Part 10 out of 31
He could think of nothing else to say, and they were all silent. But at
last, being ashamed of his bashfulness, and with an awkward laugh, he
"Do not people have any amusement in this country? I will pay for a
bottle of wine."
He had not finished his sentence when the door opened, and in walked
Padoie dressed in a black suit.
Varajou gave a shout of joy, and rising from his seat, he rushed at his
brother-in-law, put his arms round him and waltzed him round the room,
"Here is Padoie! Here is Padoie! Here is Padoie!"
Then letting go of the tax collector he exclaimed as he looked him in the
"Oh, oh, oh, you scamp, you scamp! You are out for a good time, too.
Oh, you scamp! And my sister! Are you tired of her, say?"
As he thought of all that he might gain through this unexpected
situation, the forced loan, the inevitable blackmail, he flung himself on
the lounge and laughed so heartily that the piece of furniture creaked
The three young ladies, rising simultaneously, made their escape, while
the older woman retreated to the door looking as though she were about to
And then two gentlemen appeared in evening dress, and wearing the ribbon
of an order. Padoie rushed up to them.
"Oh, judge--he is crazy, he is crazy. He was sent to us as a
convalescent. You can see that he is crazy."
Varajou was sitting up now, and not being able to understand it all, he
guessed that he had committed some monstrous folly. Then he rose, and
turning to his brother-in-law, said:
"What house is this?"
But Padoie, becoming suddenly furious, stammered out:
"What house--what--what house is this? Wretch--scoundrel--villain--what
house, indeed? The house of the judge--of the judge of the Supreme
Court-of the Supreme Court--of the Supreme Court--Oh, oh--rascal!--
THE DIAMOND NECKLACE
The girl was one of those pretty and charming young creatures who
sometimes are born, as if by a slip of fate, into a family of clerks.
She had no dowry, no expectations, no way of being known, understood,
loved, married by any rich and distinguished man; so she let herself be
married to a little clerk of the Ministry of Public Instruction.
She dressed plainly because she could not dress well, but she was unhappy
as if she had really fallen from a higher station; since with women there
is neither caste nor rank, for beauty, grace and charm take the place of
family and birth. Natural ingenuity, instinct for what is elegant, a
supple mind are their sole hierarchy, and often make of women of the
people the equals of the very greatest ladies.
Mathilde suffered ceaselessly, feeling herself born to enjoy all
delicacies and all luxuries. She was distressed at the poverty of her
dwelling, at the bareness of the walls, at the shabby chairs, 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 despairing regrets and bewildering dreams. She
thought of silent antechambers hung with Oriental tapestry, illumined by
tall bronze candelabra, and of two great footmen in knee breeches who
sleep in the big armchairs, made drowsy by the oppressive heat of the
stove. She thought of long reception halls hung with ancient silk, of
the dainty cabinets containing priceless curiosities and of the little
coquettish perfumed reception rooms made for chatting at five o'clock
with intimate friends, with men famous and sought after, whom all women
envy and whose attention they all desire.
When she sat down to dinner, before the round table covered with a
tablecloth in use three days, opposite her husband, who uncovered the
soup tureen and declared with a delighted air, "Ah, the good soup!
I don't know anything better than that," she thought of dainty dinners,
of shining silverware, of tapestry that 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 marvellous plates and of
the whispered gallantries to which you listen with a sphinxlike smile
while you are eating the pink meat of a trout or the wings of a quail.
She had no gowns, no jewels, nothing. And she loved nothing but that.
She felt made for that. She would have liked so much 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 to see any more because she felt so sad when
she came home.
But one evening her husband reached home with a triumphant air and
holding a large envelope in his hand.
"There," said he, "there is something for you."
She tore the paper quickly and drew out a printed card which bore these
The Minister of Public Instruction and Madame Georges Ramponneau
request the honor of M. and Madame Loisel's company at the palace of
the Ministry on Monday evening, January 18th.
Instead of being delighted, as her husband had hoped, she threw the
invitation on the table crossly, muttering:
"What do you wish me to do with that?"
"Why, my dear, I thought you would be glad. You never go out, and this
is such a fine opportunity. I had great trouble to get it. Every one
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 glance and said impatiently:
"And what do you wish me to put on my back?"
He had not thought of that. He stammered:
"Why, the gown you go to the theatre in. It looks very well to me."
He stopped, distracted, seeing that his wife was weeping. Two great
tears ran slowly from the corners of her eyes toward the corners of her
"What's the matter? What's the matter?" he answered.
By a violent effort she conquered her grief and replied in a calm voice,
while she wiped her wet cheeks:
"Nothing. Only I have no gown, 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 gown,
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 hesitating:
"I don't know exactly, but I think I could manage it with four hundred
He grew 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 there of a
But he said:
"Very well. I will give you four hundred francs. And try to have a
The day of the ball drew near and Madame Loisel seemed sad, uneasy,
anxious. Her frock was ready, however. Her husband said to her one
"What is the matter? Come, you have seemed very queer these last three
And she answered:
"It annoys me not to have a single piece of jewelry, not a single
ornament, nothing to put on. I shall look poverty-stricken. I would
almost rather not go at all."
"You might wear natural flowers," said her husband. "They're very
stylish at this time of year. For ten francs you can get two or three
She was not convinced.
"No; there's nothing more humiliating than to look poor among other women
who are rich."
"How stupid you are!" her husband cried. "Go look up your friend, Madame
Forestier, and ask her to lend you some jewels. You're intimate enough
with her to do that."
She uttered a cry of joy:
"True! I never thought of it."
The next day she went to her friend and told her of her distress.
Madame Forestier went to a wardrobe with a mirror, took out a large jewel
box, brought it back, opened it and said to Madame Loisel:
"Choose, my dear."
She saw first some bracelets, then a pearl necklace, then a Venetian gold
cross set with precious stones, of admirable workmanship. She tried on
the ornaments before the mirror, hesitated and 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 further; I don't know what you like."
Suddenly she discovered, in a black satin box, a superb diamond necklace,
and her heart throbbed with an immoderate desire. Her hands trembled as
she took it. She fastened it round her throat, outside her high-necked
waist, and was lost in ecstasy at her reflection in the mirror.
Then she asked, hesitating, filled with anxious doubt:
"Will you lend me this, only this?"
"Why, yes, certainly."
She threw her arms round her friend's neck, kissed her passionately, then
fled with her treasure.
The night of the ball arrived. Madame Loisel was a great success. She
was prettier than any other woman present, elegant, graceful, smiling and
wild with joy. All the men looked at her, asked her name, sought to be
introduced. All the attaches of the Cabinet wished to waltz with her.
She was remarked by the minister himself.
She danced with rapture, with passion, intoxicated by pleasure,
forgetting all in the triumph of her beauty, in the glory of her success,
in a sort of cloud of happiness comprised of all this homage, admiration,
these awakened desires and of that sense of triumph which is so sweet to
She left the ball 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 enjoying the ball.
He threw over her shoulders the wraps he had brought, the modest wraps of
common life, the poverty of which contrasted with the elegance of the
ball dress. She felt this and wished to escape so as not to be remarked
by the other women, who were enveloping themselves in costly furs.
Loisel held her back, saying: "Wait a bit. You will catch cold outside.
I will call a cab."
But she did not listen to him and rapidly descended the stairs. When
they reached the street they could not find a carriage and began to look
for one, shouting after the cabmen passing at a distance.
They went toward the Seine in despair, shivering with cold. At last they
found on the quay one of those ancient night cabs which, as though they
were ashamed to show their shabbiness during the day, are never seen
round Paris until after dark.
It took them to their dwelling in the Rue des Martyrs, and sadly they
mounted the stairs to their flat. All was ended for her. As to him, he
reflected that he must be at the ministry at ten o'clock that morning.
She removed her wraps before the glass so as to see herself once more in
all her glory. But suddenly she uttered a cry. She no longer had the
necklace around her neck!
"What is the matter with you?" demanded her husband, already half
She turned distractedly toward him.
"I have--I have--I've lost Madame Forestier's necklace," she cried.
He stood up, bewildered.
They looked among the folds of her skirt, of her cloak, in her pockets,
everywhere, but did not find it.
"You're sure you had it on when you left the ball?" he asked.
"Yes, I felt it in the vestibule of the minister's house."
"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 each other. At last Loisel put on his
"I shall go back on foot," said he, "over the whole route, to see whether
I can find it."
He went out. She sat waiting on a chair in her ball dress, without
strength to go to bed, overwhelmed, without any fire, without a thought.
Her husband returned 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 spark 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. Loisel, who had aged five
"We must consider how to replace that ornament."
The next day they took the box that had contained it and 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, trying to recall it, both sick with chagrin and grief.
They found, in a shop at the Palais Royal, a string of diamonds that
seemed to them exactly like the one they had lost. 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 should find the lost necklace before the end of
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 signing a note without even
knowing whether he could meet it; and, frightened by the trouble yet to
come, by the black misery that was about to fall upon him, by the
prospect of all the physical privations and moral tortures that he was to
suffer, he went to get the new necklace, laying upon the jeweler's
counter thirty-six thousand francs.
When Madame Loisel took back the necklace Madame 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 Madame Loisel for a thief?
Thereafter Madame Loisel knew the horrible existence of the needy. She
bore her part, however, with sudden 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 dainty fingers and rosy nails
on greasy pots and pans. She washed the soiled linen, the shirts and the
dishcloths, 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, a basket on her arm, bargaining,
meeting with impertinence, defending her miserable money, sou by sou.
Every month they had to meet some notes, renew others, obtain more time.
Her husband worked evenings, making up a tradesman's accounts, and late
at night he often copied manuscript for five sous a page.
