Part 2 out of 6
June 3. I have had a terrible night. I shall go away for a few
weeks, for no doubt a journey will set me up again.
July 2. I have come back, quite cured, and have had a most
delightful trip into the bargain. I have been to Mont
Saint-Michel, which I had not seen before.
What a sight, when one arrives as I did, at Avranches toward the
end of the day! The town stands on a hill, and I was taken into
the public garden at the extremity of the town. I uttered a cry
of astonishment. An extraordinarily large bay lay extended before
me, as far as my eyes could reach, between two hills which were
lost to sight in the mist; and in the middle of this immense
yellow bay, under a clear, golden sky, a peculiar hill rose up,
somber and pointed in the midst of the sand. The sun had just
disappeared, and under the still flaming sky stood out the
outline of that fantastic rock which bears on its summit a
At daybreak I went to it. The tide was low, as it had been the
night before, and I saw that wonderful abbey rise up before me as
I approached it. After several hours' walking, I reached the
enormous mass of rock which supports the little town, dominated
by the great church. Having climbed the steep and narrow street,
I entered the most wonderful Gothic building that has ever been
erected to God on earth, large as a town, and full of low rooms
which seem buried beneath vaulted roofs, and of lofty galleries
supported by delicate columns.
I entered this gigantic granite jewel, which is as light in its
effect as a bit of lace and is covered with towers, with slender
belfries to which spiral staircases ascend. The flying buttresses
raise strange heads that bristle with chimeras. with devils, with
fantastic ani-mals, with monstrous flowers, are joined together
by finely carved arches, to the blue sky by day, and to the black
sky by night.
When I had reached the summit. I said to the monk who accompanied
me: "Father, how happy you must be here!" And he replied: "It is
very windy, Monsieur"; and so we began to talk while watching the
rising tide, which ran over the sand and covered it with a steel
And then the monk told me stories, all the old stories belonging
to the place--legends, nothing but legends.
One of them struck me forcibly. The country people, those
belonging to the Mornet, declare that at night one can hear
talking going on in the sand, and also that two goats bleat, one
with a strong, the other with a weak voice. Incredulous people
declare that it is nothing but the screaming of the sea birds,
which occasionally resembles bleatings, and occasionally human
lamentations; but belated fishermen swear that they have met an
old shepherd, whose cloak covered head they can never see,
wandering on the sand, between two tides, round the little town
placed so far out of the world. They declare he is guiding and
walking before a he-goat with a man's face and a she-goat with a
woman's face, both with white hair, who talk incessantly,
quarreling in a strange language, and then suddenly cease talking
in order to bleat with all their might.
"Do you believe it?" I asked the monk. "I scarcely know," he
replied; and I continued: "If there are other beings besides
ourselves on this earth, how comes it that we have not known it
for so long a time, or why have you not seen them? How is it that
I have not seen them?"
He replied: "Do we see the hundred-thousandth part of what
exists? Look here; there is the wind, which is the strongest
force in nature. It knocks down men, and blows down buildings,
uproots trees, raises the sea into mountains of water, destroys
cliffs and casts great ships on to the breakers; it kills, it
whistles, it sighs, it roars. But have you ever seen it, and can
you see it? Yet it exists for all that."
I was silent before this simple reasoning. That man was a
philosopher, or perhaps a fool; I could not say which exactly, so
I held my tongue. What he had said had often been in my own
July 3. I have slept badly; certainly there is some feverish
influence here, for my coachman is suffering in the same way as I
am. When I went back home yesterday, I noticed his singular
paleness, and I asked him: "What is the matter with you, Jean?"
"The matter is that I never get any rest, and my nights devour my
days. Since your departure, Monsieur, there has been a spell over
However, the other servants are all well, but I am very
frightened of having another attack, myself.
July 4. I am decidedly taken again; for my old nightmares have
returned. Last night I felt somebody leaning on me who was
sucking my life from between my lips with his mouth. Yes, he was
sucking it out of my neck like a leech would have done. Then he
got up, satiated, and I woke up, so beaten, crushed, and
annihilated that I could not move. If this continues for a few
days, I shall certainly go away again.
July 5. Have I lost my reason? What has happened? What I saw last
night is so strange that my head wanders when I think of it!
As I do now every evening, I had locked my door; then, being
thirsty, I drank half a glass of water, and I accidentally
noticed that the water-bottle was full up to the cut-glass
Then I went to bed and fell into one of my terrible sleeps, from
which I was aroused in about two hours by a still more terrible
Picture to yourself a sleeping man who is being murdered, who
wakes up with a knife in his chest, a gurgling in his throat, is
covered with blood, can no longer breathe, is going to die and
does not understand anything at all about it--there you have it.
Having recovered my senses, I was thirsty again, so I lighted a
candle and went to the table on which my water-bottle was. I
lifted it up and tilted it over my glass, but nothing came out.
It was empty! It was completely empty! At first I could not
understand it at all; then suddenly I was seized by such a
terrible feeling that I had to sit down, or rather fall into a
chair! Then I sprang up with a bound to look about me; then I sat
down again, overcome by astonishment and fear, in front of the
transparent crystal bottle! I looked at it with fixed eyes,
trying to solve the puzzle, and my hands trembled! Some body had
drunk the water, but who? I? I without any doubt. It could surely
only be I? In that case I was a somnambulist--was living, without
knowing it, that double, mysterious life which makes us doubt
whether there are not two beings in us--whether a strange,
unknowable, and invisible being does not, during our moments of
mental and physical torpor, animate the inert body, forcing it to
a more willing obedience than it yields to ourselves.
Oh! Who will understand my horrible agony? Who will understand
the emotion of a man sound in mind, wide-awake, full of sense,
who looks in horror at the disappearance of a little water while
he was asleep, through the glass of a water-bottle! And I
remained sitting until it was daylight, without venturing to go
to bed again.
July 6. I am going mad. Again all the contents of my water-bottle
have been drunk during the night; or rather I have drunk it!
But is it I? Is it I? Who could it be? Who? Oh! God! Am I going
mad? Who will save me?
July 10. I have just been through some surprising ordeals.
Undoubtedly I must be mad! And yet!
On July 6, before going to bed, I put some wine, milk, water,
bread, and strawberries on my table. Somebody drank--I drank--all
the water and a little of the milk, but neither the wine, nor the
bread, nor the strawberries were touched.
On the seventh of July I renewed the same experiment, with the
same results, and on July 8 I left out the water and the milk and
nothing was touched.
Lastly, on July 9 I put only water and milk on my table, taking
care to wrap up the bottles in white muslin and to tie down the
stoppers. Then I rubbed my lips, my beard, and my hands with
pencil lead, and went to bed.
Deep slumber seized me, soon followed by a terrible awakening. I
had not moved, and my sheets were not marked. I rushed to the
table. The muslin round the bottles remained intact; I undid the
string, trembling with fear. All the water had been drunk, and so
had the milk! Ah! Great God! I must start for Paris immediately.
July 12. Paris. I must have lost my head during the last few
days! I must be the plaything of my enervated imagination, unless
I am really a somnambulist, or I have been brought under the
power of one of those influences--hypnotic suggestion, for
example--which are known to exist, but have hitherto been
inexplicable. In any case, my mental state bordered on madness,
and twenty-four hours of Paris sufficed to restore me to my
Yesterday after doing some business and paying some visits, which
instilled fresh and invigorating mental air into me, I wound up
my evening at the Theatre Francais. A drama by Alexander Dumas
the Younger was being acted, and his brilliant and powerful play
completed my cure. Certainly solitude is dangerous for active
minds. We need men who can think and can talk, around us. When we
are alone for a long time, we people space with phantoms.
I returned along the boulevards to my hotel in excellent spirits.
Amid the jostling of the crowd I thought, not without irony, of
my terrors and surmises of the previous week, because I believed,
yes, I believed, that an invisible being lived beneath my roof.
How weak our mind is; how quickly it is terrified and unbalanced
as soon as we are confronted with a small, incomprehensible fact.
Instead of dismissing the problem with: "We do not understand
because we cannot find the cause," we immediately imagine
terrible mysteries and supernatural powers.
July 14. Fete of the Republic. I walked through the streets, and
the crackers and flags amused me like a child. Still, it is very
foolish to make merry on a set date, by Government decree. People
are like a flock of sheep, now steadily patient, now in ferocious
revolt. Say to it: "Amuse yourself," and it amuses itself. Say to
it: "Go and fight with your neighbor," and it goes and fights.
Say to it: "Vote for the Emperor," and it votes for the Emperor;
then say to it: "Vote for the Republic," and it votes for the
Those who direct it are stupid, too; but instead of obeying men
they obey principles, a course which can only be foolish,
ineffective, and false, for the very reason that principles are
ideas which are considered as certain and unchangeable, whereas
in this world one is certain of nothing, since light is an
illusion and noise is deception.
July 16. I saw some things yesterday that troubled me very much.
I was dining at my cousin's, Madame Sable, whose husband is
colonel of the Seventy-sixth Chasseurs at Limoges. There were two
young women there, one of whom had married a medical man, Dr.
Parent, who devotes himself a great deal to nervous diseases and
to the extraordinary manifestations which just now experiments in
hypnotism and suggestion are producing.
He related to us at some length the enormous results obtained by
English scientists and the doctors of the medical school at
Nancy, and the facts which he adduced appeared to me so strange,
that I declared that I was altogether incredulous.
