Part 1 out of 6
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LIBRARY OF THE WORLD'S BEST MYSTERY AND DETECTIVE STORIES
EDITED BY JULIAN HAWTHORNE
One Hundred and One Tales of Mystery
By Famous Authors of East and West
In Six Volumes
The Review of Reviews Company
AMERICAN :: FRENCH, ITALIAN, ETC.
ENGLISH: SCOTCH :: GERMAN, RUSSIAN, ETC.
ENGLISH: IRISH :: ORIENTAL: MODERN MAGIC
BALZAC PLINY, THE YOUNGER
[Illustration: "Through a Mist in the Depths of the Looking-Glass."
To illustrate "The Horla," by Guy de Maupassant]
_Table of Contents_
HENRI RENE ALBERT GUY DE MAUPASSANT (1850-93).
The Man with the Pale Eyes
An Uncomfortable Bed
The Miracle of Zobeide
VILLIERS DE L'ISLE ADAM.
The Torture by Hope
The Owl's Ear
The Invisible Eye
The Waters of Death
HONORE DE BALZAC (1799-1850).
JEAN FRANCOIS MARIE AROUET DE VOLTAIRE (1694-1778).
Zadig the Babylonian
PEDRO DE ALARCON.
LUIGI CAPUANA (1839-00).
LUCIUS APULEIUS (Second Century).
The Adventure of the Three Robbers
PLINY, THE YOUNGER (First Century).
Letter to Sura
_French--Italian--Spanish--Latin Mystery Stories_
HENRI RENE ALBERT GUY DE MAUPASSANT
She was one of those pretty and charming girls who are sometimes, as if
by a mistake of destiny, born in a family of clerks. She had no dowry,
no expectations, no means of being known, understood, loved, wedded, by
any rich and distinguished man; and she let herself be married to a
little clerk at the Ministry of Public Instruction.
She dressed plainly because she could not dress well, but she was as
unhappy as though she had really fallen from her proper station; since
with women there is neither caste nor rank; and beauty, grace, and
charm act instead of family and birth. Natural fineness, instinct for
what is elegant, suppleness of wit, are the sole hierarchy, and make
from women of the people the equals of the very greatest ladies.
She suffered ceaselessly, feeling herself born for all the delicacies
and all the luxuries. She suffered from the poverty of her dwelling,
from the wretched look of the walls, from the worn-out chairs, from the
ugliness of the curtains. All those things, of which another woman of
her rank would never even have been conscious, tortured her and made
her angry. The sight of the little Breton peasant who did her humble
housework aroused in her regrets which were despairing, and distracted
dreams. She thought of the silent antechambers hung with Oriental
tapestry, lit by tall bronze candelabra, and of the two great footmen
in knee breeches who sleep in the big armchairs, made drowsy by the
heavy warmth of the hot-air stove. She thought of the long
_salons_ fatted up with ancient silk, of the delicate furniture
carrying priceless curiosities, and of the coquettish perfumed boudoirs
made for talks at five o'clock with intimate friends, with men famous
and sought after, whom all women envy and whose attention they all
When she sat down to dinner, before the round table covered with a
tablecloth three days old, opposite her husband, who uncovered the soup
tureen and declared with an enchanted air, "Ah, the good
_pot-au-feu_! I don't know anything better than that," she thought
of dainty dinners, of shining silverware, of tapestry which peopled the
walls with ancient personages and with strange birds flying in the
midst of a fairy forest; and she thought of delicious dishes served on
marvelous plates, and of the whispered gallantries which you listen to
with a sphinx-like smile, while you are eating the pink flesh of a
trout or the wings of a quail.
She had no dresses, no jewels, nothing. And she loved nothing but that;
she felt made for that. She would so have liked to please, to be
envied, to be charming, to be sought after.
She had a friend, a former schoolmate at the convent, who was rich, and
whom she did not like to go and see any more, because she suffered so
much when she came back.
But, one evening, her husband returned home with a triumphant air, and
holding a large envelope in his hand.
"There," said he, "here is something for you."
She tore the paper sharply, and drew out a printed card which bore
"The Minister of Public Instruction and Mme. Georges Ramponneau request
the honor of M. and Mme. Loisel's company at the palace of the Ministry
on Monday evening, January 18th."
Instead of being delighted, as her husband hoped, she threw the
invitation on the table with disdain, murmuring:
"What do you want me to do with that?"
"But, my dear, I thought you would be glad. You never go out, and this
is such a fine opportunity. I had awful trouble to get it. Everyone
wants to go; it is very select, and they are not giving many
invitations to clerks. The whole official world will be there."
She looked at him with an irritated eye, and she said, impatiently:
"And what do you want me to put on my back?"
He had not thought of that; he stammered:
"Why, the dress you go to the theater in. It looks very well, to me."
He stopped, distracted, seeing that his wife was crying. Two great
tears descended slowly from the corners of her eyes toward the corners
of her mouth. He stuttered:
"What's the matter? What's the matter?"
But, by a violent effort, she had conquered her grief, and she replied,
with a calm voice, while she wiped her wet cheeks:
"Nothing. Only I have no dress, and therefore I can't go to this ball.
Give your card to some colleague whose wife is better equipped than I."
He was in despair. He resumed:
"Come, let us see, Mathilde. How much would it cost, a suitable dress,
which you could use on other occasions, something very simple?"
She reflected several seconds, making her calculations and wondering
also what sum she could ask without drawing on herself an immediate
refusal and a frightened exclamation from the economical clerk.
Finally, she replied, hesitatingly:
"I don't know exactly, but I think I could manage it with four hundred
He had grown a little pale, because he was laying aside just that
amount to buy a gun and treat himself to a little shooting next summer
on the plain of Nanterre, with several friends who went to shoot larks
down there of a Sunday.
But he said:
"All right. I will give you four hundred francs. And try to have a
The day of the ball drew near, and Mme. Loisel seemed sad, uneasy,
anxious. Her dress was ready, however. Her husband said to her one
"What is the matter? Come, you've been so queer these last three days."
And she answered:
"It annoys me not to have a single jewel, not a single stone, nothing
to put on. I shall look like distress. I should almost rather not go at
"You might wear natural flowers. It's very stylish at this time of the
year. For ten francs you can get two or three magnificent roses."
She was not convinced.
"No; there's nothing more humiliating than to look poor among other
women who are rich."
But her husband cried:
"How stupid you are! Go look up your friend Mme. Forestier, and ask her
to lend you some jewels. You're quite thick enough with her to do
She uttered a cry of joy:
"It's true. I never thought of it."
The next day she went to her friend and told of her distress.
Mme. Forestier went to a wardrobe with a glass door, took out a large
jewel box, brought it back, opened it, and said to Mme. Loisel:
"Choose, my dear."
She saw first of all some bracelets, then a pearl necklace, then a
Venetian cross, gold and precious stones of admirable workmanship. She
tried on the ornaments before the glass, hesitated, could not make up
her mind to part with them, to give them back. She kept asking:
"Haven't you any more?"
"Why, yes. Look. I don't know what you like."
All of a sudden she discovered, in a black satin box, a superb necklace
of diamonds, and her heart began to beat with an immoderate desire. Her
hands trembled as she took it. She fastened it around her throat,
outside her high-necked dress, and remained lost in ecstasy at the
sight of herself.
Then she asked, hesitating, filled with anguish:
"Can you lend me that, only that?"
"Why, yes, certainly."
She sprang upon the neck of her friend, kissed her passionately, then
fled with her treasure.
* * * * *
The day of the ball arrived. Mme. Loisel made a great success. She was
prettier than them all, elegant, gracious, smiling, and crazy with joy.
All the men looked at her, asked her name, endeavored to be introduced.
All the attaches of the Cabinet wanted to waltz with her. She was
remarked by the minister himself.
She danced with intoxication, with passion, made drunk by pleasure,
forgetting all, in the triumph of her beauty, in the glory of her
success, in a sort of cloud of happiness composed of all this homage,
of all this admiration, of all these awakened desires, and of that
sense of complete victory which is so sweet to woman's heart.
She went away about four o'clock in the morning. Her husband had been
sleeping since midnight, in a little deserted anteroom, with three
other gentlemen whose wives were having a very good time.
He threw over her shoulders the wraps which he had brought, modest
wraps of common life, whose poverty contrasted with the elegance of the
ball dress. She felt this and wanted to escape so as not to be remarked
by the other women, who were enveloping themselves in costly furs.
Loisel held her back.
"Wait a bit. You will catch cold outside. I will go and call a cab."
But she did not listen to him, and rapidly descended the stairs. When
they were in the street they did not find a carriage; and they began to
look for one, shouting after the cabmen whom they saw passing by at a
They went down toward the Seine, in despair, shivering with cold. At
last they found on the quay one of those ancient noctambulent coupes
which, exactly as if they were ashamed to show their misery during the
day, are never seen round Paris until after nightfall.
It took them to their door in the Rue des Martyrs, and once more,
sadly, they climbed up homeward. All was ended for her. And as to him,
he reflected that he must be at the Ministry at ten o'clock.
She removed the wraps, which covered her shoulders, before the glass,
so as once more to see herself in all her glory. But suddenly she
uttered a cry. She had no longer the necklace around her neck!
Her husband, already half undressed, demanded:
"What is the matter with you?"
She turned madly toward him:
"I have--I have--I've lost Mme. Forestier's necklace."
He stood up, distracted.
And they looked in the folds of her dress, in the folds of her cloak,
in her pockets, everywhere. They did not find it.
"You're sure you had it on when you left the ball?"