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.
Madame 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 admired.
What would have happened if she had not lost that necklace? Who knows?
who knows? How strange and changeful is life! How small a thing is
needed to make or ruin us!
But one Sunday, having gone to take a walk in the Champs Elysees to
refresh herself after the labors of the week, she suddenly perceived a
woman who was leading a child. It was Madame Forestier, still young,
still beautiful, still charming.
Madame Loisel felt moved. Should she speak to her? Yes, certainly. And
now that she had paid, she would tell her all about it. Why not?
She went up.
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 a pretty hard life, since I last saw you, and great
poverty--and that because of you!"
"Of me! How so?"
"Do you remember that diamond necklace you lent me to wear at the
"Well, I lost it."
"What do you mean? You brought it back."
"I brought you back another exactly like it. And it has taken us ten
years to pay for it. You can understand that it was not easy for us, for
us who had nothing. At last it is ended, and I am very glad."
Madame Forestier had stopped.
"You say that you bought a necklace of diamonds to replace mine?"
"Yes. You never noticed it, then! They were very similar."
And she smiled with a joy that was at once proud and ingenuous.
Madame Forestier, deeply moved, took her hands.
"Oh, my poor Mathilde! Why, my necklace was paste! It was worth at most
only five hundred francs!"
THE MARQUIS DE FUMEROL
Roger de Tourneville was whiffing a cigar and blowing out small clouds of
smoke every now and then, as he sat astride a chair amid a party of
friends. He was talking.
"We were at dinner when a letter was brought in which my father opened.
You know my father, who thinks that he is king of France ad interim.
I call him Don Quixote, because for twelve years he has been running a
tilt against the windmill of the Republic, without quite knowing whether
it was in the cause of the Bourbons or the Orleanists. At present he is
bearing the lance in the cause of the Orleanists alone, because there is
no one else left. In any case, he thinks himself the first gentleman of
France, the best known, the most influential, the head of the party; and
as he is an irremovable senator, he thinks that the thrones of the
neighboring kings are very insecure.
"As for my mother, she is my father's soul, she is the soul of the
kingdom and of religion, and the scourge of all evil-thinkers.
"Well, a letter was brought in while we were at dinner, and my father
opened and read it, and then he said to mother: 'Your brother is dying.'
She grew very pale. My uncle was scarcely ever mentioned in the house,
and I did not know him at all; all I knew from public talk was, that he
had led, and was still leading, a gay life. After having spent his
fortune in fast living, he was now in small apartments in the Rue des
"An ancient peer of France and former colonel of cavalry, it was said
that he believed in neither God nor devil. Not believing, therefore, in
a future life he had abused the present life in every way, and had become
a live wound in my mother's heart.
"'Give me that letter, Paul,' she said, and when she read it, I asked for
it in my turn. Here it is:
'Monsieur le Comte, I think I ought to let you know that your
brother-in-law, the Comte Fumerol, is going to die. Perhaps you
would like to make some arrangements, and do not forget I told you.
"'We must take counsel,' papa murmured. 'In my position, I ought to
watch over your brother's last moments.'
"Mamma continued: 'I will send for Abbe Poivron and ask his advice, and
then I will go to my brother with the abbe and Roger. Remain here, Paul,
for you must not compromise yourself; but a woman can, and ought to do
these things. For a politician in your position, it is another matter.
It would be a fine thing for one of your opponents to be able to bring
one of your most laudable actions up against you.' 'You are right,' my
father said. 'Do as you think best, my dear wife.'
"A quarter of an hour, later, the Abbe Poivron came into the drawing-
room, and the situation was explained to him, analyzed and discussed in
all its bearings. If the Marquis de Fumerol, one of the greatest names
in France, were to die without the ministrations of religion, it would
assuredly be a terrible blow to the nobility in general, and to the Count
de Tourneville in particular, and the freethinkers would be triumphant.
The liberal newspapers would sing songs of victory for six months; my
mother's name would be dragged through the mire and brought into the
prose of Socialistic journals, and my father's name would be smirched.
It was impossible that such a thing should be.
"A crusade was therefore immediately decided upon, which was to be led by
the Abbe Poivron, a little, fat, clean, priest with a faint perfume about
him, a true vicar of a large church in a noble and rich quarter.
"The landau was ordered and we all three set out, my mother, the cure and
I, to administer the last sacraments to my uncle.
"It had been decided first of all we should see Madame Melanie who had
written the letter, and who was most likely the porter's wife, or my
uncle's servant, and I dismounted, as an advance guard, in front of a
seven-story house and went into a dark passage, where I had great
difficulty in finding the porter's den. He looked at me distrustfully,
and I said:
"'Madame Melanie, if you please.' 'Don't know her!' 'But I have received
a letter from her.' 'That may be, but I don't know her. Are you asking
for a lodger?' 'No, a servant probably. She wrote me about a place.'
'A servant?--a servant? Perhaps it is the marquis'. Go and see, the
fifth story on the left.'
"As soon as he found I was not asking for a doubtful character he became
more friendly and came as far as the corridor with me. He was a tall,
thin man with white whiskers, the manners of a beadle and majestic
"I climbed up a long spiral staircase, the railing of which I did not
venture to touch, and I gave three discreet knocks at the left-hand door
on the fifth story. It opened immediately, and an enormous dirty woman
appeared before me. She barred the entrance with her extended arms which
she placed against the two doorposts, and growled:
"'What do you want?' 'Are you Madame Melanie?' 'Yes.' 'I am the
Visconte de Tourneville.' 'Ah! All right! Come in.' 'Well, the fact
is, my mother is downstairs with a priest.' 'Oh! All right; go and
bring them up; but be careful of the porter.'
"I went downstairs and came up again with my mother, who was followed by
the abbe, and I fancied that I heard other footsteps behind us. As soon
as we were in the kitchen, Melanie offered us chairs, and we all four sat
down to deliberate.
"'Is he very ill?' my mother asked. 'Oh! yes, madame; he will not be
here long.' 'Does he seem disposed to receive a visit from a priest?'
'Oh! I do not think so.' 'Can I see him?' 'Well--yes madame--only--
only--those young ladies are with him.' 'What young ladies?' 'Why--why
--his lady friends, of course.' 'Oh!' Mamma had grown scarlet, and the
Abbe Poivron had lowered his eyes.
"The affair began to amuse me, and I said: 'Suppose I go in first? I
shall see how he receives me, and perhaps I shall be able to prepare him
to receive you.'
"My mother, who did not suspect any trick, replied: 'Yes, go, my dear.'
But a woman's voice cried out: 'Melanie!'
"The servant ran out and said: 'What do you want, Mademoiselle Claire?'
'The omelette; quickly.' 'In a minute, mademoiselle.' And coming back
to us, she explained this summons.
"They had ordered a cheese omelette at two o'clock as a slight collation.
And she at once began to break the eggs into a salad bowl, and to whip
them vigorously, while I went out on the landing and pulled the bell, so
as to formally announce my arrival. Melanie opened the door to me, and
made me sit down in an ante-room, while she went to tell my uncle that I
had come; then she came back and asked me to go in, while the abbe hid
behind the door, so that he might appear at the first signal.
"I was certainly very much surprised at the sight of my uncle, for he was
very handsome, very solemn and very elegant, the old rake.
"Sitting, almost lying, in a large armchair, his legs wrapped in
blankets, his hands, his long, white hands, over the arms of the chair,
he was waiting for death with the dignity of a patriarch. His white
beard fell on his chest, and his hair, which was also white, mingled with
it on his cheeks.
"Standing behind his armchair, as if to defend him against me, were two
young women, who looked at me with bold eyes. In their petticoats and
morning wrappers, with bare arms, with coal black hair twisted in a knot
on the nape of their neck, with embroidered, Oriental slippers, which
showed their ankles and silk stockings, they looked like the figures in
some symbolical painting, by the side of the dying man. Between the
easy-chair and the bed, there was a table covered with a white cloth, on
which two plates, two glasses, two forks and two knives, were waiting for
the cheese omelette which had been ordered some time before of Melanie.
"My uncle said in a weak, almost breathless, but clear voice:
"'Good-morning, my child; it is rather late in the day to come and see me;
our acquaintanceship will not last long.' I stammered out, 'It was not
my fault, uncle:' 'No; I know that,' he replied. 'It is your father and
mother's fault more than yours. How are they?' 'Pretty well, thank you.
When they heard that you were ill, they sent me to ask after you.'
'Ah! Why did they not come themselves?'
"I looked up at the two girls and said gently: 'It is not their fault if
they could not come, uncle. But it would be difficult for my father, and
impossible for my mother to come in here.' The old man did not reply,
but raised his hand toward mine, and I took the pale, cold hand and held
it in my own.
"The door opened, Melanie came in with the omelette and put it on the
table, and the two girls immediately sat down at the table, and began to
eat without taking their eyes off me. Then I said: 'Uncle, it would give
great pleasure to my mother to embrace you.' 'I also,' he murmured,
'should like----' He said no more, and I could think of nothing to
propose to him, and there was silence except for the noise of the plates
and that vague sound of eating.
"Now, the abbe, who was listening behind the door, seeing our
embarrassment, and thinking we had won the game, thought the time had
come to interpose, and showed himself. My uncle was so stupefied at
sight of him that at first he remained motionless; and then he opened his
mouth as if he meant to swallow up the priest, and shouted to him in a
strong, deep, furious voice: 'What are you doing here?'
