doors. They were being slammed from top to bottom of my dwelling,
even the door which I had just opened myself unconsciously, and which
had closed of itself, when the last thing had taken its departure. I
took flight also, running toward the city, and only regained my
self-composure, on reaching the boulevards, where I met belated people.
I rang the bell of a hotel were I was known. I had knocked the dust off
my clothes with my hands, and I told the porter that I had lost my
bunch of keys, which included also that to the kitchen garden, where my
servants slept in a house standing by itself, on the other side of the
wall of the inclosure which protected my fruits and vegetables from the
raids of marauders.

I covered myself up to the eyes in the bed which was assigned to me,
but could not sleep; and I waited for the dawn listening to the
throbbing of my heart. I had given orders that my servants were to be
summoned to the hotel at daybreak, and my valet de chambre knocked at
my door at seven o'clock in the morning.

His countenance bore a woeful look.

"A great misfortune has happened during the night, Monsieur," said he.

"What is it?"

"Somebody has stolen the whole of Monsieur's furniture, all,
everything, even to the smallest articles."

This news pleased me. Why? Who knows? I was complete master of myself,
bent on dissimulating, on telling no one of anything I had seen;
determined on concealing and in burying in my heart of hearts a
terrible secret. I responded:

"They must then be the same people who have stolen my keys. The police
must be informed immediately. I am going to get up, and I will join you
in a few moments."

The investigation into the circumstances under which the robbery might
have been committed lasted for five months. Nothing was found, not even
the smallest of my knickknacks, nor the least trace of the thieves.
Good gracious! If I had only told them what I knew--If I had said--I
should have been locked up--I, not the thieves--for I was the only
person who had seen everything from the first.

Yes! but I knew how to keep silence. I shall never refurnish my house.
That were indeed useless. The same thing would happen again. I had no
desire even to re-enter the house, and I did not re-enter it; I never
visited it again. I moved to Paris, to the hotel, and consulted doctors
in regard to the condition of my nerves, which had disquieted me a good
deal ever since that awful night.

They advised me to travel, and I followed their counsel.

II.

I began by making an excursion into Italy. The sunshine did me much
good. For six months I wandered about from Genoa to Venice, from Venice
to Florence, from Florence to Rome, from Rome to Naples. Then I
traveled over Sicily, a country celebrated for its scenery and its
monuments, relics left by the Greeks and the Normans. Passing over into
Africa, I traversed at my ease that immense desert, yellow and
tranquil, in which camels, gazelles, and Arab vagabonds roam
about--where, in the rare and transparent atmosphere, there hover no
vague hauntings, where there is never any night, but always day.

I returned to France by Marseilles, and in spite of all its Provencal
gaiety, the diminished clearness of the sky made me sad. I experienced,
in returning to the Continent, the peculiar sensation of an illness
which I believed had been cured, and a dull pain which predicted that
the seeds of the disease had not been eradicated.

I then returned to Paris. At the end of a month I was very dejected. It
was in the autumn, and I determined to make, before winter came, an
excursion through Normandy, a country with which I was unacquainted.

I began my journey, in the best of spirits, at Rouen, and for eight
days I wandered about, passive, ravished, and enthusiastic, in that
ancient city, that astonishing museum of extraordinary Gothic monuments.

But one afternoon, about four o'clock, as I was sauntering slowly
through a seemingly unattractive street, by which there ran a stream as
black as the ink called "Eau de Robec," my attention, fixed for the
moment on the quaint, antique appearance of some of the houses, was
suddenly attracted by the view of a series of second-hand furniture
shops, which followed one another, door after door.

Ah! they had carefully chosen their locality, these sordid traffickers
in antiquities, in that quaint little street, overlooking the sinister
stream of water, under those tile and slate-pointed roofs on which
still grinned the vanes of bygone days.

At the end of these grim storehouses you saw piled up sculptured
chests, Rouen, Sevres, and Moustier's pottery, painted statues, others
of oak, Christs, Virgins, Saints, church ornaments, chasubles, capes,
even sacred vases, and an old gilded wooden tabernacle, where a god had
hidden himself away. What singular caverns there are in those lofty
houses, crowded with objects of every description, where the existence
of things seems to be ended, things which have survived their original
possessors, their century, their times, their fashions, in order to be
bought as curiosities by new generations.

My affection for antiques was awakened in that city of antiquaries. I
went from shop to shop, crossing in two strides the rotten four plank
bridges thrown over the nauseous current of the "Eau de Robec."

Heaven protect me! What a shock! At the end of a vault, which was
crowded with articles of every description and which seemed to be the
entrance to the catacombs of a cemetery of ancient furniture, I
suddenly descried one of my most beautiful wardrobes. I approached it,
trembling in every limb, trembling to such an extent that I dared not
touch it, I put forth my hand, I hesitated. Nevertheless it was indeed
my wardrobe; a unique wardrobe of the time of Louis XIII., recognizable
by anyone who had seen it only once. Casting my eyes suddenly a little
farther, toward the more somber depths of the gallery, I perceived
three of my tapestry covered chairs; and farther on still, my two Henry
II. tables, such rare treasures that people came all the way from Paris
to see them.

Think! only think in what a state of mind I now was! I advanced,
haltingly, quivering with emotion, but I advanced, for I am brave--I
advanced like a knight of the dark ages.

At every step I found something that belonged to me; my brushes, my
books, my tables, my silks, my arms, everything, except the bureau full
of my letters, and that I could not discover.

I walked on, descending to the dark galleries, in order to ascend next
to the floors above. I was alone; I called out, nobody answered, I was
alone; there was no one in that house--a house as vast and tortuous as
a labyrinth.

Night came on, and I was compelled to sit down in the darkness on one
of my own chairs, for I had no desire to go away. From time to time I
shouted, "Hallo, hallo, somebody."

I had sat there, certainly, for more than an hour when I heard steps,
steps soft and slow, I knew not where. I was unable to locate them, but
bracing myself up, I called out anew, whereupon I perceived a glimmer
of light in the next chamber.

"Who is there?" said a voice.

"A buyer," I responded.

"It is too late to enter thus into a shop."

"I have been waiting for you for more than an hour," I answered.

"You can come back to-morrow."

"To-morrow I must quit Rouen."

I dared not advance, and he did not come to me. I saw always the
glimmer of his light, which was shining on a tapestry on which were two
angels flying over the dead on a field of battle. It belonged to me
also. I said:

"Well, come here."

"I am at your service," he answered.

I got up and went toward him.

Standing in the center of a large room, was a little man, very short,
and very fat, phenomenally fat, a hideous phenomenon.

He had a singular straggling beard, white and yellow, and not a hair on
his head--not a hair!

As he held his candle aloft at arm's length in order to see me, his
cranium appeared to me to resemble a little moon, in that vast chamber
encumbered with old furniture. His features were wrinkled and blown,
and his eyes could not be seen.

I bought three chairs which belonged to myself, and paid at once a
large sum for them, giving him merely the number of my room at the
hotel. They were to be delivered the next day before nine o'clock.

I then started off. He conducted me, with much politeness, as far as
the door.

I immediately repaired to the commissaire's office at the central
police depot, and told the commissaire of the robbery which had been
perpetrated and of the discovery I had just made. He required time to
communicate by telegraph with the authorities who had originally charge
of the case, for information, and he begged me to wait in his office
until an answer came back. An hour later, an answer came back, which
was in accord with my statements.

"I am going to arrest and interrogate this man, at once," he said to
me, "for he may have conceived some sort of suspicion, and smuggled
away out of sight what belongs to you. Will you go and dine and return
in two hours: I shall then have the man here, and I shall subject him
to a fresh interrogation in your presence."

"Most gladly, Monsieur. I thank you with my whole heart."

I went to dine at my hotel and I ate better than I could have believed.
I was quite happy now, thinking that man was in the hands of the police.

Two hours later I returned to the office of the police functionary, who
was waiting for me.

"Well, Monsieur," said he, on perceiving me, "we have not been able to
find your man. My agents cannot put their hands on him."

Ah! I felt my heart sinking.

"But you have at least found his house?" I asked.

"Yes, certainly; and what is more, it is now being watched and guarded
until his return. As for him, he has disappeared."

"Disappeared?"

"Yes, disappeared. He ordinarily passes his evenings at the house of a
female neighbor, who is also a furniture broker, a queer sort of
sorceress, the widow Bidoin. She has not seen him this evening and
cannot give any information in regard to him. We must wait until
to-morrow."

I went away. Ah! how sinister the streets of Rouen seemed to me, now
troubled and haunted!

I slept so badly that I had a fit of nightmare every time I went off to
sleep.

As I did not wish to appear too restless or eager, I waited till ten
o'clock the next day before reporting myself to the police.

The merchant had not reappeared. His shop remained closed.

The commissary said to me:

"I have taken all the necessary steps. The court has been made
acquainted with the affair. We shall go together to that shop and have
it opened, and you shall point out to me all that belongs to you."

We drove there in a cab. Police agents were stationed round the
building; there was a locksmith, too, and the door of the shop was soon
opened.

On entering, I could not discover my wardrobes, my chairs, my tables; I
saw nothing, nothing of that which had furnished my house, no, nothing,
although on the previous evening, I could not take a step without
encountering something that belonged to me.

The chief commissary, much astonished, regarded me at first with
suspicion.

"My God, Monsieur," said I to him, "the disappearance of these articles
of furniture coincides strangely with that of the merchant."

He laughed.

"That is true. You did wrong in buying and paying for the articles
which were your own property, yesterday. It was that which gave him the
cue."

"What seems to me incomprehensible," I replied, "is that all the places
that were occupied by my furniture are now filled by other furniture."

"Oh!" responded the commissary, "he has had all night, and has no doubt
been assisted by accomplices. This house must communicate with its
neighbors. But have no fear, Monsieur; I will have the affair promptly
and thoroughly investigated. The brigand shall not escape us for long,
seeing that we are in charge of the den."

      *      *      *      *      *

Ah! My heart, my heart, my poor heart, how it beats!

I remained a fortnight at Rouen. The man did not return. Heavens! good
heavens! That man, what was it that could have frightened and surprised
him!

But, on the sixteenth day, early in the morning, I received from my
gardener, now the keeper of my empty and pillaged house, the following
strange letter:


"MONSIEUR:

"I have the honor to inform Monsieur that something happened, the
evening before last, which nobody can understand, and the police no
more than the rest of us. The whole of the furniture has been returned,
not one piece is missing--everything is in its place, up to the very
smallest article. The house is now the same in every respect as it was
before the robbery took place. It is enough to make one lose one's
head. The thing took place during the night Friday--Saturday. The roads
are dug up as though the whole fence had been dragged from its place up
to the door. The same thing was observed the day after the
disappearance of the furniture.

"We are anxiously expecting Monsieur, whose very humble and obedient
servant, I am,

PHILLIPE RAUDIN."


"Ah! no, no, ah! never, never, ah! no. I shall never return there!"

I took the letter to the commissary of police.

"It is a very clever restitution," said he. "Let us bury the hatchet.
We shall nip the man one of these days."

      *      *      *      *      *

But he has never been nipped. No. They have not nipped him, and I am
afraid of him now, as of some ferocious animal that has been let loose
behind me.

Inexplicable! It is inexplicable, this chimera of a moon-struck skull!
We shall never solve or comprehend it. I shall not return to my former
residence. What does it matter to me? I am afraid of encountering that
man again, and I shall not run the risk.

And even if he returns, if he takes possession of his shop, who is to
prove that my furniture was on his premises? There is only my testimony
against him; and I feel that that is not above suspicion.

Ah! no! This kind of existence has become unendurable. I have not been
able to guard the secret of what I have seen. I could not continue to
live like the rest of the world, with the fear upon me that those
scenes might be re-enacted.

So I have come to consult the doctor who directs this lunatic asylum,
and I have told him everything.

After questioning me for a long time, he said to me:

"Will you consent, Monsieur, to remain here for some time?"

"Most willingly, Monsieur."

"You have some means?"

"Yes, Monsieur."

"Will you have isolated apartments?"

"Yes, Monsieur."

"Would you care to receive any friends?"

"No, Monsieur, no, nobody. The man from Rouen might take it into his
head to pursue me here, to be revenged on me."

      *      *      *      *      *

I have been alone, alone, all, all alone, for three months. I am
growing tranquil by degrees. I have no longer any fears. If the
antiquary should become mad ... and if he should be brought into this
asylum! Even prisons themselves are not places of security.



THE DEVIL

The peasant was standing opposite the doctor, by the bedside of the
dying old woman, and she, calmly resigned and quite lucid, looked at
them and listened to their talking. She was going to die, and she did
not rebel at it, for her life was over--she was ninety-two.

The July sun streamed in at the window and through the open door and
cast its hot flames on to the uneven brown clay floor, which had been
stamped down by four generations of clodhoppers. The smell of the
fields came in also, driven by the brisk wind, and parched by the
noontide heat. The grasshoppers chirped themselves hoarse, filling the
air with their shrill noise, like that of the wooden crickets which are
sold to children at fair time.

The doctor raised his voice and said: "Honore, you cannot leave your
mother in this state; she may die at any moment." And the peasant, in
great distress, replied: "But I must get in my wheat, for it has been
lying on the ground a long time, and the weather is just right for it;
what do you say about it, mother?" And the dying woman, still possessed
by her Norman avariciousness, replied YES with her eyes and her
forehead, and so urged her son to get in his wheat, and to leave her to
die alone. But the doctor got angry, and stamping his foot he said:
"You are no better than a brute, do you hear, and I will not allow you
to do it. Do you understand? And if you must get in your wheat to-day,
go and fetch Rapet's wife and make her look after your mother. I WILL
have it. And if you do not obey me, I will let you die like a dog, when
you are ill in your turn; do you hear me?"

The peasant, a tall, thin fellow with slow movements, who was tormented
by indecision, by his fear of the doctor and his keen love of saving,
hesitated, calculated, and stammered out: "How much does La Rapet
charge for attending sick people?"

"How should I know?" the doctor cried. "That depends upon how long she
is wanted for. Settle it with her, by Jove! But I want her to be here
within an hour, do you hear."

So the man made up his mind. "I will go for her," he replied; "don't
get angry, doctor." And the latter left, calling out as he went: "Take
care, you know, for I do not joke when I am angry!" And as soon as they
were alone, the peasant turned to his mother, and said in a resigned
voice: "I will go and fetch La Rapet, as the man will have it. Don't go
off while I am away."

And he went out in his turn.

La Rapet, who was an old washerwoman, watched the dead and the dying of
the neighborhood, and then, as soon as she had sewn her customers into
that linen cloth from which they would emerge no more, she went and
took up her irons to smooth the linen of the living. Wrinkled like a
last year's apple, spiteful, envious, avaricious with a phenomenal
avarice, bent double, as if she had been broken in half across the
loins, by the constant movement of the iron over the linen, one might
have said that she had a kind of monstrous and cynical affection for a
death struggle. She never spoke of anything but of the people she had
seen die, of the various kinds of deaths at which she had been present,
and she related, with the greatest minuteness, details which were
always the same, just like a sportsman talks of his shots.

When Honore Bontemps entered her cottage, he found her preparing the
starch for the collars of the village women, and he said: "Good
evening; I hope you are pretty well, Mother Rapet."

She turned her head round to look at him and said: "Fairly well, fairly
well, and you?"

"Oh I as for me, I am as well as I could wish, but my mother is very
sick."

"Your mother?"

"Yes, my mother!"

"What's the matter with her?"

"She is going to turn up her toes, that's what's the matter with her!"

The old woman took her hands out of the water and asked with sudden
sympathy: "Is she as bad as all that?"

"The doctor says she will not last till morning."

"Then she certainly is very bad!" Honore hesitated, for he wanted to
make a few preliminary remarks before coming to his proposal, but as he
could hit upon nothing, he made up his mind suddenly.

"How much are you going to ask to stop with her till the end? You know
that I am not rich, and I cannot even afford to keep a servant-girl. It
is just that which has brought my poor mother to this state, too much
work and fatigue! She used to work for ten, in spite of her ninety-two
years. You don't find any made of that stuff nowadays!"

La Rapet answered gravely: "There are two prices. Forty sous by day and
three francs by night for the rich, and twenty sous by day, and forty
by night for the others. You shall pay me the twenty and forty." But
the peasant reflected, for he knew his mother well. He knew how
tenacious of life, how vigorous and unyielding she was. He knew, too,
that she might last another week, in spite of the doctor's opinion, and
so he said resolutely: "No, I would rather you would fix a price until
the end. I will take my chance, one way or the other. The doctor says
she will die very soon. If that happens, so much the better for you,
and so much the worse for me, but if she holds out till to-morrow or
longer, so much the better for me and so much the worse for you!"

The nurse looked at the man in astonishment, for she had never treated
a death as a speculative job, and she hesitated, tempted by the idea of
the possible gain. But almost immediately she suspected that he wanted
to juggle her. "I can say nothing until I have seen your mother," she
replied.

"Then come with me and see her."

She washed her hands, and went with him immediately. They did not speak
on the road; she walked with short, hasty steps, while he strode on
with his long legs, as if he were crossing a brook at every step. The
cows lying down in the fields, overcome by the heat, raised their heads
heavily and lowed feebly at the two passers-by, as if to ask them for
some green grass.

When they got near the house, Honore Bontemps murmured: "Suppose it is
all over?" And the unconscious wish that it might be so showed itself
in the sound of his voice.

But the old woman was not dead. She was lying on her back, on her
wretched bed, her hands covered with a pink cotton counterpane,
horribly thin, knotty paws, like some strange animal's, or like crabs'
claws, hands closed by rheumatism, fatigue, and the work of nearly a
century which she had accomplished.

La Rapet went up to the bed and looked at the dying woman, felt her
pulse, tapped her on the chest, listened to her breathing, and asked
her questions, so as to hear her speak: then, having looked at her for
some time longer, she went out of the room, followed by Honore. His
decided opinion was, that the old woman would not last out the night,
and he asked: "Well?" And the sick-nurse replied: "Well, she may last
two days, perhaps three. You will have to give me six francs,
everything included."

"Six francs! six francs!" he shouted. "Are you out of your mind? I tell
you that she cannot last more than five or six hours!" And they
disputed angrily for some time, but as the nurse said she would go
home, as the time was slipping away, and as his wheat would not come to
the farmyard of its own accord, he agreed to her terms at last:

"Very well, then, that is settled; six francs including everything,
until the corpse is taken out."

"That is settled, six francs."

And he went away, with long strides, to his wheat, which was lying on
the ground under the hot sun which ripens the grain, while the
sick-nurse returned to the house.

She had brought some work with her, for she worked without stopping by
the side of the dead and dying, sometimes for herself, sometimes for
the family, who employed her as seamstress also, paying her rather more
in that capacity. Suddenly she asked:

"Have you received the last sacrament, Mother Bontemps?"

The old peasant woman said "No" with her head, and La Rapet, who was
very devout, got up quickly: "Good heavens, is it possible? I will go
and fetch the cure"; and she rushed off to the parsonage so quickly,
that the urchins in the street thought some accident had happened, when
they saw her trotting off like that.

The priest came immediately in his surplice, preceded by a choir-boy,
who rang a bell to announce the passage of the Host through the parched
and quiet country. Some men, working at a distance, took off their
large hats and remained motionless until the white vestment had
disappeared behind some farm buildings; the women who were making up
the sheaves stood up to make the sign of the cross; the frightened
black hens ran away along the ditch until they reached a well-known
hole through which they suddenly disappeared, while a foal, which was
tied up in a meadow, took fright at the sight of the surplice and began
to gallop round at the length of its rope, kicking violently. The
choir-boy, in his red cassock, walked quickly, and the priest, the
square biretta on his bowed head, followed him, muttering some prayers.
Last of all came La Rapet, bent almost double, as if she wished to
prostrate herself; she walked with folded hands, as if she were in
church.

Honore saw them pass in the distance, and he asked: "Where is our
priest going to?" And his man, who was more acute, replied: "He is
taking the sacrament to your mother, of course!"

The peasant was not surprised and said: "That is quite possible," and
went on with his work.

Mother Bontemps confessed, received absolution and extreme unction, and
the priest took his departure, leaving the two women alone in the
suffocating cottage. La Rapet began to look at the dying woman, and to
ask herself whether it could last much longer.

The day was on the wane, and a cooler air came in stronger puffs,
making a view of Epinal, which was fastened to the wall by two pins,
flap up and down. The scanty window curtains, which had formerly been
white, but were now yellow and covered with fly-specks, looked as it
they were going to fly off, and seemed to struggle to get away, like
the old woman's soul.

Lying motionless, with her eyes open, the old mother seemed to await
the death which was so near, and which yet delayed its coming; with
perfect indifference. Her short breath whistled in her throat. It would
stop altogether soon, and there would be one woman less in the world,
one whom nobody would regret.

At nightfall Honore returned, and when he went up to the bed and saw
that his mother was still alive he asked: "How is she?" just as he had
done formerly, when she had been sick. Then he sent La Rapet away,
saying to her: "To-morrow morning at five o'clock, without fail." And
she replied: "To-morrow at five o'clock."

She came at daybreak, and found Honore eating his soup, which he had
made himself, before going to work.

"Well, is your mother dead?" asked the nurse.

"She is rather better, on the contrary," he replied, with a malignant
look out of the corner of his eyes. Then he went out.

La Rapet was seized with anxiety, and went up to the dying woman, who
was in the same state, lethargic and impassive, her eyes open and her
hands clutching the counterpane. The nurse perceived that this might go
on thus for two days, four days, eight days, even, and her avaricious
mind was seized with fear. She was excited to fury against the cunning
fellow who had tricked her, and against the woman who would not die.

Nevertheless, she began to sew and waited with her eyes fixed on the
wrinkled face of Mother Bontemps. When Honore returned to breakfast he
seemed quite satisfied, and even in a bantering humor, for he was
carrying in his wheat under very favorable circumstances.

La Rapet was getting exasperated; every passing minute now seemed to
her so much time and money stolen from her. She felt a mad inclination
to choke this old ass, this headstrong old fool, this obstinate old
wretch--to stop that short, rapid breath, which was robbing her of her
time and money, by squeezing her throat a little. But then she
reflected on the danger of doing so, and other thoughts came into her
head, so she went up to the bed and said to her: "Have you ever seen
the Devil?"

Mother Bontemps whispered: "No."

Then the sick-nurse began to talk and to tell her tales likely to
terrify her weak and dying mind. "Some minutes before one dies the
Devil appears," she said, "to all. He has a broom in his hand, a
saucepan on his head and he utters loud cries. When anybody had seen
him, all was over, and that person had only a few moments longer to
live"; and she enumerated all those to whom the Devil had appeared that
year: Josephine Loisel, Eulalie Ratier, Sophie Padagnau, Seraphine
Grospied.