"Yes, I felt it in the vestibule of the palace."
"But if you had lost it in the street we should have heard it fall. It
must be in the cab."
"Yes. Probably. Did you take his number?"
"No. And you, didn't you notice it?"
They looked, thunderstruck, at one another. At last Loisel put on his
"I shall go back on foot," said he, "over the whole route which we have
taken, to see if I can't find it."
And he went out. She sat waiting on a chair in her ball dress, without
strength to go to bed, overwhelmed, without fire, without a thought.
Her husband came back about seven o'clock. He had found nothing.
He went to Police Headquarters, to the newspaper offices, to offer a
reward; he went to the cab companies--everywhere, in fact, whither he
was urged by the least suspicion of hope.
She waited all day, in the same condition of mad fear before this
Loisel returned at night with a hollow, pale face; he had discovered
"You must write to your friend," said he, "that you have broken the
clasp of her necklace and that you are having it mended. That will give
us time to turn round."
She wrote at his dictation.
At the end of a week they had lost all hope.
And Loisel, who had aged five years, declared:
"We must consider how to replace that ornament."
The next day they took the box which had contained it, and they went to
the jeweler whose name was found within. He consulted his books.
"It was not I, madame, who sold that necklace; I must simply have
furnished the case."
Then they went from jeweler to jeweler, searching for a necklace like
the other, consulting their memories, sick both of them with chagrin
and with anguish.
They found, in a shop at the Palais Royal, a string of diamonds which
seemed to them exactly like the one they looked for. It was worth forty
thousand francs. They could have it for thirty-six.
So they begged the jeweler not to sell it for three days yet. And they
made a bargain that he should buy it back for thirty-four thousand
francs in case they found the other one before the end of February.
Loisel possessed eighteen thousand francs which his father had left
him. He would borrow the rest.
He did borrow, asking a thousand francs of one, five hundred of
another, five louis here, three louis there. He gave notes, took up
ruinous obligations, dealt with usurers, and all the race of lenders.
He compromised all the rest of his life, risked his signature without
even knowing if he could meet it; and, frightened by the pains yet to
come, by the black misery which was about to fall upon him, by the
prospect of all the physical privations and of all the moral tortures
which he was to suffer, he went to get the new necklace, putting down
upon the merchant's counter thirty-six thousand francs.
When Mme. Loisel took back the necklace, Mme. Forestier said to her,
with a chilly manner:
"You should have returned it sooner, I might have needed it."
She did not open the case, as her friend had so much feared. If she had
detected the substitution, what would she have thought, what would she
have said? Would she not have taken Mme. Loisel for a thief?
Mme. Loisel now knew the horrible existence of the needy. She took her
part, moreover, all on a sudden, with heroism. That dreadful debt must
be paid. She would pay it. They dismissed their servant; they changed
their lodgings; they rented a garret under the roof.
She came to know what heavy housework meant and the odious cares of the
kitchen. She washed the dishes, using her rosy nails on the greasy pots
and pans. She washed the dirty linen, the shirts, and the dish-cloths,
which she dried upon a line; she carried the slops down to the street
every morning, and carried up the water, stopping for breath at every
landing. And, dressed like a woman of the people, she went to the
fruiterer, the grocer, the butcher, her basket on her arm, bargaining,
insulted, defending her miserable money sou by sou.
Each month they had to meet some notes, renew others, obtain more time.
Her husband worked in the evening making a fair copy of some
tradesman's accounts, and late at night he often copied manuscript for
five sous a page.
And this life lasted ten years.
At the end of ten years they had paid everything, everything, with the
rates of usury, and the accumulations of the compound interest.
Mme. Loisel looked old now. She had become the woman of impoverished
households--strong and hard and rough. With frowsy hair, skirts askew,
and red hands, she talked loud while washing the floor with great
swishes of water. But sometimes, when her husband was at the office,
she sat down near the window, and she thought of that gay evening of
long ago, of that ball where she had been so beautiful and so feted.
What would have happened if she had not lost that necklace? Who knows?
who knows? How life is strange and changeful! How little a thing is
needed for us to be lost or to be saved!
But, one Sunday, having gone to take a walk in the Champs Elysees to
refresh herself from the labors of the week, she suddenly perceived a
woman who was leading a child. It was Mme. Forestier, still young,
still beautiful, still charming.
Mme. Loisel felt moved. Was she going to speak to her? Yes, certainly.
And now that she had paid, she was going to tell her all about it. Why
She went up.
"Good day, Jeanne."
The other, astonished to be familiarly addressed by this plain
good-wife, did not recognize her at all, and stammered:
"But--madame!--I do not know--You must have mistaken."
"No. I am Mathilde Loisel."
Her friend uttered a cry.
"Oh, my poor Mathilde! How you are changed!"
"Yes, I have had days hard enough, since I have seen you, days wretched
enough--and that because of you!"
"Of me! How so?"
"Do you remember that diamond necklace which you lent me to wear at the
"Well, I lost it."
"What do you mean? You brought it back."
"I brought you back another just like it. And for this we have been ten
years paying. You can understand that it was not easy for us, us who
had nothing. At last it is ended, and I am very glad."
Mme. Forestier had stopped.
"You say that you bought a necklace of diamonds to replace mine?"
"Yes. You never noticed it, then! They were very like."
And she smiled with a joy which was proud and naive at once.
Mme. Forestier, strongly moved, took her two hands.
"Oh, my poor Mathilde! Why, my necklace was paste. It was worth at most
five hundred francs!"
_The Man with the Pale Eyes_
Monsieur Pierre Agenor De Vargnes, the Examining Magistrate, was the
exact opposite of a practical joker. He was dignity, staidness,
correctness personified. As a sedate man, he was quite incapable of
being guilty, even in his dreams, of anything resembling a practical
joke, however remotely. I know nobody to whom he could be compared,
unless it be the present president of the French Republic. I think it
is useless to carry the analogy any further, and having said thus much,
it will be easily understood that a cold shiver passed through me when
Monsieur Pierre Agenor de Vargnes did me the honor of sending a lady to
await on me.
At about eight o'clock, one morning last winter, as he was leaving the
house to go to the _Palais de Justice_, his footman handed him a card,
on which was printed:
DOCTOR JAMES FERDINAND,
_Member of the Academy of Medicine,
Chevalier of the Legion of Honor._
At the bottom of the card there was written in pencil:
_From Lady Frogere._
Monsieur de Vargnes knew the lady very well, who was a very agreeable
Creole from Hayti, and whom he had met in many drawing-rooms, and, on
the other hand, though the doctor's name did not awaken any
recollections in him, his quality and titles alone required that he
should grant him an interview, however short it might be. Therefore,
although he was in a hurry to get out, Monsieur de Vargnes told the
footman to show in his early visitor, but to tell him beforehand that
his master was much pressed for time, as he had to go to the Law
When the doctor came in, in spite of his usual imperturbability, he
could not restrain a movement of surprise, for the doctor presented
that strange anomaly of being a negro of the purest, blackest type,
with the eyes of a white man, of a man from the North, pale, cold,
clear, blue eyes, and his surprise increased, when, after a few words
of excuse for his untimely visit, he added, with an enigmatical smile:
"My eyes surprise you, do they not? I was sure that they would, and, to
tell you the truth, I came here in order that you might look at them
well, and never forget them."
His smile, and his words, even more than his smile, seemed to be those
of a madman. He spoke very softly, with that childish, lisping voice,
which is peculiar to negroes, and his mysterious, almost menacing
words, consequently, sounded all the more as if they were uttered at
random by a man bereft of his reason. But his looks, the looks of those
pale, cold, clear, blue eyes, were certainly not those of a madman.
They clearly expressed menace, yes, menace, as well as irony, and,
above all, implacable ferocity, and their glance was like a flash of
lightning, which one could never forget.
"I have seen," Monsieur de Vargnes used to say, when speaking about it,
"the looks of many murderers, but in none of them have I ever observed
such a depth of crime, and of impudent security in crime."
And this impression was so strong, that Monsieur de Vargnes thought
that he was the sport of some hallucination, especially as when he
spoke about his eyes, the doctor continued with a smile, and in his
most childish accents: "Of course, Monsieur, you cannot understand what
I am saying to you, and I must beg your pardon for it. To-morrow you
will receive a letter which will explain it all to you, but, first of
all, it was necessary that I should let you have a good, a careful look
at my eyes, my eyes, which are myself, my only and true self, as you
With these words, and with a polite bow, the doctor went out, leaving
Monsieur de Vargnes extremely surprised, and a prey to this doubt, as
he said to himself:
"Is he merely a madman? The fierce expression, and the criminal depths
of his looks are perhaps caused merely by the extraordinary contrast
between his fierce looks and his pale eyes."
And absorbed in these thoughts, Monsieur de Vargnes unfortunately
allowed several minutes to elapse, and then he thought to himself
"No, I am not the sport of any hallucination, and this is no case of an
optical phenomenon. This man is evidently some terrible criminal, and I
have altogether failed in my duty in not arresting him myself at once,
illegally, even at the risk of my life."
The judge ran downstairs in pursuit of the doctor, but it was too late;
he had disappeared. In the afternoon, he called on Madame Frogere, to
ask her whether she could tell him anything about the matter. She,
however, did not know the negro doctor in the least, and was even able
to assure him that he was a fictitious personage, for, as she was well
acquainted with the upper classes in Hayti, she knew that the Academy
of Medicine at Port-au-Prince had no doctor of that name among its
members. As Monsieur de Vargnes persisted, and gave descriptions of the
doctor, especially mentioning his extraordinary eyes, Madame Frogere
began to laugh, and said:
"You have certainly had to do with a hoaxer, my dear monsieur. The eyes
which you have described are certainly those of a white man, and the
individual must have been painted."
