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Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

I had entered, in an idle mood, the shop of one of those curiosity
venders who are called _marchands de bric-à-brac_ in that Parisian
_argot_ which is so perfectly unintelligible elsewhere in France.

You have doubtless glanced occasionally through the windows of some of
these shops, which have become so numerous now that it is fashionable
to buy antiquated furniture, and that every petty stockbroker thinks he
must have his _chambre au moyen âge_.

There is one thing there which clings alike to the shop of the dealer
in old iron, the ware-room of the tapestry maker, the laboratory of the
chemist, and the studio of the painter: in all those gloomy dens where
a furtive daylight filters in through the window-shutters the most
manifestly ancient thing is dust. The cobwebs are more authentic
than the gimp laces, and the old pear-tree furniture on exhibition is
actually younger than the mahogany which arrived but yesterday from
America.

The warehouse of my bric-à-brac dealer was a veritable Capharnaum. All
ages and all nations seemed to have made their rendezvous there. An
Etruscan lamp of red clay stood upon a Boule cabinet, with ebony panels,
brightly striped by lines of inlaid brass; a duchess of the court of
Louis xv. nonchalantly extended her fawn-like feet under a massive
table of the time of Louis xiii., with heavy spiral supports of oak, and
carven designs of chimeras and foliage intermingled.

Upon the denticulated shelves of several sideboards glittered immense
Japanese dishes with red and blue designs relieved by gilded hatching,
side by side with enamelled works by Bernard Palissy, representing
serpents, frogs, and lizards in relief.

From disembowelled cabinets escaped cascades of silver-lustrous Chinese
silks and waves of tinsel, which an oblique sunbeam shot through with
luminous beads, while portraits of every era, in frames more or less
tarnished, smiled through their yellow varnish.

The striped breastplate of a damascened suit of Milanese armour
glittered in one corner; loves and nymphs of porcelain, Chinese
grotesques, vases of _céladon_ and crackleware, Saxon and old Sèvres
cups encumbered the shelves and nooks of the apartment.

The dealer followed me closely through the tortuous way contrived
between the piles of furniture, warding off with his hand the hazardous
sweep of my coat-skirts, watching my elbows with the uneasy attention of
an antiquarian and a usurer.

It was a singular face, that of the merchant; an immense skull, polished
like a knee, and surrounded by a thin aureole of white hair, which
brought out the clear salmon tint of his complexion all the more
strikingly, lent him a false aspect of patriarchal _bonhomie_,
counteracted, however, by the scintillation of two little yellow eyes
which trembled in their orbits like two louis-d'or upon quicksilver. The
curve of his nose presented an aquiline silhouette, which suggested the
Oriental or Jewish type. His hands--thin, slender, full of nerves which
projected like strings upon the finger-board of a violin, and armed with
claws like those on the terminations of bats' wings--shook with senile
trembling; but those convulsively agitated hands became firmer
than steel pincers or lobsters' claws when they lifted any precious
article--an onyx cup, a Venetian glass, or a dish of Bohemian crystal.
This strange old man had an aspect so thoroughly rabbinical and
cabalistic that he would have been burnt on the mere testimony of his
face three centuries ago.

'Will you not buy something from me to-day, sir? Here is a Malay kreese
with a blade undulating like flame. Look at those grooves contrived for
the blood to run along, those teeth set backward so as to tear out the
entrails in withdrawing the weapon. It is a fine character of ferocious
arm, and will look well in your collection. This two-handed sword
is very beautiful. It is the work of Josepe de la Hera; and this
_colichemarde_ with its fenestrated guard--what a superb specimen of
handicraft!'

'No; I have quite enough weapons and instruments of carnage. I want a
small figure,--something which will suit me as a paper-weight, for I
cannot endure those trumpery bronzes which the stationers sell, and
which may be found on everybody's desk.'

The old gnome foraged among his ancient wares, and finally arranged
before me some antique bronzes, so-called at least; fragments of
malachite, little Hindoo or Chinese idols, a kind of poussah-toys in
jade-stone, representing the incarnations of Brahma or Vishnoo, and
wonderfully appropriate to the very undivine office of holding papers
and letters in place.

I was hesitating between a porcelain dragon, all constellated with
warts, its mouth formidable with bristling tusks and ranges of
teeth, and an abominable little Mexican fetich, representing the god
Vitziliputzili _au naturel_, when I caught sight of a charming foot,
which I at first took for a fragment of some antique Venus.

It had those beautiful ruddy and tawny tints that lend to Florentine
bronze that warm living look so much preferable to the gray-green aspect
of common bronzes, which might easily be mistaken for statues in a state
of putrefaction. Satiny gleams played over its rounded forms, doubtless
polished by the amorous kisses of twenty centuries, for it seemed a
Corinthian bronze, a work of the best era of art, perhaps moulded by
Lysippus himself.

'That foot will be my choice,' said to the merchant, who regarded me
with an ironical and saturnine air, and held out the object desired that
I might examine it more fully.

I was surprised at its lightness. It was not a foot of metal, but in
sooth a foot of flesh, an embalmed foot, a mummy's foot. On examining
it still more closely the very grain of the skin, and the almost
imperceptible lines impressed upon it by the texture of the bandages,
became perceptible. The toes were slender and delicate, and terminated
by perfectly formed nails, pure and transparent as agates. The great
toe, slightly separated from the rest, afforded a happy contrast, in the
antique style, to the position of the other toes, and lent it an aerial
lightness--the grace of a bird's foot. The sole, scarcely streaked by
a few almost imperceptible cross lines, afforded evidence that it had
never touched the bare ground, and had only come in contact with the
finest matting of Nile rushes and the softest carpets of panther skin.

'Ha, ha, you want the foot of the Princess Hermonthis!' exclaimed the
merchant, with a strange giggle, fixing his owlish eyes upon me. 'Ha,
ha, ha! For a paper-weight! An original idea!--artistic idea!-Old
Pharaoh would certainly have been surprised had some one told him that
the foot of his adored daughter would be used for a paper-weight after
he had had a mountain of granite hollowed out as a receptacle for
the triple coffin, painted and gilded, covered with hieroglyphics and
beautiful paintings of the Judgment of Souls,' continued the queer
little merchant, half audibly, as though talking to himself.

'How much will you charge me for this mummy fragment?'

'Ah, the highest price I can get, for it is a superb piece. If I had the
match of it you could not have it for less than five hundred francs. The
daughter of a Pharaoh! Nothing is more rare.'

'Assuredly that is not a common article, but still, how much do you
want? In the first place let me warn you that all my wealth consists of
just five louis. I can buy anything that costs five louis, but nothing
dearer. You might search my vest pockets and most secret drawers without
even finding one poor five-franc piece more.'

'Five louis for the foot of the Princess Hermonthis! That is very
little, very little indeed. 'Tis an authentic foot,' muttered the
merchant, shaking his head, and imparting a peculiar rotary motion to
his eyes. 'Well, take it, and I will give you the bandages into the
bargain,' he added, wrapping the foot in an ancient damask rag. 'Very
fine? Real damask--Indian damask which has never been redyed. It is
strong, and yet it is soft,' he mumbled, stroking the frayed tissue with
his fingers, through the trade-acquired habit which moved him to praise
even an object of such little value that he himself deemed it only worth
the giving away.

He poured the gold coins into a sort of mediaeval alms-purse hanging at
his belt, repeating:

'The foot of the Princess Hermonthis to be used for a paper-weight!'

Then turning his phosphorescent eyes upon me, he exclaimed in a voice
strident as the crying of a cat which has swallowed a fish-bone:

'Old Pharaoh will not be well pleased. He loved his daughter, the dear
man!'

'You speak as if you were a contemporary of his. You are old enough,
goodness knows! but you do not date back to the Pyramids of Egypt,' I
answered, laughingly, from the threshold.

I went home, delighted with my acquisition.

With the idea of putting it to profitable use as soon as possible, I
placed the foot of the divine Princess Hermonthis upon a heap of papers
scribbled over with verses, in themselves an undecipherable mosaic work
of erasures; articles freshly begun; letters forgotten, and posted
in the table drawer instead of the letter-box, an error to which
absent-minded people are peculiarly liable. The effect was charming,
_bizarre_, and romantic.

Well satisfied with this embellishment, I went out with the gravity and
pride becoming one who feels that he has the ineffable advantage over
all the passers-by whom he elbows, of possessing a piece of the Princess
Hermonthis, daughter of Pharaoh.

I looked upon all who did not possess, like myself, a paper-weight so
authentically Egyptian as very ridiculous people, and it seemed to me
that the proper occupation of every sensible man should consist in the
mere fact of having a mummy's foot upon his desk.

Happily I met some friends, whose presence distracted me in my
infatuation with this new acquisition. I went to dinner with them, for I
could not very well have dined with myself.

When I came back that evening, with my brain slightly confused by a few
glasses of wine, a vague whiff of Oriental perfume delicately titillated
my olfactory nerves. The heat of the room had warmed the natron,
bitumen, and myrrh in which the _paraschistes_, who cut open the bodies
of the dead, had bathed the corpse of the princess. It was a perfume at
once sweet and penetrating, a perfume that four thousand years had not
been able to dissipate.

The Dream of Egypt was Eternity. Her odours have the solidity of granite
and endure as long.

I soon drank deeply from the black cup of sleep. For a few hours all
remained opaque to me. Oblivion and nothingness inundated me with their
sombre waves.

Yet light gradually dawned upon the darkness of my mind. Dreams
commenced to touch me softly in their silent flight.

The eyes of my soul were opened, and I beheld my chamber as it actually
was. I might have believed myself awake but for a vague consciousness
which assured me that I slept, and that something fantastic was about to
take place.

The odour of the myrrh had augmented in intensity, and I felt a slight
headache, which I very naturally attributed to several glasses of
champagne that we had drunk to the unknown gods and our future fortunes.

I peered through my room with a feeling of expectation which I saw
nothing to justify. Every article of furniture was in its proper place.
The lamp, softly shaded by its globe of ground crystal, burned upon its
bracket; the water-colour sketches shone under their Bohemian glass;
the curtains hung down languidly; everything wore an aspect of tranquil
slumber.

After a few moments, however, all this calm interior appeared to become
disturbed. The woodwork cracked stealthily, the ash-covered log suddenly
emitted a jet of blue flame, and the discs of the pateras seemed like
great metallic eyes, watching, like myself, for the things which were
about to happen.

My eyes accidentally fell upon the desk where I had placed the foot of
the Princess Hermonthis.

Instead of remaining quiet, as behoved a foot which had been embalmed
for four thousand years, it commenced to act in a nervous manner,
contracted itself, and leaped over the papers like a startled frog. One
would have imagined that it had suddenly been brought into contact with
a galvanic battery. I could distinctly hear the dry sound made by its
little heel, hard as the hoof of a gazelle.

I became rather discontented with my acquisition, inasmuch as I wished
my paper-weights to be of a sedentary disposition, and thought it very
unnatural that feet should walk about without legs, and I commenced to
experience a feeling closely akin to fear.

Suddenly I saw the folds of my bed-curtain stir, and heard a bumping
sound, like that caused by some person hopping on one foot across the
floor. I must confess I became alternately hot and cold, that I felt a
strange wind chill my back, and that my suddenly rising hair caused my
night-cap to execute a leap of several yards.

The bed-curtains opened and I beheld the strangest figure imaginable
before me.

It was a young girl of a very deep coffee-brown complexion, like the
bayadère Amani, and possessing the purest Egyptian type of perfect
beauty. Her eyes were almond shaped and oblique, with eyebrows so black
that they seemed blue; her nose was exquisitely chiselled, almost Greek
in its delicacy of outline; and she might indeed have been taken for a
Corinthian statue of bronze but for the prominence of her cheek-bones
and the slightly African fulness of her lips, which compelled one to
recognise her as belonging beyond all doubt to the hieroglyphic race
which dwelt upon the banks of the Nile.

Her arms, slender and spindle-shaped like those of very young girls,
were encircled by a peculiar kind of metal bands and bracelets of glass
beads; her hair was all twisted into little cords, and she wore upon
her bosom a little idol-figure of green paste, bearing a whip with seven
lashes, which proved it to be an image of Isis; her brow was adorned
with a shining plate of gold, and a few traces of paint relieved the
coppery tint of her cheeks.

As for her costume, it was very odd indeed.

Fancy a _pagne_, or skirt, all formed of little strips of material
bedizened with red and black hieroglyphics, stiffened with bitumen, and
apparently belonging to a freshly unbandaged mummy.

In one of those sudden flights of thought so common in dreams I
heard the hoarse falsetto of the bric-à-brac dealer, repeating like
a monotonous refrain the phrase he had uttered in his shop with so
enigmatical an intonation:

'Old Pharaoh will not be well pleased He loved his daughter, the dear
man!'

One strange circumstance, which was not at all calculated to restore
my equanimity, was that the apparition had but one foot; the other was
broken off at the ankle!

She approached the table where the foot was starting and fidgeting about
more than ever, and there supported herself upon the edge of the desk. I
saw her eyes fill with pearly gleaming tears.

Although she had not as yet spoken, I fully comprehended the thoughts
which agitated her. She looked at her foot--for it was indeed her
own--with an exquisitely graceful expression of coquettish sadness, but
the foot leaped and ran hither and thither, as though impelled on steel
springs.

Twice or thrice she extended her hand to seize it, but could not
succeed.

Then commenced between the Princess Hermonthis and her foot--which
appeared to be endowed with a special life of its own--a very fantastic
dialogue in a most ancient Coptic tongue, such as might have been spoken
thirty centuries ago in the syrinxes of the land of Ser. Luckily I
understood Coptic perfectly well that night.

The Princess Hermonthis cried, in a voice sweet and vibrant as the tones
of a crystal bell:

'Well, my dear little foot, you always flee from me, yet I always
took good care of you. I bathed you with perfumed water in a bowl of
alabaster; I smoothed your heel with pumice-stone mixed with
palm-oil; your nails were cut with golden scissors and polished with a
hippopotamus tooth; I was careful to select _tatbebs_ for you, painted
and embroidered and turned up at the toes, which were the envy of all
the young girls in Egypt. You wore on your great toe rings bearing the
device of the sacred Scarabseus, and you supported one of the lightest
bodies that a lazy foot could sustain.'

The foot replied in a pouting and chagrined tone:

'You know well that I do not belong to myself any longer. I have been
bought and paid for. The old merchant knew what he was about. He bore
you a grudge for having refused to espouse him. This is an ill turn
which he has done you. The Arab who violated your royal coffin in the
subterranean pits of the necropolis of Thebes was sent thither by him.
He desired to prevent you from being present at the reunion of the
shadowy nations in the cities below. Have you five pieces of gold for my
ransom?'

'Alas, no! My jewels, my rings, my purses of gold and silver were all
stolen from me,' answered the Princess Hermonthis with a sob.

'Princess,' I then exclaimed, 'I never retained anybody's foot unjustly.
Even though you have not got the five louis which it cost me, I present
it to you gladly. I should feel unutterably wretched to think that I
were the cause of so amiable a person as the Princess Hermonthis being
lame.'

I delivered this discourse in a royally gallant, troubadour tone which
must have astonished the beautiful Egyptian girl.

She turned a look of deepest gratitude upon me, and her eyes shone with
bluish gleams of light.

She took her foot, which surrendered itself willingly this time, like a
woman about to put on her little shoe, and adjusted it to her leg with
much skill.

This operation over, she took a few steps about the room, as though to
assure herself that she was really no longer lame.

'Ah, how pleased my father will be! He who was so unhappy because of my
mutilation, and who from the moment of my birth set a whole nation at
work to hollow me out a tomb so deep that he might preserve me intact
until that last day when souls must be weighed in the balance of
Amenthi! Come with me to my father. He will receive you kindly, for you
have given me back my foot.'

I thought this proposition natural enough. I arrayed myself in a
dressing-gown of large-flowered pattern, which lent me a very Pharaonic
aspect, hurriedly put on a pair of Turkish slippers, and informed the
Princess Hermonthis that I was ready to follow her.

Before starting, Hermonthis took from her neck the little idol of green
paste, and laid it on the scattered sheets of paper which covered the
table.

'It is only fair,' she observed, smilingly, 'that I should replace your
paper-weight.'

She gave me her hand, which felt soft and cold, like the skin of a
serpent, and we departed.

We passed for some time with the velocity of an arrow through a fluid
and grayish expanse, in which half-formed silhouettes flitted swiftly by
us, to right and left.

For an instant we saw only sky and sea.

A few moments later obelisks commenced to tower in the distance; pylons
and vast flights of steps guarded by sphinxes became clearly outlined
against the horizon.

We had reached our destination.

The princess conducted me to a mountain of rose-coloured granite, in the
face of which appeared an opening so narrow and low that it would have
been difficult to distinguish it from the fissures in the rock, had not
its location been marked by two stelae wrought with sculptures.

Hermonthis kindled a torch and led the way before me.

We traversed corridors hewn through the living rock. Their walls,
covered with hieroglyphics and paintings of allegorical processions,
might well have occupied thousands of arms for thousands of years in
their formation. These corridors of interminable length opened into
square chambers, in the midst of which pits had been contrived, through
which we descended by cramp-irons or spiral stairways. These pits again
conducted us into other chambers, opening into other corridors, likewise
decorated with painted sparrow-hawks, serpents coiled in circles, the
symbols of the _tau_ and _pedum_--prodigious works of art which no
living eye can ever examine--interminable legends of granite which only
the dead have time to read through all eternity.

At last we found ourselves in a hall so vast, so enormous, so
immeasurable, that the eye could not reach its limits. Files of
monstrous columns stretched far out of sight on every side, between
which twinkled livid stars of yellowish flame; points of light which
revealed further depths incalculable in the darkness beyond.

The Princess Hermonthis still held my hand, and graciously saluted the
mummies of her acquaintance.

My eyes became accustomed to the dim twilight, and objects became
discernible.

I beheld the kings of the subterranean races seated upon thrones--grand
old men, though dry, withered, wrinkled like parchment, and blackened
with naphtha and bitumen--all wearing _pshents_ of gold, and
breastplates and gorgets glittering with precious stones, their eyes
immovably fixed like the eyes of sphinxes, and their long beards
whitened by the snow of centuries. Behind them stood their peoples,
in the stiff and constrained posture enjoined by Egyptian art, all
eternally preserving the attitude prescribed by the hieratic code.
Behind these nations, the cats, ibixes, and crocodiles contemporary
with them--rendered monstrous of aspect by their swathing bands--mewed,
flapped their wings, or extended their jaws in a saurian giggle.

All the Pharaohs were there--Cheops, Chephrenes, Psammetichus,
Sesostris, Amenotaph--all the dark rulers of the pyramids and syrinxes.
On yet higher thrones sat Chronos and Xixouthros, who was contemporary
with the deluge, and Tubal Cain, who reigned before it.

The beard of King Xixouthros had grown seven times around the granite
table upon which he leaned, lost in deep reverie, and buried in dreams.

Further back, through a dusty cloud, I beheld dimly the seventy-two
pre-adamite kings, with their seventy-two peoples, for ever passed away.

After permitting me to gaze upon this bewildering spectacle a few
moments, the Princess Hermonthis presented me to her father Pharaoh, who
favoured me with a most gracious nod.

'I have found my foot again! I have found my foot!' cried the princess,
clapping her little hands together with every sign of frantic joy. 'It
was this gentleman who restored it to me.'

The races of Kemi, the races of Nahasi--all the black, bronzed, and
copper-coloured nations repeated in chorus:

'The Princess Hermonthis has found her foot again!'

Even Xixouthros himself was visibly affected.

He raised his heavy eyelids, stroked his moustache with his fingers, and
turned upon me a glance weighty with centuries.

'By Oms, the dog of Hell, and Tmei, daughter of the Sun and of Truth,
this is a brave and worthy lad!' exclaimed Pharaoh, pointing to me with
his sceptre, which was terminated with a lotus-flower.

'What recompense do you desire?'

Filled with that daring inspired by dreams in which nothing seems
impossible, I asked him for the hand of the Princess Hermonthis. The
hand seemed to me a very proper antithetic recompense for the foot.

Pharaoh opened wide his great eyes of glass in astonishment at my witty
request.

'What country do you come from, and what is your age?'

'I am a Frenchman, and I am twenty-seven years old venerable Pharaoh.'

'Twenty-seven years old, and he wishes to espouse the Princess
Hermonthis who is thirty centuries old!' cried out at once all the
Thrones and all the Circles of Nations.

Only Hermonthis herself did not seem to think my request unreasonable.

'If you were even only two thousand years old,' replied the ancient
king, 'I would willingly give you the princess, but the disproportion
is too great; and, besides, we must give our daughters husbands who will
last well. You do not know how to preserve yourselves any longer. Even
those who died only fifteen centuries ago are already no more than a
handful of dust. Behold, my flesh is solid as basalt, my bones are bars
of steel!

'I will be present on the last day of the world with the same body and
the same features which I had during my lifetime. My daughter Hermonthis
will last longer than a statue of bronze.

'Then the last particles of your dust will have been scattered abroad
by the winds, and even Isis herself, who was able to find the atoms of
Osiris, would scarce be able to recompose your being.

'See how vigorous I yet remain, and how mighty is my grasp,' he added,
shaking my hand in the English fashion with a strength that buried my
rings in the flesh of my fingers.

He squeezed me so hard that I awoke, and found my friend Alfred shaking
me by the arm to make me get up.

'Oh, you everlasting sleeper! Must I have you carried out into the
middle of the street, and fireworks exploded in your ears? It is
afternoon. Don't you recollect your promise to take me with you to see
M. Aguado's Spanish pictures?'

'God! I forgot all, all about it,' I answered, dressing myself
hurriedly. 'We will go there at once. I have the permit lying there on
my desk.'

I started to find it, but fancy my astonishment when I beheld, instead
of the mummy's foot I had purchased the evening before, the little green
paste idol left in its place by the Princess Hermonthis!

