Part 3 out of 3
paralyzed, incapable of making a living, who say to us after they have
told us their story: 'You see that things cannot go on like that, as I
cannot work any longer or earn anything.' I saw one woman of eighty-
seven who had lost all her children and grandchildren, and who for the
last six weeks had been sleeping out of doors. It made me ill to hear of
it. Then we have so many different cases, without counting those who say
nothing, but simply ask: 'Where is it?' These are admitted at once and
it is all over in a minute."
With a pang at my heart I repeated:
"And . . . where is it?"
"Here," and he opened a door, adding:
"Go in; this is the part specially reserved for club members, and the one
least used. We have so far had only eleven annihilations here."
"Ah! You call that an . . . annihilation!"
"Yes, monsieur. Go in."
I hesitated. At length I went in. It was a wide corridor, a sort of
greenhouse in which panes of glass of pale blue, tender pink and delicate
green gave the poetic charm of landscapes to the inclosing walls.
In this pretty salon there were divans, magnificent palms, flowers,
especially roses of balmy fragrance, books on the tables, the Revue des
Deuxmondes, cigars in government boxes, and, what surprised me, Vichy
pastilles in a bonbonniere.
As I expressed my surprise, my guide said:
"Oh, they often come here to chat." He continued: "The public corridors
are similar, but more simply furnished."
In reply to a question of mine, he pointed to a couch covered with creamy
crepe de Chine with white embroidery, beneath a large shrub of unknown
variety at the foot of which was a circular bed of mignonette.
The secretary added in a lower tone:
"We change the flower and the perfume at will, for our gas, which is
quite imperceptible, gives death the fragrance of the suicide's favorite
flower. It is volatilized with essences. Would you like to inhale it
for a second?"
"'No, thank you," I said hastily, "not yet . . . ."
He began to laugh.
"Oh, monsieur, there is no danger. I have tried it myself several
I was afraid he would think me a coward, and I said:
"Well, I'll try it."
"Stretch yourself out on the 'endormeuse."'
A little uneasy I seated myself on the low couch covered with crepe de
Chine and stretched myself full length, and was at once bathed in a
delicious odor of mignonette. I opened my mouth in order to breathe it
in, for my mind had already become stupefied and forgetful of the past
and was a prey, in the first stages of asphyxia, to the enchanting
intoxication of a destroying and magic opium.
Some one shook me by the arm.
"Oh, oh, monsieur," said the secretary, laughing, "it looks to me as if
you were almost caught."
But a voice, a real voice, and no longer a dream voice, greeted me with
the peasant intonation:
"Good morning, m'sieu. How goes it?"
My dream was over. I saw the Seine distinctly in the sunlight, and,
coming along a path, the garde champetre of the district, who with his
right hand touched his kepi braided in silver. I replied:
"Good morning, Marinel. Where are you going?"
"I am going to look at a drowned man whom they fished up near the
Morillons. Another who has thrown himself into the soup. He even took
off his trousers in order to tie his legs together with them."