On thinking it over, Monsieur de Vargnes remembered that the doctor had
nothing of the negro about him, but his black skin, his woolly hair and
beard, and his way of speaking, which was easily imitated, but nothing
of the negro, not even the characteristic, undulating walk. Perhaps,
after all, he was only a practical joker, and during the whole day,
Monsieur de Vargnes took refuge in that view, which rather wounded his
dignity as a man of consequence, but which appeased his scruples as a
The next day, he received the promised letter, which was written, as
well as addressed, in letters cut out of the newspapers. It was as
"MONSIEUR: Doctor James Ferdinand does not exist, but the man whose
eyes you saw does, and you will certainly recognize his eyes. This man
has committed two crimes, for which he does not feel any remorse, but,
as he is a psychologist, he is afraid of some day yielding to the
irresistible temptation of confessing his crimes. You know better than
anyone (and that is your most powerful aid), with what imperious force
criminals, especially intellectual ones, feel this temptation. That
great Poet, Edgar Poe, has written masterpieces on this subject, which
express the truth exactly, but he has omitted to mention the last
phenomenon, which I will tell you. Yes, I, a criminal, feel a terrible
wish for somebody to know of my crimes, and when this requirement is
satisfied, my secret has been revealed to a confidant, I shall be
tranquil for the future, and be freed from this demon of perversity,
which only tempts us once. Well! Now that is accomplished. You shall
have my secret; from the day that you recognize me by my eyes, you will
try and find out what I am guilty of, and how I was guilty, and you
will discover it, being a master of your profession, which, by the by,
has procured you the honor of having been chosen by me to bear the
weight of this secret, which now is shared by us, and by us two alone.
I say, advisedly, _by us two alone_. You could not, as a matter of
fact, prove the reality of this secret to anyone, unless I were to
confess it, and I defy you to obtain my public confession, as I have
confessed it to you, _and without danger to myself_."
Three months later, Monsieur de Vargnes met Monsieur X---- at an
evening party, and at first sight, and without the slightest
hesitation, he recognized in him those very pale, very cold, and very
clear blue eyes, eyes which it was impossible to forget.
The man himself remained perfectly impassive, so that Monsieur de
Vargnes was forced to say to himself:
"Probably I am the sport of an hallucination at this moment, or else
there are two pairs of eyes that are perfectly similar in the world.
And what eyes! Can it be possible?"
The magistrate instituted inquiries into his life, and he discovered
this, which removed all his doubts.
Five years previously, Monsieur X---- had been a very poor, but very
brilliant medical student, who, although he never took his doctor's
degree, had already made himself remarkable by his microbiological
A young and very rich widow had fallen in love with him and married
him. She had one child by her first marriage, and in the space of six
months, first the child and then the mother died of typhoid fever, and
thus Monsieur X---- had inherited a large fortune, in due form, and
without any possible dispute. Everybody said that he had attended to
the two patients with the utmost devotion. Now, were these two deaths
the two crimes mentioned in his letter?
But then, Monsieur X---- must have poisoned his two victims with the
microbes of typhoid fever, which he had skillfully cultivated in them,
so as to make the disease incurable, even by the most devoted care and
attention. Why not?
"Do you believe it?" I asked Monsieur de Vargnes.
"Absolutely," he replied. "And the most terrible thing about it is,
that the villain is right when he defies me to force him to confess his
crime publicly, for I see no means of obtaining a confession, none
whatever. For a moment, I thought of magnetism, but who could magnetize
that man with those pale, cold, bright eyes? With such eyes, he would
force the magnetizer to denounce himself as the culprit."
And then he said, with a deep sigh:
"Ah! Formerly there was something good about justice!"
And when he saw my inquiring looks, he added in a firm and perfectly
"Formerly, justice had torture at its command."
"Upon my word," I replied, with all an author's unconscious and simple
egotism, "it is quite certain that without the torture, this strange
tale will have no conclusion, and that is very unfortunate, as far as
regards the story I intended to make out of it."
_An Uncomfortable Bed_
One autumn I went to stay for the hunting season with some friends in a
chateau in Picardy.
My friends were fond of practical joking, as all my friends are. I do
not care to know any other sort of people.
When I arrived, they gave me a princely reception, which at once
aroused distrust in my breast. We had some capital shooting. They
embraced me, they cajoled me, as if they expected to have great fun at
I said to myself:
"Look out, old ferret! They have something in preparation for you."
During the dinner, the mirth was excessive, far too great, in fact. I
thought: "Here are people who take a double share of amusement, and
apparently without reason. They must be looking out in their own minds
for some good bit of fun. Assuredly I am to be the victim of the joke.
During the entire evening, everyone laughed in an exaggerated fashion.
I smelled a practical joke in the air, as a dog smells game. But what
was it? I was watchful, restless. I did not let a word or a meaning or
a gesture escape me. Everyone seemed to me an object of suspicion, and
I even looked distrustfully at the faces of the servants.
The hour rang for going to bed, and the whole household came to escort
me to my room. Why? They called to me: "Good night." I entered the
apartment, shut the door, and remained standing, without moving a
single step, holding the wax candle in my hand.
I heard laughter and whispering in the corridor. Without doubt they
were spying on me. I cast a glance around the walls, the furniture, the
ceiling, the hangings, the floor. I saw nothing to justify suspicion. I
heard persons moving about outside my door. I had no doubt they were
looking through the keyhole.
An idea came into my head: "My candle may suddenly go out, and leave me
Then I went across to the mantelpiece, and lighted all the wax candles
that were on it. After that, I cast another glance around me without
discovering anything. I advanced with short steps, carefully examining
the apartment. Nothing. I inspected every article one after the other.
Still nothing. I went over to the window. The shutters, large wooden
shutters, were open. I shut them with great care, and then drew the
curtains, enormous velvet curtains, and I placed a chair in front of
them, so as to have nothing to fear from without.
Then I cautiously sat down. The armchair was solid. I did not venture
to get into the bed. However, time was flying; and I ended by coming
to the conclusion that I was ridiculous. If they were spying on me, as
I supposed, they must, while waiting for the success of the joke they
had been preparing for me, have been laughing enormously at my terror.
So I made up my mind to go to bed. But the bed was particularly
suspicious-looking. I pulled at the curtains. They seemed to be
secure. All the same, there was danger. I was going perhaps to receive
a cold shower-bath from overhead, or perhaps, the moment I stretched
myself out, to find myself sinking under the floor with my mattress. I
searched in my memory for all the practical jokes of which I ever had
experience. And I did not want to be caught. Ah! certainly not!
certainly not! Then I suddenly bethought myself of a precaution which
I consider one of extreme efficacy: I caught hold of the side of the
mattress gingerly, and very slowly drew it toward me. It came away,
followed by the sheet and the rest of the bedclothes. I dragged all
these objects into the very middle of the room, facing the entrance
door. I made my bed over again as best I could at some distance from
the suspected bedstead and the corner which had filled me with such
anxiety. Then, I extinguished all the candles, and, groping my way, I
slipped under the bedclothes.
For at least another hour, I remained awake, starting at the slightest
sound. Everything seemed quiet in the chateau. I fell asleep.
I must have been in a deep sleep for a long time, but all of a sudden,
I was awakened with a start by the fall of a heavy body tumbling right
on top of my own body, and, at the same time, I received on my face, on
my neck, and on my chest a burning liquid which made me utter a howl of
pain. And a dreadful noise, as if a sideboard laden with plates and
dishes had fallen down, penetrated my ears.
I felt myself suffocating under the weight that was crushing me and
preventing me from moving. I stretched out my hand to find out what was
the nature of this object. I felt a face, a nose, and whiskers. Then
with all my strength I launched out a blow over this face. But I
immediately received a hail of cuffings which made me jump straight out
of the soaked sheets, and rush in my nightshirt into the corridor, the
door of which I found open.
O stupor! it was broad daylight. The noise brought my friends hurrying
into the apartment, and we found, sprawling over my improvised bed, the
dismayed valet, who, while bringing me my morning cup of tea, had
tripped over this obstacle in the middle of the floor, and fallen on
his stomach, spilling, in spite of himself, my breakfast over my face.
The precautions I had taken in closing the shutters and going to sleep
in the middle of the room had only brought about the interlude I had
been striving to avoid.
Ah! how they all laughed that day!
Just at the time when the _Concordat_ was in its most flourishing
condition, a young man belonging to a wealthy and highly respected
middle-class family went to the office of the head of the police at
P----, and begged for his help and advice, which was immediately
"My father threatens to disinherit me," the young man then began,
"although I have never offended against the laws of the State, of
morality or of his paternal authority, merely because I do not share
his blind reverence for the Catholic Church and her Ministers. On that
account he looks upon me, not merely as Latitudinarian, but as a
perfect Atheist, and a faithful old manservant of ours, who is much
attached to me, and who accidentally saw my father's will, told me in
confidence that he had left all his property to the Jesuits. I think
this is highly suspicious, and I fear that the priests have been
maligning me to my father. Until less than a year ago, we used to live
very quietly and happily together, but ever since he has had so much to
do with the clergy, our domestic peace and happiness are at an end."
"What you have told me," the official replied, "is as likely as it is
regrettable, but I fail to see how I can interfere in the matter. Your
father is in full possession of all his mental faculties, and can
dispose of all his property exactly as he pleases. I also think that
your protest is premature; you must wait until his will can legally
take effect, and then you can invoke the aid of justice; I am sorry to
say that I can do nothing for you."