(ack: tr. Lafcadio Hearn/1908 the Mummy's Foot/Gautier-the Gutenberg Project)



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For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not – and very surely do I not dream. But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified – have tortured – have destroyed me. Yet I will not attempt to expound them. To me, they have presented little but Horror – to many they will seem less terrible than barroques. Hereafter, perhaps, some intellect may be found which will reduce my phantasm to the common-place – some intellect more calm, more logical, and far less excitable than my own, which will perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.
From my infancy I was noted for the docility and humanity of my disposition. My tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond of animals, and was indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With these I spent most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing them. This peculiarity of character grew with my growth, and in my manhood, I derived from it one of my principal sources of pleasure. To those who have cherished an affection for a faithful and sagacious dog, I need hardly be at the trouble of explaining the nature or the intensity of the gratification thus derivable. There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man.
I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition not uncongenial with my own. Observing my partiality for domestic pets, she lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most agreeable kind. We had birds, gold-fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat.
This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise. Not that she was ever serious upon this point – and I mention the matter at all for no better reason than that it happens, just now, to be remembered.
Pluto – this was the cat’s name – was my favorite pet and playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went about the house. It was even with difficulty that I could prevent him from following me through the streets.
Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years, during which my general temperament and character – through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance – had (I blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse. I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others. I suffered myself to use intemperatelanguage to my wife. At length, I even offered her personal violence. My pets, of course, were made to feel the change in my disposition. I not only neglected, but ill-used them. For Pluto, however, I still retained sufficient regard to restrain me from maltreating him, as I made no scruple of maltreating the rabbits, the monkey, or even the dog, when by accident, or through affection, they came in my way. But my disease grew upon me – for what disease is like Alcohol! – and at length even Pluto, who was now becoming old, and consequently somewhat peevish – even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill temper.
One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity.
When reason returned with the morning – when I had slept off the fumes of the night’s debauch– I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty; but it was, at best, a feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul remained untouched. I again plunged into excess, and soon drowned in wine all memory of the deed.
In the meantime the cat slowly recovered. The socket of the lost eye presented, it is true, a frightful appearance, but he no longer appeared to suffer any pain. He went about the house as usual, but, as might be expected, fled in extreme terror at my approach. I had so much of my old heart left, as to be at first grieved by this evident dislike on the part of a creature which had once so loved me. But this feeling soon gave place to irritation. And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSENESS. Of this spirit philosophy takes no account. Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart – one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of Man. Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which is Law , merely because we understand it to be such? This spirit of perverseness, I say, came to my final overthrow. It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself – to offer violence to its own nature – to do wrong for the wrong’s sake only – that urged me to continue and finally to consummate the injury I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute. One morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree; – hung it with the tears streaming from my eyes, and with the bitterest remorse at my heart; – hung it because I knew that it had loved me, and because I felt it had given me no reason of offence; – hung it because I knew that in so doing I was committing a sin – a deadly sin that would so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it – if such a thing wore possible – even beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God.
On the night of the day on which this cruel deed was done, I was aroused from sleep by the cry of fire. The curtains of my bed were in flames. The whole house was blazing. It was with great difficulty that my wife, a servant, and myself, made our escape from the conflagration. The destruction was complete. My entire worldly wealth was swallowed up, and I resigned myself thenceforward to despair.
I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of cause and effect, between the disaster and the atrocity. But I am detailing a chain of facts – and wish not to leave even a possible link imperfect. On the day succeeding the fire, I visited the ruins. The walls, with one exception, had fallen in. This exception was found in a compartment wall, not very thick, which stood about the middle of the house, and against which had rested the head of my bed. The plastering had here, in great measure, resisted the action of the fire – a fact which I attributed to its having been recently spread. About this wall a dense crowd were collected, and many persons seemed to be examining a particular portion of it with very minute and eager attention. The words “strange!” “singular!” and other similar expressions, excited my curiosity. I approached and saw, as if graven in bas relief upon the white surface, the figure of a gigantic cat. The impression was given with an accuracy truly marvellous. There was a rope about the animal’s neck.
When I first beheld this apparition – for I could scarcely regard it as less – my wonder and my terror were extreme. But at length reflection came to my aid. The cat, I remembered, had been hung in a garden adjacent to the house. Upon the alarm of fire, this garden had been immediately filled by the crowd – by some one of whom the animal must have been cut from the tree and thrown, through an open window, into my chamber. This had probably been done with the view of arousing me from sleep. The falling of other walls had compressed the victim of my cruelty into the substance of the freshly-spread plaster; the lime of which, with the flames, and the ammonia from the carcass, had then accomplished the portraiture as I saw it.
Although I thus readily accounted to my reason, if not altogether to my conscience, for the startling fact just detailed, it did not the less fail to make a deep impression upon my fancy. For months I could not rid myself of the phantasm of the cat; and, during this period, there came back into my spirit a half-sentiment that seemed, but was not, remorse. I went so far as to regret the loss of the animal, and to look about me, among the vile haunts which I now habitually frequented, for another pet of the same species, and of somewhat similar appearance, with which to supply its place.
One night as I sat, half stupified, in a den of more than infamy, my attention was suddenly drawn to some black object, reposing upon the head of one of the immense hogsheads of Gin, or of Rum, which constituted the chief furniture of the apartment. I had been looking steadily at the top of this hogshead for some minutes, and what now caused me surprise was the fact that I had not sooner perceived the object thereupon. I approached it, and touched it with my hand. It was a black cat – a very large one – fully as large as Pluto, and closely resembling him in every respect but one. Pluto had not a white hair upon any portion of his body; but this cat had a large, although indefinite splotch of white, covering nearly the whole region of the breast. Upon my touching him, he immediately arose, purred loudly, rubbed against my hand, and appeared delighted with my notice. This, then, was the very creature of which I was in search. I at once offered to purchase it off the landlord; but this person made no claim to it – knew nothing of it – had never seen it before.
I continued my caresses, and, when I prepared to go home, the animal evinced a disposition to accompany me. I permitted it to do so; occasionally stooping and patting it as I proceeded. When it reached the house it domesticated itself at once, and became immediately a great favorite with my wife.
For my own part, I soon found a dislike to it arising within me. This was just the reverse of what I had anticipated; but – I know not how or why it was – its evident fondness for myself rather disgusted and annoyed. By slow degrees, these feelings of disgust and annoyance rose into the bitterness of hatred. I avoided the creature; a certain sense of shame, and the remembrance of my former deed of cruelty, preventing me from physically abusing it. I did not, for some weeks, strike, or otherwise violently ill use it; but gradually – very gradually – I came to look upon it with unutterable loathing, and to flee silently from its odious presence, as from the breath of a pestilence.
What added, no doubt, to my hatred of the beast, was the discovery, on the morning after I brought it home, that, like Pluto, it also had been deprived of one of its eyes. This circumstance, however, only endeared it to my wife, who, as I have already said, possessed, in a high degree, that humanity of feeling which had once been my distinguishing trait, and the source of many of my simplest and purest pleasures.
With my aversion to this cat, however, its partiality for myself seemed to increase. It followed my footsteps with a pertinacity which it would be difficult to make the reader comprehend. Whenever I sat, it would crouch beneath my chair, or spring upon my knees, covering me with its loathsome caresses. If I arose to walk it would get between my feet and thus nearly throw me down, or, fastening its long and sharp claws in my dress, clamber, in this manner, to my breast. At such times, although I longed to destroy it with a blow, I was yet withheld from so doing, partly by a memory of my former crime, but chiefly – let me confess it at once – by absolute dread of the beast.
This dread was not exactly a dread of physical evil – and yet I should be at a loss how otherwise to define it. I am almost ashamed to own – yes, even in this felon’s cell, I am almost ashamed to own – that the terror and horror with which the animal inspired me, had been heightened by one of the merest chimaeras it would be possible to conceive. My wife had called my attention, more than once, to the character of the mark of white hair, of which I have spoken, and which constituted the sole visible difference between the strange beast and the one I had destroyed. The reader will remember that this mark, although large, had been originally very indefinite; but, by slow degrees – degrees nearly imperceptible, and which for a long time my Reason struggled to reject as fanciful – it had, at length, assumed a rigorous distinctness of outline. It was now the representation of an object that I shudder to name – and for this, above all, I loathed, and dreaded, and would have rid myself of the monster had I dared – it was now, I say, the image of a hideous – of a ghastly thing – of the GALLOWS ! – oh, mournful and terrible engine of Horror and of Crime – of Agony and of Death !
And now was I indeed wretched beyond the wretchedness of mere Humanity. And a brute beast – whose fellow I had contemptuously destroyed – a brute beast to work out for me – for me a man, fashioned in the image of the High God – so much of insufferable wo! Alas! neither by day nor by night knew I the blessing of Rest any more! During the former the creature left me no moment alone; and, in the latter, I started, hourly, from dreams of unutterable fear, to find the hot breath of the thing upon my face, and its vast weight – an incarnate Night-Mare that I had no power to shake off – incumbent eternally upon my heart!
Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble remnant of the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole intimates – the darkest and most evil of thoughts. The moodiness of my usual temper increased to hatred of all things and of all mankind; while, from the sudden, frequent, and ungovernable outbursts of a fury to which I now blindly abandoned myself, my uncomplaining wife, alas! was the most usual and the most patient of sufferers.
One day she accompanied me, upon some household errand, into the cellar of the old building which our poverty compelled us to inhabit. The cat followed me down the steep stairs, and, nearly throwing me headlong, exasperated me to madness. Uplifting an axe, and forgetting, in my wrath, the childish dread which had hitherto stayed my hand, I aimed a blow at the animal which, of course, would have proved instantly fatal had it descended as I wished. But this blow was arrested by the hand of my wife. Goaded, by the interference, into a rage more than demoniacal, I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain. She fell dead upon the spot, without a groan.
This hideous murder accomplished, I set myself forthwith, and with entire deliberation, to the task of concealing the body. I knew that I could not remove it from the house, either by day or by night, without the risk of being observed by the neighbors. Many projects entered my mind. At one period I thought of cutting the corpse into minute fragments, and destroying them by fire. At another, I resolved to dig a grave for it in the floor of the cellar. Again, I deliberated about casting it in the well in the yard – about packing it in a box, as if merchandize, with the usual arrangements, and so getting a porter to take it from the house. Finally I hit upon what I considered a far better expedient than either of these. I determined to wall it up in the cellar – as the monks of the middle ages are recorded to have walled up their victims.
For a purpose such as this the cellar was well adapted. Its walls were loosely constructed, and had lately been plastered throughout with a rough plaster, which the dampness of the atmosphere had prevented from hardening. Moreover, in one of the walls was a projection, caused by a false chimney, or fireplace, that had been filled up, and made to resemble the red of the cellar. I made no doubt that I could readily displace the bricks at this point, insert the corpse, and wall the whole up as before, so that no eye could detect any thing suspicious. And in this calculation I was not deceived. By means of a crow-bar I easily dislodged the bricks, and, having carefully deposited the body against the inner wall, I propped it in that position, while, with little trouble, I re-laid the whole structure as it originally stood. Having procured mortar, sand, and hair, with every possible precaution, I prepared a plaster which could not be distinguished from the old, and with this I very carefully went over the new brickwork. When I had finished, I felt satisfied that all was right. The wall did not present the slightest appearance of having been disturbed. The rubbish on the floor was picked up with the minutest care. I looked around triumphantly, and said to myself – “Here at least, then, my labor has not been in vain.”
My next step was to look for the beast which had been the cause of so much wretchedness; for I had, at length, firmly resolved to put it to death. Had I been able to meet with it, at the moment, there could have been no doubt of its fate; but it appeared that the crafty animal had been alarmed at the violence of my previous anger, and forebore to present itself in my present mood. It is impossible to describe, or to imagine, the deep, the blissful sense of relief which the absence of the detested creature occasioned in my bosom. It did not make its appearance during the night – and thus for one night at least, since its introduction into the house, I soundly and tranquilly slept; aye, slept even with the burden of murder upon my soul!
The second and the third day passed, and still my tormentor came not. Once again I breathed as a freeman. The monster, in terror, had fled the premises forever! I should behold it no more! My happiness was supreme! The guilt of my dark deed disturbed me but little. Some few inquiries had been made, but these had been readily answered. Even a search had been instituted – but of course nothing was to be discovered. I looked upon my future felicity as secured.
Upon the fourth day of the assassination, a party of the police came, very unexpectedly, into the house, and proceeded again to make rigorous investigation of the premises. Secure, however, in the inscrutability of my place of concealment, I felt no embarrassment whatever. The officers bade me accompany them in their search. They left no nook or corner unexplored. At length, for the third or fourth time, they descended into the cellar. I quivered not in a muscle. My heart beat calmly as that of one who slumbers in innocence. I walked the cellar from end to end. I folded my arms upon my bosom, and roamed easily to and fro. The police were thoroughly satisfied and prepared to depart. The glee at my heart was too strong to be restrained. I burned to say if but one word, by way of triumph, and to render doubly sure their assurance of my guiltlessness.
“Gentlemen,” I said at last, as the party ascended the steps, “I delight to have allayed your suspicions. I wish you all health, and a little more courtesy. By the bye, gentlemen, this – this is a very well constructed house.” [In the rabid desire to say something easily, I scarcely knew what I uttered at all.] – “I may say an excellently well constructed house. These walls are you going, gentlemen? – these walls are solidly put together;” and here, through the mere phrenzyof bravado, I rapped heavily, with a cane which I held in my hand, upon that very portion of the brick-work behind which stood the corpse of the wife of my bosom.
But may God shield and deliver me from the fangs of the Arch-Fiend! No sooner had the reverberation of my blows sunk into silence, than I was answered by a voice from within the tomb! – by a cry, at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and continuous scream, utterly anomalous and inhuman – a howl – a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats of the dammed in their agony and of the demons that exult in the damnation.
Of my own thoughts it is folly to speak. Swooning, I staggered to the opposite wall. For one instant the party upon the stairs remained motionless, through extremity of terror and of awe. In the next, a dozen stout arms were toiling at the wall. It fell bodily. The corpse, already greatly decayed and clotted with gore, stood erect before the eyes of the spectators. Upon its head, with red extended mouth and solitary eye of fire, sat the hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder, and whose informing voice had consigned me to the hangman. I had walled the monster up within the tomb!
(Ack:classicshorts.com)

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NATHANEL TO LOTHAIRE

Certainly you must all be uneasy that I have not written for so long – so very long. My mother, am sure, is angry, and Clara will believe that I am passing my time in dissipation, entirely forgetful of her fair, angelic image that is so deeply imprinted on my heart. Such, however, is not the case. Daily and hourly I think of you all; and the dear form of my lovely Clara passes before me in my dreams, smiling upon me with her bright eyes as she did when I was among you. But how can I write to you in the distracted mood which has been disturbing my every thought! A horrible thing has crossed my path. Dark forebodings of a cruel, threatening fate tower over me like dark clouds, which no friendly sunbeam can penetrate. I will now tell you what has occurred. I must do so – that I plainly see – the mere thought of it sets me laughing like a madman. Ah, my dear Lothaire, how shall I begin ? How shall I make you in any way realize that what happened to me a few days ago can really have had such a fatal effect on my life? If you were here you could see for yourself; but, as it is, you will certainly take me for a crazy fellow who sees ghosts. To be brief, this horrible occurrence, the painful impression of which I am in vain endeavoring to throw off, is nothing more than this – that some days ago, namely on the 30th of October at twelve o’clock noon, a barometer-dealer came into my room and offered me his wares. I bought nothing, and threatened to throw him downstairs, upon which he took himself off of his own accord.

Only circumstances of the most peculiar kind, you will suspect, and exerting the greatest influence over my life, can have given any import to this occurrence. Moreover, the person of that unlucky dealer must have had an evil effect upon me. So it was, indeed. I must use every endeavor to collect myself, and patiently and quietly tell you so much of my early youth as will bring the picture plainly and clearly before your eyes. As I am about to begin, I fancy that I hear you laughing, and Clara exclaiming, ‘Childish stories indeed!’ Laugh at me, I beg of you, laugh with all your heart. But, oh God! my hair stands on end, and it is in mad despair that I seem to be inviting your laughter, as Franz Moor did Daniel’s in Schiller’s play. But to my story.

Excepting at dinner-time I and my brothers and sisters used to see my father very little during the day. He was, perhaps, busily engaged at his ordinary profession. After supper, which was served according to the old custom at seven o’clock, we all went with my mother into my father’s study, and seated ourselves at the round table, where he would smoke and drink his large glass of beer. Often he told us wonderful stories, and grew so warm over them that his pipe continually went out. Whereupon I had to light it again with a burning spill, which I thought great sport. Often, too, he would give us picture-books, and sit in his arm-chair, silent and thoughtful, puffing out such thick clouds of smoke that we all seemed to be swimming in the clouds. On such evenings as these my mother was very melancholy, and immediately the clock struck nine she would say: ‘Now, children, to bed – to bed! The Sandman’s coming, I can see.’ And indeed on each occasion I used to hear something with a heavy, slow step come thudding up the stairs. That I thought must be the Sandman.

Once when the dull noise of footsteps was particularly terrifying I asked my mother as she bore us away: ‘Mamma, who is this naughty Sandman, who always drives us away from Papa? What does he look like?’

‘There is no Sandman, dear child,’ replied my mother. ‘When I say the Sandman’s coming, I only mean that you’re sleepy and can’t keep your eyes open – just as if sane had been sprinkled into them.’

This answer of my mother’s did not satisfy me – nay, the thought soon ripened in my childish mind the she only denied the Sandman’s existence to prevent our being terrified of him. Certainly I always heard him coming up the stairs. Most curious to know more of this Sandman and his particular connection with children, I at last asked the old woman who looked after my youngest sister what sort of man he was.

‘Eh, Natty,’ said she, ‘don’t you know that yet? He is a wicked man, who comes to children when they won’t go to bed, and throws a handful of sand into their eyes, so that they start out bleeding from their heads. He puts their eyes in a bag and carries them to the crescent moon to feed his own children, who sit in the nest up there. They have crooked beaks like owls so that they can pick up the eyes of naughty human children.’

A most frightful picture of the cruel Sandman became impressed upon my mind; so that when in the evening I heard the noise on the stairs I trembled with agony and alarm, and my mother could get nothing out of me but the cry, ‘The Sandman, the Sandman!’ stuttered forth through my tears. I then ran into the bedroom, where the frightful apparition of the Sandman terrified me during the whole night.

I had already grown old enough to realize that the nurse’s tale about him and the nest of children in the crescent moon could not be quite true, but nevertheless this Sandman remained a fearful spectre, and I was seized with the utmost horror when I heard him once, not only come up the stairs, but violently force my father’s door open and go in. Sometimes he stayed away for a long period, but after that his visits came in close succession. This lasted for years, but I could not accustom myself to the terrible goblin; the image of the dreadful Sandman did not become any fainter. His intercourse with my father began more and more to occupy my fancy. Yet an unconquerable fear prevented me from asking my father about it. But if I, I myself, could penetrate the mystery and behold the wondrous Sandman – that was the wish which grew upon me with the years. The Sandman had introduced me to thoughts of the marvels and wonders which so readily gain a hold on a child’s mind. I enjoyed nothing better than reading or hearing horrible stories of goblins, witches, pigmies, etc.; but most horrible of all was the Sandman, whom I was always drawing with chalk or charcoal on the tables, cupboards and walls, in the oddest and most frightful shapes.

When I was ten years old my mother removed me from the night nursery into a little chamber situated in a corridor near my father’s room. Still, as before, we were obliged to make a speedy departure on the stroke of nine, as soon as the unknown step sounded on the stair. From my little chamber I could hear how he entered my father’s room, and then it was that I seemed to detect a thin vapor with a singular odor spreading through the house. Stronger and stronger, with my curiosity, grew my resolution somehow to make the Sandman’s acquaintance. Often I sneaked from my room to the corridor when my mother had passed, but never could I discover anything; for the Sandman had always gone in at the door when I reached the place where I might have seen him. At last, driven by an irresistible impulse, I resolved to hide myself in my father’s room and await his appearance there.

From my father’s silence and my mother’s melancholy face I perceived one evening that the Sandman was coming. I, therefore, feigned great weariness, left the room before nine o’clock, and hid myself in a corner close to the door. The house-door groaned and the heavy, slow, creaking step came up the passage and towards the stairs. My mother passed me with the rest of the children. Softly, very softly, I opened the door of my father’s room. He was sitting, as usual, stiff end silent, with his back to the door. He did not perceive me, and I swiftly darted into the room and behind the curtain which covered an open cupboard close to the door, in which my father’s clothes were hanging. The steps sounded nearer and nearer – there was a strange coughing and scraping and murmuring without. My heart trembled with anxious expectation. A sharp step close, very close, to the door – the quick snap of the latch, and the door opened with a rattling noise. Screwing up my courage to the uttermost, I cautiously peeped out. The Sandman was standing before my father in the middle of the room, the light of the candles shone full upon his face. The Sandman, the fearful Sandman, was the old advocate Coppelius, who had often dined with us.

But the most hideous form could not have inspired me with deeper horror than this very Coppelius. Imagine a large broad-shouldered man, with a head disproportionately big, a face the color of yellow ochre, a pair of bushy grey eyebrows, from beneath which a pair of green cat’s eyes sparkled with the most penetrating luster, and with a large nose curved over his upper lip. His wry mouth was often twisted into a malicious laugh, when a couple of dark red spots appeared upon his cheeks, and a strange hissing sound was heard through his gritted teeth. Coppelius always appeared in an ashen-gray coat, cut in old fashioned style, with waistcoat and breeches of the same color, while his stockings were black, and his shoes adorned with agate buckles.

His little peruke scarcely reached farther than the crown of his head, his curls stood high above his large red ears, and a broad hair-bag projected stiffly from his neck, so that the silver clasp which fastened his folded cravat might be plainly seen. His whole figure was hideous and repulsive, but most disgusting to us children were his coarse brown hairy fists. Indeed we did not like to eat anything he had touched with them. This he had noticed, and it was his delight, under some pretext or other, to touch a piece of cake or some nice fruit, that our kind mother might quietly have put on our plates, just for the pleasure of seeing us turn away with tears in our eyes, in disgust and abhorrence, no longer able to enjoy the treat intended for us. He acted in the same manner on holidays, when my father gave us a little glass of sweet wine. Then would he swiftly put his hand over it, or perhaps even raise the glass to his blue lips, laughing most devilishly, and we could only express our indignation by silent sobs. He always called us the little beasts; we dared not utter a sound when he was present, end we heartily cursed the ugly, unkind man who deliberately marred our slightest pleasures. My mother seemed to hate the repulsive Coppelius as much as we did, since as soon as he showed himself her liveliness, her open and cheerful nature, were changed for a gloomy solemnity. My father behaved towards him as though he were a superior being, whose bad manners were to be tolerated and who was to be kept in good humor at any cost. He need only give the slightest hint, and favorite dishes were cooked, the choicest wines served.

When I now saw this Coppelius, the frightful and terrific thought took possession of my soul, that indeed no one but he could be the Sandman. But the Sandman was no longer the bogy of a nurse’s tale, who provided the owl’s nest in the crescent moon with children’s eyes. No, he was a hideous, spectral monster, who brought with him grief, misery and destruction – temporal and eternal – wherever he appeared.

I was riveted to the spot, as if enchanted. At the risk of being discovered and, as I plainly foresaw, of being severely punished, I remained with my head peeping through the curtain. My father received Coppelius with solemnity.

‘Now to our work!’ cried the latter in a harsh, grating voice, as he flung off his coat.

My father silently and gloomily drew off his dressing gown, and both attired themselves in long black frocks. Whence they took these I did not see. My father opened the door of what I had always thought to be a cupboard. But I now saw that it was no cupboard, but rather a black cavity in which there was a little fireplace. Coppelius went to it, and a blue flame began to crackle up on the hearth. All sorts of strange utensils lay around. Heavens! As my old father stooped down to the fire, he looked quite another man. Some convulsive pain seemed to have distorted his mild features into a repulsive, diabolical countenance. He looked like Coppelius, whom I saw brandishing red-hot tongs, which he used to take glowing masses out of the thick smoke; which objects he afterwards hammered. I seemed to catch a glimpse of human faces lying around without any eyes – but with deep holes instead.

‘Eyes here’ eyes!’ roared Coppelius tonelessly. Overcome by the wildest terror, I shrieked out and fell from my hiding place upon the floor. Coppelius seized me and, baring his teeth, bleated out, ‘Ah – little wretch – little wretch!’ Then he dragged me up and flung me on the hearth, where the fire began to singe my hair. ‘Now we have eyes enough – a pretty pair of child’s eyes,’ he whispered, and, taking some red-hot grains out of the flames with his bare hands, he was about to sprinkle them in my eyes.

