Part 6 out of 6
he continued his experiments, or wrote an article in his office for the
But it was not without a struggle that she permitted herself to judge him
in this way. One does not judge those whom one loves, and she loved him.
Was it not failing in respect to her love that she did not admire him in
every way? When these ideas oppressed her she left her easel and went to
him. Close to him they disappeared. At first, in order not to disturb
him, she entered on tiptoe, walking softly and leaning over his shoulder,
embraced him before he saw or heard her; but he betrayed such horror,
such fear, that she gave up this way of greeting him.
She continued to go to his room, but in a different way. Instead of
surprising him she announced her presence by rattling the handle of the
door, and walking noisily, and instead of receiving her with uneasy
manner he welcomed her joyfully.
"You have finished painting?"
"I have come to see you for a little while."
"Very well, stay with me, do not go away immediately; I am never so
happy, I never work so well, as when I have you near me."
She felt that this was true. When she was with him, whether she spoke or
not, her presence made him happy.
And still she must appear not to look at him too attentively, as if with
the manifest intention of studying him; for she did this during the first
days of their marriage, and angered him so much that he exclaimed:
"Why do you examine me thus? What do you look for in me?"
She learned to watch herself carefully, and when with him to preserve a
discreet attitude that should not offend him. No curious looks, and no
questions. But this was not always easy, so she asked leave to assist
him in his work, and sometimes drew in larger size the designs that he
made for his microscopical studies. In this way the time passed rapidly.
If he were but willing to pass the evening hours in this sweet intimacy,
without a word about going out, how happy she would be! But he never
forgot the hour.
"Allons," he said, interrupting himself, "we must go."
She had never dared to ask the true reason for this "must."
A TROUBLED SOUL
If she dared not frankly ask him this question: Why must we go out? any
more than the others: Why is it proper that I should go to mass to be
seen? Why should I wear gowns that ruin us? Why do you accept
decorations that are valueless in your eyes? Why do you seek the society
of men who have no merit but what they derive from their official
position or from their fortune? Why do we take upon ourselves social
duties that weary both of us, instead of remaining together in a tender
and intelligent intimacy that is sweet to us both? she could not ask
They all appertained to this order of ideas, that she, without doubt,
found explained them: disposition of character; the exactions of an
ambition in haste to realize its desires; susceptibility or overshadowing
pride; but there were others founded on observation or memory, having no
connection with those, or so it seemed to her.
She began to know her husband the day following their marriage, having
believed that he was always such as he revealed himself to her; but this
was not the case, and the man she had loved was so unlike the man whose
wife she had become, that it might almost be thought there were two.
To tell the truth, it was not marriage that made the change in his temper
that distressed her; but it was not less characteristic by that, that it
dated back to a period anterior to this marriage.
She remembered the commencement with a clearness that left no place for
doubt or hesitation; it was at the time when pursued by creditors he
entered into relations with Caffie. For the first time he, always so
strong that she believed him above weakness, had had a moment of
discouragement on announcing that he would probably be obliged to leave
Paris; but this depression had neither the anger nor weakness that he had
since shown. It was the natural sadness of a man who saw his future
destroyed, nothing more. The only surprise that she then felt was caused
by the idea of strangling Caffie and taking enough money from his safe to
clear himself from debt, and also because he said--as a consequence of
this act--speaking of the remorse of an intelligent man, that his
conscience would not reproach him, since for him conscience did not
exist. But this was evidently a simple philosophical theory, not a trait
of character; a jest or an argument for the sake of discussion.
Relieved from his creditors with the money won at Monaco, he returned to
his usual calm, working harder than ever, passing his 'concours', and
when it seemed excusable that he might be nervous, violent, unjust, he
remained the man that he had been ever since she knew him. Then, all at
once, a short time before Florlentin went to the assizes, occurred these
strange explosions of temper, spasms of anger, and restlessness that she
could not explain, manifesting themselves exactly at the time when, by
Madame Dammauville's intervention, she hoped Florentin would be saved.
She had not forgotten the furious anger, that was inexplicable and
unjustifiable, with which he refused her request to see Madame
Dammauville. He had thrust her away, wishing to break with her, and
until she was a witness of this scene she never imagined that any one
could put such violence into exasperation. Then to this scene succeeded
another, totally opposed, which had not less impressed her, when, at
their little dinner by the fire, he showed such profound desolation on
telling her to keep the memory of this evening when she should judge him,
and announcing to her, in a prophetic sort of way, that the hour would
come when she would know him whom she loved.
And now this hour, the thought of which she had thrown far from her, had
sounded; she sought to combine the elements of this judgment which then
appeared criminal to her, and now forced itself upon her, whatever she
might do to repel it.
How many times this memory returned to her! It could almost be said that
it had never left her, sweet and sad at the same time, less sweet and
more sad, according as new subjects for uneasiness were added to the
others, in deepening the mysterious and troublous impression that it left
To judge him! Why did he wish that she should judge him? And on what?
