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Archive for the ‘19th Century literature’ Category

As you leave the Port of Vecchio, heading inland in a northwesterly direction, the ground rises fairly steeply and, after a three-hour journey along winding paths obstructed by great masses of rock, and sometimes broken by ravines, you come to the edge of a very extensive maquis. This is the home of the Corsican shepherds, and of those who have fallen foul of the law. I should explain that, in order to save themselves the trouble of manuring their fields, Corsican farmers set fire to an area of woodland. Too bad if the flames spread further than intended; come what may, one can be sure of a good crop if one sows seeds on this land that has been fertilized by the ash from the trees that grew on it. When the ears of grain have been harvested (they leave the straw, which would be troublesome to gather), the tree-roots that have remained in the soil, untouched by the flames, sprout thick clumps of shoots the following spring, which within a few years grow to a height of seven or eight feet. This kind of dense brushwood is known as maquis. It is made up of various species of tree and shrub, tangled and intertwined at Nature’s whim. A man would need an axe to force a way through, and sometimes the maquis can be so dense and overgrown that even the wild sheep cannot penetrate it.
If you have killed a man, go to the maquis above Porto-Vecchio, and you will be able to live in safety there, with a good rifle, gunpowder and bullets. Don’t forget to take a brown cloak with a hood, which does duty for blanket and mattress. The shepherds will give you milk, cheese and chestnuts; and you will have nothing to fear from the law or from the dead man’s relatives, except when you have to go down to the town to replenish your ammunition. When I was in Corsica in 18-, Mateo Falcone had his home half a league from the maquis. He was a man of some means for that district, who lived nobly-that is, without working-from the produce of his flocks that were driven to pasture on the mountains round and about by shepherds who lived like nomads. When I saw him, two years after the event I am about to relate, he looked 50 years old at most. Picture to yourself a small but robust man with tightly curled, jet-black hair, an aquiline nose, thin lips, large bright eyes, and a complexion tanned like cappuccino with cream. His skill with a rifle was said to be extraordinary, even for Corsica, where there are so many good shots. For instance, Mateo would never have shot a wild sheep with buckshot, but would kill it at a hundred and twenty paces with a bullet in the head or in the shoulder, as the mood took him. He used his weapons with as much ease by night as by day, and I have been told of one of his feats of skill which may perhaps seem incredible to anyone who has never travelled in Corsica. At eighty paces, a lighted candle would be placed behind a transparent sheet of paper the size of a plate. He would take aim, then the candle would be extinguished, and one minute later, in total darkness, he would fire, piercing the paper three times out of four.
With such an extra-ordinary talent, Mateo Falcone had earned himself a great reputation. He was said to be both a dangerous enemy and a staunch friend; moreover, he was always ready to do his moral duty, gave alms to the poor, and lived on good terms with everyone in the district of Porto-Vecchio. But rumor had it that in Corte, where he had taken a wife, he had disposed most effectively of a rival, who was said to be as formidable in war as in love: at any rate, Mateo was given credit for a rifle-shot which caught the rival off his guard as he was standing shaving at a small mirror hanging in his window. When the affair had blown over, Mateo married. His wife Giuseppa first bore him three daughters (to his fury), then finally a son, whom he named Fortunato. This boy was the hope of the family, the heir to his father’s name. The daughters had married well: their father could count on the daggers and rifles of his sons-in-law if the need arose. The son was only 10 years old, but already showed great promise.
One autumn day Mateo set out early with his wife to go and inspect one of his flocks in a clearing within the maquis. Little Fortunato wanted to go with him, but the clearing was too far away; and besides, someone had to stay behind to look after the house; so his father refused his request to accompany them. As we shall see, he had cause to regret his decision. He had been away for several hours, and little Fortunato was lying quietly in the sun, gazing at the blue mountains and thinking about the following Sunday, when he would be going to have lunch in town with his uncle the caporal when his meditations were suddenly interrupted by the sound of a gunshot. He got up and looked towards the plain, whence the sound had come. Other gunshots followed at irregular intervals, coming closer all the time. Finally, on the path leading from the plain to Mateo’s house, there appeared a man in a pointed cap of the sort worn by the mountain folk, bearded, in rags, and dragging himself along with great difficulty, leaning on his gun. He had just been shot in the thigh.
This man was an outlaw who had gone by night to buy gunpowder in the town and had been ambushed on the way by Corsican voltigeurs. After putting up a tremendous defence he had managed to get away, hotly pursued and taking shots at his pursuers from behind rocks. But the soldiers were close behind him, and his wound meant that it would be impossible for him to reach safety of the maquis before they caught up with him.
He came up to Fortunato and said to him:
“Are you Mateo Falcone’s son?”
“Yes.”
“I am Gianetto Sanpiero. The yellow-collars are after me. Hide me, I can’t go any further.”
“But what will my father say if I hide you without his permission?”
“He will say you did the right thing.”
“How can I be sure?”
“Hide me quickly, they’re coming.”
“Wait till my father comes back.”
“Wait? Damn it, they’ll be here in five minutes! Come on, hide me, or I’ll kill you.”
With perfect composure, Fortunato replied, “Your gun isn’t loaded, and there are no cartridges left in your carchera.”
“I’ve still got my stiletto.”
“But can you run as fast as me?” with a bound, he was out of reach.
“You are no son of Mateo Falcone! Would you have me arrested by the yellow-collars on your very doorstep?”
The child seemed agitated. “What will you give me if I hide you?” he asked, drawing closer. The bandit rummaged through his carchera, and took from it a five-franc piece, which he had no doubt set aside for buying gunpowder. Fortunato smiled at the sight of the silver coin. He seized it and said to Gianetto, “Have no fear.”
At once he made a large hole in a pile of hay which stood beside the house. Gianetto hid in it, and the child covered him over so as to allow him to breathe, yet so that no one would suspect that there was a man concealed there. He also thought of a most ingenious strategy, worthy of a true renegade. He went and fetched a cat and her kittens and placed them on the pile of hay, to make it look as if it had not been disturbed recently. Then, noticing drops of blood on the path near the house, he carefully covered them with dust, after which he went and lay down again quite calmly in the sun.
A few minutes later six men in brown uniforms with yellow collars, led by a high-ranking officer, arrived at Mateo’s door. The adjutant was a distant relative of Falcone. (It is a well-known fact that in Corsica degrees of kinship are traced much further back than is the case elsewhere.) His name was Tiodoro Gamba. He was a zealous man, much feared by the bandits, several of whom he had already tracked down.
“Good day, little cousin,” he said to Fortunato, accosting him. “How tall you’ve grown! Did you see a man pass this way just now?”
“Oh, I’m not as tall as you yet, cousin,” the child replied with seeming naivety.
“You soon will be. Tell me now, did you see a man pass by?”
“Did I see a man pass by?”
“Yes, a man wearing a pointed black-velvet hat and a jacket with red and yellow embroidery.”
“A man with a pointed hat and a jacket with red and yellow embroidery?”
“Yes. Answer me quickly. And stop repeating my questions.”
“This morning the priest came past our house on his horse-Piero. He asked me how Papa was, and I told him that …”
“Ah, you’re trying to be clever, you little devil! Tell me quickly which way Gianetto went. He’s the man we’re after, and I’m certain he took this path.”
“Who knows?”
“Who knows? I do! I know you saw him.”
“How can I have seen someone pass by, if I was asleep?”
“You weren’t asleep, you little wippersnapper. The shots woke you.”
“What makes you think your guns are so noisy, cousin? My father’s is much louder.”
“To the devil with you, you confounded little scamp! I’m quite certain you saw Gianetto. You may even have hidden him. Come on, lads! Into the house with you, and see whether our man is inside. He was hobbling along on one leg, and the wretch has got too much sense to try to make it to the maquis in that state. Anyway, the bloodstains end right here.”
“And what will Papa say?” asked Fortunato with a mocking laugh. “What will he say when he hears that someone entered his house while he was out?”
“You little rogue!” said Adjutant Gamba, taking him by the ear. “I can soon make you change your tune, you know! If I give you twenty strokes with the flat of my sabre, perhaps then you’ll talk.”
And Fortunato still laughed contemptuously. “My father is Mateo Falcone!” he said with emphasis.
“Do you realize, you little devil, that I can take you away to Corte or Bastia? I’ll make you sleep in a cell, on straw. I’ll clap you in leg-irons and have you guillotined if you don’t tell me where Gianetto Sanpiero is.”
The child burst out laughing at this ridiculous threat. “My father is Mateo Falcone!” he repeated.
“Sir,” muttered one of the soldiers while touching the officer’s sleeve, “Don’t let’s get on the wrong side of Mateo.”
Gamba was plainly in a quandary. He spoke in a low voice to his soldiers, who had already searched the whole house. This was not a very lengthy operation, for a Corsican’s cottage consists of one single square room. The furnishings consist of a table, benches, chests, hunting equipment, and a few household utensils. Meanwhile, little Fortunato stroked his cat, and seemed to take a malicious delight in the perplexity of the soldiers and his cousin. A soldier went up to the pile of hay. Seeing the cat, he gave the hay a half-hearted prod with his bayonet, shrugging his shoulders as if sensing that his precaution was absurd. Nothing stirred; the child’s face betrayed not the slightest emotion.
The adjutant and his men were at their wits’ end. Already they were looking gravely in the direction of the plain, as if tempted to head back the way they had come, when their chief, realizing that threats would make no impression on Falcone’s son, decided to make one last attempt, and see what effect cajolery and bribes would have.
“Little cousin,” he said. “You seem a wide-awake lad; you’ll go far. But you’re ‘messing’ with me, and if I weren’t afraid of angering my cousin Mateo, I’m hanged if I wouldn’t take you prisoner.”
“You don’t say!”
“But when my cousin gets back, I’ll tell him the whole story, and he’ll give you a thrashing as a reward for having lied.”
“Is that so?”
“You’ll see. Look, be a good kid, and I’ll give you something.”
“And I’ll give you a piece of advice, cousin. If you waste any more time, Gianetto will be in the maquis, and then it’ll take more than one fine fellow like you to fetch him out again.” The adjutant took from his pocket a silver watch that was worth at least ten crowns, and, seeing little Fortunato’s eyes light up at the sight of it, he held the watch suspended from its steel chain and said, “You little rogue. Wouldn’t you like to have a watch like this hanging around your neck? You could stroll around the streets of Porto-Vecchio, proud as a peacock, and people would ask you what time it was, and you’d say, “Look at my watch.”
“When I’m grown up, my uncle the caporal will give me a watch.”
“Yes; but your uncle’s son has got one already-but not as nice as this one-and he’s younger than you.”
The child sighed.
“Well, do you want this watch, little cousin?” he said swinging it gently in his direction. Fortunato eyed the watch like a cat that has had a whole chicken placed before it. Sensing it is being teased, it dare not lay a paw on it, and from time to time it looks away, so as not to succumb to temptation nor appear too interested. But it licks its chops continually, and seems to be saying to its tormentor, “What a cruel trick to play on me!”
Yet Adjutant Gamba seemed to be sincere in his offer of the watch. Fortunato did not reach out his hand, but, smiling bitterly, said to him, “What are you trying to put over?”
“I swear I’m not. Just tell me where Gianetto is and the watch is yours.”
Fortunato could not suppress a smile of disbelief; fixing his dark eyes on those of the adjutant, he tried to read in them how much faith he could place in his words.
“May I lose my commission,” exclaimed the adjutant, “if I don’t give you the watch as agreed. My men here are witnesses, and I cannot go back on my word as an officer.”
As he spoke he moved the watch closer and closer until it was almost touching Fortunato’s pale cheek. The child’s face clearly showed the struggle between personal greed and the traditional claims of solidarity against the authorities that was raging within him. His bare chest was heaving, and he seemed to be fighting for breath. And still the watch swung, twisted, and occasionally bumped against the tip of his nose. At last his right hand slowly rose towards the watch; his fingertips touched it; and he felt its full weight in his palm, though the adjutant still held the end of the chain. The dial was pale blue, the case newly polished; in the sunshine it seemed ablaze…The temptation was too great.
Fortunato raised his left hand too, and, with his thumb, pointed over his shoulder at the pile of hay behind him. The adjutant understood-he let go of the chain; Fortunato found himself sole possessor of the watch. He rose with the agility of a fawn and moved ten paces away from the pile of hay, which the soldiers at once began to demolish.
Very soon the hay began to move and a man emerged from it, drenched in blood and with a dagger in his hand. But as he tried to rise to his feet, his wound which had stopped bleeding, prevented him from standing up-he fell. Throwing himself on him, Gamba ripped the stiletto from his grip. Instantly he was tightly bound, despite his struggles.
Gianetto, lying on the ground trussed like a bundle of firewood, turned his head towards Fortunato, who had stepped forward again. “You son of a… ,” he said with more contempt than anger. The child flipped back the silver coin he had accepted from the prisoner, feeling that he no longer deserved it; but the outlaw seemed not to even notice the gesture. With great composure he said to the adjutant, “My dear Gamba, I can’t walk; you’re going to have to carry me into town.”
“You were running faster than a fleeing buck a moment ago,” retorted the victor pitilessly. “But set your mind at rest; I’m so pleased to have caught you that I could carry you on my back for three miles without tiring. In any case, my friend, we’ll make you a stretcher out of some branches and your overcoat, and we can get horses at Crespoli’s farm.”
“That’s good,” said the prisoner, “and just put a bit of straw on the litter, so I’ll be more comfortable.”
While the soldiers were busy improvising a litter with chestnut branches and dressing Gianetto’s wound, Mateo Falcone and his wife suddenly rounded the bend leading from the maquis. The woman was plodding laboriously forward, bent beneath the weight of an enormous sack of chestnuts, while her husband ambled along with only a rifle in his hand, and another slung over his shoulder-it is unbecoming for a man to carry any burden but his weapons.
Mateo’s first thought on seeing the soldiers was that they had come to arrest him. But why should such an idea cross his mind? Had Mateo perhaps tangled with the law? No; he enjoyed a good reputation. He was, as they say, a man of high standing. But he was a Corsican and a man of the mountains, and there are few Corsicans from the mountains who, if they delve in their memories, cannot find some offense-a gunshot, a knifing, or some such trifling matter. Mateo had a clearer conscience than most, for it was more than ten years since he had pointed his gun at any man. But nevertheless he was circumspect, and he prepared mentally to defend himself vigorously should the need arise.
“Woman,” he said to Giuseppa, “put down your sack and be ready.” She instantly obeyed. He handed her the gun that was slung over his shoulder, which might get in the way. He loaded the one he was carrying and advanced circumspectly towards the house, keeping close to the trees at the roadside, and ready, at the slightest hint of hostility, to dash behind the largest trunk, where he could fire from under cover. His wife walked at his heels, carrying his spare gun and his cartridge-pouch. In the event of combat it is the task of a good wife to load her husband’s weapon.
The adjutant, for his part, felt extremely ill at ease at the sight of Mateo advancing with measured steps, gun at the ready and finger on the trigger. “If by any chance,” he thought, “Mateo should turn out to be a relative of Gianetto, or if he were a friend of his and meant to protect him, the very wads from his two guns would hit two of us, as sure as a letter reaches its destination. And if he were to take aim at me, notwithstanding our kinship…”
In this dilemma, he took the courageous course of advancing alone to meet Mateo and tell him of the affair, hailing him like a long-lost friend. But the short distance that separated him from Mateo seemed interminable.
“Hey there, old comrade!” he called. “How are things, my old friend? It’s me, your cousin Gamba.”
Mateo had halted with no word of reply, and as the other spoke he slowly raised the barrel of his gun until, at the moment when the adjutant reached him, it was pointing towards the sky. “Buon giorno, fratllo” (“Good day, brother,” the traditional greeting between Corsicans), said the adjutant, offering him his hand. “I haven’t seen you in ages.”
“Buon giorno, fratello,” answered Mateo much to the officer’s relief.
“As I was passing, I came to say hello to you and cousin Pepa. We’ve had a long haul today, but, although we’re exhausted, there’s no call to feel sorry for us, for we’ve made a splendid catch. We’ve just collared Gianetto Sanpiero.”
“God be praised!” exclaimed Giuseppa. “He stole a milk goat from us only last week.”
These words delighted Gamba.
“Poor devil,” said Mateo. “He was hungry.”
“The rogue defended himself like a lion,” continued the adjutant, somewhat disconcerted that Mateo felt for him. “He killed one of my men and, not content with that, he broke Corporal Chardon’s arm. Not that that matters-Chardon’s only a Frenchman. And then he went and hid so well that the devil himself wouldn’t have discovered him. If it hadn’t been for my little cousin Fortunato here I’d never have been able to find him.”
“Fortunato?” exclaimed Mateo.
“Fortunato?” repeated Giuseppa.
“Yes. Gianetto had hidden under that pile of hay over there. But my little cousin showed me what the game was. I’ll tell his uncle the caporal, so he can send him a fine present for his trouble. And both your names will appear in the report I shall be sending to the Public Prosecutor.”
“Damnation!” muttered Mateo softly.
They had rejoined the squad of soldiers. Gianetto had already been placed on the litter, ready for departure. When he saw Mateo in the company of Gamba, he smiled scornfully. Then, turning towards the door of the house, he spat on the threshold and said, “House of a traitor!”
Only a man resigned to death would have dared call Falcone a traitor. One quick dagger-thrust would instantly have repaid him for the insult once and for all. Yet Mateo merely raised his hand to his brow like a man in despair.
Fortunato had gone inside the house on seeing his father arrive. He soon reappeared with a bowl of milk, which he offered to the prisoner with downcast eyes.
“Keep away from me!” roared the outlaw, in a voice of thunder. Then, turning to one of the voltigeurs, he said to him, “Give me a drink, comrade.”
The soldier handed him his water-bottle, and the bandit drank the water offered to him by a man with whom he had just exchanged rifle shots. Then he asked to have his hands tied across his chest instead of behind his back. “I like to lie comfortably,” he explained.
They hastened to comply with his request. Then the adjutant gave the signal to depart, bade farewell to Mateo, who did not reply, and set off back towards the plains at a brisk march. Almost ten minutes passed before Mateo spoke a word. The child glanced uneasily first at his mother, then at his father, who was leaning on his gun, contemplating him with an expression of concentrated fury.
“A fine beginning!” said Mateo at last, in a voice that was too calm-one terrifying to anyone who knew the man.
“Father!” cried the child, advancing with tears in his eyes as if to throw himself at his feet. But Mateo shouted, “Out of my sight!” And the child stopped and stood sobbing a few paces from his father.
Giuseppa stepped forward. She had just noticed the watch-chain, one end of which was dangling from Fortunato’s shirt.
“Who gave you that watch?” she asked severely.
“My cousin the adjutant.”
Falcone seized the watch and hurled it against a rock, smashing it into a thousand pieces.
“Woman,” he said, “is this child mine?”
Giuseppa’s brown cheeks turned brick-red, “What are you saying, Mateo? -do you realize who you are talking to?”
“This child is the first of his line to have committed a betrayal.”
Fortunato’s sobs and hiccoughs intensified-Falcone continued to stare at him like a wildcat. Finally he struck the ground with the butt of his gun, then shouldered it and set off again on the path leading to the maquis, calling on Fortunato to follow him. The child obeyed. Giuseppa ran after Mateo and seized him by the arm.
“He is your son,” she said in a trembling voice, fixing her dark eyes on those of her husband as if trying to read his thoughts.
“Leave me alone,” replied Mateo, “I am his father.”
Giuseppa kissed her son and retreated, weeping, into the cottage. She fell to her knees before an image of the Virgin and prayed fervently. Meanwhile, Falcone walked a couple of hundred paces along the path and did not stop until he reached a small ravine, into which he descended. He sounded the earth with the butt of his gun and found it soft. Easy to dig-the place seemed suitable.
“Fortunato, go and stand by that big stone,” he said without emotion.
The child did as he was ordered.
“Kneel down and say your prayers.”
“Father! Don’t kill me, father!”
“Say your prayers!” repeated Mateo in a terrible voice.
Stammering and sobbing, the child recited the Our Father and the Apostles’ Creed. At the end of each prayer his father uttered a loud “Amen!”
“Are those all the prayers you know?”
“Father, I know the Hail Mary too, and the Rosary-aunt taught me.”
“It’s rather long, but no matter.”
The child finished the litany in a whisper.
“Have you finished?”
“Oh, father, mercy! Forgive me! I won’t do it again! I’ll beg my uncle the caporal until Gianetto is reprieved!”
He went on speaking. Mateo had raised his gun and was taking aim, saying to his son, “May God forgive you!” The child made a desperate effort to get up and clasp his father by the knees, but he was too late. Mateo fired, and Fortunato fell like a rock-dead.
Without a glance at the corpse, Mateo set off for the house to fetch a spade with which to bury his son. He had gone only a few paces when he met Giuseppa, who had run up in alarm on hearing the rifle-shot.
“What have you done?” she cried.
“Justice.”
“Where is he?”
“In the ravine; I’m going to bury him. He died like a Christian; I shall have a mass sung for him. Tell my son-in-law, Tiodoro Bianchi, to come and live with us.”
The End
Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870)
How the Redoubt was taken