My father upon this raised his hands in supplication, crying: ‘Master, master, leave my Nathaniel his eyes!’

Whereupon Coppelius answered with a shrill laugh: ‘Well, let the lad have his eyes and do his share of the world’s crying, but we will examine the mechanism of his hands and feet.’

And then he seized me so roughly that my joints cracked, and screwed off my hands and feet, afterwards putting them back again, one after the other. ‘There’s something wrong here,’ he mumbled. ‘But now it’s as good as ever. The old man has caught the idea!’ hissed and lisped Coppelius. But all around me became black, a sudden cramp darted through my bones and nerves – and I lost consciousness. A gentle warm breath passed over my face; I woke as from the sleep of death. My mother had been stooping over me.

‘Is the Sandman still there?’ I stammered.

‘No, no, my dear child, he has gone away long ago – he won’t hurt you!’ said my mother, kissing her darling, as he regained his senses.

Why should I weary you, my dear Lothaire, with diffuse details, when I have so much more to tell ? Suffice it to say that I had been discovered eavesdropping and ill-used by Coppelius. Agony and terror had brought on delirium and fever, from which I lay sick for several weeks.

‘Is the Sandman still there?’ That was my first sensible word and the sign of my amendment – my recovery. I have only to tell you now of this most frightful moment in all my youth, and you will be convinced that it is no fault of my eyes that everything seems colorless to me. You will, indeed, know that a dark fatality has hung over my life a gloomy veil of clouds, which I shall perhaps only tear away in death.

Coppelius was no more to be seen; it was said he had left the town.

About a year might have elapsed, and we were sitting, as of old, at the round table. My father was very cheerful, and was entertaining us with stories about his travels in his youth; when, as the clock struck nine, we heard the house-door groan on its hinges, and slow steps, heavy as lead, creaked through the passage and up the stairs.

‘That is Coppelius,’ said my mother, turning pale.

‘Yes! – that is Coppelius” repeated my father in a faint, broken voice. The tears started to my mother’s eyes.

‘But father – father!’ she cried, ‘must it be so?’

‘He is coming for the last time, I promise you,’ was the answer. ‘Only go now, go with the children – go – go to bed. Good night!’

I felt as if I were turned to cold, heavy stone – my breath stopped. My mother caught me by the arm as I stood immovable. ‘Come, come, Nathaniel!’ I allowed myself to be led, and entered my chamber! ‘Be quiet – be quiet – go to bed – go to sleep!’ cried my mother after me; but tormented by restlessness and an inward anguish perfectly indescribable, I could not close my eyes.

The hateful, abominable Coppelius stood before me with fiery eyes, and laughed maliciously at me. It was in vain that I endeavored to get rid of his image. About midnight there was a frightful noise, like the firing of a gun. The whole house resounded. There was a rattling and rustling by my door, and the house door was closed with a violent bang.

‘That is Coppelius !’ I cried, springing out of bed in terror.

Then there was a shriek, as of acute, inconsolable grief. I darted into my father’s room; the door was open, a suffocating smoke rolled towards me, and the servant girl cried: ‘Ah, my master, my master!’ On the floor of the smoking hearth lay my father dead, with his face burned, blackened and hideously distorted – my sisters were shrieking and moaning around him – and my mother had fainted.

‘Coppelius! – cursed devil! You have slain my father!’ I cried, and lost my senses.

When, two days afterwards, my father was laid in his coffin, his features were again as mild and gentle as they had been in his life. My soul was comforted by the thought that his compact with the satanic Coppelius could not have plunged him into eternal perdition.

The explosion had awakened the neighbors, the occurrence had become common talk, and had reached the ears of the magistracy, who wished to make Coppelius answerable. He had, however, vanished from the spot, without leaving a trace.

If I tell you, my dear friend, that the barometer-dealer was the accursed Coppelius himself, you will not blame me for regarding so unpropitious a phenomenon as the omen of some dire calamity. He was dressed differently, but the figure and features of Coppelius are too deeply imprinted in my mind for an error in this respect to be possible. Besides, Coppelius has not even altered his name. He describes himself, I am told, as a Piedmontese optician, and calls himself Giuseppe Coppola.

I am determined to deal with him, and to avenge my father’s death, be the issue what it may.

Tell my mother nothing of the hideous monster’s appearance. Remember me to my dear sweet Clara, to whom I will write in a calmer mood. Farewell.

CLARA TO NATHANIEL

It is true that you have not written to me for a long time; but, nevertheless, I believe that I am still in your mind and thoughts. For assuredly you were thinking of me most intently when, designing to send your last letter to my brother Lothaire, you directed it to me instead of to him. I joyfully opened the letter, and did not perceive my error till I came to the words: ‘Ah, my dear Lothaire.’

NO, by rights I should have read no farther, but should have handed over the letter to my brother. Although you have often, in your childish teasing mood, charged me with having such a quiet, womanish, steady disposition, that, even if the house were about to fall in, I should smooth down a wrong fold in the window curtain in a most ladylike manner before I ran away, I can hardly tell you how your letter shocked me. I could scarcely breathe—–the light danced before my eyes.

Ah, my dear Nathaniel, how could such a horrible thing have crossed your path ? To be parted from you, never to see you again – the thought darted through my breast like a burning dagger. I read on and on. Your description of the repulsive Coppelius is terrifying. I learned for the first time the violent manner of your good old father’s death. My brother Lothaire, to whom I surrendered the letter, sought to calm me, but in vain. The fatal barometer dealer, Giuseppe Coppola, followed me at every step; and I am almost ashamed to confess that he disturbed my healthy and usually peaceful sleep with all sorts of horrible visions. Yet soon even the next day – I was quite changed again. Do not be offended, dearest one, if Lothaire tells you that in spite of your strange fears that Coppelius will in some manner injure you, I am in the same cheerful and unworried mood as ever.

I must honestly confess that, in my opinion, all the terrible things of which you speak occurred merely in your own mind, and had little to do with the actual external world. Old Coppelius may have been repulsive enough, but his hatred of children was what really caused the abhorrence you children felt towards him.

In your childish mind the frightful Sandman in the nurse’s tale was naturally associated with old Coppelius. Why, even if you had not believed in the Sandman, Coppelius would still have seemed to you a monster, especially dangerous to children. The awful business which he carried on at night with your father was no more than this: that they were making alchemical experiments in secret, which much distressed your mother since, besides a great deal of money being wasted, your father’s mind was filled with a fallacious desire after higher wisdom, and so alienated from his family – as they say is always the case with such experimentalists. Your father, no doubt, occasioned his own death, by some act of carelessness of which Coppelius was completely guiltless. Let me tell you that I yesterday asked our neighbor, the apothecary, whether such a sudden and fatal explosion was possible in these chemical experiments?

‘Certainly,’ he replied and, after his fashion, told me at great length and very circumstantially how such an event might take place, uttering a number of strange-sounding names which I am unable to recollect. Now, I know you will be angry with your Clara; you will say that her cold nature is impervious to any ray of the mysterious, which often embraces man with invisible arms; that she only sees the variegated surface of the world, and is as delighted as a silly child at some glittering golden fruit, which contains within it a deadly poison.

Ah ! my dear Nathaniel! Can you not then believe that even in open, cheerful, careless minds may dwell the suspicion of some dread power which endeavors to destroy us in our own selves ? Forgive me, if I, a silly girl, presume in any manner to present to you my thoughts on such an internal struggle. I shall not find the right words, of course, and you will laugh at me, not because my thoughts are foolish, but because I express them so clumsily.

If there is a dark and hostile power, laying its treacherous toils within us, by which it holds us fast and draws us along the path of peril and destruction, which we should not otherwise have trod; if, I say there is such a power, it must form itself inside us and out of ourselves, indeed; it must become identical with ourselves. For it is only in this condition that we can believe in it, and grant it the room which it requires to accomplish its secret work. Now, if we have a mind which is sufficiently firm, sufficiently strengthened by the joy of life, always to recognize this strange enemy as such, and calmly to follow the path of our own inclination and calling, then the dark power will fail in its attempt to gain a form that shall be a reflection of ourselves. Lothaire adds that if we have willingly yielded ourselves up to the dark powers, they are known often to impress upon our minds any strange, unfamiliar shape which the external world has thrown in our way; so that we ourselves kindle the spirit, which we in our strange delusion believe to be speaking to us. It is the phantom of our own selves, the close relationship with which, and its deep operation on our mind, casts us into hell or transports us into heaven.

You see, dear Nathaniel, how freely Lothaire and I are giving our opinion on the subject of the dark powers; which subject, to judge by my difficulties in writing down. its most important features, appears to be a complicated one. Lothaire’s last words I do not quite comprehend. I can only suspect what he means, and yet I feel as if it were all very true. Get the gruesome advocate Coppelius, and the barometer-dealer, Giuseppe Coppola, quite out of your head, I beg of you. Be convinced that these strange fears have no power over you, and that it is only a belief in their hostile influence that can make them hostile in reality. If the great disturbance in your mind did not speak from every line of your letter, if your situation did not give me the deepest pain, I could joke about the Sandman-Advocate and the barometer dealer Coppelius. Cheer up, I have determined to play the part of your guardian-spirit. If the ugly Coppelius takes it into his head to annoy you in your dreams, I’ll scare him away with loud peals of laughter. I am not a bit afraid of him nor of his disgusting hands; he shall neither spoil my sweetmeats as an Advocate, nor my eyes as a Sandman. Ever yours, my dear Nathaniel.

NATHANIEL TO LOTHAIRE

I am very sorry that in consequence of the error occasioned by my distracted state of mind, Clara broke open the letter intended for you, and read it. She has written me a very profound philosophical epistle, in which she proves, at great length, that Coppelius and Coppola only exist in my own mind, and are phantoms of myself, which will be dissipated directly I recognize them as such. Indeed, it is quite incredible that the mind which so often peers out of those bright, smiling, childish eyes with all the charm of a dream, could make such intelligent professorial definitions. She cites you – you, it seems have been talking about me. I suppose you read her logical lectures, so that she may learn to separate and sift all matters acutely. No more of that, please. Besides, it is quite certain that the barometer-dealer, Giuseppe Coppola, is not the advocate Coppelius. I attend the lectures of the professor of physics, who has lately arrived. His name is the same as that of the famous natural philosopher Spalanzani, and he is of Italian origin. He has known Coppola for years and, moreover, it is clear from his accent that he is really a Piedmontese. Coppelius was a German, but I think no honest one. Calmed I am not, and though you and Clara may consider me a gloomy visionary, I cannot get rid of the impression which the accursed face of Coppelius makes upon me. I am glad that Coppola has left the town – so Spalanzani says.

This professor is a strange fellow – a little round man with high cheek-bones, a sharp nose, pouting lips and little, piercing eyes. Yet you will get a better notion of him than from this description, if you look at the portrait of Cagliostro, drawn by Chodowiecki in one of the Berlin annuals; Spalanzani looks like that exactly. I lately went up his stairs, and perceived that the curtain, which was generally drawn completely over a glass door, left a little opening on one side. I know not what curiosity impelled me to look through. A very tall and slender lady, extremely well-proportioned and most splendidly attired, sat in the room by a little table on which she had laid her arms, her hands being folded together. She sat opposite the door, so that I could see the whole of her angelic countenance. She did not appear to see me, and indeed there was something fixed about her eyes as if, I might almost say, she had no power of sight. It seemed to me that she was sleeping with her eyes open. I felt very uncomfortable, and therefore I slunk away into the lecture-room close at hand.

Afterwards I learned that the form I had seen was that of Spalanzani’s daughter Olympia, whom he keeps confined in a very strange and barbarous manner, so that no one can approach her. After all, there may be something the matter with her; she is half-witted perhaps, or something of the kind. But why should I write you all this? I could have conveyed it better and more circumstantially by word of mouth. For I shall see you in a fortnight. I must again behold my dear, sweet angelic Clara. My evil mood will then be dispersed, though I must confess that it has been struggling for mastery over me ever since her sensible but vexing letter. Therefore I do not write to her today. A thousand greetings, etc.

 

Nothing more strange and chimerical can be imagined than the fate of my poor friend, the young student Nathaniel, which I, gracious reader, have undertaken to tell you. Have you ever known something that has completely filled your heart, thoughts and senses, to the exclusion of every other object? There was a burning fermentation within you; your blood seethed like a molten glow through your veins, sending a higher color to your cheeks. Your glance was strange, as if you were seeking in empty space forms invisible to all other eyes, and your speech flowed away into dark sighs. Then your friends asked you: ‘What is it, my dear sir?’ ‘What is the matter?’ And you wanted to draw the picture in your mind in all its glowing tints, in all its light and shade, and labored hard to find words only to begin. You thought that you should crowd together in the very first sentence all those wonderful, exalted, horrible, comical, frightful events, so as to strike every hearer at once as with an electric shock. But every word, every thing that takes the form of speech, appeared to you colorless, cold and dead. You hunt and hunt, and stutter and stammer, and your friends’ sober questions blow like icy wind upon your internal fire until it is almost out. Whereas if, like a bold painter, you had first drawn an outline of the internal picture with a few daring strokes, you might with small trouble have laid on the colors brighter and brighter, and the living throng of varied shapes would have borne your friends away with it. Then they would have seen themselves, like you, in the picture that your mind had bodied forth. Now I must confess to you, kind reader, that no one has really asked me for the history of the young Nathaniel, but you know well enough that I belong to the queer race of authors who, if they have anything in their minds such as I have just described, feel as if everyone who comes near them, and the whole world besides, is insistently demanding: ‘What is it then – tell it, my dear friend?’

Thus was I forcibly compelled to tell you of the momentous life of Nathaniel. The marvelous singularity of the story filled my entire soul, but for that very reason and because, my dear reader, I had to make you equally inclined to accept the uncanny, which is no small matter, I was puzzled how to begin Nathaniel’s story in a manner as inspiring, original and striking as possible. ‘Once upon a time,’ the beautiful beginning of every tale, was too tame. ‘In the little provincial town of S____ lived’ – was somewhat better, as it at least prepared for the climax. Or should I dart at once, medias in res, with “‘Go to the devil,” cried the student Nathaniel with rage and horror in his wild looks, when the barometer-dealer, Giuseppe Coppola . . .?’ – I had indeed already written this down, when I fancied that I could detect something ludicrous in the wild looks of the student Nathaniel, whereas the story is not comical at all. No form of language suggested itself to my mind which seemed to reflect ever in the slightest degree the coloring of the internal picture. I resolved that I would not begin it at all.

So take, gentle reader, the three letters. which friend Lothaire was good enough to give me, as the sketch of the picture which I shall endeavor to color more and more brightly as I proceed with my narrative. Perhaps, like a good portrait-painter, I may succeed in catching the outline in this way, so that you will realize it is a likeness even without knowing the original, and feel as if you had often seen the person with your own corporeal eyes. Perhaps, dear reader, you will then believe that nothing is stranger and madder than actual life; which the poet can only catch in the form of a dull reflection in a dimly polished mirror.

To give you all the information that you will require for a start, we must supplement these letters with the news that shortly after the death of Nathaniel’s father, Clara and Lothaire, the children of a distant relative, who had likewise died and left them orphans, were taken by Nathaniel’s mother into her own home. Clara and Nathaniel formed a strong attachment for each other; and no one in the world having any objection to make, they were betrothed when Nathaniel left the place to pursue his studies in G___ . And there he is, according to his last letter, attending the lectures of the celebrated professor of physics, Spalanzani.

Now, I could proceed in my story with confidence, but at this moment Clara’s picture stands so plainly before me that I cannot turn away; as indeed was always the case when she gazed at me with one of her lovely smiles. Clara could not by any means be reckoned beautiful, that was the opinion of all who are by their calling competent judges of beauty. Architects, nevertheless, praised the exact symmetry of her frame, and painters considered her neck, shoulders and bosom almost too chastely formed; but then they all fell in love with her wondrous hair and coloring, comparing her to the Magdalen in Battoni’s picture at Dresden. One of them, a most fantastical and singular fellow, compared Clara’s eyes to a lake by Ruysdael, in which the pure azure of a cloudless sky, the wood and flowery field, the whole cheerful life of the rich landscape are reflected. Poets and composers went still further. ‘What is a lake what is a mirror!’ said they. ‘Can we look upon the girl without wondrous, heavenly music flowing towards us from her glances, to penetrate our inmost soul so that all there is awakened and stirred? If we don’t sing well then, there is not much in us, as we shall learn from the delicate smile which plays on Clara’s lips, when we presume to pipe up before her with something intended to pass for a song, although it is only a confused jumble of notes.’

So it was. Clara had the vivid fancy of a cheerful, unembarrassed child; a deep, tender, feminine disposition; an acute, clever understanding. Misty dreamers had not a chance with her; since, though she did not talk – talking would have been altogether repugnant to her silent nature – her bright glance and her firm ironical smile would say to them: ‘Good friends, how can you imagine that I shall take your fleeting shadowy images for real shapes imbued with life and motion ?’ On this account Clara was censured by many as cold, unfeeling and prosaic; while others, who understood life to its clear depths, greatly loved the feeling, acute, childlike girl; but none so much as Nathaniel, whose perception in art and science was clear and strong. Clara was attached to her lover with all her heart, and when he parted from her the first cloud passed over her life. With what delight, therefore, did she rush into his arms when, as he had promised in his last letter to Lothaire, he actually returned to his native town and entered his mother’s room! Nathaniel’s expectations were completely fulfilled; for directly he saw Clara he thought neither of the Advocate Coppelius nor of her ‘sensible’ letter. All gloomy forebodings had gone.

However, Nathaniel was quite right, when he wrote to his friend Lothaire that the form of the repulsive barometer-dealer, Coppola, had had a most evil effect on his life. All felt, even in the first days, that Nathaniel had undergone a complete change in his whole being. He sank into a gloomy reverie, and behaved in a strange manner that had never been known in him before. Everything, his whole life, had become to him a dream and a foreboding, and he was always saying that man, although he might think himself free, only served for the cruel sport of dark powers These he said it was vain to resist; man must patiently resign himself to his fate. He even went so far as to say that it is foolish to think that we do anything in art and science according to our own independent will; for the inspiration which alone enables us to produce anything does not proceed from within ourselves, but is the effect of a higher principle without.

To the clear-headed Clara this mysticism was in the highest degree repugnant, but contradiction appeared to be useless. Only when Nathaniel proved that Coppelius was the evil principle, which had seized him at the moment when he was listening behind the curtain, and that this repugnant principle would in some horrible manner disturb the happiness of their life, Clara grew very serious, and said: ‘Yes, Nathaniel, you are right. Coppelius is an evil, hostile principle; he can produce terrible effects, like a diabolical power that has come visibly into life; but only if you will not banish him from your mind and thoughts. So long as you believe in him, he really exists and exerts his influence; his power lies only in your belief.’

Quite indignant that Clara did not admit the demon’s existence outside his own mind, Nathaniel would then come out with all the mystical doctrine of devils and powers of evil. But Clara would break off peevishly by introducing some indifferent matter, to the no small annoyance of Nathaniel. He thought that such deep secrets were closed to cold, unreceptive minds, without being clearly aware that he was counting Clara among these subordinate natures; and therefore he constantly endeavored to initiate her into the mysteries. In the morning, when Clara was getting breakfast ready, he stood by her, reading out of all sorts of mystical books till she cried: ‘But dear Nathaniel, suppose I blame you as the evil principle that has a hostile effect upon my coffee? For if, to please you, I drop everything and look in your eyes while you read, my coffee will overflow into the fire, and none of you will get any breakfast.’

Nathaniel closed the book at once and hurried indignantly to his chamber. Once he had a remarkable forte for graceful, lively tales, which he wrote down, and to which Clara listened with the greatest delight; now his creations were gloomy, incomprehensible and formless, so that although, out of compassion, Clara did not say so, he plainly felt how little she was interested. Nothing was more unbearable to Clara than tediousness; her looks and words expressed mental drowsiness which she could not overcome. Nathaniel’s productions were, indeed, very tedious. His indignation at Clara’s cold, prosaic disposition constantly increased; and Clara could not overcome her dislike of Nathaniel’s dark, gloomy, boring mysticism, so that they became mentally more and more estranged without either of them perceiving it. The shape of the ugly Coppelius, as Nathaniel himself was forced to confess, was growing dimmer in his fancy, and it often cost him some pains to draw him with sufficient color in his stories, where he figured as the dread bogy of ill omen.

It occurred to him, however, in the end to make his gloomy foreboding, that Coppelius would destroy his happiness, the subject of a poem. He represented himself and Clara as united by true love, but occasionally threatened by a black hand, which appeared to dart into their lives, to snatch away some new joy just as it was born. Finally, as they were standing at the altar, the hideous Coppelius appeared and touched Clara’s lovely eyes. They flashed into Nathaniel’s heart, like bleeding sparks, scorching and burning, as Coppelius caught him, and flung him into a flaming, fiery circle, which flew round with the swiftness of a storm, carrying him along with it, amid its roaring. The roar is like that of the hurricane, when it fiercely lashes the foaming waves, which rise up, like black giants with white heads, for the furious combat. But through the wild tumult he hears Clara’s voice: ‘Can’t you see me then? Coppelius has deceived you. Those, indeed, were not my eyes which so burned in your breast – they were glowing drops of your own heart’s blood. I have my eyes still – only look at them!’ Nathaniel reflects: ‘That is Clara, and I am hers for ever!’ Then it seems to him as though this thought has forcibly entered the fiery circle, which stands still, while the noise dully ceases in the dark abyss. Nathaniel looks into Clara’s eyes, but it is death that looks kindly upon him from her eyes

While Nathaniel composed this poem, he was very calm and collected; he polished and improved every line, and having subjected himself to the fetters of metre, he did not rest till all was correct and melodious. When at last he had finished and read the poem aloud to himself, a wild horror seized him. ‘Whose horrible voice is that?’ he cried out. Soon, however, the whole appeared to him a very successful work, and he felt that it must rouse Clara’s cold temperament, although he did not clearly consider why Clara was to be excited, nor what purpose it would serve to torment her with frightful pictures threatening a horrible fate, destructive to their love. Both of them – that is to say, Nathaniel and Clara – were sitting in his mother’s little garden, Clara very cheerful, because Nathaniel had not teased her with his dreams and his forebodings during the three days in which he had been writing his poem.

He was even talking cheerfully, as in the old days, about pleasant matters, which caused Clara to remark: ‘Now for the first time I have you again! Don’t you see that we have driven the ugly Coppelius away?’

Not till then did it strike Nathaniel that he had in his pocket the poem, which he had intended to read. He at once drew the sheets out and began, while Clara, expecting something tedious as usual, resigned herself and began quietly to knit. But as the dark cloud rose ever blacker and blacker, she let the stocking fall and looked him full in the face. He was carried irresistibly along by his poem, an internal fire deeply reddened his cheeks, tears flowed from his eyes.

At last, when he had concluded, he groaned in a state of utter exhaustion and, catching Clara’s hand, sighed forth, as if melted into the most inconsolable grief: ‘Oh Clara! – Clara!’ Clara pressed him gently to her bosom, and said softly, but very solemnly and sincerely: ‘Nathaniel, dearest Nathaniel, do throw that mad, senseless, insane stuff into the fire!’