"We are," he declared, "on the point of discovering one of the
most important secrets of nature, I mean to say, one of its most
important secrets on this earth, for assuredly there are some up
in the stars, yonder, of a different kind of importance. Ever
since man has thought, since he has been able to express and
write down his thoughts, he has felt himself close to a mystery
which is impenetrable to his coarse and imperfect senses, and he
endeavors to supplement the feeble penetration of his organs by
the efforts of his intellect. As long as that intellect remained
in its elementary stage, this intercourse with invisible spirits
assumed forms which were commonplace though terrifying. Thence
sprang the popular belief in the supernatural, the legends of
wandering spirits, of fairies, of gnomes, of ghosts, I might even
say the conception of God, for our ideas of the Workman-Creator,
from whatever religion they may have come down to us, are
certainly the most mediocre, the stupidest, and the most
unacceptable inventions that ever sprang from the frightened
brain of any human creature. Nothing is truer than what Voltaire
says: 'If God made man in His own image, man has certainly paid
Him back again.'
"But for rather more than a century, men seem to have had a
presentiment of something new. Mesmer and some others have put us
on an unexpected track, and within the last two or three years
especially, we have arrived at results really surprising."
My cousin, who is also very incredulous, smiled, and Dr. Parent
said to her: "Would you like me to try and send you to sleep,
She sat down in an easy-chair, and he began to look at her
fixedly, as if to fascinate her. I suddenly felt myself somewhat
discomposed; my heart beat rapidly and I had a choking feeling in
my throat. I saw that Madame Sable's eyes were growing heavy, her
mouth twitched, and her bosom heaved, and at the end of ten
minutes she was asleep.
"Go behind her," the doctor said to me; so I took a seat behind
her. He put a visiting-card into her hands, and said to her:
"This is a looking-glass; what do you see in it?"
She replied: "I see my cousin."
"What is he doing?"
"He is twisting his mustache."
"He is taking a photograph out of his pocket."
"Whose photograph is it?"
That was true, for the photograph had been given me that same
evening at the hotel.
"What is his attitude in this portrait?"
"He is standing up with his hat in his hand."
She saw these things in that card, in that piece of white
pasteboard, as if she had seen them in a looking-glass.
The young women were frightened, and exclaimed: "That is quite
enough! Quite, quite enough!"
But the doctor said to her authoritatively: "You will get up at
eight o'clock to-morrow morning; then you will go and call on
your cousin at his hotel and ask him to lend you the five
thousand francs which your husband asks of you, and which he will
ask for when he sets out on his coming journey."
Then he woke her up.
On returning to my hotel, I thought over this curious seance and
I was assailed by doubts, not as to my cousin's absolute and
undoubted good faith, for I had known her as well as if she had
been my own sister ever since she was a child, but as to a
possible trick on the doctor's part. Had not he, perhaps, kept a
glass hidden in his hand, which he showed to the young woman in
her sleep at the same time as he did the card? Professional
conjurers do things which are just as singular.
However, I went to bed, and this morning, at about half past
eight, I was awakened by my footman, who said to me: "Madame
Sable has asked to see you immediately, Monsieur." I dressed
hastily and went to her.
She sat down in some agitation, with her eyes on the floor, and
without raising her veil said to me: "My dear cousin, I am going
to ask a great favor of you."
"What is it, cousin?"
"I do not like to tell you, and yet I must. I am in absolute want
of five thousand francs."
"Yes, I, or rather my husband, who has asked me to procure them
I was so stupefied that I hesitated to answer. I asked myself
whether she had not really been making fun of me with Dr. Parent,
if it were not merely a very well-acted farce which had been got
up beforehand. On looking at her attentively, however, my doubts
disappeared. She was trembling with grief, so painful was this
step to her, and I was sure that her throat was full of sobs.
I knew that she was very rich and so I continued: "What! Has not
your husband five thousand francs at his disposal? Come, think.
Are you sure that he commissioned you to ask me for them?"
She hesitated for a few seconds, as if she were making a great
effort to search her memory, and then she replied: "Yes--yes, I
am quite sure of it."
"He has written to you?"
She hesitated again and reflected, and I guessed the torture of
her thoughts. She did not know. She only knew that she was to
borrow five thousand francs of me for her husband. So she told a
"Yes, he has written to me."
"When, pray? You did not mention it to me yesterday."
"I received his letter this morning."
"Can you show it to me?"
"No; no--no--it contained private matters, things too personal to
ourselves. I burned it."
"So your husband runs into debt?"
She hesitated again, and then murmured: "I do not know."
Thereupon I said bluntly: "I have not five thousand francs at my
disposal at this moment, my dear cousin."
She uttered a cry, as if she were in pair; and said: "Oh! oh! I
beseech you, I beseech you to get them for me."
She got excited and clasped her hands as if she were praying to
me! I heard her voice change its tone; she wept and sobbed,
harassed and dominated by the irresistible order that she had
"Oh! oh! I beg you to--if you knew what I am suffering--I want
I had pity on her: "You shall have them by and by, I swear to
"Oh! thank you! thank you! How kind you are."
I continued: "Do you remember what took place at your house last
"Do you remember that Dr. Parent sent you to sleep?"
"Oh! Very well then; he ordered you to come to me this morning to
borrow five thousand francs, and at this moment you are obeying
She considered for a few moments, and then replied: "But as it is
my husband who wants them--"
For a whole hour I tried to convince her, but could not succeed,
and when she had gone I went to the doctor. He was just going
out, and he listened to me with a smile, and said: "Do you
"Yes, I cannot help it."
"Let us go to your cousin's."
She was already resting on a couch, overcome with fatigue. The
doctor felt her pulse, looked at her for some time with one hand
raised toward her eyes, which she closed by degrees under the
irresistible power of this magnetic influence. When she was
asleep, he said:
"Your husband does not require the five thousand francs any
longer! You must, therefore, forget that you asked your cousin to
lend them to you, and, if he speaks to you about it, you will not
Then he woke her up, and I took out a pocket-book and said: "Here
is what you asked me for this morning, my dear cousin." But she
was so surprised, that I did not venture to persist;
nevertheless, I tried to recall the circumstance to her, but she
denied it vigorously, thought that I was making fun of her, and
in the end, very nearly lost her temper.
There! I have just come back, and I have not been able to eat any
lunch, for this experiment has altogether upset me.
July 19. Many people to whom I have told the adventure have
laughed at me. I no longer know what to think. The wise man says:
July 21. I dined at Bougival, and then I spent the evening at a
boatmen's ball. Decidedly everything depends on place and
surroundings. It would be the height of folly to believe in the
supernatural on the Ile de la Grenouilliere. But on the top of
Mont Saint-Michel or in India, we are terribly under the
influence of our surroundings. I shall return home next week.
July 30. I came back to my own house yesterday. Everything is
going on well.
August 2. Nothing fresh; it is splendid weather, and I spend my
days in watching the Seine flow past.
August 4. Quarrels among my servants. They declare that the
glasses are broken in the cupboards at night. The footman accuses
the cook, she accuses the needlewoman, and the latter accuses the
other two. Who is the culprit? It would take a clever person to
August 6. This time, I am not mad. I have seen --I have seen--I
have seen!--I can doubt no longer --I have seen it!
I was walking at two o'clock among my rose-trees, in the full
sunlight--in the walk bordered by autumn roses which are
beginning to fall. As I stopped to look at a Geant de Bataille,
which had three splendid blooms, I distinctly saw the stalk of
one of the roses bend close to me, as if an invisible hand had
bent it, and then break, as if that hand had picked it! Then the
flower raised itself, following the curve which a hand would have
described in carrying it toward a mouth, and remained suspended
in the transparent air, alone and motionless, a terrible red
spot, three yards from my eyes. In desperation I rushed at it to
take it! I found nothing; it had disappeared. Then I was seized
with furious rage against myself, for it is not wholesome for a
reasonable and serious man to have such hallucinations.
But was it a hallucination? I turned to look for the stalk, and I
found it immediately under the bush, freshly broken, between the
two other roses which remained on the branch. I returned home,
then, with a much disturbed mind; for I am certain now, certain
as I am of the alternation of day and night, that there exists
close to me an invisible being who lives on milk and on water,
who can touch objects, take them and change their places; who is,
consequently, endowed with a material nature, although
imperceptible to sense, and who lives as I do, under my roof--
August 7. I slept tranquilly. He drank the water out of my
decanter, but did not disturb my sleep.
I ask myself whether I am mad. As I was walking just now in the
sun by the riverside, doubts as to my own sanity arose in me; not
vague doubts such as I have had hitherto, but precise and
absolute doubts. I have seen mad people, and I have known some
who were quite intelligent, lucid, even clear-sighted in every
concern of life, except on one point. They could speak clearly,
readily, profoundly on everything; till their thoughts were
caught in the breakers of their delusions and went to pieces
there, were dispersed and swamped in that furious and terrible
sea of fogs and squalls which is called MADNESS.
I certainly should think that I was mad, absolutely mad, if I
were not conscious that I knew my state, if I could not fathom it
and analyze it with the most complete lucidity. I should, in
fact, be a reasonable man laboring under a hallucination. Some
unknown disturbance must have been excited in my brain, one of
those disturbances which physiologists of the present day try to
note and to fix precisely, and that disturbance must have caused
a profound gulf in my mind and in the order and logic of my
ideas. Similar phenomena occur in dreams, and lead us through the
most unlikely phantasmagoria, without causing us any surprise,
because our verifying apparatus and our sense of control have
gone to sleep, while our imaginative faculty wakes and works. Was
it not possible that one of the imperceptible keys of the
cerebral finger-board had been paralyzed in me? Some men lose the
recollection of proper names, or of verbs, or of numbers, or
merely of dates, in consequence of an accident. The localization
of all the avenues of thought has been accomplished nowadays;
what, then, would there be surprising in the fact that my faculty
of controlling the unreality of certain hallucinations should be
destroyed for the time being?
I thought of all this as I walked by the side of the water. The
sun was shining brightly on the river and made earth delightful,
while it filled me with love for life, for the swallows, whose
swift agility is always delightful in my eyes, for the plants by
the riverside, whose rustling is a pleasure to my ears.