And yet with him it was not an insignificant word, but the evidence of a
particular state of conscience, which many times since asserted itself.
Was it not, in effect, to this order of ideas that the cry belonged that
escaped him in the night when, waking suddenly, he asked with emotion,
with fright: "What have I said?" And also to the same appertained the
anger that carried him away when, 'a propos' of their religious marriage,
she spoke of confession: "Why do you think that I should be afraid to go
How could he imagine that she could admit the idea of fear in connection
with him? The idea never occurred to her mind until this moment; and if
now the memory of her astonishment came to her, it was because of other
little things added to those of the past that evoked it.
How numerous and significant they were, these things: his constant
uneasiness on seeing himself watched by her; his invitation when he
thought she was going to question him; his access of passion when,
through heedlessness or forgetfulness, or simply by chance, she asked him
a question on certain subjects, and immediately the tenderness that
followed, so sudden that they appeared rather planned in view of a
determined end than natural or spontaneous.
It was a long time before she admitted the calculation under the sweet
words that made her so happy; but in the end it was well that she should
open her eyes to the evidence, and see that they were with him the
consequences of the same and constant preoccupation, that of not
It was only one step from this to ask him what he did not wish to yield
Yet, as short as it was, she resisted for a long time the curiosity that
possessed her. It was her duty as a loving and devoted wife not to seek
beyond what he showed her, and this duty was in perfect accord with the
dispositions of her love; but the power of things seen carried her beyond
will and reason. She could not apply her mind to search for that which
agonized her, and she could not close her eyes and ears to what she saw
And what struck them were the same observations, turning always in the
same circle, applied to the same subjects and persons:
Caffie's name irritated him; Madame Dammauville's angered him;
Florentin's made him positively unhappy.
As for the two former, she might have prevented the pronunciation of them
when she saw the effect they infallibly produced on him.
But she could not prevent the utterance of Florentin's name, even had she
wished it. How could she tell her mother never to speak the name of him
who was constantly in their thoughts?
In spite of Saniel's efforts and solicitations, supported by Nougarede's,
Florentin had embarked for New Caledonia, whence he wrote as often as he
could. His letters related all his sufferings in the terrible galleys,
where he was confined during the voyage, and since his arrival they were
a series of long complaints, continued from one to the other, like a
story without end, turning always on the same subject, his physical
sufferings, his humiliation, his discouragement, and his disgust in the
midst of the unfortunates whose companion he was.
The arrival of these letters filled the mother and sister with anguish
that lasted for several days; and this anguish, that neither of them
could dissimulate, angered Saniel.
"What would you do if he were dead?" he asked Phillis.
"Would it not be better for him?"
"But he will return."
"In what condition?"
"Are we the masters of fate?"
"We weep, we do not complain."
But he complained of the weeping faces that surrounded him, the tears
they concealed from him, the sighs they stifled. Ordinarily he was
tender and affectionate to his mother-in-law, with attention and
deference which in some ways seemed affected, as if he were so by will
rather than by natural sentiment; but at these times he forgot this
tenderness, and treated her with hardness so unjust, that more than once
Madame Cormier spoke of it to her daughter.
"How can your husband, who is so good to me, be so merciless regarding
Florentin? One would say that our sadness produces on him the effect of
a reproach that we would address to him."
One day when things had gone farther than usual, she had the courage to
speak to him plainly: "Forgive me for burdening you with the weariness of
our disgrace," she said to him. "When I complain of everything, of men
and things, you should remember that you are the exception, you who have
done everything to save him."
But these few words which she believed would calm the irritation of her
son-in-law, had on the contrary exasperated him; he left her, furious.
"I do not understand your husband at all," she said to her daughter.
"Will you not explain to me what the matter is with him?"
How could she give her mother the explanation that she could not give
herself? Having reached an unfathomable abyss, she dared not even lean
over to look into its depths; and instead of going on in the path where
she was pledged in spite of herself, she made every effort to return, or
at least to stop.
What good would it do to find out why he was so peculiar, and what it was
that he took so much pains to conceal? This could only be idle curiosity
on her part, for which she would be punished sooner or later.
Turning these thoughts over continually in her mind she lost her gayety,
her power to resist blows of fate, such as the small trials of life,
which formerly made her courageous; her vigorous elasticity sunk under
the heavy weight with which it was charged, and her smiling eyes now more
often expressed anxiety than happiness and confidence.
In spite of her watchfulness over herself she was not able to hide the
change from Saniel, for it manifested itself in everything--in her face
formerly so open, but which now bore the imprint of a secret sadness; in
her concentrated manner, in her silence and abstraction.
What was the matter with her? He questioned her, and she replied with
the prudence that she used in all her conversation with him. He examined
her medically, but found nothing to indicate a sickly condition which
would justify the change in her.
If she did not wish to answer his questions, and he had the proof that
she did not wish to; if, on the other hand, she was not ill, and he was
convinced that she was not--there must be something serious the matter to
make the woman whom but lately he read so easily become an enigma that
made him uneasy.