Upon this Nathaniel sprang up enraged and, thrusting Clara from him, cried: ‘Oh, inanimate, accursed automaton!’

With which he ran off; Clara, deeply offended, shed bitter tears, and sobbed aloud: ‘Ah, he has never loved me, for he does not understand me.’

Lothaire entered the arbor; Clara was obliged to tell him all that had occurred. He loved his sister with all his soul, and every word of her complaint fell like a spark of fire into his heart, so that the indignation which he had long harbored against the visionary Nathaniel now broke out into the wildest rage. He ran to Nathaniel and reproached him for his senseless conduce towards his beloved sister in hard words, to which the infuriated Nathaniel retorted in the same style. The appellation of ‘fantastical, mad fool,’ was answered by that of ‘miserable commonplace fellow.’ A duel was inevitable. They agreed on the following morning, according to the local student custom, to fight with sharp rapiers on the far side of the garden. Silently and gloomily they slunk about. Clara had overheard the violent dispute and, seeing the fencing-master bring the rapiers at dawn, guessed what was to occur.

Having reached the place of combat, Lothaire and Nathaniel had in gloomy silence flung off their coats, and with the lust of battle in their flaming eyes were about to fall upon one another, when Clara rushed through the garden door, crying aloud between her sobs: ‘You wild cruel men! Strike me down before you attack each other. For how can I live on if my lover murders my brother, or my brother murders my lover.’

Lothaire lowered his weapon, and looked in silence on the ground; but in Nathaniel’s heart, amid the most poignant sorrow, there revived all his love for the beautiful Clara, which he had felt in the prime of his happy youth. The weapon fell from his hand, he threw himself at Clara’s feet. ‘Can you ever forgive me, my only – my beloved Clara? Can you forgive me, my dear brother, Lothaire?’

Lothaire was touched by the deep contrition of his friend; all three embraced in reconciliation amid a thousand tears, and vowed eternal love and fidelity.

Nathaniel felt as though a heavy and oppressive burden had been rolled away, as though by resisting the dark power that held him fast he had saved his whole being, which had been threatened with annihilation. Three happy days he passed with his dear friends, and then went to G___ , where he intended to stay a year, and then to return to his native town for ever.

All that referred to Coppelius was kept a secret from his mother. For it was well known that she could not think of him without terror since she, as well as Nathaniel, held him guilty of causing her husband’s death.

 

How surprised was Nathaniel when, proceeding to his lodging, he saw that the whole house was burned down, and that only the bare walls stood up amid the ashes. However, although fire had broken out in the laboratory of the apothecary who lived on the ground-floor, and had therefore consumed the house from top to bottom, some bold active friends had succeeded in entering Nathaniel’s room in the upper story in time to save his books, manuscripts and instruments. They carried all safe and sound into another house, where they took a room, to which Nathaniel moved at once. He did not think it at all remarkable that he now lodged opposite to Professor Spalanzani; neither did it appear singular when he perceived that his window looked straight into the room where Olympia often sat alone, so that he could plainly recognize her figure, although the features of her face were indistinct and confused. At last it struck him that Olympia often remained for hours in that attitude in which he had once seen her through the glass door, sitting at a little table without any occupation, and that she was plainly enough looking over at him with an unvarying gaze. He was forced to confess that he had never seen a more lovely form but, with Clara in his heart, the stiff Olympia was perfectly indifferent to him. Occasionally, to be sure, he gave a transient look over his textbook at the beautiful statue, but that was all.

He was just writing to Clara, when he heard a light tap at the door; it stopped as he answered, and the repulsive face of Coppola peeped in. Nathaniel’s heart trembled within him, but remembering what Spalanzani had told him about his compatriot Coppola, and also the firm promise he had made to Clara with respect to the Sandman Coppelius, he felt ashamed of his childish fear and, collecting himself with all his might, said as softly and civilly as possible: ‘I do not want a barometer, my good friend; pray go.’

Upon this, Coppola advanced a good way into the room, his wide mouth distorted into a hideous laugh, and his little eyes darting fire from beneath their long grey lashes: ‘Eh, eh – no barometer – no barometer?’ he said in a hoarse voice, ‘I have pretty eyes too – pretty eyes!’

‘Madman!’ cried Nathaniel in horror. ‘How can you have eyes? Eyes?’

But Coppola had already put his barometer aside and plunged his hand into his wide coat-pocket, whence he drew lorgnettes and spectacles, which he placed upon the table.

‘There – there – spectacles on the nose, those are my eyes – pretty eyes!’ he gabbled, drawing out more and more spectacles, until the whole table began to glisten and sparkle in the most extraordinary manner.

A thousand eyes stared and quivered, their gaze fixed upon Nathaniel; yet he could not look away from the table, where Coppola kept laying down still more and more spectacles, and all those flaming eyes leapt in wilder and wilder confusion, shooting their blood red light into Nathaniel’s heart.

At last, overwhelmed with horror, he shrieked out: ‘Stop, stop, you terrify me!’ and seized Coppola by the arm, as he searched his pockets to bring out still more spectacles, although the whole table was already covered.

Coppola gently extricated himself with a hoarse repulsive laugh; and with the words: ‘Ah, nothing for you – but here are pretty glasses!’ collected all the spectacles, packed them away, and from the breast-pocket of his coat drew forth a number of telescopes large and small. As soon as the spectacles were removed Nathaniel felt quite easy and, thinking of Clara, perceived that the hideous phantom was but the creature of his own mind, that this Coppola was an honest optician and could not possibly be the accursed double of Coppelius. Moreover, in all the glasses which Coppola now placed on the table, there was nothing remarkable, or at least nothing so uncanny as in the spectacles; and to set matters right Nathaniel resolved to make a purchase. He took up a little, very neatly constructed pocket telescope, and looked through the window to try it. Never in his life had he met a glass which brought objects so clearly and sharply before his eyes. Involuntarily he looked into Spalanzani’s room; Olympia was sitting as usual before the little table, with her arms laid upon it, and her hands folded.

For the first time he could see the wondrous beauty in the shape of her face; only her eyes seemed to him singularly still and dead. Nevertheless, as he looked more keenly through the glass, it seemed to him as if moist moonbeams were rising in Olympia’s eyes. It was as if the power of seeing were being kindled for the first time; her glances flashed with constantly increasing life. As if spellbound, Nathaniel reclined against the window, meditating on the charming Olympia. A humming and scraping aroused him as if from a dream.

Coppola was standing behind him: ‘Tre zecchini – three ducats!’ He had quite forgotten the optician, and quickly paid him what he asked. ‘Is it not so ? A pretty glass – a pretty glass ?’ asked Coppola, in his hoarse, repulsive voice, and with his malicious smile.

‘Yes – yes,’ replied Nathaniel peevishly; ‘Good-bye, friend.’

Coppola left the room, but not without casting many strange glances at Nathaniel. He heard him laugh loudly on the stairs.

‘Ah,’ thought Nathaniel, ‘he is laughing at me because, no doubt, I have paid him too much for this little glass.’

While he softly uttered these words, it seemed as if a deep and lugubrious sigh were sounding fearfully through the room; and his breath was stopped by inward anguish. He perceived, however, that it was himself that had sighed.

‘Clara is right,’ he said to himself, ‘in taking me for a senseless dreamer, but it is pure madness – nay, more than madness, that the stupid thought of having paid Coppola too much for the glass still pains me so strangely. I cannot see the cause.’

He now sat down to finish his letter to Clara; but a glance through the window assured him that Olympia was still sitting there, and he instantly sprang up, as if impelled by an irresistible power, seized Coppola’s glass, and could not tear himself away from the seductive sight of Olympia till his friend and brother Sigismund called him to go to Professor Spalanzani’s lecture. The curtain was drawn close before the fatal room, and he could see Olympia no longer, nor could he upon the next day or the next, although he scarcely ever left his window and constantly looked through Coppola’s glass. On the third day the windows were completely covered. In utter despair, filled with a longing and a burning desire, he ran out of the town-gate. Olympia’s form floated before him in the air, stepped forth from the bushes, and peeped at him with large beaming eyes from the clear brook. Clara’s image had completely vanished from his mind; he thought of nothing but Olympia, and complained aloud in a murmuring voice: ‘Ah, noble, sublime star of my love, have you only risen upon me to vanish immediately, and leave me in dark hopeless night?’

As he returned to his lodging, however, he perceived a great bustle in Spalanzani’s house. The doors were wide open, all sorts of utensils were being carried in, the windows of the first floor were being taken out, maid-servants were going about sweeping and dusting with great hairbrooms, and carpenters and upholsterers were knocking and hammering within. Nathaniel remained standing in the street in a state of perfect wonder, when Sigismund came up to him laughing, and said: ‘Now, what do you say to our old Spalanzani?’

Nathaniel assured him that he could say nothing because he knew nothing about the professor, but on the contrary perceived with astonishment the mad proceedings in a house otherwise so quiet and gloomy. He then learnt from Sigismund that Spalanzani intended to give a grand party on the following day – a concert and ball – and that half the university was invited. It was generally reported that Spalanzani, who had so long kept his daughter most scrupulously from every human eye, would now let her appear for the first time.

Nathaniel found a card of invitation, and with heart beating high went at the appointed hour to the professor’s, where the coaches were already arriving and the lights shining in the decorated rooms. The company was numerous and brilliant. Olympia appeared dressed with great richness and taste. Her beautifully shaped face and her figure roused general admiration. The somewhat strange arch of her back and the wasp-like thinness of her waist seemed to be produced by too tight lacing. In her step and deportment there was something measured and stiff, which struck many as unpleasant, but it was ascribed to the constraint produced by the company. The concert began. Olympia played the harpsichord with great dexterity, and sang a virtuoso piece, with a voice like the sound of a glass bell, clear and almost piercing. Nathaniel was quite enraptured; he stood in the back row, and could not perfectly recognize Olympia’s features in the dazzling light. Therefore, quite unnoticed, he took out Coppola’s glass and looked towards the fair creature. Ah! then he saw with what a longing glance she gazed towards him, and how every note of her song plainly sprang from that loving glance, whose fire penetrated his inmost soul. Her accomplished roulades seemed to Nathaniel the exultation of a mind transfigured by love, and when at last, after the cadence, the long trill sounded shrilly through the room, he felt as if clutched by burning arms. He could restrain himself no longer, but with mingled pain and rapture shouted out, ‘Olympia!’

Everyone looked at him, and many laughed. The organist of the cathedral made a gloomier face than usual, and simply said: ‘Well, well.’

The concert had finished, the ball began. ‘To dance with her – with her!’ That was the aim of all Nathaniel’s desire, of all his efforts; but how to gain courage to ask her, the queen of the ball? Nevertheless – he himself did not know how it happened – no sooner had the dancing begun than he was standing close to Olympia, who had not yet been asked to dance. Scarcely able to stammer out a few words, he had seized her hand. Olympia’s hand was as cold as ice; he felt a horrible deathly chill thrilling through him. He looked into her eyes, which beamed back full of love and desire, and at the same time it seemed as though her pulse began to beat and her life’s blood to flow into her cold hand. And in the soul of Nathaniel the joy of love rose still higher; he clasped the beautiful Olympia, and with her flew through the dance. He thought that his dancing was usually correct as to time, but the peculiarly steady rhythm with which Olympia moved, and which often put him completely out, soon showed him that his time was most defective. However, he would dance with no other lady, and would have murdered anyone who approached Olympia for the purpose of asking her. But this only happened twice, and to his astonishment Olympia remained seated until the next dance, when he lost no time in making her rise again.

Had he been able to see any other object besides the fair Olympia, all sorts of unfortunate quarrels would have been inevitable. For the quiet, scarcely suppressed laughter which arose among the young people in every corner was manifestly directed towards Olympia, whom they followed with very curious glances – one could not tell why. Heated by the dance and by the wine, of which he had freely partaken, Nathaniel had laid aside all his ordinary reserve. He sat by Olympia with her hand in his and, in a high state of inspiration, told her his passion, in words which neither he nor Olympia understood.

Yet perhaps she did; for she looked steadfastly into his face and sighed several times, ‘Ah, ah!’ Upon this, Nathaniel said, ‘Oh splendid, heavenly lady! Ray from the promised land of love – deep soul in whom all my being is reflected !’ with much more stuff of the like kind. But Olympia merely went on sighing, ‘Ah – ah!’

Professor Spalanzani occasionally passed the happy pair, and smiled on them with a look of singular satisfaction. To Nathaniel, although he felt in quite another world, it seemed suddenly as though Professor Spalanzani’s face was growing considerably darker, and when he looked around he perceived, to his no small horror, that the last two candles in the empty room had burned down to their sockets, and were just going out. The music and dancing had ceased long ago.

‘Parting – parting!’ he cried in wild despair; he kissed Olympia’s hand, he bent towards her mouth, when his glowing lips were met by lips cold as ice! Just as when he had touched her cold hand, he felt himself overcome by horror; the legend of the dead bride darted suddenly through his mind, but Olympia pressed him fast, and her lips seemed to spring to life at his kiss. Professor Spalanzani strode through the empty hall, his steps caused a hollow echo, and his figure, round which a flickering shadow played, had a fearful, spectral appearance.

‘Do you love me, do you love me, Olympia? Only one word! Do you love me?’ whispered Nathaniel; but as she rose Olympia only sighed, ‘Ah – ah!’

‘Yes, my gracious, my beautiful star of love,’ said Nathaniel, ‘you have risen upon me, and you will shine, for ever lighting my inmost soul.’

‘Ah – ah!’ replied Olympia, as she departed. Nathaniel followed her; they both stood before the professor.

‘You have had a very animated conversation with my daughter,’ said he, smiling; ‘So, dear Herr Nathaniel, if you have any pleasure in talking with a silly girl, your visits shall be welcome.’

Nathaniel departed with a whole heaven beaming in his heart. The next day Spalanzani’s party was the general subject of conversation. Notwithstanding that the professor had made every effort to appear splendid, the wags had all sorts of incongruities and oddities to talk about. They were particularly hard upon the dumb, stiff Olympia whom, in spite of her beautiful exterior, they considered to be completely stupid, and they were delighted to find in her stupidity the reason why Spalanzani had kept her so long concealed. Nathaniel did not hear this without secret anger. Nevertheless he held his peace. ‘For,’ thought he, ‘is it worth while convincing these fellows that it is their own stupidity that prevents their recognizing Olympia’s deep, noble mind?’

One day Sigismund said to him: ‘Be kind enough, brother, to tell me how a sensible fellow like you could possibly lose your head over that wax face, over that wooden doll up there?’

Nathaniel was about to fly out in a passion, but he quickly recollected himself and retorted: ‘Tell me, Sigismund, how it is that Olympia’s heavenly charms could escape your active and intelligent eyes, which generally perceive things so clearly? But, for that very reason, Heaven be thanked, I have not you for my rival; otherwise, one of us must have fallen a bleeding corpse!’

Sigismund plainly perceived his friend’s condition. So he skillfully gave the conversation a turn and, after observing that in love-affairs there was no disputing about the object, added: ‘Nevertheless, it is strange that many of us think much the same about Olympia. To us – pray do not take it ill, brother she appears singularly stiff and soulless. Her shape is well proportioned – so is her face – that is true! She might pass for beautiful if her glance were not so utterly without a ray of life – without the power of vision. Her pace is strangely regular, every movement seems to depend on some wound-up clockwork. Her playing and her singing keep the same unpleasantly correct and spiritless time as a musical box, and the same may be said of her dancing. We find your Olympia quite uncanny, and prefer to have nothing to do with her. She seems to act like a living being, and yet has some strange peculiarity of her own.’

Nathaniel did not completely yield to the bitter feeling which these words of Sigismund’s roused in him, but mastered his indignation, and merely said with great earnestness, ‘Olympia may appear uncanny to you, cold, prosaic man. Only the poetical mind is sensitive to its like in others. To me alone was the love in her glances revealed, and it has pierced my mind and all my thought; only in the love of Olympia do I discover my real self. It may not suit you that she does not indulge in idle chit-chat like other shallow minds. She utters few words, it is true, but these few words appear as genuine hieroglyphics of the inner world, full of love and deep knowledge of the spiritual life, and contemplation of the eternal beyond. But you have no sense for all this, and my words are wasted on you.’

‘God preserve you, brother,’ said Sigismund very mildly almost sorrowfully. ‘But you seem to me to be in an evil way. You may depend upon me, if all – no, no, I will not say anything further.’

All of a sudden it struck Nathaniel that the cold, prosaic Sigismund meant very well towards him; he therefore shook his proffered hand very heartily.

Nathaniel had totally forgotten the very existence of Clara, whom he had once loved; his mother, Lothaire – all had vanished from his memory; he lived only for Olympia, with whom he sat for hours every day, uttering strange fantastical stuff about his love, about the sympathy that glowed to life, about the affinity of souls, to all of which Olympia listened with great devotion. From the very bottom of his desk he drew out all that he had ever written. Poems, fantasies, visions, romances, tales – this stock was daily increased by all sorts of extravagant sonnets, stanzas and canzoni, and he read them all tirelessly to Olympia for hours on end. Never had he known such an admirable listener. She neither embroidered nor knitted, she never looked out of the window, she fed no favorite bird, she played neither with lapdog nor pet cat, she did not twist a slip of paper or anything else in her hand, she was not obliged to suppress a yawn by a gentle forced cough. In short, she sat for hours, looking straight into her lover’s eyes, without stirring, and her glance became more and more lively and animated Only when Nathaniel rose at last, and kissed her hand and her lips did she say, ‘Ah, ah!’ to which she added: ‘Good night, dearest.’

‘Oh deep, noble mind!’ cried Nathaniel in his own room, ‘you, you alone, dear one, fully understand me.’

He trembled with inward rapture, when he considered the wonderful harmony that was revealed more and more every day between his own mind and that of Olympia. For it seemed to him as if Olympia had spoken concerning him and his poetical talent out of the depths of his own mind; as if her voice had actually sounded from within himself. That must indeed have been the case, for Olympia never uttered any words whatever beyond those which have already been recorded. Even when Nathaniel, in clear and sober moments, as for instance upon waking in the morning, remembered Olympia’s utter passivity and her painful lack of words, he merely said: ‘Words words! The glance of her heavenly eye speaks more than any language here below. Can a child of heaven adapt herself to the narrow confines drawn by a miserable mundane necessity?’

Professor Spalanzani appeared highly delighted at the intimacy between his daughter and Nathaniel. To the latter he gave the most unequivocal signs of approbation; and when Nathaniel ventured at last to hint at a union with Olympia, his whole face smiled as he observed that he would leave his daughter a free choice in the matter. Encouraged by these words and with burning passion in his heart, Nathaniel resolved to implore Olympia on the very next day to say directly and in plain words what her kind glance had told him long ago; namely, that she loved him. He sought the ring which his mother had given him at parting, to give it to Olympia as a symbol of his devotion, of his life which budded forth and bloomed with her alone. Clara’s letters and Lothaire’s came to his hands during the search; but he flung them aside indifferently, found the ring, pocketed it and hastened over to Olympia. Already on the steps, in the hall, he heard a strange noise, which seemed to proceed from Spalanzani’s room. There was a stamping, a clattering, a pushing, a banging against the door, intermingled with curses and imprecations.

Let go – let go! Rascal! – Scoundrel ! – Body and soul I’ve risked upon it! – Ha, ha, ha! – That’s not what we agreed to! – I, I made the eyes! – I made the clockwork! – Stupid blockhead with your clockwork! – Accursed dog of a bungling watch-maker! – OR with you ! – Devil ! – Stop ! – Pipe-maker! – Infernal beast! – Stop ! – Get out! – Let go!’

These words were uttered by the voices of Spalanzani and the hideous Coppelius, who were raging and wrangling together. Nathaniel rushed in, overcome by the most inexpressible anguish.

The professor was holding a female figure fast by the shoulders, the Italian Coppola grasped it by the feet, and there they were tugging and pulling, this way and that, contending for the possession of it with the utmost fury. Nathaniel started back with horror when in the figure he recognized Olympia. Boiling with the wildest indignation, he was about to rescue his beloved from these infuriated men. But at that moment Coppola, whirling round with the strength of a giant, wrenched the figure from the professor’s hand, and then dealt him a tremendous blow with the object itself, which sent him reeling and tumbling backwards over the table, upon which stood vials, retorts, bottles and glass cylinders. All these were dashed to a thousand shivers. Now Coppola flung the figure across his shoulders, and with a frightful burst of shrill laughter dashed down the stairs, so fast that the feet of the figure, which dangled in the most hideous manner, rattled with a wooden sound on every step.

Nathaniel stood paralyzed; he had seen but too plainly that Olympia’s waxen, deathly-pale countenance had no eyes, but black holes instead – she was, indeed, a lifeless doll. Spalanzani was writhing on the floor; the pieces of glass had cut his head, his breast and his arms, and the blood was spurting up as from so many fountains. But he soon collected all his strength.

‘After him – after him – what are you waiting for ? Coppelius, Coppelius – has robbed me of my best automaton – a work of twenty years – body and soul risked upon it – the clockwork – the speech – the walk, mine; the eyes stolen from you. The infernal rascal – after him; fetch Olympia – there you see the eyes!’

And now Nathaniel saw that a pair of eyes lay upon the ground, staring at him; these Spalanzani caught up, with his unwounded hand, and flung into his bosom. Then madness seized Nathaniel in its burning claws, and clutched his very soul, destroying his every sense and thought.

‘Ho – ho – ho – a circle of fire! of fire! Spin round, circle! Merrily, merrily! Ho, wooden doll – spin round, pretty doll!’ he cried, flying at the professor, and clutching at his throat.

He would have strangled him had not the noise attracted a crowd, who rushed in and forced Nathaniel to let go, thus saving the professor, whose wounds were immediately dressed. Sigismund, strong as he was, was not able to master the mad Nathaniel, who kept crying out in a frightening voice: ‘Spin round, wooden doll!’ and laid about him with clenched fists. At last the combined force of many succeeded in overcoming him, in flinging him to the ground and binding him. His words were merged into one hideous roar like that of a brute, and in this insane condition he was taken raging to the mad-house.

Before I proceed to tell you, gentle reader, what more befell the unfortunate Nathaniel, should you by chance take an interest in that skilful optician and automaton-maker Spalanzani, I can inform you that he was completely healed of his wounds. He was, however, obliged to leave the university, because Nathaniel’s story had created a sensation, and it was universally considered a quite unpardonable trick to smuggle a wooden doll into respectable tea-parties in place of a living person – for Olympia had been quite a success at tea-parties. The lawyers called it a most subtle deception, and the more culpable, inasmuch as he had planned it so artfully against the public that not a single soul – a few cunning students excepted – had detected it, although all now wished to play the wiseacre, and referred to various facts which had appeared to them suspicious. Nothing very clever was revealed in this way. Would it strike anyone as so very suspicious, for instance, that, according to the expression of an elegant tea-ite, Olympia had, contrary to all usage, sneezed oftener than she had yawned ? ‘The former,’ remarked this fashionable person, ‘was the sound of the concealed clockwork winding itself up. Moreover, it had creaked audibly.’ And so on.

The professor of poetry and eloquence took a pinch of snuff, clapped the lid of his box to, cleared his throat, and said solemnly: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, do you not perceive where the trick lies? It is all an allegory – a sustained metaphor – you understand me – sapient! sat.