"The abbe, who was used to difficult situations, came forward into the
room, murmuring: 'I have come in your sister's name, Monsieur le Marquis;
she has sent me. She would be happy, monsieur--'
"But the marquis was not listening. Raising one hand, he pointed to the
door with a proud, tragic gesture, and said angrily and breathing hard:
'Leave this room--go out--robber of souls. Go out from here, you
violator of consciences. Go out from here, you pick-lock of dying men's
"The abbe retreated, and I also went to the door, beating a retreat with
the priest; the two young women, who had the best of it, got up, leaving
their omelette only half eaten, and went and stood on either side of my
uncle's easy-chair, putting their hands on his arms to calm him, and to
protect him against the criminal enterprises of the Family, and of
"The abbe and I rejoined my mother in the kitchen, and Melanie again
offered us chairs. 'I knew quite well that this method would not work;
we must try some other means, otherwise he will escape us.' And they
began deliberating afresh, my mother being of one opinion and the abbe of
another, while I held a third.
"We had been discussing the matter in a low voice for half an hour,
perhaps, when a great noise of furniture being moved and of cries uttered
by my uncle, more vehement and terrible even than the former had been,
made us all four jump up.
"Through the doors and walls we could hear him shouting: 'Go out--out--
rascals--humbugs, get out, scoundrels--get out--get out!'
"Melanie rushed in, but came back immediately to call me to help her, and
I hastened in. Opposite to my uncle, who was terribly excited by anger,
almost standing up and vociferating, stood two men, one behind the other,
who seemed to be waiting till he should be dead with rage.
"By his ridiculous long coat, his long English shoes, his manners of a
tutor out of a position, his high collar, white necktie and straight
hair, his humble face of a false priest of a bastard religion, I
immediately recognized the first as a Protestant minister.
"The second was the porter of the house, who belonged to the reformed
religion and had followed us, and having seen our defeat, had gone to
fetch his own pastor, in hopes that he might meet a better reception.
My uncle seemed mad with rage! If the sight of the Catholic priest, of
the priest of his ancestors, had irritated the Marquis de Fumerol, who
had become a freethinker, the sight of his porter's minister made him
altogether beside himself. I therefore took the two men by the arm and
threw them out of the room so roughly that they bumped against each other
twice, between the two doors which led to the staircase; and then I
disappeared in my turn and returned to the kitchen, which was our
headquarters in order to take counsel with my mother and the abbe.
"But Melanie came back in terror, sobbing out:
"'He is dying--he is dying--come immediately--he is dying.'
"My mother rushed out. My uncle had fallen to the ground, and lay full
length along the floor, without moving. I fancy he was already dead.
My mother was superb at that moment! She went straight up to the two
girls who were kneeling by the body and trying to raise it up, and
pointing to the door with irresistible authority, dignity and majesty,
she said: 'Now it is time for you to leave the room.'
"And they went out without a word of protest. I must add, that I was
getting ready to turn them out as unceremoniously as I had done the
parson and the porter.
"Then the Abbe Poivron administered the last sacraments to my uncle with
all the customary prayers, and remitted all his sins, while my mother
sobbed as she knelt near her brother. Suddenly, however, she exclaimed:
'He recognized me; he pressed my hand; I am sure he recognized me!!!--and
that he thanked me! Oh, God, what happiness!'
"Poor mamma! If she had known or guessed for whom those thanks were
"They laid my uncle on his bed; he was certainly dead this time.
"'Madame,' Melanie said, 'we have no sheets to bury him in; all the linen
belongs to these two young ladies,' and when I looked at the omelette
which they had not finished, I felt inclined to laugh and to cry at the
same time. There are some humorous moments and some humorous situations
in life, occasionally!
"We gave my uncle a magnificent fungal, with five speeches at the grave.
Baron de Croiselles, the senator, showed in admirable terms that God
always returns victorious into well-born souls which have temporarily
been led into error. All the members of the Royalist and Catholic party
followed the funeral procession with the enthusiasm of victors, as they
spoke of that beautiful death after a somewhat troublous life."
Viscount Roger ceased speaking; his audience was laughing. Then somebody
said: "Bah! That is the story of all conversions in extremis."
THE TRIP OF LE HORLA
On the morning of July 8th I received the following telegram: "Fine day.
Always my predictions. Belgian frontier. Baggage and servants left at
noon at the social session. Beginning of manoeuvres at three. So I will
wait for you at the works from five o'clock on. Jovis."
At five o'clock sharp I entered the gas works of La Villette. It might
have been mistaken for the colossal ruins of an old town inhabited by
Cyclops. There were immense dark avenues separating heavy gasometers
standing one behind another, like monstrous columns, unequally high and,
undoubtedly, in the past the supports of some tremendous, some fearful
The balloon was lying in the courtyard and had the appearance of a cake
made of yellow cloth, flattened on the ground under a rope. That is
called placing a balloon in a sweep-net, and, in fact, it appeared like
an enormous fish.
Two or three hundred people were looking at it, sitting or standing, and
some were examining the basket, a nice little square basket for a human
cargo, bearing on its side in gold letters on a mahogany plate the words:
Suddenly the people began to stand back, for the gas was beginning to
enter into the balloon through a long tube of yellow cloth, which lay on
the soil, swelling and undulating like an enormous worm. But another
thought, another picture occurs to every mind. It is thus that nature
itself nourishes beings until their birth. The creature that will rise
soon begins to move, and the attendants of Captain Jovis, as Le Horla
grew larger, spread and put in place the net which covers it, so that the
pressure will be regular and equally distributed at every point.
The operation is very delicate and very important, for the resistance of
the cotton cloth of which the balloon is made is figured not in
proportion to the contact surface of this cloth with the net, but in
proportion to the links of the basket.
Le Horla, moreover, has been designed by M. Mallet, constructed under his
own eyes and made by himself. Everything had been made in the shops of
M. Jovis by his own working staff and nothing was made outside.
We must add that everything was new in this balloon, from the varnish to
the valve, those two essential parts of a balloon. Both must render the
cloth gas-proof, as the sides of a ship are waterproof. The old
varnishes, made with a base of linseed oil, sometimes fermented and thus
burned the cloth, which in a short time would tear like a piece of paper.
The valves were apt to close imperfectly after being opened and when the
covering called "cataplasme" was injured. The fall of M. L'Hoste in the
open sea during the night proved the imperfection of the old system.
The two discoveries of Captain Jovis, the varnish principally, are of
inestimable value in the art of ballooning.
The crowd has begun to talk, and some men, who appear to be specialists,
affirm with authority that we shall come down before reaching the
fortifications. Several other things have been criticized in this novel
type of balloon with which we are about to experiment with so much
pleasure and success.
It is growing slowly but surely. Some small holes and scratches made in
transit have been discovered, and we cover them and plug them with a
little piece of paper applied on the cloth while wet. This method of
repairing alarms and mystifies the public.
While Captain Jovis and his assistants are busy with the last details,
the travellers go to dine in the canteen of the gas-works, according to
the established custom.
When we come out again the balloon is swaying, enormous and transparent,
a prodigious golden fruit, a fantastic pear which is still ripening,
covered by the last rays of the setting sun. Now the basket is attached,
the barometers are brought, the siren, which we will blow to our hearts'
content, is also brought, also the two trumpets, the eatables, the
overcoats and raincoats, all the small articles that can go with the men
in that flying basket.
As the wind pushes the balloon against the gasometers, it is necessary to
steady it now and then, to avoid an accident at the start.
Captain Jovis is now ready and calls all the passengers.
Lieutenant Mallet jumps aboard, climbing first on the aerial net between
the basket and the balloon, from which he will watch during the night the
movements of Le Horla across the skies, as the officer on watch, standing
on starboard, watches the course of a ship.
M. Etierine Beer gets in after him, then comes M. Paul Bessand, then M.
Patrice Eyries and I get in last.
But the basket is too heavy for the balloon, considering the long trip to
be taken, and M. Eyries has to get out, not without great regret.
M. Joliet, standing erect on the edge of the basket, begs the ladies, in
very gallant terms, to stand aside a little, for he is afraid he might
throw sand on their hats in rising. Then he commands:
"Let it loose," and, cutting with one stroke of his knife the ropes that
hold the balloon to the ground, he gives Le Horla its liberty.
In one second we fly skyward. Nothing can be heard; we float, we rise,
we fly, we glide. Our friends shout with glee and applaud, but we hardly
hear them, we hardly see them. We are already so far, so high! What?
Are we really leaving these people down there? Is it possible? Paris
spreads out beneath us, a dark bluish patch, cut by its streets, from
which rise, here and there, domes, towers, steeples, then around it the
plain, the country, traversed by long roads, thin and white, amidst green
fields of a tender or dark green, and woods almost black.
The Seine appears like a coiled snake, asleep, of which we see neither
head nor tail; it crosses Paris, and the entire field resembles an
immense basin of prairies and forests dotted here and there by mountains,
hardly visible in the horizon.
The sun, which we could no longer see down below, now reappears as though
it were about to rise again, and our balloon seems to be lighted; it must
appear like a star to the people who are looking up. M. Mallet every few
seconds throws a cigarette paper into-space and says quietly: "We are
rising, always rising," while Captain Jovis, radiant with joy, rubs his
hands together and repeats: "Eh? this varnish? Isn't it good?"
In fact, we can see whether we are rising or sinking only by throwing a
cigarette paper out of the basket now and then. If this paper appears to
fall down like a stone, it means that the balloon is rising; if it
appears to shoot skyward the balloon is descending.