And this thing--if it were that whose crushing weight he himself carried
on his bent shoulders? She divined, she understood, if not all, at least
a part of the truth.
What an extraordinary situation was hers, and one which might truly
destroy her reason.
Nothing to fear from others, everything from himself. Justice, law, the
world--on all sides he was let alone; nothing was asked of him; that
which was owed was paid; but he by a sickly aberration was going to awake
the dead who slept in their tomb, from which no one thought of taking
them, and to make spectres of them which he alone saw and heard.
And he believed himself strong. Fool that he was, and still more foolish
to have taken such a charge when by the exercise of his will he did not
place himself in a condition to carry it! To will! But he had not
learned how to will.
THE POWER OF HYPNOTISM
The relative calm that Saniel had felt since his marriage he owed to
Phillis; to the strength, the confidence, the peace that he drew from
her. Phillis without strength, without confidence, without interior
peace, such as she was now, could not give him what she no longer had
herself, and he returned to the distracted condition that preceded his
marriage, and felt the same anguish, the same agitation, the same
madness. The beautiful relations, worldly consideration, success,
decorations, honors, were good for others; but for his happiness he
required the tranquillity and serenity of his wife, and her good moral
health which passed into him when she slept on his shoulder. In that
case there were no sudden awakenings, no sleeplessness; at the sound of
her gentle respiration he was reassured, and the spectres remained in
But now that this respiration was agitated, and he no longer felt in her
this tranquillity and serenity, he was no longer calm; she was weak and
uneasy, and she communicated her fever to him, not her sleep.
"You do not sleep. Why do you not sleep?"
He must know.
He persisted in his questions, but she was always on her guard, so that
he was unable to draw anything from her, checked as he was by the fear of
betraying himself, which seemed easy at the point he believed she had
reached. An awkward word, too much persistence, would let a flood of
light into her mind.
He also affected to speak as a physician when questioning her, and to
look for medical explanations of her condition.
"If you do not sleep it is because you suffer. What is this suffering?
From what does it proceed?"
Having no reasons to give to justify it, since she did not even dare to
speak of her brother, she denied it obstinately.
"But nothing is the matter with me, I assure you," she repeated. "What
do you think is the matter?"
"That is what I ask you."
"Then I ask you: What do you think I conceal from you?"
He could not say that he suspected her of concealing anything from him.
"You do not watch yourself properly."
"I can do nothing."
"I will force you to watch yourself and to speak."
"By putting you to sleep."
The threat was so terrible that she was beside herself.
"Do not do that!" she cried.
They looked at each other for a few moments in silence, both equally
frightened, she at the threat, he at what he would learn from her. But
to show this fright was on his side to let loose another proof even more
"Why should I not seek to discover in every way the cause of this
uneasiness which escapes my examination as well as yours? For that
somnambulism offers us an excellent way."
"But since I am not ill, what more could I tell you when I am asleep than
when I am awake?"
"We shall see."
"It is an experiment that I ask you not to attempt. Would you try a
poison on me?"
"Somnambulism is not a poison."
"Those who have made use of it."
"But you have not."
"Still I know enough to know that you will run no danger in my hands."
She believed that he opened a door of escape to her.
"Never mind, I am too much afraid. If you ever want to make me talk in a
state of forced somnambulism, ask one of your 'confreres' in whom you
have confidence to put me to sleep."
Before a 'confrere' she was certain he would not ask her dangerous
He understood that she wished to escape him.
"Afraid of what?" he asked. "That I shall ask you questions about the
past, concerning your life before we knew each other, and demand a
confession that would wound my love?"
"O Victor!" she cried, distracted. "What more cruel wound could you
give me than these words? My confession! It comprises three words: I
love you; I have never loved any one but you; I shall never love any one
but you. I have no past; my life began with my love."
He could not press it without showing the importance that he attached to
"I do not insist," he said; "it is a way like any other, but better.
You do not wish it, and we will not talk of it."
But he yielded too quickly for her to hope that he renounced his project,
and she remained under the influence of a stupefying terror. What would
she say if he made her talk? Everything, possibly. She did not even
know what thoughts were hidden in the depths of her brain, and she knew
absolutely nothing of this forced somnambulism with which she was
At this time the works of the school of Nancy on sleep, hypnotism, and
suggestion, had not yet been published, or at least the book which served
as their starting-point was not known, and she knew nothing of processes
that were employed to provoke the hypnotic sleep. As soon as her husband
left the house she looked for some book in the library that would
enlighten her. But the dictionary that she found gave only obscure or
confused instructions in which she floundered. The only exact point that
struck her was the method employed to produce sleep; to make the subject
look at a brilliant object placed from fifteen to twenty centimetres in
front of the eyes. If this were true she had no fear of ever being put
However, she was not reassured; and when a few days later at a dinner she
found herself seated next to one of her husband's 'confreres', who she
knew interested himself in somnambulism, she had the courage to conquer
her usual timidity concerning medicine, and questioned him.
