Part 5 out of 6
to watch the man who lay unsuspectingly at her feet.
She soon found out that he was no conspirator; but she asked
herself in vain whether she was to look for a common swindler, an
impudent adventurer, or perhaps even a criminal in him. The day
that she had foreseen soon came; the Brazilian's banker
"unaccountably" had omitted to send him any money, and so he
borrowed some of her. "So he is a male courtesan," she said to
herself. The handsome man soon required money again, and she lent
it to him again. Then at last he left suddenly and nobody knew
where he had gone to; only this much, that he had left Vevey as
the companion of an old but wealthy Wallachian lady. So this time
clever Wanda was duped.
A year afterward she met the Brazilian unexpectedly at Lucca,
with an insipid-looking, light-haired, thin Englishwoman on his
arm. Wanda stood still and looked at him steadily, but he glanced
at her quite indifferently; he did not choose to know her again.
The next morning, however, his valet brought her a letter from
him, which contained the amount of his debt in Italian
hundred-lire notes, accompanied by a very cool excuse. Wanda was
satisfied, but she wished to find out who the lady was, in whose
company she constantly saw Don Escovedo.
An Austrian count, who had a loud and silly laugh, said:
"Who has saddled you with that yarn? The lady is Lady
Nitingsdale, and his name is Romanesco."
"Yes, he is a rich Boyar from Moldavia, where he has extensive
Romanesco ran a faro bank in his apartments, and certainly
cheated, for he nearly always won; it was not long, therefore,
before other people in good society at Lucca shared Madame von
Chabert's suspicions, and, consequently, Romanesco thought it
advisable to vanish as suddenly from Lucca as Escovedo had done
from Vevey, and without leaving any more traces behind him.
Some time afterward, Madame von Chabert was on the Island of
Heligoland, for the sea-bathing; and one day she saw
Escovedo-Romanesco sitting opposite to her at the table d'hote,
in very animated conversation with a Russian lady; only his hair
had turned black since she had seen him last. Evidently his light
hair had become too compromising for him.
"The sea-water seems to have a very remarkable effect upon your
hair," Wanda said to him spitefully, in a whisper.
"Do you think so?" he replied, condescendingly.
"I fancy that at one time your hair was fair."
"You are mistaking me for somebody else," the Brazilian replied,
"I am not."
"For whom do you take me, pray?" he said with an insolent smile.
"For Don Escovedo."
"I am Count Dembizki from Valkynia," the former Brazilian said
with a bow; "perhaps you would like to see my passport."
And he had the impudence to show her his false passport.
A year afterward Wanda met Count Dembizki in Baden, near Vienna.
His hair was still black, but he had a magnificent, full, black
beard; he had become a Greek prince, and his name was Anastasio
Maurokordatos. She met him once in one of the side walks in the
park, where he could not avoid her. "If it goes on like this,"
she called out to him in a mocking voice, "the next time I see
you, you will be king, of some negro tribe or other."
That time, however, the Brazilian did not deny his identity; on
the contrary, he surrendered at discretion, and implored her not
to betray him. As she was not revengeful she pardoned him, after
enjoying his terror for a time, and promised him that she would
hold her tongue, as long as he did nothing contrary to the laws.
"First of all, I must beg you not to gamble."
"You have only to command; and we do not know each other in the
"I must certainly insist on that," she said maliciously.
The "Exotic Prince" had, however, made a conquest of the charming
daughter of a wealthy Austrian count, and had cut out an
excellent young officer, who was wooing her. The latter, in his
despair, began to make love to Frau von Chabert, and at last told
her he loved her. But she only laughed at him.
"You are very cruel," he stammered in confusion.
"I? What are you thinking about?" Wanda replied, still smiling;
"all I mean is that you have directed your love to the wrong
address, for Countess--"
"Do not speak of her; she is engaged to another man."
"As long as I choose to permit it," she said; "but what will you
do if I bring her back to your arms? Will you still call me
"Can you do this?" the young officer asked, in great excitement.
"Well, supposing I can do it, what shall I be then?"
"An angel, whom I shall thank on my knees."
A few days later, the rivals met at a coffee-house; the Greek
prince began to lie and boast, and the Austrian officer gave him
the lie direct. In consequence, it was arranged that they should
fight a duel with pistols next morning in a wood close to Baden.
But as the officer was leaving the house with his seconds the
next morning, a Police Commissary came up to him and begged him
not to trouble himself any further about the matter, but another
time to be more careful before accepting a challenge.