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FINE carriage with rubber tyres, a fat coachman, and velvet on the seats, rolled up to the house of a landowner called Gryabov. Fyodor Andreitch Otsov, the district Marshal of Nobility, jumped out of the carriage. A drowsy footman met him in the hall.

“Are the family at home?” asked the Marshal.

“No, sir. The mistress and the children are gone out paying visits, while the master and mademoiselle are catching fish. Fishing all the morning, sir.

Otsov stood a little, thought a little, and then went to the river to look for Gryabov. Going down to the river he found him a mile and a half from the house. Looking down from the steep bank and catching sight of Gryabov, Otsov gushed with laughter. . . . Gryabov, a large stout man, with a very big head, was sitting on the sand, angling, with his legs tucked under him like a Turk. His hat was on the back of his head and his cravat had slipped on one side. Beside him stood a tall thin Englishwoman, with prominent eyes like a crab’s, and a big bird-like nose more like a hook than a nose. She was dressed in a white muslin gown through which her scraggy yellow shoulders were very distinctly apparent. On her gold belt hung a little gold watch. She too was angling. The stillness of the grave reigned about them both. Both were motionless, as the river upon which their floats were swimming.

“A desperate passion, but deadly dull!” laughed Otsov. “Good-day, Ivan Kuzmitch.”

“Ah . . . is that you ?” asked Gryabov, not taking his eyes off the water. “Have you come?”

“As you see . . . . And you are still taken up with your crazy nonsense! Not given it up yet?”

“The devil’s in it. . . . I begin in the morning and fish all day. . . . The fishing is not up to much to-day. I’ve caught nothing and this dummy hasn’t either. We sit on and on and not a devil of a fish! I could scream!”

“Well, chuck it up then. Let’s go and have some vodka!”

“Wait a little, maybe we shall catch something. Towards evening the fish bite better . . . . I’ve been sitting here, my boy, ever since the morning! I can’t tell you how fearfully boring it is. It was the devil drove me to take to this fishing! I know that it is rotten idiocy for me to sit here. I sit here like some scoundrel, like a convict, and I stare at the water like a fool. I ought to go to the haymaking, but here I sit catching fish. Yesterday His Holiness held a service at Haponyevo, but I didn’t go. I spent the day here with this . . . with this she-devil.”

“But . . . have you taken leave of your senses?” asked Otsov, glancing in embarrassment at the Englishwoman. “Using such language before a lady and she . . . .”

“Oh, confound her, it doesn’t matter, she doesn’t understand a syllable of Russian, whether you praise her or blame her, it is all the same to her! Just look at her nose! Her nose alone is enough to make one faint. We sit here for whole days together and not a single word! She stands like a stuffed image and rolls the whites of her eyes at the water.”

The Englishwoman gave a yawn, put a new worm on, and dropped the hook into the water.

“I wonder at her not a little,” Gryabov went on, “the great stupid has been living in Russia for ten years and not a word of Russian! . . . Any little aristocrat among us goes to them and learns to babble away in their lingo, while they . . . there’s no making them out. Just look at her nose, do look at her nose!”

“Come, drop it . . . it’s uncomfortable. Why attack a woman?”

“She’s not a woman, but a maiden lady. . . . I bet she’s dreaming of suitors. The ugly doll. And she smells of something decaying . . . . I’ve got a loathing for her, my boy! I can’t look at her with indifference. When she turns her ugly eyes on me it sends a twinge all through me as though I had knocked my elbow on the parapet. She likes fishing too. Watch her: she fishes as though it were a holy rite! She looks upon everything with disdain . . . . She stands there, the wretch, and is conscious that she is a human being, and that therefore she is the monarch of nature. And do you know what her name is? Wilka Charlesovna Fyce! Tfoo! There is no getting it out!”

The Englishwoman, hearing her name, deliberately turned her nose in Gryabov’s direction and scanned him with a disdainful glance; she raised her eyes from Gryabov to Otsov and steeped him in disdain. And all this in silence, with dignity and deliberation.

“Did you see?” said Gryabov chuckling. “As though to say ‘take that.’ Ah, you monster! It’s only for the children’s sake that I keep that triton. If it weren’t for the children, I wouldn’t let her come within ten miles of my estate. . . . She has got a nose like a hawk’s . . . and her figure! That doll makes me think of a long nail, so I could take her, and knock her into the ground, you know. Stay, I believe I have got a bite. . . .”

Gryabov jumped up and raised his rod. The line drew taut. . . . Gryabov tugged again, but could not pull out the hook.

“It has caught,” he said, frowning, “on a stone I expect . . . damnation take it . . . .”

There was a look of distress on Gryabov’s face. Sighing, moving uneasily, and muttering oaths, he began tugging at the line.

“What a pity; I shall have to go into the water.”

“Oh, chuck it!”

“I can’t. . . . There’s always good fishing in the evening. . . . What a nuisance. Lord, forgive us, I shall have to wade into the water, I must! And if only you knew, I have no inclination to undress. I shall have to get rid of the Englishwoman. . . . It’s awkward to undress before her. After all, she is a lady, you know!”

Gryabov flung off his hat, and his cravat.

“Meess . . . er, er . . .” he said, addressing the Englishwoman, “Meess Fyce, je voo pree . . . ? Well, what am I to say to her? How am I to tell you so that you can understand? I say . . . over there! Go away over there! Do you hear?”

Miss Fyce enveloped Gryabov in disdain, and uttered a nasal sound.

“What? Don’t you understand? Go away from here, I tell you! I must undress, you devil’s doll! Go over there! Over there!”

Gryabov pulled the lady by her sleeve, pointed her towards the bushes, and made as though he would sit down, as much as to say: Go behind the bushes and hide yourself there. . . . The Englishwoman, moving her eyebrows vigorously, uttered rapidly a long sentence in English. The gentlemen gushed with laughter.

“It’s the first time in my life I’ve heard her voice. There’s no denying, it is a voice! She does not understand! Well, what am I to do with her?”

“Chuck it, let’s go and have a drink of vodka!”

“I can’t. Now’s the time to fish, the evening. . . . It’s evening . . . . Come, what would you have me do? It is a nuisance! I shall have to undress before her. . . .”

Gryabov flung off his coat and his waistcoat and sat on the sand to take off his boots.

“I say, Ivan Kuzmitch,” said the marshal, chuckling behind his hand. “It’s really outrageous, an insult.”

“Nobody asks her not to understand! It’s a lesson for these foreigners!”

Gryabov took off his boots and his trousers, flung off his undergarments and remained in the costume of Adam. Otsov held his sides, he turned crimson both from laughter and embarrassment. The Englishwoman twitched her brows and blinked . . . . A haughty, disdainful smile passed over her yellow face.

“I must cool off,” said Gryabov, slapping himself on the ribs. “Tell me if you please, Fyodor Andreitch, why I have a rash on my chest every summer.”

“Oh, do get into the water quickly or cover yourself with something, you beast.”