The two barometers mark about five hundred meters, and we gaze with
enthusiastic admiration at the earth we are leaving and to which we are
not attached in any way; it looks like a colored map, an immense plan of
the country. All its noises, however, rise to our ears very distinctly,
easily recognizable. We hear the sound of the wheels rolling in the
streets, the snap of a whip, the cries of drivers, the rolling and
whistling of trains and the laughter of small boys running after one
another. Every time we pass over a village the noise of children's
voices is heard above the rest and with the greatest distinctness. Some
men are calling us; the locomotives whistle; we answer with the siren,
which emits plaintive, fearfully shrill wails like the voice of a weird
being wandering through the world.
We perceive lights here and there, some isolated fire in the farms, and
lines of gas in the towns. We are going toward the northwest, after
roaming for some time over the little lake of Enghien. Now we see a
river; it is the Oise, and we begin to argue about the exact spot we are
passing. Is that town Creil or Pontoise--the one with so many lights?
But if we were over Pontoise we could see the junction of the Seine and
the Oise; and that enormous fire to the left, isn't it the blast furnaces
of Montataire? So then we are above Creil. The view is superb; it is
dark on the earth, but we are still in the light, and it is now past ten
o'clock. Now we begin to hear slight country noises, the double cry of
the quail in particular, then the mewing of cats and the barking of dogs.
Surely the dogs have scented the balloon; they have seen it and have
given the alarm. We can hear them barking all over the plain and making
the identical noise they make when baying at the moon. The cows also
seem to wake up in the barns, for we can hear them lowing; all the beasts
are scared and moved before the aerial monster that is passing.
The delicious odors of the soil rise toward us, the smell of hay, of
flowers, of the moist, verdant earth, perfuming the air-a light air, in
fact, so light, so sweet, so delightful that I realize I never was so
fortunate as to breathe before. A profound sense of well-being, unknown
to me heretofore, pervades me, a well-being of body and spirit, composed
of supineness, of infinite rest, of forgetfulness, of indifference to
everything and of this novel sensation of traversing space without any of
the sensations that make motion unbearable, without noise, without shocks
and without fear.
At times we rise and then descend. Every few minutes Lieutenant Mallet,
suspended in his cobweb of netting, says to Captain Jovis: "We are
descending; throw down half a handful." And the captain, who is talking
and laughing with us, with a bag of ballast between his legs, takes a
handful of sand out of the bag and throws it overboard.
Nothing is more amusing, more delicate, more interesting than the
manoeuvring of a balloon. It is an enormous toy, free and docile, which
obeys with surprising sensitiveness, but it is also, and before all, the
slave of the wind, which we cannot control. A pinch of sand, half a
sheet of paper, one or two drops of water, the bones of a chicken which
we had just eaten, thrown overboard, makes it go up quickly.
A breath of cool, damp air rising from the river or the wood we are
traversing makes the balloon descend two hundred metres. It does not
vary when passing over fields of ripe grain, and it rises when it passes
The earth sleeps now, or, rather, men sleep on the earth, for the beasts
awakened by the sight of our balloon announce our approach everywhere.
Now and then the rolling of a train or the whistling of a locomotive is
plainly distinguishable. We sound our siren as we pass over inhabited
places; and the peasants, terrified in their beds, must surely tremble
and ask themselves if the Angel Gabriel is not passing by.
A strong and continuous odor of gas can be plainly observed. We must
have encountered a current of warm air, and the balloon expands, losing
its invisible blood by the escape-valve, which is called the appendix,
and which closes of itself as soon as the expansion ceases.
We are rising. The earth no longer gives back the echo of our trumpets;
we have risen almost two thousand feet. It is not light enough for us to
consult the instruments; we only know that the rice paper falls from us
like dead butterflies, that we are rising, always rising. We can no
longer see the earth; a light mist separates us from it; and above our
head twinkles a world of stars.
A silvery light appears before us and makes the sky turn pale, and
suddenly, as if it were rising from unknown depths behind the horizon
below us rises the moon on the edge of a cloud. It seems to be coming
from below, while we are looking down upon it from a great height,
leaning on the edge of our basket like an audience on a balcony. Clear
and round, it emerges from the clouds and slowly rises in the sky.
The earth no longer seems to exist, it is buried in milky vapors that
resemble a sea. We are now alone in space with the moon, which looks
like another balloon travelling opposite us; and our balloon, which
shines in the air, appears like another, larger moon, a world wandering
in the sky amid the stars, through infinity. We no longer speak, think
nor live; we float along through space in delicious inertia. The air
which is bearing us up has made of us all beings which resemble itself,
silent, joyous, irresponsible beings, intoxicated by this stupendous
flight, peculiarly alert, although motionless. One is no longer
conscious of one's flesh or one's bones; one's heart seems to have ceased
beating; we have become something indescribable, birds who do not even
have to flap their wings.
All memory has disappeared from our minds, all trouble from our thoughts;
we have no more regrets, plans nor hopes. We look, we feel, we wildly
enjoy this fantastic journey; nothing in the sky but the moon and
ourselves! We are a wandering, travelling world, like our sisters, the
planets; and this little world carries five men who have left the earth
and who have almost forgotten it. We can now see as plainly as in
daylight; we look at each other, surprised at this brightness, for we
have nothing to look at but ourselves and a few silvery clouds floating
below us. The barometers mark twelve hundred metres, then thirteen,
fourteen, fifteen hundred; and the little rice papers still fall about
Captain Jovis claims that the moon has often made balloons act thus, and
that the upward journey will continue.
We are now at two thousand metres; we go up to two thousand three hundred
and fifty; then the balloon stops: We blow the siren and are surprised
that no one answers us from the stars.
We are now going down rapidly. M. Mallet keeps crying: "Throw out more
ballast! throw out more ballast!" And the sand and stones that we throw
over come back into our faces, as if they were going up, thrown from
below toward the stars, so rapid is our descent.
Here is the earth! Where are we? It is now past midnight, and we are
crossing a broad, dry, well-cultivated country, with many roads and well
To the right is a large city and farther away to the left is another.
But suddenly from the earth appears a bright fairy light; it disappears,
reappears and once more disappears. Jovis, intoxicated by space,
exclaims: "Look, look at this phenomenon of the moon in the water. One
can see nothing more beautiful at night!"
Nothing indeed can give one an idea of the wonderful brightness of these
spots of light which are not fire, which do not look like reflections,
which appear quickly here or there and immediately go out again. These
shining lights appear on the winding rivers at every turn, but one hardly
has time to see them as the balloon passes as quickly as the wind.
We are now quite near the earth, and Beer exclaims:--"Look at that!
What is that running over there in the fields? Isn't it a dog?" Indeed,
something is running along the ground with great speed, and this
something seems to jump over ditches, roads, trees with such ease that we
could not understand what it might be. The captain laughed: "It is the
shadow of our balloon. It will grow as we descend."
I distinctly hear a great noise of foundries in the distance. And,
according to the polar star, which we have been observing all night, 'and
which I have so often watched and consulted from the bridge of my little
yacht on the Mediterranean, we are heading straight for Belgium.
Our siren and our two horns are continually calling. A few cries from
some truck driver or belated reveler answer us. We bellow: "Where are
we?" But the balloon is going so rapidly that the bewildered man has not
even time to answer us. The growing shadow of Le Horla, as large as a
child's ball, is fleeing before us over the fields, roads and woods. It
goes along steadily, preceding us by about a quarter of a mile; and now I
am leaning out of the basket, listening to the roaring of the wind in the
trees and across the harvest fields. I say to Captain Jovis: "How the
He answers: "No, those are probably waterfalls." I insist, sure of my
ear that knows the sound of the wind, from hearing it so often whistle
through the rigging. Then Jovis nudges me; he fears to frighten his
happy, quiet passengers, for he knows full well that a storm is pursuing
At last a man manages to understand us; he answers: "Nord!" We get the
same reply from another.
Suddenly the lights of a town, which seems to be of considerable size,
appear before us. Perhaps it is Lille. As we approach it, such a
wonderful flow of fire appears below us that I think myself transported
into some fairyland where precious stones are manufactured for giants.
It seems that it is a brick factory. Here are others, two, three. The
fusing material bubbles, sparkles, throws out blue, red, yellow, green
sparks, reflections from giant diamonds, rubies, emeralds, turquoises,
sapphires, topazes. And near by are great foundries roaring like
apocalyptic lions; high chimneys belch forth their clouds of smoke and
flame, and we can hear the noise of metal striking against metal.
"Where are we?"
The voice of some joker or of a crazy person answers: "In a balloon!"
"Where are we?"
We were not mistaken. We are already out of sight of the town, and we
see Roubaix to the right, then some well-cultivated, rectangular fields,
of different colors according to the crops, some yellow, some gray or
brown. But the clouds are gathering behind us, hiding the moon, whereas
toward the east the sky is growing lighter, becoming a clear blue tinged
with red. It is dawn. It grows rapidly, now showing us all the little
details of the earth, the trains, the brooks, the cows, the goats. And
all this passes beneath us with surprising speed. One hardly has time to
notice that other fields, other meadows, other houses have already
disappeared. Cocks are crowing, but the voice of ducks drowns
everything. One might think the world to be peopled, covered with them,
they make so much noise.
The early rising peasants are waving their arms and crying to us: "Let
yourselves drop!" But we go along steadily, neither rising nor falling,
leaning over the edge of the basket and watching the world fleeing under
Jovis sights another city far off in the distance. It approaches;
everywhere are old church spires. They are delightful, seen thus from
above. Where are we? Is this Courtrai? Is it Ghent?
We are already very near it, and we see that it is surrounded by water
and crossed in every direction by canals. One might think it a Venice of
the north. Just as we are passing so near to a church tower that our
long guy-rope almost touches it, the chimes begin to ring three o'clock.
The sweet, clear sounds rise to us from this frail roof which we have
almost touched in our wandering course. It is a charming greeting, a
friendly welcome from Holland. We answer with our siren, whose raucous
voice echoes throughout the streets.