Mother Bontemps, who was at last most disturbed in mind, moved about,
wrung her hands, and tried to turn her head to look at the other end of
the room. Suddenly La Rapet disappeared at the foot of the bed. She
took a sheet out of the cupboard and wrapped herself up in it; then she
put the iron pot on to her head, so that its three short bent feet rose
up like horns, took a broom in her right hand and a tin pail in her
left, which she threw up suddenly, so that it might fall to the ground
noisily.

Certainly when it came down, it made a terrible noise. Then, climbing
on to a chair, the nurse showed herself, gesticulating and uttering
shrill cries into the pot which covered her face, while she menaced the
old peasant woman, who was nearly dead, with her broom.

Terrified, with a mad look on her face, the dying woman made a
superhuman effort to get up and escape; she even got her shoulders and
chest out of bed; then she fell back with a deep sigh. All was over,
and La Rapet calmly put everything back into its place; the broom into
the corner by the cupboard, the sheet inside it, the pot on to the
hearth, the pail on to the floor, and the chair against the wall. Then
with a professional air, she closed the dead woman's enormous eyes, put
a plate on the bed and poured some holy water into it, dipped the twig
of boxwood into it, and kneeling down, she fervently repeated the
prayers for the dead, which she knew by heart, as a matter of business.

When Honore returned in the evening, he found her praying. He
calculated immediately that she had made twenty sous out of him, for
she had only spent three days and one night there, which made five
francs altogether, instead of the six which he owed her.



EPIPHANY

"Ah!" said Captain the Count de Garens, "I should rather think that I
do remember that Epiphany supper, during the war!

"At the time I was quarter-master of cavalry, and for a fort night, I
had been lurking about as a scout in front of the German advanced
guard. The evening before we had cut down a few Uhlans and had lost
three men, one of whom was that poor little Raudeville. You remember
Joseph de Raudeville well, of course.

"Well, on that day my captain ordered me to take six troopers and
occupy the village of Porterin, where there had been five fights in
three weeks, and to hold it all night. There were not twenty houses
left standing, nay, not a dozen, in that wasp's nest. So I took ten
troopers, and set out at about four o'clock; at five o'clock, while it
was still pitch dark, we reached the first houses of Porterin. I halted
and ordered Marchas--you know Pierre de Marchas, who afterward married
little Martel-Auvelin, the daughter of the Marquis de
Martel-Auvelin--to go alone into the village and to report to me what
he saw.

"I had chosen nothing but volunteers, and all of good family. When on
service it is pleasant not to be forced into intimacy with unpleasant
fellows. This Marchas was as sharp as possible, as cunning as a fox,
and as supple as a serpent. He could scent the Prussians as well as a
dog can scent a hare, could find victuals where we should have died of
hunger without him, and could obtain information from
everybody--information which was always reliable--with incredible
cleverness.

"In ten minutes he returned. 'All right,' he said; 'there have been no
Prussians here for three days. It is a sinister place, is this village.
I have been talking to a Sister of Mercy, who is attending to four or
five wounded men in an abandoned convent.'

"I ordered them to ride on, and we penetrated into the principal
street. On the right and left we could vaguely see roofless walls,
hardly visible in the profound darkness. Here and there a light was
burning in a room; some family had remained to keep its house standing
as long as they were able; a family of brave, or of poor, people. The
rain began to fall, a fine, icy-cold rain, which froze us before it
wetted us through, by merely touching our cloaks. The horses stumbled
against stones, against beams, against furniture. Marchas guided us,
going before us on foot, and leading his horse by the bridle.

"'Where are you taking us to?' I asked him. And he replied: 'I have a
place for us to lodge in, and a rare good one.' And soon we stopped
before a small house, evidently belonging to some person of the middle
class, completely shut up, built on to the street with a garden in the
rear.

"Marchas broke open the lock by means of a big stone, which he picked
up near the garden gate; then he mounted the steps, smashed in the
front door with his feet and shoulders, lighted a bit of wax candle,
which he was never without, and preceded us into the comfortable
apartments of some rich private individual, guiding us with admirable
assurance, just as if he had lived in this house which he now saw for
the first time.

"Two troopers remained outside to take care of our horses; then Marchas
said to stout Ponderel, who followed him: 'The stables must be on the
left; I saw that as we came in; go and put the animals up there, for we
do not want them,' and then turning to me he said: 'Give your orders,
confound it all!'

"Marchas always astonished me, and I replied with a laugh: 'I shall
post my sentinels at the country approaches and I will return to you
here.'

"'How many men are you going to take?'

"'Five. The others will relieve them at five o'clock in the evening.'

"'Very well. Leave me four to look after provisions, to do the cooking,
and to set the table. I will go and find out where the wine is hidden
away.'

"I went off to reconnoiter the deserted streets, until they ended in
the open country, so as to post my sentries there.

"Half an hour later I was back, and found Marchas lounging in a great
armchair, the covering of which he had taken off, from love of luxury
as he said. He was warming his feet at the fire and smoking an
excellent cigar, whose perfume filled the room. He was alone, his
elbows resting on the arms of the chair, his cheeks flushed, his eyes
bright, and looking delighted.

"I heard the noise of plates and dishes in the next room, and Marchas
said to me, smiling in a beatific manner: 'This is famous; I found the
champagne under the flight of steps outside, the brandy--fifty bottles
of the very finest--in the kitchen garden under a pear-tree, which did
not look to me to be quite straight, when I looked at it by the light
of my lantern. As for solids, we have two fowls, a goose, a duck, and
three pigeons. They are being cooked at this moment. It is a delightful
part of the country.'

"I had sat down opposite to him, and the fire in the grate was burning
my nose and cheeks.

"'Where did you find this wood?' I asked.

"'Splendid wood,' he replied. 'The owner's carriage. It is the paint
which is causing all this flame, an essence of alcohol and varnish. A
capital house!'

"I laughed, for I found the creature was funny, and he went on: 'Fancy
this being the Epiphany! I have had a bean put into the goose, but
there is no queen; it is really very annoying!' And I repeated like an
echo: 'It is annoying, but what do you want me to do in the matter?'

"'To find some, of course.'

"'Some women. Women?--you must be mad!'

"'I managed to find the brandy under the pear-tree, and the champagne
under the steps; and yet there was nothing to guide me, while as for
you, a petticoat is a sure sign. Go and look, old fellow.'

"He looked so grave, so convinced, that I could not tell whether he was
joking or not. So I replied: 'Look here, Marchas, are you having a joke
with me?'

"'I never joke on duty.'

"'But where the devil do you expect me to find any women?'

"'Where you like; there must be two or three remaining in the
neighborhood, so ferret them out and bring them here.'

"I got up, for it was too hot in front of the fire, and Marchas went
on: 'Do you want an idea?'

"'Yes.'

"'Go and see the priest.'

"'The priest? What for?'

"'Ask him to supper, and beg him to bring a woman with him.'

"'The priest! A woman! Ha! ha! ha!'

"But Marchas continued with extraordinary gravity: 'I am not laughing;
go and find the priest and tell him how we are situated, and, as he
must be horribly dull, he will come. But tell him that we want one
woman at least, a lady, of course, since we are all men of the world.
He is sure to have the names of his female parishioners on the tips of
his fingers, and if there is one to suit us, and you manage it well, he
will indicate her to you.'

"'Come, come, Marchas, what are you thinking of?'

"'My dear Garens, you can do this quite well. It will be very funny. We
are well bred, by Jove! and we will put on our most distinguished
manners and our grandest style. Tell the abbe who we are, make him
laugh, soften him, seduce him, and persuade him!'

"'No, it is impossible.'

"He drew his chair close to mine, and as he knew my weak side, the
scamp continued: 'Just think what a swagger thing it will be to do, and
how amusing to tell about; the whole army will talk about it, and it
will give you a famous reputation.'

"I hesitated, for the adventure rather tempted me. He persisted: 'Come,
my little Garens. You are in command of this detachment, and you alone
can go and call on the head of the church in this neighborhood. I beg
of you to go, and I promise you that after the war, I will relate the
whole affair in verse in the "Revue des Deux Mondes." You owe this much
to your men, for you have made them march enough during the last month.'

"I got up at last and asked: 'Where is the parsonage?'

"'Take the second turning at the end of the street; you will then see
an avenue, and at the end of the avenue you will find the church. The
parsonage is beside it.' As I departed he called out: 'Tell him the
bill of fare, to make him hungry!'

"I discovered the ecclesiastic's little house without any difficulty;
it was by the side of a large, ugly, brick church. As there was neither
bell nor knocker, I knocked at the door with my fist, and a loud voice
from inside asked: 'Who is there?' to which I replied: 'A quartermaster
of hussars.'

"I heard the noise of bolts, and of a key being turned. Then I found
myself face to face with a tall priest with a large stomach, the chest
of a prize-fighter, formidable hands projecting from turned-up sleeves,
a red face, and the looks of a kind man. I gave him a military salute
and said: 'Good day, Monsieur le Cure.'

"He had feared a surprise, some marauders' ambush, and he smiled as he
replied: 'Good day, my friend; come in.' I followed him into a small
room, with a red tiled floor, in which a small fire was burning, very
different to Marchas's furnace. He gave me a chair and said: 'What can
I do for you?'

"'Monsieur, allow me first of all to introduce myself'; and I gave him
my card, which he took and read half aloud: 'The Comte de Garens.'

"I continued: 'There are eleven of us here Monsieur l'Abbe, five on
grand guard, and six installed at the house of an unknown inhabitant.
The names of the six are, Garens (that is I), Pierre de Marchas,
Ludovic de Ponderel, Baron d'Etreillis, Karl Massouligny, the painter's
son, and Joseph Herbon, a young musician. I have come to ask you, in
their name and my own, to do us the honor of supping with us. It is an
Epiphany supper, Monsieur le Cure, and we should like to make it a
little cheerful.'

"The priest smiled and murmured: 'It seems to me to be hardly a
suitable occasion for amusing oneself.'

"I replied: 'We are fighting every day, Monsieur. Fourteen of our
comrades have been killed in a month, and three fell as late as
yesterday. That is war. We stake our life every moment; have we not,
therefore, the right to amuse ourselves freely? We are Frenchmen, we
like to laugh, and we can laugh everywhere. Our fathers laughed on the
scaffold! This evening we should like to brighten ourselves up a
little, like gentlemen, and not like soldiers; you understand me, I
hope. Are we wrong?'

"He replied quickly: 'You are quite right, my friend, and I accept your
invitation with great pleasure.' Then he called out: 'Hermance!'

"An old, bent, wrinkled, horrible, peasant woman appeared and said:
'What do you want?'

"'I shall not dine at home, my daughter.'

"'Where are you going to dine then?'

"'With some gentlemen, hussars.'

"I felt inclined to say: 'Bring your servant with you,' just to see
Marchas's face, but I did not venture to, and continued: 'Do you know
anyone among your parishioners, male or female, whom I could invite as
well?' He hesitated, reflected, and then said: 'No, I do not know
anybody!'

"I persisted: 'Nobody? Come, Monsieur, think; it would be very nice to
have some ladies, I mean to say, some married couples! I know nothing
about your parishioners. The baker and his wife, the grocer,
the--the--the--watchmaker--the--shoemaker--the--the chemist with his
wife. We have a good spread, and plenty of wine, and we should be
enchanted to leave pleasant recollections of ourselves behind us with
the people here.'

"The priest thought again for a long time and then said resolutely:
'No, there is nobody.'

"I began to laugh. 'By Jove, Monsieur le Cure, it is very vexing not to
have an Epiphany queen, for we have the bean. Come, think. Is there not
a married mayor, or a married deputy-mayor, or a married municipal
councilor, or schoolmaster?'

"'No all the ladies have gone away.'

"'What, is there not in the whole place some good tradesman's wife with
her good tradesman, to whom we might give this pleasure, for it would
be a pleasure to them, a great pleasure under present circumstances?'

"But suddenly the cure began to laugh, and he laughed so violently that
he fairly shook, and exclaimed: 'Ha! ha! ha! I have got what you want,
yes. I have got what you want! Ha! ha! ha! We will laugh and enjoy
ourselves, my children, we will have some fun. How pleased the ladies
will be, I say, how delighted they will be. Ha! ha! Where are you
staying?'

"I described the house, and he understood where it was. 'Very good,' he
said. 'It belongs to Monsieur Bertin-Lavaille. I will be there in half
an hour, with four ladies. Ha! ha! ha! four ladies!'

"He went out with me, still laughing, and left me, repeating: 'That is
capital; in half an hour at Bertin-Lavaille's house.'

"I returned quickly, very much astonished and very much puzzled.
'Covers for how many?' Marchas asked, as soon as he saw me.

"'Eleven. There are six of us hussars besides the priest and four
ladies.'

"He was thunderstruck, and I triumphant, and he repeated 'Four ladies!
Did you say, four ladies?'

"'I said four women.'

"'Real women?'

"'Real women.'

"'Well, accept my compliments!'

"'I will, for I deserve them.'

"He got out of his armchair, opened the door, and I saw a beautiful,
white tablecloth on a long table, round which three hussars in blue
aprons were setting out the plates and glasses. 'There are some women
coming!' Marchas cried. And the three men began to dance and to cheer
with all their might.

"Everything was ready, and we were waiting. We waited for nearly an
hour, while a delicious smell of roast poultry pervaded the whole
house. At last, however, a knock against the shutters made us all jump
up at the same moment. Stout Ponderel ran to open the door, and in less
than a minute a little Sister of Mercy appeared in the doorway. She was
thin, wrinkled, and timid, and successively saluted the four bewildered
hussars who saw her enter. Behind her, the noise of sticks sounded on
the tiled floor in the vestibule. As soon as she had come into the
drawing-room I saw three old heads in white caps, following each other
one by one, balancing themselves with different movements, one canting
to the right, while the other canted to the left. Then three worthy
women showed themselves, limping, dragging their legs behind them,
crippled by illness and deformed through old age, three infirm old
women, past service, the only three pensioners who were able to walk in
the establishment which Sister Saint-Benedict managed.

"She had turned round to her invalids, full of anxiety for them, and
then seeing my quartermaster's stripes, she said to me: 'I am much
obliged to you for thinking of these poor women. They have very little
pleasure in life, and you are at the same time giving them a great
treat and doing them a great honor.'

"I saw the priest, who had remained in the obscurity of the passage,
and who was laughing heartily, and I began to laugh in my turn,
especially when I saw Marchas's face. Then, motioning the nun to the
seats, I said: 'Sit down, Sister: we are very proud and very happy that
you have accepted our unpretentious invitation.'

"She took three chairs which stood against the wall, set them before
the fire, led her three old women to them, settled them on them, took
their sticks and shawls which she put into a corner, and then, pointing
to the first, a thin woman with an enormous stomach, who was evidently
suffering from the dropsy, she said: 'This is Mother Paumelle, whose
husband was killed by falling from a roof, and whose son died in
Africa; she is sixty years old.' Then she pointed to another, a tall
woman, whose head shook unceasingly: 'This is Mother Jean-Jean, who is
sixty-seven. She is nearly blind, for her face was terribly singed in a
fire, and her right leg was half burned off.'

"Then she pointed to the third, a sort of dwarf, with protruding,
round, stupid eyes, which she rolled incessantly in all directions.
'This is La Putois, an idiot. She is only forty-four.'

"I bowed to the three women as if I were being presented to some Royal
Highness, and turning to the priest I said: 'You are an excellent man,
Monsieur l'Abbe, and we all owe you a debt of gratitude.'

"Everybody was laughing, in fact, except Marchas, who seemed furious,
and just then Karl Massouligny cried: 'Sister Saint-Benedict, supper is
on the table!'

"I made her go first with the priest, then I helped up Mother Paumelle,
whose arm I took and dragged her into the next room, which was no easy
task, for her swollen stomach seemed heavier than a lump of iron.

"Stout Ponderel gave his arm to Mother Jean-Jean, who bemoaned her
crutch, and little Joseph Herbon took the idiot, La Putois, to the
dining-room, which was filled with the odor of the viands.

"As soon as we were opposite our plates, the Sister clapped her hands
three times, and, with the precision of soldiers presenting arms, the
women made a rapid sign of the cross, and then the priest slowly
repeated the 'Benedictus' in Latin. Then we sat down, and the two fowls
appeared, brought in by Marchas, who chose to wait rather than to sit
down as a guest at this ridiculous repast.

"But I cried: 'Bring the champagne at once!' and a cork flew out with
the noise of a pistol, and in spite of the resistance of the priest and
the kind Sister, the three hussars sitting by the side of the three
invalids, emptied their three full glasses down their throats by force.

"Massouligny, who possessed the faculty of making himself at home, and
of being on good terms with everyone, wherever he was, made love to
Mother Paumelle, in the drollest manner. The dropsical woman, who had
retained her cheerfulness in spite of her misfortunes, answered him
banteringly in a high falsetto voice which seemed to be assumed, and
she laughed so heartily at her neighbor's jokes that her large stomach
looked as if it were going to rise up and get on to the table. Little
Herbon had seriously undertaken the task of making the idiot drunk, and
Baron d'Etreillis whose wits were not always particularly sharp, was
questioning old Jean-Jean about the life, the habits, and the rules in
the hospital.

"The nun said to Massouligny in consternation: 'Oh! oh! you will make
her ill; pray do not make her laugh like that, Monsieur. Oh! Monsieur.'
Then she got up and rushed at Herbon to take a full glass out of his
hands which he was hastily emptying down La Putois's throat, while the
priest shook with laughter, and said to the Sister: 'Never mind, just
this once, it will not hurt her. Do leave them alone.'

"After the two fowls they ate the duck, which was flanked by the three
pigeons and a blackbird, and then the goose appeared, smoking,
golden-colored, and diffusing a warm odor of hot, browned fat meat. La
Paumelle who was getting lively, clapped her hands; La Jean-Jean left
off answering the Baron's numerous questions, and La Putois uttered
grunts of pleasure, half cries and half sighs, like little children do
when one shows them sweets. 'Allow me to carve this bird,' the cure
said. 'I understand these sort of operations better than most people.'

"'Certainly, Monsieur l'Abbe,' and the Sister said: 'How would it be to
open the window a little; they are too warm, and I am afraid they will
be ill.'

"I turned to Marchas: 'Open the window for a minute.' He did so; the
cold outer air as it came in made the candles flare, and the smoke from
the goose--which the cure was scientifically carving, with a table
napkin round his neck--whirl about. We watched him doing it, without
speaking now, for we were interested in his attractive handiwork, and
also seized with renewed appetite at the sight of that enormous
golden-colored bird, whose limbs fell one after another into the brown
gravy at the bottom of the dish. At that moment, in the midst of greedy
silence which kept us all attentive, the distant report of a shot came
in at the open window.

"I started to my feet so quickly that my chair fell down behind me, and
I shouted: 'Mount, all of you! You, Marchas, will take two men and go
and see what it is. I shall expect you back here in five minutes.' And
while the three riders went off at full gallop through the night, I got
into the saddle with my three remaining hussars, in front of the steps
of the villa, while the cure, the Sister, and the three old women
showed their frightened faces at the window.

"We heard nothing more, except the barking of a dog in the distance.
The rain had ceased, and it was cold, very cold. Soon I heard the
gallop of a horse, of a single horse, coming back. It was Marchas, and
I called out to him: 'Well?'

"'It is nothing; Francois has wounded an old peasant who refused to
answer his challenge and who continued to advance in spite of the order
to keep off. They are bringing him here, and we shall see what is the
matter.'

"I gave orders for the horses to be put back into the stable, and I
sent my two soldiers to meet the others, and returned to the house.
Then the cure, Marchas and I took a mattress into the room to put the
wounded man on; the Sister tore up a table napkin in order to make
lint, while the three frightened women remained huddled up in a corner.

"Soon I heard the rattle of sabers on the road, and I took a candle to
show a light to the men who were returning. They soon appeared,
carrying that inert, soft, long, and sinister object which a human body
becomes when life no longer sustains it.

"They put the wounded man on the mattress that had been prepared for
him, and I saw at the first glance that he was dying. He had the death
rattle, and was spitting up blood which ran out of the corners of his
mouth, forced out of his lungs by his gasps. The man was covered with
it! His cheeks, his beard, his hair, his neck, and his clothes seemed
to have been rubbed, to have been dipped in a red tub; the blood had
congealed on him, and had become a dull color which was horrible to
look at.

"The old man, wrapped up in a large shepherd's cloak, occasionally
opened his dull, vacant eyes. They seemed stupid with astonishment,
like the eyes of hunted animals which fall at the sportsman's feet,
half dead before the shot, stupefied with fear and surprise.

"The cure exclaimed: 'Ah! there is old Placide, the shepherd from Les
Marlins. He is deaf, poor man, and heard nothing. Ah! Oh, God! they
have killed the unhappy man!' The Sister had opened his blouse and
shirt and was looking at a little blue hole in the middle of his chest,
which was not bleeding any more. 'There is nothing to be done,' she
said.

"The shepherd was gasping terribly and bringing up blood with every
breath. In his throat to the very depth of his lungs, they could hear
an ominous and continued gurgling. The cure, standing in front of him,
raised his right hand, made the sign of the cross, and in a slow and
solemn voice pronounced the Latin words which purify men's souls. But
before they were finished, the old man was shaken by a rapid shudder,
as if something had broken inside him; he no longer breathed. He was
dead.

"When I turned round I saw a sight which was even more horrible than
the death struggle of this unfortunate man. The three old women were
standing up huddled close together, hideous, and grimacing with fear
and horror. I went up to them, and they began to utter shrill screams,
while La Jean-Jean, whose leg had been burned and could not longer
support her, fell to the ground at full length.

"Sister Saint-Benedict left the dead man, ran up to her infirm old
women, and without a word or a look for me wrapped their shawls round
them, gave them their crutches, pushed them to the door, made them go
out, and disappeared with them into the dark night.

"I saw that I could not even let a hussar accompany them, for the mere
rattle of a sword would have sent them mad with fear.

"The cure was still looking at the dead man; but at last he turned to
me and said:

"'Oh! What a horrible thing!'"



SIMON'S PAPA

Noon had just struck. The school-door opened and the youngsters
streamed out tumbling over one another in their haste to get out
quickly. But instead of promptly dispersing and going home to dinner as
was their daily wont, they stopped a few paces off, broke up into knots
and set to whispering.

The fact was that that morning Simon, the son of La Blanchotte, had,
for the first time, attended school.

They had all of them in their families heard of La Blanchotte; and
although in public she was welcome enough, the mothers among themselves
treated her with compassion of a some what disdainful kind, which the
children had caught without in the least knowing why.