By degrees, however, an inexplicable feeling of discomfort seized
me. It seemed to me as if some unknown force were numbing and
stopping me, were preventing me from going further and were
calling me back. I felt that painful wish to return which comes
on you when you have left a beloved invalid at home, and are
seized by a presentiment that he is worse.
I, therefore, returned despite of myself, feeling certain that I
should find some bad news awaiting me, a letter or a telegram.
There was nothing, however, and I was surprised and uneasy, more
so than if I had had another fantastic vision.
August 8. I spent a terrible evening, yesterday. He does not show
himself any more, but I feel that He is near me, watching me,
looking at me, penetrating me, dominating me, and more terrible
to me when He hides himself thus than if He were to manifest his
constant and invisible presence by supernatural phenomena.
However, I slept.
August 9. Nothing, but I am afraid.
August 10. Nothing; but what will happen to-morrow?
August 11. Still nothing. I cannot stop at home with this fear
hanging over me and these thoughts in my mind; I shall go away.
August 12. Ten o'clock at night. All day long I have been trying
to get away, and have not been able. I contemplated a simple and
easy act of liberty, a carriage ride to Rouen--and I have not
been able to do it. What is the reason?
August 13. When one is attacked by certain maladies, the springs
of our physical being seem broken, our energies destroyed, our
muscles relaxed, our bones to be as soft as our flesh, and our
blood as liquid as water. I am experiencing the same in my moral
being, in a strange and distressing manner. I have no longer any
strength, any courage, any self-control, nor even any power to
set my own will in motion. I have no power left to WILL anything,
but some one does it for me and I obey.
August 14. I am lost! Somebody possesses my soul and governs it!
Somebody orders all my acts, all my movements, all my thoughts. I
am no longer master of myself, nothing except an enslaved and
terrified spectator of the things which I do. I wish to go out; I
cannot. HE does not wish to; and so I remain, trembling and
distracted in the armchair in which he keeps me sitting. I merely
wish to get up and to rouse myself, so as to think that I am
still master of myself: I cannot! I am riveted to my chair, and
my chair adheres to the floor in such a manner that no force of
mine can move us.
Then suddenly, I must, I MUST go to the foot of my garden to pick
some strawberries and eat them --and I go there. I pick the
strawberries and I eat them! Oh! my God! my God! Is there a God?
If there be one, deliver me! save me! succor me! Pardon! Pity!
Mercy! Save me! Oh! what sufferings! what torture! what horror!
August 15. Certainly this is the way in which my poor cousin was
possessed and swayed, when she came to borrow five thousand
francs of me. She was under the power of a strange will which had
entered into her, like another soul, a parasitic and ruling soul.
Is the world coming to an end?
But who is he, this invisible being that rules me, this
unknowable being, this rover of a supernatural race?
Invisible beings exist, then! how is it, then, that since the
beginning of the world they have never manifested themselves in
such a manner as they do to me? I have never read anything that
resembles what goes on in my house. Oh! If I could only leave it,
if I could only go away and flee, and never return, I should be
saved; but I cannot.
August 16. I managed to escape to-day for two hours, like a
prisoner who finds the door of his dungeon accidentally open. I
suddenly felt that I was free and that He was far away, and so I
gave orders to put the horses in as quickly as possible, and I
drove to Rouen. Oh! how delightful to be able to say to my
coachman: "Go to Rouen!"
I made him pull up before the library, and I begged them to lend
me Dr. Herrmann Herestauss's treatise on the unknown inhabitants
of the ancient and modern world.
Then, as I was getting into my carriage, I intended to say: "To
the railway station!" but instead of this I shouted--I did not
speak; but I shouted--in such a loud voice that all the
passers-by turned round: "Home!" and I fell back on to the
cushion of my carriage, overcome by mental agony. He had found me
out and regained possession of me.
August 17. Oh! What a night! what a night! And yet it seems to me
that I ought to rejoice. I read until one o'clock in the morning!
Herestauss, Doctor of Philosophy and Theogony, wrote the history
and the manifestation of all those invisible beings which hover
around man, or of whom he dreams. He describes their origin,
their domains, their power; but none of them resembles the one
which haunts me. One might say that man, ever since he has
thought, has had a foreboding and a fear of a new being, stronger
than himself, his successor in this world, and that, feeling him
near, and not being able to foretell the nature of the unseen
one, he has, in his terror, created the whole race of hidden
beings, vague phantoms born of fear.
Having, therefore, read until one o'clock in the morning, I went
and sat down at the open window, in order to cool my forehead and
my thoughts in the calm night air. It was very pleasant and warm!
How I should have enjoyed such a night formerly!
There was no moon, but the stars darted out their rays in the
dark heavens. Who inhabits those worlds? What forms, what living
beings, what animals are there yonder? Do those who are thinkers
in those distant worlds know more than we do? What can they do
more than we? What do they see which we do not? Will not one of
them, some day or other, traversing space, appear on our earth to
conquer it, just as formerly the Norsemen crossed the sea in
order to subjugate nations feebler than themselves?
We are so weak, so powerless, so ignorant, so small--we who live
on this particle of mud which revolves in liquid air.
I fell asleep, dreaming thus in the cool night air, and then,
having slept for about three quarters of an hour, I opened my
eyes without moving, awakened by an indescribably confused and
strange sensation. At first I saw nothing, and then suddenly it
appeared to me as if a page of the book, which had remained open
on my table, turned over of its own accord. Not a breath of air
had come in at my window, and I was surprised and waited. In
about four minutes, I saw, I saw--yes I saw with my own
eyes--another page lift itself up and fall down on the others, as
if a finger had turned it over. My armchair was empty, appeared
empty, but I knew that He was there, He, and sitting in my place,
and that He was reading. With a furious bound, the bound of an
enraged wild beast that wishes to disembowel its tamer, I crossed
my room to seize him, to strangle him, to kill him! But before I
could reach it, my chair fell over as if somebody had run away
from me. My table rocked, my lamp fell and went out, and my
window closed as if some thief had been surprised and had fled
out into the night, shutting it behind him.
So He had run away; He had been afraid; He, afraid of me!
So to-morrow, or later--some day or other, I should be able to
hold him in my clutches and crush him against the ground! Do not
dogs occasionally bite and strangle their masters?
August 18. I have been thinking the whole day long. Oh! yes, I
will obey Him, follow His impulses, fulfill all His wishes, show
myself humble, submissive, a coward. He is the stronger; but an
hour will come.
August 19. I know, I know, I know all! I have just read the
following in the "Revue du Monde Scientifique": "A curious piece
of news comes to us from Rio de Janeiro. Madness, an epidemic of
madness, which may be compared to that contagious madness which
attacked the people of Europe in the Middle Ages, is at this
moment raging in the Province of San-Paulo. The frightened
inhabitants are leaving their houses, deserting their villages,
abandoning their land, saying that they are pursued, possessed,
governed like human cattle by invisible, though tangible beings,
by a species of vampire, which feeds on their life while they are
asleep, and which, besides, drinks water and milk without
appearing to touch any other nourishment.
"Professor Don Pedro Henriques, accompanied by several medical
savants, has gone to the Province of San-Paulo, in order to study
the origin and the manifestations of this surprising madness on
the spot, and to propose such measures to the Emperor as may
appear to him to be most fitted to restore the mad population to
Ah! Ah! I remember now that fine Brazilian three-master which
passed in front of my windows as it was going up the Seine, on
the eighth of last May! I thought it looked so pretty, so white
and bright! That Being was on board of her, coming from there,
where its race sprang from. And it saw me! It saw my house, which
was also white, and He sprang from the ship on to the land. Oh!
Now I know, I can divine. The reign of man is over, and he has
come. He whom disquieted priests exorcised, whom sorcerers evoked
on dark nights, without seeing him appear, He to whom the
imaginations of the transient masters of the world lent all the
monstrous or graceful forms of gnomes, spirits, genii, fairies,
and familiar spirits. After the coarse conceptions of primitive
fear, men more enlightened gave him a truer form. Mesmer divined
him, and ten years ago physicians accurately discovered the
nature of his power, even before He exercised it himself. They
played with that weapon of their new Lord, the sway of a
mysterious will over the human soul, which had become enslaved.
They called it mesmerism, hypnotism, suggestion, I know not what?
I have seen them diverting themselves like rash children with
this horrible power! Woe to us! Woe to man! He has come,
the--the--what does He call himself--the--I fancy that he is
shouting out his name to me and I do not hear him--the--yes--He
is shouting it out--I am listening--I
cannot--repeat--it--Horla--I have heard--the Horla--it is He--the
Horla--He has come!--
Ah! the vulture has eaten the pigeon, the wolf has eaten the
lamb; the lion has devoured the sharp-horned buffalo; man has
killed the lion with an arrow, with a spear, with gunpowder; but
the Horla will make of man what man has made of the horse and of
the ox: his chattel, his slave, and his food, by the mere power
of his will. Woe to us!
But, nevertheless, sometimes the animal rebels and kills the man
who has subjugated it. I should also like--I shall be able
to--but I must know Him, touch Him, see Him! Learned men say that
eyes of animals, as they differ from ours, do not distinguish as
ours do. And my eye cannot distinguish this newcomer who is
Why? Oh! Now I remember the words of the monk at Mont
Saint-Michel: "Can we see the hundred-thousandth part of what
exists? Listen; there is the wind which is the strongest force in
nature; it knocks men down, blows down buildings, uproots trees,
raises the sea into mountains of water, destroys cliffs, and
casts great ships on to the breakers; it kills, it whistles, it
sighs, it roars,--have you ever seen it, and can you see it? It
exists for all that, however!"
And I went on thinking: my eyes are so weak, so imperfect, that
they do not even distinguish hard bodies, if they are as
transparent as glass! If a glass without quicksilver behind it
were to bar my way, I should run into it, just like a bird which
has flown into a room breaks its head against the windowpanes. A
thousand things, moreover, deceive a man and lead him astray. How
then is it surprising that he cannot perceive a new body which is
penetrated and pervaded by the light?