“And if only she were confused, the nasty thing,” said Gryabov, crossing himself as he waded into the water. “Brrrr . . . the water’s cold. . . . Look how she moves her eyebrows! She doesn’t go away . . . she is far above the crowd! He, he, he . . . . and she doesn’t reckon us as human beings.”

Wading knee deep in the water and drawing his huge figure up to its full height, he gave a wink and said:

“This isn’t England, you see!”

Miss Fyce coolly put on another worm, gave a yawn, and dropped the hook in. Otsov turned away, Gryabov released his hook, ducked into the water and, spluttering, waded out. Two minutes later he was sitting on the sand and angling as before.

The End

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by Alexandre Dumas

Leaving l’Abbaye, I walked straight across the Place Turenne to the Rue Tournon, where I had lodgings, when I heard a woman scream for help.

It could not be an assault to commit robbery, for it was hardly ten o’clock in the evening. I ran to the corner of the place whence the sounds proceeded, and by the light of the moon, just then breaking through the clouds, I beheld a woman in the midst of a patrol of sans-culottes.

The lady observed me at the same instant, and seeing, by the character of my dress, that I did not belong to the common order of people, she ran toward me, exclaiming:

“There is M. Albert! He knows me! He will tell you that I am the daughter of Mme. Ledieu, the laundress.”

With these words the poor creature, pale and trembling with excitement, seized my arm and clung to me as a shipwrecked sailor to a spar.

“No matter whether you are the daughter of Mme. Ledieu or some one else, as you have no pass, you must go with us to the guard-house.”

The young girl pressed my arm. I perceived in this pressure the expression of her great distress of mind. I understood it.

“So it is you, my poor Solange?” I said. “What are you doing here?”

“There, messieurs!” she exclaimed in tones of deep anxiety; “do you believe me now?”

“You might at least say ‘citizens!’”

“Ah, sergeant, do not blame me for speaking that way,” said the pretty young girl; “my mother has many customers among the great people, and taught me to be polite. That’s how I acquired this bad habit—the habit of the aristocrats; and, you know, sergeant, it’s so hard to shake off old habits!”

This answer, delivered in trembling accents, concealed a delicate irony that was lost on all save me. I asked myself, who is this young woman? The mystery seemed complete. This alone was clear; she was not the daughter of a laundress.

“How did I come here, Citizen Albert?” she asked. “Well, I will tell you. I went to deliver some washing. The lady was not at home, and so I waited; for in these hard times every one needs what little money is coming to him. In that way it grew dark, and so I fell among these gentlemen—beg pardon, I would say citizens. They asked for my pass. As I did not have it with me, they were going to take me to the guard-house. I cried out in terror, which brought you to the scene; and as luck would have it, you are a friend. I said to myself, as M. Albert knows my name to be Solange Ledieu, he will vouch for me; and that you will, will you not, M. Albert?”

“Certainly, I will vouch for you.”

“Very well,” said the leader of the patrol; “and who, pray, will vouch for you, my friend?”

“Danton! Do you know him? Is he a good patriot?”

“Oh, if Danton will vouch for you, I have nothing to say.”

“Well, there is a session of the Cordeliers to-day. Let us go there.”

“Good,” said the leader. “Citizens, let us go to the Cordeliers.”

The club of the Cordeliers met at the old Cordelier monastery in the Rue l’Observance. We arrived there after scarce a minute’s walk. At the door I tore a page from my note-book, wrote a few words upon it with a lead pencil, gave it to the sergeant, and requested him to hand it to Danton, while I waited outside with the men.

The sergeant entered the clubhouse and returned with Danton.

“What!” said he to me; “they have arrested you, my friend? You, the friend of Camilles—you, one of the most loyal republicans? Citizens,” he continued, addressing the sergeant, “I vouch for him. Is that sufficient?”

“You vouch for him. Do you also vouch for her?” asked the stubborn sergeant.

“For her? To whom do you refer?”

“This girl.”

“For everything; for everybody who may be in his company. Does that satisfy you?”

“Yes,” said the man; “especially since I have had the privilege of seeing you.”

With a cheer for Danton, the patrol marched away. I was about to thank Danton, when his name was called repeatedly within.

“Pardon me, my friend,” he said; “you hear? There is my hand; I must leave you—the left. I gave my right to the sergeant. Who knows, the good patriot may have scrofula?”

“I’m coming!” he exclaimed, addressing those within in his mighty voice with which he could pacify or arouse the masses. He hastened into the house.

I remained standing at the door, alone with my unknown.

“And now, my lady,” I said, “whither would you have me escort you? I am at your disposal.”

“Why, to Mme. Ledieu,” she said with a laugh. “I told you she was my mother.”

“And where does Mme. Ledieu reside?”

“Rue Ferou, 24.”

“Then, let us proceed to Rue Ferou, 24.”

On the way neither of us spoke a word. But by the light of the moon, enthroned in serene glory in the sky, I was able to observe her at my leisure. She was a charming girl of twenty or twenty-two—brunette, with large blue eyes, more expressive of intelligence than melancholy—a finely chiseled nose, mocking lips, teeth of pearl, hands like a queen’s, and feet like a child’s; and all these, in spite of her costume of a laundress, betokened an aristocratic air that had aroused the sergeant’s suspicions not without justice.

Arrived at the door of the house, we looked at each other a moment in silence.

“Well, my dear M. Albert, what do you wish?” my fair unknown asked with a smile.

“I was about to say, my dear Mlle. Solange, that it was hardly worth while to meet if we are to part so soon.”

“Oh, I beg ten thousand pardons! I find it was well worth the while; for if I had not met you, I should have been dragged to the guard-house, and there it would have been discovered that I am not the daughter of Mme. Ledieu—in fact, it would have developed that I am an aristocrat, and in all likelihood they would have cut off my head.”

“You admit, then, that you are an aristocrat?”

“I admit nothing.”

“At least you might tell me your name.”

“Solange.”

“I know very well that this name, which I gave you on the inspiration of the moment, is not your right name.”

“No matter; I like it, and I am going to keep it—at least for you.”

“Why should you keep it for me? if we are not to meet again?”

“I did not say that. I only said that if we should meet again it will not be necessary for you to know my name any more than that I should know yours. To me you will be known as Albert, and to you I shall always be Solange.”

“So be it, then; but I say, Solange,” I began.

“I am listening, Albert,” she replied.

“You are an aristocrat—that you admit.”

“If I did not admit it, you would surmise it, and so my admission would be divested of half its merit.”

“And you were pursued because you were suspected of being an aristocrat?”

“I fear so.”

“And you are hiding to escape persecution?”

“In the Rue Ferou, No. 24, with Mme. Ledieu, whose husband was my father’s coachman. You see, I have no secret from you.”

“And your father?”

“I shall make no concealment, my dear Albert, of anything that relates to me. But my fathers secrets are not my own. My father is in hiding, hoping to make his escape. That is all I can tell you.”

“And what are you going to do?”

“Go with my father, if that be possible. If not, allow him to depart without me until the opportunity offers itself to me to join him.”

“Were you coming from your father when the guard arrested you to-night?”

“Yes.”

“Listen, dearest Solange.”

“I am all attention.”

“You observed all that took place to-night?”

“Yes. I saw that you had powerful influence.”

“I regret my power is not very great. However, I have friends.”

“I made the acquaintance of one of them.”

“And you know he is not one of the least powerful men of the times.”

“Do you intend to enlist his influence to enable my father to escape?”

“No, I reserve him for you.”

“But my father?”

“I have other ways of helping your father.”

“Other ways?” exclaimed Solange, seizing my hands and studying me with an anxious expression.

“If I serve your father, will you then sometimes think kindly of me?”

“Oh, I shall all my life hold you in grateful remembrance!”

She uttered these words with an enchanting expression of devotion. Then she looked at me beseechingly and said:

“But will that satisfy you?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Ah, I was not mistaken. You are kind, generous. I thank you for my father and myself. Even if you should fail, I shall be grateful for what you have already done!”

“When shall we meet again, Solange?”

“When do you think it necessary to see me again?”

“To-morrow, when I hope to have good news for you.”

“Well, then, to-morrow.”

“Where?”

“Here.”

“Here in the street?”

“Well, mon Dieu!” she exclaimed. “You see, it is the safest place. For thirty minutes, while we have been talking here, not a soul has passed.”

“Why may I not go to you, or you come to me?”

“Because it would compromise the good people if you should come to me, and you would incur serious risk if I should go to you.”

“Oh, I would give you the pass of one of my relatives.”

“And send your relative to the guillotine if I should be accidentally arrested!”

“True. I will bring you a pass made out in the name of Solange.”

“Charming! You observe Solange is my real name.”

“And the hour?”

“The same at which we met to-night—ten o’clock, if you please.”

“All right; ten o’clock. And how shall we meet?”

“That is very simple. Be at the door at five minutes of ten, and at ten I will come down.”

“Then, at ten to-morrow, dear Solange.”

“To-morrow at ten, dear Albert.”

I wanted to kiss her hand; she offered me her brow.

The next day I was in the street at half past nine. At a quarter of ten Solange opened the door. We were both ahead of time.

With one leap I was by her side.

“I see you have good news,” she said.

“Excellent! First, here is a pass for you.”

“First my father!”

She repelled my hand.

“Your father is saved, if he wishes.”

“Wishes, you say? What is required of him?”

“He must trust me.”

“That is assured.”

“Have you seen him?”

“Yes.”

“You have discussed the situation with him?”

“It was unavoidable. Heaven will help us.”

“Did you tell your father all?”

“I told him you had saved my life yesterday, and that you would perhaps save his to-morrow.”

“To-morrow! Yes, quite right; to-morrow I shall save his life, if it is his will.”

“How? What? Speak! Speak! If that were possible, how fortunately all things have come to pass!”

“However—” I began hesitatingly.

“Well?”

“It will be impossible for you to accompany him.”

“I told you I was resolute.”

“I am quite confident, however, that I shall be able later to procure a passport for you.”

“First tell me about my father; my own distress is less important.”

“Well, I told you I had friends, did I not?”

“Yes.”

“To-day I sought out one of them.”

“Proceed.”

“A man whose name is familiar to you; whose name is a guarantee of courage and honor.”

“And this man is?”

“Marceau.”

“General Marceau?”

“Yes.”

“True, he will keep a promise.”

“Well, he has promised.”

“Mon Dieu! How happy you make me! What has he promised? Tell me all.”

“He has promised to help us.”

“In what manner?”

“In a very simple manner. Kléber has just had him promoted to the command of the western army. He departs to-morrow night.”

“To-morrow night! We shall have no time to make the smallest preparation.”

“There are no preparations to make.”

“I do not understand.”

“He will take your father with him.”

“My father?”

“Yes, as his secretary. Arrived in the Vendée, your father will pledge his word to the general to undertake nothing against France. From there he will escape to Brittany, and from Brittany to England. When he arrives in London, he will inform you; I shall obtain a passport for you, and you will join him in London.”

“To-morrow,” exclaimed Solange; “my father departs tomorrow!”

“There is no time to waste.”

“My father has not been informed.”

“Inform him.”

“To-night?”

“To-night.”

“But how, at this hour?”

“You have a pass and my arm.”

“True. My pass.”

I gave it to her. She thrust it into her bosom.

“Now? your arm?”

I gave her my arm, and we walked away. When we arrived at the Place Turenne—that is, the spot where we had met the night before—she said: “Await me here.”

I bowed and waited.

She disappeared around the corner of what was formerly the Hôtel Malignon. After a lapse of fifteen minutes she returned.

“Come,” she said, “my father wishes to receive and thank you.”

She took my arm and led me up to the Rue St. Guillaume, opposite the Hôtel Mortemart. Arrived here, she took a bunch of keys from her pocket, opened a small, concealed door, took me by the hand, conducted me up two flights of steps, and knocked in a peculiar manner.

A man of forty-eight or fifty years opened the door. He was dressed as a working man and appeared to be a bookbinder. But at the first utterance that burst from his lips, the evidence of the seigneur was unmistakable.

“Monsieur,” he said, “Providence has sent you to us. I regard you an emissary of fate. Is it true that you can save me, or, what is more, that you wish to save me?”

I admitted him completely to my confidence. I informed him that Marceau would take him as his secretary, and would exact no promise other than that he would not take up arms against France.

“I cheerfully promise it now, and will repeat it to him.”

“I thank you in his name as well as in my own.”

“But when does Marceau depart?”

“To-morrow.”

“Shall I go to him to-night?”

“Whenever you please; he expects you.”

Father and daughter looked at each other.

“I think it would be wise to go this very night,” said Solange.

“I am ready; but if I should be arrested, seeing that I have no permit?”

“Here is mine.”

“But you?”

“Oh, I am known.”

“Where does Marceau reside?”

“Rue de l’Université, 40, with his sister, Mlle. Dégraviers-Marceau.”

“Will you accompany me?”

“I shall follow you at a distance, to accompany mademoiselle home when you are gone.”

“How will Marceau know that I am the man of whom you spoke to him?”

“You will hand him this tri-colored cockade; that is the sign of identification.”

“And how shall I reward my liberator?”

“By allowing him to save your daughter also.”

“Very well.”

He put on his hat and extinguished the lights, and we descended by the gleam of the moon which penetrated the stair-windows.

At the foot of the steps he took his daughter’s arm, and by way of the Rue des Saints Pères we reached Rue de l’Université. I followed them at a distance of ten paces. We arrived at No. 40 without having met any one. I rejoined them there.

“That is a good omen,” I said; “do you wish me to go up with you?”

“No. Do not compromise yourself any further. Await my daughter here.”

I bowed.

“And now, once more, thanks and farewell,” he said, giving me his hand. “Language has no words to express my gratitude. I pray that heaven may some day grant me the opportunity of giving fuller expression to my feelings.”

I answered him with a pressure of the hand.

He entered the house. Solange followed him; but she, too, pressed my hand before she entered.

In ten minutes the door was reopened.

“Well?” I asked.

“Your friend,” she said, “is worthy of his name; he is as kind and considerate as yourself. He knows that it will contribute to my happiness to remain with my father until the moment of departure. His sister has ordered a bed placed in her room. To-morrow at three o’clock my father will be out of danger. To-morrow evening at ten I shall expect you in the Rue Ferou, if the gratitude of a daughter who owes her father’s life to you is worth the trouble.”