As for Simon himself, they did not know him, for he never went abroad,
and did not play around with them through the streets of the village or
along the banks of the river. So they loved him but little; and it was
with a certain delight, mingled with astonishment that they gathered in
groups this morning, repeating to each other this sentence, concocted
by a lad of fourteen or fifteen who appeared to know all about it, so
sagaciously did he wink: "You know Simon--well, he has no papa."

La Blanchotte's son appeared in his turn upon the threshold of the
school.

He was seven or eight years old, rather pale, very neat, with a timid
and almost awkward manner.

He was making his way back to his mother's house when the various
groups of his schoolfellows, perpetually whispering, and watching him
with the mischievous and heartless eyes of children bent upon playing a
nasty trick, gradually surrounded him and ended by inclosing him
altogether. There he stood amid them, surprised and embarrassed, not
understanding what they were going to do with him. But the lad who had
brought the news, puffed up with the success he had met with, demanded:

"What do you call yourself?"

He answered: "Simon."

"Simon what?" retorted the other.

The child, altogether bewildered, repeated: "Simon."

The lad shouted at him: "You must be named Simon something! That is not
a name--Simon indeed!"

And he, on the brink of tears, replied for the third time:

"I am named Simon."

The urchins began laughing. The lad triumphantly lifted up his voice:
"You can see plainly that he has no papa."

A deep silence ensued. The children were dumfounded by this
extraordinary, impossibly monstrous thing--a boy who had not a papa;
they looked upon him as a phenomenon, an unnatural being, and they felt
rising in them the hitherto inexplicable pity of their mothers for La
Blanchotte. As for Simon, he had propped himself against a tree to
avoid falling, and he stood there as if paralyzed by an irreparable
disaster. He sought to explain, but he could think of no answer for
them, no way to deny this horrible charge that he had no papa. At last
he shouted at them quite recklessly: "Yes, I have one."

"Where is he?" demanded the boy.

Simon was silent, he did not know. The children shrieked, tremendously
excited. These sons of toil, nearly related to animals, experienced the
cruel craving which makes the fowls of a farmyard destroy one of their
own kind as soon as it is wounded. Simon suddenly spied a little
neighbor, the son of a widow, whom he had always seen, as he himself
was to be seen, quite alone with his mother.

"And no more have you," he said, "no more have you a papa."

"Yes," replied the other, "I have one."

"Where is he?" rejoined Simon.

"He is dead," declared the brat with superb dignity, "he is in the
cemetery, is my papa."

A murmur of approval rose amid the scape-graces, as if the fact of
possessing a papa dead in a cemetery made their comrade big enough to
crush the other one who had no papa at all. And these rogues, whose
fathers were for the most part evil-doers, drunkards, thieves, and
ill-treaters of their wives hustled each other as they pressed closer
and closer to Simon as though they, the legitimate ones, would stifle
in their pressure one who was beyond the law.

The lad next Simon suddenly put his tongue out at him with a waggish
air and shouted at him:

"No papa! No papa!"

Simon seized him by the hair with both hands and set to work to
demolish his legs with kicks, while he bit his cheek ferociously. A
tremendous struggle ensued between the two boys, and Simon found
himself beaten, torn, bruised, rolled on the ground in the middle of
the ring of applauding little vagabonds. As he arose, mechanically
brushing his little blouse all covered with dust with his hand, some
one shouted at him:

"Go and tell your papa."

He then felt a great sinking in his heart. They were stronger than he,
they had beaten him and he had no answer to give them, for he knew it
was true that he had no papa. Full of pride he tried for some moments
to struggle against the tears which were suffocating him. He had a
choking fit, and then without cries he began to weep with great sobs
which shook him incessantly. Then a ferocious joy broke out among his
enemies, and, just like savages in fearful festivals, they took one
another by the hand and danced in a circle about him as they repeated
in refrain:

"No papa! No papa!"

But suddenly Simon ceased sobbing. Frenzy overtook him. There were
stones under his feet; he picked them up and with all his strength
hurled them at his tormentors. Two or three were struck and ran away
yelling, and so formidable did he appear that the rest became
panic-stricken. Cowards, like a jeering crowd in the presence of an
exasperated man, they broke up and fled. Left alone, the little thing
without a father set off running toward the fields, for a recollection
had been awakened which nerved his soul to a great determination. He
made up his mind to drown himself in the river.

He remembered, in fact, that eight days ago a poor devil who begged for
his livelihood had thrown himself into the water because he had no more
money. Simon had been there when they fished him out again, and the
sight of the fellow, who had seemed to him so miserable and ugly, had
then impressed him--his pale cheeks, his long drenched beard, and his
open eyes being full of calm. The bystanders had said:

"He is dead."

And some one had added:

"He is quite happy now."

So Simon wished to drown himself also because he had no father, just as
the wretched being did who had no money.

He reached the water and watched it flowing. Some fishes were rising
briskly in the clear stream and occasionally made little leaps and
caught the flies on the surface. He stopped crying in order to watch
them, for their feeding interested him vastly. But, at intervals, as in
the lulls of a tempest, when tremendous gusts of wind snap off trees
and then die away, this thought would return to him with intense pain:

"I am about to drown myself because I have no papa."

It was very warm and fine weather. The pleasant sunshine warmed the
grass; the water shone like a mirror; and Simon enjoyed for some
minutes the happiness of that languor which follows weeping, desirous
even of falling asleep there upon the grass in the warmth of noon.

A little green frog leaped from under his feet. He endeavored to catch
it. It escaped him. He pursued it and lost it three times following. At
last he caught it by one of its hind legs and began to laugh as he saw
the efforts the creature made to escape. It gathered itself up on its
large legs and then with a violent spring suddenly stretched them out
as stiff as two bars.

Its eyes stared wide open in their round, golden circle, and it beat
the air with its front limbs, using them as though they were hands. It
reminded him of a toy made with straight slips of wood nailed zig-zag
one on the other, which by a similar movement regulated the exercise of
the little soldiers fastened thereon. Then he thought of his home and
of his mother, and overcome by great sorrow he again began to weep. His
limbs trembled; and he placed himself on his knees and said his prayers
as before going to bed. But he was unable to finish them, for such
hurried and violent sobs overtook him that he was completely
overwhelmed. He thought no more, he no longer heeded anything around
him but was wholly given up to tears.

Suddenly a heavy hand was placed upon his shoulder, and a rough voice
asked him:

"What is it that causes you so much grief, my fine fellow?"

Simon turned round. A tall workman, with a black beard and hair all
curled, was staring at him good-naturedly. He answered with his eyes
and throat full of tears:

"They have beaten me because--I--I have no papa--no papa."

"What!" said the man smiling, "why, everybody has one."

The child answered painfully amid his spasms of grief:

"But I--I--I have none."

Then the workman became serious. He had recognized La Blanchotte's son,
and although a recent arrival to the neighborhood he had a vague idea
of her history.

"Well," said he, "console yourself, my boy, and come with me home to
your mother. She will give you a papa."

And so they started on the way, the big one holding the little one by
the hand. The man smiled afresh, for he was not sorry to see this
Blanchotte, who by popular report was one of the prettiest girls in the
country-side--and, perhaps, he said to himself, at the bottom of his
heart, that a lass who had erred once might very well err again.

They arrived in front of a very neat little white house.

"There it is," exclaimed the child, and he cried: "Mamma."

A woman appeared, and the workman instantly left off smiling, for he at
once perceived that there was no more fooling to be done with the tall
pale girl, who stood austerely at her door as though to defend from one
man the threshold of that house where she had already been betrayed by
another. Intimidated, his cap in his hand, he stammered out:

"See, Madame, I have brought you back your little boy, who had lost
himself near the river."

But Simon flung his arms about his mother's neck and told her, as he
again began to cry:

"No, mamma, I wished to drown myself, because the others had beaten
me--had beaten me--because I have no papa."

A burning redness covered the young woman's cheeks, and, hurt to the
quick, she embraced her child passionately, while the tears coursed
down her face. The man, much moved, stood there, not knowing how to get
away. But Simon suddenly ran to him and said:

"Will you be my papa?"

A deep silence ensued. La Blanchotte, dumb and tortured with shame,
leaned against the wall, her hands upon her heart. The child, seeing
that no answer was made him, replied:

"If you do not wish it, I shall return to drown myself."

The workman took the matter as a jest and answered laughing:

"Why, yes, I wish it certainly."

"What is your name, then," went on the child, "so that I may tell the
others when they wish to know your name?"

"Philip," answered the man.

Simon was silent a moment so that he might get the name well into his
memory; then he stretched out his arms, quite consoled, and said:

"Well, then, Philip, you are my papa."

The workman, lifting him from the ground, kissed him hastily on both
cheeks, and then strode away quickly.

When the child returned to school next day he was received with a
spiteful laugh, and at the end of school, when the lads were on the
point of recommencing, Simon threw these words at their heads as he
would have done a stone: "He is named Philip, my papa."

Yells of delight burst out from all sides.

"Philip who? Philip what? What on earth is Philip? Where did you pick
up your Philip?"

Simon answered nothing; and immovable in faith he defied them with his
eye, ready to be martyred rather than fly before them. The schoolmaster
came to his rescue and he returned home to his mother.

For a space of three months, the tall workman, Philip, frequently
passed by La Blanchotte's house, and sometimes made bold to speak to
her when he saw her sewing near the window. She answered him civilly,
always sedately, never joking with him, nor permitting him to enter her
house. Notwithstanding this, being, like all men, a bit of a coxcomb,
he imagined that she was often rosier than usual when she chatted with
him.

But a fallen reputation is so difficult to recover, and always remains
so fragile that, in spite of the shy reserve La Blanchotte maintained,
they already gossiped in the neighborhood.

As for Simon, he loved his new papa much, and walked with him nearly
every evening when the day's work was done. He went regularly to school
and mixed in a dignified way with his schoolfellows without ever
answering them back.

One day, however, the lad who had first attacked him said to him:

"You have lied. You have not a papa named Philip."

"Why do you say that?" demanded Simon, much disturbed.

The youth rubbed his hands. He replied:

"Because if you had one he would be your mamma's husband."

Simon was confused by the truth of this reasoning; nevertheless he
retorted:

"He is my papa all the same."

"That can very well be," exclaimed the urchin with a sneer, "but that
is not being your papa altogether."

La Blanchotte's little one bowed his head and went off dreaming in the
direction of the forge belonging to old Loizon, where Philip worked.

This forge was entombed in trees. It was very dark there, the red glare
of a formidable furnace alone lit up with great flashes five
blacksmiths, who hammered upon their anvils with a terrible din.
Standing enveloped in flame, they worked like demons, their eyes fixed
on the red-hot iron they were pounding; and their dull ideas rising and
falling with their hammers.

Simon entered without being noticed and quietly plucked his friend by
the sleeve. Philip turned round. All at once the work came to a
standstill and the men looked on very attentively. Then, in the midst
of this unaccustomed silence, rose the little slender pipe of Simon:

"Philip, explain to me what the lad at La Michande has just told me,
that you are not altogether my papa."

"And why that?" asked the smith.

The child replied in all innocence:

"Because you are not my mamma's husband."

No one laughed. Philip remained standing, leaning his forehead upon the
back of his great hands, which held the handle of his hammer upright
upon the anvil. He mused. His four companions watched him, and, like a
tiny mite among these giants, Simon anxiously waited. Suddenly, one of
the smiths, voicing the sentiment of all, said to Philip:

"All the same La Blanchotte is a good and honest girl, stalwart and
steady in spite of her misfortune, and one who would make a worthy wife
for an honest man."

"That is true," remarked the three others. The smith continued:

"Is it the girl's fault if she has fallen? She had been promised
marriage, and I know more than one who is much respected to-day and has
sinned every bit as much."

"That is true," responded the three men in chorus.

He resumed:

"How hard she has toiled, poor thing, to educate her lad all alone, and
how much she has wept since she no longer goes out, save to church, God
only knows."

"That also is true," said the others.

Then no more was heard save the roar of the bellows which fanned the
fire of the furnace. Philip hastily bent himself down to Simon:

"Go and tell your mamma that I shall come to speak to her."

Then he pushed the child out by the shoulders. He returned to his work
and in unison the five hammers again fell upon their anvils. Thus they
wrought the iron until nightfall, strong, powerful, happy, like Vulcans
satisfied. But as the great bell of a cathedral resounds upon feast
days above the jingling of the other bells, so Philip's hammer,
dominating the noise of the others, clanged second after second with a
deafening uproar. His eye on the fire, he plied his trade vigorously,
erect amid the sparks.

The sky was full of stars as he knocked at La Blanchotte's door. He had
his Sunday blouse on, a fresh shirt, and his beard was trimmed. The
young woman showed herself upon the threshold and said in a grieved
tone:

"It is ill to come thus when night has fallen, Mr. Philip."

He wished to answer, but stammered and stood confused before her.

She resumed:

"And you understand quite well that it will not do that I should be
talked about any more."

Then he said all at once:

"What does that matter to me, if you will be my wife!"

No voice replied to him, but he believed that he heard in the shadow of
the room the sound of a body falling. He entered very quickly; and
Simon, who had gone to his bed, distinguished the sound of a kiss and
some words that his mother said very softly. Then he suddenly found
himself lifted up by the hands of his friend, who, holding him at the
length of his herculean arms, exclaimed to him:

"You will tell your school-fellows that your papa is Philip Remy, the
blacksmith, and that he will pull the ears of all who do you any harm."

On the morrow, when the school was full and lessons were about to
begin, little Simon stood up quite pale with trembling lips:

"My papa," said he in a clear voice, "is Philip Remy, the blacksmith,
and he has promised to box the ears of all who do me any harm."

This time no one laughed any longer, for he was very well known, was
Philip Remy, the blacksmith, and he was a papa of whom anyone in the
world would be proud.



WAITER, A "BOCK"[1]

[1] Bavarian beer.

Why on this particular evening, did I enter a certain beer shop? I
cannot explain it. It was bitterly cold. A fine rain, a watery mist
floated about, veiling the gas jets in a transparent fog, making the
pavements under the shadow of the shop fronts glitter, which revealed
the soft slush and the soiled feet of the passers-by.

I was going nowhere in particular; was simply having a short walk after
dinner. I had passed the Credit Lyonnais, the Rue Vivienne, and several
other streets. Suddenly I descried a large cafe, which was more than
half full. I walked inside, with no object in mind. I was not the least
thirsty.

By a searching glance I detected a place where I would not be too much
crowded. So I went and sat down by the side of a man who seemed to me
to be old, and who smoked a half-penny clay pipe, which  had become as
black as coal. From six to eight beer saucers were piled up on the
table in front of him, indicating the number of "bocks" he had already
absorbed. With that same glance I had recognized in him a "regular
toper," one of those frequenters of beer-houses, who come in the
morning as soon as the place is open, and only go away in the evening
when it is about to close. He was dirty, bald to about the middle of
the cranium, while his long gray hair fell over the neck of his frock
coat. His clothes, much too large for him, appeared to have been made
for him at a time when he was very stout. One could guess that his
pantaloons were not held up by braces, and that this man could not take
ten paces without having to pull them up and readjust them. Did he wear
a vest? The mere thought of his boots and the feet they enveloped
filled me with horror. The frayed cuffs were as black at the edges as
were his nails.

As soon as I had sat down near him, this queer creature said to me in a
tranquil tone of voice:

"How goes it with you?"

I turned sharply round to him and closely scanned his features,
whereupon he continued:

"I see you do not recognize me."

"No, I do not."

"Des Barrets."

I was stupefied. It was Count Jean des Barrets, my old college chum.

I seized him by the hand, so dumfounded that I could find nothing to
say. I, at length, managed to stammer out:

"And you, how goes it with you?"

He responded placidly:

"With me? Just as I like."

He became silent. I wanted to be friendly, and I selected this phrase:

"What are you doing now?"

"You see what I am doing," he answered, quite resignedly.

I felt my face getting red. I insisted:

"But every day?"

"Every day is alike to me," was his response, accompanied with a thick
puff of tobacco smoke.

He then tapped on the top of the marble table with a sou, to attract
the attention of the waiter, and called out:

"Waiter, two 'bocks.'"

A voice in the distance repeated:

"Two 'bocks,' instead of four."

Another voice, more distant still, shouted out:

"Here they are, sir, here they are."

Immediately there appeared a man with a white apron, carrying two
'bocks,' which he set down foaming on the table, the foam running over
the edge, on to the sandy floor.

Des Barrets emptied his glass at a single draught and replaced it on
the table, sucking in the drops of beer that had been left on his
mustache. He next asked:

"What is there new?"

"I know of nothing new, worth mentioning, really," I stammered: "But
nothing has grown old for me; I am a commercial man."

In an equable tone of voice, he said:

"Indeed--does that amuse you?"

"No, but what do you mean by that? Surely you must do something!"

"What do you mean by that?"

"I only mean, how do you pass your time!"

"What's the use of occupying myself with anything. For my part, I do
nothing at all, as you see, never anything. When one has not got a sou
one can understand why one has to go to work. What is the good of
working? Do you work for yourself, or for others? If you work for
yourself you do it for your own amusement, which is all right; if you
work for others, you reap nothing but ingratitude."

Then sticking his pipe into his mouth, he called out anew:

"Waiter, a 'bock.' It makes me thirsty to keep calling so. I am not
accustomed to that sort of thing. Yes, I do nothing; I let things
slide, and I am growing old. In dying I shall have nothing to regret.
If so, I should remember nothing, outside this public-house. I have no
wife, no children, no cares, no sorrows, nothing. That is the very best
thing that could happen to one."

He then emptied the glass which had been brought him, passed his tongue
over his lips, and resumed his pipe.

I looked at him stupefied and asked him:

"But you have not always been like that?"

"Pardon me, sir; ever since I left college."

"It is not a proper life to lead, my dear sir; it is simply horrible.
Come, you must indeed have done something, you must have loved
something, you must have friends."

"No; I get up at noon, I come here, I have my breakfast, I drink my
'bock'; I remain until the evening, I have my dinner, I drink 'bock.'
Then about one in the morning, I return to my couch, because the place
closes up. And it is this latter that embitters me more than anything.
For the last ten years, I have passed six-tenths of my time on this
bench, in my corner; and the other four-tenths in my bed, never
changing. I talk sometimes with the habitues."

"But on arriving in Paris what did you do at first?"

"I paid my devoirs to the Cafe de Medicis."

"What next?"

"Next? I crossed the water and came here."

"Why did you take even that trouble?"

"What do you mean? One cannot remain all one's life in the Latin
Quarter. The students make too much noise. But I do not move about any
longer. Waiter, a 'bock.'"

I now began to think that he was making fun of me, and I continued:

"Come now, be frank. You have been the victim of some great sorrow;
despair in love, no doubt! It is easy to see that you are a man whom
misfortune has hit hard. What age are you?"

"I am thirty years of age, but I look to be forty-five at least."

I looked him straight in the face. His shrunken figure, badly cared
for, gave one the impression that he was an old man. On the summit of
his cranium, a few long hairs shot straight up from a skin of doubtful
cleanness. He had enormous eyelashes, a large mustache, and a thick
beard. Suddenly I had a kind of vision, I know not why--the vision of a
basin filled with noisome water, the water which should have been
applied to that poll. I said to him:

"Verily, you look to be more than that age. Of a certainty you must
have experienced some great disappointment."

He replied:

"I tell you that I have not. I am old because I never take air. There
is nothing that vitiates the life of a man more than the atmosphere of
a cafe." I could not believe him.

"You must surely have been married as well? One could not get as
baldheaded as you are without having been much in love."

He shook his head, sending down his back little hairs from the scalp:

"No, I have always been virtuous."

And raising his eyes toward the luster, which beat down on our heads,
he said:

"If I am baldheaded, it is the fault of the gas. It is the enemy of
hair. Waiter, a 'bock.' You must be thirsty also?"

"No, thank you. But you certainly interest me. When did you have your
first discouragement? Your life is not normal, is not natural. There is
something under it all."

"Yes, and it dates from my infancy. I received a heavy blow when I was
very young. It turned my life into darkness, which will last to the
end."

"How did it come about?"

"You wish to know about it? Well, then, listen. You recall, of course,
the castle in which I was brought up, seeing that you used to visit it
for five or six months during the vacations? You remember that large,
gray building in the middle of a great park, and the long avenues of
oaks, which opened toward the four cardinal points! You remember my
father and my mother, both of whom were ceremonious, solemn, and severe.

"I worshiped my mother; I was suspicious of my father; but I respected
both, accustomed always as I was to see everyone bow before them. In
the country, they were Monsieur le Comte and Madame la Comtesse; and
our neighbors, the Tannemares, the Ravelets, the Brennevilles, showed
the utmost consideration for them.

"I was then thirteen years old, happy, satisfied with everything, as
one is at that age, and full of joy and vivacity.

"Now toward the end of September, a few days before entering the Lycee,
while I was enjoying myself in the mazes of the park, climbing the
trees and swinging on the branches, I saw crossing an avenue my father
and mother, who were walking together.

"I recall the thing as though it were yesterday. It was a very windy
day. The whole line of trees bent under the pressure of the wind,
moaned and seemed to utter cries--cries dull, yet deep--so that the
whole forest groaned under the gale.

"Evening had come on, and it was dark in the thickets. The agitation of
the wind and the branches excited me, made me skip about like an idiot,
and howl in imitation of the wolves.

"As soon as I perceived my parents, I crept furtively toward them,
under the branches, in order to surprise them, as though I had been a
veritable wolf. But suddenly seized with fear, I stopped a few paces
from them. My father, a prey to the most violent passion, cried:

"'Your mother is a fool; moreover, it is not your mother that is the
question, it is you. I tell you that I want money, and I will make you
sign this.'

"My mother responded in a firm voice:

"'I will not sign it. It is Jean's fortune, I shall guard it for him
and I will not allow you to devour it with strange women, as you have
your own heritage.'

"Then my father, full of rage, wheeled round and seized his wife by the
throat, and began to slap her full in the face with the disengaged hand.

"My mother's hat fell off, her hair became disheveled and fell down her
back: she essayed to parry the blows, but could not escape from them.
And my father, like a madman, banged and banged at her. My mother
rolled over on the ground, covering her face in both her hands. Then he
turned her over on her back in order to batter her still more, pulling
away the hands which were covering her face.

"As for me, my friend, it seemed as though the world had come to an
end, that the eternal laws had changed. I experienced the overwhelming
dread that one has in presence of things supernatural, in presence of
irreparable disaster. My boyish head whirled round and soared. I began
to cry with all my might, without knowing why, a prey to terror, to
grief, to a dreadful bewilderment. My father heard me, turned round,
and, on seeing me, made as though he would rush at me. I believed that
he wanted to kill me, and I fled like a hunted animal, running straight
in front of me through the woods.