"What does it mean?" the officer asked, in some surprise.
"It means that this Maurokordatos is a dangerous swindler and
adventurer, whom we have just taken into custody."
"He is not a prince?"
"No; a circus rider."
An hour later, the officer received a letter from the charming
Countess, in which she humbly begged for pardon. The happy lover
set off to go and see her immediately, but on the way a sudden
thought struck him, and so he turned back in order to thank
beautiful Wanda, as he had promised, on his knees.
THE FALSE GEMS
M. Lantin had met the young woman at a soiree, at the home of the
assistant chief of his bureau, and at first sight had fallen
madly in love with her.
She was the daughter of a country physician who had died some
months previously. She had come to live in Paris, with her
mother, who visited much among her acquaintances, in the hope of
making a favorable marriage for her daughter. They were poor and
honest, quiet and unaffected.
The young girl was a perfect type of the virtuous woman whom
every sensible young man dreams of one day winning for life. Her
simple beauty had the charm of angelic modesty, and the
imperceptible smile which constantly hovered about her lips
seemed to be the reflection of a pure and lovely soul. Her
praises resounded on every side. People were never tired of
saying: "Happy the man who wins her love! He could not find a
Now M. Lantin enjoyed a snug little income of $700, and, thinking
he could safely assume the responsibilities of matrimony,
proposed to this model young girl and was accepted.
He was unspeakably happy with her; she governed his household so
cleverly and economically that they seemed to live in luxury. She
lavished the most delicate attentions on her husband, coaxed and
fondled him, and the charm of her presence was so great that six
years after their marriage M. Lantin discovered that he loved his
wife even more than during the first days of their honeymoon.
He only felt inclined to blame her for two things: her love of
the theater, and a taste for false jewelry. Her friends (she was
acquainted with some officers' wives) frequently procured for her
a box at the theater, often for the first representations of the
new plays; and her husband was obliged to accompany her, whether
he willed or not, to these amusements, though they bored him
excessively after a day's labor at the office.
After a time, M. Lantin begged his wife to get some lady of her
acquaintance to accompany her. She was at first opposed to such
an arrangement; but, after much persuasion on his part, she
finally consented--to the infinite delight of her husband.
Now, with her love for the theater came also the desire to adorn
her person. True, her costumes remained as before, simple, and in
the most correct taste; but she soon began to ornament her ears
with huge rhinestones which glittered and sparkled like real
diamonds. Around her neck she wore strings of false pearls, and
on her arms bracelets of imitation gold.
Her husband frequently remonstrated with her, saying:
"My dear, as you cannot afford to buy real diamonds, you ought to
appear adorned with your beauty and modesty alone, which are the
rarest ornaments of your sex."
But she would smile sweetly, and say:
"What can I do? I am so fond of jewelry. It is my only weakness.
We cannot change our natures."
Then she would roll the pearl necklaces around her fingers, and
hold up the bright gems for her husband's admiration, gently
"Look! are they not lovely? One would swear they were real."
M. Lantin would then answer, smilingly:
"You have Bohemian tastes, my dear."
Often of an evening, when they were enjoying a tete-a-tete by the
fireside, she would place on the tea table the leather box
containing the "trash," as M. Lantin called it. She would examine
the false gems with a passionate attention as though they were in
some way connected with a deep and secret joy; and she often
insisted on passing a necklace around her husband's neck, and
laughing heartily would exclaim: "How droll you look!" Then she
would throw herself into his arms and kiss him affectionately.
One evening in winter she attended the opera, and on her return
was chilled through and through. The next morning she coughed,
and eight days later she died of inflammation of the lungs.
M. Lantin's despair was so great that his hair became white in
one month. He wept unceasingly; his heart was torn with grief,
and his mind was haunted by the remembrance, the smile, the
voice--by every charm of his beautiful, dead wife.
Time, the healer, did not assuage his grief. Often during office
hours, while his colleagues were discussing the topics of the
day, his eyes would suddenly fill with tears, and he would give
vent to his grief in heartrending sobs. Everything in his wife's
room remained as before her decease; and here he was wont to
seclude himself daily and think of her who had been his
treasure--the joy of his existence.
But life soon became a struggle. His income, which in the hands
of his wife had covered all household expenses, was now no longer
sufficient for his own immediate wants; and he wondered how she
could have managed to buy such excellent wines, and such rare
delicacies, things which he could no longer procure with his
He incurred some debts and was soon reduced to absolute poverty.