"I think you will be able to," the young man replied; "for I believe
that a very clever piece of deceit is being carried on here."
"How? Please explain yourself more clearly."
"When I remonstrated with him, yesterday evening, he referred to my
dead mother, and at last assured me, in a voice of the deepest
conviction, that she had frequently appeared to him, and had threatened
him with all the torments of the damned if he did not disinherit his
son, who had fallen away from God, and leave all his property to the
Church. Now I do not believe in ghosts."
"Neither do I," the police director replied; "but I cannot well do
anything on this dangerous ground if I had nothing but superstitions to
go upon. You know how the Church rules all our affairs since the
_Concordat_ with Rome, and if I investigate this matter, and obtain no
results, I am risking my post. It would be very different if you could
adduce any proofs for your suspicions. I do not deny that I should like
to see the clerical party, which will, I fear, be the ruin of Austria,
receive a staggering blow; try, therefore, to get to the bottom of this
business, and then we will talk it over again."
About a month passed without the young Latitudinarian being heard of;
but then he suddenly came one evening, evidently in a great state of
excitement, and told him that he was in a position to expose the
priestly deceit which he had mentioned, if the authorities would assist
him. The police director asked for further information.
"I have obtained a number of important clews," the young man said. "In
the first place, my father confessed to me that my mother did not
appear to him in our house, but in the churchyard where she is buried.
My mother was consumptive for many years, and a few weeks before her
death she went to the village of S----, where she died and was buried.
In addition to this, I found out from our footman that my father has
already left the house twice, late at night, in company of X----, the
Jesuit priest, and that on both occasions he did not return till
morning. Each time he was remarkably uneasy and low-spirited after his
return, and had three masses said for my dead mother. He also told me
just now that he has to leave home this evening on business, but
immediately he told me that, our footman saw the Jesuit go out of the
house. We may, therefore, assume that he intends this evening to
consult the spirit of my dead mother again, and this would be an
excellent opportunity for getting on the track of the matter, if you do
not object to opposing the most powerful force in the Empire, for the
sake of such an insignificant individual as myself."
"Every citizen has an equal right to the protection of the State," the
police director replied; "and I think that I have shown often enough
that I am not wanting in courage to perform my duty, no matter how
serious the consequences may be; but only very young men act without
any prospects of success, as they are carried away by their feelings.
When you came to me the first time, I was obliged to refuse your
request for assistance, but to-day your shares have risen in value. It
is now eight o'clock, and I shall expect you in two hours' time here in
my office. At present, all you have to do is to hold your tongue;
everything else is my affair."
As soon as it was dark, four men got into a closed carriage in the yard
of the police office, and were driven in the direction of the village
of S----; their carriage, however, did not enter the village, but
stopped at the edge of a small wood in the immediate neighborhood. Here
they all four alighted; they were the police director, accompanied by
the young Latitudinarian, a police sergeant and an ordinary policeman,
who was, however, dressed in plain clothes.
"The first thing for us to do is to examine the locality carefully,"
the police director said: "it is eleven o'clock and the exercisers of
ghosts will not arrive before midnight, so we have time to look round
us, and to take our measure."
The four men went to the churchyard, which lay at the end of the
village, near the little wood. Everything was as still as death, and
not a soul was to be seen. The sexton was evidently sitting in the
public house, for they found the door of his cottage locked, as well as
the door of the little chapel that stood in the middle of the
"Where is your mother's grave?" the police director asked; but as there
were only a few stars visible, it was not easy to find it, but at last
they managed it, and the police director looked about in the
neighborhood of it.
"The position is not a very favorable one for us," he said at last;
"there is nothing here, not even a shrub, behind which we could hide."
But just then, the policeman said that he had tried to get into the
sexton's hut through the door or the window, and that at last he had
succeeded in doing so by breaking open a square in a window, which had
been mended with paper, and that he had opened it and obtained
posesssion of the key which he brought to the police director.
His plans were very quickly settled. He had the chapel opened and went
in with the young Latitudinarian; then he told the police sergeant to
lock the door behind him and to put the key back where he had found it,
and to shut the window of the sexton's cottage carefully. Lastly, he
made arrangements as to what they were to do in case anything
unforeseen should occur, whereupon the sergeant and the constable left
the churchyard, and lay down in a ditch at some distance from the gate,
but opposite to it.
Almost as soon as the clock struck half-past eleven, they heard steps
near the chapel, whereupon the police director and the young
Latitudinarian went to the window, in order to watch the beginning of
the exorcism, and as the chapel was in total darkness, they thought
that they should be able to see, without being seen; but matters turned
out differently from what they expected.
Suddenly, the key turned in the lock, and they barely had time to
conceal themselves behind the altar before two men came in, one of whom
was carrying a dark lantern. One was the young man's father, an elderly
man of the middle class, who seemed very unhappy and depressed, the
other the Jesuit father K----, a tall, thin, big-boned man, with a
thin, bilious face, in which two large gray eyes shone restlessly under
their bushy black eyebrows. He lit the tapers, which were standing on
the altar, and then began to say a _Requiem Mass_; while the old man
knelt on the altar steps and served him.
When it was over, the Jesuit took the book of the Gospels and the
holy-water sprinkler, and went slowly out of the chapel, while the old
man followed him, with a holy-water basin in one hand and a taper in
the other. Then the police director left his hiding place, and stooping
down, so as not to be seen, he crept to the chapel window, where he
cowered down carefully, and the young man followed his example. They
were now looking straight on his mother's grave.
The Jesuit, followed by the superstitious old man, walked three times
round the grave, then he remained standing before it, and by the light
of the taper he read a few passages from the Gospel; then he dipped the
holy-water sprinkler three times into the holy-water basin, and
sprinkled the grave three times; then both returned to the chapel,
knelt down outside it with their faces toward the grave, and began to
pray aloud, until at last the Jesuit sprang up, in a species of wild
ecstasy, and cried out three times in a shrill voice:
_"Exsurge! Exsurge! Exsurge!"_
Scarcely had the last word of the exorcism died away when thick, blue
smoke rose out of the grave, which rapidly grew into a cloud, and began
to assume the outlines of a human body, until at last a tall, white
figure stood behind the grave, and beckoned with its hand.
"Who art thou?" the Jesuit asked solemnly, while the old man began to
"When I was alive, I was called Anna Maria B----," the ghost replied in
a hollow voice.
"Will you answer all my questions?" the priest continued.
"As far as I can."
"Have you not yet been delivered from purgatory by our prayers, and all
the Masses for your soul, which we have said for you?"
"Not yet, but soon, soon I shall be."
"As soon as that blasphemer, my son, has been punished."
"Has that not already happened? Has not your husband disinherited his
lost son, and made the Church his heir, in his place?"
"That is not enough."
"What must he do besides?"
"He must deposit his will with the Judicial Authorities as his last
will and testament, and drive the reprobate out of his house."
"Consider well what you are saying; must this really be?"
"It must, or otherwise I shall have to languish in purgatory much
longer," the sepulchral voice replied with a deep sigh; but the next
moment it yelled out in terror:--
"Oh! Good Lord!" and the ghost began to run away as fast as it could. A
shrill whistle was heard, and then another, and the police director
laid his hand on the shoulder of the exorciser accompanied with the
"You are in custody."
Meanwhile, the police sergeant and the policeman, who had come into the
churchyard, had caught the ghost, and dragged it forward. It was the
sexton, who had put on a flowing, white dress, and who wore a wax mask,
which bore striking resemblance to his mother, as the son declared.
When the case was heard, it was proved that the mask had been very
skillfully made from a portrait of the deceased woman. The Government
gave orders that the matter should be investigated as secretly as
possible, and left the punishment of Father K---- to the spiritual
authorities, which was a matter of course, at a time when priests were
outside the jurisdiction of the Civil Authorities; and it is needless
to say that he was very comfortable during his imprisonment, in a
monastery in a part of the country which abounded with game and trout.
The only valuable result of the amusing ghost story was that it brought
about a reconciliation between father and son, and the former, as a
matter of fact, felt such deep respect for priests and their ghosts in
consequence of the apparition that a short time after his wife had left
purgatory for the last time in order to talk with him--he turned
We went up on deck after dinner. Before us the Mediterranean lay
without a ripple and shimmering in the moonlight. The great ship glided
on, casting upward to the star-studded sky a long serpent of black
smoke. Behind us the dazzling white water, stirred by the rapid
progress of the heavy bark and beaten by the propeller, foamed, seemed
to writhe, gave off so much brilliancy that one could have called it
There were six or eight of us silent with admiration and gazing toward
far-away Africa whither we were going. The commandant, who was smoking
a cigar with us, brusquely resumed the conversation begun at dinner.
"Yes, I was afraid then. My ship remained for six hours on that rock,
beaten by the wind and with a great hole in the side. Luckily we were
picked up toward evening by an English coaler which sighted us."
Then a tall man of sunburned face and grave demeanor, one of those men
who have evidently traveled unknown and far-away lands, whose calm eye
seems to preserve in its depths something of the foreign scenes it has
observed, a man that you are sure is impregnated with courage, spoke
for the first time.
"You say, commandant, that you were afraid. I beg to disagree with you.
You are in error as to the meaning of the word and the nature of the
sensation that you experienced. An energetic man is never afraid in the
presence of urgent danger. He is excited, aroused, full of anxiety, but
fear is something quite different."