It was Bruges. But eve have hardly lost sight of it when my neighbor,
Paul Bessand, asks me: "Don't you see something over there, to the right,
in front of us? It looks like a river."
And, indeed, far ahead of us stretches a bright highway, in the light of
the dawning day. Yes, it looks like a river, an immense river full of
"Get ready for the descent," cried the captain. He makes M. Mallet leave
his net and return to the basket; then we pack the barometers and
everything that could be injured by possible shocks. M. Bessand
exclaims: "Look at the masts over there to the left! We are at the sea!"
Fogs had hidden it from us until then. The sea was everywhere, to the
left and opposite us, while to our right the Scheldt, which had joined
the Moselle, extended as far as the sea, its mouths vaster than a lake.
It was necessary to descend within a minute or two. The rope to the
escape-valve, which had been religiously enclosed in a little white bag
and placed in sight of all so that no one would touch it, is unrolled,
and M. Mallet holds it in his hand while Captain Jovis looks for a
Behind us the thunder was rumbling and not a single bird followed our mad
"Pull!" cried Jovis.
We were passing over a canal. The basket trembled and tipped over
slightly. The guy-rope touched the tall trees on both banks. But our
speed is so great that the long rope now trailing does not seem to slow
down, and we pass with frightful rapidity over a large farm, from which
the bewildered chickens, pigeons and ducks fly away, while the cows, cats
and dogs run, terrified, toward the house.
Just one-half bag of ballast is left. Jovis throws it overboard, and Le
Horla flies lightly across the roof.
The captain once more cries: "The escape-valve!"
M. Mallet reaches for the rope and hangs to it, and we drop like an
arrow. With a slash of a knife the cord which retains the anchor is cut,
and we drag this grapple behind us, through a field of beets. Here are
"Take care! Hold fast! Look out for your heads!"
We pass over them. Then a strong shock shakes us. The anchor has taken
"Look out! Take a good hold! Raise yourselves by your wrists. We are
going to touch ground."
The basket does indeed strike the earth. Then it flies up again. Once
more it falls and bounds upward again, and at last it settles on the
ground, while the balloon struggles madly, like a wounded beast.
Peasants run toward us, but they do not dare approach. They were a long
time before they decided to come and deliver us, for one cannot set foot
on the ground until the bag is almost completely deflated.
Then, almost at the same time as the bewildered men, some of whom showed
their astonishment by jumping, with the wild gestures of savages, all the
cows that were grazing along the coast came toward us, surrounding our
balloon with a strange and comical circle of horns, big eyes and blowing
With the help of the accommodating and hospitable Belgian peasants, we
were able in a short time to pack up all our material and carry it to the
station at Heyst, where at twenty minutes past eight we took the train
The descent occurred at three-fifteen in the morning, preceding by only a
few seconds the torrent of rain and the blinding lightning of the storm
which had been chasing us before it.
Thanks to Captain Jovis, of whom I had heard much from my colleague, Paul
Ginisty--for both of them had fallen together and voluntarily into the
sea opposite Mentone--thanks to this brave man, we were able to see, in a
single night, from far up in the sky, the setting of the sun, the rising
of the moon and the dawn of day and to go from Paris to the mouth of the
Scheldt through the skies.
[This story appeared in "Figaro" on July 16, 1887, under the title:
"From Paris to Heyst."]
The two friends were getting near the end of their dinner. Through the
cafe windows they could see the Boulevard, crowded with people. They
could feel the gentle breezes which are wafted over Paris on warm summer
evenings and make you feel like going out somewhere, you care not where,
under the trees, and make you dream of moonlit rivers, of fireflies and
One of the two, Henri Simon, heaved a deep sigh and said:
"Ah! I am growing old. It's sad. Formerly, on evenings like this, I
felt full of life. Now, I only feel regrets. Life is short!"
He was perhaps forty-five years old, very bald and already growing stout.
The other, Pierre Carnier, a trifle older, but thin and lively, answered:
"Well, my boy, I have grown old without noticing it in the least. I have
always been merry, healthy, vigorous and all the rest. As one sees
oneself in the mirror every day, one does not realize the work of age,
for it is slow, regular, and it modifies the countenance so gently that
the changes are unnoticeable. It is for this reason alone that we do not
die of sorrow after two or three years of excitement. For we cannot
understand the alterations which time produces. In order to appreciate
them one would have to remain six months without seeing one's own face--
then, oh, what a shock!
"And the women, my friend, how I pity the poor beings! All their joy,
all their power, all their life, lies in their beauty, which lasts ten
"As I said, I aged without noticing it; I thought myself practically a
youth, when I was almost fifty years old. Not feeling the slightest
infirmity, I went about, happy and peaceful.
"The revelation of my decline came to me in a simple and terrible manner,
which overwhelmed me for almost six months--then I became resigned.
"Like all men, I have often been in love, but most especially once.
"I met her at the seashore, at Etretat, about twelve years ago, shortly
after the war. There is nothing prettier than this beach during the
morning bathing hour. It is small, shaped like a horseshoe, framed by
high while cliffs, which are pierced by strange holes called the
'Portes,' one stretching out into the ocean like the leg of a giant, the
other short and dumpy. The women gather on the narrow strip of sand in
this frame of high rocks, which they make into a gorgeous garden of
beautiful gowns. The sun beats down on the shores, on the multicolored
parasols, on the blue-green sea; and all is gay, delightful, smiling.
You sit down at the edge of the water and you watch the bathers. The
women come down, wrapped in long bath robes, which they throw off
daintily when they reach the foamy edge of the rippling waves; and they
run into the water with a rapid little step, stopping from time to time
for a delightful little thrill from the cold water, a short gasp.
"Very few stand the test of the bath. It is there that they can be
judged, from the ankle to the throat. Especially on leaving the water
are the defects revealed, although water is a powerful aid to flabby
"The first time that I saw this young woman in the water, I was
delighted, entranced. She stood the test well. There are faces whose
charms appeal to you at first glance and delight you instantly. You seem
to have found the woman whom you were born to love. I had that feeling
and that shock.
"I was introduced, and was soon smitten worse than I had ever been
before. My heart longed for her. It is a terrible yet delightful thing
thus to be dominated by a young woman. It is almost torture, and yet
infinite delight. Her look, her smile, her hair fluttering in the wind,
the little lines of her face, the slightest movement of her features,
delighted me, upset me, entranced me. She had captured me, body and
soul, by her gestures, her manners, even by her clothes, which seemed to
take on a peculiar charm as soon as she wore them. I grew tender at the
sight of her veil on some piece of furniture, her gloves thrown on a
chair. Her gowns seemed to me inimitable. Nobody had hats like hers.
"She was married, but her husband came only on Saturday, and left on
Monday. I didn't cencern myself about him, anyhow. I wasn't jealous of
him, I don't know why; never did a creature seem to me to be of less
importance in life, to attract my attention less than this man.
"But she! how I loved her! How beautiful, graceful and young she was!
She was youth, elegance, freshness itself! Never before had I felt so
strongly what a pretty, distinguished, delicate, charming, graceful being
woman is. Never before had I appreciated the seductive beauty to be
found in the curve of a cheek, the movement of a lip, the pinkness of an
ear, the shape of that foolish organ called the nose.
"This lasted three months; then I left for America, overwhelmed with
sadness. But her memory remained in me, persistent, triumphant. From
far away I was as much hers as I had been when she was near me. Years
passed by, and I did not forget her. The charming image of her person
was ever before my eyes and in my heart. And my love remained true to
her, a quiet tenderness now, something like the beloved memory of the
most beautiful and the most enchanting thing I had ever met in my life.
"Twelve years are not much in a lifetime! One does not feel them slip
by. The years follow each other gently and quickly, slowly yet rapidly,
each one is long and yet so soon over! They add up so rapidly, they
leave so few traces behind them, they disappear so completely, that, when
one turns round to look back over bygone years, one sees nothing and yet
one does not understand how one happens to be so old. It seemed to me,
really, that hardly a few months separated me from that charming season
on the sands of Etretat.
"Last spring I went to dine with some friends at Maisons-Laffitte.
"Just as the train was leaving, a big, fat lady, escorted by four little
girls, got into my car. I hardly looked at this mother hen, very big,
very round, with a face as full as the moon framed in an enormous,
"She was puffing, out of breath from having been forced to walk quickly.
The children began to chatter. I unfolded my paper and began to read.
"We had just passed Asnieres, when my neighbor suddenly turned to me and
"'Excuse me, sir, but are you not Monsieur Garnier?'
"Then she began to laugh, the pleased laugh of a good woman; and yet it
"'You do not seem to recognize me.'
"I hesitated. It seemed to me that I had seen that face somewhere; but
where? when? I answered:
"'Yes--and no. I certainly know you, and yet I cannot recall your name.'
"She blushed a little:
"'Madame Julie Lefevre.'
"Never had I received such a shock. In a second it seemed to me as
though it were all over with me! I felt that a veil had been torn from
my eyes and that I was going to make a horrible and heartrending
"So that was she! That big, fat, common woman, she! She had become the
mother of these four girls since I had last her. And these little beings
surprised me as much as their mother. They were part of her; they were
big girls, and already had a place in life. Whereas she no longer
counted, she, that marvel of dainty and charming gracefulness. It seemed
to me that I had seen her but yesterday, and this is how I found her
again! Was it possible? A poignant grief seized my heart; and also a
revolt against nature herself, an unreasoning indignation against this
brutal, infarious act of destruction.