One morning, finding himself without a cent in his pocket, he
resolved to sell something, and, immediately, the thought
occurred to him of disposing of his wife's paste jewels. He
cherished in his heart a sort of rancor against the false gems.
They had always irritated him in the past, and the very sight of
them spoiled somewhat the memory of his lost darling.
To the last days of her life, she had continued to make
purchases; bringing home new gems almost every evening. He
decided to sell the heavy necklace which she seemed to prefer,
and which, he thought, ought to be worth about six or seven
francs; for although paste it was, nevertheless, of very fine
He put it in his pocket and started out in search of a jeweler's
shop. He entered the first one he saw--feeling a little ashamed
to expose his misery, and also to offer such a worthless article
"Sir," said he to the merchant, "I would like to know what this
The man took the necklace, examined it, called his clerk and made
some remarks in an undertone; then he put the ornament back on
the counter, and looked at it from a distance to judge of the
M. Lantin was annoyed by all this detail and was on the point of
saying: "Oh! I know well enough it is not worth anything," when
the jeweler said: "Sir, that necklace is worth from twelve to
fifteen thousand francs; but I could not buy it unless you tell
me now whence it comes."
The widower opened his eyes wide and remained gaping, not
comprehending the merchant's meaning. Finally he stammered:. "You
say--are you sure?" The other replied dryly: "You can search
elsewhere and see if anyone will offer you more. I consider it
worth fifteen thousand at the most. Come back here if you cannot
M. Lantin, beside himself with astonishment, took up the necklace
and left the store. He wished time for reflection.
Once outside, he felt inclined to laugh, and said to himself:
"The fool! Had I only taken him at his word! That jeweler cannot
distinguish real diamonds from paste."
A few minutes after, he entered another store in the Rue de la
Paix. As soon as the proprietor glanced at the necklace, he cried
"Ah, parbleu! I know it well; it was bought here."
M. Lantin was disturbed, and asked:
"How much is it worth?"
"Well, I sold it for twenty thousand francs. I am willing to take
it back for eighteen thousand when you inform me, according to
our legal formality, how it comes to be in your possession."
This time M. Lantin was dumfounded. He replied:
"But--but--examine it well. Until this moment I was under the
impression that it was paste."
Said the jeweler:
"What is your name, sir?"
"Lantin--I am in the employ of the Minister of the Interior. I
live at No. 16 Rue des Martyrs."
The merchant looked through his books, found the entry, and said:
"That necklace was sent to Mme. Lantin's address, 16 Rue des
Martyrs, July 20, 1876."
The two men looked into each other's eyes--the widower speechless
with astonishment, the jeweler scenting a thief. The latter broke
the silence by saying:
"Will you leave this necklace here for twenty-four hours? I will
give you a receipt."
"Certainly," answered M. Lantin, hastily. Then, putting the
ticket in his pocket, he left the store.
He wandered aimlessly through the streets, his mind in a state of
dreadful confusion. He tried to reason, to understand. His wife
could not afford to purchase such a costly ornament. Certainly
not. But, then, it must have been a present!--a present!--a
present from whom? Why was it given her?
He stopped and remained standing in the middle of the street. A
horrible doubt entered his mind--she? Then all the other gems
must have been presents, too! The earth seemed to tremble beneath
him,--the tree before him was falling--throwing up his arms, he
fell to the ground, unconscious. He recovered his senses in a
pharmacy into which the passers-by had taken him, and was then
taken to his home. When he arrived he shut himself up in his room
and wept until nightfall. Finally, overcome with fatigue, he
threw himself on the bed, where he passed an uneasy, restless
The following morning he arose and prepared to go to the office.
It was hard to work after such a, shock. He sent a letter to his
employer requesting to be excused. Then he remembered that he had
to return to the jeweler's. He did not like the idea; but he
could not leave the necklace with that man. So he dressed and
It was a lovely day; a clear blue sky smiled on the busy city
below, and men of leisure were strolling about with their hands
in their pockets.
Observing them, M. Lantin said to himself: "The rich, indeed, are
happy. With money it is possible to forget even the deepest
sorrow. One can go where one pleases, and in travel find that
distraction which is the surest cure for grief. Oh! if I were
He began to feel hungry, but his pocket was empty. He again
remembered the necklace. Eighteen thousand francs! Eighteen
thousand francs! What a sum!
He soon arrived in the Rue de la Paix, opposite the jeweler's.