The commandant laughed and answered: "Bah! I assure you that I was
Then the man of the tanned countenance addressed us deliberately as
"Permit me to explain. Fear--and the boldest men may feel fear--is
something horrible, an atrocious sensation, a sort of decomposition of
the soul, a terrible spasm of brain and heart, the very memory of which
brings a shudder of anguish, but when one is brave he feels it neither
under fire nor in the presence of sure death nor in the face of any
well-known danger. It springs up under certain abnormal conditions,
under certain mysterious influences in the presence of vague peril.
Real fear is a sort of reminiscence of fantastic terror of the past. A
man who believes in ghosts and imagines he sees a specter in the
darkness must feel fear in all its horror.
"As for me I was overwhelmed with fear in broad daylight about ten
years ago and again one December night last winter.
"Nevertheless, I have gone through many dangers, many adventures which
seemed to promise death. I have often been in battle. I have been left
for dead by thieves. In America I was condemned as an insurgent to be
hanged, and off the coast of China have been thrown into the sea from
the deck of a ship. Each time I thought I was lost I at once decided
upon my course of action without regret or weakness.
"That is not fear.
"I have felt it in Africa, and yet it is a child of the north. The
sunlight banishes it like the mist. Consider this fact, gentlemen.
Among the Orientals life has no value; resignation is natural. The
nights are clear and empty of the somber spirit of unrest which haunts
the brain in cooler lands. In the Orient panic is known, but not fear.
"Well, then! Here is the incident that befell me in Africa.
"I was crossing the great sands to the south of Onargla. It is one of
the most curious districts in the world. You have seen the solid
continuous sand of the endless ocean strands. Well, imagine the ocean
itself turned to sand in the midst of a storm. Imagine a silent tempest
with motionless billows of yellow dust. They are high as mountains,
these uneven, varied surges, rising exactly like unchained billows, but
still larger, and stratified like watered silk. On this wild, silent,
and motionless sea, the consuming rays of the tropical sun are poured
pitilessly and directly. You have to climb these streaks of red-hot
ash, descend again on the other side, climb again, climb, climb without
halt, without repose, without shade. The horses cough, sink to their
knees and slide down the sides of these remarkable hills.
"We were a couple of friends followed by eight spahis and four camels
with their drivers. We were no longer talking, overcome by heat,
fatigue, and a thirst such as had produced this burning desert.
Suddenly one of our men uttered a cry. We all halted, surprised by an
unsolved phenomenon known only to travelers in these trackless wastes.
"Somewhere, near us, in an indeterminable direction, a drum was
rolling, the mysterious drum of the sands. It was beating distinctly,
now with greater resonance and again feebler, ceasing, then resuming
its uncanny roll.
"The Arabs, terrified, stared at one another, and one said in his
language: 'Death is upon us.' As he spoke, my companion, my friend,
almost a brother, dropped from his horse, falling face downward on the
sand, overcome by a sunstroke.
"And for two hours, while I tried in vain to save him, this weird drum
filled my ears with its monotonous, intermittent and incomprehensible
tone, and I felt lay hold of my bones fear, real fear, hideous fear, in
the presence of this beloved corpse, in this hole scorched by the sun,
surrounded by four mountains of sand, and two hundred leagues from any
French settlement, while echo assailed our ears with this furious drum
"On that day I realized what fear was, but since then I have had
another, and still more vivid experience--"
The commandant interrupted the speaker:
"I beg your pardon, but what was the drum?"
The traveler replied:
"I cannot say. No one knows. Our officers are often surprised by this
singular noise and attribute it generally to the echo produced by a
hail of grains of sand blown by the wind against the dry and brittle
leaves of weeds, for it has always been noticed that the phenomenon
occurs in proximity to little plants burned by the sun and hard as
parchment. This sound seems to have been magnified, multiplied, and
swelled beyond measure in its progress through the valleys of sand, and
the drum therefore might be considered a sort of sound mirage. Nothing
more. But I did not know that until later.
"I shall proceed to my second instance.
"It was last winter, in a forest of the Northeast of France. The sky
was so overcast that night came two hours earlier than usual. My guide
was a peasant who walked beside me along the narrow road, under the
vault of fir trees, through which the wind in its fury howled. Between
the tree tops, I saw the fleeting clouds, which seemed to hasten as if
to escape some object of terror. Sometimes in a fierce gust of wind the
whole forest bowed in the same direction with a groan of pain, and a
chill laid hold of me, despite my rapid pace and heavy clothing.
"We were to sup and sleep at an old gamekeeper's house not much farther
on. I had come out for hunting.
"My guide sometimes raised his eyes and murmured: 'Ugly weather!' Then
he told me about the people among whom we were to spend the night. The
father had killed a poacher, two years before, and since then had been
gloomy and behaved as though haunted by a memory. His two sons were
married and lived with him.
"The darkness was profound. I could see nothing before me nor around me
and the mass of overhanging interlacing trees rubbed together, filling
the night with an incessant whispering. Finally I saw a light and soon
my companion was knocking upon a door. Sharp women's voices answered
us, then a man's voice, a choking voice, asked, 'Who goes there?' My
guide gave his name. We entered and beheld a memorable picture.
"An old man with white hair, wild eyes, and a loaded gun in his hands,
stood waiting for us in the middle of the kitchen, while two stalwart
youths, armed with axes, guarded the door. In the somber corners I
distinguished two women kneeling with faces to the wall.
"Matters were explained, and the old man stood his gun against the
wall, at the same time ordering that a room be prepared for me. Then,
as the women did not stir: 'Look you, monsieur,' said he, 'two years
ago this night I killed a man, and last year he came back to haunt me.
I expect him again to-night.'
"Then he added in a tone that made me smile:
"'And so we are somewhat excited.'
"I reassured him as best I could, happy to have arrived on that
particular evening and to witness this superstitious terror. I told
stories and almost succeeded in calming the whole household.
"Near the fireplace slept an old dog, mustached and almost blind, with
his head between his paws, such a dog as reminds you of people you have
"Outside, the raging storm was beating against the little house, and
suddenly through a small pane of glass, a sort of peep-window placed
near the door, I saw in a brilliant flash of lightning a whole mass of
trees thrashed by the wind.
"In spite of my efforts, I realized that terror was laying hold of
these people, and each time that I ceased to speak, all ears listened
for distant sounds. Annoyed at these foolish fears, I was about to
retire to my bed, when the old gamekeeper suddenly leaped from his
chair, seized his gun and stammered wildly: 'There he is, there he is!
I hear him!' The two women again sank upon their knees in the corner
and hid their faces, while the sons took up the axes. I was going to
try to pacify them once more, when the sleeping dog awakened suddenly
and, raising his head and stretching his neck, looked at the fire with
his dim eyes and uttered one of those mournful howls which make
travelers shudder in the darkness and solitude of the country. All eyes
were focused upon him now as he rose on his front feet, as though
haunted by a vision, and began to howl at something invisible, unknown,
and doubtless horrible, for he was bristling all over. The gamekeeper
with livid face cried: 'He scents him! He scents him! He was there when
I killed him.' The two women, terrified, began to wail in concert with
"In spite of myself, cold chills ran down my spine. This vision of the
animal at such a time and place, in the midst of these startled people,
was something frightful to witness.
"Then for an hour the dog howled without stirring; he howled as though
in the anguish of a nightmare; and fear, horrible fear came over me.
Fear of what? How can I say? It was fear, and that is all I know.
"We remained motionless and pale, expecting something awful to happen.
Our ears were strained and our hearts beat loudly while the slightest
noise startled us. Then the beast began to walk around the room,
sniffing at the walls and growling constantly. His maneuvers were
driving us mad! Then the countryman, who had brought me thither, in a
paroxysm of rage, seized the dog, and carrying him to a door, which
opened into a small court, thrust him forth.
"The noise was suppressed and we were left plunged in a silence still
more terrible. Then suddenly we all started. Some one was gliding along
the outside wall toward the forest; then he seemed to be feeling of the
door with a trembling hand; then for two minutes nothing was heard and
we almost lost our minds. Then he returned, still feeling along the
wall, and scratched lightly upon the door as a child might do with his
finger nails. Suddenly a face appeared behind the glass of the
peep-window, a white face with eyes shining like those of the cat
tribe. A sound was heard, an indistinct plaintive murmur.
"Then there was a formidable burst of noise in the kitchen. The old
gamekeeper had fired and the two sons at once rushed forward and
barricaded the window with the great table, reinforcing it with the
"I swear to you that at the shock of the gun's discharge, which I did
not expect, such an anguish laid hold of my heart, my soul, and my very
body that I felt myself about to fall, about to die from fear.
"We remained there until dawn, unable to move, in short, seized by an
indescribable numbness of the brain.
"No one dared to remove the barricade until a thin ray of sunlight
appeared through a crack in the back room.
"At the base of the wall and under the window, we found the old dog
lying dead, his skull shattered by a ball.
"He had escaped from the little court by digging a hole under a fence."
The dark-visaged man became silent, then he added:
"And yet on that night I incurred no danger, but I should rather again
pass through all the hours in which I have confronted the most terrible
perils than the one minute when that gun was discharged at the bearded
head in the window."
Marguerite de Therelles was dying. Although but fifty-six, she seemed
like seventy-five at least. She panted, paler than the sheets, shaken
by dreadful shiverings, her face convulsed, her eyes haggard, as if she
had seen some horrible thing.
Her eldest sister, Suzanne, six years older, sobbed on her knees beside
the bed. A little table drawn close to the couch of the dying woman,
and covered with a napkin, bore two lighted candles, the priest being
momentarily expected to give extreme unction and the communion, which
should be the last.