A new being! Why not? It was assuredly bound to come! Why should
we be the last? We do not distinguish it, like all the others
created before us? The reason is, that its nature is more
delicate, its body finer and more finished than ours. Our makeup
is so weak, so awkwardly conceived; our body is encumbered with
organs that are always tired, always being strained like locks
that are too complicated; it lives like a plant and like an
animal nourishing itself with difficulty on air, herbs, and
flesh; it is a brute machine which is a prey to maladies, to
malformations, to decay; it is broken-winded, badly regulated,
simple and eccentric, ingeniously yet badly made, a coarse and
yet a delicate mechanism, in brief, the outline of a being which
might become intelligent and great.
There are only a few--so few--stages of development in this
world, from the oyster up to man. Why should there not be one
more, when once that period is accomplished which separates the
successive products one from the other?
Why not one more? Why not, also, other trees with immense,
splendid flowers, perfuming whole regions? Why not other elements
beside fire, air, earth, and water? There are four, only four,
nursing fathers of various beings! What a pity! Why should not
there be forty, four hundred, four thousand! How poor everything
is, how mean and wretched--grudgingly given, poorly invented,
clumsily made! Ah! the elephant and the hippopotamus, what power!
And the camel, what suppleness!
But the butterfly, you will say, a flying flower! I dream of one
that should be as large as a hundred worlds, with wings whose
shape, beauty, colors, and motion I cannot even express. But I
see it--it flutters from star to star, refreshing them and
perfuming them with the light and harmonious breath of its
flight! And the people up there gaze at it as it passes in an
ecstasy of delight!
What is the matter with me? It is He, the Horla who haunts me,
and who makes me think of these foolish things! He is within me,
He is becoming my soul; I shall kill him!
August 20. I shall kill Him. I have seen Him! Yesterday I sat
down at my table and pretended to write very assiduously. I knew
quite well that He would come prowling round me, quite close to
me, so close that I might perhaps be able to touch him, to seize
him. And then--then I should have the strength of desperation; I
should have my hands, my knees, my chest, my forehead, my teeth
to strangle him, to crush him, to bite him, to tear him to
pieces. And I watched for him with all my overexcited nerves.
I had lighted my two lamps and the eight wax candles on my
mantelpiece, as if, by this light I should discover Him.
My bed, my old oak bed with its columns, was opposite to me; on
my right was the fireplace; on my left the door, which was
carefully closed, after I had left it open for some time, in
order to attract Him; behind me was a very high wardrobe with a
looking-glass in it, which served me to dress by every day, and
in which I was in the habit of inspecting myself from head to
foot every time I passed it.
So I pretended to be writing in order to deceive Him, for He also
was watching me, and suddenly I felt, I was certain, that He was
reading over my shoulder, that He was there, almost touching my
I got up so quickly, with my hands extended, that I almost fell.
Horror! It was as bright as at midday, but I did not see myself
in the glass! It was empty, clear, profound, full of light! But
my figure was not reflected in it--and I, I was opposite to it! I
saw the large, clear glass from top to bottom, and I looked at it
with unsteady eyes. I did not dare advance; I did not venture to
make a movement; feeling certain, nevertheless, that He was
there, but that He would escape me again, He whose imperceptible
body had absorbed my reflection.
How frightened I was! And then suddenly I began to see myself
through a mist in the depths of the looking-glass, in a mist as
it were, or through a veil of water; and it seemed to me as if
this water were flowing slowly from left to right, and making my
figure clearer every moment. It was like the end of an eclipse.
Whatever hid me did not appear to possess any clearly defined
outlines, but was a sort of opaque transparency, which gradually
At last I was able to distinguish myself completely, as I do
every day when I look at myself.
I had seen Him! And the horror of it remained with me, and makes
me shudder even now.
August 21. How could I kill Him, since I could not get hold of
Him? Poison? But He would see me mix it with the water; and then,
would our poisons have any effect on His impalpable body?
No--no--no doubt about the matter. Then?--then?
August 22. I sent for a blacksmith from Rouen and ordered iron
shutters of him for my room, such as some private hotels in Paris
have on the ground floor, for fear of thieves, and he is going to
make me a similar door as well. I have made myself out a coward,
but I do not care about that!
September 10. Rouen, Hotel Continental. It is done; it is
done--but is He dead? My mind is thoroughly upset by what I have
Well then, yesterday, the locksmith having put on the iron
shutters and door, I left everything open until midnight,
although it was getting cold.
Suddenly I felt that He was there, and joy, mad joy took
possession of me. I got up softly, and I walked to the right and
left for some time, so that He might not guess anything; then I
took off my boots and put on my slippers carelessly; then I
fastened the iron shutters and going back to the door quickly I
double-locked it with a padlock, putting the key into my pocket.
Suddenly I noticed that He was moving restlessly round me, that
in his turn He was frightened and was ordering me to let Him out.
I nearly yielded, though I did not quite, but putting my back to
the door, I half opened it, just enough to allow me to go out
backward, and as I am very tall, my head touched the lintel. I
was sure that He had not been able to escape, and I shut Him up
quite alone, quite alone. What happiness! I had Him fast. Then I
ran downstairs into the drawing-room which was under my bedroom.
I took the two lamps and poured all the oil on to the carpet, the
furniture, everywhere; then I set fire to it and made my escape,
after having carefully double locked the door.
I went and hid myself at the bottom of the garden, in a clump of
laurel bushes. How long it was! how long it was! Everything was
dark, silent, motionless, not a breath of air and not a star, but
heavy banks of clouds which one could not see, but which weighed,
oh! so heavily on my soul.
I looked at my house and waited. How long it was! I already began
to think that the fire had gone out of its own accord, or that He
had extinguished it, when one of the lower windows gave way under
the violence of the flames, and a long, soft, caressing sheet of
red flame mounted up the white wall, and kissed it as high as the
roof. The light fell on to the trees, the branches, and the
leaves, and a shiver of fear pervaded them also! The birds awoke;
a dog began to howl, and it seemed to me as if the day were
breaking! Almost immediately two other windows flew into
fragments, and I saw that the whole of the lower part of my house
was nothing but a terrible furnace. But a cry, a horrible,
shrill, heart-rending cry, a woman's cry, sounded through the
night, and two garret windows were opened! I had forgotten the
servants! I saw the terror-struck faces, and the frantic waving
of their arms!
Then, overwhelmed with horror, I ran off to the village,
shouting: "Help! help! fire! fire!" Meeting some people who were
already coming on to the scene, I went back with them to see!
By this time the house was nothing but a horrible and magnificent
funeral pile, a monstrous pyre which lit up the whole country, a
pyre where men were burning, and where He was burning also, He,
He, my prisoner, that new Being, the new Master, the Horla!
Suddenly the whole roof fell in between the walls, and a volcano
of flames darted up to the sky. Through all the windows which
opened on to that furnace, I saw the flames darting, and I
reflected that He was there, in that kiln, dead.
Dead? Perhaps? His body? Was not his body, which was transparent,
indestructible by such means as would kill ours?
If He were not dead? Perhaps time alone has power over that
Invisible and Redoubtable Being. Why this transparent,
unrecognizable body, this body belonging to a spirit, if it also
had to fear ills, infirmities, and premature destruction?
Premature destruction? All human terror springs from that! After
man the Horla. After him who can die every day, at any hour, at
any moment, by any accident, He came, He who was only to die at
his own proper hour and minute, because He had touched the limits
of his existence!
No--no--there is no doubt about it--He is not dead. Then--then--I
suppose I must kill MYSELF!
There were seven of us in a four-in-hand, four women and three
men, one of whom was on the box seat beside the coachman. We were
following, at a foot pace, broad highway which serpentines along
Setting out from Etretat at break of day, in order to visit the
ruins of Tancarville, we were still asleep, chilled by the fresh
air of the morning. The women, especially, who were but little
accustomed to these early excursions, let their eyelids fall and
rise every moment, nodding their heads or yawning, quite
insensible to the glory of the dawn.
It was autumn. On both sides of the road the bare fields
stretched out, yellowed by the corn and wheat stubble which
covered the soil like a bristling growth of beard. The spongy
earth seemed to smoke. Larks were singing high up in the air,
while other birds piped in the bushes.
At length the sun rose in front of us, a bright red on the plane
of the horizon; and as it ascended, growing clearer from minute
to minute, the country seemed to awake, to smile, to shake and
stretch itself, like a young girl who is leaving her bed in her
white airy chemise. The Count d'Etraille, who was seated on the
"Look! look! a hare!" and he pointed toward the left, indicating
a piece of hedge. The leveret threaded its way along, almost
concealed by the field, only its large ears visible. Then it
swerved across a deep rut, stopped, again pursued its easy
course, changed its direction, stopped anew, disturbed, spying
out every danger, and undecided as to the route it should take.
Suddenly it began to run, with great bounds from its hind legs,
disappearing finally in a large patch of beet-root. All the men
had woke up to watch the course of the beast.
Rene Lemanoir then exclaimed
"We are not at all gallant this morning," and looking at his
neighbor, the little Baroness of Serennes, who was struggling
with drowsiness, he said to her in a subdued voice: "You are
thinking of your husband, Baroness. Reassure yourself; he will
not return before Saturday, so you have still four days."
She responded to him with a sleepy smile.
"How rude you are." Then, shaking off her torpor, she added:
"Now, let somebody say something that will make us all laugh.
You, Monsieur Chenal who have the reputation of possessing a
larger fortune than the Duke of Richelieu, tell us a love story
in which you have been mixed up, anything you like."
Leon Chenal, an old painter, who had once keen very handsome,
very strong, who was very proud of his physique and very amiable,
took his long white beard in his hand and smiled; then, after a
few moments' reflection, he became suddenly grave.