Eighteen thousand francs! Twenty times he resolved to go in, but
shame kept him back. He was hungry, however,--very hungry, and
had not a cent in his pocket. He decided quickly, ran across the
street in order not to have time for reflection, and entered the
The proprietor immediately came forward, and politely offered him
a chair; the clerks glanced at him knowingly.
"I have made inquiries, M. Lantin," said the jeweler, "and if you
are still resolved to dispose of the gems, I am ready to pay you
the price I offered."
"Certainly, sir," stammered M. Lantin.
Whereupon the proprietor took from a drawer eighteen large bills,
counted and handed them to M. Lantin, who signed a receipt and
with a trembling hand put the money into his pocket.
As he was about to leave the store, he turned toward the
merchant, who still wore the same knowing smile, and lowering his
"I have--I have other gems which I have received from the same
source. Will you buy them also?"
The merchant bowed: "Certainly, sir."
M. Lantin said gravely: "I will bring them to you." An hour later
he returned with the gems.
The large diamond earrings were worth twenty thousand francs; the
bracelets thirty-five thousand; the rings, sixteen thousand; a
set of emeralds and sapphires, fourteen thousand; a gold chain
with solitaire pendant, forty thousand--making the sum of one
hundred and forty-three thousand francs.
The jeweler remarked, jokingly:
"There was a person who invested all her earnings in precious
M. Lantin replied, seriously:
"It is only another way of investing one's money."
That day he lunched at Voisin's and drank wine worth twenty
francs a bottle. Then he hired a carriage and made a tour of the
Bois, and as he scanned the various turn-outs with a contemptuous
air he could hardly refrain from crying out to the occupants:
"I, too, am rich!--I am worth two hundred thousand francs."
Suddenly he thought of his employer. He drove up to the office,
and entered gaily, saying:
"Sir, I have come to resign my position. I have just inherited
three hundred thousand francs."
He shook hands with his former colleagues and confided to them
some of his projects for the future; then he went off to dine at
the Cafe Anglais.
He seated himself beside a gentleman of aristocratic bearing, and
during the meal informed the latter confidentially that he had
just inherited a fortune of four hundred thousand francs.
For the first time in his life he was not bored at the theater,
and spent the remainder of the night in a gay frolic.
Six months afterward he married again. His second wife was a very
virtuous woman, with a violent temper. She caused him much
They were discussing dynamite, the social revolution, Nihilism,
and even those who cared least about politics had something to
say. Some were alarmed, others philosophized, and others again
tried to smile.
"Bah!" N----said, "when we are all blown up, we shall see what it
is like. Perhaps, after all, it may be an amusing sensation,
provided one goes high enough."
"But we shall not be blown up at all," G----, the optimist, said,
interrupting him. "It is all a romance."
"You are mistaken, my dear fellow," Jules de C----replied. "It is
like a romance, but with this confounded Nihilism, everything is
the same; it would be a mistake to trust to it. For instance, the
manner in which I made Bakounine's acquaintance--"
They knew that he was a good narrator, and it was no secret that
his life had been an adventurous one, so they drew closer to him,
and listened intently. This is what he told them:
"I met Countess Nioska W----, that strange woman who was usually
called Countess Satan, in Naples. I immediately attached myself
to her out of curiosity, and soon fell in love with her. Not that
she was beautiful, for she was a Russian with the bad
characteristics of the Russian type. She was thin and squat at
the same time, while her face was sallow and puffy, with high
cheek-bones and a Cossack's nose. But her conversation bewitched
"She was many-sided, learned, a philosopher, scientifically
depraved, satanic. Perhaps the word is rather pretentious, but it
exactly expresses what I want to say, for in other words she
loved evil for the sake of evil. She rejoiced in other people's
vices; she liked to sow the seeds of evil, in order to see it
flourish. And that, too, by fraud on an enormous scale. It was
not enough for her to corrupt individuals, she only did that to
keep her hand in; what she wished to do was to corrupt the
masses. By slightly altering it after her own fashion, she might
have used Caligula's famous wish. She also might have wished that
the whole human race had but one head; not in order that she
might cut it off, but that she might make the philosophy of
Nihilism flourish there.
"What a temptation to become the lord and master of such a
monster! I allowed myself to be tempted, and undertook the
adventure. The means came unsought for by me, and the only thing
that I had to do was to show myself more perverted and satanic
than she was herself. And so I played the devil.
" 'Yes,' I said, 'we writers are the best workmen for doing evil,
as our books may be bottles of poison. The so-called men of
action only turn the handle of the mitrailleuse which we have
loaded. Formulas will destroy the world, and it is we who invent
" 'That is true,' said she, 'and that is what is wanting in
Bakounine, I am sorry to say.'