The apartment had that sinister aspect, that air of hopeless farewells,
which belongs to the chambers of the dying. Medicine bottles stood
about on the furniture, linen lay in the corners, pushed aside by foot
or broom. The disordered chairs themselves seemed affrighted, as if
they had run, in all the senses of the word. Death, the formidable, was
there, hidden, waiting.
The story of the two sisters was very touching. It was quoted far and
wide; it had made many eyes to weep.
Suzanne, the elder, had once been madly in love with a young man, who
had also been in love with her. They were engaged, and were only
waiting the day fixed for the contract, when Henry de Lampierre
The despair of the young girl was dreadful, and she vowed that she
would never marry. She kept her word. She put on widow's weeds, which
she never took off.
Then her sister, her little sister Marguerite, who was only twelve
years old, came one morning to throw herself into the arms of the
elder, and said: "Big Sister, I do not want thee to be unhappy. I do
not want thee to cry all thy life. I will never leave thee, never,
never! I--I, too, shall never marry. I shall stay with thee always,
Suzanne, touched by the devotion of the child, kissed her, but did not
Yet the little one, also, kept her word, and despite the entreaties of
her parents, despite the supplications of the elder, she never married.
She was pretty, very pretty; she refused many a young man who seemed to
love her truly; and she never left her sister more.
* * * * *
They lived together all the days of their life, without ever being
separated a single time. They went side by side, inseparably united.
But Marguerite seemed always sad, oppressed, more melancholy than the
elder, as though perhaps her sublime sacrifice had broken her spirit.
She aged more quickly, had white hair from the age of thirty, and often
suffering, seemed afflicted by some secret, gnawing trouble.
Now she was to be the first to die.
Since yesterday she was no longer able to speak. She had only said, at
the first glimmers of day-dawn:
"Go fetch Monsieur le Cure, the moment has come."
And she had remained since then upon her back, shaken with spasms, her
lips agitated as though dreadful words were mounting from her heart
without power of issue, her look mad with fear, terrible to see.
Her sister, torn by sorrow, wept wildly, her forehead resting on the
edge of the bed, and kept repeating:
"Margot, my poor Margot, my little one!"
She had always called her, "Little One," just as the younger had always
called her "Big Sister."
Steps were heard on the stairs. The door opened. A choir boy appeared,
followed by an old priest in a surplice. As soon as she perceived him,
the dying woman, with one shudder, sat up, opened her lips, stammered
two or three words, and began to scratch the sheets with her nails as
if she had wished to make a hole.
The Abbe Simon approached, took her hand, kissed her brow, and with a
"God pardon thee, my child; have courage, the moment is now come,
Then Marguerite, shivering from head to foot, shaking her whole couch
with nervous movements, stammered:
"Sit down, Big Sister ... listen."
The priest bent down toward Suzanne, who was still flung upon the bed's
foot. He raised her, placed her in an armchair, and taking a hand of
each of the sisters in one of his own, he pronounced:
"Lord, my God! Endue them with strength, cast Thy mercy upon them."
And Marguerite began to speak. The words issued from her throat one by
one, raucous, with sharp pauses, as though very feeble.
* * * * *
"Pardon, pardon, Big Sister; oh, forgive! If thou knewest how I have
had fear of this moment all my life...."
Suzanne stammered through her tears:
"Forgive thee what, Little One? Thou hast given all to me, sacrificed
everything; thou art an angel...."
But Marguerite interrupted her:
"Hush, hush! Let me speak ... do not stop me. It is dreadful ... let
me tell all ... to the very end, without flinching. Listen. Thou
rememberest ... thou rememberest ... Henry...."
Suzanne trembled and looked at her sister. The younger continued:
"Thou must hear all, to understand. I was twelve years old, only twelve
years old; thou rememberest well, is it not so? And I was spoiled, I
did everything that I liked! Thou rememberest, surely, how they spoiled
me? Listen. The first time that he came he had varnished boots. He got
down from his horse at the great steps, and he begged pardon for his
costume, but he came to bring some news to papa. Thou rememberest, is
it not so? Don't speak--listen. When I saw him I was completely carried
away, I found him so very beautiful; and I remained standing in a
corner of the _salon_ all the time that he was talking. Children are
strange ... and terrible. Oh yes ... I have dreamed of all that.
"He came back again ... several times ... I looked at him with all my
eyes, with all my soul ... I was large of my age ... and very much more
knowing than anyone thought. He came back often ... I thought only of
him. I said, very low:
"'Henry ... Henry de Lampierre!'
"Then they said that he was going to marry thee. It was a sorrow; oh,
Big Sister, a sorrow ... a sorrow! I cried for three nights without
sleeping. He came back every day, in the afternoon, after his lunch ...
thou rememberest, is it not so? Say nothing ... listen. Thou madest him
cakes which he liked ... with meal, with butter and milk. Oh, I know
well how. I could make them yet if it were needed. He ate them at one
mouthful, and ... and then he drank a glass of wine, and then he said,
'It is delicious.' Thou rememberest how he would say that?
"I was jealous, jealous! The moment of thy marriage approached. There
were only two weeks more. I became crazy. I said to myself: 'He shall
not marry Suzanne, no, I will not have it! It is I whom he will marry
when I am grown up. I shall never find anyone whom I love so much.' But
one night, ten days before the contract, thou tookest a walk with him
in front of the chateau by moonlight ... and there ... under the fir,
under the great fir ... he kissed thee ... kissed ... holding thee in
his two arms ... so long. Thou rememberest, is it not so? It was
probably the first time ... yes ... Thou wast so pale when thou earnest
back to the _salon_.
"I had seen you two; I was there, in the shrubbery. I was angry! If I
could I should have killed you both!
"I said to myself: 'He shall not marry Suzanne, never! He shall marry
no one. I should be too unhappy.' And all of a sudden I began to hate
"Then, dost thou know what I did? Listen. I had seen the gardener
making little balls to kill strange dogs. He pounded up a bottle with a
stone and put the powdered glass in a little ball of meat.
"I took a little medicine bottle that mamma had; I broke it small with
a hammer, and I hid the glass in my pocket. It was a shining powder ...
The next day, as soon as you had made the little cakes ... I split
them with a knife and I put in the glass ... He ate three of them ...
I too, I ate one ... I threw the other six into the pond. The two swans
died three days after ... Dost thou remember? Oh, say nothing ...
listen, listen. I, I alone did not die ... but I have always been
sick. Listen ... He died--thou knowest well ... listen ... that, that
is nothing. It is afterwards, later ... always ... the worst ... listen.
"My life, all my life ... what torture! I said to myself: 'I will never
leave my sister. And at the hour of death I will tell her all ...'
There! And ever since, I have always thought of that moment when I
should tell thee all. Now it is come. It is terrible. Oh ... Big
"I have always thought, morning and evening, by night and by day, 'Some
time I must tell her that ...' I waited ... What agony! ... It is done.
Say nothing. Now I am afraid ... am afraid ... oh, I am afraid. If I am
going to see him again, soon, when I am dead. See him again ... think
of it! The first! Before thou! I shall not dare. I must ... I am going
to die ... I want you to forgive me. I want it ... I cannot go off to
meet him without that. Oh, tell her to forgive me, Monsieur le Cure,
tell her ... I implore you to do it. I cannot die without that...."
* * * * *
She was silent, and remained panting, always scratching the sheet with
her withered nails.
Suzanne had hidden her face in her hands, and did not move. She was
thinking of him whom she might have loved so long! What a good life
they should have lived together! She saw him once again in that
vanished bygone time, in that old past which was put out forever. The
beloved dead--how they tear your hearts! Oh, that kiss, his only kiss!
She had hidden it in her soul. And after it nothing, nothing more her
whole life long!
* * * * *
All of a sudden the priest stood straight, and, with a strong vibrant
voice, he cried:
"Mademoiselle Suzanne, your sister is dying!"
Then Suzanne, opening her hands, showed her face soaked with tears, and
throwing herself upon her sister, she kissed her with all her might,
"I forgive thee, I forgive thee, Little One."
_The Horla, or Modern Ghosts_
_May 8th._ What a lovely day! I have spent all the morning lying in the
grass in front of my house, under the enormous plantain tree which
covers it, and shades and shelters the whole of it. I like this part of
the country and I am fond of living here because I am attached to it by
deep roots, profound and delicate roots which attach a man to the soil
on which his ancestors were born and died, which attach him to what
people think and what they eat, to the usages as well as to the food,
local expressions, the peculiar language of the peasants, to the smell
of the soil, of the villages and of the atmosphere itself.
I love my house in which I grew up. From my windows I can see the Seine
which flows by the side of my garden, on the other side of the road,
almost through my grounds, the great and wide Seine, which goes to
Rouen and Havre, and which is covered with boats passing to and fro.
On the left, down yonder, lies Rouen, that large town with its blue
roofs, under its pointed Gothic towers. They are innumerable, delicate
or broad, dominated by the spire of the cathedral, and full of bells
which sound through the blue air on fine mornings, sending their sweet
and distant iron clang to me; their metallic sound which the breeze
wafts in my direction, now stronger and now weaker, according as the
wind is stronger or lighter.
What a delicious morning it was!
About eleven o'clock, a long line of boats drawn by a steam tug, as big
as a fly, and which scarcely puffed while emitting its thick smoke,
passed my gate.