"Ladies, it will not be an amusing tale; for I am going to relate
to you the most lamentable love affair of my life, and I
sincerely hope that none of my friends has ever passed through a
"At that time I was twenty-five years old, and was making daubs
along the coast of Normandy. I call 'making daubs' that wandering
about, with a bag on one's back, from mountain to mountain, under
the pretext of studying and of sketching nature. I know nothing
more enjoyable than that happy-go-lucky wandering life, in which
you are perfectly free; without shackles of any kind, without
care, without preoccupation, without thought even of to-morrow.
You go in any direction you please, without any guide save your
fancy, without any counselor save your eyes. You pull up, because
a running brook seduces you, or because you are attracted, in
front of an inn, by the smell of potatoes frying. Sometimes it is
the perfume of clematis which decides you in your choice, or the
naive glance of the servant at an inn. Do not despise me for my
affection for these rustics. These girls have soul as well as
feeling, not to mention firm cheeks and fresh lips; while their
hearty and willing kisses have the flavor of wild fruit. Love
always has its price, come whence it may. A heart that beats when
you make your appearance, an eye that weeps when you go away,
these are things so rare, so sweet, so precious, that they must
never be despised.
"I have had rendezvous in ditches in which cattle repose, and in
barns among the straw, still steaming from the heat of the day. I
have recollections of canvas spread on rude and creaky benches,
and of hearty, fresh, free kisses, more delicate, free from
affectation, and sincere than the subtle attractions of charming
and distinguished women.
"But what you love most amid all these varied adventures are the
country, the woods, the risings of the sun, the twilight, the
light of the moon. For the painter these are honeymoon trips with
Nature. You are alone with her in that long and tranquil
rendezvous. You go to bed in the fields amid marguerites and wild
poppies, and, with eyes wide open, you watch the going down of
the sun, and descry in the distance the little village, with its
pointed clock-tower, which sounds the hour of midnight.
"You sit down by the side of a spring which gushes out from the
foot of an oak, amid a covering of fragile herbs, growing and
redolent of life. You go down on your knees, bend forward, and
drink the cold and pellucid water, wetting your mustache and
nose; you drink it with a physical pleasure, as though you were
kissing the spring, lip to lip. Sometimes, when you encounter a
deep hole, along the course of these tiny brooks, you plunge into
it, quite naked, and on your skin, from head to foot, like an icy
and delicious caress, you feel the lovely and gentle quivering of
"You are gay on the hills, melancholy on the verge of pools,
exalted when the sun is crowned in an ocean of blood-red shadows,
and when it casts on the rivers its red reflection. And at night,
under the moon, as it passes across the vault of heaven, you
think of things, singular things, which would never have occurred
to your mind under the brilliant light of day.
"So, in wandering through the same country we are in this year, I
came to the little village of Benouville, on the Falaise, between
Yport and Etretat. I came from Fecamp, following the coast, a
high coast, perpendicular as a wall, with projecting and rugged
rocks falling sheer down into the sea. I had walked since the
morning on the close clipped grass, as smooth and as yielding as
a carpet. Singing lustily, I walked with long strides, looking
sometimes at the slow and lazy flight of a gull, with its short,
white wings, sailing in the blue heavens, sometimes at the green
sea, or at the brown sails of a fishing bark. In short, I had
passed a happy day, a day of listlessness and of liberty.
"I was shown a little farmhouse, where travelers were put up, a
kind of inn, kept by a peasant, which stood in the center of a
Norman court, surrounded by a double row of beeches.
"Quitting the Falaise. I gained the hamlet, which was hemmed in
by great trees, and I presented myself at the house of Mother
"She was an old, wrinkled, and austere rustic, who always seemed
to yield to the pressure of new customs with a kind of contempt.
"It was the month of May: the spreading apple-trees covered the
court with a whirling shower of blossoms which rained unceasingly
both upon people and upon the grass.
" 'Well, Madame Lecacheur, have you a room for me?'
"Astonished to find that I knew her name, she answered:
" 'That depends; everything is let; but, all the same, there will
be no harm in looking.'
"In five minutes we were in perfect accord, and I deposited my
bag upon the bare floor of a rustic room, furnished with a bed,
two chairs, a table, and a washstand. The room opened into the
large and smoky kitchen, where the lodgers took their meals with
the people of the farm and with the farmer himself, who was a
"I washed my hands, after which I went out. The old woman was
fricasseeing a chicken for dinner in a large fireplace, in which
hung the stew-pot, black with smoke.
" 'You have travelers, then, at the present time?' said I to her.
"She answered in an offended tone of voice:
" 'I have a lady, an English lady, who has attained to years of
maturity. She is occupying my other room.'
"By means of an extra five sous a day, I obtained the privilege
of dining out in the court when the weather was fine.
"My cover was then placed in front of the door, and I commenced
to gnaw with hunger the lean members of the Normandy chicken, to
drink the clear cider, and to munch the hunk of white bread,
which, though four days old, was excellent.
"Suddenly, the wooden barrier which opened on to the highway was
opened, and a strange person directed her steps toward the house.
She was very slender, very tall, enveloped in a Scotch shawl with
red borders. You would have believed that she had no arms, if you
had not seen a long hand appear just above the hips, holding a
white tourist umbrella. The face of a mummy, surrounded with
sausage rolls of plaited gray hair, which bounded at every step
she took, made me think, I know not why, of a sour herring
adorned with curling papers. Lowering her eyes, she passed
quickly in front of me, and entered the house.
"This singular apparition made me curious. She undoubtedly was my
neighbor, the aged English lady of whom our hostess had spoken.
"I did not see her again that day. The next day, when I had begun
to paint at the end of that beautiful valley, which you know
extends as far as Etretat, lifting my eyes suddenly, I perceived
something singularly attired standing on the crest of the
declivity; it looked like a pole decked out with flags. It was
she. On seeing me, she suddenly disappeared. I re-entered the
house at midday for lunch, and took my seat at the common table,
so as to make the acquaintance of this old and original creature.
But she did not respond to my polite advances, was insensible
even to my little attentions. I poured water out for her with
great alacrity, I passed her the dishes with great eagerness. A
slight, almost imperceptible movement of the head, and an English
word, murmured so low that I did not understand it, were her
"I ceased occupying myself with her, although she had disturbed
my thoughts. At the end of three days, I knew as much about her
as did Madame Lecacheur herself.
"She was called Miss Harriet. Seeking out a secluded village in
which to pass the summer, she had been attracted to Benouville,
some six months before, and did not seem disposed to quit it. She
never spoke at table, ate rapidly, reading all the while a small
book, treating of some Protestant propaganda. She gave a copy of
it to everybody. The cure himself had received no less than four
copies, at the hands of an urchin to whom she had paid two sous'
commission. She said sometimes to our hostess, abruptly, without
preparing herin the least for the declaration:
" 'I love the Saviour more than all; I worship him in all
creation; I adore him in all nature; I carry him always in my
"And she would immediately present the old woman with one of her
brochures which were destined to convert the universe.
"In the village she was not liked. In fact, the schoolmaster had
declared that she was an atheist, and that a sort of reproach
attached to her. The cure, who had been consulted by Madame
" 'She is a heretic, but God does not wish the death of the
sinner, and I believe her to be a person of pure morals.'
"These words, 'atheist,' 'heretic,' words which no one can
precisely define, threw doubts into some minds. It was asserted,
however, that this English-woman was rich, and that she had
passed her life in traveling through every country in the world,
because her family had thrown her off. Why had her family thrown
her off? Because of her natural impiety?
"She was, in fact, one of those people of exalted principles, one
of those opinionated puritans of whom England produces so many,
one of those good and insupportable old women who haunt the
tables d'hote of every hotel in Europe, who spoil Italy, poison
Switzerland, render the charming cities of the Mediterranean
uninhabitable, carry everywhere their fantastic manias, their
petrified vestal manners, their indescribable toilettes, and a
certain odor of india-rubber, which makes one believe that at
night they slip themselves into a case of that material. When I
meet one of these people in a hotel, I act like birds which see a
manikin in a field.
"This woman, however, appeared so singular that she did not
"Madame Lecacheur, hostile by instinct to everything that was not
rustic, felt in her narrow soul a kind of hatred for the ecstatic
extravagances of the old girl. She had found a phrase by which to
describe her, I know not how, but a phrase assuredly
contemptuous, which had sprung to her lips, invented probably by
some confused and mysterious travail of soul. She said: 'That
woman is a demoniac.' This phrase, as uttered by that austere and
sentimental creature, seemed to me irresistibly comic. I, myself,
never called her now anything else but 'the demoniac.' feeling a
singular pleasure in pronouncing this word on seeing her.
"I would ask Mother Lecacheur: 'Well, what is our demoniac about
to-day?' To which my rustic friend would respond, with an air of
having been scandalized:
" 'What do you think, sir? She has picked up a toad which has had
its leg battered, and carried it to her room, and has put it in
her washstand, and dressed it up like a man. If that is not
profanation, I should like to know what is!'
"On another occasion, when walking along the Falaise, she had
bought a large fish which had just been caught, simply to throw
it back into the sea again. The sailor, from whom she had bought
it, though paid handsomely, was greatly provoked at this
act--more exasperated, indeed, than if she had put her hand into
his pocket and taken his money. For a whole month he could not
speak of the circumstance without getting into a fury and
denouncing it as an outrage. Oh yes! She was indeed a demoniac,
this Miss Harriet, and Mother Lecacheur must have had an
inspiration of genius in thus christening her.
"The stable-boy, who was called Sapeur, because he had served in
Africa in his youth, entertained other aversions. He said, with a
roguish air: 'She is an old hag who has lived her days.' If the
poor woman had but known!
"Little kind-hearted Celeste did not wait upon her willingly, but
I was never able to understand why. Probably her only reason was
that she was a stranger, of another race, of a different tongue,
and of another religion. She was in good truth a demoniac!