"That name was constantly in her mouth. So I asked her for
details, which she gave me, as she knew the man intimately.
" 'After all,' she said, with a contemptuous grimace, 'he is only
a kind of Garibaldi.'
"She told me, although she made fun of him as she did so, about
that 'Odyssey' of the barricades and of the hulks which made up
Bakounine's history, and which is, nevertheless, the exact truth;
about his adventures as chief of the insurgents at Prague and
then at Dresden; of his first death sentence; about his
imprisonment at Olmutz, in the casemates of the fortress of St.
Peter and St. Paul, and in a subterranean dungeon at
Schusselburg; about his exile to Siberia and his wonderful escape
down the river Amour, on a Japanese coasting-vessel, and about
his final arrival, by way of Yokohama and San Francisco, in London,
whence he was directing all the operations of Nihilism.
" 'You see,' she said, 'he is a thorough adventurer, and now all
his adventures are over. He got married at Tobolsk and became a
mere respectable, middle-class man. And then he has no individual
ideas. Herzen, the pamphleteer of "Kolokol," inspired him with
the only fertile phrase that he ever uttered: "Land and Liberty!"
But that is not yet the definite formula, the general
formula--what I may call the dynamite formula. At best, Bakounine
would only become an incendiary, and burn down cities. And what
is that, I ask you? Bah! A second-hand Rostoptchin! He wants a
prompter, and I offered to become his, but he did not take me
* * * * * * *
"It would be useless to enter into all the psychological details
which marked the course of my passion for the Countess, and to
explain to you more fully the curious and daily growing
attraction which she had for me. It was getting exasperating, and
the more so as she resisted me as stoutly as the shyest of
innocents could have done. At the end of a month of mad Satanism,
I saw what her game was. Do you know what she intended? She meant
to make me Bakounine's prompter, or, at any rate, that is what
she said. But no doubt she reserved the right to herself--at
least that is how I understood her--to prompt the prompter, and
my passion for her, which she purposely left unsatisfied, assured
her that absolute power over me.
"All this may appear madness to you, but it is, nevertheless, the
exact truth. In short, one morning she bluntly made the offer:
" 'Become Bakounine's soul, and you shall possess me.'
"Of course I accepted, for it was too fantastically strange to
refuse. Don't you think so? What an adventure! What luck! A
number of letters between the Countess and Bakounine prepared the
way; I was introduced to him at his house, and they discussed me
there. I became a sort of Western prophet, a mystic charmer who
was ready to nihilize the Latin races, the Saint Paul of the new
religion of nothingness, and at last a day was fixed for us to
meet in London. He lived in a small, one-storied house in
Pimlico, with a tiny garden in front, and nothing noticeable
"We were first of all shown into the commonplace parlor of all
English homes, and then upstairs. The room where the Countess and
I were left was small, and very badly furnished. It had a square
table with writing materials on it, in the center of the room.
This was his sanctuary. The deity soon appeared, and I saw him in
flesh and bone--especially in flesh, for he was enormously stout.
His broad face, with prominent cheek-bones, in spite of fat; a
nose like a double funnel; and small, sharp eyes, which had a
magnetic lock, proclaimed the Tartar, the old Turanian blood
which produced the Attilas, the Genghis-Khans, the Tamerlanes.
The obesity which is characteristic of nomad races, who are
always on horseback or driving, added to his Asiatic look. The
man was certainly not a European, a slave, a descendant of the
deistic Aryans, but a scion of the atheistic hordes who had
several times already almost overrun Europe, and who, instead of
ideas of progress, have Nihilism buried in their hearts.
"I was astonished, for I had not expected that the majesty of a
whole race could be thus revived in a man, and my stupefaction
increased after an hour's conversation. I could quite understand
why such a Colossus had not wished for the Countess as his
Egeria; she was a silly child to have dreamed of acting such a
part to such a thinker. She had not felt the profoundness of that
horrible, philosophy which was hidden under his material
activity, nor had she seen the prophet under this hero of the
barricades. Perhaps he had not thought it advisable to reveal
himself to her; but he revealed himself to me, and inspired me
"A prophet? Oh! yes. He thought himself an Attila, and foresaw
the consequences of his revolution; it was not only from instinct
but also from theory that he urged a nation on to Nihilism. The
phrase is not his, but Turgenieff's, I believe, but the idea
certainly belonged to him. He got his programme of agricultural
communism from Herzen, and his destructive radicalism from
Pougatcheff, but he did not stop there. I mean that he went on to
evil for the sake of evil. Herzen wished for the happiness of the
Slav peasant; Pougatcheff wanted to be elected Emperor, but all
that Bakounine wanted was to overthrow the actual order of
things, no matter by what means, and to replace social
concentration by a universal upheaval.