"I ran perhaps for an hour, perhaps for two, I know not. Darkness had
set in, I tumbled over some thick herbs, exhausted, and I lay there
lost, devoured by terror, eaten up by a sorrow capable of breaking
forever the heart of a child. I became cold, I became hungry. At length
day broke. I dared neither get up, walk, return home, nor save myself,
fearing to encounter my father whom I did not wish to see again.

"I should probably have died of misery and of hunger at the foot of a
tree if the guard had not discovered me and led me away by force.

"I found my parents wearing their ordinary aspect. My mother alone
spoke to me:

"'How you have frightened me, you naughty boy; I have been the whole
night sleepless.'

"I did not answer, but began to weep. My father did not utter a single
word.

"Eight days later I entered the Lycee.

"Well, my friend, it was all over with me. I had witnessed the other
side of things, the bad side; I have not been able to perceive the good
side since that day. What things have passed in my mind, what strange
phenomena have warped my ideas, I do not know. But I no longer have a
taste for anything, a wish for anything, a love for anybody, a desire
for anything whatever, no ambition, no hope. And I can always see my
poor mother lying on the ground, in the avenue, while my father was
maltreating her. My mother died a few years after; my father lives
still. I have not seen him since. Waiter, a 'bock.'"

A waiter brought him his "bock," which he swallowed at a gulp. But, in
taking up his pipe again, trembling as he was, he broke it. Then he
made a violent gesture:

"Zounds! This is indeed a grief, a real grief. I have had it for a
month, and it was coloring so beautifully!"

Then he went off through the vast saloon, which was now full of smoke
and of people drinking, calling out:

"Waiter, a 'bock'--and a new pipe."



SEQUEL TO A DIVORCE

Certainly, although he had been engaged in the most extraordinary, most
unlikely, most extravagant, and funniest cases, and had won legal games
without a trump in his hand--although he had worked out the obscure law
of divorce, as if it had been a Californian gold mine, Maitre[1]
Garrulier, the celebrated, the only Garrulier, could not check a
movement of surprise, nor a disheartening shake of the head, nor a
smile, when the Countess de Baudemont explained her affairs to him for
the first time.

He had just opened his correspondence, and his slender hands, on which
he bestowed the greatest attention, buried themselves in a heap of
female letters, and one might have thought oneself in the confessional
of a fashionable preacher, so impregnated was the atmosphere with
delicate perfumes.

Immediately--even before she had said a word--with the sharp glance of
a practised man of the world, that look which made beautiful Madame de
Serpenoise say: "He strips your heart bare!" the lawyer had classed her
in the third category. Those who suffer came into his first category,
those who love, into the second, and those who are bored, into the
third--and she belonged to the latter.

She was a pretty windmill, whose sails turned and flew round, and
fretted the blue sky with a delicious shiver of joy, as it were, and
had the brain of a bird, in which four correct and healthy ideas cannot
exist side by side, and in which all dreams and every kind of folly are
engulfed, like a great kaleidoscope.

Incapable of hurting a fly, emotional, charitable, with a feeling of
tenderness for the street girl who sells bunches of violets for a
penny, for a cab horse which a driver is ill-using, for a melancholy
pauper's funeral, when the body, without friends or relations to follow
it, is being conveyed to the common grave, doing anything that might
afford five minutes' amusement, not caring if she made men miserable
for the rest of their days, and taking pleasure in kindling passions
which consumed men's whole being, looking upon life as too short to be
anything else than one uninterrupted round of gaiety and enjoyment, she
thought that people might find plenty of time for being serious and
reasonable in the evening of life, when they are at the bottom of the
hill, and their looking-glasses reveal a wrinkled face, surrounded with
white hair.

A thorough-bred Parisian, whom one would follow to the end of the
world, like a poodle; a woman whom one adores with the head, the heart,
and the senses until one is nearly driven mad, as soon as one has
inhaled the delicate perfume that emanates from her dress and hair, or
touched her skin, and heard her laugh; a woman for whom one would fight
a duel and risk one's life without a thought; for whom a man would
remove mountains, and sell his soul to the devil several times over, if
the devil were still in the habit of frequenting the places of bad
repute on this earth.

She had perhaps come to see this Garrulier, whom she had so often heard
mentioned at five o'clock teas, so as to be able to describe him to her
female friends subsequently in droll phrases, imitating his gestures
and the unctuous inflections of his voice, in order, perhaps, to
experience some new sensation, or, perhaps, for the sake of dressing
like a woman who was going to try for a divorce; and, certainly, the
whole effect was perfect. She wore a splendid cloak embroidered with
jet--which gave an almost serious effect to her golden hair, to her
small slightly turned-up nose, with its quivering nostrils, and to her
large eyes, full of enigma and fun--over a dark stuff dress, which was
fastened at the neck by a sapphire and a diamond pin.

The barrister did not interrupt her, but allowed her to get excited and
to chatter; to enumerate her causes for complaint against poor Count de
Baudemont, who certainly had no suspicion of his wife's escapade, and
who would have been very much surprised if anyone had told him of it at
that moment, when he was taking his fencing lesson at the club.

When she had quite finished, he said coolly, as if he were throwing a
pail of water on some burning straw:

"But, Madame, there is not the slightest pretext for a divorce in
anything that you have told me here. The judges would ask me whether I
took the Law Courts for a theater, and intended to make fun of them."

And seeing how disheartened she was,--that she looked like a child
whose favorite toy had been broken, that she was so pretty that he
would have liked to kiss her hands in his devotion, and as she seemed
to be witty, and very amusing, and as, moreover, he had no objection to
such visits being prolonged, when papers had to be looked over, while
sitting close together,--Maitre Garrulier appeared to be considering.
Taking his chin in his hand, he said:

"However, I will think it over; there is sure to be some dark spot that
can be made out worse. Write to me, and come and see me again."

In the course of her visits, that black spot had increased so much and
Madame de Baudemont had followed her lawyer's advice so punctually, and
had played on the various strings so skillfully that a few months
later, after a lawsuit, which is still spoken of in the Courts of
Justice, and during the course of which the President had to take off
his spectacles, and to use his pocket-handkerchief noisily, the divorce
was pronounced in favor of the Countess Marie Anne Nicole Bournet de
Baudemont, nee de Tanchart de Peothus.

The Count, who was nonplussed at such an adventure turning out so
seriously, first of all flew into a terrible rage, rushed off to the
lawyer's office and threatened to cut off his knavish ears for him. But
when his access of fury was over, and he thought of it, he shrugged his
shoulders and said:

"All the better for her, if it amuses her!"

Then he bought Baron Silberstein's yacht, and with some friends, got up
a cruise to Ceylon and India.

Marie Anne began by triumphing, and felt as happy as a schoolgirl going
home for the holidays; she committed every possible folly, and soon,
tired, satiated, and disgusted, began to yawn, cried, and found out
that she had sacrificed her happiness, like a millionaire who has gone
mad and has cast his banknotes and shares into the river, and that she
was nothing more than a disabled waif and stray. Consequently, she now
married again, as the solitude of her home made her morose from morning
till night; and then, besides, she found a woman requires a mansion
when she goes into society, to race meetings, or to the theater.

And so, while she became a marchioness, and pronounced her second
"Yes," before a very few friends, at the office of the mayor of the
English urban district, malicious people in the Faubourg were making
fun of the whole affair, and affirming this and that, whether rightly
or wrongly, and comparing the present husband to the former one, even
declaring that he had partially been the cause of the former divorce.
Meanwhile Monsieur de Baudemont was wandering over the four quarters of
the globe trying to overcome his homesickness, and to deaden his
longing for love, which had taken possession of his heart and of his
body, like a slow poison.

He traveled through the most out-of-the-way places, and the most lovely
countries, and spent months and months at sea, and plunged into every
kind of dissipation and debauchery. But neither the supple forms nor
the luxurious gestures of the bayaderes, nor the large passive eyes of
the Creoles, nor flirtations with English girls with hair the color of
new cider, nor nights of waking dreams, when he saw new constellations
in the sky, nor dangers during which a man thinks it is all over with
him, and mutters a few words of prayer in spite of himself, when the
waves are high, and the sky black, nothing was able to make him forget
that little Parisian woman who smelled so sweet that she might have
been taken for a bouquet of rare flowers; who was so coaxing, so
curious, so funny; who never had the same caprice, the same smile, or
the same look twice, and who, at bottom, was worth more than many
others, either saints or sinners.

He thought of her constantly, during long hours of sleeplessness. He
carried her portrait about with him in the breast pocket of his
pea-jacket--a charming portrait in which she was smiling, and showing
her white teeth between her half-open lips. Her gentle eyes with their
magnetic look had a happy, frank expression, and from the mere
arrangement of her hair, one could see that she was fair among the fair.

He used to kiss that portrait of the woman who had been his wife as if
he wished to efface it, would look at it for hours, and then throw
himself down on the netting and sob like a child as he looked at the
infinite expanse before him, seeming to see their lost happiness, the
joys of their perished affections, and the divine remembrance of their
love, in the monotonous waste of green waters. And he tried to accuse
himself for all that had occurred, and not to be angry with her, to
think that his grievances were imaginary, and to adore her in spite of
everything and always.

And so he roamed about the world, tossed to and fro, suffering and
hoping he knew not what. He ventured into the greatest dangers, and
sought for death just as a man seeks for his mistress, and death passed
close to him without touching him, perhaps amused at his grief and
misery.

For he was as wretched as a stone-breaker, as one of those poor devils
who work and nearly break their backs over the hard flints the whole
day long, under the scorching sun or the cold rain; and Marie Anne
herself was not happy, for she was pining for the past and remembered
their former love.

At last, however, he returned to France, changed, tanned by exposure,
sun, and rain, and transformed as if by some witch's philter.

Nobody would have recognized the elegant and effeminate clubman, in
this corsair with broad shoulders, a skin the color of tan, with very
red lips, who rolled a little in his walk; who seemed to be stifled in
his black dress-coat, but who still retained the distinguished manners
and bearing of a nobleman of the last century, one of those who, when
he was ruined, fitted out a privateer, and fell upon the English
wherever he met them, from St. Malo to Calcutta. And wherever he showed
himself his friends exclaimed:

"Why! Is that you? I should never have known you again!"

He was very nearly starting off again immediately; he even telegraphed
orders to Havre to get the steam-yacht ready for sea directly, when he
heard that Marie Anne had married again.

He saw her in the distance, at the Theatre Francais one Tuesday, and
when he noticed how pretty, how fair, how desirable she was,--looking
so melancholy, with all the appearance of an unhappy soul that regrets
something,--his determination grew weaker, and he delayed his departure
from week to week, and waited, without knowing why, until, at last,
worn out with the struggle, watching her wherever she went, more in
love with her than he had ever been before, he wrote her long, mad,
ardent letters in which his passion overflowed like a stream of lava.

He altered his handwriting, as he remembered her restless brain, and
her many whims. He sent her the flowers which he knew she liked best,
and told her that she was his life, that he was dying of waiting for
her, of longing for her, for her his idol.

At last, very much puzzled and surprised, guessing--who knows?--from
the instinctive beating of her heart, and her general emotion, that it
must be he this time, he whose soul she had tortured with such cold
cruelty, and knowing that she could make amends for the past and bring
back their former love, she replied to him, and granted him the meeting
that he asked for. She fell into his arms, and they both sobbed with
joy and ecstasy. Their kisses were those which lips give only when they
have lost each other and found each other again at last, when they meet
and exhaust themselves in each other's looks, thirsting for tenderness,
love, and enjoyment.

      *      *      *      *      *

Last week Count de Baudemont carried off Marie Anne quietly and coolly,
just like one resumes possession of one's house on returning from a
journey, and drives out the intruders. And when Maitre Garrulier was
told of this unheard of scandal, he rubbed his hands--the long,
delicate hands of a sensual prelate--and exclaimed:

"That is absolutely logical, and I should like to be in their place."


[1] Title given to advocates in France.



THE MAD WOMAN

"I can tell you a terrible story about the Franco-Prussian war,"
Monsieur d'Endolin said to some friends assembled in the smoking-room
of Baron de Ravot's chateau. "You know my house in the Faubourg de
Cormeil, I was living there when the Prussians came, and I had for a
neighbor a kind of mad woman, who had lost her senses in consequence of
a series of misfortunes. At the age of seven and twenty she had lost
her father, her husband, and her newly born child, all in the space of
a month.

"When death has once entered into a house, it almost invariably returns
immediately, as if it knew the way, and the young woman, overwhelmed
with grief, took to her bed and was delirious for six weeks. Then a
species of calm lassitude succeeded that violent crisis, and she
remained motionless, eating next to nothing, and only moving her eyes.
Every time they tried to make her get up, she screamed as if they were
about to kill her, and so they ended by leaving her continually in bed,
and only taking her out to wash her, to change her linen, and to turn
her mattress.

"An old servant remained with her, to give her something to drink, or a
little cold meat, from time to time. What passed in that despairing
mind? No one ever knew, for she did not speak at all now. Was she
thinking of the dead? Was she dreaming sadly, without any precise
recollection of anything that had happened? Or was her memory as
stagnant as water without any current? But however this may have been,
for fifteen years she remained thus inert and secluded.

"The war broke out, and in the beginning of December the Germans came
to Cormeil. I can remember it as if it were but yesterday. It was
freezing hard enough to split the stones, and I myself was lying back
in an armchair, being unable to move on account of the gout, when I
heard their heavy and regular tread, and could see them pass from my
window.

"They defiled past interminably, with that peculiar motion of a puppet
on wires, which belongs to them. Then the officers billeted their men
on the inhabitants, and I had seventeen of them. My neighbor, the crazy
woman, had a dozen, one of whom was the Commandant, a regular violent,
surly swashbuckler.

"During the first few days, everything went on as usual. The officers
next door had been told that the lady was ill, and they did not trouble
themselves about that in the least, but soon that woman whom they never
saw irritated them. They asked what her illness was, and were told that
she had been in bed for fifteen years, in consequence of terrible
grief. No doubt they did not believe it, and thought that the poor mad
creature would not leave her bed out of pride, so that she might not
come near the Prussians, or speak to them or even see them.

"The Commandant insisted upon her receiving him. He was shown into the
room and said to her roughly: 'I must beg you to get up, Madame, and to
come downstairs so that we may all see you.' But she merely turned her
vague eyes on him, without replying, and so he continued: 'I do not
intend to tolerate any insolence, and if you do not get up of your own
accord, I can easily find means to make you walk without any
assistance.'

"But she did not give any signs of having heard him, and remained quite
motionless. Then he got furious, taking that calm silence for a mark of
supreme contempt; so he added: 'If you do not come downstairs
to-morrow--' And then he left the room.

"The next day the terrified old servant wished to dress her, but the
mad woman began to scream violently, and resisted with all her might.
The officer ran upstairs quickly, and the servant threw herself at his
feet and cried: 'She will not come down, Monsieur, she will not.
Forgive her, for she is so unhappy.'

"The soldier was embarrassed, as in spite of his anger, he did not
venture to order his soldiers to drag her out. But suddenly he began to
laugh, and gave some orders in German, and soon a party of soldiers was
seen coming out supporting a mattress as if they were carrying a
wounded man. On that bed, which had not been unmade, the mad woman, who
was still silent, was lying quite quietly, for she was quite
indifferent to anything that went on, as long as they let her lie.
Behind her, a soldier was carrying a parcel of feminine attire, and the
officer said, rubbing his hands: 'We will just see whether you cannot
dress yourself alone, and take a little walk.'

"And then the procession went off in the direction of the forest of
Imauville; in two hours the soldiers came back alone, and nothing more
was seen of the mad woman. What had they done with her? Where had they
taken her to? No one knew.

"The snow was falling day and night, and enveloped the plain and the
woods in a shroud of frozen foam, and the wolves came and howled at our
very doors.

"The thought of that poor lost woman haunted me, and I made several
applications to the Prussian authorities in order to obtain some
information, and was nearly shot for doing so. When spring returned,
the army of occupation withdrew, but my neighbor's house remained
closed, and the grass grew thick in the garden walks. The old servant
had died during the winter, and nobody troubled any longer about the
occurrence; I alone thought about it constantly. What had they done
with the woman? Had she escaped through the forest? Had somebody found
her, and taken her to a hospital, without being able to obtain any
information from her? Nothing happened to relieve my doubts; but by
degrees, time assuaged my fears.

"Well, in the following autumn the woodcock were very plentiful, and as
my gout had left me for a time, I dragged myself as far as the forest.
I had already killed four or five of the long-billed birds, when I
knocked over one which fell into a ditch full of branches, and I was
obliged to get into it, in order to pick it up, and I found that it had
fallen close to a dead, human body. Immediately the recollection of the
mad woman struck me like a blow in the chest. Many other people had
perhaps died in the wood during that disastrous year, but though I do
not know why, I was sure, sure, I tell you, that I should see the head
of that wretched maniac.

"And suddenly I understood, I guessed everything. They had abandoned
her on that mattress in the cold, deserted wood; and, faithful to her
fixed idea, she had allowed herself to perish under that thick and
light counterpane of snow, without moving either arms or legs.

"Then the wolves had devoured her, and the birds had built their nests
with the wool from her torn bed, and I took charge of her bones. I only
pray that our sons may never see any wars again."



IN VARIOUS ROLES

In the following reminiscences will frequently be mentioned a lady who
played a great part in the annals of the police from 1848 to 1866. We
will call her "Wanda von Chabert." Born in Galicia of German parents,
and carefully brought up in every way, when only sixteen she married,
from love, a rich and handsome officer of noble birth. The young
couple, however, lived beyond their means, and when the husband died
suddenly, two years after they were married, she was left anything but
well off.

As Wanda had grown accustomed to luxury and amusement, a quiet life in
her parents' house did not suit her any longer. Even while she was
still in mourning for her husband, she allowed a Hungarian magnate to
make love to her. She went off with him at a venture, and continued the
same extravagant life which she had led when her husband was alive, of
her own volition. At the end of two years, however, her lover left her
in a town in North Italy, almost without means. She was thinking of
going on the stage, when chance provided her with another resource,
which enabled her to reassert her position in society. She became a
secret police agent, and soon was one of their most valuable members.
In addition to the proverbial charm and wit of a Polish woman, she also
possessed high linguistic attainments, and spoke Polish, Russian,
French, German, English, and Italian, with almost equal fluency and
correctness. Then she had that encyclopedic polish which impresses
people much more than the most profound learning of the specialist, She
was very attractive in appearance, and she knew how to set off her good
looks by all the arts of dress and coquetry.

In addition to this, she was a woman of the world in the widest sense
of the term; pleasure-loving, faithless, unstable, and therefore never
in any danger of really losing her heart, and consequently her head.
She used to change the place of her abode, according to what she had to
do. Sometimes she lived in Paris among the Polish emigrants, in order
to find out what they were doing, and maintained intimate relations
with the Tuileries and the Palais Royal at the same time; sometimes she
went to London for a short time, or hurried off to Italy to watch the
Hungarian exiles, only to reappear suddenly in Switzerland, or at one
of the fashionable German watering-places.

In revolutionary circles, she was looked upon as an active member of
the great League of Freedom, and diplomatists regarded her as an
influential friend of Napoleon III.

She knew everyone, but especially those men whose names were to be met
with every day in the journals, and she counted Victor Emmanuel,
Rouher, Gladstone, and Gortschakoff among her friends as well as
Mazzini, Kossuth, Garibaldi, Mieroslawsky, and Bakunin.

In the spring of 185- she was at Vevey on the lovely lake of Geneva,
and went into raptures when talking to an old German diplomatist about
the beauties of nature, and about Calame, Stifter, and Turgenev, whose
"Diary of a Hunter," had just become fashionable. One day a man
appeared at the table d'hote, who excited unusual attention, and hers
especially, so that there was nothing strange in her asking the
proprietor of the hotel what his name was. She was told that he was a
wealthy Brazilian, and that his name was Don Escovedo.

Whether it was an accident, or whether he responded to the interest
which the young woman felt for him, at any rate she constantly met him
whereever she went, whether taking a walk, or on the lake or looking at
the newspapers in the reading-room. At last she was obliged to confess
to herself that he was the handsomest man she had ever seen. Tall slim,
and yet muscular, the young, beardless Brazilian had a head which any
woman might envy, features not only beautiful and noble, but also
extremely delicate, dark eyes which possessed a wonderful charm, and
thick, auburn, curly hair, which completed the attractiveness and the
strangeness of his appearance.

They soon became acquainted, through a Prussian officer whom the
Brazilian had asked for an introduction to the beautiful Polish
lady--for Frau von Chabert was taken for one in Vevey. She, cold and
designing as she was, blushed slightly when he stood before her for the
first time; and when he gave her his arm, he could feel her hand
tremble slightly on it. The same evening they went out riding together,
the next he was lying at her feet, and on the third she was his. For
four weeks the lovely Wanda and the Brazilian lived together as if they
had been in Paradise, but he could not deceive her searching eyes any
longer.

Her sharp and practiced eye had already discovered in him that
indefinable something which makes a man appear a suspicious character.
Any other woman would have been pained and horrified at such a
discovery, but she found the strange consolation in it that her
handsome adorer promised also to become a very interesting object for
pursuit, and so she began systematically to watch the man who lay
unsuspectingly at her feet.

She soon found out that he was no conspirator; but she asked herself in
vain whether she was to look for a common swindler, an impudent
adventurer, or perhaps even a criminal in him. The day that she had
foreseen soon came; the Brazilian's banker "unaccountably" had omitted
to send him any money, and so he borrowed some of her. "So he is a male
courtesan," she said to herself. The handsome man soon required money
again, and she lent it to him again. Then at last he left suddenly and
nobody knew where he had gone to; only this much, that he had left
Vevey as the companion of an old but wealthy Wallachian lady. So this
time clever Wanda was duped.

A year afterward she met the Brazilian unexpectedly at Lucca, with an
insipid-looking, light-haired, thin Englishwoman on his arm. Wanda
stood still and looked at him steadily, but he glanced at her quite
indifferently; he did not choose to know her again.

The next morning, however, his valet brought her a letter from him,
which contained the amount of his debt in Italian hundred-lire notes,
accompanied by a very cool excuse. Wanda was satisfied, but she wished
to find out who the lady was, in whose company she constantly saw Don
Escovedo.

"Don Escovedo."

An Austrian count, who had a loud and silly laugh, said:

"Who has saddled you with that yarn? The lady is Lady Nitingsdale, and
his name is Romanesco."

"Romanesco?"

"Yes, he is a rich Boyar from Moldavia, where he has extensive estates."

Romanesco ran a faro bank in his apartments, and certainly cheated, for
he nearly always won; it was not long, therefore, before other people
in good society at Lucca shared Madame von Chabert's suspicions, and,
consequently, Romanesco thought it advisable to vanish as suddenly from
Lucca as Escovedo had done from Vevey, and without leaving any more
traces behind him.