"She passed her time wandering about the country, adoring and
searching for God in nature. I found her one evening on her knees
in a cluster of bushes. Having discovered something red through
the leaves, I brushed aside the branches, and Miss Harriet at
once rose to her feet, confused at having been found thus,
looking at me with eyes as terrible as those of a wild cat
surprised in open day.
"Sometimes, when I was working among the rocks, I would suddenly
descry her on the banks of the Falaise standing like a semaphore
signal. She gazed passionately at the vast sea, glittering in the
sunlight, and the boundless sky empurpled with fire. Sometimes I
would distinguish her at the bottom of a valley, walking quickly,
with her elastic English step; and I would go toward her,
attracted by I know not what, simply to see her illuminated
visage, her dried-up features, which seemed to glow with an
ineffable, inward, and profound happiness.
"Often I would encounter her in the corner of a field sitting on
the grass, under the shadow of an apple-tree, with her little
Bible lying open on her knee, while she looked meditatively into
"I could no longer tear myself away from that quiet country
neighborhood, bound to it as I was by a thousand links of love
for its soft and sweeping landscapes. At this farm I was out of
the world, far removed from everything, but in close proximity to
the soil, the good, healthy, beautiful green soil. And, must I
avow it, there was something besides curiosity which retained me
at the residence of Mother Lecacheur. I wished to become
acquainted a little with this strange Miss Harriet, and to learn
what passes in the solitary souls of those wandering old, English
"We became acquainted in a rather singular manner. I had just
finished a study which appeared to me to display genius and
power; as it must have, since it was sold for ten thousand
francs, fifteen years later. It was as simple, however, as that
two and two make four, and had nothing to do with academic rules.
The whole of the right side of my canvas represented a rock, an
enormous rock, covered with sea-wrack, brown, yellow, and red,
across which the sun poured like a stream of oil. The light,
without which one could see the stars concealed in the
background, fell upon the stone, and gilded it as if with fire.
That was all. A first stupid attempt at dealing with light, with
burning rays, with the sublime.
"On the left was the sea, not the blue sea, the slate-colored
sea, but a sea of jade, as greenish, milky, and thick as the
"I was so pleased with my work that I danced from sheer delight
as I carried it back to the inn. I wished that the whole world
could have seen it at one and the same moment. I can remember
that I showed it to a cow, which was browsing by the wayside,
exclaiming, at the same time: 'Look at that, my old beauty; you
will not often see its like again.'
"When I had reached the front of the house, I immediately called
out to Mother Lecacheur, shouting with all my might:
" 'Ohe! Ohe! my mistress, come here and look at this.'
"The rustic advanced and looked at my work with stupid eyes,
which distinguished nothing, and did not even recognize whether
the picture was the representation of an ox or a house.
"Miss Harriet came into the house, and passed in rear of me just
at the moment when, holding out my canvas at arm's length, I was
exhibiting it to the female innkeeper. The 'demoniac' could not
help but see it, for I took care to exhibit the thing in such a
way that it could not escape her notice. She stopped abruptly and
stood motionless, stupefied. It was her rock which was depicted,
the one which she usually climbed to dream away her time
"She uttered a British 'Oh,' which was at once so accentuated and
so flattering, that I turned round to her, smiling, and said:
"This is my last work, Mademoiselle.'
"She murmured ecstatically, comically, and tenderly:
" 'Oh! Monsieur, you must understand what it is to have a
"I colored up, of course, and was more excited by that compliment
than if it had come from a queen. I was seduced, conquered,
vanquished. I could have embraced her--upon my honor.
"I took my seat at the table beside her, as I had always done.
For the first time, she spoke, drawling out in a loud voice:
" 'Oh! I love nature so much.'
"I offered her some bread, some water, some wine. She now
accepted these with the vacant smile of a mummy. I then began to
converse with her about the scenery.
"After the meal, we rose from the table together and walked
leisurely across the court; then, attracted by the fiery glow
which the setting sun cast over the surface of the sea, I opened
the outside gate which faced in the direction of the Falaise, and
we walked on side by side, as satisfied as any two persons could
be who have just learned to understand and penetrate each other's
motives and feelings.
"It was a misty, relaxing evening, one of those enjoyable
evenings which impart happiness to mind and body alike. All is
joy, all is charm. The luscious and balmy air, loaded with the
perfumes of herbs, with the perfumes of grass-wrack, with the
odor of the wild flowers, caresses the soul with a penetrating
sweetness. We were going to the brink of the abyss which
overlooked the vast sea and rolled past us at the distance of
less than a hundred meters.
"We drank with open mouth and expanded chest, that fresh breeze
from the ocean which glides slowly over the skin, salted as it is
by long contact with the waves.
"Wrapped up in her square shawl, inspired by the balmy air and
with teeth firmly set, the English-woman gazed fixedly at the
great sun-ball, as it descended toward the sea. Soon its rim
touched the waters, just in rear of a ship which had appeared on
the horizon, until, by degrees, it was swallowed up by the ocean.
We watched it plunge, diminish, and finally disappear.
"Miss Harriet contemplated with passionate regard the last
glimmer of the flaming orb of day.
"She muttered: 'Oh! I love--I love--' I saw a tear start in her
eye. She continued: 'I wish I were a little bird, so that I could
mount up into the firmament.'
"She remained standing as I had often before seen her, perched on
the river bank, her face as red as her flaming shawl. I should
have liked to have sketched her in my album. It would have been
an ecstatic caricature. I turned my face away from her so as to
be able to laugh.
"I then spoke to her of painting, as I would have done to a
fellow-artist, using the technical terms common among the
devotees of the profession. She listened attentively to me,
eagerly seeking to divine the sense of the obscure words, so as
to penetrate my thoughts. From time to time, she would exclaim:
'Oh! I understand, I understand. This is very interesting.' We
"The next day, on seeing me, she approached me eagerly, holding
out her hand; and we became firm friends immediately.
"She was a brave creature, with an elastic sort of a soul, which
became enthusiastic at a bound. She lacked equilibrium, like all
women who are spinsters at the age of fifty. She seemed to be
pickled in vinegary innocence, though her heart still retained
something of youth and of girlish effervescence. She loved both
nature and animals with a fervent ardor, a love like old wine,
mellow through age, with a sensual love that she had never
bestowed on men.
"One thing is certain: a mare roaming in a meadow with a foal at
its side, a bird's nest full of young ones, squeaking, with their
open mouths and enormous heads, made her quiver with the most
"Poor solitary beings! Sad wanderers from table d'hote to table
d'hote, poor beings, ridiculous and lamentable, I love you ever
since I became acquainted with Miss Harriet!
"I soon discovered that she had something she would like to tell
me, but dared not, and I was amused at her timidity. When I
started out in the morning with my box on my back, she would
accompany me as far as the end of the village, silent, but
evidently struggling inwardly to find words with which to begin a
conversation. Then she would leave me abruptly, and, with jaunty
step, walk away quickly.
"One day, however, she plucked up courage:
" 'I would like to see how you paint pictures? Will you show me?
I have been very curious.'
"And she colored up as though she had given utterance to words
"I conducted her to the bottom of the Petit-Val, where I had
commenced a large picture.
"She remained standing near me, following all my gestures with
concentrated attention. Then, suddenly, fearing, perhaps, that
she was disturbing me, she said to me: 'Thank you,' and walked
"But in a short time she became more familiar, and accompanied me
every day, her countenance exhibiting visible pleasure. She
carried her folding stool under her arm; would not consent to my
carrying it, and she sat always by my side. She would remain
there for hours immovable and mute, following with her eye the
point of my brush in its every movement. When I would obtain, by
a large splatch of color spread on with a knife, a striking and
unexpected effect, she would, in spite of herself, give vent to a
half-suppressed 'Oh!' of astonishment, of joy, of admiration. She
had the most tender respect for my canvases, an almost religious
respect for that human reproduction of a part of nature's work
divine. My studies appeared to her to be pictures of sanctity,
and sometimes she spoke to me of God, with the idea of converting
"Oh! He was a queer good-natured being, this God of hers. He was
a sort of village philosopher without any great resources, and
without great power; for she always figured him to herself as a
being quivering over injustices committed under his eyes, and
helpless to prevent them.
"She was, however, on excellent terms with him, affecting even to
be the confidant of his secrets and of his whims. She said:
" 'God wills, or God does not will,' just like a sergeant
announcing to a recruit: 'The colonel has commanded.'
"At the bottom of her heart she deplored my ignorance of the
intentions of the Eternal, which she strove, nay, felt herself
compelled, to impart to me.
"Almost every day, I found in my pockets, in my hat when I lifted
it from the ground, in my box of colors, in my polished shoes,
standing in the mornings in front of my door, those little pious
brochures, which she, no doubt, received directly from Paradise.
"I treated her as one would an old friend, with unaffected
cordiality. But I soon perceived that she had changed somewhat in
her manner; but, for a while, I paid little attention to it.
"When I walked about, whether to the bottom of the valley, or
through some country lanes, I would see her suddenly appear, as
though she were returning from a rapid walk. She would then sit
down abruptly, out of breath, as though she had been running or
overcome by some profound emotion. Her face would be red, that
English red which is denied to the people of all other countries;
then, without any reason, she would grow pale, become the color
of the ground, and seem ready to faint away. Gradually, however,
I would see her regain her ordinary color, whereupon she would
begin to speak.
"Then, without warning, she would break off in the middle of a
sentence, spring up from her seat, and march off so rapidly and
so strangely, that it would, sometimes, put me to my wits' end to
try and discover whether I had done or said anything to displease
or offend her.
"I finally came to the conclusion that this arose from her early
habits and training, somewhat modified, no doubt, in honor of me,
since the first days of our acquaintanceship.