"It was the dream of a Tartar; it was true Nihilism pushed to
extreme and practical conclusions. It was, in a word, the applied
philosophy of chance, the indeterminate end of anarchy. Monstrous
it may be, but grand in its monstrosity!
"And you must note that the typical man of action so despised by
the Countess was, in Bakounine, the gigantic dreamer whom I have
just shown to you. His dream did not remain a dream, but began to
be realized. It was by the care of Bakounine that the Nihilistic
party became an entity; a party in which there is a little of
everything, you know, but on the whole, a formidable party, the
advanced guard of which is true Nihilism, whose object is nothing
less than to destroy the Western world, to see it blossom from
under the ruins of a general dispersion, the last conception of
"I never saw Bakounine again, for the Countess's conquest would
have been too dearly bought by any attempt to act a comedy with
this 'Old-Man-of-the-Mountain.' And besides that, after this
visit, poor Countess Satan appeared to me quite silly. Her famous
Satanism was nothing but the flicker of a spirit-lamp, after the
general conflagration of which the other had dreamed. She had
certainly shown herself very silly, when she could not understand
that prodigious monster. And as she had seduced me only by her
intellect and her perversity, I was disgusted as soon as she laid
aside that mask. I left her without telling her of my intention,
and never saw her again, either.
"No doubt they both took me for a spy from the 'Third Section of
the Imperial Chancellery.' In that case, they must have thought
me very clever to have escaped discovery, and all I have to do is
to look out, lest any affiliated members of their society
Then he smiled and, turning to the waiter who had just come in,
said: "Open another bottle of champagne, and make the cork pop!
It will, at any rate, remind us of the day when we ourselves
shall be blown up with dynamite."
THE COLONEL'S IDEAS
"upon my word," said Colonel Laporte, "I am old and gouty, my
legs are as stiff as two sticks, and yet if a pretty woman were
to tell me to go through the eye of a needle, I believe I should
take a jump at it, like a clown through a hoop. I shall die like
that; it is in the blood. I am an old beau, one of the old
regime, and the sight of a woman, a pretty woman, stirs me to the
tips of my toes. There!
"And then we are all very much alike in France; we remain
cavaliers, cavaliers of love and fortune, since God has been
abolished, whose bodyguard we really were. But nobody will ever
get the woman out of our hearts; there she is, and there she will
remain; we love her, and shall continue to love her, and to
commit all kinds of frolics on her account, so long as there is a
France on the map of Europe. And even if France were to be wiped
off the map, there would always be Frenchmen left.
"When I am in the presence of a woman, of a pretty woman, I feel
capable of anything. By Jove, when I feel her looks penetrating
me, those confounded looks which set your blood on fire, I could
do anything: fight a duel, have a row, smash the furniture,
anything just to show that I am the strongest, the bravest, the
most daring, and the most devoted of men.
"But I am not the only one--certainly not; the whole French army
is like me, that I will swear to. From the common soldier to the
general, we all go forward, and to the very end, mark you, when
there is a woman in the case, a pretty woman. Remember what Joan
of Arc made us do formerly! Come, I'd make a bet that if a pretty
woman had taken command of the army on the eve of Sedan, when
Marshal MacMahon was wounded, we should have broken through the
Prussian lines, by Jove! and have had a drink out of their guns.
"It was not Trochu, but Saint Genevieve, who was required in
Paris, and I remember a little anecdote of the war which proves
that we are capable of everything in the presence of a woman.
"I was a captain, a simple captain, at the time, and was in
command of a detachment of scouts who were retreating through a
district swarming with Prussians. We were surrounded, pursued,
tired out, and half dead with fatigue and hunger, and by the next
day we had to reach Bar-sur-Tain; otherwise we should be done
for, cut off from the main body and killed. I do not know how we
managed to escape so far. However, we had ten leagues to go
during the night, ten leagues through the snow, and upon empty
stomachs. I thought to myself:
" 'It is all over; my poor fellows will never be able to do it.'