But many were not satisfied with this; the story of the automaton had struck deep root into their souls and, in fact, a pernicious mistrust of human figures in general had begun to creep in. Many lovers, to be quite convinced that they were not enamoured of wooden dolls, would request their mistresses to sing and dance a little out of time, to embroider and knit, and play with their lapdogs, while listening to reading, etc., and, above all, not merely to listen, but also sometimes to talk, in such a manner as presupposed actual thought and feeling. With many the bond of love became firmer and more entrancing, though others, on the contrary, slipped gently out of the noose. One cannot really answer for this,’ said some. At tea parties yawning prevailed to an incredible extent, and there was no sneezing at all, that all suspicion might be avoided. Spalanzani, as already stated, was obliged to decamp, to escape a criminal prosecution for fraudulently introducing an automaton into human society. Coppola had vanished also.

Nathaniel awakened as from a heavy, frightful dream; as he opened his eyes, he felt an indescribable sensation of pleasure glowing through him with heavenly warmth. He was in bed in his own room, in his father s house, Clara was stooping over him, and Lothaire and his mother were standing near.

‘At last, at last, beloved Nathaniel, you have recovered from your serious illness – now you are mine again!’ said Clara, from the very depth of her soul, and clasped Nathaniel in her arms.

It was with mingled sorrow and delight that the bright tears fell from his eyes, as he answered with a deep sigh: ‘My own – my own Clara!’

Sigismund, who had faithfully remained with his friend in his hour of trouble, now entered. Nathaniel stretched out his hand to him. ‘And you, faithful brother, have you not deserted me?’

Every trace of Nathaniel’s madness had vanished, and he soon gained strength under the care of his mother, his beloved and his friends. Good fortune also had visited the house, for a miserly old uncle of whom nothing had been expected had died, leaving their mother, besides considerable property, an estate in a pleasant spot near the town. Thither Nathaniel decided to go, with his Clara, whom he now intended to marry, his mother and Lothaire. He had grown milder and more docile than ever he had been before, and now, for the first time, he understood the heavenly purity and the greatness of Clara’s mind. No one, by the slightest hint, reminded him of the past.

Only, when Sigismund took leave of him, Nathaniel said: ‘Heavens, brother, I was in an evil way, but a good angel led me betimes on to the path of light! Ah, that was Clara!’

Sigismund did not let him carry the discourse further for fear that grievous recollections might burst forth in all their lurid brightness.

At about this time the four lucky persons thought of going to the estate. It was noon and they were walking in the streets of the city, where they had made several purchases. The high steeple of the townhall was already casting its gigantic shadow over the market-place.

‘Oh,’ said Clara, ‘let us climb it once more and look out at the distant mountains!’

No sooner said than done. Nathaniel and Clara both ascended the steps, the mother returned home with the servant, and Lothaire, who was not inclined to clamber up so many stairs, chose to remain below. The two lovers stood arm-in-arm on the highest gallery of the tower, and looked down upon the misty forests, behind which the blue mountains rose like a gigantic city.

‘Look there at that curious little grey bush,’ said Clara. ‘It actually looks as if it were striding towards us.’

Nathaniel mechanically put his hand into his breast pocket – he found Coppola’s telescope, and pointed it to one side. Clara was in the way of the glass. His pulse and veins leapt convulsively. Pale as death, he stared at Clara, soon streams of fire flashed and glared from his rolling eyes, he roared frightfully, like a hunted beast.Then he sprang high into the air and. punctuating his words with horrible laughter, he shrieked out in a piercing tone, ‘Spin round, wooden doll! – spin round!’ Then seizing Clara with immense force, he tried to hurl her down, but with the desperate strength of one battling against death she clutched the railings.

Lothaire heard the’ raging of the madman – he heard Clara’s shriek of agony – fearful forebodings darted through his mind, he ran up, the door to the second flight was fastened, Clara’s shrieks became louder and still louder. Frantic with rage and anxiety, he threw himself against the door, which finally burst open. Clara’s voice was becoming weaker and weaker. ‘Help – help save me!’ With these words the voice seemed to die on the air.

‘She is gone – murdered by that madman!’ cried Lothaire.

The door of the gallery was also closed, but despair gave him a giant’s strength, and he burst it from the hinges. Heavens! Grasped by the mad Nathaniel, Clara was hanging in the air over the gallery – with one hand only she still held one of the iron railings. Quick as lightning, Lothaire caught his sister and drew her in, at the same moment striking the madman in the face with his clenched fist to such effect that he reeled and let go his prey.

Lothaire ran down with his fainting sister in his arms. She was saved. Nathaniel went raging about the gallery, leaping high in the air and crying, ‘Circle of fire’spin round! spin round!’

The people collected at the sound of his wild shrieks and among them, prominent for his gigantic stature, was the advocate Coppelius, who had just come to the town, and was proceeding straight to the market-place. Some wished to climb up and secure the madman, but Coppelius only laughed, saying, ‘Ha, ha – just wait – he will soon come down of his own accord,’ and looked up like the rest Nathaniel suddenly stood still as if petrified.

Then, perceiving Coppelius, he stooped down, and yelled out, ‘Ah, pretty eyes – pretty eyes!’ with which he sprang over the railing.

When Nathaniel lay on the stone pavement with his head shattered, Coppelius had disappeared in the crowd.

Many years afterwards it is said that Clara was seen in a remote spot, sitting hand in hand with a kind-looking man before the door of a country house, while two lively boys played before her. From this it may be inferred that she at last found a quiet domestic happiness suitable to her serene and cheerful nature, a happiness which the morbid Nathaniel would never have given her.

Translation by John Oxenford

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Last Installment

Mademoiselle de Scudéri completed what Seron had begun, by letting the gentle rays of hope stream into the girl’s heart; till at length a violent flood of tears, which started to her eyes, brought her relief, and she was able to tell her story, with only occasional interruptions when the overmastering might of her sorrow turned her words into sobbing.

She had been awakened at midnight by a soft knocking at her door, and had recognised the voice of Olivier, imploring her to get up at once, as her father lay dying. She sprang up, terrified, and opened the door. Olivier, pale, strained and bathed in perspiration, led the way, with tottering steps, to the workshop; she followed. There was her father lying with his eyes glazed, and the death-rattle in his throat. She threw herself upon him, weeping wildly, and then observed that his shirt was covered with blood. Olivier gently lifted her away, and busied himself in bathing a wound on her father’s left breast with balsam, and bandaging it. As he was doing so, her father’s consciousness came back; the rattle in his throat ceased and, looking first on her and then on Olivier with most expressive glances, he took her hand and placed it in Olivier’s, pressing them both together. The pair of them were kneeling beside her father’s bed when he raised himself with a piercing cry, but immediately fell back again, and with a deep sigh departed this life. On this they both wept and lamented.

Olivier told her how her father had been murdered in his presence during an expedition on which he had accompanied him that night by his order, and how he had with the utmost difficulty carried him home, not supposing him to be mortally wounded. As soon as it was day, the people of the house – who had heard the sounds of their footsteps and of the weeping and lamenting during the night – came up, and found them still kneeling, inconsolable by the goldsmith’s body. Then an uproar began, the Marechaussée broke in, and Olivier was taken to prison as her father’s murderer. Madelon added the most touching account of Olivier’s virtues, goodness, piety and sincerity, telling how he had honoured his master as if he had been his own father, and how the latter returned his affection in the fullest measure, choosing him for his son-in-law in spite of his poverty, because his skill and fidelity were equal to the nobility of his heart. All this Madelon saw out of the fulness of her love, and added that if Olivier had thrust a dagger into her father’s heart before her very eyes, she would rather have thought it a delusion of Satan’s than have believed Olivier capable of such a terrible crime.

Most deeply touched by Madelon’s unspeakable sufferings, and quite disposed to believe in poor Olivier’s innocence, Mademoiselle de Scudéri made inquiries, and found everything confirmed which Madelon had said as to the domestic relations between the master and his workman. The people of the house and the neighbours all spoke of Olivier as the very model of good, steady, exemplary behaviour. No one knew anything whatever against him, and yet, when the crime was alluded to, every one shrugged his shoulders, and thought there was something incomprehensible about it.

Olivier, brought before the Chambre Ardente, most steadfastly denied – as Mademoiselle de Scudéri learned – the crime of which he was accused. Over and over again Mademoiselle de Scudéri had the very minutest circumstances of the awful event related to her. But the more enthusiastically Madelon spoke of the peaceful home-life which the three had led together, united in the most sincere affection, the more did every vestige of suspicion against Olivier disappear from her mind. Closely examining and considering everything, Mademoiselle de Scudéri could find, in all the realm of possibility, no motive for the terrible deed. With the firmest conviction of his innocence, Mademoiselle de Scudéri resolved to save Olivier at whatever cost.

It seemed to her most advisable, before perhaps appealing to the King in person, to go to the President La Regnie, point out for his consideration all the circumstances which made for Olivier’s innocence.

La Regnie received her with all the consideration and listened in silence to all she had to say concerning Olivier’s circumstances, relationships and character; and also concerning the crime itself. When at length Mademoiselle de Scudéri concluded, quite exhausted and wiping the tears from her cheeks, La Regnie began:

“It is quite characteristic of your excellent heart, Mademoiselle,” he said, that, moved by the tears of a young girl in love, you should credit all she says. But by you, Mademoiselle, I would not be looked upon as a monster of severity and barbarism; therefore, permit me briefly to present to you the evidence of this young criminal’s guilt. “Eh bien! this morning René Cardillac is found murdered by a dagger thrust, no one is by him except his workman, Olivier Brusson, and the daughter. In Olivier’s room there is found, amongst other things, a dagger covered with fresh blood which exactly fits into the wound. Olivier says, ‘Cardillac was attacked in the street before my eyes’ ‘Was the intention to rob him?’ ‘I do not know.’ ‘You were walking with him and you could not drive off the murderer or detain him?’ ‘My master was walking fifteen or perhaps sixteen paces in front of me; I was following him.’ ‘Why, in all the world, so far behind?’ ‘My master wished it so.’ ‘And what had Master Cardillac to do in the streets so late?’ ‘That I cannot say.’ ‘But he was never in the habit of being out after nine o’clock at other times, was he?’ At this Olivier hesitates, becomes confused, sighs, sheds tears, vows by all that is sacred that Cardillac did go out that night, and met with his death.

“Now observe, Mademoiselle, it is proved with the most absolute certainty that Cardillac did not leave the house that night; consequently Olivier’s assertion that he went with him is a barefaced falsehood. The street door of the house fastens with a heavy lock, which makes a piercing noise in opening and closing, so that, as experiments have proved, the noise is heard quite distinctly in the upper stories of the house. Now, there lives in the lower story, that is to say, close to the street door, old Maître Claude Patru with his housekeeper, a person of nearly eighty years of age, but still hale and active. Both of them heard Cardillac come downstairs at nine o”clock exactly, according to his usual custom, close and bolt the door with a great deal of noise, go upstairs again, read the evening prayer, and then (as was to be presumed by the shutting of the door) go into his bedroom.

“Maître Claude suffers from sleeplessness like many other old people; and on the night in question he could not close an eye. Therefore, about half-past nine the housekeeper struck a light in the kitchen, which she reached by crossing the passage, and sat down at the table beside her master with an old chronicle-book, from which she read aloud. All was silence in the house till nearly midnight; but then they heard overhead rapid footsteps, a heavy fall, as of something on to the floor, and immediately after that a hollow groaning. They were both struck by a peculiar alarm and anxiety, the horror of the terrible deed which had just been committed seemed to sweep over them. When day came what had been done in the darkness was brought clearly to light.”

“But, in the name of all the Saints,” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, “considering all the circumstances which I have told you at such length, can you think of any motive for this diabolical deed?”

“Hm!” answered La Regnie. “Cardillac was anything but a poor man. He had valuable jewels in his possession.”

“But all he had would go to the daughter! You forget that Olivier was to be Cardillac’s son-in-law.”

“Perhaps he was compelled to share with others,” said La Regnie, “or to do the deed wholly for them!”

“Share! – murder for others,” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, in utter amazement.

“You must learn, Mademoiselle,” continued La Regnie, “that Olivier’s blood would have been flowing on the Place de la Grève before this time, but that his crime is connected with that deeply-hidden mystery which has so long brooded over Paris. It is clear that Olivier belongs to that infamous band.

And most conclusive of all since Olivier’s arrest, the robberies and murders have ceased, the streets are as safe by night as by day. Proof enough that Olivier was most probably the chief of the band. As yet he will not confess, but there are means of making him speak against his will.”

“And Madelon!” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, “that truthful innocent creature.”

“Ah!” cried La Regnie, with one of his venomous smiles, “who will answer to me that she is not in the plot, too? She does not care so very much about her father. Her tears are all for the young murderer ”

“What?” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, “not for her father? – that girl – impossible!”

“Oh!” continued La Regnie, “remember la Brinvilliers! You must pardon me, if by-and-by I have to carry off your protégée, and put her in the Conciergerie.”

Mademoiselle de Scudéri shuddered at this grisly notion. It seemed to her that no truth or virtue could endure before this terrible man.

As she was just going to descend the stairs, to which the President had attended her with ceremonious courtesy, a strange idea came to her – she knew not how.

“Might I be allowed to see this unfortunate Olivier Brusson?” she inquired, turning round sharply.

He scrutinised her face thoughtfully, and then distorted his features into the repulsive smile which was characteristic of him.

“Doubtless, Mademoiselle,” he said, your idea is that, trusting your own feelings — the inward voice more than what happened before our eyes, you would like to examine into Olivier’s guilt or innocence for yourself. Olivier, whose fate excites your sympathy, shall be brought to you.”

In truth, Mademoiselle de Scudéri could not bring herself to believe in Olivier’s guilt. Everything spoke against him. She thought she would hear Olivier’s narrative of the events of that night of mystery, which the judges, perhaps, did not see into, because they thought it unworthy of investigation.

Arrived at the Conciergerie, she was taken into a large, well-lighted room. Presently she heard the ring of fetters. Olivier Brusson was brought in; but as soon as she saw him she fell down fainting. When she recovered, he was gone. She demanded impetuously to be taken to her carriage; Alas! at the first glance she had recognised in Olivier Brusson the young man who had thrown the letter into her carriage on the Pont Neuf, and who had brought her the casket with the jewels. Now all doubt was gone, La Regnie’s terrible suspicions completely justified. Olivier belonged to the atrocious band, and had, doubtless, murdered his master!

And Madelon! Never before so bitterly deceived by her kind feelings, Mademoiselle de Scudéri, as she weighed and considered all the circumstances of the crime along with Madelon’s behaviour, she found a very great deal to nourish suspicion.

With a resolve at once to cast away the serpent she had been cherishing, Mademoiselle de Scudéri alighted from her carriage. Madelon threw herself at her feet. Controlling herself with difficulty and speaking with as much calmness and gravity as she could, Mademoiselle de Scudéri said, “Go! go! – be thankful that the murderer awaits the just punishment of his crime. With a bitter cry of “Alas! then all is over!” Madelon fell fainting to the ground. Mademoiselle de Scudéri left her to the care of La Martinière and went to another room.

Much distressed and estranged from all earthly things, she longed to depart from a world filled with diabolical treachery and falsehood. She heard Madelon, as La Martinière was leading her away, murmur in broken accents, “Her, too, have the terrible men deceived. Ah! wretched me! – miserable Olivier!” The tones of her voice went to her heart, and again there dawned within her a belief in the existence of some mystery, in Olivier’s innocence. Torn by the most contradictory feelings, she cried, “What spirit of the pit has mixed me up in this terrible story, which will be my very death!”

At this moment Baptiste came in, pale and terrified, to say that Desgrais was at the door. Since the dreadful La Voisin trial the appearance of Desgrais in a house was the sure precursor of some criminal accusation. Hence Baptiste’s terror, as to which his mistress asked him with a gentle smile, “What is the matter, Baptiste? Has the name of Scudéri been found in La Voisin’s lists?”

“Ah! For Christ’s sake,” cried Baptiste, trembling in every limb, ” Desgrais – the horrible Desgrais – is looking so mysterious, and is so insistent – he seems hardly able to wait till he can see you.”

“Well. Baptiste,” she said, “bring him in at once, this gentleman who so frightens you. To me, at all events, he can cause no anxiety.”

“President La Regnie sends me to you, Mademoiselle,” said Desgrais, when he entered, “with a request which he scarce would dare to make if the last hope of bringing to light an atrocious deed of blood did not lie in your hands. Since he saw you, Olivier Brusson has been almost out of his mind. To you alone will he divulge everything. Vouchsafe then, Mademoiselle, to listen to Brusson’s confession.”

“What?” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, in indignation, “I become an organ of the criminal court, and abuse the confidence of this unfortunate fellow to bring him to the scaffold! No, Desgrais! I will have nothing to do with his avowal. If I did, it would be locked up in my heart, as if made to a priest under the seal of the confessional.”

“Perhaps, Mademoiselle,” said Desgrais, with a subtle smile, “you might alter your opinion after hearing Brusson.”

Mademoiselle de Scudéri shuddered involuntarily.

“Understand, Mademoiselle,” he continued, ” Olivier would be brought to your own house, in the night, like a free man; He could thus tell you freely and unconstrainedly all he had to say. Moreover, it would rest with you entirely to repeat as much or as little as you pleased of what Brusson confessed to you?”

Mademoiselle de Scudéri sat with eyes fixed on the ground, in deep reflection. Coming to a rapid decision, she solemnly replied, “God will give me self-command and firm resolution. Bring Brusson here; I will see him.”

So now at midnight there came a knocking at the door. Baptiste, duly instructed, opened. Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s blood ran cold when she heard the heavy tread of the guards who had brought Brusson stationing themselves about the passages.

At length the door opened, Desgrais came in, and after him Olivier Brusson, without irons, and respectably dressed.

“Here is Brusson, Mademoiselle,” said Desgrais, bowing courteously; he then departed at once.

Brusson sank down on both knees before Mademoiselle de Scudéri. She said: “Now, Brusson, what have you to say to me?”

He – still on his knees – sighed deeply, from profound sorrow, and then said: “Oh, Mademoiselle, you whom I so honour and worship, is there no trace of recollection of me left in your mind?”

Still looking at him attentively, she answered that she had certainly detected in his face a likeness to someone whom she had held in affection. Brusson rose quickly, and stepped backwards a pace, with his gloomy glance fixed on the ground.

Then, in a hollow voice, he said: “Have you quite forgotten Anne Guiot? Her son, Olivier, the boy whom you used to dandle on your knee, is he who is now before you.”

“Oh! For the love of all the Saints!” she cried, covering her face with both hands and sinking back in her chair. She had reason for being thus horrified. Anne Guiot, the daughter of a citizen who had fallen into poverty, had lived with Mademoiselle de Scudéri from her childhood; she had brought her up like a daughter, with all affection and care. When she grew up, a handsome, well-conducted young man named Claude Bresson fell in love with her. Being a first-rate workman at his trade of a watchmaker, sure to make a capital living in Paris and Anne being very fond of him, Mademoiselle de Scudéri saw no reason to object to their marrying. They set up house accordingly, lived a most quiet and happy domestic life, and the bond between them was knitted more closely still by the birth of a most beautiful boy, the image of his pretty mother.

Mademoiselle de Scudéri made an idol of little Olivier, whom she would take away from his mother for hours and days, to pet him and kiss him. Hence he attached himself to her, and was as pleased to be with her as with his mother. When three years had passed, the depressed state of Brusson’s trade brought it about that job-work was scarcer every day. In addition to this came home-sickness for his beautiful native Geneva so the little household went there, in spite of Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s dissuasions and promises of all needful assistance. Anne wrote once or twice to her foster-mother, and then ceased; so that Mademoiselle de Scudéri thought she was forgotten in the happiness of the Brussons’ life.

It was now just three and twenty years since the Brussons had left Paris for Geneva.

“Horrible!” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, when she had to some extent recovered herself, “You, Olivier! the son of my Anne! And now!”

“Mademoiselle!” said Olivier, quietly and composedly, ” I am completely innocent! Not by my hand – not by any crime of my committing, was it that the unfortunate Cardillac came to his end.”

As he said this, Olivier began to tremble and shake so, that Mademoiselle de Scudéri motioned him to a little seat which was near him.

“I have had sufficient time,” he went on, “to prepare myself for this interview with you – which I look upon as the last favour of a merciful Heaven Ah! would to Heaven my poor father had never left Paris! As far as my recollections of Geneva carry me, my father was deceived in all his expectations; bowed down and broken with sorrow, he died, just when he had managed to place me as apprentice with a goldsmith. My mother spoke much of you; she longed to tell you all her misfortunes, but the despondency which springs from poverty prevented her. She followed my father to the grave a few months after his death.”

“Poor Anne! Poor Anne!” said Mademoiselle de Scudéri, overwhelmed by sorrow.

Outside there was a sudden agitation; a sound of people moving about made itself heard. “Ho, ho!” said he, with a bitter laugh, “Desgrais is waking up his people, as if I could possibly escape. But, let me go on. My master treated me harshly, though I was very soon one of the best of workmen and, indeed, much better than himself. Once a stranger came to our workshop to buy some of our work.

“When he saw a necklace of my making, he patted my shoulder in a kind way, and said, looking at the necklace with admiration, ‘Ah, ha! my young friend, this is really first-class work. I don’t know anybody who could beat it but René Cardillac, who is the greatest of all goldsmiths, of course. You ought to go to him.’

“The words of this stranger sunk deep into my heart. There was no more peace for me Geneva. I was powerfully impelled to leave it, and at length I succeeded in getting free from my master. I came to Paris, where René Cardillac received me coldly and harshly. But I stuck to my point. He was obliged to give me something to try my hand at, however trifling. So I got a ring to finish. When I took it back to him finished, he gazed at me with those sparkling eyes of his, as if he would look me through and through. Then he said, ‘You are a first-rate man – a splendid fellow; you may come and work with me. I’ll pay you well; you’ll be satisfied with me.’ And he kept his word. I had been several weeks with him before I saw Madelon who, I think, had been visiting an aunt of his in the country. At last she came home. O eternal power of Heaven, how was it with me when I saw that angelic creature! Has ever a man so loved as I! And now! Oh Madelon!”

Olivier could speak no more for sorrow. He held both hands over his face, and sobbed violently. At last he conquered the wild pain with a mighty effort, and went on:

“Madelon looked on me with favour, and came oftener and oftener into the workshop. Her father watched closely but many a stolen hand-clasp marked our covenant. Cardillac did not seem to notice. My idea was, that if I could gain his good-will and attain Master’s rank, I should ask his consent to our marriage. One morning, when I was going in to begin work, he came to me with anger and contempt in his face.

“‘I don’t want any more of your work,’ he said. ‘Get out of this house, and don’t let my eyes ever rest on you again. I have no need to tell you the reason. The dainty fruit you are trying to gather is beyond the reach of a beggar like you!’

“I tried to speak, but he seized me and pitched me out of the door with such violence that I fell, and hurt my head and my arm. Furious, and smarting with the pain, I went off, and at last found a kindhearted acquaintance in the Faubourg St. Germain, who gave me quarters in his garret. I had no peace nor rest. At night I wandered round Cardillac’s house, hoping that Madelon would hear my sighs and lamentations, and perhaps manage to speak to me at the window, undiscovered. All sorts of desperate plans, to which I thought I might persuade her, jostled each other in my brain. Cardillac’s house in the Rue Niçaise abuts on to a high wall with niches, containing old, partly-broken statues.