"When she returned to the farm, after walking for hours on the
wind-beaten coast, her long curled hair would be shaken out and
hanging loose, as though it had broken away from its bearings. It
was seldom that this gave her any concern; though sometimes she
looked as though she had been dining sans ceremonie; her locks
having become disheveled by the breezes.
"She would then go up to her room in order to adjust what I
called her glass lamps. When I would say to her, in familiar
gallantry, which, however, always offended her:
" 'You are as beautiful as a planet to-day, Miss Harriet,' a
little blood would immediately mount into her cheeks, the blood
of a young maiden, the blood of sweet fifteen.
"Then she would become abruptly savage and cease coming to watch
me paint. But I always thought:
" 'This is only a fit of temper she is passing through.'
"But it did not always pass away. When I spoke to her sometimes,
she would answer me, either with an air of affected indifference,
or in sullen anger; and she became by turns rude, impatient, and
nervous. For a time I never saw her except at meals, and we spoke
but little. I concluded, at length, that I must have offended her
in something: and, accordingly, I said to her one evening:
" 'Miss Harriet, why is it that you do not act toward me as
formerly? What have I done to displease you? You are causing me
"She responded, in an angry tone, in a manner altogether sui
" 'I am always with you the same as formerly. It is not true, not
true,' and she ran upstairs and shut herself up in her room.
"At times she would look upon me with strange eyes. Since that
time I have often said to myself that those condemned to death
must look thus when informed that their last day has come. In her
eye there lurked a species of folly, a folly at once mysterious
and violent--even more, a fever, an exasperated desire,
impatient, at once incapable of being realized and unrealizable!
"Nay, it seemed to me that there was also going on within her a
combat, in which her heart struggled against an unknown force
that she wished to overcome--perhaps, even, something else. But
what could I know? What could I know?
"This was indeed a singular revelation.
"For some time I had commenced to work, as soon as daylight
appeared, on a picture, the subject of which was as follows:
"A deep ravine, steep banks dominated by two declivities, lined
with brambles and long rows of trees, hidden, drowned in milky
vapor, clad in that misty robe which sometimes floats over
valleys at break of day. At the extreme end of that thick and
transparent fog, you see coming, or rather already come, a human
couple, a stripling and a maiden embraced, interlaced, she, with
head leaning on him, he; inclined toward hers and lip to lip.
"A ray of the sun, glistening through the branches, has traversed
the fog of dawn and illuminated it with a rosy reflection, just
behind the rustic lovers, whose vague shadows are reflected on it
in clear silver. It was well done, yes, indeed, well done.
"I was working on the declivity which led to the Val d'Etretat.
This particular morning, I had, by chance, the sort of floating
vapor which was necessary for my purpose. Suddenly, an object
appeared in front of me, a kind of phantom; it was Miss Harriet.
On seeing me, she took to flight. But I called after her saying:
'Come here, come here, Mademoiselle, I have a nice little picture
"She came forward, though with seeming reluctance. I handed her
my sketch. She said nothing, but stood for a long time
motionless, looking at it. Suddenly she burst into tears. She
wept spasmodically, like men who have been struggling hard
against shedding tears, but who can do so no longer, and abandon
themselves to grief, though unwillingly. I got up, trembling,
moved myself by the sight of a sorrow I did not comprehend, and I
took her by the hand with a gesture of brusque affection, a true
French impulse which impels one quicker than one thinks.
"She let her hands rest in mine for a few seconds, and I felt
them quiver, as if her whole nervous system was twisting and
turning. Then she withdrew her hands abruptly, or, rather, tore
them out of mine.
"I recognized that shiver as soon as I had felt it: I was
deceived in nothing. Ah! the love shudder of a woman, whether she
is fifteen or fifty years of age, whether she is one of the
people or one of the monde, goes so straight to my heart that I
never had any difficulty in understanding it!
"Her whole frail being trembled, vibrated, yielded. I knew it.
She walked away before I had time to say a word, leaving me as
surprised as if I had witnessed a miracle, and as troubled as if
I had committed a crime.
"I did not go in to breakfast. I took a walk on the banks of the
Falaise, feeling that I could just as soon weep as laugh, looking
on the adventure as both comic and deplorable, and my position as
ridiculous, fain to believe that I had lost my head.
"I asked myself what I ought to do. I debated whether I ought not
to take my leave of the place and almost immediately my
resolution was formed.
"Somewhat sad and perplexed, I wandered about until dinner time,
and entered the farmhouse just when the soup had been served up.
"I sat down at the table, as usual. Miss Harriet was there,
munching away solemnly, without speaking to anyone, without even
lifting her eyes. She wore, however, her usual expression, both
of countenance and manner.
"I waited, patiently, till the meal had been finished. Then,
turning toward the landlady, I said: 'Madame Lecacheur, it will
not be long now before I shall have to take my leave of you.'
"The good woman, at once surprised and troubled, replied in a
quivering voice: 'My dear sir, what is it I have just heard you
say? Are you going to leave us, after I have become so much
accustomed to you?'
"I looked at Miss Harriet from the corner of my eye. Her
countenance did not change in the least; but the under-servant
came toward me with eyes wide open. She was a fat girl, of about
eighteen years of age, rosy, fresh, strong as a horse, yet
possessing a rare attribute in one in her position--she was very
neat and clean. I had kissed her at odd times, in out of the way
corners, in the manner of a mountain guide, nothing more.
"The dinner being over, I went to smoke my pipe under the
apple-trees, walking up and down at my ease, from one end of the
court to the other. All the reflections which I had made during
the day, the strange discovery of the morning, that grotesque and
passionate attachment for me, the recollections which that
revelation had suddenly called up, recollections at once charming
and perplexing, perhaps, also, that look which the servant had
cast on me at the announcement of my departure--all these things,
mixed up and combined, put me now in an excited bodily state,
with the tickling sensation of kisses on my lips, and in my veins
something which urged me on to commit some folly.
"Night having come on, casting its dark shadows under the trees,
I descried Celeste, who had gone to shut the hen-coops, at the
other end of the inclosure. I darted toward her, running so
noiselessly that she heard nothing, and as she got up from
closing the small traps by which the chickens went in and out, I
clasped her in my arms and rained on her coarse, fat face a
shower of kisses. She made a struggle, laughing all the same, as
she was accustomed to do in such circumstances. What made me
suddenly loose my grip of her? Why did I at once experience a
shock? What was it that I heard behind me?
"It was Miss Harriet who had come upon us, who had seen us, and
who stood in front of us, as motionless as a specter. Then she
disappeared in the darkness.
"I was ashamed, embarrassed, more annoyed at having been
surprised by her than if she had caught me committing some
"I slept badly that night; I was worried and haunted by sad
thoughts. I seemed to hear loud weeping; but in this I was no
doubt deceived. Moreover, I thought several times that I heard
some one walking up and down in the house, and that some one
opened my door from the outside.
"Toward morning, I was overcome by fatigue, and sleep seized on
me. I got up late and did not go downstairs until breakfast time,
being still in a bewildered state, not knowing what kind of face
to put on.
"No one had seen Miss Harriet. We waited for her at table, but
she did not appear. At length, Mother Lecacheur went to her room.
The English-woman had gone out. She must have set out at break of
day, as she was wont to do, in order to see the sun rise.
"Nobody seemed astonished at this and we began to eat in silence.
"The weather was hot, very hot, one of those still sultry days
when not a leaf stirs. The table had been placed out of doors,
under an apple-tree; and from time to time Sapeur had gone to the
cellar to draw a jug of cider, everybody was so thirsty. Celeste
brought the dishes from the kitchen, a ragout of mutton with
potatoes, a cold rabbit, and a salad. Afterward she placed before
us a dish of strawberries, the first of the season.
"As I wanted to wash and freshen these, I begged the servant to
go and bring a pitcher of cold water."
"In about five minutes she returned, declaring that the well was
dry. She had lowered the pitcher to the full extent of the cord,
and had touched the bottom, but on drawing the pitcher up again,
it was empty. Mother Lecacheur, anxious to examine the thing for
herself, went and looked down the hole. She returned announcing
that one could see clearly something in the well, something
altogether unusual. But this, no doubt, was pottles of straw,
which, out of spite, had been cast down it by a neighbor.
"I wished also to look down the well, hoping to clear up the
mystery, and perched myself close to its brink. I perceived,
indistinctly, a white object. What could it be? I then conceived
the idea of lowering a lantern at the end of a cord. When I did
so, the yellow flame danced on the layers of stone and gradually
became clearer. All four of us were leaning over the opening,
Sapeur and Celeste having now joined us. The lantern rested on a
black and white, indistinct mass, singular, incomprehensible.
" 'It is a horse. I see the hoofs. It must have escaped from the
meadow, during the night, and fallen in headlong.'
"But, suddenly, a cold shiver attacked my spine, I first
recognized a foot, then a clothed limb; the body was entire, but
the other limb had disappeared under the water.
"I groaned and trembled so violently that the light of the lamp
danced hither and thither over the object, discovering a slipper.
" 'It is a woman! who--who--can it be? It is Miss Harriet.'
"Sapeur alone did not manifest horror. He had witnessed many such
scenes in Africa.
"Mother Lecacheur and Celeste began to scream and to shriek, and
"But it was necessary to recover the corpse of the dead. I
attached the boy securely by the loins to the end of the
pulley-rope; then I lowered him slowly, and watched him disappear
in the darkness. In the one hand he had a lantern, and held on to
the rope with the other. Soon I recognized his voice, which
seemed to come from the center of the earth, crying:
"I then saw him fish something out of the water. It was the other
limb. He bound the two feet together, and shouted anew:
" 'Haul up.'
"I commenced to wind him up, but I felt my arms strain, my
muscles twitch, and was in terror lest I should let the boy fall
to the bottom. When his head appeared over the brink, I asked:
" 'What is it?' as though I only expected that he would tell me
what he had discovered at the bottom.