“Oh, be sure I shall come. Did your father charge you with any message for me?”

“He thanks you for your pass, which he returns to you, and begs you to join him as soon as possible.”

“Whenever it may be your desire to go,” I said, with a strange sensation at my heart.

“At least, I must know where I am to join him,” she said. “Ah, you are not yet rid of me!”

I seized her hand and pressed it against my heart, but she offered me her brow, as on the previous evening, and said: “Until to-morrow.”

I kissed her on the brow; but now I no longer strained her hand against my breast, but her heaving bosom, her throbbing heart.

I went home in a state of delirious ecstasy such as I had never experienced. Was it the consciousness of a generous action, or was it love for this adorable creature? I know not whether I slept or woke. I only know that all the harmonies of nature were singing within me; that the night seemed endless, and the day eternal; I know that though I wished to speed the time, I did not wish to lose a moment of the days still to come.

The next day I was in the Rue Ferou at nine o’clock. At half-past nine Solange made her appearance.

She approached me and threw her arms around my neck.

“Saved!” she said; “my father is saved! And this I owe you. Oh, how I love you!”

Two weeks later Solange received a letter announcing her father’s safe arrival in England.

The next day I brought her a passport.

When Solange received it she burst into tears.

“You do not love me!” she exclaimed.

“I love you better than my life,” I replied; “but I pledged your father my word, and I must keep it.”

“Then, I will break mine,” she said. “Yes, Albert; if you have the heart to let me go, I have not the courage to leave you.”

Alas, she remained!

Three months had passed since that night on which we talked of her escape, and in all that time not a word of parting had passed her lips.

Solange had taken lodgings in the Rue Turenne. I had rented them in her name. I knew no other, while she always addressed me as Albert. I had found her a place as teacher in a young ladies’ seminary solely to withdraw her from the espionage of the revolutionary police, which had become more scrutinizing than ever.

Sundays we passed together in the small dwelling, from the bedroom of which we could see the spot where we had first met. We exchanged letters daily, she writing to me under the name of Solange, and I to her under that of Albert.

Those three months were the happiest of my life.

In the meantime I was making some interesting experiments suggested by one of the guillotiniers. I had obtained permission to make certain scientific tests with the bodies and heads of those who perished on the scaffold. Sad to say, available subjects were not wanting. Not a day passed but thirty or forty persons were guillotined, and blood flowed so copiously on the Place de la Révolution that it became necessary to dig a trench three feet deep around the scaffolding. This trench was covered with deals. One of them loosened under the feet of an eight-year-old lad, who fell into the abominable pit and was drowned.

For self-evident reasons I said nothing to Solange of the studies that occupied my attention during the day. In the beginning my occupation had inspired me with pity and loathing, but as time wore on I said: “These studies are for the good of humanity,” for I hoped to convince the lawmakers of the wisdom of abolishing capital punishment.

The Cemetery of Clamart had been assigned to me, and all the heads and trunks of the victims of the executioner had been placed at my disposal. A small chapel in one corner of the cemetery had been converted into a kind of laboratory for my benefit. You know, when the queens were driven from the palaces, God was banished from the churches.

Every day at six the horrible procession filed in. The bodies were heaped together in a wagon, the heads in a sack. I chose some bodies and heads in a haphazard fashion, while the remainder were thrown into a common grave.

In the midst of this occupation with the dead, my love for Solange increased from day to day; while the poor child reciprocated my affection with the whole power of her pure soul.

Often I had thought of making her my wife; often we had mutually pictured to ourselves the happiness of such a union. But in order to become my wife, it would be necessary for Solange to reveal her name; and this name, which was that of an emigrant, an aristocrat, meant death.

Her father had repeatedly urged her by letter to hasten her departure, but she had informed him of our engagement. She had requested his consent, and he had given it, so that all had gone well to this extent.

The trial and execution of the queen, Marie Antoinette, had plunged me, too, into deepest sadness. Solange was all tears, and we could not rid ourselves of a strange feeling of despondency, a presentiment of approaching danger, that compressed our hearts. In vain I tried to whisper courage to Solange. Weeping, she reclined in my arms, and I could not comfort her, because my own words lacked the ring of confidence.

We passed the night together as usual, but the night was even more depressing than the day. I recall now that a dog, locked up in a room below us, howled till two o’clock in the morning. The next day we were told that the dog’s master had gone away with the key in his pocket, had been arrested on the way, tried at three, and executed at four.

The time had come for us to part. Solange’s duties at the school began at nine o’clock in the morning. Her school was in the vicinity of the Botanic Gardens. I hesitated long to let her go; she, too, was loath to part from me. But it must be. Solange was prone to be an object of unpleasant inquiries.

I called a conveyance and Accompanied her as far as the Rue des Fosses-Saint-Bernard, where I got out and left her to pursue her way alone. All the way we lay mutely wrapped in each other’s arms, mingling tears with our kisses.

After leaving the carriage, I stood as if rooted to the ground. I heard Solange call me, but I dared not go to her, because her face, moist with tears, and her hysterical manner were calculated to attract attention.

Utterly wretched, I returned home, passing the entire day in writing to Solange. In the evening I sent her an entire volume of love-pledges.

My letter had hardly gone to the post when I received one from her.

She had been sharply reprimanded for coming late; had been subjected to a severe cross-examination, and threatened with forfeiture of her next holiday. But she vowed to join me even at the cost of her place. I thought I should go mad at the prospect of being parted from her a whole week. I was more depressed because a letter which had arrived from her father appeared to have been tampered with.

I passed a wretched night and a still more miserable day.

The next day the weather was appalling. Nature seemed to be dissolving in a cold, ceaseless rain—a rain like that which announces the approach of winter. All the way to the laboratory my ears were tortured with the criers announcing the names of the condemned, a large number of men, women, and children. The bloody harvest was over-rich. I should not lack subjects for my investigations that day.

The day ended early. At four o’clock I arrived at Clamart; it was almost night.

The view of the cemetery, with its large, new-made graves; the sparse, leafless trees that swayed in the wind, was desolate, almost appalling.

A large, open pit yawned before me. It was to receive to-day’s harvest from the Place de la Révolution. An exceedingly large number of victims was expected, for the pit was deeper than usual.

Mechanically I approached the grave. At the bottom the water had gathered in a pool; my feet slipped; I came within an inch of falling in. My hair stood on end. The rain had drenched me to the skin. I shuddered and hastened into the laboratory.

It was, as I have said, an abandoned chapel. My eyes searched—I know not why—to discover if some traces of the holy purpose to which the edifice had once been devoted did not still adhere to the walls or to the altar; but the walls were bare, the altar empty.

I struck a light and deposited the candle on the operating-table on which lay scattered a miscellaneous assortment of the strange instruments I employed. I sat down and fell into a reverie. I thought of the poor queen, whom I had seen in her beauty, glory, and happiness, yesterday carted to the scaffold, pursued by the execrations of a people, to-day lying headless on the common sinners’ bier—she who had slept beneath the gilded canopy of the throne of the Tuileries and St. Cloud.

As I sat thus, absorbed in gloomy meditation, wind and rain without redoubled in fury. The rain-drops dashed against the window-panes, the storm swept with melancholy moaning through the branches of the trees. Anon there mingled with the violence of the elements the sound of wheels.

It was the executioner’s red hearse with its ghastly freight from the Place de la Révolution.

The door of the little chapel was pushed ajar, and two men, drenched with rain, entered, carrying a sack between them.

“There, M. Ledru,” said the guillotinier; “there is what your heart longs for! Be in no hurry this night! We’ll leave you to enjoy their society alone. Orders are not to cover them up till to-morrow, and so they’ll not take cold.”

With a horrible laugh, the two executioners deposited the sack in a corner, near the former altar, right in front of me. Thereupon they sauntered out, leaving open the door, which swung furiously on its hinges till my candle flashed and flared in the fierce draft.

I heard them unharness the horse, lock the cemetery, and go away.

I was strangely impelled to go with them, but an indefinable power fettered me in my place. I could not repress a shudder. I had no fear; but the violence of the storm, the splashing of the rain, the whistling sounds of the lashing branches, the shrill vibration of the atmosphere, which made my candle tremble—all this filled me with a vague terror that began at the roots of my hair and communicated itself to every part of my body.

Suddenly I fancied I heard a voice! A voice at once soft and plaintive; a voice within the chapel, pronouncing the name of “Albert!”

I was startled.

“Albert!”

But one person in all the world addressed me by that name!

Slowly I directed my weeping eyes around the chapel, which, though small, was not completely lighted by the feeble rays of the candle, leaving the nooks and angles in darkness, and my look remained fixed on the blood-soaked sack near the altar with its hideous contents.

At this moment the same voice repeated the same name, only it sounded fainter and more plaintive.

“Albert!”

I bolted out of my chair, frozen with horror.

The voice seemed to proceed from the sack!

I touched myself to make sure that I was awake; then I walked toward the sack with my arms extended before me, but stark and staring with horror. I thrust my hand into it. Then it seemed to me as if two lips, still warm, pressed a kiss upon my fingers!

I had reached that stage of boundless terror where the excess of fear turns into the audacity of despair. I seized the head and collapsing in my chair, placed it in front of me.

Then I gave vent to a fearful scream. This head, with its lips still warm, with the eyes half closed, was the head of Solange!

I thought I should go mad.

Three times I called:

“Solange! Solange! Solange!”

At the third time she opened her eyes and looked at me. Tears trickled down her cheeks; then a moist glow darted from her eyes, as if the soul were passing, and the eyes closed, never to open again.

I sprang to my feet a raving maniac, I wanted to fly; I knocked against the table; it fell. The candle was extinguished; the head rolled upon the floor, and I fell prostrate, as if a terrible fever had stricken me down—an icy-shudder convulsed me, and, with a deep sigh, I swooned.

The following morning at six the grave-diggers found me, cold as the flagstones on which I lay.

Solange, betrayed by her father’s letter, had been arrested the same day, condemned, and executed.

The head that had called me, the eyes that had looked at me, were the head, the eyes, of Solange!

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A friend of mine, a soldier, who died in Greece of fever some years since, described to me one day his first engagement. His story so impressed me that I wrote it down from memory. It was as follows:

I joined my regiment on September 4th. It was evening. I found the colonel in the camp. He received me rather bruskly, but having read the general’s introductory letter he changed his manner and addressed me courteously.

By him I was presented to my captain, who had just come in from reconnoitring. This captain, whose acquaintance I had scarcely time to make, was a tall, dark man, of harsh, repelling aspect. He had been a private soldier, and had won his cross and epaulettes upon the field of battle. His voice, which was hoarse and feeble, contrasted strangely with his gigantic stature. This voice of his he owed, as I was told, to a bullet which had passed completely through his body at the battle of Jena.

On learning that I had just come from college at Fontainebleau, he remarked, with a wry face: “My lieutenant died last night.”

I understood what he implied, “It is for you to take his place, and you are good for nothing.”

A sharp retort was on my tongue, but I restrained it.

The moon was rising behind the redoubt of Cheverino, which stood two cannon-shots from our encampment. The moon was large and red, as is common at her rising; but that night she seemed to me of extraordinary size. For an instant the redoubt stood out coal-black against the glittering disk. It resembled the cone of a volcano at the moment of eruption.

An old soldier, at whose side I found myself, observed the color of the moon.

“She is very red,” he said. “It is a sign that it will cost us dear to win this wonderful redoubt.”

I was always superstitious, and this piece of augury, coming at that moment, troubled me. I sought my couch, but could not sleep. I rose, and walked about a while, watching the long line of fires upon the heights beyond the village of Cheverino.

When the sharp night air had thoroughly refreshed my blood I went back to the fire. I rolled my mantle round me, and I shut my eyes, trusting not to open them till daybreak. But sleep refused to visit me. Insensibly my thoughts grew doleful. I told myself that I had not a friend among the hundred thousand men who filled that plain. If I were wounded, I should be placed in hospital, in the hands of ignorant and careless surgeons. I called to mind what I had heard of operations. My heart beat violently, and I mechanically arranged, as a kind of rude cuirass, my handkerchief and pocketbook upon my breast. Then, overpowered with weariness, my eyes closed drowsily, only to open the next instant with a start at some new thought of horror.

Fatigue, however, at last gained the day. When the drums beat at daybreak I was fast asleep. We were drawn up in ranks. The roll was called, then we stacked our arms, and everything announced that we should pass another uneventful day.

But about three o’clock an aide-de-camp arrived with orders. We were commanded to take arms.

Our sharpshooters marched into the plain, We followed slowly, and in twenty minutes we saw the outposts of the Russians falling back and entering the redoubt. We had a battery of artillery on our right, another on our left, but both some distance in advance of us. They opened a sharp fire upon the enemy, who returned it briskly, and the redoubt of Cheverino was soon concealed by volumes of thick smoke. Our regiment was almost covered from the Russians’ fire by a piece of rising ground. Their bullets (which besides were rarely aimed at us, for they preferred to fire upon our cannoneers) whistled over us, or at worst knocked up a shower of earth and stones.

Just as the order to advance was given, the captain looked at me intently. I stroked my sprouting mustache with an air of unconcern; in truth, I was not frightened, and only dreaded lest I might be thought so. These passing bullets aided my heroic coolness, while my self-respect assured me that the danger was a real one, since I was veritably under fire. I was delighted at my self-possession, and already looked forward to the pleasure of describing in Parisian drawing-rooms the capture of the redoubt of Cheverino.

The colonel passed before our company. “Well,” he said to me, “you are going to see warm work in your first action.”

I gave a martial smile, and brushed my cuff, on which a bullet, which had struck the earth at thirty paces distant, had cast a little dust.

It appeared that the Russians had discovered that their bullets did no harm, for they replaced them by a fire of shells, which began to reach us in the hollows where we lay. One of these, in its explosion, knocked off my shako and killed a man beside me.

“I congratulate you,” said the captain, as I picked up my shako. “You are safe now for the day.”

I knew the military superstition which believes that the axiom “non bis in idem” is as applicable to the battlefield as to the courts of justice, I replaced my shako with a swagger.