"I looked at her, bewildered. Then I took her hand in mine, and tears
came to my eyes. I wept for her lost youth. For I did not know this fat
"She was also excited, and stammered:
"'I am greatly changed, am I not? What can you expect--everything has
its time! You see, I have become a mother, nothing but a good mother.
Farewell to the rest, that is over. Oh! I never expected you to
recognize me if we met. You, too, have changed. It took me quite a
while to be sure that I was not mistaken. Your hair is all white. Just
think! Twelve years ago! Twelve years! My oldest girl is already ten.'
"I looked at the child. And I recognized in her something of her
mother's old charm, but something as yet unformed, something which
promised for the future. And life seemed to me as swift as a passing
"We had reached. Maisons-Laffitte. I kissed my old friend's hand. I
had found nothing utter but the most commonplace remarks. I was too much
upset to talk.
"At night, alone, at home, I stood in front of the mirror for a long
time, a very long time. And I finally remembered what I had been,
finally saw in my mind's eye my brown mustache, my black hair and the
youthful expression of my face. Now I was old. Farewell!"
This is what the old Marquis d'Arville told us after St. Hubert's dinner
at the house of the Baron des Ravels.
We had killed a stag that day. The marquis was the only one of the
guests who had not taken part in this chase. He never hunted.
During that long repast we had talked about hardly anything but the
slaughter of animals. The ladies themselves were interested in bloody
and exaggerated tales, and the orators imitated the attacks and the
combats of men against beasts, raised their arms, romanced in a
M. d Arville talked well, in a certain flowery, high-sounding, but
effective style. He must have told this story frequently, for he told it
fluently, never hesitating for words, choosing them with skill to make
his description vivid.
Gentlemen, I have never hunted, neither did my father, nor my
grandfather, nor my great-grandfather. This last was the son of a man
who hunted more than all of you put together. He died in 1764. I will
tell you the story of his death.
His name was Jean. He was married, father of that child who became my
great-grandfather, and he lived with his younger brother, Francois
d'Arville, in our castle in Lorraine, in the midst of the forest.
Francois d'Arville had remained a bachelor for love of the chase.
They both hunted from one end of the year to the other, without stopping
and seemingly without fatigue. They loved only hunting, understood
nothing else, talked only of that, lived only for that.
They had at heart that one passion, which was terrible and inexorable.
It consumed them, had completely absorbed them, leaving room for no other
They had given orders that they should not be interrupted in the chase
for any reason whatever. My great-grandfather was born while his father
was following a fox, and Jean d'Arville did not stop the chase, but
exclaimed: "The deuce! The rascal might have waited till after the view-
His brother Franqois was still more infatuated. On rising he went to see
the dogs, then the horses, then he shot little birds about the castle
until the time came to hunt some large game.
In the countryside they were called M. le Marquis and M. le Cadet, the
nobles then not being at all like the chance nobility of our time, which
wishes to establish an hereditary hierarchy in titles; for the son of a
marquis is no more a count, nor the son of a viscount a baron, than a son
of a general is a colonel by birth. But the contemptible vanity of today
finds profit in that arrangement.
My ancestors were unusually tall, bony, hairy, violent and vigorous.
The younger, still taller than the older, had a voice so strong that,
according to a legend of which he was proud, all the leaves of the forest
shook when he shouted.
When they were both mounted to set out hunting, it must have been a
superb sight to see those two giants straddling their huge horses.
Now, toward the midwinter of that year, 1764, the frosts were excessive,
and the wolves became ferocious.
They even attacked belated peasants, roamed at night outside the houses,
howled from sunset to sunrise, and robbed the stables.
And soon a rumor began to circulate. People talked of a colossal wolf
with gray fur, almost white, who had eaten two children, gnawed off a
woman's arm, strangled all the watch dogs in the district, and even come
without fear into the farmyards. The people in the houses affirmed that
they had felt his breath, and that it made the flame of the lights
flicker. And soon a panic ran through all the province. No one dared go
out any more after nightfall. The darkness seemed haunted by the image
of the beast.
The brothers d'Arville determined to find and kill him, and several times
they brought together all the gentlemen of the country to a great hunt.
They beat the forests and searched the coverts in vain; they never met
him. They killed wolves, but not that one. And every night after a
battue the beast, as if to avenge himself, attacked some traveller or
killed some one's cattle, always far from the place where they had looked
Finally, one night he stole into the pigpen of the Chateau d'Arville and
ate the two fattest pigs.
The brothers were roused to anger, considering this attack as a direct
insult and a defiance. They took their strong bloodhounds, used to
pursue dangerous animals, and they set off to hunt, their hearts filled
From dawn until the hour when the empurpled sun descended behind the
great naked trees, they beat the woods without finding anything.
At last, furious and disgusted, both were returning, walking their horses
along a lane bordered with hedges, and they marvelled that their skill as
huntsmen should be baffled by this wolf, and they were suddenly seized
with a mysterious fear.
The elder said:
"That beast is not an ordinary one. You would say it had a mind like a
The younger answered:
"Perhaps we should have a bullet blessed by our cousin, the bishop, or
pray some priest to pronounce the words which are needed."
Then they were silent.
"Look how red the sun is. The great wolf will do some harm to-night."
He had hardly finished speaking when his horse reared; that of Franqois
began to kick. A large thicket covered with dead leaves opened before
them, and a mammoth beast, entirely gray, jumped up and ran off through
Both uttered a kind of grunt of joy, and bending over the necks of their
heavy horses, they threw them forward with an impulse from all their
body, hurling them on at such a pace, urging them, hurrying them away,
exciting them so with voice and with gesture and with spur that the
experienced riders seemed to be carrying the heavy beasts between 4
their thighs and to bear them off as if they were flying.
Thus they went, plunging through the thickets, dashing across the beds of
streams, climbing the hillsides, descending the gorges, and blowing the
horn as loud as they could to attract their people and the dogs.
And now, suddenly, in that mad race, my ancestor struck his forehead
against an enormous branch which split his skull; and he fell dead on the
ground, while his frightened horse took himself off, disappearing in the
gloom which enveloped the woods.
The younger d'Arville stopped quick, leaped to the earth, seized his
brother in his arms, and saw that the brains were escaping from the wound
with the blood.
Then he sat down beside the body, rested the head, disfigured and red, on
his knees, and waited, regarding the immobile face of his elder brother.
Little by little a fear possessed him, a strange fear which he had never
felt before, the fear of the dark, the fear of loneliness, the fear of
the deserted wood, and the fear also of the weird wolf who had just
killed his brother to avenge himself upon them both.
The gloom thickened; the acute cold made the trees crack. Francois got
up, shivering, unable to remain there longer, feeling himself growing
faint. Nothing was to be heard, neither the voice of the dogs nor the
sound of the horns-all was silent along the invisible horizon; and this
mournful silence of the frozen night had something about it terrific and
He seized in his immense hands the great body of Jean, straightened it,
and laid it across the saddle to carry it back to the chateau; then he
went on his way softly, his mind troubled as if he were in a stupor,
pursued by horrible and fear-giving images.
And all at once, in the growing darkness a great shape crossed his path.
It was the beast. A shock of terror shook the hunter; something cold,
like a drop of water, seemed to glide down his back, and, like a monk
haunted of the devil, he made a great sign of the cross, dismayed at this
abrupt return of the horrible prowler. But his eyes fell again on the
inert body before him, and passing abruptly from fear to anger, he shook
with an indescribable rage.
Then he spurred his horse and rushed after the wolf.
He followed it through the copses, the ravines, and the tall trees,
traversing woods which he no longer recognized, his eyes fixed on the
white speck which fled before him through the night.
His horse also seemed animated by a force and strength hitherto unknown.
It galloped straight ahead with outstretched neck, striking against
trees, and rocks, the head and the feet of the dead man thrown across the
saddle. The limbs tore out his hair; the brow, beating the huge trunks,
spattered them with blood; the spurs tore their ragged coats of bark.
Suddenly the beast and the horseman issued from the forest and rushed
into a valley, just as the moon appeared above the mountains. The valley
here was stony, inclosed by enormous rocks.
Francois then uttered a yell of joy which the echoes repeated like a peal
of thunder, and he leaped from his horse, his cutlass in his hand.
The beast, with bristling hair, the back arched, awaited him, its eyes
gleaming like two stars. But, before beginning battle, the strong
hunter, seizing his brother, seated him on a rock, and, placing stones
under his head, which was no more than a mass of blood, he shouted in the
ears as if he was talking to a deaf man: "Look, Jean; look at this!"
Then he attacked the monster. He felt himself strong enough to overturn
a mountain, to bruise stones in his hands. The beast tried to bite him,
aiming for his stomach; but he had seized the fierce animal by the neck,
without even using his weapon, and he strangled it gently, listening to
the cessation of breathing in its throat and the beatings of its heart.
He laughed, wild with joy, pressing closer and closer his formidable
embrace, crying in a delirium of joy, "Look, Jean, look!" All resistance
ceased; the body of the wolf became limp. He was dead.
Franqois took him up in his arms and carried him to the feet of the elder
brother, where he laid him, repeating, in a tender voice: "There, there,
there, my little Jean, see him!"
Then he replaced on the saddle the two bodies, one upon the other, and
He returned to the chateau, laughing and crying, like Gargantua at the
birth of Pantagruel, uttering shouts of triumph, and boisterous with joy
as he related the death of the beast, and grieving and tearing his beard
in telling of that of his brother.
And often, later, when he talked again of that day, he would say, with
tears in his eyes: "If only poor Jean could have seen me strangle the
beast, he would have died content, that I am sure!"
The widow of my ancestor inspired her orphan son with that horror of the
chase which has transmitted itself from father to son as far down as
The Marquis d'Arville was silent. Some one asked:
"That story is a legend, isn't it?"