"We both got on to the stone slab at the edge of the well, and,
face to face, hoisted the body.
"Mother Lecacheur and Celeste watched us from a distance,
concealed behind the wall of the house. When they saw, issuing
from the well, the black slippers and white stockings of the
drowned person, they disappeared.
"Sapeur seized the ankles of the poor chaste woman, and we drew
it up, inclined, as it was, in the most immodest posture. The
head was in a shocking state, bruised and black; and the long,
gray hair, hanging down, was tangled and disordered.
" 'In the name of all that is holy, how lean she is!' exclaimed
Sapeur, in a contemptuous tone.
"We carried her into the room, and as the women did not put in an
appearance, I, with the assistance of the lad, dressed the corpse
"I washed her disfigured face. By the touch of my hand an eye was
slightly opened; it seemed to scan me with that pale stare, with
that cold, that terrible look which corpses have, a look which
seems to come from the beyond. I plaited up, as well as I could,
her disheveled hair, and I adjusted on her forehead a novel and
singularly formed lock. Then I took off her dripping wet
garments, baring, not without a feeling of shame, as though I had
been guilty of some profanation, her shoulders and her chest, and
her long arms, slim as the twigs of branches.
"I next went to fetch some flowers, corn poppies, blue beetles,
marguerites, and fresh and perfumed herbs, with which to strew
her funeral couch.
"Being the only person near her, it was necessary for me to
perform the usual ceremonies. In a letter found in her pocket,
written at the last moment, she asked that her body be buried in
the village in which she had passed the last days of her life. A
frightful thought then oppressed my heart. Was it not on my
account that she wished to be laid at rest in this place?
"Toward the evening, all the female gossips of the locality came
to view the remains of the defunct; but I would not allow a
single person to enter; I wanted to be alone; and I watched by
the corpse the whole night.
"By the flickering light of the candles, I looked at the body of
this miserable woman, wholly unknown, who had died so lamentably
and so far away from home. Had she left no friends, no relatives
behind her? What had her infancy been? What had been her life?
Whence had she come thither, all alone, a wanderer, like a dog
driven from home? What secrets of suffering and of despair were
sealed up in that disagreeable body, in that spent and withered
body, that impenetrable hiding place of a mystery which had
driven her far away from affection and from love?
"How many unhappy beings there are! I felt that upon that human
creature weighed the eternal injustice of implacable nature! Life
was over with her, without her ever having experienced, perhaps,
that which sustains the most miserable of us all--to wit, the
hope of being once loved! Otherwise, why should she thus have
concealed herself, have fled from the face of others? Why did she
love everything so tenderly and so passionately, everything
living that was not a man?
"I recognized, also, that she believed in a God, and that she
hoped for compensation from him for the miseries she had endured.
She had now begun to decompose, and to become, in turn, a plant.
She who had blossomed in the sun was now to be eaten up by the
cattle, carried away in herbs, and in the flesh of beasts, again
to become human flesh. But that which is called the soul had been
extinguished at the bottom of the dark well. She suffered no
longer. She had changed her life for that of others yet to be
"Hours passed away in this silent and sinister communion with the
dead. A pale light at length announced the dawn of a new day, and
a bright ray glistened on the bed, shedding a dash of fire on the
bedclothes and on her hands. This was the hour she had so much
loved, when the waking birds began to sing in the trees.
"I opened the window to its fullest extent, I drew back the
curtains, so that the whole heavens might look in upon us. Then
bending toward the glassy corpse, I took in my hands the
mutilated head, and slowly, without terror or disgust, imprinted
a long, long kiss upon those lips which had never before received
the salute of love."
* * * * * * *
Leon Chenal remained silent. The women wept. We heard on the box
seat Count d'Etraille blow his nose, from time to time. The
coachman alone had gone to sleep. The horses, which felt no
longer the sting of the whip, had slackened their pace and
dragged softly along. And the four-in-hand, hardly moving at all,
became suddenly torpid, as if laden with sorrow.
CUTS AND WOUNDS WHICH CAUSED DEATH. That was the heading of the
charge which brought Leopold Renard, upholsterer, before the
Round him were the principal witnesses, Madame Flameche, widow of
the victim, Louis Ladureau, cabinetmaker, and Jean Durdent,
Near the criminal was his wife, dressed in black, a little ugly
woman, who looked like a monkey dressed as a lady.
This is how Renard described the drama:
"Good heavens, it is a misfortune of which I am the first and
last victim, and with which my will has nothing to do. The facts
are their own commentary, Monsieur le President. I am an honest
man, a hard-working man, an upholsterer in the same street for
the last sixteen years, known, liked, respected, and esteemed by
all, as my neighbors have testified, even the porter, who is not
folatre every day. I am fond of work, I am fond of saving, I like
honest men, and respectable pleasures. That is what has ruined
me, so much the worse for me; but as my will had nothing to do
with it, I continue to respect myself.
"Every Sunday for the last five years, my wife and I have spent
the day at Passy. We get fresh air, not to say that we are fond
of fishing--as fond of it as we are of small onions. Melie
inspired me with that passion, the jade; she is more enthusiastic
than I am, the scold, and all the mischief in this business is
her fault, as you will see immediately.
"I am strong and mild-tempered, without a pennyworth of malice in
me. But she! oh! la! la! she looks insignificant, she is short
and thin, but she does more mischief than a weasel. I do not deny
that she has some good qualities; she has some, and those very
important to a man in business. But her character! Just ask about
it in the neighborhood; even the porter's wife, who has just sent
me about my business--she will tell you something about it.
"Every day she used to find fault with my mild temper: 'I would
not put up with this! I would not put up with that.' If I had
listened to her, Monsieur le President, I should have had at
least three bouts of fisticuffs a month."
Madame Renard interrupted him: "And for good reasons too; they
laugh best who laugh last."
He turned toward her frankly: "Oh! very well, I can blame you,
since you were the cause of it."
Then, facing the President again he said:
"I will continue. We used to go to Passy every Saturday evening,
so as to be able to begin fishing at daybreak the next morning.
It is a habit which has become second nature with us, as the
saying is. Three years ago this summer I discovered a place, oh!
such a spot! There, in the shade, were eight feet of water at
least and perhaps ten, a hole with a retour under the bank, a
regular retreat for fish and a paradise for any fisherman. I
might look upon that hole as my property, Monsieur le President,
as I was its Christopher Columbus. Everybody in the neighborhood
knew it, without making any opposition. They used to say: 'That
is Renard's place'; and nobody would have gone to it, not even
Monsieur Plumsay, who is renowned, be it said without any
offense, for appropriating other people's places.
"Well, I went as usual to that place, of which I felt as certain
as if I had owned it. I had scarcely got there on Saturday, when
I got into 'Delila,' with my wife. 'Delila' is my Norwegian boat,
which I had built by Fourmaise, and which is light and safe.
Well, as I said, we got into the boat and we were going to bait,
and for baiting there is nobody to be compared with me, and they
all know it. You want to know with what I bait? I cannot answer
that question; it has nothing to do with the accident; I cannot
answer, that is my secret. There are more than three hundred
people who have asked me; I have been offered glasses of brandy
and liquors, fried fish, matelots, to make me tell! But just
go and try whether the chub will come. Ah! they have patted my
stomach to get at my secret, my recipe. Only my wife knows, and
she will not tell it, any more than I shall! Is not that so,
 A preparation of several kinds of fish, with a sharp sauce.
The President of the Court interrupted him:
"Just get to the facts as soon as you can."
The accused continued: "I am getting to them; I am getting to
them. Well, on Saturday. July 8, we left by the five twenty-five
train, and before dinner we went to ground-bait as usual. The
weather promised to keep fine, and I said to Melie: 'All right
for to-morrow!' And she replied: 'It looks like it.' We never
talk more than that together.
"And then we returned to dinner. I was happy and thirsty, and
that was the cause of everything. I said to Melie: 'Look here
Melie, it is fine weather, so suppose I drink a bottle of Casque
a meche. That is a little white wine which we have christened so,
because if you drink too much of it it prevents you from sleeping
and is the opposite of a nightcap. Do you understand me?
"She replied: 'You can do as you please, but you will be ill
again, and will not be able to get up to-morrow.' That was true,
sensible, prudent, and clear-sighted, I must confess.
Nevertheless, I could not withstand it, and I drank my bottle. It
all comes from that.
"Well, I could not sleep. By Jove! It kept me awake till two
o'clock in the morning, and then I went to sleep so soundly that
I should not have heard the angel shouting at the Last Judgment.
"In short, my wife woke me at six o'clock and I jumped out of
bed, hastily put on my trousers and jersey, washed my face and
jumped on board 'Delila.' But it was too late, for when I arrived
at my hole it was already taken! Such a thing had never happened
to me in three years, and it made me feel as if I were being
robbed under my own eyes. I said to myself, Confound it all!
confound it! And then my wife began to nag at me. 'Eh! What about
your Casque a meche! Get along, you drunkard! Are you satisfied,
you great fool?' I could say nothing, because it was all quite
true, and so I landed all the same near the spot and tried to
profit by what was left. Perhaps after all the fellow might catch
nothing, and go away.
"He was a little thin man, in white linen coat and waistcoat, and
with a large straw hat, and his wife, a fat woman who was doing
embroidery, was behind him.
"When she saw us take up our position close to their place, she
murmured: 'I suppose there are no other places on the river!' And
my wife, who was furious, replied: 'People who know how to behave
make inquiries about the habits of the neighborhood before
occupying reserved spots.'
"As I did not want a fuss, I said to her: 'Hold your tongue,
Melie. Let them go on, let them go on; we shall see.'
"Well, we had fastened 'Delila' under the willow-trees, and had
landed and were fishing side by side, Melie and I, close to the
two others; but here, Monsieur, I must enter into details.