Some time afterward, Madame von Chabert was on the Island of
Heligoland, for the sea-bathing; and one day she saw Escovedo-Romanesco
sitting opposite to her at the table d'hote, in very animated
conversation with a Russian lady; only his hair had turned black since
she had seen him last. Evidently his light hair had become too
compromising for him.

"The sea-water seems to have a very remarkable effect upon your hair,"
Wanda said to him spitefully, in a whisper.

"Do you think so?" he replied, condescendingly.

"I fancy that at one time your hair was fair."

"You are mistaking me for somebody else," the Brazilian replied,
quietly.

"I am not."

"For whom do you take me, pray?" he said with an insolent smile.

"For Don Escovedo."

"I am Count Dembizki from Valkynia," the former Brazilian said with a
bow; "perhaps you would like to see my passport."

"Well, perhaps--"

And he had the impudence to show her his false passport.

A year afterward Wanda met Count Dembizki in Baden, near Vienna. His
hair was still black, but he had a magnificent, full, black beard; he
had become a Greek prince, and his name was Anastasio Maurokordatos.
She met him once in one of the side walks in the park, where he could
not avoid her. "If it goes on like this," she called out to him in a
mocking voice, "the next time I see you, you will be king, of some
negro tribe or other."

That time, however, the Brazilian did not deny his identity; on the
contrary, he surrendered at discretion, and implored her not to betray
him. As she was not revengeful she pardoned him, after enjoying his
terror for a time, and promised him that she would hold her tongue, as
long as he did nothing contrary to the laws.

"First of all, I must beg you not to gamble."

"You have only to command; and we do not know each other in the future."

"I must certainly insist on that," she said maliciously.

The "Exotic Prince" had, however, made a conquest of the charming
daughter of a wealthy Austrian count, and had cut out an excellent
young officer, who was wooing her. The latter, in his despair, began to
make love to Frau von Chabert, and at last told her he loved her. But
she only laughed at him.

"You are very cruel," he stammered in confusion.

"I? What are you thinking about?" Wanda replied, still smiling; "all I
mean is that you have directed your love to the wrong address, for
Countess--"

"Do not speak of her; she is engaged to another man."

"As long as I choose to permit it," she said; "but what will you do if
I bring her back to your arms? Will you still call me cruel?"

"Can you do this?" the young officer asked, in great excitement.

"Well, supposing I can do it, what shall I be then?"

"An angel, whom I shall thank on my knees."

A few days later, the rivals met at a coffee-house; the Greek prince
began to lie and boast, and the Austrian officer gave him the lie
direct. In consequence, it was arranged that they should fight a duel
with pistols next morning in a wood close to Baden. But as the officer
was leaving the house with his seconds the next morning, a Police
Commissary came up to him and begged him not to trouble himself any
further about the matter, but another time to be more careful before
accepting a challenge.

"What does it mean?" the officer asked, in some surprise.

"It means that this Maurokordatos is a dangerous swindler and
adventurer, whom we have just taken into custody."

"He is not a prince?"

"No; a circus rider."

An hour later, the officer received a letter from the charming
Countess, in which she humbly begged for pardon. The happy lover set
off to go and see her immediately, but on the way a sudden thought
struck him, and so he turned back in order to thank beautiful Wanda, as
he had promised, on his knees.



THE FALSE GEMS

M. Lantin had met the young woman at a soiree, at the home of the
assistant chief of his bureau, and at first sight had fallen madly in
love with her.

She was the daughter of a country physician who had died some months
previously. She had come to live in Paris, with her mother, who visited
much among her acquaintances, in the hope of making a favorable
marriage for her daughter. They were poor and honest, quiet and
unaffected.

The young girl was a perfect type of the virtuous woman whom every
sensible young man dreams of one day winning for life. Her simple
beauty had the charm of angelic modesty, and the imperceptible smile
which constantly hovered about her lips seemed to be the reflection of
a pure and lovely soul. Her praises resounded on every side. People
were never tired of saying: "Happy the man who wins her love! He could
not find a better wife."

Now M. Lantin enjoyed a snug little income of $700, and, thinking he
could safely assume the responsibilities of matrimony, proposed to this
model young girl and was accepted.

He was unspeakably happy with her; she governed his household so
cleverly and economically that they seemed to live in luxury. She
lavished the most delicate attentions on her husband, coaxed and
fondled him, and the charm of her presence was so great that six years
after their marriage M. Lantin discovered that he loved his wife even
more than during the first days of their honeymoon.

He only felt inclined to blame her for two things: her love of the
theater, and a taste for false jewelry. Her friends (she was acquainted
with some officers' wives) frequently procured for her a box at the
theater, often for the first representations of the new plays; and her
husband was obliged to accompany her, whether he willed or not, to
these amusements, though they bored him excessively after a day's labor
at the office.

After a time, M. Lantin begged his wife to get some lady of her
acquaintance to accompany her. She was at first opposed to such an
arrangement; but, after much persuasion on his part, she finally
consented--to the infinite delight of her husband.

Now, with her love for the theater came also the desire to adorn her
person. True, her costumes remained as before, simple, and in the most
correct taste; but she soon began to ornament her ears with huge
rhinestones which glittered and sparkled like real diamonds. Around her
neck she wore strings of false pearls, and on her arms bracelets of
imitation gold.

Her husband frequently remonstrated with her, saying:

"My dear, as you cannot afford to buy real diamonds, you ought to
appear adorned with your beauty and modesty alone, which are the rarest
ornaments of your sex."

But she would smile sweetly, and say:

"What can I do? I am so fond of jewelry. It is my only weakness. We
cannot change our natures."

Then she would roll the pearl necklaces around her fingers, and hold up
the bright gems for her husband's admiration, gently coaxing him:

"Look! are they not lovely? One would swear they were real."

M. Lantin would then answer, smilingly:

"You have Bohemian tastes, my dear."

Often of an evening, when they were enjoying a tete-a-tete by the
fireside, she would place on the tea table the leather box containing
the "trash," as M. Lantin called it. She would examine the false gems
with a passionate attention as though they were in some way connected
with a deep and secret joy; and she often insisted on passing a
necklace around her husband's neck, and laughing heartily would
exclaim: "How droll you look!" Then she would throw herself into his
arms and kiss him affectionately.

One evening in winter she attended the opera, and on her return was
chilled through and through. The next morning she coughed, and eight
days later she died of inflammation of the lungs.

M. Lantin's despair was so great that his hair became white in one
month. He wept unceasingly; his heart was torn with grief, and his mind
was haunted by the remembrance, the smile, the voice--by every charm of
his beautiful, dead wife.

Time, the healer, did not assuage his grief. Often during office hours,
while his colleagues were discussing the topics of the day, his eyes
would suddenly fill with tears, and he would give vent to his grief in
heartrending sobs. Everything in his wife's room remained as before her
decease; and here he was wont to seclude himself daily and think of her
who had been his treasure--the joy of his existence.

But life soon became a struggle. His income, which in the hands of his
wife had covered all household expenses, was now no longer sufficient
for his own immediate wants; and he wondered how she could have managed
to buy such excellent wines, and such rare delicacies, things which he
could no longer procure with his modest resources.

He incurred some debts and was soon reduced to absolute poverty. One
morning, finding himself without a cent in his pocket, he resolved to
sell something, and, immediately, the thought occurred to him of
disposing of his wife's paste jewels. He cherished in his heart a sort
of rancor against the false gems. They had always irritated him in the
past, and the very sight of them spoiled somewhat the memory of his
lost darling.

To the last days of her life, she had continued to make purchases;
bringing home new gems almost every evening. He decided to sell the
heavy necklace which she seemed to prefer, and which, he thought, ought
to be worth about six or seven francs; for although paste it was,
nevertheless, of very fine workmanship.

He put it in his pocket and started out in search of a jeweler's shop.
He entered the first one he saw--feeling a little ashamed to expose his
misery, and also to offer such a worthless article for sale.

"Sir," said he to the merchant, "I would like to know what this is
worth."

The man took the necklace, examined it, called his clerk and made some
remarks in an undertone; then he put the ornament back on the counter,
and looked at it from a distance to judge of the effect.

M. Lantin was annoyed by all this detail and was on the point of
saying: "Oh! I know well enough it is not worth anything," when the
jeweler said: "Sir, that necklace is worth from twelve to fifteen
thousand francs; but I could not buy it unless you tell me now whence
it comes."

The widower opened his eyes wide and remained gaping, not comprehending
the merchant's meaning. Finally he stammered: "You say--are you sure?"
The other replied dryly: "You can search elsewhere and see if anyone
will offer you more. I consider it worth fifteen thousand at the most.
Come back here if you cannot do better."

M. Lantin, beside himself with astonishment, took up the necklace and
left the store. He wished time for reflection.

Once outside, he felt inclined to laugh, and said to himself: "The
fool! Had I only taken him at his word! That jeweler cannot distinguish
real diamonds from paste."

A few minutes after, he entered another store in the Rue de la Paix. As
soon as the proprietor glanced at the necklace, he cried out:

"Ah, parbleu! I know it well; it was bought here."

M. Lantin was disturbed, and asked:

"How much is it worth?"

"Well, I sold it for twenty thousand francs. I am willing to take it
back for eighteen thousand when you inform me, according to our legal
formality, how it comes to be in your possession."

This time M. Lantin was dumfounded. He replied:

"But--but--examine it well. Until this moment I was under the
impression that it was paste."

Said the jeweler:

"What is your name, sir?"

"Lantin--I am in the employ of the Minister of the Interior. I live at
No. 16 Rue des Martyrs."

The merchant looked through his books, found the entry, and said: "That
necklace was sent to Mme. Lantin's address, 16 Rue des Martyrs, July
20, 1876."

The two men looked into each other's eyes--the widower speechless with
astonishment, the jeweler scenting a thief. The latter broke the
silence by saying:

"Will you leave this necklace here for twenty-four hours? I will give
you a receipt."

"Certainly," answered M. Lantin, hastily. Then, putting the ticket in
his pocket, he left the store.

He wandered aimlessly through the streets, his mind in a state of
dreadful confusion. He tried to reason, to understand. His wife could
not afford to purchase such a costly ornament. Certainly not. But,
then, it must have been a present!--a present!--a present from whom?
Why was it given her?

He stopped and remained standing in the middle of the street. A
horrible doubt entered his mind--she? Then all the other gems must have
been presents, too! The earth seemed to tremble beneath him,--the tree
before him was falling--throwing up his arms, he fell to the ground,
unconscious. He recovered his senses in a pharmacy into which the
passers-by had taken him, and was then taken to his home. When he
arrived he shut himself up in his room and wept until nightfall.
Finally, overcome with fatigue, he threw himself on the bed, where he
passed an uneasy, restless night.

The following morning he arose and prepared to go to the office. It was
hard to work after such a shock. He sent a letter to his employer
requesting to be excused. Then he remembered that he had to return to
the jeweler's. He did not like the idea; but he could not leave the
necklace with that man. So he dressed and went out.

It was a lovely day; a clear blue sky smiled on the busy city below,
and men of leisure were strolling about with their hands in their
pockets.

Observing them, M. Lantin said to himself: "The rich, indeed, are
happy. With money it is possible to forget even the deepest sorrow. One
can go where one pleases, and in travel find that distraction which is
the surest cure for grief. Oh! if I were only rich!"

He began to feel hungry, but his pocket was empty. He again remembered
the necklace. Eighteen thousand francs! Eighteen thousand francs! What
a sum!

He soon arrived in the Rue de la Paix, opposite the jeweler's. Eighteen
thousand francs! Twenty times he resolved to go in, but shame kept him
back. He was hungry, however,--very hungry, and had not a cent in his
pocket. He decided quickly, ran across the street in order not to have
time for reflection, and entered the store.

The proprietor immediately came forward, and politely offered him a
chair; the clerks glanced at him knowingly.

"I have made inquiries, M. Lantin," said the jeweler, "and if you are
still resolved to dispose of the gems, I am ready to pay you the price
I offered."

"Certainly, sir," stammered M. Lantin.

Whereupon the proprietor took from a drawer eighteen large bills,
counted and handed them to M. Lantin, who signed a receipt and with a
trembling hand put the money into his pocket.

As he was about to leave the store, he turned toward the merchant, who
still wore the same knowing smile, and lowering his eyes, said:

"I have--I have other gems which I have received from the same source.
Will you buy them also?"

The merchant bowed: "Certainly, sir."

M. Lantin said gravely: "I will bring them to you." An hour later he
returned with the gems.

The large diamond earrings were worth twenty thousand francs; the
bracelets thirty-five thousand; the rings, sixteen thousand; a set of
emeralds and sapphires, fourteen thousand; a gold chain with solitaire
pendant, forty thousand--making the sum of one hundred and forty-three
thousand francs.

The jeweler remarked, jokingly:

"There was a person who invested all her earnings in precious stones."

M. Lantin replied, seriously:

"It is only another way of investing one's money."

That day he lunched at Voisin's and drank wine worth twenty francs a
bottle. Then he hired a carriage and made a tour of the Bois, and as he
scanned the various turn-outs with a contemptuous air he could hardly
refrain from crying out to the occupants:

"I, too, am rich!--I am worth two hundred thousand francs."

Suddenly he thought of his employer. He drove up to the office, and
entered gaily, saying:

"Sir, I have come to resign my position. I have just inherited three
hundred thousand francs."

He shook hands with his former colleagues and confided to them some of
his projects for the future; then he went off to dine at the Cafe
Anglais.

He seated himself beside a gentleman of aristocratic bearing, and
during the meal informed the latter confidentially that he had just
inherited a fortune of four hundred thousand francs.

For the first time in his life he was not bored at the theater, and
spent the remainder of the night in a gay frolic.

Six months afterward he married again. His second wife was a very
virtuous woman, with a violent temper. She caused him much sorrow.



COUNTESS SATAN

I.

They were discussing dynamite, the social revolution, Nihilism, and
even those who cared least about politics had something to say. Some
were alarmed, others philosophized, and others again tried to smile.

"Bah!" N---- said, "when we are all blown up, we shall see what it is
like. Perhaps, after all, it may be an amusing sensation, provided one
goes high enough."

"But we shall not be blown up at all," G----, the optimist, said,
interrupting him. "It is all a romance."

"You are mistaken, my dear fellow," Jules de C----replied. "It is like
a romance, but with this confounded Nihilism, everything is the same;
it would be a mistake to trust to it. For instance, the manner in which
I made Bakounine's acquaintance--"

They knew that he was a good narrator, and it was no secret that his
life had been an adventurous one, so they drew closer to him, and
listened intently. This is what he told them:


II

"I met Countess Nioska W----, that strange woman who was usually called
Countess Satan, in Naples. I immediately attached myself to her out of
curiosity, and soon fell in love with her. Not that she was beautiful,
for she was a Russian with the bad characteristics of the Russian type.
She was thin and squat at the same time, while her face was sallow and
puffy, with high cheek-bones and a Cossack's nose. But her conversation
bewitched everyone.

"She was many-sided, learned, a philosopher, scientifically depraved,
satanic. Perhaps the word is rather pretentious, but it exactly
expresses what I want to say, for in other words she loved evil for the
sake of evil. She rejoiced in other people's vices; she liked to sow
the seeds of evil, in order to see it flourish. And that, too, by fraud
on an enormous scale. It was not enough for her to corrupt individuals,
she only did that to keep her hand in; what she wished to do was to
corrupt the masses. By slightly altering it after her own fashion, she
might have used Caligula's famous wish. She also might have wished that
the whole human race had but one head; not in order that she might cut
it off, but that she might make the philosophy of Nihilism flourish
there.

"What a temptation to become the lord and master of such a monster! I
allowed myself to be tempted, and undertook the adventure. The means
came unsought for by me, and the only thing that I had to do was to
show myself more perverted and satanic than she was herself. And so I
played the devil.

"'Yes,' I said, 'we writers are the best workmen for doing evil, as our
books may be bottles of poison. The so-called men of action only turn
the handle of the mitrailleuse which we have loaded. Formulas will
destroy the world, and it is we who invent them.'

"'That is true,' said she, 'and that is what is wanting in Bakounine, I
am sorry to say.'

"That name was constantly in her mouth. So I asked her for details,
which she gave me, as she knew the man intimately.

"'After all,' she said, with a contemptuous grimace, 'he is only a kind
of Garibaldi.'

"She told me, although she made fun of him as she did so, about that
'Odyssey' of the barricades and of the hulks which made up Bakounine's
history, and which is, nevertheless, the exact truth; about his
adventures as chief of the insurgents at Prague and then at Dresden; of
his first death sentence; about his imprisonment at Olmutz, in the
casemates of the fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul, and in a
subterranean dungeon at Schusselburg; about his exile to Siberia and
his wonderful escape down the river Amour, on a Japanese
coasting-vessel, and about his final arrival, by way of Yokohama and
San Francisco, in London, whence he was directing all the operations of
Nihilism.

"'You see,' she said, 'he is a thorough adventurer, and now all his
adventures are over. He got married at Tobolsk and became a mere
respectable, middle-class man. And then he has no individual ideas.
Herzen, the pamphleteer of "Kolokol," inspired him with the only
fertile phrase that he ever uttered: "Land and Liberty!" But that is
not yet the definite formula, the general formula--what I may call the
dynamite formula. At best, Bakounine would only become an incendiary,
and burn down cities. And what is that, I ask you? Bah! A second-hand
Rostoptchin! He wants a prompter, and I offered to become his, but he
did not take me seriously.'

      *      *      *      *      *

"It would be useless to enter into all the psychological details which
marked the course of my passion for the Countess, and to explain to you
more fully the curious and daily growing attraction which she had for
me. It was getting exasperating, and the more so as she resisted me as
stoutly as the shyest of innocents could have done. At the end of a
month of mad Satanism, I saw what her game was. Do you know what she
intended? She meant to make me Bakounine's prompter, or, at any rate,
that is what she said. But no doubt she reserved the right to
herself--at least that is how I understood her--to prompt the prompter,
and my passion for her, which she purposely left unsatisfied, assured
her that absolute power over me.

"All this may appear madness to you, but it is, nevertheless, the exact
truth. In short, one morning she bluntly made the offer:

"'Become Bakounine's soul, and you shall possess me.'

"Of course I accepted, for it was too fantastically strange to refuse.
Don't you think so? What an adventure! What luck! A number of letters
between the Countess and Bakounine prepared the way; I was introduced
to him at his house, and they discussed me there. I became a sort of
Western prophet, a mystic charmer who was ready to nihilize the Latin
races, the Saint Paul of the new religion of nothingness, and at last a
day was fixed for us to meet in London. He lived in a small,
one-storied house in Pimlico, with a tiny garden in front, and nothing
noticeable about it.

"We were first of all shown into the commonplace parlor of all English
homes, and then upstairs. The room where the Countess and I were left
was small, and very badly furnished. It had a square table with writing
materials on it, in the center of the room. This was his sanctuary. The
deity soon appeared, and I saw him in flesh and bone--especially in
flesh, for he was enormously stout. His broad face, with prominent
cheek-bones, in spite of fat; a nose like a double funnel; and small,
sharp eyes, which had a magnetic lock, proclaimed the Tartar, the old
Turanian blood which produced the Attilas, the Genghis-Khans, the
Tamerlanes. The obesity which is characteristic of nomad races, who are
always on horseback or driving, added to his Asiatic look. The man was
certainly not a European, a slave, a descendant of the deistic Aryans,
but a scion of the atheistic hordes who had several times already
almost overrun Europe, and who, instead of ideas of progress, have
Nihilism buried in their hearts.

"I was astonished, for I had not expected that the majesty of a whole
race could be thus revived in a man, and my stupefaction increased
after an hour's conversation. I could quite understand why such a
Colossus had not wished for the Countess as his Egeria; she was a silly
child to have dreamed of acting such a part to such a thinker. She had
not felt the profoundness of that horrible, philosophy which was hidden
under his material activity, nor had she seen the prophet under this
hero of the barricades. Perhaps he had not thought it advisable to
reveal himself to her; but he revealed himself to me, and inspired me
with terror.

"A prophet? Oh! yes. He thought himself an Attila, and foresaw the
consequences of his revolution; it was not only from instinct but also
from theory that he urged a nation on to Nihilism. The phrase is not
his, but Turgenieff's, I believe, but the idea certainly belonged to
him. He got his programme of agricultural communism from Herzen, and
his destructive radicalism from Pougatcheff, but he did not stop there.
I mean that he went on to evil for the sake of evil. Herzen wished for
the happiness of the Slav peasant; Pougatcheff wanted to be elected
Emperor, but all that Bakounine wanted was to overthrow the actual
order of things, no matter by what means, and to replace social
concentration by a universal upheaval.

"It was the dream of a Tartar; it was true Nihilism pushed to extreme
and practical conclusions. It was, in a word, the applied philosophy of
chance, the indeterminate end of anarchy. Monstrous it may be, but
grand in its monstrosity!

"And you must note that the typical man of action so despised by the
Countess was, in Bakounine, the gigantic dreamer whom I have just shown
to you. His dream did not remain a dream, but began to be realized. It
was by the care of Bakounine that the Nihilistic party became an
entity; a party in which there is a little of everything, you know, but
on the whole, a formidable party, the advanced guard of which is true
Nihilism, whose object is nothing less than to destroy the Western
world, to see it blossom from under the ruins of a general dispersion,
the last conception of modern Tartarism.

"I never saw Bakounine again, for the Countess's conquest would have
been too dearly bought by any attempt to act a comedy with this
'Old-Man-of-the-Mountain.' And besides that, after this visit, poor
Countess Satan appeared to me quite silly. Her famous Satanism was
nothing but the flicker of a spirit-lamp, after the general
conflagration of which the other had dreamed. She had certainly shown
herself very silly, when she could not understand that prodigious
monster. And as she had seduced me only by her intellect and her
perversity, I was disgusted as soon as she laid aside that mask. I left
her without telling her of my intention, and never saw her again,
either.

"No doubt they both took me for a spy from the 'Third Section of the
Imperial Chancellery.' In that case, they must have thought me very
clever to have escaped discovery, and all I have to do is to look out,
lest any affiliated members of their society recognize me!"

Then he smiled and, turning to the waiter who had just come in, said:
"Open another bottle of champagne, and make the cork pop! It will, at
any rate, remind us of the day when we ourselves shall be blown up with
dynamite."



THE COLONEL'S IDEAS

"Upon my word," said Colonel Laporte, "I am old and gouty, my legs are
as stiff as two sticks, and yet if a pretty woman were to tell me to go
through the eye of a needle, I believe I should take a jump at it, like
a clown through a hoop. I shall die like that; it is in the blood. I am
an old beau, one of the old regime, and the sight of a woman, a pretty
woman, stirs me to the tips of my toes. There!