"Are there not persons with certain diseases who can be put into a state
"It was formerly believed by the public and by many physicians that only
persons afflicted with hysteria and nervous troubles could be put to
sleep in this way, but it was a mistake; artificial somnambulism may be
produced on many subjects who are perfectly healthy."
"Is the will preserved in sleep?"
"The subject only preserves the spontaneity and will that his hypnotizer
leaves him, who at his pleasure makes him sad, gay, angry, or tender, and
plays with his soul as with an instrument."
"But that is frightful."
"Curious, at least. It is certain that there is a local paralysis of
such or such a cell, the study of which is the starting-point of many
"When he wakes, does the subject remember what he has said?"
"There is a difference of opinion on this point. Some say yes, and
others no. As for me, I believe the memory depends upon the degree of
sleep: with a light sleep there is remembrance, but with a profound sleep
the subject does not remember what he has said or heard or done."
She would have liked to continue, and her companion, glad to talk of what
interested him, would willingly have said more, but she saw her husband
at the other end of the table watching them by fits and starts, and
fearing that he would suspect the subject of their conversation she
What she had just learned seemed to her frightful. But, at least, as she
would not let herself be hypnotized she had nothing to fear; and
remembering what she had read, she promised herself that she would never
let him place her in a position where he could put her to sleep. It was
during the sleep that the will of the hypnotizer controlled that of the
subject, not before.
Resting on this belief, and also on his not having again spoken of
sending her to sleep, she was reassured. Was not this a sign that he
accepted her opposition and renounced his idea of provoked somnambulism?
But she deceived herself.
One night when she had gone to bed at her usual hour while he remained at
his work, she awoke suddenly and saw him standing near her, looking at
her with eyes whose fixed stare frightened her.
"What is the matter? What do you want?"
"Nothing, I want nothing; I am going to bed."
In spite of the strangeness of his glance she did not persist; questions
would have taught her nothing. And besides, now that he no longer went
to bed at the same time as she did, there was nothing extraordinary in
But a few days from that she woke again in the night with a feeling of
distress, and saw him leaning over her as if he would envelop her in his
This time, frightened as she was, she had the strength to say nothing,
but her anguish was the more intense. Did he then wish to hypnotize her
while she slept? Was it possible? Then the dictionary had deceived her?
In truth it was while she slept that Saniel tried to transform her
natural into an artificial sleep. Would he succeed? He knew nothing
about it, for the experience was new. But he risked it.
The first time, instead of putting her into a state of somnambulism, he
awoke her; the second, he succeeded no better; the third, when he saw
that after a certain time she did not open her eyes, he supposed that she
was asleep. To assure himself, he raised her arm, which remained in the
air until he placed it on the bed. Then taking her two hands, he turned
them backward, and withdrawing his own, the impulsion which he gave
lasted until he checked it. Her face had an expression of calmness and
tranquillity that it had not had for a long time; she was the pretty
Phillis of other days, with the sprightly glance.
"To-morrow I will make you sleep at the same time," he said, "and you
The next night he put her to sleep even more easily, but when he
questioned her she resisted.
"No," she said, "I will not speak; it is horrible. I will not, I
He insisted, but she would not.
"Very well, so be it," he said; "not to-day, to-morrow. But to-morrow I
wish you to speak, and you shall not resist me; I will it!"
If he did not insist it was not only because he knew that habit was
necessary to make her submit to his will without being able to defend
herself, but because he was ignorant whether, when she awoke, she had any
memory of what happened in her sleep, which was an important point.
The next night she was the same as she had been the previous evening, and
nothing indicated that she was conscious of her provoked sleep, any more
than what she said in this sleep. He could then continue.
This time she went to sleep sooner and more easily than usual, and her
face took the expression of tranquillity and repose he had seen the night
before. Would she answer? And if she consented, would she speak
sincerely, without attempting to weaken or falsify the truth? Emotion
made his voice tremble when he put the first question; it was his life,
his peace, the happiness of both which decided him.
"Where do you suffer?" he asked.
"I do not suffer."
"Yet you are agitated, often melancholy or uneasy; you do not sleep well.
What troubles you?"
"I am afraid."
"Afraid of what? Of whom?"
"Afraid of me! Do you think that I could hurt you?"
His tightened heart relaxed.
"Then why are you afraid?"
"Because there are things in you that frighten me."
"What things? Be exact."
"The change that has taken place in your temper, your character, and your
"And how do these changes make you uneasy?"
"They indicate a serious situation."
"I do not know; I have never stated exactly."
"Because I was afraid; and I closed my eyes so that I might not see."
"The explanation of all that is mysterious in your life."
"When did you notice the mystery in my life?"
"At the time of Caffie's death; and before, when you told me that you
could kill him without any remorse."
"Do you know who killed Caffie?"
His relief was so great that for several moments he forgot to continue
his interrogations. Then he went on: "And after?"