After two English schooners, whose red flag fluttered toward the sky,
there came a magnificent Brazilian three-master; it was perfectly white
and wonderfully clean and shining. I saluted it, I hardly know why,
except that the sight of the vessel gave me great pleasure.
_May 12th._ I have had a slight feverish attack for the last few days,
and I feel ill, or rather I feel low-spirited.
Whence do these mysterious influences come, which change our happiness
into discouragement, and our self-confidence into diffidence? One might
almost say that the air, the invisible air is full of unknowable
Forces, whose mysterious presence we have to endure. I wake up in the
best spirits, with an inclination to sing in my throat. Why? I go down
by the side of the water, and suddenly, after walking a short distance,
I return home wretched, as if some misfortune were awaiting me there.
Why? Is it a cold shiver which, passing over my skin, has upset my
nerves and given me low spirits? Is it the form of the clouds, or the
color of the sky, or the color of the surrounding objects which is so
changeable, which have troubled my thoughts as they passed before my
eyes? Who can tell? Everything that surrounds us, everything that we
see without looking at it, everything that we touch without knowing it,
everything that we handle without feeling it, all that we meet without
clearly distinguishing it, has a rapid, surprising and inexplicable
effect upon us and upon our organs, and through them on our ideas and
on our heart itself.
How profound that mystery of the Invisible is! We cannot fathom it with
our miserable senses, with our eyes which are unable to perceive what
is either too small or too great, too near to, or too far from us;
neither the inhabitants of a star nor of a drop of water ... with our
ears that deceive us, for they transmit to us the vibrations of the air
in sonorous notes. They are fairies who work the miracle of changing
that movement into noise, and by that metamorphosis give birth to
music, which makes the mute agitation of nature musical ... with our
sense of smell which is smaller than that of a dog ... with our sense
of taste which can scarcely distinguish the age of a wine!
Oh! If we only had other organs which would work other miracles in our
favor, what a number of fresh things we might discover around us!
_May 16th._ I am ill, decidedly! I was so well last month! I am
feverish, horribly feverish, or rather I am in a state of feverish
enervation, which makes my mind suffer as much as my body. I have
without ceasing that horrible sensation of some danger threatening me,
that apprehension of some coming misfortune or of approaching death,
that presentiment which is, no doubt, an attack of some illness which
is still unknown, which germinates in the flesh and in the blood.
_May 18th._ I have just come from consulting my medical man, for I
could no longer get any sleep. He found that my pulse was high, my eyes
dilated, my nerves highly strung, but no alarming symptoms. I must have
a course of shower-baths and of bromide of potassium.
_May 25th._ No change! My state is really very peculiar. As the evening
comes on, an incomprehensible feeling of disquietude seizes me, just as
if night concealed some terrible menace toward me. I dine quickly, and
then try to read, but I do not understand the words, and can scarcely
distinguish the letters. Then I walk up and down my drawing-room,
oppressed by a feeling of confused and irresistible fear, the fear of
sleep and fear of my bed.
About ten o'clock I go up to my room. As soon as I have got in I double
lock, and bolt it: I am frightened--of what? Up till the present time I
have been frightened of nothing--I open my cupboards, and look under my
bed; I listen--I listen--to what? How strange it is that a simple
feeling of discomfort, impeded or heightened circulation, perhaps the
irritation of a nervous thread, a slight congestion, a small disturbance
in the imperfect and delicate functions of our living machinery, can
turn the most lighthearted of men into a melancholy one, and make a
coward of the bravest! Then, I go to bed, and I wait for sleep as a man
might wait for the executioner. I wait for its coming with dread, and
my heart beats and my legs tremble, while my whole body shivers beneath
the warmth of the bedclothes, until the moment when I suddenly fall
asleep, as one would throw oneself into a pool of stagnant water in
order to drown oneself. I do not feel coming over me, as I used to do
formerly, this perfidious sleep which is close to me and watching me,
which is going to seize me by the head, to close my eyes and annihilate
I sleep--a long time--two or three hours perhaps--then a dream--no--a
nightmare lays hold on me. I feel that I am in bed and asleep--I feel
it and I know it--and I feel also that somebody is coming close to me,
is looking at me, touching me, is getting on to my bed, is kneeling on
my chest, is taking my neck between his hands and squeezing
it--squeezing it with all his might in order to strangle me.
I struggle, bound by that terrible powerlessness which paralyzes us in
our dreams; I try to cry out--but I cannot; I want to move--I cannot; I
try, with the most violent efforts and out of breath, to turn over and
throw off this being which is crushing and suffocating me--I cannot!
And then, suddenly, I wake up, shaken and bathed in perspiration; I
light a candle and find that I am alone, and after that crisis, which
occurs every night, I at length fall asleep and slumber tranquilly till
_June 2d._ My state has grown worse. What is the matter with me? The
bromide does me no good, and the shower-baths have no effect whatever.
Sometimes, in order to tire myself out, though I am fatigued enough
already, I go for a walk in the forest of Roumare. I used to think at
first that the fresh light and soft air, impregnated with the odor of
herbs and leaves, would instill new blood into my veins and impart
fresh energy to my heart. I turned into a broad ride in the wood, and
then I turned toward La Bouille, through a narrow path, between two
rows of exceedingly tall trees, which placed a thick, green, almost
black roof between the sky and me.
A sudden shiver ran through me, not a cold shiver, but a shiver of
agony, and so I hastened my steps, uneasy at being alone in the wood,
frightened stupidly and without reason, at the profound solitude.
Suddenly it seemed to me as if I were being followed, that somebody was
walking at my heels, close, quite close to me, near enough to touch me.
I turned round suddenly, but I was alone. I saw nothing behind me
except the straight, broad ride, empty and bordered by high trees,
horribly empty; on the other side it also extended until it was lost in
the distance, and looked just the same, terrible.
I closed my eyes. Why? And then I began to turn round on one heel very
quickly, just like a top. I nearly fell down, and opened my eyes; the
trees were dancing round me and the earth heaved; I was obliged to sit
down. Then, ah! I no longer remembered how I had come! What a strange
idea! What a strange, strange idea! I did not the least know. I started
off to the right, and got back into the avenue which had led me into
the middle of the forest.
_June 3d._ I have had a terrible night. I shall go away for a few
weeks, for no doubt a journey will set me up again.
_July 2d._ I have come back, quite cured, and have had a most
delightful trip into the bargain. I have been to Mont Saint-Michel,
which I had not seen before.
What a sight, when one arrives as I did, at Avranches toward the end of
the day! The town stands on a hill, and I was taken into the public
garden at the extremity of the town. I uttered a cry of astonishment.
An extraordinarily large bay lay extended before me, as far as my eyes
could reach, between two hills which were lost to sight in the mist;
and in the middle of this immense yellow bay, under a clear, golden
sky, a peculiar hill rose up, somber and pointed in the midst of the
sand. The sun had just disappeared, and under the still flaming sky the
outline of that fantastic rock stood out, which bears on its summit a
At daybreak I went to it. The tide was low as it had been the night
before, and I saw that wonderful abbey rise up before me as I
approached it. After several hours' walking, I reached the enormous
mass of rocks which supports the little town, dominated by the great
church. Having climbed the steep and narrow street, I entered the most
wonderful Gothic building that has ever been built to God on earth, as
large as a town, full of low rooms which seem buried beneath vaulted
roofs, and lofty galleries supported by delicate columns.
I entered this gigantic granite jewel which is as light as a bit of
lace, covered with towers, with slender belfries to which spiral
staircases ascend, and which raise their strange heads that bristle
with chimeras, with devils, with fantastic animals, with monstrous
flowers, and which are joined together by finely carved arches, to the
blue sky by day, and to the black sky by night.
When I had reached the summit, I said to the monk who accompanied me:
"Father, how happy you must be here!" And he replied: "It is very
windy, Monsieur;" and so we began to talk while watching the rising
tide, which ran over the sand and covered it with a steel cuirass.
And then the monk told me stories, all the old stories belonging to the
place, legends, nothing but legends.
One of them struck me forcibly. The country people, those belonging to
the Mornet, declare that at night one can hear talking going on in the
sand, and then that one hears two goats bleat, one with a strong, the
other with a weak voice. Incredulous people declare that it is nothing
but the cry of the sea birds, which occasionally resembles bleatings,
and occasionally human lamentations; but belated fishermen swear that
they have met an old shepherd, whose head, which is covered by his
cloak, they can never see, wandering on the downs, between two tides,
round the little town placed so far out of the world, and who is
guiding and walking before them, a he-goat with a man's face, and a
she-goat with a woman's face, and both of them with white hair; and
talking incessantly, quarreling in a strange language, and then
suddenly ceasing to talk in order to bleat with all their might.
"Do you believe it?" I asked the monk. "I scarcely know," he replied,
and I continued: "If there are other beings besides ourselves on this
earth, how comes it that we have not known it for so long a time, or
why have you not seen them? How is it that I have not seen them?" He
replied: "Do we see the hundred thousandth part of what exists? Look
here; there is the wind, which is the strongest force in nature, which
knocks down men, and blows down buildings, uproots trees, raises the
sea into mountains of water, destroys cliffs and casts great ships onto
the breakers; the wind which kills, which whistles, which sighs, which
roars--have you ever seen it, and can you see it? It exists for all
I was silent before this simple reasoning. That man was a philosopher,
or perhaps a fool; I could not say which exactly, so I held my tongue.
What he had said, had often been in my own thoughts.
_July 3d._ I have slept badly; certainly there is some feverish
influence here, for my coachman is suffering in the same way as I am.