And the story teller answered:
"I swear to you that it is true from beginning to end."
Then a lady declared, in a little, soft voice
"All the same, it is fine to have passions like that."
Resembling in appearance all the wooden hostelries of the High Alps
situated at the foot of glaciers in the barren rocky gorges that
intersect the summits of the mountains, the Inn of Schwarenbach serves as
a resting place for travellers crossing the Gemini Pass.
It remains open for six months in the year and is inhabited by the family
of Jean Hauser; then, as soon as the snow begins to fall and to fill the
valley so as to make the road down to Loeche impassable, the father and
his three sons go away and leave the house in charge of the old guide,
Gaspard Hari, with the young guide, Ulrich Kunsi, and Sam, the great
The two men and the dog remain till the spring in their snowy prison,
with nothing before their eyes except the immense white slopes of the
Balmhorn, surrounded by light, glistening summits, and are shut in,
blocked up and buried by the snow which rises around them and which
envelops, binds and crushes the little house, which lies piled on the
roof, covering the windows and blocking up the door.
It was the day on which the Hauser family were going to return to Loeche,
as winter was approaching, and the descent was becoming dangerous. Three
mules started first, laden with baggage and led by the three sons. Then
the mother, Jeanne Hauser, and her daughter Louise mounted a fourth mule
and set off in their turn and the father followed them, accompanied by
the two men in charge, who were to escort the family as far as the brow
of the descent. First of all they passed round the small lake, which was
now frozen over, at the bottom of the mass of rocks which stretched in
front of the inn, and then they followed the valley, which was dominated
on all sides by the snow-covered summits.
A ray of sunlight fell into that little white, glistening, frozen desert
and illuminated it with a cold and dazzling flame. No living thing
appeared among this ocean of mountains. There was no motion in this
immeasurable solitude and no noise disturbed the profound silence.
By degrees the young guide, Ulrich Kunsi, a tall, long-legged Swiss, left
old man Hauser and old Gaspard behind, in order to catch up the mule
which bore the two women. The younger one looked at him as he approached
and appeared to be calling him with her sad eyes. She was a young,
fairhaired little peasant girl, whose milk-white cheeks and pale hair
looked as if they had lost their color by their long abode amid the ice.
When he had got up to the animal she was riding he put his hand on the
crupper and relaxed his speed. Mother Hauser began to talk to him,
enumerating with the minutest details all that he would have to attend to
during the winter. It was the first time that he was going to stay up
there, while old Hari had already spent fourteen winters amid the snow,
at the inn of Schwarenbach.
Ulrich Kunsi listened, without appearing to understand and looked
incessantly at the girl. From time to time he replied: "Yes, Madame
Hauser," but his thoughts seemed far away and his calm features remained
They reached Lake Daube, whose broad, frozen surface extended to the end
of the valley. On the right one saw the black, pointed, rocky summits of
the Daubenhorn beside the enormous moraines of the Lommern glacier, above
which rose the Wildstrubel. As they approached the Gemmi pass, where the
descent of Loeche begins, they suddenly beheld the immense horizon of the
Alps of the Valais, from which the broad, deep valley of the Rhone
In the distance there was a group of white, unequal, flat, or pointed
mountain summits, which glistened in the sun; the Mischabel with its two
peaks, the huge group of the Weisshorn, the heavy Brunegghorn, the lofty
and formidable pyramid of Mount Cervin, that slayer of men, and the Dent-
Blanche, that monstrous coquette.
Then beneath them, in a tremendous hole, at the bottom of a terrific
abyss, they perceived Loeche, where houses looked as grains of sand which
had been thrown into that enormous crevice that is ended and closed by
the Gemmi and which opens, down below, on the Rhone.
The mule stopped at the edge of the path, which winds and turns
continually, doubling backward, then, fantastically and strangely, along
the side of the mountain as far as the almost invisible little village at
its feet. The women jumped into the snow and the two old men joined
them. "Well," father Hauser said, "good-by, and keep up your spirits
till next year, my friends," and old Hari replied: "Till next year."
They embraced each other and then Madame Hauser in her turn offered her
cheek, and the girl did the same.
When Ulrich Kunsi's turn came, he whispered in Louise's ear, "Do not
forget those up yonder," and she replied, "No," in such a low voice that
he guessed what she had said without hearing it. "Well, adieu," Jean
Hauser repeated, "and don't fall ill." And going before the two women,
he commenced the descent, and soon all three disappeared at the first
turn in the road, while the two men returned to the inn at Schwarenbach.
They walked slowly, side by side, without speaking. It was over, and
they would be alone together for four or five months. Then Gaspard Hari
began to relate his life last winter. He had remained with Michael
Canol, who was too old now to stand it, for an accident might happen
during that long solitude. They had not been dull, however; the only
thing was to make up one's mind to it from the first, and in the end one
would find plenty of distraction, games and other means of whiling away
Ulrich Kunsi listened to him with his eyes on the ground, for in his
thoughts he was following those who were descending to the village. They
soon came in sight of the inn, which was, however, scarcely visible, so
small did it look, a black speck at the foot of that enormous billow of
snow, and when they opened the door Sam, the great curly dog, began to
romp round them.
"Come, my boy," old Gaspard said, "we have no women now, so we must get
our own dinner ready. Go and peel the potatoes." And they both sat down
on wooden stools and began to prepare the soup.
The next morning seemed very long to Kunsi. Old Hari smoked and spat on
the hearth, while the young man looked out of the window at the snow-
covered mountain opposite the house.
In the afternoon he went out, and going over yesterday's ground again, he
looked for the traces of the mule that had carried the two women. Then
when he had reached the Gemmi Pass, he laid himself down on his stomach
and looked at Loeche.
The village, in its rocky pit, was not yet buried under the snow, from
which it was sheltered by the pine woods which protected it on all sides.
Its low houses looked like paving stones in a large meadow from above.
Hauser's little daughter was there now in one of those gray-colored
houses. In which? Ulrich Kunsi was too far away to be able to make them
out separately. How he would have liked to go down while he was yet
But the sun had disappeared behind the lofty crest of the Wildstrubel and
the young man returned to the chalet. Daddy Hari was smoking, and when
he saw his mate come in he proposed a game of cards to him, and they sat
down opposite each other, on either side of the table. They played for a
long time a simple game called brisque and then they had supper and went
The following days were like the first, bright and cold, without any
fresh snow. Old Gaspard spent his afternoons in watching the eagles and
other rare birds which ventured on those frozen heights, while Ulrich
returned regularly to the Gemmi Pass to look at the village. Then they
played cards, dice or dominoes and lost and won a trifle, just to create
an interest in the game.
One morning Hari, who was up first, called his companion. A moving, deep
and light cloud of white spray was falling on them noiselessly and was by
degrees burying them under a thick, heavy coverlet of foam. That lasted
four days and four nights. It was necessary to free the door and the
windows, to dig out a passage and to cut steps to get over this frozen
powder, which a twelve hours' frost had made as hard as the granite of
They lived like prisoners and did not venture outside their abode. They
had divided their duties, which they performed regularly. Ulrich Kunsi
undertook the scouring, washing and everything that belonged to
cleanliness. He also chopped up the wood while Gaspard Hari did the
cooking and attended to the fire. Their regular and monotonous work was
interrupted by long games at cards or dice, and they never quarrelled,
but were always calm and placid. They were never seen impatient or ill-
humored, nor did they ever use hard words, for they had laid in a stock
of patience for their wintering on the top of the mountain.
Sometimes old Gaspard took his rifle and went after chamois, and
occasionally he killed one. Then there was a feast in the inn at
Schwarenbach and they revelled in fresh meat. One morning he went out as
usual. The thermometer outside marked eighteen degrees of frost, and as
the sun had not yet risen, the hunter hoped to surprise the animals at
the approaches to the Wildstrubel, and Ulrich, being alone, remained in
bed until ten o'clock. He was of a sleepy nature, but he would not have
dared to give way like that to his inclination in the presence of the old
guide, who was ever an early riser. He breakfasted leisurely with Sam,
who also spent his days and nights in sleeping in front of the fire; then
he felt low-spirited and even frightened at the solitude, and was-seized
by a longing for his daily game of cards, as one is by the craving of a
confirmed habit, and so he went out to meet his companion, who was to
return at four o'clock.
The snow had levelled the whole deep valley, filled up the crevasses,
obliterated all signs of the two lakes and covered the rocks, so that
between the high summits there was nothing but an immense, white,
regular, dazzling and frozen surface. For three weeks Ulrich had not
been to the edge of the precipice from which he had looked down on the
village, and he wanted to go there before climbing the slopes which led
to Wildstrubel. Loeche was now also covered by the snow and the houses
could scarcely be distinguished, covered as they were by that white
Then, turning to the right, he reached the Loemmern glacier. He went
along with a mountaineer's long strides, striking the snow, which was as
hard as a rock, with his ironpointed stick, and with his piercing eyes he
looked for the little black, moving speck in the distance, on that
enormous, white expanse.
When he reached the end of the glacier he stopped and asked himself
whether the old man had taken that road, and then he began to walk along
the moraines with rapid and uneasy steps. The day was declining, the
snow was assuming a rosy tint, and a dry, frozen wind blew in rough gusts
over its crystal surface. Ulrich uttered a long, shrill, vibrating call.
His voice sped through the deathlike silence in which the mountains were
sleeping; it reached the distance, across profound and motionless waves
of glacial foam, like the cry of a bird across the waves of the sea.
Then it died away and nothing answered him.