"And then we are all very much alike in France; we remain cavaliers,
cavaliers of love and fortune, since God has been abolished, whose
bodyguard we really were. But nobody will ever get the woman out of our
hearts; there she is, and there she will remain; we love her, and shall
continue to love her, and to commit all kinds of frolics on her
account, so long as there is a France on the map of Europe. And even if
France were to be wiped off the map, there would always be Frenchmen
left.

"When I am in the presence of a woman, of a pretty woman, I feel
capable of anything. By Jove, when I feel her looks penetrating me,
those confounded looks which set your blood on fire, I could do
anything: fight a duel, have a row, smash the furniture, anything just
to show that I am the strongest, the bravest, the most daring, and the
most devoted of men.

"But I am not the only one--certainly not; the whole French army is
like me, that I will swear to. From the common soldier to the general,
we all go forward, and to the very end, mark you, when there is a woman
in the case, a pretty woman. Remember what Joan of Arc made us do
formerly! Come, I'd make a bet that if a pretty woman had taken command
of the army on the eve of Sedan, when Marshal MacMahon was wounded, we
should have broken through the Prussian lines, by Jove! and have had a
drink out of their guns.

"It was not Trochu, but Saint Genevieve, who was required in Paris, and
I remember a little anecdote of the war which proves that we are
capable of everything in the presence of a woman.

"I was a captain, a simple captain, at the time, and was in command of
a detachment of scouts who were retreating through a district swarming
with Prussians. We were surrounded, pursued, tired out, and half dead
with fatigue and hunger, and by the next day we had to reach
Bar-sur-Tain; otherwise we should be done for, cut off from the main
body and killed. I do not know how we managed to escape so far.
However, we had ten leagues to go during the night, ten leagues through
the snow, and upon empty stomachs. I thought to myself:

"'It is all over; my poor fellows will never be able to do it.'

"We had eaten nothing since the day before, and the whole day long we
remained hidden in a barn, huddled close together, so as not to feel
the cold so much; we did not venture to speak or even move, and we
slept by fits and starts, like you sleep when you are worn out with
fatigue.

"It was dark by five o'clock, that wan darkness caused by the snow, and
I shook up my men. Some of them would not get up; they were almost
incapable of moving or of standing upright, and their joints were stiff
from the cold and want of motion.

"In front of us there was a large expanse of flat, bare country; the
snow was still falling like a curtain, in large, white flakes, which
concealed everything under a heavy, thick, frozen mantle, a mattress of
ice. You would have thought that it was the end of things.

"'Come, my lads, let us start.'

"They looked at the thick, white dust which was coming down, and seemed
to think: 'We have had enough of this; we may just as well die here!'
Then I took out my revolver, and said:

"'I will shoot the first man who flinches.' And so they set off, but
very slowly, like men whose legs were of very little use to them. I
sent four of them three hundred yards ahead, to scout, and the others
followed pellmell, walking at random and without any order. I put the
strongest in the rear, with orders to quicken the pace of the sluggards
with the points of their bayonets in the back.

"The snow seemed as if it were going to bury us alive; it powdered our
kepis[1] and cloaks without melting, and made phantoms of us, ghosts of
worn-out soldiers who were very tired, and I said to myself: 'We shall
never get out of this, except by a miracle.'

"Sometimes we had to stop for a few minutes, on account of those who
could not follow us, hearing nothing but the falling snow, that vague,
almost indiscernible sound which the flakes make, as they come down
together. Some of the men shook themselves, but others did not move,
and so I gave the order to set off again; they shouldered their rifles,
and with weary feet we set out again, when suddenly the scouts fell
back. Something had alarmed them;  they had heard voices in front of
them, and so I sent six men and a sergeant on ahead, and waited.

"All at once a shrill cry, a woman's cry, pierced through the heavy
silence of the snow, and in a few minutes they brought back two
prisoners, an old man and a girl, whom I questioned in a low voice.
They were escaping from the Prussians, who had occupied their house
during the evening, and who had got drunk. The father had become
alarmed on his daughter's account, and, without even telling their
servants, they had made their escape into the darkness. I saw
immediately that they belonged to the upper classes, and, as I should
have done in any case, I invited them to come with us. So we started
off together, and as the old man knew the road, he acted as our guide.

"It had ceased snowing; the stars appeared, and the cold became
intense. The girl, who was leaning on her father's arm, walked wearily
and with jerks, and several times she murmured:

"'I have no feeling at all in my feet.' I suffered more than she did, I
believe, to see that poor little woman dragging herself like that
through the snow. But suddenly she stopped, and said:

"'Father, I am so tired that I cannot go any further.'

"The old man wanted to carry her, but he could not even lift her up,
and she fell on the ground with a deep sigh. We all came round her, and
as for me, I stamped on the ground, not knowing what to do, quite
unable to make up my mind to abandon that man and girl like that.
Suddenly one of the soldiers, a Parisian, whom they had nicknamed
'Pratique,' said:

"'Come, comrades, we must carry the young lady, otherwise we shall not
show ourselves Frenchmen, confound it!'

"I really believe that I swore with pleasure, and said: 'That is very
good of you, my children; I will take my share of the burden.'

"We could indistinctly see the trees of a little wood on the left,
through the darkness. Several men went into it, and soon came back with
a bundle of branches twisted into a litter.

"'Who will lend his cloak? It is for a pretty girl, comrades,' Pratique
said, and ten cloaks were thrown to him. In a moment, the girl was
lying, warm and comfortable, among them, and was raised upon six
shoulders. I placed myself at their head, on the right, and very
pleased I was with my charge.

"We started off much more briskly, as if we had been having a drink of
wine, and I even heard a few jokes. A woman is quite enough to
electrify Frenchmen, you see. The soldiers, who were reanimated and
warm, had almost reformed their ranks, and an old franc-tireur[2] who
was following the litter, waiting for his turn to replace the first of
his comrades who might give in, said to one of his neighbors, loud
enough for me to hear:

"'I am not a young man, now; but by Jove, there is nothing like a woman
to make you feel queer from head to foot!'

"We went on, almost without stopping, until three o'clock in the
morning, when suddenly our scouts fell back again. Soon the whole
detachment showed nothing but a vague shadow on the ground, as the men
lay on the snow, and I gave my orders in a low voice, and heard the
harsh, metallic sound of the cocking of rifles. There, in the middle of
the plain, some strange object was moving about. It might have been
taken for some enormous animal running about, which uncoiled itself
like a serpent, or came together into a coil, then suddenly went
quickly to the right or left, stopped, and then went on again. But
presently the wandering shape came near, and I saw a dozen lancers, one
behind the other, who were trying to find their way, which they had
lost.

"By this time they were so near that I could hear the panting of the
horses, the clink of the swords, and the creaking of the saddles, and
so cried: 'Fire!'

"Fifty rifle-shots broke the stillness of the night; then there were
four or five reports, and at last one single shot was heard. When the
smoke had cleared away we saw that the twelve men and nine horses had
fallen. Three of the animals were galloping away at a furious pace. One
of them was dragging the body of its rider behind it. His foot had
caught in the stirrup, and his body rebounded from the ground in a
horrible way.

"One of the soldiers behind me gave a harsh laugh, and said: 'There are
a few more widows now!'

"Perhaps he was married. And another added: 'It did not take long!'

"A head was put out of the litter:

"'What is the matter?' she asked; 'you are fighting?'

"'It is nothing, Mademoiselle,' I replied; 'we have got rid of a dozen
Prussians!'

"'Poor fellows!' she said. But as she was cold, she quickly disappeared
beneath the cloaks again, and we started off once more. We marched on
for a long time, and at last the sky began to grow pale. The snow
became quite clear, luminous, and bright, and a rosy tint appeared in
the east. Suddenly a voice in the distance cried:

"'Who goes there?'

"The whole detachment halted, and I advanced to say who we were. We had
reached the French lines, and as my men defiled before the outpost, a
commandant on horseback, whom I had informed of what had taken place,
asked in a sonorous voice, as he saw the litter pass him:

"'What have you there?'

"And immediately a small head, covered with light hair, appeared,
disheveled and smiling, and replied:

"'It is I, Monsieur.'

"At this, the men raised a hearty laugh, and we felt quite
light-hearted, while Pratique, who was walking by the side of the
litter, waved his kepi, and shouted:

"Vive la France!' And I felt really moved. I do not know why, except
that I thought it a pretty and gallant thing to say.

"It seemed to me as if we had just saved the whole of France, and had
done something that other men could not have done, something simple,
and really patriotic. I shall never forget that little face, you may be
sure, and if I had to give my opinion about abolishing drums, trumpets,
and bugles, I should propose to replace them in every regiment by a
pretty girl, and that would be even better than playing the
'Marseillaise.' By Jove! it would put some spirit into a trooper to
have a Madonna like that, a living Madonna, by the colonel's side."

He was silent for a few moments, and then with an air of conviction,
and jerking his head, continued:

"You see, we are very fond of women, we Frenchmen!"

[1] Forage-caps.

[2] Volunteers, in the Franco-German war of 1870-71, of whom the
Germans often made short work when caught.



TWO LITTLE SOLDIERS

Every Sunday, the moment they were dismissed, the two little soldiers
made off. Once outside the barracks, they struck out to the right
through Courbevoie, walking with long rapid strides, as though they
were on a march.

When they were beyond the last of the houses, they slackened pace along
the bare, dusty roadway which goes toward Bezons.

They were both small and thin, and looked quite lost in their coats,
which were too big and too long. Their sleeves hung down over their
hands, and they found their enormous red breeches, which compelled them
to waddle, very much in the way. Under their stiff, high helmets their
faces had little character--two poor, sallow Breton faces, simple with
an almost animal simplicity, and with gentle and quiet blue eyes.

They never conversed during these walks, but went straight on, each
with the same thought in his head. This thought atoned for the lack of
conversation; it was this, that just inside the little wood near Les
Champioux they had found a place which reminded them of their own
country, where they could feel happy again.

When they arrived under the trees where the roads from Colombes and
from Chatou cross, they would take off their heavy helmets and wipe
their foreheads. They always halted on the Bezons bridge to look at the
Seine, and would remain there two or three minutes, bent double,
leaning on the parapet.

Sometimes they would gaze out over the great basin of Argenteuil, where
the skiffs might be seen scudding, with their white, careening sails,
recalling perhaps the look of the Breton waters, the harbor of Vanne,
near which they lived, and the fishing-boats standing out across the
Morbihan to the open sea.

Just beyond the Seine they bought their provisions from a sausage
merchant, a baker, and a wine-seller. A piece of blood-pudding, four
sous' worth of bread, and a liter of "petit bleu" constituted the
provisions, which they carried off in their handkerchiefs. After they
had left Bezons they traveled slowly and began to talk.

In front of them a barren plain studded with clumps of trees led to the
wood, to the little wood which had seemed to them to resemble the one
at Kermarivan. Grainfields and hayfields bordered the narrow path,
which lost itself in the young greenness of the crops, and Jean
Kerderen would always say to Luc le Ganidec:

"It looks like it does near Plounivon."

"Yes; exactly."

Side by side they strolled, their souls filled with vague memories of
their own country, with awakened images as naive as the pictures on the
colored broadsheets which you buy for a penny. They kept on
recognizing, as it were, now a corner of a field, a hedge, a bit of
moorland, now a crossroad, now a granite cross. Then, too, they would
always stop beside a certain landmark, a great stone, because it looked
something like the cromlech at Locneuven.

Every Sunday on arriving at the first clump of trees Luc le Ganidec
would cut a switch, a hazel switch, and begin gently to peel off the
bark, thinking meanwhile of the folk at home. Jean Kerderen carried the
provisions.

From time to time Luc would mention a name, or recall some deed of
their childhood in a few brief words, which caused long thoughts. And
their own country, their dear, distant country, recaptured them little
by little, seizing on their imaginations, and sending to them from afar
her shapes, her sounds, her well-known prospects, her odors--odors of
the green lands where the salt sea-air was blowing.

No longer conscious of the exhalations of the Parisian stables, on
which the earth of the banlieue fattens, they scented the perfume of
the flowering broom, which the salt breeze of the open sea plucks and
bears away. And the sails of the boats from the river banks seemed like
the white wings of the coasting vessels seen beyond the great plain
which extended from their homes to the very margin of the sea.

They walked with short steps, Luc le Ganidec and Jean Kerderen, content
and sad, haunted by a sweet melancholy, by the lingering, ever-present
sorrow of a caged animal who remembers his liberty.

By the time that Luc had stripped the slender wand of its bark they
reached the corner of the wood where every Sunday they took breakfast.
They found the two bricks which they kept hidden in the thicket, and
kindled a little fire of twigs, over which to roast the blood-pudding
at the end of a bayonet.

When they had breakfasted, eaten their bread to the last crumb, and
drunk their wine to the last drop, they remained seated side by side
upon the grass, saying nothing, their eyes on the distance, their
eyelids drooping, their fingers crossed as at mass, their red legs
stretched out beside the poppies of the field. And the leather of their
helmets and the brass of their buttons glittered in the ardent sun,
making the larks, which sang and hovered above their heads, cease in
mid-song.

Toward noon they began to turn their eyes from time to time in the
direction of the village of Bezons, because the girl with the cow was
coming. She passed by them every Sunday on her way to milk and change
the pasture of her cow--the only cow in this district which ever went
out of the stable to grass. It was pastured in a narrow field along the
edge of the wood a little farther on.

They soon perceived the girl, the only human being within vision, and
were gladdened by the brilliant reflections thrown off by the tin
milk-pail under the rays of the sun. They never talked about her. They
were simply glad to see her, without understanding why.

She was a big strong wench with red hair, burned by the heat of sunny
days, a sturdy product of the environs of Paris.

Once, finding them seated in the same place, she said:

"Good morning. You two are always here, aren't you?"

Luc le Ganidec, the bolder, stammered:

"Yes, we come to rest."

That was all. But the next Sunday she laughed on seeing them, laughed
with a protecting benevolence and a feminine keenness which knew well
enough that they were bashful. And she asked:

"What are you doing there? Are you trying to see the grass grow?"

Luc was cheered up by this, and smiled likewise: "Maybe we are."

"That's pretty slow work," said she.

He answered, still laughing: "Well, yes, it is."

She went on. But coming back with a milk-pail full of milk, she stopped
again before them, and said:

"Would you like a little? It will taste like home."

With the instinctive feeling that they were of the same peasant race as
she, being herself perhaps also far away from home, she had divined and
touched the spot.

They were both touched. Then with some difficulty, she managed to make
a little milk run into the neck of the glass bottle in which they
carried their wine. And Luc drank first, with little swallows, stopping
every minute to see whether he had drunk more than his half. Then he
handed the bottle to Jean.

She stood upright before them, her hands on her hips, her pail on the
ground at her feet, glad at the pleasure which she had given.

Then she departed, shouting: "Allons, adieu! Till next Sunday!"

And as long as they could see her at all, they followed with their eyes
her tall silhouette, which faded, growing smaller and smaller, seeming
to sink into the verdure of the fields.

When they were leaving the barracks the week after, Jean said to Luc:

"Oughtn't we to buy her something good?"

They were in great embarrassment before the problem of the choice of a
delicacy for the girl with the cow. Luc was of the opinion that a
little tripe would be the best, but Jean preferred some berlingots
because he was fond of sweets. His choice fairly made him enthusiastic,
and they bought at a grocer's two sous' worth of white and red candies.

They ate their breakfast more rapidly than usual, being nervous with
expectation.

Jean saw her first. "There she is!" he cried. Luc added: "Yes, there
she is."

While yet some distance off she laughed at seeing them. Then she cried:

"Is everything going as you like it?"

And in unison they asked:

"Are you getting on all right?"

Then she conversed, talked to them of simple things in which they felt
an interest--of the weather, of the crops, and of her master.

They were afraid to offer her the candies, which were slowly melting
away in Jean's pocket.

At last Luc grew bold, and murmured:

"We have brought you something."

She demanded, "What is it? Tell me!"

Then Jean, blushing up to his ears, managed to get at the little paper
cornucopia, and held it out.

She began to eat the little bonbons, rolling them from one cheek to the
other where they made little round lumps. The two soldiers, seated
before her, gazed at her with emotion and delight.

Then she went to milk her cow, and once more gave them some milk on
coming back.

They thought of her all the week; several times they even spoke of her.
The next Sunday she sat down with them for a little longer talk; and
all three, seated side by side, their eyes lost in the distance,
clasping their knees with their hands, told the small doings, the
minute details of life in the villages where they had been born, while
over there the cow, seeing that the milkmaid had stopped on her way,
stretched out toward her its heavy head with its dripping nostrils, and
gave a long low to call her.

Soon the girl consented to eat a bit of bread with them and drink a
mouthful of wine. She often brought them plums in her pocket, for the
season of plums had come. Her presence sharpened the wits of the two
little Breton soldiers, and they chattered like two birds.

But, one Tuesday, Luc le Ganidec asked for leave--a thing which had
never happened before--and he did not return until ten o'clock at
night. Jean racked his brains uneasily for a reason for his comrade's
going out in this way.

The next Thursday Luc, having borrowed ten sous from his bedfellow,
again asked and obtained permission to leave the barracks for several
hours. When he set off with Jean on their Sunday walk his manner was
very queer, quite restless, and quite changed. Kerderen did not
understand, but he vaguely suspected something without divining what it
could be.

They did not say a word to one another until they reached their usual
halting-place, where, from their constant sitting in the same spot the
grass was quite worn away. They ate their breakfast slowly. Neither of
them felt hungry.

Before long the girl appeared. As on every Sunday, they watched her
coming. When she was quite near, Luc rose and made two steps forward.
She put her milk-pail on the ground and kissed him. She kissed him
passionately, throwing her arms about his neck, without noticing Jean,
without remembering that he was there, without even seeing him.

And he sat there desperate, poor Jean, so desperate that he did not
understand, his soul quite overwhelmed, his heart bursting, but not yet
understanding himself. Then the girl seated herself beside Luc, and
they began to chatter.

Jean did not look at them. He now divined why his comrade had gone out
twice during the week, and he felt within him a burning grief, a kind
of wound, that sense of rending which is caused by treason.

Luc and the girl went off together to change the position of the cow.
Jean followed them with his eyes. He saw them departing side by side.
The red breeches of his comrade made a bright spot on the road. It was
Luc who picked up the mallet and hammered down the stake to which they
tied the beast.

The girl stooped to milk her, while he stroked the cow's sharp spine
with a careless hand. Then they left the milk-pail on the grass, and
went deep into the wood.

Jean saw nothing but the wall of leaves where they had entered; and he
felt himself so troubled that if he had tried to rise he would
certainly have fallen. He sat motionless, stupefied by astonishment and
suffering, with an agony which was simple but deep. He wanted to cry,
to run away, to hide himself, never to see anybody any more.

Soon he saw them issuing from the thicket. They returned slowly,
holding each other's hands as in the villages do those who are
promised. It was Luc who carried the pail.

They kissed one another again before they separated, and the girl went
off after having thrown Jean a friendly "Good evening" and a smile
which was full of meaning. To-day she no longer thought of offering him
any milk.

The two little soldiers sat side by side, motionless as usual, silent
and calm, their placid faces betraying nothing of all which troubled
their hearts. The sun fell on them. Sometimes the cow lowed, looking at
them from afar.

At their usual hour they rose to go back. Luc cut a switch. Jean
carried the empty bottle to return it to the wine-seller at Bezons.
Then they sallied out upon the bridge, and, as they did every Sunday,
stopped several minutes in the middle to watch the water flowing.

Jean leaned, leaned more and more, over the iron railing, as though he
saw in the current something which attracted him. Luc said: "Are you
trying to drink?" Just as he uttered the last word Jean's head
overbalanced his body, his legs described a circle in the air, and the
little blue and red soldier fell in a heap, struck the water, and
disappeared.

Luc, his tongue paralyzed with anguish, tried in vain to shout. Farther
down he saw something stir; then the head of his comrade rose to the
surface of the river and sank immediately. Farther still he again
perceived a hand, a single hand, which issued from the stream and then
disappear. That was all.

The bargemen who dragged the river did not find the body that day.

Luc set out alone for the barracks, going at a run, his soul filled
with despair. He told of the accident, with tears in his eyes, and a
husky voice, blowing his nose again and again: "He leaned over--he--he
leaned over--so far--so far that his head turned a somersault;
and--and--so he fell--he fell--"

Choked with emotion, he could say no more. If he had only known!



GHOSTS

Just at the time when the Concordat was in its most flourishing
condition, a young man belonging to a wealthy and highly respectable
middle-class family went to the office of the head of the police at
P----, and begged for his help and advice, which was immediately
promised him.

"My father threatens to disinherit me," the young man began, "although
I have never offended against the laws of the State, of morality, or
against his paternal authority, merely because I do not share his blind
reverence for the Catholic Church and her clergy. On that account he
looks upon me, not merely as Latitudinarian but as a perfect Atheist,
and a faithful old manservant of ours, who is much attached to me, and
who accidentally saw my father's will, told me in confidence that he
had left all his property to the Jesuits. I think this is highly
suspicious, and I fear that the priests have been maligning me to my
father. Until less than a year ago, we used to live very quietly and
happily together, but ever since he has had so much to do with the
clergy, our domestic peace and happiness are at an end."

"What you have told me," replied the official, "is as likely as it is
regrettable, but I fail to see how I can interfere in the matter. Your
father is in full possession of all his mental faculties, and can
dispose of all his property exactly as he pleases. I think that your
protest is premature; you must wait until his will can legally take
effect, and then you can invoke the aid of justice. I am sorry to say
that just now I can do nothing for you."

"I think you will be able to," the young man replied; "for I believe
that a very clever piece of deceit is being carried on."

"How? Please explain yourself more clearly."

"When I remonstrated with him, yesterday evening, he referred to my
dead mother, and at last assured me, in a voice of the deepest
conviction, that she had frequently appeared to him, had threatened him
with all the torments of the damned, if he did not disinherit his son,
who had fallen away from God, and leave all his property to the Church.
Now I do not believe in ghosts."

"Neither do I," the police director replied, "but I cannot well do
anything on such grounds, having nothing but superstitions to go upon.
You know how the Church rules all our affairs since the Concordat with
Rome, and if I investigate this matter and obtain no results, I am
risking my post. It would be very different if you could adduce any
proofs for your suspicions. I do not deny that I should like to see the
clerical party, which will, I fear, be the ruin of Austria, receive a
staggering blow; try, therefore, to get to the bottom of this business,
and then we will talk it over again."

About a month passed, without the young Latitudinarian being heard of.
Suddenly, he came one evening, in a great state of excitement, and told
the Inspector that he was in a position to expose the priestly deceit
which he had mentioned, if the authorities would assist him. The police
director asked for further information.