"A little before Madame Dammauville's death, when you became irritable
and furious without cause; when you told me to go because you did not
wish to see Madame Dammauville; when, the night before her death, you
were so tender, and asked me not to judge you without recalling that
"Yet you have judged me."
"Never. When worry urged me, my love checked me."
"What provoked this uneasiness outside of these facts?"
"Your manner of living since our marriage; your accesses of anger and of
tenderness; your fear of being observed; your agitation at night; your
"I talked?" he cried.
"Never distinctly; you groan often, and moan, pronouncing broken words
without sense, unintelligible--"
His anguish was violent; when he recovered he continued:
"What is it in this way of living that has made you uneasy?"
"Your constant care not to commit yourself--"
"Commit myself how?"
"I do not know--"
"The anger that you show, or the embarrassment, when the name of Caffie
is pronounced, Madame Dammauville's, and Florentin's--"
"And you conclude that my anger on hearing these three names--"
"Nothing--I am afraid--"
THE TERRIBLE REVELATION
This confession threw him into a state of confusion and agitation, for if
it did not go beyond what he feared, yet it revealed a terrible
Clearly, as in an open book, he read her; if she did not know all, she
was but one step from the truth, and if she had not taken this step, it
was because her love restrained her. If her love had been less strong,
less powerful, she certainly would not have withstood the proofs that
pressed on her from all sides.
But because she had held back so long, he must not conclude that the
struggle would be continued in this way, and that a more violent blow,
a stronger proof than the others, would not open her eyes in spite of
It only needed an imprudence, a carelessness on his part, and unluckily
he could no longer be relied on.
From what he had just learned it would be easy to watch himself closely,
and to avoid dangerous subjects, those that she described to him; but if
he could guard his words and looks during the day, neither saying nor
letting anything appear that was an accusation, not confirming the
suspicions against which she struggled, he could not do it at night.
He had not talked, and when she answered negatively to his question, she
lifted a terribly heavy weight from his heart. But he had groaned and
moaned, he had pronounced broken words without sense and unintelligible,
and there was the danger.
What was necessary to make these sighs, these groans, these broken and
unintelligible words become distinct and take a meaning? A nothing, an
accident, since his real cerebral tendency placed him up to a certain
point in a somnambulistic state. Was this tendency congenital with him
or acquired? He did not know. Before the agitated nights after Madame
Dammauville's death and Florentin's condemnation, the idea had never
occurred to him that he might talk in his sleep. But now he had the
proof that the vague fears which had tormented him on this subject were
only too well founded; he had talked, and if the words that escaped were
not now comprehensible, they might become so.
Without having made a special study of sleep, natural or induced, he knew
that in the case of natural somnambulists a hypnotic sleep is easily
produced, and that while holding a conversation with a subject who talks
in his sleep one may readily hypnotize him. Without doubt he need not
fear this from Phillis; but it was possible that some night when
incoherent words escaped him she would not be able to resist the
temptation to enter into a conversation with him, and to lead him to
confess what she wished to know--what the love that she felt for her
brother would drive her to wish to learn.
If this opportunity presented itself, would the love for her brother or
for her husband carry her away? If she questioned him, what would he not
For the first time he asked himself if he had done right to marry, and
if, on the contrary, he had not committed a mad imprudence in introducing
a woman into a life so tormented as his. He had asked calmness from this
woman, and now she brought him terror.
To tell the truth, she was dangerous only at night; and if he found a way
to occupy another room he would have nothing to fear from her during the
day, on condition that he held himself rigorously on the defensive.
Loving him as she did, she would resist the curiosity that drew her; if
uneasiness drove her, her love would restrain her, as she herself had
said; little by little this uneasiness and curiosity, being no longer
excited, would die out, and they would again enjoy the sweet days that
followed their marriage.
But in the present circumstances this way was difficult to find, for to
propose another room to Phillis would be equal to telling her that he was
afraid of her, and consequently it would give her a new mystery to study.
He reflected, and starting with the idea that the proposition of two
rooms must come from Phillis, he arranged a plan which, it seemed to him,
would accomplish what he wished.
Ignorant of the fact that she had been hypnotized, and not remembering
that she had talked, without doubt Phillis still feared that he would
hypnotize her; he would threaten it again, and surely she would find a
way to defend herself and escape from him.
This is what happened. The next day, when he told her decidedly that he
wished to put her to sleep in order that he might learn what troubled
her, she showed the same fright as on the first time.
"All that you have asked of me, everything that you have desired, I have
wished as you and with you; but I will never consent to this."
"Your resistance is absurd; I will not yield to it."
"You shall not put me to sleep against my will."
"It is not possible."
Without replying, he took a book from the library, and turning over the
leaves, he read: "Is it possible to make a sleeping person, without
awaking him, pass from the natural to the hypnotic sleep? The thing is
possible, at least with certain subjects."