“That’s a rude way to make one raise one’s hat,” I said, as lightly as I could. And this wretched piece of wit was, in the circumstances, received as excellent.

“I compliment you,” said the captain. “You will command a company to-night; for I shall not survive the day. Every time I have been wounded the officer below me has been touched by some spent ball; and,” he added, in a lower tone, “all the names began with P.”

I laughed skeptically; most people would have done the same; but most would also have been struck, as I was, by these prophetic words. But, conscript though I was, I felt that I could trust my thoughts to no one, and that it was my duty to seem always calm and bold.

At the end of half an hour the Russian fire had sensibly diminished. We left our cover to advance on the redoubt.

Our regiment was composed of three battalions. The second had to take the enemy in flank; the two others formed a storming party. I was in the third.

On issuing from behind the cover, we were received by several volleys, which did but little harm.

The whistling of the balls amazed me. “But after all,” I thought, “a battle is less terrible than I expected.”

We advanced at a smart run, our musketeers in front.

All at once the Russians uttered three hurrahs—three distinct hurrahs—and then stood silent, without firing.

“I don’t like that silence,” said the captain. “It bodes no good.”

I began to think our people were too eager. I could not help comparing, mentally, their shouts and clamor with the striking silence of the enemy.

We quickly reached the foot of the redoubt. The palisades were broken and the earthworks shattered by our balls. With a roar of “Vive l’Empereur,” our soldiers rushed across the ruins.

I raised my eyes. Never shall I forget the sight which met my view. The smoke had mostly lifted, and remained suspended, like a canopy, at twenty feet above the redoubt. Through a bluish mist could be perceived, behind the shattered parapet, the Russian Grenadiers, with rifles lifted, as motionless as statues. I can see them still,—the left eye of every soldier glaring at us, the right hidden by his lifted gun. In an embrasure at a few feet distant, a man with a fuse stood by a cannon.

I shuddered. I believed that my last hour had come.

“Now for the dance to open,” cried the captain. These were the last words I heard him speak.

There came from the redoubts a roll of drums. I saw the muzzles lowered. I shut my eyes; I heard a most appalling crash of sound, to which succeeded groans and cries. Then I looked up, amazed to find myself still living. The redoubt was once more wrapped in smoke. I was surrounded by the dead and wounded. The captain was extended at my feet; a ball had carried off his head, and I was covered with his blood. Of all the company, only six men, except myself, remained erect.

This carnage was succeeded by a kind of stupor. The next instant the colonel, with his hat on his sword’s point, had scaled the parapet with a cry of “Vive l’Empereur.” The survivors followed him. All that succeeded is to me a kind of dream. We rushed into the redoubt, I know not how, we fought hand to hand in the midst of smoke so thick that no man could perceive his enemy. I found my sabre dripping blood; I heard a shout of “Victory”; and, in the clearing smoke, I saw the earthworks piled with dead and dying. The cannons were covered with a heap of corpses. About two hundred men in the French uniform were standing, without order, loading their muskets or wiping their bayonets. Eleven Russian prisoners were with them. The colonel was lying, bathed in blood, upon a broken cannon. A group of soldiers crowded round him. I approached them.

“Who is the oldest captain?” he was asking of a sergeant.

The sergeant shrugged his shoulders most expressively.

“Who is the oldest lieutenant?”

“This gentleman, who came last night,” replied the sergeant calmly.

The colonel smiled bitterly.

“Come, sir,” he said to me, “you are now in chief command. Fortify the gorge of the redoubt at once with wagons, for the enemy is out in force. But General C——— is coming to support you.”

“Colonel,” I asked him, “are you badly wounded?”

“Pish, my dear fellow. The redoubt is taken.”

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(Part of a trilogy The Man in a Case and Gooseberries are the other stories, About Love being the third; each dealing with the same subject of missed opportunities-b)

At lunch next day there were very nice pies, crayfish, and mutton cutlets; and while we were eating, Nikanor, the cook, came up to ask what the visitors would like for dinner. He was a man of medium height, with a puffy face and little eyes; he was close-shaven, and it looked as though his moustaches had not been shaved, but had been pulled out by the roots. Alehin told us that the beautiful Pelagea was in love with this cook. As he drank and was of a violent character, she did not want to marry him, but was willing to live with him without. He was very devout, and his religious convictions would not allow him to “live in sin”; he insisted on her marrying him, and would consent to nothing else, and when he was drunk he used to abuse her and even beat her. Whenever he got drunk she used to hide upstairs and sob, and on such occasions Alehin and the servants stayed in the house to be ready to defend her in case of necessity.

We began talking about love.

“How love is born,” said Alehin, “why Pelagea does not love somebody more like herself in her spiritual and external qualities, and why she fell in love with Nikanor, that ugly snout — we all call him ‘The Snout’ — how far questions of personal happiness are of consequence in love — all that is known; one can take what view one likes of it. So far only one incontestable truth has been uttered about love: ‘This is a great mystery.’ Everything else that has been written or said about love is not a conclusion, but only a statement of questions which have remained unanswered. The explanation which would seem to fit one case does not apply in a dozen others, and the very best thing, to my mind, would be to explain every case individually without attempting to generalize. We ought, as the doctors say, to individualize each case.”

“Perfectly true,” Burkin assented.
“We Russians of the educated class have a partiality for these questions that remain unanswered. Love is usually poeticized, decorated with roses, nightingales; we Russians decorate our loves with these momentous questions, and select the most uninteresting of them, too. In Moscow, when I was a student, I had a friend who shared my life, a charming lady, and every time I took her in my arms she was thinking what I would allow her a month for housekeeping and what was the price of beef a pound. In the same way, when we are in love we are never tired of asking ourselves questions: whether it is honourable or dishonourable, sensible or stupid, what this love is leading up to, and so on. Whether it is a good thing or not I don’t know, but that it is in the way, unsatisfactory, and irritating, I do know.”

It looked as though he wanted to tell some story. People who lead a solitary existence always have something in their hearts which they are eager to talk about. In town bachelors visit the baths and the restaurants on purpose to talk, and sometimes tell the most interesting things to bath attendants and waiters; in the country, as a rule, they unbosom themselves to their guests. Now from the window we could see a grey sky, trees drenched in the rain; in such weather we could go nowhere, and there was nothing for us to do but to tell stories and to listen.

“I have lived at Sofino and been farming for a long time,” Alehin began, “ever since I left the University. I am an idle gentleman by education, a studious person by disposition; but there was a big debt owing on the estate when I came here, and as my father was in debt partly because he had spent so much on my education, I resolved not to go away, but to work till I paid off the debt. I made up my mind to this and set to work, not, I must confess, without some repugnance. The land here does not yield much, and if one is not to farm at a loss one must employ serf labour or hired labourers, which is almost the same thing, or put it on a peasant footing — that is, work the fields oneself and with one’s family. There is no middle path. But in those days I did not go into such subtleties. I did not leave a clod of earth unturned; I gathered together all the peasants, men and women, from the neighbouring villages; the work went on at a tremendous pace. I myself ploughed and sowed and reaped, and was bored doing it, and frowned with disgust, like a village cat driven by hunger to eat cucumbers in the kitchen-garden. My body ached, and I slept as I walked. At first it seemed to me that I could easily reconcile this life of toil with my cultured habits; to do so, I thought, all that is necessary is to maintain a certain external order in life. I established myself upstairs here in the best rooms, and ordered them to bring me there coffee and liquor after lunch and dinner, and when I went to bed I read every night the Yyesnik Evropi. But one day our priest, Father Ivan, came and drank up all my liquor at one sitting; and the Yyesnik Evropi went to the priest’s daughters; as in the summer, especially at the haymaking, I did not succeed in getting to my bed at all, and slept in the sledge in the barn, or somewhere in the forester’s lodge, what chance was there of reading? Little by little I moved downstairs, began dining in the servants’ kitchen, and of my former luxury nothing is left but the servants who were in my father’s service, and whom it would be painful to turn away.

“In the first years I was elected here an honourary justice of the peace. I used to have to go to the town and take part in the sessions of the congress and of the circuit court, and this was a pleasant change for me. When you live here for two or three months without a break, especially in the winter, you begin at last to pine for a black coat. And in the circuit court there were frock-coats, and uniforms, and dress-coats, too, all lawyers, men who have received a general education; I had some one to talk to. After sleeping in the sledge and dining in the kitchen, to sit in an arm-chair in clean linen, in thin boots, with a chain on one’s waistcoat, is such luxury!

“I received a warm welcome in the town. I made friends eagerly. And of all my acquaintanceships the most intimate and, to tell the truth, the most agreeable to me was my acquaintance with Luganovitch, the vice-president of the circuit court. You both know him: a most charming personality. It all happened just after a celebrated case of incendiarism; the preliminary investigation lasted two days; we were exhausted. Luganovitch looked at me and said:

” ‘Look here, come round to dinner with me.’

“This was unexpected, as I knew Luganovitch very little, only officially, and I had never been to his house. I only just went to my hotel room to change and went off to dinner. And here it was my lot to meet Anna Alexyevna, Luganovitch’s wife. At that time she was still very young, not more than twenty-two, and her first baby had been born just six months before. It is all a thing of the past; and now I should find it difficult to define what there was so exceptional in her, what it was in her attracted me so much; at the time, at dinner, it was all perfectly clear to me. I saw a lovely young, good, intelligent, fascinating woman, such as I had never met before; and I felt her at once some one close and already familiar, as though that face, those cordial, intelligent eyes, I had seen somewhere in my childhood, in the album which lay on my mother’s chest of drawers.

“Four Jews were charged with being incendiaries, were regarded as a gang of robbers, and, to my mind, quite groundlessly. At dinner I was very much excited, I was uncomfortable, and I don’t know what I said, but Anna Alexyevna kept shaking her head and saying to her husband:

” ‘Dmitry, how is this?’

“Luganovitch is a good-natured man, one of those simple-hearted people who firmly maintain the opinion that once a man is charged before a court he is guilty, and to express doubt of the correctness of a sentence cannot be done except in legal form on paper, and not at dinner and in private conversation.

” ‘You and I did not set fire to the place,’ he said softly, ‘and you see we are not condemned, and not in prison.’

“And both husband and wife tried to make me eat and drink as much as possible. From some trifling details, from the way they made the coffee together, for instance, and from the way they understood each other at half a word, I could gather that they lived in harmony and comfort, and that they were glad of a visitor. After dinner they played a duet on the piano; then it got dark, and I went home. That was at the beginning of spring.

“After that I spent the whole summer at Sofino without a break, and I had no time to think of the town, either, but the memory of the graceful fair-haired woman remained in my mind all those days; I did not think of her, but it was as though her light shadow were lying on my heart.

“In the late autumn there was a theatrical performance for some charitable object in the town. I went into the governor’s box (I was invited to go there in the interval); I looked, and there was Anna Alexyevna sitting beside the governor’s wife; and again the same irresistible, thrilling impression of beauty and sweet, caressing eyes, and again the same feeling of nearness. We sat side by side, then went to the foyer.

” ‘You’ve grown thinner,’ she said; ‘have you been ill?’

” ‘Yes, I’ve had rheumatism in my shoulder, and in rainy weather I can’t sleep.’

” ‘You look dispirited. In the spring, when you came to dinner, you were younger, more confident. You were full of eagerness, and talked a great deal then; you were very interesting, and I really must confess I was a little carried away by you. For some reason you often came back to my memory during the summer, and when I was getting ready for the theatre today I thought I should see you.’

“And she laughed.

” ‘But you look dispirited today,’ she repeated; ‘it makes you seem older.’

“The next day I lunched at the Luganovitchs’. After lunch they drove out to their summer villa, in order to make arrangements there for the winter, and I went with them. I returned with them to the town, and at midnight drank tea with them in quiet domestic surroundings, while the fire glowed, and the young mother kept going to see if her baby girl was asleep. And after that, every time I went to town I never failed to visit the Luganovitchs. They grew used to me, and I grew used to them. As a rule I went in unannounced, as though I were one of the family.

” ‘Who is there?’ I would hear from a faraway room, in the drawling voice that seemed to me so lovely.

” ‘It is Pavel Konstantinovitch,’ answered the maid or the nurse.

“Anna Alexyevna would come out to me with an anxious face, and would ask every time:

” ‘Why is it so long since you have been? Has anything happened?’

“Her eyes, the elegant refined hand she gave me, her indoor dress, the way she did her hair, her voice, her step, always produced the same impression on me of something new and extraordinary in my life, and very important. We talked together for hours, were silent, thinking each our own thoughts, or she played for hours to me on the piano. If there were no one at home I stayed and waited, talked to the nurse, played with the child, or lay on the sofa in the study and read; and when Anna Alexyevna came back I met her in the hall, took all her parcels from her, and for some reason I carried those parcels every time with as much love, with as much solemnity, as a boy.

“There is a proverb that if a peasant woman has no troubles she will buy a pig. The Luganovitchs had no troubles, so they made friends with me. If I did not come to the town I must be ill or something must have happened to me, and both of them were extremely anxious. They were worried that I, an educated man with a knowledge of languages, should, instead of devoting myself to science or literary work, live in the country, rush round like a squirrel in a rage, work hard with never a penny to show for it. They fancied that I was unhappy, and that I only talked, laughed, and ate to conceal my sufferings, and even at cheerful moments when I felt happy I was aware of their searching eyes fixed upon me. They were particularly touching when I really was depressed, when I was being worried by some creditor or had not money enough to pay interest on the proper day. The two of them, husband and wife, would whisper together at the window; then he would come to me and say with a grave face:

” ‘If you really are in need of money at the moment, Pavel Konstantinovitch, my wife and I beg you not to hesitate to borrow from us.’

“And he would blush to his ears with emotion. And it would happen that, after whispering in the same way at the window, he would come up to me, with red ears, and say:

” ‘My wife and I earnestly beg you to accept this present.’

“And he would give me studs, a cigar-case, or a lamp, and I would send them game, butter, and flowers from the country. They both, by the way, had considerable means of their own. In early days I often borrowed money, and was not very particular about it — borrowed wherever I could — but nothing in the world would have induced me to borrow from the Luganovitchs. But why talk of it?