"I have obtained a number of important clues," said the young man. "In
the first place, my father confessed to me that my mother did not
appear to him in our house, but in the churchyard where she is buried.
My mother was consumptive for many years, and a few weeks before her
death she went to the village of S----, where she died and was buried.
In addition to this, I found out from our footman that my father has
already left the house twice, late at night, in company of X----, the
Jesuit priest, and that on both occasions he did not return till
morning. Each time he was remarkably uneasy and low-spirited after his
return, and had three masses said for my dead mother. He also told me
just now that he has to leave home this evening on business, but,
immediately after he told me that, our footman saw the Jesuit go out of
the house. We may, therefore, assume that he intends this evening to
consult the spirit of my dead mother again, and this would be an
excellent opportunity to solve the matter, if you do not object to
opposing the most powerful force in the Empire for the sake of such an
insignificant individual as myself."

"Every citizen has an equal right to the protection of the State," the
police director replied; "and I think that I have shown often enough
that I am not wanting in courage to perform my duty, no matter how
serious the consequences may be. But only very young men act without
any prospects of success, because they are carried away by their
feelings. When you came to me the first time, I was obliged to refuse
your request for assistance, but to-day your request is just and
reasonable. It is now eight o'clock; I shall expect you in two hours'
time, here in my office. At present, all you have to do is to hold your
tongue; everything else is my affair."

As soon as it was dark, four men got into a closed carriage in the yard
of the police-office, and were driven in the direction of the village
of S----. Their carriage, however, did not enter the village, but
stopped at the edge of a small wood in the immediate neighborhood. Here
all four alighted: the police director, accompanied by the young
Latitudinarian, a police sergeant, and an ordinary policeman, the
latter however, dressed in plain clothes.

"The first thing for us to do is to examine the locality carefully,"
said the police director. "It is eleven o'clock and the exorcisers of
ghosts will not arrive before midnight, so we have time to look round
us, and to lay our plans."

The four men went to the churchyard, which lay at the end of the
village, near the little wood. Everything was as still as death, and
not a soul was to be seen. The sexton was evidently sitting in the
public house, for they found the door of his cottage locked, as well as
the door of the little chapel that stood in the middle of the
churchyard.

"Where is your mother's grave?" the police director asked. As there
were only a few stars visible, it was not easy to find it, but at last
they managed it, and the police director surveyed the neighborhood of
it.

"The position is not a very favorable one for us," he said at last;
"there is nothing here, not even a shrub, behind which we could hide."

But just then, the policeman reported that he had tried to get into the
sexton's hut through the door or a window, and that at last he had
succeeded in doing so by breaking open a square in a window which had
been mended with paper, that he had opened it and obtained possession
of the key, which he brought to the police director.

The plans were very quickly settled. The police director had the chapel
opened and went in with the young Latitudinarian; then he told the
police sergeant to lock the door behind him and to put the key back
where he had found it, and to shut the window of the sexton's cottage
carefully. Lastly, he made arrangements as to what they were to do, in
case anything unforeseen should occur, whereupon the sergeant and the
constable left the churchyard, and lay down in a ditch at some distance
from the gate, but opposite to it.

Almost as soon as the clock struck half past eleven, they heard steps
near the chapel, whereupon the police director and the young
Latitudinarian went to the window in order to watch the beginning of
the exorcism, and as the chapel was in total darkness, they thought
that they should be able to see without being seen; but matters turned
out differently from what they expected.

Suddenly, the key turned in the lock. They barely had time to conceal
themselves behind the altar, before two men came in, one of whom was
carrying a dark lantern. One was the young man's father, an elderly man
of the middle class, who seemed very unhappy and depressed, the other
the Jesuit father X----, a tall, lean, big-boned man, with a thin,
bilious face, in which two large gray eyes shone restlessly under
bushy, black eyebrows. He lit the tapers, which were standing on the
altar, and began to say a "Requiem Mass"; while the old man kneeled on
the altar steps and served him.

When it was over, the Jesuit took the book of the Gospels and the
holy-water sprinkler, and went slowly out of the chapel, the old man
following him with the holy-water basin in one hand, and a taper in the
other. Then the police director left his hiding place, and stooping
down, so as not to be seen, crept to the chapel window, where he
cowered down carefully; the young man followed his example. They were
now looking straight at his mother's grave.

The Jesuit, followed by the superstitious old man, walked three times
round the grave; then he remained standing before it, and by the light
of the taper read a few passages from the Gospel. Then he dipped the
holy-water sprinkler three times into the holy-water basin, and
sprinkled the grave three times. Then both returned to the chapel,
kneeled down outside it with their faces toward the grave, and began to
pray aloud, until at last the Jesuit sprang up, in a species of wild
ecstasy, and cried out three times in a shrill voice:

"Exsurge! Exsurge! Exsurge!"[1]

Scarcely had the last words of the exorcism died away, when thick, blue
smoke rose out of the grave, rapidly grew into a cloud, and began to
assume the outlines of a human body, until at last a tall, white figure
stood behind the grave, and beckoned with its hand.

"Who art thou?" the Jesuit asked solemnly, while the old man began to
cry.

"When I was alive, I was called Anna Maria B----," replied the ghost in
a hollow voice.

"Will you answer all my questions?" the priest continued.

"As far as I can."

"Have you not yet been delivered from purgatory by our prayers, and by
all the Masses for your soul, which we have said for you?"

"Not yet, but soon, soon I shall be."

"When?"

"As soon as that blasphemer, my son, has been punished."

"Has that not already happened? Has not your husband disinherited his
lost son, and in his place made the Church his heir?"

"That is not enough."

"What must he do besides?"

"He must deposit his will with the Judicial Authorities, as his last
will and testament, and drive the reprobate out of his house."

"Consider well what you are saying; must this really be?"

"It must, or otherwise I shall have to languish in purgatory much
longer," the sepulchral voice replied with a deep sigh; but the next
moment the ghost yelled out in terror: "Oh! Good Lord!" and began to
run away as fast as it could. A shrill whistle was heard, and then
another, and the police director laid his hand on the shoulder of the
exorciser with the remark:

"You are in custody."

Meanwhile, the police sergeant and the policeman, who had come into the
churchyard, had caught the ghost, and dragged it forward. It was the
sexton, who had put on a flowing, white dress, and wore a wax mask,
which bore a striking resemblance to his mother, so the son declared.

When the case was heard, it was proved that the mask had been very
skillfully made from a portrait of the deceased woman. The government
gave orders that the matter should be investigated as secretly as
possible, and left the punishment of Father X----to the spiritual
authorities, which was a matter of necessity, at a time when priests
were outside of the jurisdiction of the civil authorities. It is
needless to say that Father X----was very comfortable during his
imprisonment in a monastery, in a part of the country which abounded
with game and trout.

The only valuable result of the amusing ghost story was that it brought
about a reconciliation between father and son; the former, as a matter
of fact, felt such deep respect for priests and their ghosts in
consequence of the apparition, that a short time after his wife had
left purgatory for the last time in order to talk with him, he turned
Protestant.


[1] Arise!



WAS IT A DREAM?

"I had loved her madly!

"Why does one love? Why does one love? How queer it is to see only one
being in the world, to have only one thought in one's mind, only one
desire in the heart, and only one name on the lips--a name which comes
up continually, rising, like the water in a spring, from the depths of
the soul to the lips, a name which one repeats over and over again,
which one whispers ceaselessly, everywhere, like a prayer.

"I am going to tell you our story, for love only has one, which is
always the same. I met her and loved her; that is all. And for a whole
year I have lived on her tenderness, on her caresses, in her arms, in
her dresses, on her words, so completely wrapped up, bound, and
absorbed in everything which came from her, that I no longer cared
whether it was day or night, or whether I was dead or alive, on this
old earth of ours.

"And then she died. How? I do not know; I no longer know anything. But
one evening she came home wet, for it was raining heavily, and the next
day she coughed, and she coughed for about a week, and took to her bed.
What happened I do not remember now, but doctors came, wrote, and went
away. Medicines were brought, and some women made her drink them. Her
hands were hot, her forehead was burning, and her eyes bright and sad.
When I spoke to her, she answered me, but I do not remember what we
said. I have forgotten everything, everything, everything! She died,
and I very well remember her slight, feeble sigh. The nurse said: 'Ah!'
and I understood, I understood!

"I knew nothing more, nothing. I saw a priest, who said: 'Your
mistress?' and it seemed to me as if he were insulting her. As she was
dead, nobody had the right to say that any longer, and I turned him
out. Another came who was very kind and tender, and I shed tears when
he spoke to me about her.

"They consulted me about the funeral, but I do not remember anything
that they said, though I recollected the coffin, and the sound of the
hammer when they nailed her down in it. Oh! God, God!

"She was buried! Buried! She! In that hole! Some people came--female
friends. I made my escape and ran away. I ran, and then walked through
the streets, went home, and the next day started on a journey."

      *      *      *      *      *

"Yesterday I returned to Paris, and when I saw my room again--our room,
our bed, our furniture, everything that remains of the life of a human
being after death--I was seized by such a violent attack of fresh
grief, that I felt like opening the window and throwing myself out into
the street. I could not remain any longer among these things, between
these walls which had inclosed and sheltered her, which retained a
thousand atoms of her, of her skin and of her breath, in their
imperceptible crevices. I took up my hat to make my escape, and just as
I reached the door, I passed the large glass in the hall, which she had
put there so that she might look at herself every day from head to foot
as she went out, to see if her toilette looked well, and was correct
and pretty, from her little boots to her bonnet.

"I stopped short in front of that looking-glass in which she had so
often been reflected--so often, so often, that it must have retained
her reflection. I was standing there, trembling, with my eyes fixed on
the glass--on that flat, profound, empty glass--which had contained her
entirely, and had possessed her as much as I, as my passionate looks
had. I felt as if I loved that glass. I touched it; it was cold. Oh!
the recollection! sorrowful mirror, burning mirror, horrible mirror, to
make men suffer such torments! Happy is the man whose heart forgets
everything that it has contained, everything that has passed before it,
everything that has looked at itself in it, or has been reflected in
its affection, in its love! How I suffer!

"I went out without knowing it, without wishing it, and toward the
cemetery. I found her simple grave, a white marble cross, with these
few words:

          "'She loved, was loved, and died.'

"She is there, below, decayed! How horrible! I sobbed with my forehead
on the ground, and I stopped there for a long time, a long time. Then I
saw that it was getting dark, and a strange, mad wish, the wish of a
despairing lover, seized me. I wished to pass the night, the last
night, in weeping on her grave. But I should be seen and driven out.
How was I to manage? I was cunning, and got up and began to roam about
in that city of the dead. I walked and walked. How small this city is,
in comparison with the other, the city in which we live. And yet, how
much more numerous the dead are than the living. We want high houses,
wide streets, and much room for the four generations who see the
daylight at the same time, drink water from the spring, and wine from
the vines, and eat bread from the plains.

"And for all the generations of the dead, for all that ladder of
humanity that has descended down to us, there is scarcely anything,
scarcely anything! The earth takes them back, and oblivion effaces
them. Adieu!

"At the end of the cemetery, I suddenly perceived that I was in its
oldest part, where those who had been dead a long time are mingling
with the soil, where the crosses themselves are decayed, where possibly
newcomers will be put to-morrow. It is full of untended roses, of
strong and dark cypress-trees, a sad and beautiful garden, nourished on
human flesh.

"I was alone, perfectly alone. So I crouched in a green tree and hid
myself there completely amid the thick and somber branches. I waited,
clinging to the stem, like a shipwrecked man does to a plank.

"When it was quite dark, I left my refuge and began to walk softly,
slowly, inaudibly, through that ground full of dead people. I wandered
about for a long time, but could not find her tomb again. I went on
with extended arms, knocking against the tombs with my hands, my feet,
my knees, my chest, even with my head, without being able to find her.
I groped about like a blind man finding his way, I felt the stones, the
crosses, the iron railings, the metal wreaths, and the wreaths of faded
flowers! I read the names with my fingers, by passing them over the
letters. What a night! What a night! I could not find her again!

"There was no moon. What a night! I was frightened, horribly frightened
in these narrow paths, between two rows of graves. Graves! graves!
graves! nothing but graves! On my right, on my left, in front of me,
around me, everywhere there were graves! I sat down on one of them, for
I could not walk any longer, my knees were so weak. I could hear my
heart beat! And I heard something else as well. What? A confused,
nameless noise. Was the noise in my head, in the impenetrable night, or
beneath the mysterious earth, the earth sown with human corpses? I
looked all around me, but I cannot say how long I remained there; I was
paralyzed with terror, cold with fright, ready to shout out, ready to
die.

"Suddenly, it seemed to me that the slab of marble on which I was
sitting, was moving. Certainly it was moving, as if it were being
raised. With a bound, I sprang on to the neighboring tomb, and I saw,
yes, I distinctly saw the stone which I had just quitted rise upright.
Then the dead person appeared, a naked skeleton, pushing the stone back
with its bent back. I saw it quite clearly, although the night was so
dark. On the cross I could read:

"'Here lies Jacques Olivant, who died at the age of fifty-one. He loved
his family, was kind and honorable, and died in the grace of the Lord.'

"The dead man also read what was inscribed on his tombstone; then he
picked up a stone off the path, a little, pointed stone and began to
scrape the letters carefully. He slowly effaced them, and with the
hollows of his eyes he looked at the places where they had been
engraved. Then with the tip of the bone that had been his forefinger,
he wrote in luminous letters, like those lines which boys trace on
walls with the tip of a lucifer match:

"'Here reposes Jacques Olivant, who died at the age of fifty-one. He
hastened his father's death by his unkindness, as he wished to inherit
his fortune, he tortured his wife, tormented his children, deceived his
neighbors, robbed everyone he could, and died wretched.'

"When he had finished writing, the dead man stood motionless, looking
at his work. On turning round I saw that all the graves were open, that
all the dead bodies had emerged from them, and that all had effaced the
lies inscribed on the gravestones by their relations, substituting the
truth instead. And I saw that all had been the tormentors of their
neighbors--malicious, dishonest, hypocrites, liars, rogues,
calumniators, envious; that they had stolen, deceived, performed every
disgraceful, every abominable action, these good fathers, these
faithful wives, these devoted sons, these chaste daughters, these
honest tradesmen, these men and women who were called irreproachable.
They were all writing at the same time, on the threshold of their
eternal abode, the truth, the terrible and the holy truth of which
everybody was ignorant, or pretended to be ignorant, while they were
alive.

"I thought that SHE also must have written something on her tombstone,
and now running without any fear among the half-open coffins, among the
corpses and skeletons, I went toward her, sure that I should find her
immediately. I recognized her at once, without seeing her face, which
was covered by the winding-sheet, and on the marble cross, where
shortly before I had read:

          "'She loved, was loved, and died.'

I now saw:

"'Having gone out in the rain one day, in order to deceive her lover,
she caught cold and died.'

      *      *      *      *      *

"It appears that they found me at daybreak, lying on the grave
unconscious."



THE DIARY OF A MADMAN

He was dead--the head of a high tribunal, the upright magistrate, whose
irreproachable life was a proverb in all the courts of France.
Advocates, young counselors, judges had saluted, bowing low in token of
profound respect, remembering that grand face, pale and thin, illumined
by two bright, deep-set eyes.

He had passed his life in pursuing crime and in protecting the weak.
Swindlers and murderers had no more redoubtable enemy, for he seemed to
read in the recesses of their souls their most secret thoughts.

He was dead, now, at the age of eighty-two, honored by the homage and
followed by the regrets of a whole people. Soldiers in red breeches had
escorted him to the tomb, and men in white cravats had shed on his
grave tears that seemed to be real.

But listen to the strange paper found by the dismayed notary in the
desk where the judge had kept filed the records of great criminals! It
was entitled:

                    WHY?

June 20, 1851. I have just left court. I have condemned Blondel to
death! Now, why did this man kill his five children? Frequently one
meets with people to whom killing is a pleasure. Yes, yes, it should be
a pleasure--the greatest of all, perhaps, for is not killing most like
creating? To make and to destroy! These two words contain the history
of the universe, the history of all worlds, all that is, all! Why is it
not intoxicating to kill?

June 25. To think that there is a being who lives, who walks, who runs.
A being? What is a being? An animated thing which bears in it the
principle of motion, and a will ruling that principle. It clings to
nothing, this thing. Its feet are independent of the ground. It is a
grain of life that moves on the earth, and this grain of life, coming I
know not whence, one can destroy at one's will. Then nothing nothing
more. It perishes; it is finished.

June 26. Why, then, is it a crime to kill? Yes, why? On the contrary,
it is the law of nature. Every being has the mission to kill; he kills
to live, and he lives to kill. The beast kills without ceasing, all
day, every instant of its existence. Man kills without ceasing, to
nourish himself; but since in addition he needs to kill for pleasure,
he has invented the chase! The child kills the insects he finds, the
little birds, all the little animals that come in his way. But this
does not suffice for the irresistible need of massacre that is in us.
It is not enough to kill beasts; we must kill man too. Long ago this
need was satisfied by human sacrifice. Now, the necessity of living in
society has made murder a crime. We condemn and punish the assassin!
But as we cannot live without yielding to this natural and imperious
instinct of death, we relieve ourselves from time to time, by wars.
Then a whole nation slaughters another nation. It is a feast of blood,
a feast that maddens armies and intoxicates the civilians, women and
children, who read, by lamplight at night, the feverish story of
massacre.

And do we despise those picked out to accomplish these butcheries of
men? No, they are loaded with honors. They are clad in gold and in
resplendent stuffs; they wear plumes on their heads and ornaments on
their breasts; and they are given crosses, rewards, titles of every
kind. They are proud, respected, loved by women, cheered by the crowd,
solely because their mission is to shed human blood! They drag through
the streets their instruments of death, and the passer-by, clad in
black, looks on with envy. For to kill is the great law put by nature
in the heart of existence! There is nothing more beautiful and
honorable than killing!

June 30. To kill is the law, because Nature loves eternal youth. She
seems to cry in all her unconscious acts: "Quick! quick! quick!" The
more she destroys, the more she renews herself.

July 2. It must be a pleasure, unique and full of zest, to kill to
place before you a living, thinking being; to make therein a little
hole, nothing but a little hole, and to see that red liquid flow which
is the blood, which is the life; and then to have before you only a
heap of limp flesh, cold, inert, void of thought!

August 5. I, who have passed my life in judging, condemning, killing by
words pronounced, killing by the guillotine those who had killed by the
knife, if I should do as all the assassins whom I have smitten have
done, I, I--who would know it?

August 10. Who would ever know? Who would ever suspect me, especially
if I should choose a being I had no interest in doing away with?

August 22. I could resist no longer. I have killed a little creature as
an experiment, as a beginning. Jean, my servant, had a goldfinch in a
cage hung in the office window. I sent him on an errand, and I took the
little bird in my hand, in my hand where I felt its heart beat. It was
warm. I went up to my room. From time to time I squeezed it tighter;
its heart beat faster; it was atrocious and delicious. I was nearly
choking it. But I could not see the blood.

Then I took scissors, short nail scissors, and I cut its throat in
three strokes, quite gently. It opened its bill, it struggled to escape
me, but I held it, oh! I held it--I could have held a mad dog--and I
saw the blood trickle.

And then I did as assassins do--real ones. I washed the scissors and
washed my hands. I sprinkled water, and took the body, the corpse, to
the garden to hide it. I buried it under a strawberry-plant. It will
never be found. Every day I can eat a strawberry from that plant. How
one can enjoy life, when one knows how!

My servant cried; he thought his bird flown. How could he suspect me?
Ah!

August 25. I must kill a man! I must!

August 30. It is done. But what a little thing! I had gone for a walk
in the forest of Vernes. I was thinking of nothing, literally nothing.
See! a child on the road, a little child eating a slice of bread and
butter. He stops to see me pass and says, "Good day, Mr. President."

And the thought enters my head: "Shall I kill him?"

I answer: "You are alone, my boy?"

"Yes, sir."

"All alone in the wood?"

"Yes, sir."

The wish to kill him intoxicated me like wine. I approached him quite
softly, persuaded that he was going to run away. And suddenly I seized
him by the throat. He held my wrists in his little hands, and his body
writhed like a feather on the fire. Then he moved no more. I threw the
body in the ditch, then some weeds on top of it. I returned home and
dined well. What a little thing it was! In the evening I was very gay,
light, rejuvenated, and passed the evening at the Prefect's. They found
me witty. But I have not seen blood! I am not tranquil.

August 31. The body has been discovered. They are hunting for the
assassin. Ah!

September 1. Two tramps have been arrested. Proofs are lacking.

September 2. The parents have been to see me. They wept! Ah!

October 6. Nothing has been discovered. Some strolling vagabond must
have done the deed. Ah! If I had seen the blood flow it seems to me I
should be tranquil now!

October 10. Yet another. I was walking by the river, after breakfast.
And I saw, under a willow, a fisherman asleep. It was noon. A spade, as
if expressly put there for me, was standing in a potato-field near by.

I took it. I returned; I raised it like a club, and with one blow of
the edge I cleft the fisherman's head. Oh! he bled, this
one!--rose-colored blood. It flowed into the water quite gently. And I
went away with a grave step. If I had been seen! Ah! I should have made
an excellent assassin.

October 25. The affair of the fisherman makes a great noise. His
nephew, who fished with him, is charged with the murder.

October 26. The examining magistrate affirms that the nephew is guilty.
Everybody in town believes it. Ah! ah!

October 27. The nephew defends himself badly. He had gone to the
village to buy bread and cheese, he declares. He swears that his uncle
had been killed in his absence! Who would believe him?

October 28. The nephew has all but confessed, so much have they made
him lose his head! Ah! Justice!

November 15. There are overwheming proofs against the nephew, who was
his uncle's heir. I shall preside at the sessions.

January 25, 1852. To death! to death! to death! I have had him
condemned to death! The advocate-general spoke like an angel! Ah! Yet
another! I shall go to see him executed!

March 10. It is done. They guillotined him this morning. He died very
well! very well! That gave me pleasure! How fine it is to see a man's
head cut off!

Now, I shall wait, I can wait. It would take such a little thing to let
myself be caught.

      *      *      *      *      *

The manuscript contained more pages, but told of no new crime.

Alienist physicians to whom the awful story has been submitted declare
that there are in the world many unknown madmen; as adroit and as
terrible as this monstrous lunatic.



AN UNFORTUNATE LIKENESS

It was during one of those sudden changes of the electric light, which
at one time throws rays of exquisite pale pink, of a liquid gold
filtered through the light hair of a woman, and at another, rays of
bluish hue with strange tints, such as the sky assumes at twilight, in
which the women with their bare shoulders looked like living
flowers--it was, I say, on the night of the first of January at
Montonirail's, the dainty painter of tall, undulating figures, of
bright dresses, of Parisian prettiness--that tall Pescarelle, whom some
called "Pussy," though I do not know why, suddenly said in a low voice:

"Well, people were not altogether mistaken, in fact, were only half
wrong when they coupled my name with that of pretty Lucy Plonelle. She
had caught me, just as a birdcatcher on a frosty morning catches an
imprudent wren on a limed twig--in fact, she might have done whatever
she liked with me.