Then handing her the book:
"You see that to put you to sleep artificially I need only the
opportunity of finding you sleeping naturally. It is very simple."
"That would be odious."
"Those are merely words."
He threw her into such a state of terror that she kept awake all night,
and as he would not sleep for fear of talking, he felt that she exerted
every faculty to keep awake. But had he not gone too far? And by this
threat would he not drive her to some desperate act? If she should
escape, if she deserted him--what would become of him without her? Was
she not his whole life? But he reassured himself by saying that she
loved him too much ever to consent to a separation. Without doubt, she
herself would come to think as he wished her to think.
And yet when he returned home in the evening she told him that her mother
was not well, and begged him to examine her. This examination proved
that Madame Cormier was in her usual health; but she complained that her
breath failed her--during the day she had feared syncope.
"If you are willing," Phillis said, "I will sleep near mamma. I am
afraid of not hearing her at night, and she is suffering."
He began by refusing, then he consented to this arrangement; and to thank
him for it she stayed with him in his office, affectionate, full of
tenderness and caresses, until he went to his room.
He was then free to sleep or not; whether he groaned or talked she could
not hear him, since there was no communicating door between his room and
that of his mother-in-law; his voice certainly would not penetrate the
Who could have told him on the night that he decided to marry, that he
would come to such a pass--to be afraid, to hide himself from her who
brought him the calmness of sleep; and that by his fault, by a chain of
imprudences and stupidities, as if it were written that in everything he
would owe his sufferings to himself, and that if he ever succumbed to the
whirlwind that swept him along, it would be by his own deed, by his own
hand? At last he had assured the tranquillity of his nights, and as a
further precaution, although he did not fear that Phillis would enter his
room while he slept, to surprise him--she who dared not look in the face
what suspicion showed her--he locked his door. Naturally, Phillis could
not always sleep with her mother; but he would find a way to suggest
frankly their sleeping apart, and surely he could find one in the
storehouse of medicine.
These cares and similar fears were not of a nature to dispose him to
sleep, and besides for a long time he had suffered from an exasperating
nervous insomnia. As the night was warm he thought a little fresh air
would calm him, and he opened the window; if this freshness did not calm
him, at least it would make him sleep.
Obliged to improvise a bed in her mother's room, Phillis placed it
against the partition that separated her from her husband, but without
preconcerted intention, simply by accident, because it was the only place
where she could put the bed. A little after midnight an unusual noise
awoke her; she sat up to listen and to recover herself. It seemed as if
this noise came from her husband's room. Alarmed, she placed her ear
against the partition. She was not deceived; they were stifled groans,
moans that were repeated at short intervals.
Carefully yet quickly she left her bed, and as the dawn was already
shining in the windows, she was able to leave the room without making any
noise. Reaching the door of her husband's room she listened; she was not
deceived; they were indeed groans, but louder and sadder than those she
had so often heard during the night. She tried the door, but it was
evidently locked on the inside. What was the matter with him? She must
know, must go to him, and give him relief. She thought of knocking, of
shaking the door; but as he did not reply when she tried to open it, it
was because he did not hear or did not wish to hear. Then she thought of
the terrace; from there she could see what happened, and if it were
necessary she would break a pane to enter.
She found the window open and saw her husband on the bed, sleeping, his
head turned toward her; she stopped and asked herself if she should cross
the threshold and wake him.
At this moment, with closed lips, he pronounced several words more
distinctly than those that had so many times escaped him: "Phillis--
He dreamed of her. Poor, dear Victor! for what did he wish her to
pardon him? Doubtless for having threatened to hypnotize her:
Overcome by this proof of love she put her head through the opening of
the window to give him a look before returning to her mother, but on
seeing his face in the full white light of the morning, she was
frightened; it expressed the most violent sorrow, the features convulsed
with anguish and horror at the same time. Surely he was ill. She must
wake him. just as she took a step toward him he began to speak: "Your
She stopped as if thunderstruck, then instinctively she drew back and
clung to the window in the vestibule to keep herself from falling,
repeating those two words that she had just heard, not understanding, not
wishing to understand.
Instead of returning to her mother, trembling and holding on to the wall
she entered the parlor and let herself fall into a chair, prostrated,
"Your brother--or me?"
This was, then, the truth, the frightful truth that she had never wished
She stayed there until the noises in the street warned her that it was
getting late, and she might be surprised. Then she returned to her
"I am going out," she said; "I will return at half-past eight or nine
"But your husband will not see you before going to the hospital."
"You will tell him that I have gone out."
She returned at half-past nine. Madame Cormier had finished dressing.
"At last you have come," she said.
But at sight of her daughter's face she saw that something had happened.
"My God! What is the matter?" she asked, trembling.
"Something serious--very serious, but unfortunately it is irreparable.
We must leave here, never to return."
"You must never speak to me of him. This the only thing I ask of you."
"Alas! I understand. It is what I foresaw, what I said would happen.