“One night I was standing close to one of those figures, looking up at the windows of the house which open on the courtyard which the wall encloses. Suddenly I saw a light in Cardillac’s workshop. It was midnight, and he was never awake at that time, as he always went to bed exactly at nine. My heart beat anxiously: I thought something might be going on. I pressed myself closely into the niche, and against the statue; but I started back in alarm, feeling a return of my pressure, as if the statue had come to life. In the faint moonlight I saw that the stone was slowly turning, and behind it appeared a dark form, which crept softly out and went down the street with stealthy tread. I sprang to the statue: it was standing close to the wall again, as before. Involuntarily, as if impelled by some power within me, I followed the receding dark figure. In passing an image of the Virgin, this figure looked round, the light of the lamp before the image falling upon his face. It was Cardillac! An indescribable fear fell upon me; an eerie shudder came over me.

“As if driven by some spell, I felt I must follow this spectre-like sleep-walker – for that was what I thought my master was, though it was not full moon, the time when that kind of impulse falls upon sleepers. At length Cardillac disappeared in a deep shadow; but by a certain easily distinguishable sound I knew that he had gone into the entry of a house. What was the meaning of this? I asked myself in amazement; what was he going to do? I pressed myself close to the wall. Presently there came up a gentleman, trilling and singing, with a white plume distinct in the darkness, and clanking spurs. Cardillac darted out upon him from the darkness, like a tiger on his prey; the man fell to the ground gasping. I rushed up with a cry of terror. Cardillac was leaning over him as he lay on the ground.

“‘Master Cardillac, what are you about?’ I cried aloud. ‘Curses upon you!’ he cried and, running by me with lightning speed, disappeared. Quite out of my senses – scarcely able to walk a step – I went up to the gentleman on the ground, and knelt down beside him, thinking it might still be possible to save him. But there was no trace of life left in him. In my alarm I scarcely noticed that the Marechaussée had come up and surrounded me.

“‘Another one laid low by the demons!’ they cried, all speaking at once. ‘Ah! ha! youngster! what are you doing here? – are you one of the band?’ and they seized me. I stammered out in the best way I could that I was incapable of such a terrible deed, and that they must let me go. Then one of them held a lantern to my face, and said, with a laugh: ‘This is Olivier Brusson; the goldsmith who works with our worthy Master René Cardillac. He murder folks in the street! – very likely story! Who ever heard of a murderer lamenting over the body, and letting himself be nabbed? Tell us all about it, my lad; out with it straight.’

“‘Right before my eyes,’ I said, ‘someone sprang out upon this man, stabbed him and ran off like lightning. I cried as loud as I could. I tried to see if he could be saved.’

“‘No, my son,’ cried one of those who had lifted up the body, ‘he’s done for! – the dagger-stab right through his heart, as usual.’ ‘The deuce!’ said another; ‘just too late again, as we were the day before yesterday.’ And they went away with the body.

“What I thought of all this I really cannot tell you. I pinched myself, to see if I were not in some horrible dream. Cardillac – my Madelon’s father – an atrocious murderer! I had sunk down powerless on the stone steps of a house; the daylight was growing brighter and brighter. An officer’s hat with a fine plume was lying before me on the pavement. Cardillac’s deed of blood, committed on the spot, came clearly back to my mental vision. I ran away in horror.

“With my mind in a whirl, almost unconscious, I was sitting in my garret, when the door opened, and René Cardillac came in. ‘For Christ’s sake! what do you want?’ I cried. Paying no heed to this, however, he came up smiling with a calmness and urbanity which increased my inward horror. He drew forward an old rickety stool, and sat down beside me; for I was unable to rise from my straw bed, where I had thrown myself. ‘Well, Olivier,’ he began, ‘how is it with you, my poor boy? I really was too hasty in turning you out of doors. Yes, I know very well I insulted you. I won’t pretend that I was not angry about your making up to my Madelon; but I have been thinking matters well over, and I see that I couldn’t have a better son-in-law than you, with your abilities, your skill, diligence and trustworthiness. Come back with me, and see how soon you and Madelon can make a match of it.’

“His words pierced my heart; I shuddered at his wickedness; I could not utter a syllable.

“‘You hesitate,’ he said sharply, while his sparkling eyes transfixed me. ‘Perhaps you can’t come today. You have other things to do. Perhaps you want to go and see Desgrais, or have an interview with D’Argenson or La Regnie. ‘ At this my sorely tried spirit found vent.

“‘Those,’ I said, ‘who are conscious of horrible crimes may dread the names which you have mentioned, but I do not. I have nothing to do with them.’

“‘Remember, Olivier,’ he resumed, ‘that it is an honour to you to work with . As to Madelon, I must tell you that it is her alone whom you have to thank for my yielding. She loves you with a devotion- as soon as you were gone, she fell at my feet, clasped my knees and vowed with copious tears, that she could never live without you. My Madelon really did fall quite sick and ill; and when I tried to talk her out of the silly nonsense, she called out your name a thousand times. Last evening I told her I gave in and agreed to everything, and would go to fetch you today; so this morning she is blooming again like any rose, and waiting for you, quite beside herself with longing.’

“May the eternal power of Heaven forgive me, but – I don’t know how it came about – I suddenly found myself in Cardillac’s house, where Madelon, with loud cries of ‘Olivier! – my Olivier! – my beloved! my husband!’ clasped both her arms about me, and pressed me to her heart and swore by the Virgin and all the Saints never, never to leave her.”

Overcome by the remembrance of this decisive moment, Olivier was obliged to pause. Horrified at the crime of a man Mademoiselle de Scudéri cried: “Dreadful! – René Cardillac a member of that band of murderers who have so long made Paris into a robbers’ den!”

“A member of the band, do you say, Mademoiselle?” said Olivier. “There never was any band; it was René Cardillac alone who sought and found his victims with such diabolical ingenuity and activity”.

I had rendered myself Cardillac’s accomplice in murder, and it was only in Madelon’s love that I temporarily forgot the inward pain which tortured me; only in her society could I drive away all outward traces of the nameless horror. Although much was to be gathered from what the Marechaussée had said, still Cardillac’s crimes, their motive and the manner in which he carried them out, were a riddle to me. The solution of it soon came.

One day Cardillac – who usually excited my horror by laughing and jesting during our work, in the highest of spirits – was very grave and thoughtful. Suddenly he threw the piece of work he was engaged on aside, so that the pearls and other stones rolled about the floor, started to his feet, and said: ‘Olivier! things cannot go on between us like this; the situation is unendurable What the ablest and most ingenious efforts of Desgrais and his myrmidons failed to find out, chance has thrown into your hands. You saw me at my nocturnal work, to which my Evil Star compels me, so that no resistance is possible for me; and it was your own Evil Star, moreover which led you to follow me; Your Evil Star brought you to me, my comrade – my accomplice! You see, now, that you can’t betray me; therefore you shall know all.”

“I would have cried out: ‘Never, never shall I be your comrade your accomplice, you atrocious miscreant.’ But the inward horror which I felt at his words paralysed my tongue. Instead of words I could only utter an unintelligible noise. Cardillac sat down in his working chair again, wiped the perspiration from his brow, and at length he began: ‘Wise men have much to say of the strange impulses which come to women when they are enceinte, and the strange influence which those vivid, involuntary impulses exercise upon the child. A wonderful tale is told of my mother. When she was a month gone with me she was looking on, with other women, at a court pageant at the Trianon, and saw a certain cavalier in Spanish dress, with a glittering chain of jewels about his neck, from which she could not remove her eyes. Her whole being longed for those sparkling stones, which seemed to her more than earthly. This same cavalier had at a previous time, before my mother was married, had designs on her virtue, which she rejected with indignation. She recognised him, but now, irradiated by the light of the gems, he seemed to her a creature of a higher sphere, the very incarnation of beauty. The cavalier noticed the longing, fiery looks which she was bending on him, and thought he was in better luck now than of old.

“‘He managed to get near her, to separate her from her companions, and entice her to a lonely place. There he clasped her eagerly in his arms. My mother grasped at the beautiful chain; but at that moment he fell down, dragging her with him. Whether it was apoplexy, or what, I do not know; but he was dead. My mother struggled in vain to free herself from the clasp of the arms, stiffened as they were in death. With the hollow eyes, whence vision had departed, fixed on her, the corpse rolled with her to the ground. Her shrieks at length reached people who were passing at some distance; they hastened to her, and rescued her from the embrace of this gruesome lover.

“‘Her fright laid her on a bed of dangerous sickness. Her life was despaired of as well as mine; but she recovered, and her confinement was more prosperous than had been thought possible. But the terrors of that awful moment had set their mark on me. My Evil Star had risen, and darted into me those rays which kindled in me one of the strangest and most fatal of passions. Even in my earliest childhood I thought there was nothing to compare with glittering diamonds in golden settings. This was looked upon as a childish fancy; but it was otherwise, for as a boy I stole gold and jewels wherever I could lay hands on them, and I knew the difference between good ones and bad, instinctively, like the most accomplished connoisseur. Only the pure and valuable attracted me; I would not touch alloyed or coined gold. Those inborn cravings needed an outlet. So that I might always have to do with gold and precious stones, I took up the goldsmith’s calling. I worked at it with passion, and soon became the first living master of that art. Then began a period when the natural bent within me, so long restrained, shot forth in power, and waxed with might, bearing everything away before it. As soon as I finished a piece of work and delivered it, I fell into a state of restlessness and disconsolateness which prevented my sleeping, ruined my health, and left me no enjoyment in my life. The person for whom I made the work haunted me day and night like a spectre. I saw that person continually before my mental vision, with my beautiful jewels on, and a voice kept whispering to me: “They belong to you! take them; what’s the use of diamonds to the dead?” At last I betook myself to thieving. I had access to the houses of the great; I took advantage quickly of every opportunity. No locks withstood my skill, and I soon had my work back in my hands again. But this was not enough to calm my unrest. That mysterious voice made itself heard again, jeering at me, and saying: “Ho, ho! one of the dead is wearing your jewels.” I did not know whence it came, but I had an indescribable hatred for all those for whom I made jewellery. More than that, in the depths of my heart I began to long to kill them; this frightened me. Just then I bought this house. I had concluded the bargain with the owner: here in this very room we were sitting, drinking a bottle of wine in honour of the transaction.

“‘Night had come on, he was going to leave when he said to me: “Look here, Maître René before I go I must let you into a secret about this house.” He opened that cupboard, which is built into the wall there, and pushed the back of it in; this let him into a little closet, where he bowed down and raised a trap-door. This showed us a steep, narrow stair, which we went down, and at the bottom of it was a little narrow door, which let us out into the open courtyard. There he went up to the wall, pushed a piece of iron which projected a very little, and immediately a piece of the wall turned round, so that a person could get out through the opening into the street. You must see this contrivance sometime, Olivier. When I saw this arrangement, dark ideas surged up in my mind; it seemed to me that deeds, as yet mysterious to myself, were here prearranged for.

“‘I had just finished a splendid set of ornaments for a gentleman of the court who, I knew, was going to give them to an opera dancer. Soon my deadly torture was on me; the spectre dogged my steps, the whispering devil was at my ear. I went back into the house, bathed in a sweat of agony; I rolled about on my bed, sleepless. In my mind’s eye I saw the man riding to his dancer with my beautiful jewels. Full of fury I sprang up, threw my cloak round me, went down the secret stair, out through the wall into the Rue Niçaise. He came, I fell upon him, he cried out; but, seizing him from behind, I plunged my dagger into his heart. The jewels were mine. When this was done, I felt a peace, a contentment within me which I had never known before. The spectre had vanished – the voice of the demon was still. Now I knew what was the behest of my Evil Star, which I had to obey, or perish.

“‘You know all now, Olivier. Don’t think that, because I must do that which I cannot avoid, I have clean renounced all sense of that mercy or kindly feeling which is the portion of all humanity, and inherent in man’s nature. You know how hard I find it to let any of my work go out of my hands, many there are to whom I would not bring death, and for them nothing will induce me to work; indeed, in cases when I feel that my spectre will have to be exorcised with blood on the morrow, I settle the business that day by a smashing blow, which lays the holder of my jewels on the ground, so that I get them back into my own hands.’

“Having said all this, Cardillac took me into his secret strong-room and showed me his collection of jewels; the King does not possess its equal. To each ornament was fastened a small label stating for whom it had been made, and when taken back – by theft, robbery, or murder.

“‘On your wedding day, Olivier,’ he said, in a solemn tone, ‘you will swear me a solemn oath, with your hand on the crucifix, that as soon as I am dead you will at once convert all these treasures into dust by a process which I will tell you of. I will not have any human being, least of all Madelon and you, come into possession of those stones that have been bought with blood.’

“Shut up in this labyrinth of crime, torn in twain by love and abhorrence, I was like one of the damned to whom a glorified angel points, with gentle smile, the upward way, whilst Satan holds him down with red-hot talons; I thought of flight, even of suicide, but Madelon! Blame me, blame me, Mademoiselle, for having been too weak to overcome a passion which fettered me to my destruction. I shall be atoning for my weakness by a shameful death. One day Cardillac came in in unusually fine spirits. He kissed and caressed Madelon, cast most affectionate looks at me, drank a bottle of good wine at table, which he only did on high-days and holidays, sang and made merry. Madelon had left us and I was going to the workshop.

“‘Sit still, lad,’ cried Cardillac, ‘no more work today; let’s drink the health of the most worthy and charming lady in all Paris.’

“When we had clinked our glasses, and he had emptied a bumper, he said: ‘Tell me, Olivier, how do you like these lines?

 

  • “Un amant qui craint les voleurs
  • N’est point digne d’amour.”‘

 

“And he told me what had transpired between you and the King in Madame de Maintenon’s salon, adding that he had always respected you more than any other human being, and that his reverence and esteem for your qualities was such that his Evil Star paled before you,” and he would have no fear that, were you to wear the finest piece of his work that ever he made, the spectre would ever prompt him to thoughts of murder.

“‘Listen, Olivier,’ he said, ‘to what I am going to do. A considerable time ago I had to make a necklace and bracelets for Henrietta of England, supplying the stones myself. I made of this the best piece of work that ever I turned out, and it broke my heart to part with the ornaments, which had become the very treasures of my soul. You know of her unfortunate death by assassination. The things remained with me, and now I shall send them to Mademoiselle de Scudéri, in the name of the dreaded band, as a token of respect and gratitude. Besides its being an unmistakable mark of her triumph, it will be a richly deserted sign of my contempt for Desgrais and his men. You shall take her the jewels.’

“When he mentioned your name, Mademoiselle, dark veils seemed to be lifted, revealing the bright memory of my happy childhood, which rose again in glowing colours before me. A wonderful comfort came into my soul, a ray of hope, driving the dark shadows away. Cardillac saw the effect his words had produced upon me, and gave it his own interpretation. ‘My idea seems to please you,’ he said. ‘I must declare that a deep inward voice, very unlike that which cries for blood like a raving wild beast, commanded me to do this thing. Many times I feel the strangest ideas come into my mind – an inward fear, the dread of something terrible, that the deeds which my Evil Star has committed by means of me may be charged to the account of my immortal soul, though it has no part in them. In one of those moods I determined that I would make a beautiful diamond crown for the Virgin in the Church of St. Eustache. But the indescribable dread always came upon me, stronger than ever, when I set to work at it, so that I have abandoned it altogether. Now it seems to me that in presenting Mademoiselle de Scudéri with the finest work I have ever turned out, I am offering a humble sacrifice to goodness and virtue personified, and imploring their powerful intercession.’

“Cardillac, well acquainted with all the minutiae of your manner of life told me how and when to take the ornaments to you. My whole being rejoiced, for Heaven seemed to be showing me, through the atrocious Cardillac, the way to escape from the hell in which I was being tortured. Quite contrary to Cardillac’s wish, I resolved that I would get access to you and speak with you. As Anne Brusson’s son and your former pet, I thought I would throw myself at your feet and tell you everything. I knew that you would keep the secret, out of consideration for the unheard-of misery which its disclosure would bring upon Madelon, but that you would be sure to find means to put an end to Cardillac’s wickedness without disclosing it. Do not ask me what those means were to have been; I cannot tell. But that you would rescue Madelon and me I believed as firmly as I do in the intercession of the Holy Virgin. You know, Mademoiselle, that my intention was frustrated that night; but I did not lose hope of being more fortunate another time.

“By-and-by Cardillac suddenly lost all his good spirits; he crept moodily about, uttered unintelligible words, and worked his arms as if warding off something hostile. His mind seemed full of evil thoughts. For a whole morning he had been going on in this way. At last he sat down at the worktable, sprang up again angrily, looked out of window, and then said gravely and gloomily: ‘I wish Henrietta of England had had my jewels.’ Those words filled me with terror. I knew that his diseased mind was again possessed by a terrible lust for murder, that the voice of the demon was again loud in his ears. I saw your life threatened by that dread spirit of murder. If Cardillac could get his jewels back again into his hands you were safe. The danger grew greater every instant. I met you on the Pont Neuf, made my way to your carriage, threw you the note which implored you to give the jewels back to Cardillac immediately. You did not come. My fear became despair, when next day Cardillac spoke of nothing but the priceless jewels he had seen last night in his dreams. I could only suppose that this referred to your jewels, and I felt sure he was brooding over some murderous attack, which he had determined to carry out that night. Save you I must, should it cost Cardillac’s life.

“After the evening prayer when he had shut himself up in his room as usual, I got into the courtyard through a window, slipped out through the opening of the wall, and stationed myself close at hand, in the deepest shadow. Very soon Cardillac came out, and went gliding softly down the street. I followed him. He took the direction of the Rue St. Honoré. My heart beat fast. All at once he disappeared from me. I determined to place myself at your door. Just as fate had ordered matters on the first occasion of my witnessing one of his crimes, there came along past me an officer, trilling and singing; he did not see me. Instantly a dark form sprang out and attacked him. Cardillac! I determined to prevent this murder. I gave a loud shout, and was on the spot in a couple of paces. Not the officer, but Cardillac, fell gasping to the ground, mortally wounded. The officer let his dagger fall, drew his sword, and stood on the defensive, thinking I was the murderer’s accomplice. But he hastened away when he saw that, instead of concerning myself about him, I was examining the fallen man. Cardillac was still alive. I took up the dagger dropped by the officer, stuck it in my belt and, lifting Cardillac on to my shoulders, carried him with difficulty to the house, and up the secret stair to the workshop. The rest you know.

“You perceive, Mademoiselle, that my only crime was that I refrained from giving Madelon’s father up to justice, thereby making an end of his crimes. I am quite innocent of murder.”

Olivier ceased, and a torrent of tears fell down his cheeks. He threw himself at Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s feet, saying imploringly: “You are convinced that I am innocent; I know you are. Be merciful to me. Tell me how Madelon is faring.”

Mademoiselle de Scudéri summoned La Martinière, and in a few minutes Madelon was clinging to Olivier’s neck.

“Now that you are here, all is well. I knew that this noble-hearted lady would save you,” Madelon cried over and over again; and Olivier forgot his fate, and all that threatened him.

He was free and happy. In the most touching manner they bewailed what each had suffered for the other, and embraced afresh, and wept for joy at being together again.

Had Mademoiselle de Scudéri not been convinced of Olivier’s innocence before, she must have been so when she saw those two lovers forgetting, in the rapture of the moment, the world, their sufferings and their indescribable sorrows.

“None but a guiltless heart,” she cried, “would be capable of such blissful forgetfulness.”

The morning light came breaking into the room, and Desgrais knocked gently at the door, reminding them that it was time to take Olivier away, as it could not be done later without attracting attention. The lovers had to part.

The dim anticipations which Mademoiselle de Scudéri had felt when Olivier first came in had now embodied themselves in reality – in a terrible fashion. The son of her much-loved Anne was, though innocent, implicated in a manner which apparently made it impossible to save him from a shameful death. She tortured herself with all kinds of plans and projects, which were chiefly of the most impracticable and impossible kind – rejected as soon as formed.

By way of beginning to do something, she wrote to La Regnie a long letter, in which she said that Olivier Brusson had proved to her in the most credible manner his entire innocence of Cardillac’s murder, and that nothing but a heroic resolution to carry to the grave with him a secret, the disclosure of which would bring destruction upon an innocent and virtuous person, withheld him from laying a statement before the Court. With the best eloquence at her command, she said everything she could think of which might be expected to soften La Regnie’s hard heart.

He replied to this in a few hours, saying his heroic resolution to carry to the grave with him a secret relating to the crime with which he was charged, he regretted that the Chambre Ardente could feel no admiration, but must endeavour to dispel it by powerful means. Mademoiselle de Scudéri knew well what the terrible La Regnie meant by the “powerful means,” which were to break down Olivier’s heroism. It was but too clear that the unfortunate wretch was threatened with the torture. In her mortal anxiety it at last occurred to her that, were it only to gain time, the advice of a lawyer would be of some service.

Pierre Arnaud d’Andilly was at that time the most celebrated advocate in Paris. To him she repaired, and told him the whole tale, as far as it was possible to do so without divulging Olivier’s secret. He did not believe that he – d’Andilly – could save Brusson from the rack, by the very ablest of pleading. Nobody could do that but Brusson himself, either by making the fullest confession, or by accurately relating the circumstances of Cardillac’s murder, which might lead to further discoveries.

“Then I will throw myself at the King’s feet and sue for mercy,” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, her voice choked by weeping.

“For Heaven’s sake, do not do that,” cried d’Andilly. “Keep that in reserve for the last extremity. If it fails you once, it is lost for ever.”

Mademoiselle de Scudéri could not but agree with what d’Andilly’s great experience dictated. She was sitting in her room, pondering as to what – in the name of the Virgin and all the saints – she should try next to do, when La Martinière came to say that the Count de Miossens, Colonel of one of the King’s Body Guard, was most anxious to speak with her.

“Pardon me, Mademoiselle,” said the Colonel, bowing with a soldier’s courtesy, “for disturbing you, and breaking in upon you at such an hour. Two words will be sufficient excuse for me. I come about Olivier Brusson.”

“Olivier Brusson,” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, eagerly anticipating what she was going to hear; “that most unfortunate of men! What have you to say of him?”

“I knew,” said Miossens, laughing again, “that your protégé’s name would ensure me a favourable hearing. Everybody is convinced of Brusson’s guilt. I know you think otherwise, and it is said your opinion rests on what he himself has told you. With me the case is different. Nobody can be more certain than I that Brusson is innocent of Cardillac’s death.”

“Speak! Oh, speak!” cried Mademoiselle Scudéri.

“I was the man who stabbed the old goldsmith in the Rue St Honoré, close to your door,” said the Colonel.

“You – you!” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri. “In the name of all the Saints, how?”

“And I vow to you, Mademoiselle, that I am very proud of my achievement. Cardillac, I must tell you, was a most abandoned hypocritical old ruffian, who went about at night robbing and murdering people, and was never suspected of anything of the kind. I don’t myself know from whence it came that I felt a suspicion of the old scoundrel, when he seemed so distressed at handing me over some work which I had got him to do for me; when he carefully wormed out of me for whom I designed it, and cross-questioned my valet as to the times when I was in the habit of going to see a certain lady. It struck me long ago, that everyone who was murdered by these unknown hands had the selfsame wound, and I saw quite clearly that the murderer had practiced to the utmost perfection of certainty that particular thrust, which must kill instantaneously – and that he reckoned upon it; so that, if it were to fail, the fight would be fair. This led me to employ a precaution so very simple and obvious that I cannot imagine how somebody else did not think of it long ago. I wore a light breastplate of steel under my dress. Cardillac set upon me from behind. He grasped me with the strength of a giant, but his finely directed thrust glided off the steel breastplate. I then freed myself from his clutch, and planted my dagger in his heart.”