He began to walk again. The sun had sunk yonder behind the mountain
tops, which were still purple with the reflection from the sky, but the
depths of the valley were becoming gray, and suddenly the young man felt
frightened. It seemed to him as if the silence, the cold, the solitude,
the winter death of these mountains were taking possession of him, were
going to stop and to freeze his blood, to make his limbs grow stiff and
to turn him into a motionless and frozen object, and he set off running,
fleeing toward his dwelling. The old man, he thought, would have
returned during his absence. He had taken another road; he would, no
doubt, be sitting before the fire, with a dead chamois at his feet.
He soon came in sight of the inn, but no smoke rose from it. Ulrich
walked faster and opened the door. Sam ran up to him to greet him, but
Gaspard Hari had not returned. Kunsi, in his alarm, turned round
suddenly, as if he had expected to find his comrade hidden in a corner.
Then he relighted the fire and made the soup, hoping every moment to see
the old man come in. From time to time he went out to see if he were not
coming. It was quite night now, that wan, livid night of the mountains,
lighted by a thin, yellow crescent moon, just disappearing behind the
Then the young man went in and sat down to warm his hands and feet, while
he pictured to himself every possible accident. Gaspard might have
broken a leg, have fallen into a crevasse, taken a false step and
dislocated his ankle. And, perhaps, he was lying on the snow, overcome
and stiff with the cold, in agony of mind, lost and, perhaps, shouting
for help, calling with all his might in the silence of the night..
But where? The mountain was so vast, so rugged, so dangerous in places,
especially at that time of the year, that it would have required ten or
twenty guides to walk for a week in all directions to find a man in that
immense space. Ulrich Kunsi, however, made up his mind to set out with
Sam if Gaspard did not return by one in the morning, and he made his
He put provisions for two days into a bag, took his steel climbing iron,
tied a long, thin, strong rope round his waist, and looked to see that
his ironshod stick and his axe, which served to cut steps in the ice,
were in order. Then he waited. The fire was burning on the hearth, the
great dog was snoring in front of it, and the clock was ticking, as
regularly as a heart beating, in its resounding wooden case.
He waited, with his ears on the alert for distant sounds, and he shivered
when the wind blew against the roof and the walls. It struck twelve and
he trembled: Then, frightened and shivering, he put some water on the
fire, so that he might have some hot coffee before starting, and when the
clock struck one he got up, woke Sam, opened the door and went off in the
direction of the Wildstrubel. For five hours he mounted, scaling the
rocks by means of his climbing irons, cutting into the ice, advancing
continually, and occasionally hauling up the dog, who remained below at
the foot of some slope that was too steep for him, by means of the rope.
It was about six o'clock when he reached one of the summits to which old
Gaspard often came after chamois, and he waited till it should be
The sky was growing pale overhead, and a strange light, springing nobody
could tell whence, suddenly illuminated the immense ocean of pale
mountain summits, which extended for a hundred leagues around him. One
might have said that this vague brightness arose from the snow itself and
spread abroad in space. By degrees the highest distant summits assumed a
delicate, pink flesh color, and the red sun appeared behind the ponderous
giants of the Bernese Alps.
Ulrich Kunsi set off again, walking like a hunter, bent over, looking for
tracks, and saying to his dog: "Seek, old fellow, seek!"
He was descending the mountain now, scanning the depths closely, and from
time to time shouting, uttering aloud, prolonged cry, which soon died
away in that silent vastness. Then he put his ear to the ground to
listen. He thought he could distinguish a voice, and he began to run and
shouted again, but he heard nothing more and sat down, exhausted and in
despair. Toward midday he breakfasted and gave Sam, who was as tired as
himself, something to eat also, and then he recommenced his search.
When evening came he was still walking, and he had walked more than
thirty miles over the mountains. As he was too far away to return home
and too tired to drag himself along any further, he dug a hole in the
snow and crouched in it with his dog under a blanket which he had brought
with him. And the man and the dog lay side by side, trying to keep warm,
but frozen to the marrow nevertheless. Ulrich scarcely slept, his mind
haunted by visions and his limbs shaking with cold.
Day was breaking when he got up. His legs were as stiff as iron bars and
his spirits so low that he was ready to cry with anguish, while his heart
was beating so that he almost fell over with agitation, when he thought
he heard a noise.
Suddenly he imagined that he also was going to die of cold in the midst
of this vast solitude, and the terror of such a death roused his energies
and gave him renewed vigor. He was descending toward the inn, falling
down and getting up again, and followed at a distance by Sam, who was
limping on three legs, and they did not reach Schwarenbach until four
o'clock in the afternoon. The house was empty and the young man made a
fire, had something to eat and went to sleep, so worn out that he did not
think of anything more.
He slept for a long time, for a very long time, an irresistible sleep.
But suddenly a voice, a cry, a name, "Ulrich!" aroused him from his
profound torpor and made him sit up in bed. Had he been dreaming? Was
it one of those strange appeals which cross the dreams of disquieted
minds? No, he heard it still, that reverberating cry-which had entered
his ears and remained in his flesh-to the tips of his sinewy fingers.
Certainly somebody had cried out and called "Ulrich!" There was somebody
there near the house, there could be no doubt of that, and he opened the
door and shouted, "Is it you, Gaspard?" with all the strength of his
lungs. But there was no reply, no murmur, no groan, nothing. It was
quite dark and the snow looked wan.
The wind had risen, that icy wind that cracks the rocks and leaves
nothing alive on those deserted heights, and it came in sudden gusts,
which were more parching and more deadly than the burning wind of the
desert, and again Ulrich shouted: "Gaspard! Gaspard! Gaspard." And
then he waited again. Everything was silent on the mountain.
Then he shook with terror and with a bound he was inside the inn, when he
shut and bolted the door, and then he fell into a chair trembling all
over, for he felt certain that his comrade had called him at the moment
he was expiring.
He was sure of that, as sure as one is of being alive or of eating a
piece of bread. Old Gaspard Hari had been dying for two days and three
nights somewhere, in some hole, in one of those deep, untrodden ravines
whose whiteness is more sinister than subterranean darkness. He had been
dying for two days and three nights and be had just then died, thinking
of his comrade. His soul, almost before it was released, had taken its
flight to the inn where Ulrich was sleeping, and it had called him by
that terrible and mysterious power which the spirits of the dead have to
haunt the living. That voiceless soul had cried to the worn-out soul of
the sleeper; it had uttered its last farewell, or its reproach, or its
curse on the man who had not searched carefully enough.
And Ulrich felt that it was there, quite close to him, behind the wall,
behind the door which be had just fastened. It was wandering about, like
a night bird which lightly touches a lighted window with his wings, and
the terrified young man was ready to scream with horror. He wanted to
run away, but did not dare to go out; he did not dare, and he should
never dare to do it in the future, for that phantom would remain there
day and night, round the inn, as long as the old man's body was not
recovered and had not been deposited in the consecrated earth of a
When it was daylight Kunsi recovered some of his courage at the return of
the bright sun. He prepared his meal, gave his dog some food and then
remained motionless on a chair, tortured at heart as he thought of the
old man lying on the snow, and then, as soon as night once more covered
the mountains, new terrors assailed him. He now walked up and down the
dark kitchen, which was scarcely lighted by the flame of one candle, and
he walked from one end of it to the other with great strides, listening,
listening whether the terrible cry of the other night would again break
the dreary silence outside. He felt himself alone, unhappy man, as no
man had ever been alone before! He was alone in this immense desert of
Snow, alone five thousand feet above the inhabited earth, above human
habitation, above that stirring, noisy, palpitating life, alone under an
icy sky! A mad longing impelled him to run away, no matter where, to get
down to Loeche by flinging himself over the precipice; but he did not
even dare to open the door, as he felt sure that the other, the dead man,
would bar his road, so that he might not be obliged to remain up there
Toward midnight, tired with walking, worn out by grief and fear, he at
last fell into a doze in his chair, for he was afraid of his bed as one
is of a haunted spot. But suddenly the strident cry of the other evening
pierced his ears, and it was so shrill that Ulrich stretched out his arms
to repulse the ghost, and he fell backward with his chair.
Sam, who was awakened by the noise, began to howl as frightened dogs do
howl, and he walked all about the house trying to find out where the
danger came from. When he got to the door, he sniffed beneath it,
smelling vigorously, with his coat bristling and his tail stiff, while he
growled angrily. Kunsi, who was terrified, jumped up, and, holding his
chair by one leg, he cried: "Don't come in, don't come in, or I shall
kill you." And the dog, excited by this threat, barked angrily at that
invisible enemy who defied his master's voice. By degrees, however, he
quieted down and came back and stretched himself in front of the fire,
but he was uneasy and kept his head up and growled between his teeth.
Ulrich, in turn, recovered his senses, but as he felt faint with terror,
he went and got a bottle of brandy out of the sideboard, and he drank off
several glasses, one after anther, at a gulp. His ideas became vague,
his courage revived and a feverish glow ran through his veins.
He ate scarcely anything the next day and limited himself to alcohol, and
so he lived for several days, like a drunken brute. As soon as he
thought of Gaspard Hari, he began to drink again, and went on drinking
until he fell to the ground, overcome by intoxication. And there he
remained lying on his face, dead drunk, his limbs benumbed, and snoring
loudly. But scarcely had he digested the maddening and burning liquor
than the same cry, "Ulrich!" woke him like a bullet piercing his brain,
and he got up, still staggering, stretching out his hands to save himself
from falling, and calling to Sam to help him. And the dog, who appeared
to be going mad like his master, rushed to the door, scratched it with
his claws and gnawed it with his long white teeth, while the young man,
with his head thrown back drank the brandy in draughts, as if it had been