You cannot bear the contempt that he shows us on account of your
"We must hereafter be strangers to each other, and this is why we leave
"My God! At my age, to drag my bones--"
"I have engaged a lodging at the Ternes; a wagon will come to take the
furniture that belongs to us, what we brought here, only that. We will
tell the concierge that we are going to the country. As for Josephine,
you need not fear indiscreet questions, for I have given her a day off."
"But the money?"
"I have two hundred francs from the sale of my last picture; that is
enough for the present. Before they are gone I shall have painted and
sold another; do not worry, we shall have all we need."
All this was said in a hard but resolute tone.
A ring of the bell interrupted them. It was the express wagon.
"See that they do not take what does not belong to us," Phillis said.
"While they fill their wagon I will write in the parlor."
At the end of an hour the wagon was ready. Madame Cormier entered the
parlor to tell her daughter.
"I have finished," Phillis said.
Having placed her letter in an envelope, she laid it in full view on
"Now let us go," she said.
And as her mother sighed, while walking with difficulty
"Lean on me, dear mamma, you know I am strong."
AFTER LONG YEARS
Saniel did not return until quite late in the afternoon. When he opened
the door with his key he was surprised at not seeing his wife run to him
and kiss him.
"She is painting," he said to himself, "she did not hear me."
He passed into the parlor, convinced that he would find her at her easel;
but he did not see her, and the easel was not in its usual place, there
nor anywhere else.
He knocked at the door of Madame Cormier's room; there was no reply; he
knocked louder a second time, and after waiting a moment he entered. The
room was empty; there was no bed, no furniture, no one.
Stupefied, he looked around him, then returning to the vestibule he
called: "Phillis! Phillis!"
There was no reply. He ran to the kitchen, no one was there; he went
into his office, no one there. But as he looked about him, he saw
Phillis's letter on his desk, and his heart leaped; he grasped it
eagerly, and opened it with a trembling hand. It was as follows:
"I have gone, never to return. My despair and disgust of life are
such, that without my mother and the poor being who is so far away,
I should kill myself; but in spite of the horror of my position I
was obliged to reflect, and I do not wish to aggravate by folly the
wickedness that is going on about me. My mother is no longer young;
she is ill and has suffered cruelly. Not only do I owe it to her to
brighten her old age by my presence, by the material and moral
support that I can give her, but she must have faith that I am there
to replace her, and to open my arms to her son, to my brother. The
least that I can do for them is to wait courageously for him; and,
however weary, terrible, or frightful my life may be hereafter, I
shall bear it so that the unfortunate, the pariah, whom a pitiless
fate has pursued, will find on his return a hearth, a home, a
friend. This will be my only object, my reason for living; and in
order to save myself from sluggishness and weariness, my thoughts
will always be on the time when he will return, he whom I will call
my child, and whom my love must save and cure. I know that long
years separate me from that day, and that until it comes my broken
heart will never have a moment of repose; but I shall employ this
time in working for him, for the brother, for the child, for the
cherished being who will come to me aged and desperate; and I wish
that he may yet believe in something good, that he will not imagine
everything in this world is unjust and infamous, for he will return
to me weighed down by twenty years of shame, of degrading and
undeserved shame. How will he bear these twenty years? What
efforts must I not make to prove to him that he should not abandon
himself to despair, and that life often offers the remedy,
compassion to the most profound, to the most unjust human sorrows?
How can I make him believe that? How lead his poor heart, closed to
confidence, to feeling, to the tears that alone can relieve it? God
who has so sorely tried me, without doubt will come to my aid, and
will inspire me with words of consolation, will show me the path to
follow, and give me the strength to persevere. Have I not already
to thank Him for being alone in the world, outside of a mother and
brother who will not betray me? I have no children, and I am spared
the terror of seeing a soul growing in evil, an intelligence
escaping from me to follow the path of infamy or dishonor. I leave,
then, as I came. I was a poor girl, I go away a poor woman. I have
taken the clothing and personal effects that I brought into our
common home, nothing that was bought with your money; and I forbid
you to interfere with my wish in this question of material things,
as well as in my resolution to fly from you. Nothing can ever
reunite us; nothing shall reunite us, no consideration, no
necessity. I reject the past, this guilty past, the responsibility
of which weighs so heavily on my conscience, and I should like to
lose the memory of the detested time. It would be impossible for me
to accept the struggle, or supplications, if you think it expedient
to make any. I have cut our bonds, and hereafter we shall be as far
apart as if one of us were dead, or even farther. Have no scruples,
then, in leaving me alone to face a new life, a beginning that may
appear difficult to one not situated as I am. The trials of former
times were good for me, since they accustomed me to the difficulties
of work. The desolation of to-day will sustain me, in the sense
that having suffered all I can suffer, I no longer fear some
discouraging catastrophe that will check me in my resolutions. In
order not to compromise you, and more fully to become myself again,
I shall take my family name--a dishonored name--but I shall bear it
without shame. I shall live obscurely, absorbed in work and in
trying to forget your existence; do the same yourself. If you think
of the past, you will find, perhaps, that I am hard; yet this
departure is not an egotistic desertion. I am no good to you, and
the repose that you want would shun you hereafter in my presence.