“And you have said nothing?” said Mademoiselle de Scudéri. “You have not told the authorities anything about this?”

“Allow me to point out to you, Mademoiselle,” said he, “that to have done that would have involved me in a most terrible legal investigation, probably ending in my ruin.”

“Impossible,” said Mademoiselle de Scudéri. “Your rank – your position -”

“Oh!” interrupted Miossens, “remember the Maréchal de Luxembourg; he took it into his head to have his horoscope cast by Le Sage, and was suspected of poisoning, and put in the Bastille. No; by Saint Dionys! not one moment of freedom – not the tip of one of my ears, would I trust to that raging La Regnie, who would be delighted to put his knife to all our throats.”

“But this brings an innocent man to the scaffold,” said Mademoiselle de Scudéri.

“Innocent, Mademoiselle!” cried Miossens. “Do you call Cardillac’s accomplice an innocent man? He who assisted him in his crimes, and has deserved death a hundred times? No, in verity; he suffers justly; although I told you the true state of the case in the hope that you might somehow make use of it in the interests of your protégé, without bringing me into the clutches of the Chambre Ardente.”

Delighted at having her conviction of Olivier’s innocence confirmed in such a decided manner, Mademoiselle de Scudéri had no hesitation in telling the Count the whole affair, since he already knew all about Cardillac’s crimes, and in begging him to go with her to d’Andilly, to whom everything should be communicated under the seal of secrecy and who should advise what was next to be done.

When Mademoiselle de Scudéri had told him at full length all the circumstances, D’Andilly inquired again into the very minutest particulars. He asked Count Miossens if he was quite positive as to its having been Cardillac who attacked him, and if he would recognise Olivier as the person who carried away the body.

“Not only,” said Miossens, “was the moon shining brightly, so that I recognised the old goldsmith perfectly well, but this morning, at La Regnie’s, I saw the dagger with which he was stabbed. It is mine; I know it by the ornamentation of the handle. And as I was within a pace of the young man, I saw his face quite distinctly, all the more because his hat had fallen off. As a matter of course I should know him in a moment.”

D’Andilly looked before him meditatively for a few moments, and said: “There is no way of getting Brusson out of the hands of justice by any ordinary means. Delay is what we must aim at. Let Count Miossens go to the Conciergerie, be confronted with Olivier, and recognise him as the person who carried off Cardillac’s body; let him then go to La Regnie and say, ‘I saw a man stabbed in the Rue St. Honoré, and was close to the body when another man darted up, bent down over it, and finding life still in it, took it on his shoulders and carried it away. I recognised Olivier Brusson as that man.’

“This will lead to a further examination of Brusson, to his being confronted with Count Miossens; the torture will be postponed, and further investigations made. Then will be the time to have recourse to the King.” Count Miossens closely followed D’Andilly’s advice, and everything fell out just as he had said it would.

It was now time to repair to the King; and this was the chief difficulty of all, as he had such an intense horror of Brusson – whom he believed to be the man who had for so long kept Paris in a state of terror – that the least allusion to him threw him at once into the most violent anger. Madame de Maintenon, faithful to her system of never mentioning unpleasant subjects to him, declined all intermediation; so that Brusson’s fate was entirely in Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s hands. After long reflection, she hit upon a scheme which she put into execution at once. She put on a heavy black silk dress, with Cardillac’s jewels, and a long black veil, and appeared at Madame de Maintenon’s at the time when she knew the King would be there. Her noble figure in this mourning garb excited the reverential respect even of those frivolous persons who pass their days in Court antechambers. They all made way for her and, when she came into the presence, the King himself rose, astonished, and came forward to meet her.

The splendid diamonds of the necklace and bracelets flashed in his eyes, and he cried: “By Heavens! Cardillac’s work!” Then, turning to Madame de Maintenon, he said, with a pleasant smile, “See, Madame la Marquise, how our fair lady mourns for her affianced husband.”

“Ah, Sire!” said Mademoiselle de Scudéri, as if keeping up the jest, “it would ill become a mourning bride to wear such bravery. No; I have done with the goldsmith; nor would I remember him, but that the gruesome spectacle of his corpse carried off before my eyes keeps coming back to my memory.”

“What!” said the King, “did you actually see him, poor fellow?”

She then told him in few words (not introducing Brusson into the business at all) how chance had brought her to Cardillac’s door just when the murder had been discovered. She described Madelon’s wild terror and sorrow; the impression made upon her by the beautiful girl; how she had taken her out of Desgrais’s hands and borne her away amid the applause of the crowd. The scenes with La Regnie, with Desgrais, with Olivier Brusson himself, now followed, the interest constantly increasing. The King, carried away by the vividness with which Mademoiselle de Scudéri told the tale, did not notice that the Brusson case, which he so abominated, was in question. Mademoiselle de Scudéri was at his feet, imploring mercy for Olivier Brusson.

“What are you doing?” broke out the King, seizing both her hands and making her sit down. “This is a strange way of taking us by storm. It is a most terrible story! Who is to answer for the truth of Brusson’s extraordinary tale?”

“Miossens’ deposition proves it,” she cried; “the searching of Cardillac’s house; my own firm conviction, and, ah! Madelon’s pure heart, which recognises equal purity in poor Brusson.”

The King, about to say something, was interrupted by a noise in the direction of the door. Louvois, who was at work in the next room, put his head in with an anxious expression. The King rose, and followed him out. But he came back in a few minuses, walked quickly up and down the room two or three times; and then, pausing with his hands behind his back before Mademoiselle de Scudéri, he said, in a half-whisper, without looking at her: “I should like to see this Madelon of yours.”

On this Mademoiselle de Scudéri said: “Oh! gracious Sire! what a marvellous honour you vouchsafe to the poor unfortunate child. She will be at your feet in an instant.”

She tripped to the door as quickly as her heavy dress allowed, and called to those in the anteroom that the King wished to see Madelon Cardillac. She came back weeping and sobbing with delight and emotion. Having expected this, she had brought Madelon with her, leaving her to wait with the Marquise’s maid, with a short petition in her hand drawn up by D’Andilly. In a few moments she had prostrated herself, speechless, at the King’s feet. The King was moved by the wonderful beauty of the girl. He raised her gently, and stooped down as if about to kiss her hand, which he had taken in his; but he let the hand go, and gazed at her with tears in his eyes, evincing deep emotion.

Madame de Maintenon whispered to Mademoiselle de Scudéri, “Is she not exactly like La Vallière, the little thing? The King is indulging in the sweetest memories: you have gained the day.”

Though she spoke softly, the King seemed to hear.

A blush came to his cheek; he scanned Madame de Maintenon with a glance, and then said, gently and kindly: “I am quite sure that you, my dear child, think your lover is innocent; but we must hear what the Chambre Ardente has to say.”

A gentle wave of his hand dismissed Madelon, bathed in tears.

Meanwhile Count Miossens’ statement before the Chambre Ardente had become known; and, as often happens, popular opinion soon flew from one extreme to the other, so that crowds of people, in threatening temper, often collected before La Regnie’s Palais, crying, “Give us out Olivier Brusson! – he is innocent!”, even throwing stones at the windows, so that La Regnie had to seek the protection of the Marechaussée.

Many days elapsed without Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s hearing anything on the subject of Olivier Brusson. In her anxiety she went to Madame de Maintenon, who said the King was keeping silence on the subject, and it was not advisable to remind him of it.

At length Mademoiselle de Scudéri managed to find out, with D’Andilly’s help, that the King had had a long interview with Count Miossens; further, that Bontems, the King’s confidential groom of the chamber and secret agent, had been to the Conciergerie, and spoken with Brusson; that, finally, the said Bontems, with several other persons, had paid a long visit to Cardillac’s house. Claude Patru, who lived in the lower story, said he had heard banging noises above his head in the night, and that he had recognised Olivier’s voice amongst others. So far it was certain that the King was, himself, causing the matter to be investigated; but what was puzzling was the long delay in coming to a decision. La Regnie was most probably trying all in his power to prevent his prey from slipping through his fingers; and this nipped all hope in the bud.

Nearly a month had elapsed, when Madame de Maintenon sent to tell Mademoiselle de Scudéri that the King wished to see her that evening in her salon. Her heart beat fast. She knew that Olivier’s fate would be decided that night. She told Madelon so, and the latter prayed to the Virgin and all the Saints that Mademoiselle de Scudéri might succeed in convincing the King of her lover’s innocence.

And yet it appeared as if he had forgotten the whole affair, for he passed the time in chatting pleasantly with Madame de Maintenon and Mademoiselle de Scudéri, without a single word of poor Olivier Brusson.

At length Bontems appeared, approached the King, and spoke a few words so softly that the ladies could not hear them.

Mademoiselle de Scudéri trembled; but the King rose, went up to her, and said, with beaming eyes: “I congratulate you, Mademoiselle. Your protégé, Olivier Brusson, is free.”

Mademoiselle de Scudéri, with tears streaming down her cheeks, unable to utter a word, would have cast herself at the King’s feet; but he prevented her, saying: “Come, Come! Mademoiselle, you ought to be my Attorney-General and plead my causes, for nobody on earth can resist your eloquence and powers of persuasion. He who is shielded by virtue,” he added more gravely, “may snap his fingers at every accusation, by the Chambre Ardente, or any other tribunal on earth.”

Mademoiselle de Scudéri, now finding words, poured forth a most glowing tribute of gratitude. But the King interrupted her, saying there were warmer thanks awaiting her at home than any he could expect from her, as at that moment doubtless Olivier was embracing his Madelon. “Bontems,” added His Majesty, “will hand you a thousand Louis, which you will give the little one from me as a wedding portion. Let her marry her Brusson, who does not deserve such a treasure, and then they must both leave Paris. That is my will.”

La Martinière came to meet her mistress with eager steps, followed by Baptiste, their faces beaming with joy, and both crying out: “He is here! he is free! Oh, the dear young couple!”

The happy pair fell at Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s feet, and Madelon cried: “Ah! I knew that you, and you only, would save my husband.”

“You have been my mother,” cried Olivier, “my belief in you never wavered.” They kissed her hands, and shed many tears; and then they embraced again, and vowed that the heavenly bliss of that moment was worth all the nameless sufferings of the days that were past.

In a few days the priest pronounced his blessing upon them. Immediately after the wedding he started with his young wife for Geneva, sped on his way by Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s blessings. Handsomely provided with Madelon’s portion, his own skill at his calling, and every civic virtue, he there led a happy life, without a care. The hopes, whose frustration had sent the father to his grave, were fulfilled in the son.

A year after Brusson left Paris, a public proclamation, signed by Harloy de Chauvalon, Archbishop of Paris, and by Pierre Arnaud D’Andilly, Advocate of the Parliament, appeared, stating that a repentant sinner had, under seal of confession, made over to the Church a valuable stolen treasure of gold and jewels. All those who, up to about the end of the year 1680, had been robbed of property of this description, particularly if by murderous attack in the street, were directed to apply to D’Andilly, when they would receive it back, provided that anything in the said collection agreed with the description to be by them given, and provided that there was no doubt of the genuineness of the application. Many whose names occurred in Cardillac’s list as having been merely stunned, not murdered, came from time to time to D’Andilly to reclaim their property, and received it back, to their no small surprise. The remainder became the property of the Church of St. Eustache.

Translation by Alexander Ewing

 

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II

Seeing that the Chambre Ardente was unsuccessful, Argenson applied to the King to constitute with greater powers for tracking and punishing offenders. The King, thinking he had already given too ample powers to the Chambre Ardente, and shocked at the horrors of the numberless executions carried out by the bloodthirsty La Regnie, refused.

Then another method of influencing His Majesty was devised.

In the apartments of Madame de Maintenon — where the King was in the habit of spending much of his time in the afternoons — and also, very often, would be at work with his Ministers till late at night — a poetical petition was laid before him, on the part of the “Endangered Lovers,” who complained that when “galanterie” rendered it incumbent on them to be the bearers of some valuable present to the ladies of their hearts, they had always to do it at the risk of their lives. The king turned to Madame de Maintenon – without taking his eyes from it – read it again – aloud this time – and then asked, with a pleased smile, what she thought of the petition of the “Endangered Lovers.”

Madame de Maintenon, faithful to her serious turn, and ever wearing the garb of a certain piousness, answered that secret and forbidden practices did not deserve much in the form of protection, but that the criminals probably did require special laws for their punishment. The King, not satisfied with this answer, folded the paper up, and was going back to the Secretary of State, who was at work in the ante-room, when, happening to glance sideways, his eyes rested on Mademoiselle de Scudéri who was present, seated in a little arm-chair. Standing close before her, with his face unwrinkling itself, he said –

“The Marquise does not know, and has no desire to learn, anything about the ‘galanteries’ of our enamoured gentlemen, and evades the subject in ways which are nothing less than forbidden. But, Mademoiselle, what do you think of this poetical petition?”

Mademoiselle de Scudéri rose from her chair; a transient blush, like the purple of the evening sky, passed across her pale cheeks and, gently bending forward, she answered with downcast eyes:

 

  • “Un amant qui craint les voleurs
  • N’est point digne d’amour.”
  • (A lover who takes to heels at sight
  • Of trouble, how I despise the wight!)( free translation by b)

 

The King, surprised, and struck with admiration at the chivalrous spirit of those few words – which completely took the wind out of the sails of the poem, with all its lengthy tirades – cried, with flashing eyes: “By Saint Denis, you are right, Mademoiselle! No blind laws, touching the innocent and the guilty alike, shall shelter cowardice. Argenson and La Regnie must do their best.”

Next morning La Martinière told her all that had happened the previous night, and handed her the mysterious casket, with much fear and trembling. Both she and Baptiste (who stood in the corner as white as a sheet, kneading his cap in his hand from agitation and anxiety) implored her, in the name of all the saints, to take the greatest precautions in opening it.

Weighing and examining the unopened mystery in her hand, she said with a smile, “You are a couple of bogies! The wicked scoundrels outside who, as you say yourselves, spy out all that goes on in every house know, no doubt, quite as well as you and I do, that I am not rich, and that there are no treasures in this house worth committing a murder for. Is my life in danger, do you think? Who could have any interest in the death of an old woman of seventy-three, who never persecuted any evildoers except those in her own novels; who writes mediocre poetry, incapable of exciting anyone’s envy; who has nothing to leave behind her but the belongings of an old maid who sometimes goes to Court, and two or three dozen handsomely-bound books with gilt edges. And, alarming as your account is, La Martinière, of this man’s appearance, I cannot believe that he meant me any harm, so ____”

La Martinière sprang three paces backwards, and Baptiste fell on one knee with a hollow, “Ah!” as Mademoiselle de Scudéri pressed a projecting steel knob, and the lid of the casket flew open with a certain amount of noise.

Great was her surprise to see that it contained a pair of bracelets, and a necklace richly set in jewels. She took them out and, as she spoke in admiration of the marvellous workmanship of the necklace, La Martinière cast glances of wonder at the bracelets, and cried, again and again, that Madame de Montespan herself did not possess such jewellery.

“But why is it brought to me?” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri. “What can this mean?” She saw, however, a little folded note at the bottom of the casket, and in this she rightly thought she would find the key to the mystery. When she had read what was written in the note, it fell from her trembling hands; she raised an appealing look to heaven, and then sank down half fainting in her chair. Baptiste and La Martinière hurried to her, in alarm.

“Oh!” she cried, in a voice stifled by tears, “the mortification! The deep humiliation! Has it been reserved for me to undergo this in my old age? Have I ever been frivolous, like some of the foolish young creatures; are words, spoken half in jest, to be found capable of such a terrible interpretation? Am I, who have been faithful to all that is pure and good from my childhood, to be made virtually an accomplice in the crimes of this terrible confederation .”

She held her handkerchief to her eyes, so that Baptiste and La Martinière, altogether at sea in their anxious conjectures, felt powerless to set about helping her who was so dear to them, as the best and kindest of mistresses, in her bitter affliction.

La Martinière picked up the paper from the floor. On it was written:

 

  • “‘Un amant qui craint les voleurs
  • N’est point digne d’amour.’

 

“Your brilliant intellect, most honoured lady, has delivered us, who exercise on weakness and cowardice the rights of the stronger, and possess ourselves of treasures which would otherwise be unworthily wasted, from much bitter persecution. As a proof of our gratitude, be pleased kindly to accept this set of ornaments. It is the most valuable that we have been enabled to lay hands on for many a day. Although far more beautiful and precious jewels should adorn you, yet we pray you not to deprive us of your future protection and remembrance. – THE INVISIBLES.”

“Is it possible,” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, when she had partially recovered herself, “that shameless wickedness and abandoned insult can be carried further by human beings?”

The sun was shining brightly through the window curtains of crimson silk, and consequently the brilliants, which were lying on the table beside the open casket, were flashing a rosy radiance. Looking at them, Mademoiselle de Scudéri covered her face in horror, and ordered La Martinière instantly to take those terrible jewels away, steeped, as they seemed to be, in the blood of the murdered. La Martinière, having at once put the necklace and bracelets back into their case, thought the best thing to do would be to give them to the Minister of Police, and tell him all that had happened.

Mademoiselle de Scudéri rose, and walked up and down slowly and in silence, as if considering what it was best to do. Then she told Baptiste to bring a sedan chair, and La Martinière to dress her, as she was going straight to the Marquise de Maintenon.

She repaired thither at the hour when she knew Madame de Maintenon would be alone, taking the casket and jewels with her.

Madame de Maintenon might well wonder to see this dear old lady (who was always kindness, sweetness and amiability personified), pale, distressed, upset, coming in with uncertain steps. “In heaven’s name, what has happened to you?” she cried to her visitor, who was scarcely able to stand upright, striving to reach the chair which the Marquise drew forward for her. At last, when she could find words, she told her what a deep, irremediable insult and outrage the thoughtless speech which she had made in reply to the King had brought upon her.

Madame de Maintenon, when she had heard the whole affair properly related, thought Mademoiselle de Scudéri was taking it far too much to heart, strange as the occurrence was – that the insult of a pack of wretched rabble could not hurt an upright, noble heart; and finally begged that she might see the ornaments.

Mademoiselle de Scudéri handed her the open casket, and when she saw the splendid and valuable stones and the workmanship of them she could not repress a loud expression of admiration. She took the bracelets and necklace to the window, letting the sunlight play on the jewels, and holding the beautiful goldsmith’s work close to her eyes so as to see with what wonderful skill each little link of the chains was formed.

She turned suddenly to Mademoiselle de Scudéri, and cried, “Do you know, there is only one man who can have done this work – and that is René Cardillac.”

René Cardillac was then the cleverest worker in gold in all Paris, one of the most artistic, and at the same time extraordinary men of his day. Short rather than tall, but broad-shouldered and of strong and muscular build, Cardillac, now over fifty, had still the strength and activity of a youth. But then, it was hardly possible to get the finished work out of his hands. He would put the customer off from one week to another by a thousand excuses – even from month to month. He might be offered twice the price he had agreed upon, but it was useless; he would take no more; and when, ultimately, he was obliged to yield to the customer’s remonstrances, and deliver the work, he could not conceal the vexation – nay, the rage – which seethed within him. When someone come running up behind him, crying, “René Cardillac, would you be so kind as to make me a beautiful necklace for the lady I am going to marry?” or “a pair of bracelets for my girl?” or the like, he would stop in a moment, flash his small eyes upon the speaker, and say, “Let me see what you have got.” The latter would take out a little case and say “Here are jewels; they are not worth much; only every-day affairs, but in your hands ” Cardillac would interrupt him, snatch the casket from his hands, take out the stones (really not very valuable) hold them up to the light, and cry, “Ho! ho! common stones, you say! Nothing of the kind! – very fine, splendid stones! Just see what I shall make of them; and if a handful of Louis are no object to you, I will put two or three others along with them which will shine in your eyes like the sun himself!” The customer would say: “I leave the matter entirely in your hands, Master René; make what change you please.” Whether the customer were a rich burgher or a gallant of quality, Cardillac would then throw himself violently on his neck, embrace him and kiss him, and say he was perfectly happy again, and that the work would be ready in eight days’ time. Then he would run home as fast as he could to his workshop, where he would set to work hammering away; and in eight days’ time there would be a masterpiece ready.

But as soon as the customer arrived, glad to pay the moderate price demanded and take away his prize, Cardillac would become morose, ill-tempered, rude and insolent. “But consider, Master Cardillac,” the customer would say, “tomorrow is my wedding-day.” “What do I care?, Cardillac would answer; “what is your wedding-day to me? Come back in a fortnight.” “But it is finished! – here is the money; I must have it.” “And I tell you that there are many alterations which I must make before I let it leave my hands, and I am not going to let you have it today.” “And I tell you, that if you don’t give me my jewels – which I am ready to pay you for – quietly, you will see me come back with a file of D’Argenson’s men.” “Now, may the devil seize you with a hundred red-hot pincers, and hang three hundredweight on to the necklace, that it may throttle your bride!” With which he would cram the work into the customer’s breast-pocket, seize him by the arm, push him out of the door, so that he would go stumbling all the way downstairs. Then he would laugh like a fiend, out of the window, when he saw the poor wretch go limping out, holding his handkerchief to his bleeding nose. It was not easy to explain either why, when Cardillac had undertaken a commission with alacrity and enthusiasm, he would sometimes suddenly implore the customer, with every sign of the deepest emotion – with the most moving adjurations, even with sobs and tears – not to ask him to go on with it. Many persons, amongst those most highly considered by the King and nation, had in vain offered large sums for the smallest specimen of Cardillac’s work. He threw himself at the King’s feet, and begged him, of his mercy, not to command him to work for him; and he declined all orders of Madame de Maintenon’s; “I would wager, therefore,” said Madame de Maintenon, “that even if I were to send for Cardillac, to find out, at least, for whom he had made those ornaments, he would somehow avoid coming, for fear that I should give him an order; nothing will induce him to work for me.”

Mademoiselle de Scudéri, who was exceedingly anxious that the jewels which came into her possession in such an extraordinary manner should be restored to their owner as speedily as possible, thought that this wondrous René Cardillac should be informed at once that no work was required of him, but simply his opinion as to certain stones. The Marquise agreed to this; he was sent for, and he came into the room in a very brief space, almost as if he had been on the way when sent for.

When he saw Mademoiselle de Scudéri, he appeared perplexed, like one confronted with the unexpected, who for the time loses sight of the demands of courtesy; he first of all made a profound reverence to her, and then turned, in the second place, to the Marquise. Madame de Maintenon impetuously asked him if the jewelled ornaments – to which she pointed as they lay sparkling on the dark-green cover of the table – were of his workmanship. Cardillac scarcely glanced at them but, fixedly staring in her face, he hastily packed the necklace and bracelets into their case, and shoved them away with some violence.

Then with an evil smile gleaming on his red face, he said, “The truth is, Madame la Marquise, that one must know René Cardillac’s handiwork very little to suppose, even for a moment, that any other goldsmith in the world made those. Of course, I made them.”