"We had eaten nothing since the day before, and the whole day
long we remained hidden in a barn, huddled close together, so as
not to feel the cold so much; we did not venture to speak or even
move, and we slept by fits and starts, like you sleep when you
are worn out with fatigue.
"It was dark by five o'clock, that wan darkness caused by the
snow, and I shook up my men. Some of them would not get up; they
were almost incapable of moving or of standing upright, and their
joints were stiff from the cold and want of motion.
"In front of us there was a large expanse of flat, bare country;
the snow was still falling like a curtain, in large, white
flakes, which concealed everything under a heavy, thick, frozen
mantle, a mattress of ice. You would have thought that it was the
end of things.
" 'Come, my lads, let us start.'
"They looked at the thick, white dust which was coming down, and
seemed to think: 'We have had enough of this; we may just as well
die here!' Then I took out my revolver, and said:
" 'I will shoot the first man who flinches.' And so they set off,
but very slowly, like men whose legs were of very little use to
them. I sent four of them three hundred yards ahead, to scout,
and the others followed pellmell, walking at random and without
any order. I put the strongest in the rear, with orders to
quicken the pace of the sluggards with the points of their
bayonets in the back.
"The snow seemed as if it were going to bury us alive; it
powdered our kepis and cloaks without melting, and made
phantoms of us, ghosts of worn-out soldiers who were very tired,
and I said to myself: 'We shall never get out of this, except by
"Sometimes we had to stop for a few minutes, on account of those
who could not follow us, hearing nothing but the falling snow,
that vague, almost indiscernible sound which the flakes make, as
they come down together. Some of the men shook themselves, but
others did not move, and so I gave the order to set off again;
they shouldered their rifles, and with weary feet we set out
again, when suddenly the scouts fell back. Something had alarmed
them; they had heard voices in front of them, and so I sent six
men and a sergeant on ahead, and waited.
"All at once a shrill cry, a woman's cry, pierced through the
heavy silence of the snow, and in a few minutes they brought back
two prisoners, an old man and a girl, whom I questioned in a low
voice. They were escaping from the Prussians, who had occupied
their house during the evening, and who had got drunk. The father
had become alarmed on his daughter's account, and, without even
telling their servants, they had made their escape into the
darkness. I saw immediately that they belonged to the upper
classes, and, as I should have done in any case, I invited them
to come with us. So we started off together, and as the old man
knew the road, he acted as our guide.
"It had ceased snowing; the stars appeared, and the cold became
intense. The girl, who was leaning on her father's arm, walked
wearily and with jerks, and several times she murmured:
" 'I have no feeling at all in my feet.' I suffered more than she
did, I believe, to see that poor little woman dragging herself
like that through the snow. But suddenly she stopped, and said:
" 'Father, I am so tired that I cannot go any further.'
"The old man wanted to carry her, but he could not even lift her
up, and she fell on the ground with a deep sigh. We all came
round her, and as for me, I stamped on the ground, not knowing
what to do, quite unable to make up my mind to abandon that man
and girl like that. Suddenly one of the soldiers, a Parisian,
whom they had nicknamed 'Pratique,' said:
" 'Come, comrades, we must carry the young lady, otherwise we
shall not show ourselves Frenchmen, confound it!'
"I really believe that I swore with pleasure, and said: 'That is
very good of you, my children; I will take my share of the
"We could indistinctly see the trees of a little wood on the
left, through the darkness. Several men went into it, and soon
came back with a bundle of branches twisted into a litter.
" 'Who will lend his cloak? It is for a pretty girl, comrades,'
Pratique said, and ten cloaks were thrown to him. In a moment,
the girl was lying, warm and comfortable, among them, and was
raised upon six shoulders. I placed myself at their head, on the
right, and very pleased I was with my charge.
"We started off much more briskly, as if we had been having a
drink of wine, and I even heard a few jokes. A woman is quite
enough to electrify Frenchmen, you see. The soldiers, who were
reanimated and warm, had almost reformed their ranks, and an old
franc-tireur who was following the litter, waiting for his
turn to replace the first of his comrades who might give in, said
to one of his neighbors, loud enough for me to hear:
 Volunteers, in the Franco-German war of 1870-71, of whom the
Germans often made short work when caught.
" 'I am not a young man, now; but by Jove, there is nothing like
a woman to make you feel queer from head to foot!'
"We went on, almost without stopping, until three o'clock in the
morning, when suddenly our scouts fell back again. Soon the whole
detachment showed nothing but a vague shadow on the ground, as
the men lay on the snow, and I gave my orders in a low voice, and
heard the harsh, metallic sound of the cocking of rifles. There,
in the middle of the plain, some strange object was moving about.