On the contrary, strive for forgetfulness, as I shall. If you
contrive to wipe out of your life the part that is associated with
me, perhaps you will be able to banish the remainder, and to recover
some of the calm of other days. I can no longer remember that I
have loved you, for my position is such that I have not the refuge
of memory; at my age I must remain without a past as without a
future; the consolation of the unfortunate is lost to me with
everything else. I cannot rise out of my sorrow to try to find one
hour when life was sweet to me; those hours, on the contrary, make
me tremble, and I reproach myself for them as if they were a crime.
Thus, whichever way I turn, I find only sadness and sharp regrets;
everything is blighted, dishonored for me."
Standing in the middle of his office he read this hastily written letter
breathlessly. Arrived at the end he looked about him vaguely. His chair
was near his desk; he let himself fall into it and remained there
prostrated, holding the letter in his shaking hand.
It was an October afternoon, dark and muddy; in the Rue des Saints-Peres,
in front of the houses that hide the Charity Hospital, coupes were
standing, and their long line extended to the Boulevard Saint-Germain,
where the coachmen, having left their seats, talked together like persons
who were accustomed to meet each other. At half-past four o'clock, in
the deepening twilight, men with grave looks and dark clothes--members of
the Academy of Medicine--the Tuesday sitting over, issued from the porch,
and entered their carriages. Some of them walked alone, briskly, in a
great hurry; others demonstrated a skilful tardiness, stopping to talk
politely to a journalist, and to give him notes of the day's meeting,
or continuing, with a 'confrere' who was not an Academician, the
conversation begun in the room of the 'pas-perdus'; it was the Bourse of
consultations that was just closed. Not all the members of the Academy
have, in truth, a long list of patients to visit; but each one has a vote
to give, and they are those whom the candidates surround, trying to win
One of the Academicians who appeared the last at the top of the steps was
a man of great height but bent figure, with hollow cheeks and pale face
lighted by pale blue eyes with a strange expression, both hard and
desolate at the same time. He advanced alone, and his heavy gait and
dragging step gave him the appearance of a man sixty years of age, while
in other ways he retained a certain youthfulness. It was Saniel, twenty
Without exchanging a bow or a hand-shake with any one, he descended to
the pavement and walked to the boulevard, where he opened the door of a
coups whose interior showed a complete ambulant library--a writing table
with paper, ink, and lamp, pockets full of books and pamphlets.
Just as he was about to enter, a voice stopped him.
He turned; it was one of his old pupils, who had recently become a
physician in the suburb of Gentilly.
"What is it?" asked Saniel.
"I want to ask you to come and assist me in a curious case of spasms,
where your intervention may be decisive."
"At the Maison-Blanche, a poor woman. What day could you give me?"
"Is it urgent?"
"In that case I will go at once. Give the address to my coachman, and
get in with me."
But at this moment a white-haired man dressed in chestnut velvet, wearing
a felt hat and sabots, came toward them, accompanied by two young men
with whom he discoursed in a loud tone while gesticulating. People
turned to look at them, so original was the appearance of old Brigard,
the same man from head to foot that he had always been.
He came to Saniel with outstretched hands, and Saniel, taking off his
hat, received him with marked respect.
"Enchanted to meet you," Brigard said, "for I went to your office
yesterday and did not find you."
"Why did you not send me word beforehand? If you need me I am at your
"Thanks, but happily I do not need your advice, neither for myself nor my
family; it was simply that I wished to see you. Arriving at your house
before your office hours, I waited in your reception-room and several
patients came after me--a young woman who appeared to suffer cruelly, an
old lady who was extremely anxious, and lastly a man who had some nervous
disease that would not permit him to sit still. And, looking at them, I
said to myself that as I was only making a friendly visit I would not
remain and prolong the waiting of these unfortunates who counted the
minutes, so I came away."
"May I ask to what do I owe the honor of this visit?"
The two young men who accompanied Brigard, and Saniel's old pupil
"The desire to present you my congratulations. When I learned of your
candidature to the Academy of Medicine I said to myself: Here is one who
has no chance; friend Saniel has originality and force; he has succeeded
brilliantly; but these qualities are not exactly academic. I was
deceived. You have broken open the doors, which is the only way that I
understand of entering these places. That is why I congratulate you.
And, besides, I did you wrong formerly--"
"I accused you of believing yourself stronger than life; in truth you
were. My compliments!"
After warmly pressing Saniel's hands, he went on his way with his two
disciples, preaching to them.
The young doctor approached Saniel.
"He is an original," he said.
"A happy man!" was the only reply.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
He did not sleep, so much the better! He would work more
One does not judge those whom one loves
She could not bear contempt
The strong walk alone because they need no one
We are so unhappy that our souls are weak against joy
We weep, we do not complain