“I was unhappy. At home, in the fields, in the barn, I thought of her; I tried to understand the mystery of a beautiful, intelligent young woman’s marrying some one so uninteresting, almost an old man (her husband was over forty), and having children by him; to understand the mystery of this uninteresting, good, simple-hearted man, who argued with such wearisome good sense, at balls and evening parties kept near the more solid people, looking listless and superfluous, with a submissive, uninterested expression, as though he had been brought there for sale, who yet believed in his right to be happy, to have children by her; and I kept trying to understand why she had met him first and not me, and why such a terrible mistake in our lives need have happened.

“And when I went to the town I saw every time from her eyes that she was expecting me, and she would confess to me herself that she had had a peculiar feeling all that day and had guessed that I should come. We talked a long time, and were silent, yet we did not confess our love to each other, but timidly and jealously concealed it. We were afraid of everything that might reveal our secret to ourselves. I loved her tenderly, deeply, but I reflected and kept asking myself what our love could lead to if we had not the strength to fight against it. It seemed to be incredible that my gentle, sad love could all at once coarsely break up the even tenor of the life of her husband, her children, and all the household in which I was so loved and trusted. Would it be honourable? She would go away with me, but where? Where could I take her? It would have been a different matter if I had had a beautiful, interesting life — if, for instance, I had been struggling for the emancipation of my country, or had been a celebrated man of science, an artist or a painter; but as it was it would mean taking her from one everyday humdrum life to another as humdrum or perhaps more so. And how long would our happiness last? What would happen to her in case I was ill, in case I died, or if we simply grew cold to one another?

“And she apparently reasoned in the same way. She thought of her husband, her children, and of her mother, who loved the husband like a son. If she abandoned herself to her feelings she would have to lie, or else to tell the truth, and in her position either would have been equally terrible and inconvenient. And she was tormented by the question whether her love would bring me happiness — would she not complicate my life, which, as it was, was hard enough and full of all sorts of trouble? She fancied she was not young enough for me, that she was not industrious nor energetic enough to begin a new life, and she often talked to her husband of the importance of my marrying a girl of intelligence and merit who would be a capable housewife and a help to me — and she would immediately add that it would be difficult to find such a girl in the whole town.

“Meanwhile the years were passing. Anna Alexyevna already had two children. When I arrived at the Luganovitchs’ the servants smiled cordially, the children shouted that Uncle Pavel Konstantinovitch had come, and hung on my neck; every one was overjoyed. They did not understand what was passing in my soul, and thought that I, too, was happy. Every one looked on me as a noble being. And grown-ups and children alike felt that a noble being was walking about their rooms, and that gave a peculiar charm to their manner towards me, as though in my presence their life, too, was purer and more beautiful. Anna Alexyevna and I used to go to the theatre together, always walking there; we used to sit side by side in the stalls, our shoulders touching. I would take the opera-glass from her hands without a word, and feel at that minute that she was near me, that she was mine, that we could not live without each other; but by some strange misunderstanding, when we came out of the theatre we always said good-bye and parted as though we were strangers. Goodness knows what people were saying about us in the town already, but there was not a word of truth in it all!

“In the latter years Anna Alexyevna took to going away for frequent visits to her mother or to her sister; she began to suffer from low spirits, she began to recognize that her life was spoilt and unsatisfied, and at times she did not care to see her husband nor her children. She was already being treated for neurasthenia.

“We were silent and still silent, and in the presence of outsiders she displayed a strange irritation in regard to me; whatever I talked about, she disagreed with me, and if I had an argument she sided with my opponent. If I dropped anything, she would say coldly:

” ‘I congratulate you.’

“If I forgot to take the opera-glass when we were going to the theatre, she would say afterwards:

” ‘I knew you would forget it.’

“Luckily or unluckily, there is nothing in our lives that does not end sooner or later. The time of parting came, as Luganovitch was appointed president in one of the western provinces. They had to sell their furniture, their horses, their summer villa. When they drove out to the villa, and afterwards looked back as they were going away, to look for the last time at the garden, at the green roof, every one was sad, and I realized that I had to say goodbye not only to the villa. It was arranged that at the end of August we should see Anna Alexyevna off to the Crimea, where the doctors were sending her, and that a little later Luganovitch and the children would set off for the western province.

“We were a great crowd to see Anna Alexyevna off. When she had said good-bye to her husband and her children and there was only a minute left before the third bell, I ran into her compartment to put a basket, which she had almost forgotten, on the rack, and I had to say good-bye. When our eyes met in the compartment our spiritual fortitude deserted us both; I took her in my arms, she pressed her face to my breast, and tears flowed from her eyes. Kissing her face, her shoulders, her hands wet with tears — oh, how unhappy we were! — I confessed my love for her, and with a burning pain in my heart I realized how unnecessary, how petty, and how deceptive all that had hindered us from loving was. I understood that when you love you must either, in your reasonings about that love, start from what is highest, from what is more important than happiness or unhappiness, sin or virtue in their accepted meaning, or you must not reason at all.

“I kissed her for the last time, pressed her hand, and parted for ever. The train had already started. I went into the next compartment — it was empty — and until I reached the next station I sat there crying. Then I walked home to Sofino. . . .”

While Alehin was telling his story, the rain left off and the sun came out. Burkin and Ivan Ivanovitch went out on the balcony, from which there was a beautiful view over the garden and the mill-pond, which was shining now in the sunshine like a mirror. They admired it, and at the same time they were sorry that this man with the kind, clever eyes, who had told them this story with such genuine feeling, should be rushing round and round this huge estate like a squirrel on a wheel instead of devoting himself to science or something else which would have made his life more pleasant; and they thought what a sorrowful face Anna Alexyevna must have had when he said good-bye to her in the railway-carriage and kissed her face and shoulders. Both of them had met her in the town, and Burkin knew her and thought her beautiful.
The End