"I was under the charm of her enigmatical and mocking smile, that smile
in which her teeth gleamed cruelly between her red lips, and glistened
as if they were ready to bite and to heighten the pleasure of the most
delightful, the most voluptuous, kiss by pain.

"I loved everything in her--her feline suppleness, her languid looks
which emerged from her half-closed lids, full of promises and
temptation, her somewhat extreme elegance, and her hands, those long,
delicate white hands, with blue veins, like the bloodless hands of a
female saint in a stained glass window, and her slender fingers, on
which only the large blood-drop of a ruby glittered.

"I would have given her all my remaining youth and vigor to have laid
my burning hands upon the back of her cool, round neck, and to feel
that bright, silk, golden mane enveloping me and caressing my skin. I
was never tired of hearing her disdainful, petulant voice, those
vibrations which sounded as if they proceeded from clear glass, whose
music, at times, became hoarse, harsh, and fierce, like the loud,
sonorous calls of the Valkyries.

"Good heavens! to be her lover, to be her chattel, to belong to her, to
devote one's whole existence to her, to spend one's last half-penny and
to sink in misery, only to have the glory and the happiness of
possessing her splendid beauty, the sweetness of her kisses, the pink
and the white of her demonlike soul all to myself, if only for a few
months!

"It makes you laugh, I know, to think that I should have been caught
like that--I who give such good, prudent advice to my friends--I who
fear love as I do those quicksands and shoals which appear at low tide
and in which one may be swallowed up and disappear!

"But who can answer for himself, who can defend himself against such a
danger, as the magnetic attraction that inheres in such a woman?
Nevertheless, I got cured and perfectly cured, and that quite
accidentally. This is how the enchantment, which was apparently so
infrangible, was broken.

"On the first night of a play, I was sitting in the stalls close to
Lucy, whose mother had accompanied her, as usual. They occupied the
front of a box, side by side. From some unsurmountable attraction, I
never ceased looking at the woman whom I loved with all the force of my
being. I feasted my eyes on her beauty, I saw nobody except her in the
theater, and did not listen to the piece that was being performed on
the stage.

"Suddenly, however, I felt as if I had received a blow from a dagger in
my heart, and I had an insane hallucination. Lucy had moved, and her
pretty head was in profile, in the same attitude and with the same
lines as her mother. I do not know what shadow or what play of light
had hardened and altered the color of her delicate features, effacing
their ideal prettiness, but the more I looked at them both, at the one
who was young and the one who was old, the greater the distressing
resemblance became.

"I saw Lucy growing older and older, striving against those
accumulating years which bring wrinkles in the face, produce a double
chin and crow's-feet, and spoil the mouth. THEY ALMOST LOOKED LIKE
TWINS.

"I suffered so, that I thought I should go mad. Yet in spite of myself,
instead of shaking off this feeling and making my escape out of the
theater, far away into the noise and life of the boulevards, I
persisted in looking at the other, at the old one, in examining her, in
judging her, in dissecting her with my eyes. I got excited over her
flabby cheeks, over those ridiculous dimples, that were half filled up,
over that treble chin, that dyed hair, those lusterless eyes, and that
nose, which was a caricature of Lucy's beautiful, attractive little
nose.

"I had a prescience of the future. I loved her, and I should love her
more and more every day, that little sorceress who had so despotically
and so quickly conquered me. I should not allow any participation or
any intrigue from the day she gave herself to me, and once intimately
connected, who could tell whether, just as I was defending myself
against it most, the legitimate termination--marriage--might not come?

"Why not give one's name to a woman whom one loves, and whom one
trusts? The reason was that I should be tied to a disfigured, ugly
creature, with whom I should not venture to be seen in public. My
friends would leer at her with laughter in their eyes, and with pity in
their hearts for the man who was accompanying those remains.

"And so, as soon as the curtain had fallen, without saying good day or
good evening, I had myself driven to the Moulin Rouge."

      *      *      *      *      *

"Well," Florise d'Anglet exclaimed, "I shall never take mamma to the
theater with me again, for the men are really going crazy!"



A COUNTRY EXCURSION

For five months they had been talking of going to lunch at some country
restaurant in the neighborhood of Paris, on Madame Dufour's birthday,
and as they were looking forward very impatiently to the outing, they
had risen very early that morning. Monsieur Dufour had borrowed the
milkman's tilted cart, and drove himself. It was a very neat, two
wheeled conveyance, with a hood, and in it Madame Dufour, resplendent
in a wonderful, sherry-colored silk dress, sat by the side of her
husband.

The old grandmother and the daughter were accommodated with two chairs,
and a yellow-haired youth, of whom, however, nothing was to be seen
except his head, lay at the bottom of the trap.

When they got to the bridge of Neuilly, Monsieur Dufour said: "Here we
are in the country at last!" At that warning, his wife grew sentimental
about the beauties of nature. When they got to the crossroads at
Courbevoie, they were seized with admiration for the tremendous view
down there: on the right was the spire of Argenteuil church, above it
rose the hills of Sannois and the mill of Orgemont, while on the left,
the aqueduct of Marly stood out against the clear morning sky. In the
distance they could see the terrace of Saint-Germain, and opposite to
them, at the end of a low chain of hills, the new fort of Cormeilles.
Afar--a very long way off, beyond the plains and villages--one could
see the somber green of the forests.

The sun was beginning to shine in their faces, the dust got into their
eyes, and on either side of the road there stretched an interminable
tract of bare, ugly country, which smelled unpleasantly. You would have
thought that it had been ravaged by a pestilence which had even
attacked the buildings, for skeletons of dilapidated and deserted
houses; or small cottages left in an unfinished state, as if the
contractors had not been paid, reared their four roofless walls on each
side.

Here and there tall factory-chimneys rose up from the barren soil, the
only vegetation on that putrid land, where the spring breezes wafted an
odor of petroleum and soot, mingled with another smell that was even
still less agreeable. At last, however, they crossed the Seine a second
time. It was delightful on the bridge; the river sparkled in the sun,
and they had a feeling of quiet satisfaction and enjoyment in drinking
in purer air, not impregnated by the black smoke of factories, nor by
the miasma from the deposits of night-soil. A man whom they met told
them that the name of the place was Bezons; so Monsieur Dufour pulled
up, and read the attractive announcement outside an eating-house:

"Restaurant Poulin, stews and fried fish, private rooms, arbors, and
swings."

"Well! Madame Dufour, will this suit you? Will you make up your mind at
last?"

She read the announcement in her turn, and then looked at the house for
a time.

It was a white country inn, built by the road-side, and through the
open door she could see the bright zinc of the counter, at which two
workmen out for the day were sitting. At last she made up her mind, and
said:

"Yes, this will do; and, besides, there is a view."

So they drove into a large yard studded with trees, behind the inn,
which was only separated from the river by the towing-path, and got
out. The husband sprang out first, and held out his arms for his wife.
As the step was very high, Madame Dufour, in order to reach him, had to
show the lower part of her limbs, whose former slenderness had
disappeared in fat. Monsieur Dufour, who was already getting excited by
the country air, pinched her calf, and then, taking her in his arms,
set her on to the ground, as if she had been some enormous bundle. She
shook the dust out of the silk dress, and then looked round, to see in
what sort of a place she was.

She was a stout woman, of about thirty-six, full-blown and delightful
to look at. She could hardly breathe, as she was laced too tightly,
which forced the heaving mass of her superabundant bosom up to her
double chin. Next, the girl put her hand on to her father's shoulder,
and jumped lightly down. The youth with the yellow hair had got down by
stepping on the wheel, and he helped Monsieur Dufour to get the
grandmother out. Then they unharnessed the horse, which they tied up to
a tree, and the carriage fell back, with both shafts in the air. The
man and boy took off their coats, washed their hands in a pail of
water, and then joined the ladies, who had already taken possession of
the swings.

Mademoiselle Dufour was trying to swing herself standing up, but she
could not succeed in getting a start. She was a pretty girl of about
eighteen; one of those women who suddenly excite your desire when you
meet them in the street, and who leave you with a vague feeling of
uneasiness and of excited senses. She was tall, had a small waist and
large hips, with a dark skin, very large eyes, and very black hair. Her
dress clearly marked the outlines of her firm, full figure, which was
accentuated by the motion of her hips as she tried to swing herself
higher. Her arms were stretched over her head to hold the rope, so that
her bosom rose at every movement she made. Her hat, which a gust of
wind had blown off, was hanging behind her, and as the swing gradually
rose higher and higher, she showed her delicate limbs up to the knees
each time, and the wind from the perfumed petticoats, more heady than
the fumes of wine, blew into the faces of her father and friend, who
were looking at her in admiration.

Sitting in the other swing, Madame Dufour kept saying in a monotonous
voice:

"Cyprian, come and swing me; do come and swing me, Cyprian!"

At last he complied, and turning up his shirt-sleeves, as if he
intended to work very hard, with much difficulty he set his wife in
motion. She clutched the two ropes, and held her legs out straight, so
as not to touch the ground. She enjoyed feeling giddy from the motion
of the swing, and her whole figure shook like a jelly on a dish, but as
she went higher and higher, she grew too giddy and got frightened.
Every time she was coming back, she uttered a shriek, which made all
the little urchins come round, and, down below, beneath the garden
hedge, she vaguely saw a row of mischievous heads, making various
grimaces as they laughed.

When a servant girl came out, they ordered lunch.

"Some fried fish, a stewed rabbit, salad, and dessert," Madame Dufour
said, with an important air.

"Bring two quarts of beer and a bottle of claret," her husband said.

"We will have lunch on the grass," the girl added.

The grandmother, who had an affection for cats, had been petting one
that belonged to the house, and had been bestowing the most
affectionate words on it, for the last ten minutes. The animal, no
doubt secretly pleased by her attentions, kept close to the good woman,
but just out of reach of her hand, and quietly walked round the trees,
against which she rubbed herself, with her tail up, purring with
pleasure.

"Hallo!" exclaimed the youth with the yellow hair, who was ferreting
about, "here are two swell boats!" They all went to look at them, and
saw two beautiful skiffs in a wooden boathouse, which were as
beautifully finished as if they had been objects of luxury. They were
moored side by side, like two tall, slender girls, in their narrow
shining length, and aroused in one a wish to float in them on warm
summer mornings and evenings, along flower-covered banks of the river,
where the trees dip their branches into the water, where the rushes are
continually rustling in the breeze, and where the swift kingfishers
dart about like flashes of blue lightning.

The whole family looked at them with great respect.

"They are indeed two swell boats," Monsieur Dufour repeated gravely,
and he examined them closely, commenting on them like a connoisseur. He
had been in the habit of rowing in his younger days, he said, and when
he had that in his hands--and he went through the action of pulling the
oars--he did not care a fig for anybody. He had beaten more than one
Englishman formerly at the Joinville regattas. He grew quite excited at
last, and offered to make a bet that in a boat like that he could row
six miles an hour, without exerting himself.

"Lunch is ready," said the waitress, appearing at the entrance to the
boathouse. They all hurried off, but two young men were already
lunching at the best place, which Madame Dufour had chosen in her mind
as her seat. No doubt they were the owners of the skiffs, for they were
dressed in boating costume. They were stretched out, almost lying on
chairs, and were sunburned, and had on flannel trousers and thin cotton
jerseys, with short sleeves, which showed their bare arms, which were
as strong as blacksmiths'. They were two strong young fellows, who
thought a great deal of their vigor, and who showed in all their
movements that elasticity and grace of limb which can only be acquired
by exercise, and which is so different to the awkwardness with which
the same continual work stamps the mechanic.

They exchanged a rapid smile when they saw the mother, and then a look
on seeing the daughter.

"Let us give up our place," one of them said; "it will make us
acquainted with them."

The other got up immediately, and holding his black and red boating-cap
in his hand, he politely offered the ladies the only shady place in the
garden. With many excuses they accepted, and so that it might be more
rural, they sat on the grass, without either tables or chairs.

The two young men took their plates, knives, forks, etc., to a table a
little way off, and began to eat again. Their bare arms, which they
showed continually, rather embarrassed the young girl, who even
pretended to turn her head aside, and not to see them. But Madame
Dufour, who was rather bolder, tempted by feminine curiosity, looked at
them every moment, and no doubt compared them with the secret
unsightliness of her husband. She had squatted herself on the ground
with her legs tucked under her, after the manner of tailors, and kept
wriggling about continually, under the pretext that ants were crawling
about her somewhere. Monsieur Dufour, whom the politeness of the
strangers had put into rather a bad temper, was trying to find a
comfortable position, which he did not, however, succeed in doing,
while the youth with the yellow hair was eating as silently as an ogre.

"It is lovely weather, Monsieur," the stout lady said to one of the
boating-men. She wished to be friendly, because they had given up their
place.

"It is, indeed, Madame," he replied; "do you often go into the country?"

"Oh! Only once or twice a year, to get a little fresh air; and you,
Monsieur?"

"I come and sleep here every night."

"Oh! That must be very nice?"

"Certainly it is, Madame." And he gave them such a practical account of
his daily life, that in the hearts of these shopkeepers, who were
deprived of the meadows, and who longed for country walks, it roused
that innate love of nature, which they all felt so strongly the whole
year round, behind the counter in their shop.

The girl raised her eyes and looked at the oarsman with emotion, and
Monsieur Dufour spoke for the first time.

"It is indeed a happy life," he said. And then he added: "A little more
rabbit, my dear?"

"No, thank you," she replied, and turning to the young men again, and
pointing to their arms, asked  "Do you never feel cold like that?"

They both laughed, and amazed the family by telling of the enormous
fatigue they could endure, of bathing while in a state of tremendous
perspiration, of rowing in the fog at night, and they struck their
chests violently, to show how they sounded.

"Ah! You look very strong," the husband said and he did not talk any
more of the time when he used to beat the English. The girl was looking
at them askance now, and the young fellow with the yellow hair, as he
had swallowed some wine the wrong way, and was coughing violently,
bespattered Madame Dufour's sherry-colored silk dress. Madame got
angry, and sent for some water to wash the spots.

Meanwhile it had grown unbearably hot, the sparkling river looked like
a blaze of fire and the fumes of the wine were getting into their
heads. Monsieur Dufour, who had a violent hiccough, had unbuttoned his
waistcoat and the top of his trousers, while his wife, who felt
choking, was gradually unfastening her dress. The youth was shaking his
yellow wig in a happy frame of mind, and kept helping himself to wine,
and as the old grandmother felt drunk, she endeavored to be very stiff
and dignified. As for the girl, she showed nothing except a peculiar
brightness in her eyes, while the brown skin on the cheeks became more
rosy.

The coffee finished them off; they spoke of singing, and each of them
sang, or repeated a couplet, which the others repeated
enthusiastically. Then they got up with some difficulty, and while the
two women, who were rather dizzy, were getting some fresh air, the two
males, who were altogether drunk, were performing gymnastic tricks.
Heavy, limp, and with scarlet faces, they hung awkwardly on to the iron
rings, without being able to raise themselves, while their shirts were
continually threatening to part company with their trousers, and to
flap in the wind like flags.

Meanwhile, the two boating-men had got their skiffs into the water.
They came back, and politely asked the ladies whether they would like a
row.

"Would you like one, Monsieur Dufour?" his wife exclaimed. "Please
come!"

He merely gave her a drunken look, without understanding what she said.
Then one of the rowers came up, with two fishing-rods in his hand; and
the hope of catching a gudgeon, that great aim of the Parisian
shopkeeper, made Dufour's dull eyes gleam. He politely allowed them to
do whatever they liked, while he sat in the shade, under the bridge,
with his feet dangling over the river, by the side of the young man
with the yellow hair, who was sleeping soundly close to him.

One of the boating-men made a martyr of himself, and took the mother.

"Let us go to the little wood on the Ile aux Anglais!" he called out,
as he rowed off. The other skiff went slower, for the rower was looking
at his companion so intently, that he thought of nothing else. His
emotion paralyzed his strength, while the girl, who was sitting on the
steerer's seat, gave herself up to the enjoyment of being on the water.
She felt disinclined to think, felt a lassitude in her limbs a complete
self-relaxation, as if she were intoxicated. She had become very
flushed, and breathed pantingly. The effect of the wine, increased by
the extreme heat, made all the trees on the bank seem to bow, as she
passed. A vague wish for enjoyment, a fermentation of her blood, seemed
to pervade her whole body, and she was also a little agitated by this
tete-a-tete on the water, in a place which seemed depopulated by the
heat, with this young man, who thought her so pretty, whose looks
seemed to caress her skin, and whose eyes were as penetrating and
exciting as the sun's rays.

Their inability to speak increased their emotion, and they looked about
them. At last he made an effort and asked her name.

"Henriette," she said.

"Why! My name is Henri," he replied. The sound of their voices calmed
them, and they looked at the banks. The other skiff had gone ahead of
them, and seemed to be waiting for them. The rower called out:

"We will meet you in the wood; we are going as far as Robinson's,[1]
because Madame Dufour is thirsty." Then he bent over his oars again and
rowed off so quickly that he was soon out of sight.

Meanwhile, a continual roar, which they had heard for some time, came
nearer, and the river itself seemed to shiver, as if the dull noise
were rising from its depths.

"What is that noise?" she asked. It was the noise of the weir, which
cut the river in two, at the island. He was explaining it to her, when
above the noise of the waterfall they heard the song of a bird, which
seemed a long way off.

"Listen!" he said; "the nightingales are singing during the day, so the
females must be sitting."

A nightingale! She had never heard one before, and the idea of
listening to one roused visions of poetic tenderness in her heart. A
nightingale! That is to say, the invisible witness of the lover's
interview which Juliette invoked on her balcony[2]; that celestial
music which is attuned to human kisses; that eternal inspirer of all
those languorous romances which open idealized visions to the poor,
tender, little hearts of sensitive girls!

She wanted to hear a nightingale.

"We must not make a noise," her companion said, "and then we can go
into the wood, and sit down close to it."

The skiff seemed to glide. They saw the trees on the island, the banks
of which were so low that they could look into the depths of the
thickets. They stopped, he made the boat fast, Henriette took hold of
Henri's arm, and they went beneath the trees.

"Stoop," he said, so she bent down, and they went into an inextricable
thicket of creepers, leaves, and reed-grass, which formed an
impenetrable retreat, and which the young man laughingly called "his
private room."

Just above their heads, perched in one of the trees which hid them, the
bird was still singing. He uttered shakes and roulades, and then long,
vibrating sounds that filled the air and seemed to lose themselves in
the distance, across the level country, through that burning silence
which hung low upon the whole country round. They did not speak for
fear of frightening the bird away. They were sitting close together,
and slowly Henri's arm stole round the girl's waist and squeezed it
gently. She took that daring hand, but without anger, and kept removing
it whenever he put it round her; not, however, feeling at all
embarrassed by this caress, just as if it had been something quite
natural which she was resisting just as naturally.

She was listening to the bird in ecstasy. She felt an infinite longing
for happiness, for some sudden demonstration of tenderness, for a
revelation of divine poesy. She felt such a softening at her heart, and
such a relaxation of her nerves, that she began to cry, without knowing
why. The young man was now straining her close to him, and she did not
remove his arm; she did not think of it. Suddenly the nightingale
stopped, and a voice called out in the distance:

"Henriette!"

"Do not reply," he said in a low voice, "you will drive the bird away."

But she had no idea of doing so, and they remained in the same position
for some time. Madame Dufour had sat down somewhere or other, for from
time to time they heard the stout lady break out into little bursts of
laughter.

The girl was still crying; she was filled with strange sensations.
Henri's head was on her shoulder, and suddenly he kissed her on the
lips. She was surprised and angry, and, to avoid him, she stood up.

They were both very pale when they quitted their grassy retreat. The
blue sky looked dull to them, the ardent sun was clouded over to their
eyes, they perceived not the solitude and the silence. They walked
quickly side by side, without speaking or touching each other,
appearing to be irreconcilable enemies, as if disgust had sprung up
between them, and hatred between their souls. From time to time
Henriette called out: "Mamma!"

By and by they heard a noise in a thicket, and Madame Dufour appeared,
looking rather confused, and her companion's face was wrinkled with
smiles that he could not check.

Madame Dufour took his arm, and they returned to the boats. Henri went
on first, still without speaking, by the girl's side, and at last they
got back to Bezons. Monsieur Dufour, who had sobered up, was waiting
for them very impatiently, while the youth with the yellow hair was
having a mouthful of something to eat before leaving the inn. The
carriage was in the yard, with the horse in, and the grandmother, who
had already got in, was frightened at the thought of being overtaken by
night, before they got back to Paris, the outskirts not being safe.

The young men shook hands with them, and the Dufour family drove off.

"Good-bye, until we meet again!" the oarsmen cried, and the answers
they got were a sigh and a tear.

      *      *      *      *      *

Two months later, as Henri was going along the Rue des Martyrs, he saw
"Dufour, Ironmonger," over a door. So he went in, and saw the stout
lady sitting at the counter. They recognized each other immediately,
and after an interchange of polite greetings, he inquired after them
all.

"And how is Mademoiselle Henriette?" he inquired, specially.

"Very well, thank you; she is married."

"Ah!" Mastering his feelings, he added: "To whom was she married?"

"To that young man who went with us, you know; he has joined us in
business."

"I remember him, perfectly."

He was going out, feeling unhappy, though scarcely knowing why, when
Madame called him back.

"And how is your friend?" she asked, rather shyly.

"He is very well, thank you."

"Please give him our compliments, and beg him to come and call when he
is in the neighborhood." She then added: "Tell him it will give me
great pleasure."

"I will be sure to do so. Adieu!"

"I will not say that; come again, very soon."

      *      *      *      *      *

The next year, one very hot Sunday, all the details of that memorable
adventure suddenly came back to him so clearly that he revisited the
"private room" in the wood, and was overwhelmed with astonishment when
he went in. She was sitting on the grass, looking very sad, while by
her side, again in his shirt-sleeves, the young man with the yellow
hair was sleeping soundly, like some brute.

She grew so pale when she saw Henri, that at first he thought she was
going to faint; then, however, they began to talk quite naturally. But
when he told her that he was very fond of that spot, and went there
very often on Sundays, she looked into his eyes for a long time. "I,
too, often think of it," she replied.

"Come, my dear," her husband said, with a yawn; "I think it is time for
us to be going."


[1] A well-known restaurant on the banks of the Seine, much frequented
by the bourgeoisie.

[2] "Romeo and Juliet," Act III., Scene V.





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