“Then,” continued the Marquise, “say whom you made them for.”

“For myself alone,” he answered. “You may think this strange,” he continued, as they both gazed at him with amazement, Madame de Maintenon incredulous, and Mademoiselle de Scudéri all anxiety as to how the matter was going to turn out, “but I tell you the truth, Madame la Marquise. Merely for the sake of the beauty of the work, I collected some of my finest stones together, and those ornaments disappeared from my workshop a short time since, in an incomprehensible manner.”

“Heaven be thanked!” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, her eyes sparkling with joy. With a smile she sprang up from her seat and, going up to Cardillac quickly and actively as a young girl, she laid her hands on his shoulder, saying, “Take back your treasure, Master René, which the villains have robbed you of!” And she circumstantially related how the ornaments had come into her possession.

Cardillac listened in silence, with downcast eyes, merely from time to time uttering a scarcely audible “Hm! Indeed! Ah! Ho, ho!”, sometimes placing his hands behind his back, or again stroking his chin and cheeks. When she had ended, he appeared to be struggling with strange thoughts which had come to him during her story, and seemed unable to come to any decision satisfactory to himself. He rubbed his brow, sighed, passed his hand over his eyes – perhaps to keep back tears. At last he seized the casket (which Mademoiselle de Scudéri had been holding out to him), sank slowly on one knee, and said: “Esteemed lady! Fate destined this casket for you; and I now feel, for the first time, that I was thinking of you when I was at work upon it – nay, was making it expressly for you. Do not disdain to accept this work, and to wear it; it is the best I have done for a very long time.”

“Ah! Master René,” said Mademoiselle de Scudéri, jesting pleasantly, “how think you it would become me at my age to bedeck myself with those beautiful jewels? – and what should put it in your mind to make me such a valuable present? Come, come! What have my withered arms, and my wrinkled neck, to do with all that splendour?”

Cardillac had risen, and said with wild looks, like a man beside himself, still holding the casket out towards her, “Do me the kindness to take it, Mademoiselle!”

As Mademoiselle de Scudéri was still hesitating, Madame de Maintenon took the casket from Cardillac’s hands, saying, “Now, by heaven, Mademoiselle, do not hesitate to accept good Master René’s present, which thousands of others could not obtain for money or entreaty.”

As she spoke she continued to press the casket on Mademoiselle de Scudéri; and now Cardillac sank again on his knees, kissed her dress, her hands, sighed, wept, sobbed, sprang up, and ran off in frantic haste, upsetting chairs and tables, so that the glass and porcelain crashed and clattered together.

“In the name of all the saints, what is the matter with the man?” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri in great alarm.

But the Marquise, in particularly happy temper, laughed aloud, saying, “What is it, Mademoiselle? That Master René is over head and ears in love with you and, according to the laws of galanterie, begins to lay siege to your heart with a valuable present.”

She carried this jest further, begging Mademoiselle de Scudéri not to be too obdurate towards this despairing lover of hers; But, notwithstanding all the jesting and the laughter, when Mademoiselle de Scudéri rose to depart, she became very grave again as her hand rested upon the jewel casket. “Whatever happens,” she said, “I shall never be able to bring myself to wear these ornaments. They have, in any event, been in the hands of one of those diabolical men, who rob and slay with the audacity of the evil one himself and are very probably in league with him. I shudder at the thought of the blood which seems to cling to those glittering stones – even Cardillac’s behaviour had something about it which struck me as singularly wild and strange. I never can wear those jewels ”

The Marquise considered that this was carrying scruples rather too far; yet, when Mademoiselle de Scudéri asked her to say, on her honour, what she would do in her place, she replied, firmly and earnestly, “Far rather throw them into the Seine than ever put them on.”

The scene with Master René inspired Mademoiselle de Scudéri to write some pleasant verses, which she read to the King the following evening at Madame de Maintenon’s. De Scudéri’s poem was reckoned the very wittiest that ever was written.

 

Several months had elapsed, when chance so willed it that Mademoiselle de Scudéri was crossing the Pont Neuf in the glass coach of the Duchesse de Montpensier. The invention of those delightful glass coaches was then so recent that the people came together in crowds whenever one of them made its appearance in the streets. Consequently a gaping crowd gathered about the Duchesse’s carriage on the Pont Neuf, so that the horses could hardly make their way along. Suddenly Mademoiselle de Scudéri heard a sound of quarrelling and curses, and saw a man making a way for himself through the crowd, by means of fisticuffs and blows in the ribs; and as he came near they were struck by the piercing eyes of a young face, deadly pale, and drawn by sorrow. This young man, gazing fixedly upon them, vigorously fought his way to them by help of fists and elbows, till he reached the carriage door, threw it open with much violence, and flung a note into Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s lap; after which, he disappeared as he had come, distributing and receiving blows and fisticuffs.

La Martinière, who was with her mistress, fell back fainting in the carriage with a shriek of terror, as soon as she saw the young man. In vain Mademoiselle de Scudéri pulled the string, and called out to the driver. Mademoiselle de Scudéri emptied the contents of her smelling-bottle over the fainting La Martinière, who at last opened her eyes and, shuddering and quaking, clinging convulsively to her mistress, with fear and horror in her pale face, groaned out with difficulty, “For the love of the Virgin, what did that terrible man want? It was he who brought you the jewels on that awful night.” Mademoiselle de Scudéri calmed her, pointing out that nothing very dreadful had happened after all, and that the immediate business in hand was to ascertain the contents of the letter. She opened it, and read as follows:

“A dark and cruel fatality, which you could dispel, is driving me into an abyss. I conjure you – as a son would a mother, in the glow of filial affection – to send the necklace and bracelets to Master René Cardillac, on some pretence or other – say, to have something altered or improved. Your welfare, your very life – depend on your doing this. If you do not comply before the day after tomorrow, I will force my way into your house, and kill myself before your eyes.”

“Thus much is certain, at all events,” said Mademoiselle de Scudéri, when she had read this letter, “whether this mysterious man belongs to be band of robbers and murderers or not, he has no very evil designs against me. I certainly shall do, were it only to be rid of those fatal jewels, which seem to me as if they must be some diabolical talisman of the Prince of Darkness’s very own. Cardillac is not very likely to let them out of his hands again, if once he gets hold of them.”

She intended to take them to him next day.

When high noon arrived, Mademoiselle de Scudéri had to go to Madame de Montansier; so the visit to René Cardillac had to be put off till the following day.

But the young man was always present to her mind, and a species of dim remembrance seemed to be trying to arise in the depths of her being that she had, somehow and at some time, seen that face and those features before.

As soon as it was fairly light, she had herself dressed and set off to the goldsmith’s with the jewels in her hand.

A crowd was streaming towards the Rue Niçaise (where Cardillac lived), trooping together at the door, shouting, raging, surging, striving to storm into the house, kept back with difficulty by the Marechaussée, who were guarding the place. Amid the wild distracted uproar, voices were heard crying, “Tear him in pieces! Drag him limb from limb, the accursed murderer!” At length Desgrais came up, with a number of his men, and formed a lane through the thickest of the crowd. The door flew open, and a man loaded with irons was brought out, and marched off amid the most frightful imprecations of the raging populace. At the moment when Mademoiselle de Scudéri, half dead with terror and gloomy foreboding, caught sight of him, a piercing shriek of lamentation struck upon her ears.

“Go forward!” she cried to the coachman and, with a clever, rapid turn of his horses, he scattered the thick masses of the crowd aside, and pulled up close to René Cardillac’s door. Desgrais was there, and at his feet a young girl, beautiful as the day, half-dressed, with her hair dishevelled and wild inconsolable despair in her face, clinging to his knees, and crying in tones of the bitterest and profoundest anguish, “He is innocent! He is innocent!”

Desgrais and his men tried in vain to shake her off and raise her from the ground, till at length a rough, powerful fellow, gripping her arms with his strong hands, dragged her away from Desgrais by sheer force. Stumbling awkwardly, he let the girl go, and she went rolling down the stone steps, and lay like one dead on the pavement.

Mademoiselle de Scudéri could contain herself no longer. “In Christ’s name!” she cried, “what has happened? What is going forward here?” She hastily opened the carriage-door and stepped out. The crowd made way for her deferentially; and when she saw that one or two compassionate women had lifted the girl up, laid her on the steps, and were rubbing her brow with strong waters, she went up to Desgrais, and angrily repeated her question.

“A terrible thing has happened,” said Desgrais. “René Cardillac was found this morning, killed by a dagger-thrust. His journeyman, Olivier, is the murderer, and has just been taken to prison.”

“And the girl- ”

“Is Madelon,” interrupted Desgrais, “Cardillac’s daughter. The wretched culprit was her sweetheart, and now she is crying and howling, and screaming over and over again that Olivier is innocent – quite innocent; but she knows all about this crime, and I must have her taken to prison too.”

As he spoke he cast one of his baleful, malignant looks at the girl, which made Mademoiselle de Scudéri shudder. The girl was now beginning to revive, and breathe again faintly, though still incapable of speech or motion. There she lay with closed eyes, and people did not know what to do, whether to take her indoors, or leave her where she was a little longer till she recovered. Deeply moved, Mademoiselle de Scudéri looked upon this innocent creature, with tears in her eyes. She felt a horror of Desgrais and his men. Presently heavy footsteps came downstairs, those of the men bearing Cardillac’s body.

Coming to a rapid decision, Mademoiselle de Scudéri cried out, “I shall take this girl home with me. What you do next is up to you, Desgrais.”

A murmur of approval ran through the crowd. The women raised the girl; everyone crowded up; a hundred hands were proffered to help, and she was borne lightly to the carriage, whilst from every lip broke blessings on the kind lady who had saved her from arrest and criminal trial.

Madelon lay for many hours in a deep swoon, but at length the efforts of Seron – then the most celebrated physician in Paris – were successful in restoring her. (To be concluded)

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An acquaintance of mine once told me the following story.

When I was a student at Moscow I happened to live alongside one of those ladies whose repute is questionable. She was a Pole, and they called her Teresa. She was a tallish, powerfully-built brunette, with black, bushy eyebrows and a large coarse face as if carved out by a hatchet–the bestial gleam of her dark eyes, her thick bass voice, her cabman-like gait and her immense muscular vigour, worthy of a fishwife, inspired me with horror. I lived on the top flight and her garret was opposite to mine. I never left my door open when I knew her to be at home. But this, after all, was a very rare occurrence. Sometimes I chanced to meet her on the staircase or in the yard, and she would smile upon me with a smile which seemed to me to be sly and cynical. Occasionally, I saw her drunk, with bleary eyes, tousled hair, and a particularly hideous grin. On such occasions she would speak to me.

“How d’ye do, Mr. Student!” and her stupid laugh would still further intensify my loathing of her. I should have liked to have changed my quarters in order to have avoided such encounters and greetings; but my little chamber was a nice one, and there was such a wide view from the window, and it was always so quiet in the street below–so I endured.

And one morning I was sprawling on my couch, trying to find some sort of excuse for not attending my class, when the door opened, and the bass voice of Teresa the loathsome resounded from my threshold:

“Good health to you, Mr. Student!”

“What do you want?” I said. I saw that her face was confused and supplicatory… It was a very unusual sort of face for her.

“Sir! I want to beg a favour of you. Will you grant it me?”

I lay there silent, and thought to myself:

“Gracious!… Courage, my boy!”

“I want to send a letter home, that’s what it is,” she said; her voice was beseeching, soft, timid.

“Deuce take you!” I thought; but up I jumped, sat down at my table, took a sheet of paper, and said:

“Come here, sit down, and dictate!”

She came, sat down very gingerly on a chair, and looked at me with a guilty look.

“Well, to whom do you want to write?”

“To Boleslav Kashput, at the town of Svieptziana, on the Warsaw Road…”

“Well, fire away!”

“My dear Boles … my darling … my faithful lover. May the Mother of God protect thee! Thou heart of gold, why hast thou not written for such a long time to thy sorrowing little dove, Teresa?”

I very nearly burst out laughing. “A sorrowing little dove!” more than five feet high, with fists a stone and more in weight, and as black a face as if the little dove had lived all its life in a chimney, and had never once washed itself! Restraining myself somehow, I asked:

“Who is this Bolest?”

“Boles, Mr. Student,” she said, as if offended with me for blundering over the name, “he is Boles–my young man.”

“Young man!”

“Why are you so surprised, sir? Cannot I, a girl, have a young man?”

She? A girl? Well!

“Oh, why not?” I said. “All things are possible. And has he been your young man long?”

“Six years.”

“Oh, ho!” I thought. “Well, let us write your letter…”

And I tell you plainly that I would willingly have changed places with this Boles if his fair correspondent had been not Teresa but something less than she.

“I thank you most heartily, sir, for your kind services,” said Teresa to me, with a curtsey. “Perhaps I can show you some service, eh?”

“No, I most humbly thank you all the same.”

“Perhaps, sir, your shirts or your trousers may want a little mending?”

I felt that this mastodon in petticoats had made me grow quite red with shame, and I told her pretty sharply that I had no need whatever of her services.

She departed.

A week or two passed away. It was evening. I was sitting at my window whistling and thinking of some expedient for enabling me to get away from myself. I was bored; the weather was dirty. I didn’t want to go out, and out of sheer ennui I began a course of self-analysis and reflection. This also was dull enough work, but I didn’t care about doing anything else. Then the door opened. Heaven be praised! Some one came in.

“Oh, Mr. Student, you have no pressing business, I hope?”

It was Teresa. Humph!

“No. What is it?”

“I was going to ask you, sir, to write me another letter.”

“Very well! To Boles, eh?”

“No, this time it is from him.”

“Wha-at?”

“Stupid that I am! It is not for me, Mr. Student, I beg your pardon. It is for a friend of mine, that is to say, not a friend but an acquaintance–a man acquaintance. He has a sweetheart just like me here, Teresa. That’s how it is. Will you, sir, write a letter to this Teresa?”

I looked at her–her face was troubled, her fingers were trembling. I was a bit fogged at first–and then I guessed how it was.

“Look here, my lady,” I said, “there are no Boleses or Teresas at all, and you’ve been telling me a pack of lies. Don’t you come sneaking about me any longer. I have no wish whatever to cultivate your acquaintance. Do you understand?”

And suddenly she grew strangely terrified and distraught; she began to shift from foot to foot without moving from the place, and spluttered comically, as if she wanted to say something and couldn’t. I waited to see what would come of all this, and I saw and felt that, apparently, I had made a great mistake in suspecting her of wishing to draw me from the path of righteousness. It was evidently something very different.

“Mr. Student!” she began, and suddenly, waving her hand, she turned abruptly towards the door and went out. I remained with a very unpleasant feeling in my mind. I listened. Her door was flung violently to–plainly the poor wench was very angry… I thought it over, and resolved to go to her, and, inviting her to come in here, write everything she wanted.

I entered her apartment. I looked round. She was sitting at the table, leaning on her elbows, with her head in her hands.

“Listen to me,” I said.

Now, whenever I come to this point in my story, I always feel horribly awkward and idiotic. Well, well!

“Listen to me,” I said.

She leaped from her seat, came towards me with flashing eyes, and laying her hands on my shoulders, began to whisper, or rather to hum in her peculiar bass voice:

“Look you, now! It’s like this. There’s no Boles at all, and there’s no Teresa either. But what’s that to you? Is it a hard thing for you to draw your pen over paper? Eh? Ah, and you, too! Still such a little fair-haired boy! There’s nobody at all, neither Boles, nor Teresa, only me. There you have it, and much good may it do you!”

“Pardon me!” said I, altogether flabbergasted by such a reception, “what is it all about? There’s no Boles, you say?”

“No. So it is.”

“And no Teresa either?”

“And no Teresa. I’m Teresa.”

I didn’t understand it at all. I fixed my eyes upon her, and tried to make out which of us was taking leave of his or her senses. But she went again to the table, searched about for something, came back to me, and said in an offended tone:

“If it was so hard for you to write to Boles, look, there’s your letter, take it! Others will write for me.”

I looked. In her hand was my letter to Boles. Phew!

“Listen, Teresa! What is the meaning of all this? Why must you get others to write for you when I have already written it, and you haven’t sent it?”

“Sent it where?”

“Why, to this–Boles.”

“There’s no such person.”

I absolutely did not understand it. There was nothing for me but to spit and go. Then she explained.

“What is it?” she said, still offended. “There’s no such person, I tell you,” and she extended her arms as if she herself did not understand why there should be no such person. “But I wanted him to be… Am I then not a human creature like the rest of them? Yes, yes, I know, I know, of course… Yet no harm was done to any one by my writing to him that I can see…”

“Pardon me–to whom?”

“To Boles, of course.”

“But he doesn’t exist.”

“Alas! alas! But what if he doesn’t? He doesn’t exist, but he might! I write to him, and it looks as if he did exist. And Teresa–that’s me, and he replies to me, and then I write to him again…”

I understood at last. And I felt so sick, so miserable, so ashamed, somehow. Alongside of me, not three yards away, lived a human creature who had nobody in the world to treat her kindly, affectionately, and this human being had invented a friend for herself!

“Look, now! you wrote me a letter to Boles, and I gave it to some one else to read it to me; and when they read it to me I listened and fancied that Boles was there. And I asked you to write me a letter from Boles to Teresa–that is to me. When they write such a letter for me, and read it to me, I feel quite sure that Boles is there. And life grows easier for me in consequence.”

“Deuce take you for a blockhead!” said I to myself when I heard this.

And from thenceforth, regularly, twice a week, I wrote a letter to Boles, and an answer from Boles to Teresa. I wrote those answers well… She, of course, listened to them, and wept like anything, roared, I should say, with her bass voice. And in return for my thus moving her to tears by real letters from the imaginary Boles, she began to mend the holes I had in my socks, shirts, and other articles of clothing. Subsequently, about three months after this history began, they put her in prison for something or other. No doubt by this time she is dead.

My acquaintance shook the ash from his cigarette, looked pensively up at the sky, and thus concluded:

Well, well, the more a human creature has tasted of bitter things the more it hungers after the sweet things of life. And we, wrapped round in the rags of our virtues, and regarding others through the mist of our self-sufficiency, and persuaded of our universal impeccability, do not understand this.

And the whole thing turns out pretty stupidly–and very cruelly. The fallen classes, we say. And who are the fallen classes, I should like to know? They are, first of all, people with the same bones, flesh, and blood and nerves as ourselves. We have been told this day after day for ages. And we actually listen–and the devil only knows how hideous the whole thing is. Or are we completely depraved by the loud sermonising of humanism? In reality, we also are fallen folks, and, so far as I can see, very deeply fallen into the abyss of self-sufficiency and the conviction of our own superiority. But enough of this. It is all as old as the hills–so old that it is a shame to speak of it. Very old indeed–yes, that’s what it is!

(online-literature.com)

The End

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A Kiang-si gentleman, named Meng Lung-tan, was lodging at the capital with a Mr. Chu, M.A., when one day chance led them to a certain monastery, within which they found no spacious halls or meditation chambers, but only an old priest in dishabille. On observing the visitors, he arranged his dress and went forward to meet them, leading them round and showing whatever there was to be seen.

In the chapel they saw an image of Chih Kung, and the walls on either side were beautifully painted with life-like representations of men and animals. On the east side were pictured a number of fairies, among whom was a young girl whose maiden tresses were not yet confined by the matron’s knot. She was picking flowers and gently smiling, while her cherry lips seemed about to move, and the moisture of her eyes to overflow. Mr. Chu gazed at her for a long time without taking his eyes off, until at last he became unconscious of anything but the thoughts that were engrossing him. Then, suddenly he felt himself floating in the air, as if riding on a cloud, and found himself passing through the wall, where halls and pavilions stretched away one after another, unlike the abodes of mortals.

Here an old priest was preaching the Law of Buddha, surrounded by a large crowd of listeners. Mr. Chu mingled with the throng and after a few moments, perceived a gentle tug at his sleeve. Turning round, he saw the young girl above-mentioned, who walked laughing away. Mr. Chu at once followed her and passing a winding balustrade, arrived at a small apartment beyond which he dared not venture farther. But the young lady, looking back, waved the flowers she had in her hand as though beckoning him to come on. He accordingly entered and found nobody else within. Then they fell on their knees and worshipped heaven and earth together,’ and rose up as man and wife, after which the bride went away, bidding Mr. Chu keep quiet until she came back.

This went on for a couple of days, when the young lady’s companions began to smell a rat and discovered Mr. Chu’s hiding place. Thereupon they all laughed and said, “My dear, you are now a married woman, and should leave off that maidenly coiffure.” So they gave her the proper hair-pins and head ornaments, and bade her go bind her hair, at which she blushed very much but said nothing. Then one of them cried out, “My sisters, let us be off. Two’s company, more’s none.” At this they all giggled again and went away.

Mr. Chu found his wife very much improved by the alteration in the style of her hair. The high top-knot and the coronet of pendants were very becoming to her. But suddenly they heard a sound like the tramping of heavy-soled boots, accompanied by the clanking of chains and the noise of angry discussion. The bride jumped up in a fright, and she and Mr. Chu peeped out. They saw a man clad in golden armor, with a face as black as jet, carrying in his hands chains and whips, and surrounded by all the girls. He asked, “Are you all here ?”

“All,” they replied.

“If,” said he, “any mortal is here concealed amongst you, denounce him at once, and lay not up sorrow for yourselves.” Here they all answered as before that there was no one. The man then made a movement as if he would search the place, upon which the bride was dreadfully alarmed, and her face turned the colour of ashes. In her terror she said to Mr. Chu, “Hide yourself under the bed,” and opening a small lattice in the wall, disappeared herself. Mr. Chu in his concealment hardly dared to draw his breath; and in a little while he heard the boots tramp into the room and out again, the sound of the voices getting gradually fainter and fainter in the distance. This reassured him, but he still heard the voices of people going backwards and forwards outside; and having been a long time in a cramped position, his ears began to sing as if there was a locust in them, and his eyes to burn like fire. It was almost unbearable. However, he remained quietly awaiting the return of the young lady without giving a thought to the why and wherefore of his present position.

Meanwhile, Meng Lung-tan had noticed the sudden disappearance of his friend, and thinking something was wrong, asked the priest where he was. “He has gone to hear the preaching of the Law,” replied the priest.

“Where ?” said Mr. Meng.

“Oh, not very far,” was the answer. Then with his finger the old priest tapped the wall and called out. “Friend Chu ! what makes you stay away so long?” At this, the likeness of Mr. Chu was figured upon the wall, with his ear inclined in the attitude of one listening. The priest added, “Your friend here has been waiting for you some time;” and immediately Mr. Chu descended from the wall, standing transfixed like a block of wood, with starting eyeballs and trembling legs. Mr. Meng was much terrified, and asked him quietly what was the matter. Now the matter was that while concealed under the bed he had heard a noise resembling thunder and had rushed out to see what it was.

Then they all noticed that the young lady on the wall with the maiden’s tresses had changed the style of her coiffure to that of a married woman. Mr. Chu was greatly astonished at this and asked the old priest the reason.

He replied, “Visions have their origin in those who see them: what explanation can I give ?” This answer was very unsatisfactory to Mr. Chu; neither did his friend, who was rather frightened, know what to make of it all; so they descended the temple steps and went away.

(ack: englishdaily626.com)

The End

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