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Impia tortorum longas hic turba furores Sanguinis innocui non satiata, aluit. Sospite nunc patria, fracto nunc funeris antro, Mors ubi dira fuit vita salusque patent.
[Quatrain composed for the gates of a market to be erected upon the site of the Jacobin Club House in Paris.]
I WAS sick, sick unto death, with that long agony, and when they at length unbound me, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses were leaving me. The sentence, the dread sentence of death, was the last of distinct accentuation which reached my ears. After that, the sound of the inquisitorial voices seemed merged in one dreamy indeterminate hum. It conveyed to my soul the idea of REVOLUTION, perhaps from its association in fancy with the burr of a mill-wheel. This only for a brief period, for presently I heard no more. Yet, for a while, I saw, but with how terrible an exaggeration! I saw the lips of the black-robed judges. They appeared to me white–whiter than the sheet upon which I trace these words–and thin even to grotesqueness; thin with the intensity of their expression of firmness, of immovable resolution, of stern contempt of human torture. I saw that the decrees of what to me was fate were still issuing from those lips. I saw them writhe with a deadly locution. I saw them fashion the syllables of my name, and I shuddered, because no sound succeeded. I saw, too, for a few moments of delirious horror, the soft and nearly imperceptible waving of the sable draperies which enwrapped the walls of the apartment; and then my vision fell upon the seven tall candles upon the table. At first they wore the aspect of charity, and seemed white slender angels who would save me: but then all at once there came a most deadly nausea over my spirit, and I felt every fibre in my frame thrill, as if I had touched the wire of a galvanic battery, while the angel forms became meaningless spectres, with heads of flame, and I saw that from them there would be no help. And then there stole into my fancy, like a rich musical note, the thought of what sweet rest there must be in the grave. The thought came gently and stealthily, and it seemed long before it attained full appreciation; but just as my spirit came at length properly to feel and entertain it, the figures of the judges vanished, as if magically, from before me; the tall candles sank into nothingness; their flames went out utterly; the blackness of darkness superened; all sensations appeared swallowed up in a mad rushing descent as of the soul into Hades. Then silence, and stillness, and night were the universe.
I had swooned; but still will not say that all of consciousness was lost. What of it there remained I will not attempt to define, or even to describe; yet all was not lost. In the deepest slumber–no! In delirium–no! In a swoon–no! In death–no! Even in the grave all was not lost. Else there is no immortality for man. Arousing from the most profound of slumbers, we break the gossamer web of some dream. Yet in a second afterwards (so frail may that web have been) we remember not that we have dreamed. In the return to life from the swoon there are two stages; first, that of the sense of mental or spiritual; secondly, that of the sense of physical existence. It seems probable that if, upon reaching the second stage, we could recall the impressions of the first, we should find these impressions eloquent in memories of the gulf beyond. And that gulf is, what? How at least shall we distinguish its shadows from those of the tomb? But if the impressions of what I have termed the first stage are not at will recalled, yet, after long interval, do they not come unbidden, while we marvel whence they come? He who has never swooned is not he who finds strange palaces and wildly familiar faces in coals that glow; is not he who beholds floating in mid-air the sad visions that the many may not view; is not he who ponders over the perfume of some novel flower; is not he whose brain grows bewildered with the meaning of some musical cadence which has never before arrested his attention.
Amid frequent and thoughtful endeavours to remember, amid earnest struggles to regather some token of the state of seeming nothingness into which my soul had lapsed, there have been moments when I have dreamed of success; there have been brief, very brief periods when I have conjured up remembrances which the lucid reason of a later epoch assures me could have had reference only to that condition of seeming unconsciousness. These shadows of memory tell indistinctly of tall figures that lifted and bore me in silence down–down–still down–till a hideous dizziness oppressed me at the mere idea of the interminableness of the descent. They tell also of a vague horror at my heart on account of that heart’s unnatural stillness. Then comes a sense of sudden motionlessness throughout all things; as if those who bore me (a ghastly train!) had outrun, in their descent, the limits of the limitless, and paused from the wearisomeness of their toil. After this I call to mind flatness and dampness; and then all is MADNESS–the madness of a memory which busies itself among forbidden things.
Very suddenly there came back to my soul motion and sound–the tumultuous motion of the heart, and in my ears the sound of its beating. Then a pause in which all is blank. Then again sound, and motion, and touch, a tingling sensation pervading my frame. Then the mere consciousness of existence, without thought, a condition which lasted long. Then, very suddenly, THOUGHT, and shuddering terror, and earnest endeavour to comprehend my true state. Then a strong desire to lapse into insensibility. Then a rushing revival of soul and a successful effort to move. And now a full memory of the trial, of the judges, of the sable draperies, of the sentence, of the sickness, of the swoon. Then entire forgetfulness of all that followed; of all that a later day and much earnestness of endeavour have enabled me vaguely to recall.
So far I had not opened my eyes. I felt that I lay upon my back unbound. I reached out my hand, and it fell heavily upon something damp and hard. There I suffered it to remain for many minutes, while I strove to imagine where and what I could be. I longed, yet dared not, to employ my vision. I dreaded the first glance at objects around me. It was not that I feared to look upon things horrible, but that I grew aghast lest there should be NOTHING to see. At length, with a wild desperation at heart, I quickly unclosed my eyes. My worst thoughts, then, were confirmed. The blackness of eternal night encompassed me. I struggled for breath. The intensity of the darkness seemed to oppress and stifle me. The atmosphere was intolerably close. I still lay quietly, and made effort to exercise my reason. I brought to mind the inquisitorial proceedings, and attempted from that point to deduce my real condition. The sentence had passed, and it appeared to me that a very long interval of time had since elapsed. Yet not for a moment did I suppose myself actually dead. Such a supposition, notwithstanding what we read in fiction, is altogether inconsistent with real existence;–but where and in what state was I? The condemned to death, I knew, perished usually at the auto-da-fes, and one of these had been held on the very night of the day of my trial. Had I been remanded to my dungeon, to await the next sacrifice, which would not take place for many months? This I at once saw could not be. Victims had been in immediate demand. Moreover my dungeon, as well as all the condemned cells at Toledo, had stone floors, and light was not altogether excluded.
A fearful idea now suddenly drove the blood in torrents upon my heart, and for a brief period I once more relapsed into insensibility. Upon recovering, I at once started to my feet, trembling convulsively in every fibre. I thrust my arms wildly above and around me in all directions. I felt nothing; yet dreaded to move a step, lest I should be impeded by the walls of a TOMB. Perspiration burst from every pore, and stood in cold big beads upon my forehead. The agony of suspense grew at length intolerable, and I cautiously moved forward, with my arms extended, and my eyes straining from their sockets, in the hope of catching some faint ray of light. I proceeded for many paces, but still all was blackness and vacancy. I breathed more freely. It seemed evident that mine was not, at least, the most hideous of fates.
And now, as I still continued to step cautiously onward, there came thronging upon my recollection a thousand vague rumours of the horrors of Toledo. Of the dungeons there had been strange things narrated–fables I had always deemed them–but yet strange, and too ghastly to repeat, save in a whisper. Was I left to perish of starvation in this subterranean world of darkness; or what fate perhaps even more fearful awaited me? That the result would be death, and a death of more than customary bitterness, I knew too well the character of my judges to doubt. The mode and the hour were all that occupied or distracted me.
My outstretched hands at length encountered some solid obstruction. It was a wall, seemingly of stone masonry–very smooth, slimy, and cold. I followed it up; stepping with all the careful distrust with which certain antique narratives had inspired me. This process, however, afforded me no means of ascertaining the dimensions of my dungeon; as I might make its circuit, and return to the point whence I set out, without being aware of the fact, so perfectly uniform seemed the wall. I therefore sought the knife which had been in my pocket when led into the inquisitorial chamber, but it was gone; my clothes had been exchanged for a wrapper of coarse serge. I had thought of forcing the blade in some minute crevice of the masonry, so as to identify my point of departure. The difficulty, nevertheless, was but trivial, although, in the disorder of my fancy, it seemed at first insuperable. I tore a part of the hem from the robe, and placed the fragment at full length, and at right angles to the wall. In groping my way around the prison, I could not fail to encounter this rag upon completing the circuit. So, at least, I thought, but I had not counted upon the extent of the dungeon, or upon my own weakness. The ground was moist and slippery. I staggered onward for some time, when I stumbled and fell. My excessive fatigue induced me to remain prostrate, and sleep soon overtook me as I lay.
Upon awaking, and stretching forth an arm, I found beside me a loaf and a pitcher with water. I was too much exhausted to reflect upon this circumstance, but ate and drank with avidity. Shortly afterwards I resumed my tour around the prison, and with much toil came at last upon the fragment of the serge. Up to the period when I fell I had counted fifty-two paces, and upon resuming my walk I had counted forty-eight more, when I arrived at the rag. There were in all, then, a hundred paces; and, admitting two paces to the yard, I presumed the dungeon to be fifty yards in circuit. I had met, however, with many angles in the wall, and thus I could form no guess at the shape of the vault, for vault I could not help supposing it to be.
I had little object–certainly no hope–in these researches, but a vague curiosity prompted me to continue them. Quitting the wall, I resolved to cross the area of the enclosure. At first I proceeded with extreme caution, for the floor although seemingly of solid material was treacherous with slime. At length, however, I took courage and did not hesitate to step firmly–endeavouring to cross in as direct a line as possible. I had advanced some ten or twelve paces in this manner, when the remnant of the torn hem of my robe became entangled between my legs. I stepped on it, and fell violently on my face.
In the confusion attending my fall, I did not immediately apprehend a somewhat startling circumstance, which yet, in a few seconds afterward, and while I still lay prostrate, arrested my attention. It was this: my chin rested upon the floor of the prison, but my lips, and the upper portion of my head, although seemingly at a less elevation than the chin, touched nothing. At the same time, my forehead seemed bathed in a clammy vapour, and the peculiar smell of decayed fungus arose to my nostrils. I put forward my arm, and shuddered to find that I had fallen at the very brink of a circular pit, whose extent of course I had no means of ascertaining at the moment. Groping about the masonry just below the margin, I succeeded in dislodging a small fragment, and let it fall into the abyss. For many seconds I hearkened to its reverberations as it dashed against the sides of the chasm in its descent; at length there was a sullen plunge into water, succeeded by loud echoes. At the same moment there came a sound resembling the quick opening, and as rapid closing of a door overhead, while a faint gleam of light flashed suddenly through the gloom, and as suddenly faded away.
I saw clearly the doom which had been prepared for me, and congratulated myself upon the timely accident by which I had escaped. Another step before my fall, and the world had seen me no more and the death just avoided was of that very character which I had regarded as fabulous and frivolous in the tales respecting the Inquisition. To the victims of its tyranny, there was the choice of death with its direst physical agonies, or death with its most hideous moral horrors. I had been reserved for the latter. By long suffering my nerves had been unstrung, until I trembled at the sound of my own voice, and had become in every respect a fitting subject for the species of torture which awaited me.
Shaking in every limb, I groped my way back to the wall–resolving there to perish rather than risk the terrors of the wells, of which my imagination now pictured many in various positions about the dungeon. In other conditions of mind I might have had courage to end my misery at once by a plunge into one of these abysses; but now I was the veriest of cowards. Neither could I forget what I had read of these pits–that the SUDDEN extinction of life formed no part of their most horrible plan.
Agitation of spirit kept me awake for many long hours; but at length I again slumbered. Upon arousing, I found by my side, as before, a loaf and a pitcher of water. A burning thirst consumed me, and I emptied the vessel at a draught. It must have been drugged, for scarcely had I drunk before I became irresistibly drowsy. A deep sleep fell upon me–a sleep like that of death. How long it lasted of course I know not; but when once again I unclosed my eyes the objects around me were visible. By a wild sulphurous lustre, the origin of which I could not at first determine, I was enabled to see the extent and aspect of the prison.
In its size I had been greatly mistaken. The whole circuit of its walls did not exceed twenty-five yards. For some minutes this fact occasioned me a world of vain trouble; vain indeed–for what could be of less importance, under the terrible circumstances which environed me than the mere dimensions of my dungeon? But my soul took a wild interest in trifles, and I busied myself in endeavours to account for the error I had committed in my measurement. The truth at length flashed upon me. In my first attempt at exploration I had counted fifty-two paces up to the period when I fell; I must then have been within a pace or two of the fragment of serge; in fact I had nearly performed the circuit of the vault. I then slept, and upon awaking, I must have returned upon my steps, thus supposing the circuit nearly double what it actually was. My confusion of mind prevented me from observing that I began my tour with the wall to the left, and ended it with the wall to the right.
I had been deceived too in respect to the shape of the enclosure. In feeling my way I had found many angles, and thus deduced an idea of great irregularity, so potent is the effect of total darkness upon one arousing from lethargy or sleep! The angles were simply those of a few slight depressions or niches at odd intervals. The general shape of the prison was square. What I had taken for masonry seemed now to be iron, or some other metal in huge plates, whose sutures or joints occasioned the depression. The entire surface of this metallic enclosure was rudely daubed in all the hideous and repulsive devices to which the charnel superstition of the monks has given rise. The figures of fiends in aspects of menace, with skeleton forms and other more really fearful images, overspread and disfigured the walls. I observed that the outlines of these monstrosities were sufficiently distinct, but that the colours seemed faded and blurred, as if from the effects of a damp atmosphere. I now noticed the floor, too, which was of stone. In the centre yawned the circular pit from whose jaws I had escaped; but it was the only one in the dungeon.
All this I saw indistinctly and by much effort, for my personal condition had been greatly changed during slumber. I now lay upon my back, and at full length, on a species of low framework of wood. To this I was securely bound by a long strap resembling a surcingle. It passed in many convolutions about my limbs and body, leaving at liberty only my head, and my left arm to such extent that I could by dint of much exertion supply myself with food from an earthen dish which lay by my side on the floor. I saw to my horror that the pitcher had been removed. I say to my horror, for I was consumed with intolerable thirst. This thirst it appeared to be the design of my persecutors to stimulate, for the food in the dish was meat pungently seasoned.
Looking upward, I surveyed the ceiling of my prison. It was some thirty or forty feet overhead, and constructed much as the side walls. In one of its panels a very singular figure riveted my whole attention. It was the painted figure of Time as he is commonly represented, save that in lieu of a scythe he held what at a casual glance I supposed to be the pictured image of a huge pendulum, such as we see on antique clocks. There was something, however, in the appearance of this machine which caused me to regard it more attentively. While I gazed directly upward at it (for its position was immediately over my own), I fancied that I saw it in motion. In an instant afterward the fancy was confirmed. Its sweep was brief, and of course slow. I watched it for some minutes, somewhat in fear but more in wonder. Wearied at length with observing its dull movement, I turned my eyes upon the other objects in the cell.
A slight noise attracted my notice, and looking to the floor, I saw several enormous rats traversing it. They had issued from the well which lay just within view to my right. Even then while I gazed, they came up in troops hurriedly, with ravenous eyes, allured by the scent of the meat. From this it required much effort and attention to scare them away.
It might have been half-an-hour, perhaps even an hour (for I could take but imperfect note of time) before I again cast my eyes upward. What I then saw confounded and amazed me. The sweep of the pendulum had increased in extent by nearly a yard. As a natural consequence, its velocity was also much greater. But what mainly disturbed me was the idea that it had perceptibly DESCENDED. I now observed, with what horror it is needless to say, that its nether extremity was formed of a crescent of glittering steel, about a foot in length from horn to horn; the horns upward, and the under edge evidently as keen as that of a razor. Like a razor also it seemed massy and heavy, tapering from the edge into a solid and broad structure above. It was appended to a weighty rod of brass, and the whole HISSED as it swung through the air.
I could no longer doubt the doom prepared for me by monkish ingenuity in torture. My cognisance of the pit had become known to the inquisitorial agents–THE PIT, whose horrors had been destined for so bold a recusant as myself, THE PIT, typical of hell, and regarded by rumour as the Ultima Thule of all their punishments. The plunge into this pit I had avoided by the merest of accidents, and I knew that surprise or entrapment into torment formed an important portion of all the grotesquerie of these dungeon deaths. Having failed to fall, it was no part of the demon plan to hurl me into the abyss, and thus (there being no alternative) a different and a milder destruction awaited me. Milder! I half smiled in my agony as I thought of such application of such a term.
What boots it to tell of the long, long hours of horror more than mortal, during which I counted the rushing oscillations of the steel! Inch by inch–line by line–with a descent only appreciable at intervals that seemed ages–down and still down it came! Days passed–it might have been that many days passed–ere it swept so closely over me as to fan me with its acrid breath. The odour of the sharp steel forced itself into my nostrils. I prayed–I wearied heaven with my prayer for its more speedy descent. I grew frantically mad, and struggled to force myself upward against the sweep of the fearful scimitar. And then I fell suddenly calm and lay smiling at the glittering death as a child at some rare bauble.
There was another interval of utter insensibility; it was brief, for upon again lapsing into life there had been no perceptible descent in the pendulum. But it might have been long–for I knew there were demons who took note of my swoon, and who could have arrested the vibration at pleasure. Upon my recovery, too, I felt very–oh! inexpressibly–sick and weak, as if through long inanition. Even amid the agonies of that period the human nature craved food. With painful effort I outstretched my left arm as far as my bonds permitted, and took possession of the small remnant which had been spared me by the rats. As I put a portion of it within my lips there rushed to my mind a half-formed thought of joy–of hope. Yet what business had I with hope? It was, as I say, a half-formed thought–man has many such, which are never completed. I felt that it was of joy–of hope; but I felt also that it had perished in its formation. In vain I struggled to perfect–to regain it. Long suffering had nearly annihilated all my ordinary powers of mind. I was an imbecile–an idiot.
The vibration of the pendulum was at right angles to my length. I saw that the crescent was designed to cross the region of the heart. It would fray the serge of my robe; it would return and repeat its operations–again–and again. Notwithstanding its terrifically wide sweep (some thirty feet or more) and the hissing vigour of its descent, sufficient to sunder these very walls of iron, still the fraying of my robe would be all that, for several minutes, it would accomplish; and at this thought I paused. I dared not go farther than this reflection. I dwelt upon it with a pertinacity of attention–as if, in so dwelling, I could arrest HERE the descent of the steel. I forced myself to ponder upon the sound of the crescent as it should pass across the garment–upon the peculiar thrilling sensation which the friction of cloth produces on the nerves. I pondered upon all this frivolity until my teeth were on edge.
Down–steadily down it crept. I took a frenzied pleasure in contrasting its downward with its lateral velocity. To the right–to the left–far and wide–with the shriek of a damned spirit! to my heart with the stealthy pace of the tiger! I alternately laughed and howled, as the one or the other idea grew predominant.
Down–certainly, relentlessly down! It vibrated within three inches of my bosom! I struggled violently–furiously–to free my left arm. This was free only from the elbow to the hand. I could reach the latter, from the platter beside me to my mouth with great effort, but no farther. Could I have broken the fastenings above the elbow, I would have seized and attempted to arrest the pendulum. I might as well have attempted to arrest an avalanche!
Down–still unceasingly–still inevitably down! I gasped and struggled at each vibration. I shrunk convulsively at its very sweep. My eyes followed its outward or upward whirls with the eagerness of the most unmeaning despair; they closed themselves spasmodically at the descent, although death would have been a relief, O, how unspeakable! Still I quivered in every nerve to think how slight a sinking of the machinery would precipitate that keen glistening axe upon my bosom. It was hope that prompted the nerve to quiver–the frame to shrink. It was HOPE–the hope that triumphs on the rack–that whispers to the death-condemned even in the dungeons of the Inquisition.
I saw that some ten or twelve vibrations would bring the steel in actual contact with my robe, and with this observation there suddenly came over my spirit all the keen, collected calmness of despair. For the first time during many hours, or perhaps days, I THOUGHT. It now occurred to me that the bandage or surcingle which enveloped me was UNIQUE. I was tied by no separate cord. The first stroke of the razor-like crescent athwart any portion of the band would so detach it that it might be unwound from my person by means of my left hand. But how fearful, in that case, the proximity of the steel! The result of the slightest struggle, how deadly! Was it likely, moreover, that the minions of the torturer had not foreseen and provided for this possibility! Was it probable that the bandage crossed my bosom in the track of the pendulum? Dreading to find my faint, and, as it seemed, my last hope frustrated, I so far elevated my head as to obtain a distinct view of my breast. The surcingle enveloped my limbs and body close in all directions save SAVE IN THE PATH OF THE DESTROYING CRESCENT.
Scarcely had I dropped my head back into its original position when there flashed upon my mind what I cannot better describe than as the unformed half of that idea of deliverance to which I have previously alluded, and of which a moiety only floated indeterminately through my brain when I raised food to my burning lips. The whole thought was now present–feeble, scarcely sane, scarcely definite, but still entire. I proceeded at once, with the nervous energy of despair, to attempt its execution.
For many hours the immediate vicinity of the low framework upon which I lay had been literally swarming with rats. They were wild, bold, ravenous, their red eyes glaring upon me as if they waited but for motionlessness on my part to make me their prey. “To what food,” I thought, “have they been accustomed in the well?”
They had devoured, in spite of all my efforts to prevent them, all but a small remnant of the contents of the dish. I had fallen into an habitual see-saw or wave of the hand about the platter; and at length the unconscious uniformity of the movement deprived it of effect. In their voracity the vermin frequently fastened their sharp fangs in my fingers. With the particles of the oily and spicy viand which now remained, I thoroughly rubbed the bandage wherever I could reach it; then, raising my hand from the floor, I lay breathlessly still.
At first the ravenous animals were startled and terrified at the change–at the cessation of movement. They shrank alarmedly back; many sought the well. But this was only for a moment. I had not counted in vain upon their voracity. Observing that I remained without motion, one or two of the boldest leaped upon the frame-work and smelt at the surcingle. This seemed the signal for a general rush. Forth from the well they hurried in fresh troops. They clung to the wood, they overran it, and leaped in hundreds upon my person. The measured movement of the pendulum disturbed them not at all. Avoiding its strokes, they busied themselves with the annointed bandage. They pressed, they swarmed upon me in ever accumulating heaps. They writhed upon my throat; their cold lips sought my own; I was half stifled by their thronging pressure; disgust, for which the world has no name, swelled my bosom, and chilled with heavy clamminess my heart. Yet one minute and I felt that the struggle would be over. Plainly I perceived the loosening of the bandage. I knew that in more than one place it must be already severed. With a more than human resolution I lay STILL.
Nor had I erred in my calculations, nor had I endured in vain. I at length felt that I was FREE. The surcingle hung in ribands from my body. But the stroke of the pendulum already pressed upon my bosom. It had divided the serge of the robe. It had cut through the linen beneath. Twice again it swung, and a sharp sense of pain shot through every nerve. But the moment of escape had arrived. At a wave of my hand my deliverers hurried tumultously away. With a steady movement, cautious, sidelong, shrinking, and slow, I slid from the embrace of the bandage and beyond the reach of the scimitar. For the moment, at least I WAS FREE.
Free! and in the grasp of the Inquisition! I had scarcely stepped from my wooden bed of horror upon the stone floor of the prison, when the motion of the hellish machine ceased and I beheld it drawn up by some invisible force through the ceiling. This was a lesson which I took desperately to heart. My every motion was undoubtedly watched. Free! I had but escaped death in one form of agony to be delivered unto worse than death in some other. With that thought I rolled my eyes nervously around on the barriers of iron that hemmed me in. Something unusual–some change which at first I could not appreciate distinctly–it was obvious had taken place in the apartment. For many minutes of a dreamy and trembling abstraction I busied myself in vain, unconnected conjecture. During this period I became aware, for the first time, of the origin of the sulphurous light which illumined the cell. It proceeded from a fissure about half-an-inch in width extending entirely around the prison at the base of the walls which thus appeared, and were completely separated from the floor. I endeavoured, but of course in vain, to look through the aperture. As I arose from the attempt, the mystery of the alteration in the chamber broke at once upon my understanding. I have observed that although the outlines of the figures upon the walls were sufficiently distinct, yet the colours seemed blurred and indefinite. These colours had now assumed, and were momentarily assuming, a startling and most intense brilliancy, that give to the spectral and fiendish portraitures an aspect that might have thrilled even firmer nerves than my own. Demon eyes, of a wild and ghastly vivacity, glared upon me in a thousand directions where none had been visible before, and gleamed with the lurid lustre of a fire that I could not force my imagination to regard as unreal.
UNREAL!–Even while I breathed there came to my nostrils the breath of the vapour of heated iron! A suffocating odour pervaded the prison! A deeper glow settled each moment in the eyes that glared at my agonies! A richer tint of crimson diffused itself over the pictured horrors of blood. I panted ‘ I gasped for breath! There could be no doubt of the design of my tormentors–oh most unrelenting! oh, most demoniac of men! I shrank from the glowing metal to the centre of the cell. Amid the thought of the fiery destruction that impended, the idea of the coolness of the well came over my soul like balm. I rushed to its deadly brink. I threw my straining vision below. The glare from the enkindled roof illumined its inmost recesses. Yet, for a wild moment, did my spirit refuse to comprehend the meaning of what I saw. At length it forced –it wrestled its way into my soul–it burned itself in upon my shuddering reason. O for a voice to speak!–oh, horror!–oh, any horror but this! With a shriek I rushed from the margin and buried my face in my hands–weeping bitterly.
The heat rapidly increased, and once again I looked up, shuddering as if with a fit of the ague. There had been a second change in the cell–and now the change was obviously in the FORM. As before, it was in vain that I at first endeavoured to appreciate or understand what was taking place. But not long was I left in doubt. The inquisitorial vengeance had been hurried by my two-fold escape, and there was to be no more dallying with the King of Terrors. The room had been square. I saw that two of its iron angles were now acute–two consequently, obtuse. The fearful difference quickly increased with a low rumbling or moaning sound. In an instant the apartment had shifted its form into that of a lozenge. But the alteration stopped not here–I neither hoped nor desired it to stop. I could have clasped the red walls to my bosom as a garment of eternal peace. “Death,” I said “any death but that of the pit!” Fool! might I not have known that INTO THE PIT it was the object of the burning iron to urge me? Could I resist its glow? or if even that, could I withstand its pressure? And now, flatter and flatter grew the lozenge, with a rapidity that left me no time for contemplation. Its centre, and of course, its greatest width, came just over the yawning gulf. I shrank back–but the closing walls pressed me resistlessly onward. At length for my seared and writhing body there was no longer an inch of foothold on the firm floor of the prison. I struggled no more, but the agony of my soul found vent in one loud, long, and final scream of despair. I felt that I tottered upon the brink–I averted my eyes–
There was a discordant hum of human voices! There was a loud blast as of many trumpets! There was a harsh grating as of a thousand thunders! The fiery walls rushed back! An outstretched arm caught my own as I fell fainting into the abyss. It was that of General Lasalle. The French army had entered Toledo. The Inquisition was in the hands of its enemies.