When I went back home yesterday, I noticed his singular paleness, and I
asked him: "What is the matter with you, Jean?" "The matter is that I
never get any rest, and my nights devour my days. Since your departure,
monsieur, there has been a spell over me."
However, the other servants are all well, but I am very frightened of
having another attack, myself.
_July 4th._ I am decidedly taken again; for my old nightmares have
returned. Last night I felt somebody leaning on me who was sucking my
life from between my lips with his mouth. Yes, he was sucking it out of
my neck, like a leech would have done. Then he got up, satiated, and I
woke up, so beaten, crushed and annihilated that I could not move. If
this continues for a few days, I shall certainly go away again.
_July 5th._ Have I lost my reason? What has happened, what I saw last
night, is so strange, that my head wanders when I think of it!
As I do now every evening, I had locked my door, and then, being
thirsty, I drank half a glass of water, and I accidentally noticed that
the water bottle was full up to the cut-glass stopper.
Then I went to bed and fell into one of my terrible sleeps, from which
I was aroused in about two hours by a still more terrible shock.
Picture to yourself a sleeping man who is being murdered and who wakes
up with a knife in his chest, and who is rattling in his throat,
covered with blood, and who can no longer breathe, and is going to die,
and does not understand anything at all about it--there it is.
Having recovered my senses, I was thirsty again, so I lit a candle and
went to the table on which my water bottle was. I lifted it up and
tilted it over my glass, but nothing came out. It was empty! It was
completely empty! At first I could not understand it at all, and then
suddenly I was seized by such a terrible feeling that I had to sit
down, or rather I fell into a chair! Then I sprang up with a bound to
look about me, and then I sat down again, overcome by astonishment and
fear, in front of the transparent crystal bottle! I looked at it with
fixed eyes, trying to conjecture, and my hands trembled! Somebody had
drunk the water, but who? I? I without any doubt. It could surely only
be I? In that case I was a somnambulist. I lived, without knowing it,
that double mysterious life which makes us doubt whether there are not
two beings in us, or whether a strange, unknowable and invisible being
does not at such moments, when our soul is in a state of torpor,
animate our captive body which obeys this other being, as it does us
ourselves, and more than it does ourselves.
Oh! Who will understand my horrible agony? Who will understand the
emotion of a man who is sound in mind, wide awake, full of sound sense,
and who looks in horror at the remains of a little water that has
disappeared while he was asleep, through the glass of a water bottle?
And I remained there until it was daylight, without venturing to go to
_July 6th._ I am going mad. Again all the contents of my water bottle
have been drunk during the night--or rather, I have drunk it!
But is it I? Is it I? Who could it be? Who? Oh! God! Am I going mad?
Who will save me?
_July 10th._ I have just been through some surprising ordeals.
Decidedly I am mad! And yet!--
On July 6th, before going to bed, I put some wine, milk, water, bread
and strawberries on my table. Somebody drank--I drank--all the water
and a little of the milk, but neither the wine, bread nor the
strawberries were touched.
On the seventh of July I renewed the same experiment, with the same
results, and on July 8th, I left out the water and the milk and nothing
Lastly, on July 9th I put only water and milk on my table, taking care
to wrap up the bottles in white muslin and to tie down the stoppers.
Then I rubbed my lips, my beard and my hands with pencil lead, and went
Irresistible sleep seized me, which was soon followed by a terrible
awakening. I had not moved, and my sheets were not marked. I rushed to
the table. The muslin round the bottles remained intact; I undid the
string, trembling with fear. All the water had been drunk, and so had
the milk! Ah! Great God!--
I must start for Paris immediately.
_July 12th._ Paris. I must have lost my head during the last few days!
I must be the plaything of my enervated imagination, unless I am really
a somnambulist, or that I have been brought under the power of one of
those influences which have been proved to exist, but which have
hitherto been inexplicable, which are called suggestions. In any case,
my mental state bordered on madness, and twenty-four hours of Paris
sufficed to restore me to my equilibrium.
Yesterday after doing some business and paying some visits which
instilled fresh and invigorating mental air into me, I wound up my
evening at the _Theatre Francais_. A play by Alexandre Dumas the
Younger was being acted, and his active and powerful mind completed my
cure. Certainly solitude is dangerous for active minds. We require men
who can think and can talk, around us. When we are alone for a long
time we people space with phantoms.
I returned along the boulevards to my hotel in excellent spirits. Amid
the jostling of the crowd I thought, not without irony, of my terrors
and surmises of the previous week, because I believed, yes, I believed,
that an invisible being lived beneath my roof. How weak our head is,
and how quickly it is terrified and goes astray, as soon, as we are
struck by a small, incomprehensible fact.
Instead of concluding with these simple words: "I do not understand
because the cause escapes me," we immediately imagine terrible
mysteries and supernatural powers.
_July 14th._ _Fete_ of the Republic. I walked through the streets, and
the crackers and flags amused me like a child. Still it is very foolish
to be merry on a fixed date, by a Government decree. The populace is an
imbecile flock of sheep, now steadily patient, and now in ferocious
revolt. Say to it: "Amuse yourself," and it amuses itself. Say to it:
"Go and fight with your neighbor," and it goes and fights. Say to it:
"Vote for the Emperor," and it votes for the Emperor, and then say to
it: "Vote for the Republic," and it votes for the Republic.
Those who direct it are also stupid; but instead of obeying men they
obey principles, which can only be stupid, sterile, and false, for the
very reason that they are principles, that is to say, ideas which are
considered as certain and unchangeable, in this world where one is
certain of nothing, since light is an illusion and noise is an
_July 16th._ I saw some things yesterday that troubled me very much.
I was dining at my cousin's Madame Sable, whose husband is colonel of
the 76th Chasseurs at Limoges. There were two young women there, one of
whom had married a medical man, Dr. Parent, who devotes himself a great
deal to nervous diseases and the extraordinary manifestations to which
at this moment experiments in hypnotism and suggestion give rise.
He related to us at some length, the enormous results obtained by
English scientists and the doctors of the medical school at Nancy, and
the facts which he adduced appeared to me so strange, that I declared
that I was altogether incredulous.
"We are," he declared, "on the point of discovering one of the most
important secrets of nature, I mean to say, one of its most important
secrets on this earth, for there are certainly some which are of a
different kind of importance up in the stars, yonder. Ever since man
has thought, since he has been able to express and write down his
thoughts, he has felt himself close to a mystery which is impenetrable
to his coarse and imperfect senses, and he endeavors to supplement the
want of power of his organs by the efforts of his intellect. As long as
that intellect still remained in its elementary stage, this intercourse
with invisible spirits assumed forms which were commonplace though
terrifying. Thence sprang the popular belief in the supernatural, the
legends of wandering spirits, of fairies, of gnomes, ghosts, I might
even say the legend of God, for our conceptions of the workman-creator,
from whatever religion they may have come down to us, are certainly the
most mediocre, the stupidest and the most unacceptable inventions that
ever sprang from the frightened brain of any human creatures. Nothing
is truer than what Voltaire says: 'God made man in His own image, but
man has certainly paid Him back again.'
"But for rather more than a century, men seem to have had a
presentiment of something new. Mesmer and some others have put us on an
unexpected track, and especially within the last two or three years, we
have arrived at really surprising results."
My cousin, who is also very incredulous, smiled, and Dr. Parent said to
her: "Would you like me to try and send you to sleep, Madame?" "Yes,
She sat down in an easy-chair, and he began to look at her fixedly, so
as to fascinate her. I suddenly felt myself somewhat uncomfortable,
with a beating heart and a choking feeling in my throat. I saw that
Madame Sable's eyes were growing heavy, her mouth twitched and her
bosom heaved, and at the end of ten minutes she was asleep.
"Stand behind her," the doctor said to me, and so I took a seat behind
her. He put a visiting card into her hands, and said to her: "This is a
looking-glass; what do you see in it?" And she replied: "I see my
cousin." "What is he doing?" "He is twisting his mustache." "And now?"
"He is taking a photograph out of his pocket." "Whose photograph is
it?" "His own."
That was true, and that photograph had been given me that same evening
at the hotel.
"What is his attitude in this portrait?" "He is standing up with his
hat in his hand."
So she saw on that card, on that piece of white pasteboard, as if she
had seen it in a looking glass.
The young women were frightened, and exclaimed: "That is quite enough!
Quite, quite enough!"
But the doctor said to her authoritatively: "You will get up at eight
o'clock to-morrow morning; then you will go and call on your cousin at
his hotel and ask him to lend you five thousand francs which your
husband demands of you, and which he will ask for when he sets out on
his coming journey."
Then he woke her up.
On returning to my hotel, I thought over this curious _seance_ and I
was assailed by doubts, not as to my cousin's absolute and undoubted
good faith, for I had known her as well as if she had been my own
sister ever since she was a child, but as to a possible trick on the
doctor's part. Had not he, perhaps, kept a glass hidden in his hand,
which he showed to the young woman in her sleep, at the same time as he
did the card? Professional conjurers do things which are just as
So I went home and to bed, and this morning, at about half-past eight,
I was awakened by my footman, who said to me: "Madame Sable has asked
to see you immediately, Monsieur," so I dressed hastily and went to
She sat down in some agitation, with her eyes on the floor, and without
raising her veil she said to me: "My dear cousin, I am going to ask a
great favor of you." "What is it, cousin?" "I do not like to tell you,
and yet I must. I am in absolute want of five thousand francs." "What,
you?" "Yes, I, or rather my husband, who has asked me to procure them
I was so stupefied that I stammered out my answers. I asked myself
whether she had not really been making fun of me with Doctor Parent,