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Major Graf Von Farlsberg, the Prussian commandant, was reading his newspaper as he lay back in a great easy-chair, with his booted feet on the beautiful marble mantelpiece where his spurs had made two holes, which had grown deeper every day during the three months that he had been in the chateau of Uville.

A cup of coffee was smoking on a small inlaid table, which was stained with liqueur, burned 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 orderly had brought him, he got up, and after throwing three or four enormous pieces of green wood on 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 person, a slanting rain, opaque as a curtain, which formed a kind of wall with diagonal stripes, and which deluged everything, a 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; he was drumming a waltz with his fingers on the window-panes, when a noise made him turn round. It was his second in command, Captain Baron van Kelweinstein.
The major was a giant, with broad shoulders and a long, fan-like beard, which hung down like a curtain to his chest. His whole solemn person suggested the idea of a military peacock, a peacock who was carrying his tail spread out on his breast. He had cold, gentle blue eyes, and a scar from a swordcut, 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, was tightly belted in at the waist, his red hair was cropped quite close to his head, and in certain lights he 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, and this sometimes made him speak unintelligibly, and he had a bald patch on top of his head surrounded by a fringe of curly, bright golden hair, which made him look like a monk.
The commandant shook hands with him and drank his cup of coffee (the sixth that morning), 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 led a fast life, who was in the habit of frequenting low resorts, and enjoying women’s society, was angry at having to be shut up for three months in that wretched hole.
There was a knock at the door, and when the commandant said, “Come in,” one of the orderlies 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 Scheuneberg and Baron von Eyrick, a very short, fair-haired man, who was proud and brutal toward men, harsh toward prisoners and as explosive as gunpowder.
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 corsets; of 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, that were cracked by pistol bullets, and whose Flemish tapestry, which was 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 a pair of enormous mustaches, drawn with charcoal. The officers ate their breakfast almost in silence in that mutilated room, which looked dull in the rain and melancholy in its dilapidated condition, although its old oak floor had become as solid as the stone floor of an inn.
When they had finished eating and were smoking and drinking, they began, as usual, to berate the dull life they were leading. The bottles of brandy and of liqueur passed from hand to hand, and all sat back in their chairs and took repeated sips from their glasses, scarcely removing from their mouths the long, curved stems, which terminated in china bowls, painted in a manner to delight a Hottentot.
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, and seemed to be sunk in a state of drowsy, stupid intoxication, that condition of stupid intoxication of men who have nothing to do, when suddenly the baron sat up and said: “Heavens! This cannot go on; we must think of something to do.” And on hearing this, Lieutenant Otto and Sub-lieutenant Fritz, who preeminently possessed the serious, heavy German countenance, said: “What, captain?”
He thought for a few moments and then replied: “What? Why, 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, and he will bring back 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 had risen and surrounded their chief, saying: “Let the captain have his 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. He was an old non-commissioned officer, 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, and five minutes later a large military wagon, covered with tarpaulin, galloped off as fast as four horses could draw it in the pouring rain. 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 dark, and Lieutenant von Grossling said with conviction that the sky was clearing up, while Mademoiselle Fifi did not seem to be able to keep still. 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, Comte Fernand d’Amoys d’Uville, 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. As he was very rich and had good taste, the large drawing-room, which opened into the dining-room, looked like a gallery in a museum, before his precipitate flight.
Expensive oil paintings, water colors and drawings hung against the walls, while on the tables, on the hanging shelves and in elegant glass cupboards there were a thousand ornaments: small vases, statuettes, groups of Dresden china and grotesque Chinese figures, old ivory and Venetian glass, which filled the large room with their costly and fantastic 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 every now and then have a mine, and on those occasions 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 punk through the spout. This he lighted and took his infernal machine into the next room, but he came back immediately and shut the door. The Germans all stood expectant, 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 after the fashion of a Nero, and was strewn with the fragments of works of art. He went out first and said with a smile: “That was a great success this time.”
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 returned for a last glass of cognac, went up to it.
The moist air blew into the room, bringing with it a sort of powdery spray, which sprinkled their beards. They looked at the tall trees which were dripping with 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 every one, 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, enthusiastic at his resistance, was ready to back up their pastor and to risk anything, for they looked upon that silent protest as the safeguard of the national honor. It seemed to the peasants that thus they 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 this inoffensive courage, and as the people in the whole country round showed themselves obliging and compliant toward them, they willingly tolerated their silent patriotism. Little Baron Wilhelm alone 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 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 in the coaxing, tender voice of some loved woman who is bent on obtaining her wish, but the commandant would not yield, and to console himself, Mademoiselle Fifi made a mine in the Chateau d’Uville.
The five men stood there together for five minutes, breathing in 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 duty, while the captain had plenty to do in arranging for the dinner.
When they met again toward evening they began to laugh at seeing each other as spick and span and smart as on the day of a grand review. The commandant’s hair did not look so gray as it was in the morning, and the captain had shaved, leaving only his mustache, 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; and at a quarter past six the baron said he heard a rumbling in the distance. They all rushed down, and presently the wagon drove up at a gallop with its four horses steaming and blowing, and splashed with mud to their girths. Five women dismounted, five handsome girls whom a comrade of the captain, to whom Le Devoir had presented his card, had selected with care.
They had not required much pressing, as they had got to know the Prussians in the three months during which they had had to do with them, and so they resigned themselves to the men as they did to the state of affairs.
They went at once into the dining-room, which looked still more dismal in its dilapidated condition 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 it the appearance of a bandits’ inn, where they were supping after committing a robbery in the place. The captain was radiant, and put his arm round the women as if he were familiar with them; 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 offend the higher powers. Therefore, to avoid all discussion, jarring, and suspicion of partiality, he placed them all in a row according to height, and addressing the tallest, he said in a voice of command:
“What is your name?” “Pamela,” she replied, raising her voice. And 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 proved the rule which allots hooked noses to all her race, to the youngest officer, frail Count Wilhelm d’Eyrick.
They were all pretty and plump, without any distinctive features, and all had a similarity of complexion and figure.
The three young men wished to carry off their prizes immediately, under the pretext that they might wish to freshen their toilets; but the captain wisely opposed this, for he said they were quite fit to sit down to dinner, 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 pretence 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 tormentor 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 guests, but Baron von Kelweinstein beamed, made obscene remarks and seemed on fire with his crown of red hair. He paid the women compliments in French of the Rhine, and sputtered out gallant remarks, only fit for a low pothouse, from between his two broken teeth.
They did not understand him, however, and their intelligence did not seem to be awakened until he uttered foul words and broad expressions, which were mangled by his accent. Then they all began to laugh at once like crazy 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 dirty things. They gave him as much of that stuff as he wanted, for they were drunk after the first bottle of wine, and resuming their usual habits and manners, they kissed the officers to right and left of them, pinched their arms, uttered wild 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 became very unrestrained, shouted and broke the plates and dishes, while the soldiers behind them waited on them stolidly. The commandant was the only one who kept any restraint upon himself.
Mademoiselle Fifi had taken Rachel on his knee, and, getting excited, at one moment he kissed the little black curls on her neck and at another he pinched her furiously and made her scream, for he was seized by a species of ferocity, and tormented by his desire to hurt her. He often held her close to him and pressed a long kiss on the Jewess’ 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!” And a series of toasts began, toasts worthy of the lowest soldiers and of drunkards, mingled with obscene 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 and, thereupon Lieutenant Otto, who was a species of bear from the Black Forest, jumped up, inflamed and saturated with drink, and suddenly seized by an access of alcoholic patriotism, he cried: “To our victories over France!”
Drunk as they were, the women were silent, but Rachel turned round, trembling, and said: “See here, I know some Frenchmen in whose presence you would not dare say that.” But the little count, still holding her on his knee, 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 bullets from his revolver, and then he began to laugh: “Ah! yes, talk about them, my dear! Should we be here now if they were brave?” And, getting excited, he exclaimed: “We are the masters! France belongs to us!” She made one spring from his knee and threw herself into her chair, while he arose, 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!” they 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. Then the little marquis put his champagne glass, which had just been refilled, on 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 her black hair as if to baptize her, and broke into a hundred fragments, as it fell to the floor. Her lips trembling, she defied the looks of the officer, who was still laughing, and stammered out in a voice choked with rage:
“That–that–that–is not true–for you shall not have the women of France!”
He sat down again so as to laugh at his ease; and, trying to speak with the Parisian accent, he said: “She is good, very good! Then why did you come here, 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 the face; but as he was raising his hand again, as if to strike her, she seized a small dessert knife with a silver blade from the table and, almost mad with rage, stabbed him right in the hollow of his neck. 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 the legs of Lieutenant Otto, 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 the pouring rain.
In two minutes Mademoiselle Fifi was dead, and 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, and 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 out the lieutenant, and the four officers stood at the windows, 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 of challenge, uttered 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 that 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 one’s self and to caress prostitutes.” 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 Baron von Eyrick.
Contrary to all expectation, the priest showed himself humble and most respectful, and when Mademoiselle Fifi’s body left the Chateau d’Uville 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 funeral knell in a lively manner, as if a friendly hand were caressing it. At night it rang again, and the next day, and every day; it rang as much as any one could desire. Sometimes even it would start at night and sound gently through the darkness, seized with a 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 and provided for secretly 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, and who liked her because of her bold deed, and who afterward loved her for herself, married her and made her a lady quite as good as many others.
The End

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