It might have been taken for some enormous animal running about,
which uncoiled itself like a serpent, or came together into a
coil, then suddenly went quickly to the right or left, stopped,
and then went on again. But presently the wandering shape came
near, and I saw a dozen lancers, one behind the other, who were
trying to find their way, which they had lost.
"By this time they were so near that I could hear the panting of
the horses, the clink of the swords, and the creaking of the
saddles, and so cried: 'Fire!'
"Fifty rifle-shots broke the stillness of the night; then there
were four or five reports, and at last one single shot was heard.
When the smoke had cleared away we saw that the twelve men and
nine horses had fallen. Three of the animals were galloping away
at a furious pace. One of them was dragging the body of its rider
behind it. His foot had caught in the stirrup, and his body
rebounded from the ground in a horrible way.
"One of the soldiers behind me gave a harsh laugh, and said:
'There are a few more widows now!'
"Perhaps he was married. And another added: 'It did not take
"A head was put out of the litter:
" 'What is the matter?' she asked; 'you are fighting?'
" 'It is nothing, Mademoiselle,' I replied; 'we have got rid of a
" 'Poor fellows!' she said. But as she was cold, she quickly
disappeared beneath the cloaks again, and we started off once
more. We marched on for a long time, and at last the sky began to
grow pale. The snow became quite clear, luminous, and bright, and
a rosy tint appeared in the east. Suddenly a voice in the
" 'Who goes there?'
"The whole detachment halted, and I advanced to say who we were.
We had reached the French lines, and as my men defiled before the
outpost, a commandant on horseback, whom I had informed of what
had taken place, asked in a sonorous voice, as he saw the litter
" 'What have you there?'
"And immediately a small head, covered with light hair, appeared,
disheveled and smiling, and replied:
" 'It is I, Monsieur.'
"At this, the men raised a hearty laugh, and we felt quite
light-hearted, while Pratique, who was walking by the side of the
litter, waved his kepi, and shouted:
"Vive la France!' And I felt really moved. I do not know why,
except that I thought it a pretty and gallant thing to say.
"It seemed to me as if we had just saved the whole of France, and
had done something that other men could not have done, something
simple, and really patriotic. I shall never forget that little
face, you may be sure, and if I had to give my opinion about
abolishing drums, trumpets, and bugles, I should propose to
replace them in every regiment by a pretty girl, and that would
be even better than playing the 'Marseillaise.' By Jove! it would
put some spirit into a trooper to have a Madonna like that, a
living Madonna, by the colonel's side."
He was silent for a few moments, and then with an air of
conviction, and jerking his head, continued:
"You see, we are very fond of women, we Frenchmen!"
TWO LITTLE SOLDIERS
Every Sunday, the moment they were dismissed, the two little
soldiers made off. Once outside the barracks, they struck out to
the right through Courbevoie, walking with long rapid strides, as
though they were on a march.
When they were beyond the last of the houses, they slackened pace
along the bare, dusty roadway which goes toward Bezons.
They were both small and thin, and looked quite lost in their
coats, which were too big and too long. Their sleeves hung down
over their hands, and they found their enormous red breeches,
which compelled them to waddle, very much in the way. Under their
stiff, high helmets their faces had little character--two poor,
sallow Breton faces, simple with an almost animal simplicity, and
with gentle and quiet blue eyes.
They never conversed during these walks, but went straight on,
each with the same thought in his head. This thought atoned for
the lack of conversation; it was this, that just inside the
little wood near Les Champioux they had found a place which
reminded them of their own country, where they could feel happy
When they arrived under the trees where the roads from Colombes
and from Chatou cross, they would take off their heavy helmets
and wipe their foreheads. They always halted on the Bezons bridge
to look at the Seine, and would remain there two or three
minutes, bent double, leaning on the parapet.
Sometimes they would gaze out over the great basin of Argenteuil,
where the skiffs might be seen scudding, with their white,
careening sails, recalling perhaps the look of the Breton waters,
the harbor of Vanne, near which they lived, and the fishing-boats
standing out across the Morbihan to the open sea.
Just beyond the Seine they bought their provisions from a sausage
merchant, a baker, and a wine-seller. A piece of blood-pudding,
four sous' worth of bread, and a liter of "petit bleu"
constituted the provisions, which they carried off in their
handkerchiefs. After they had left Bezons they traveled slowly
and began to talk.
In front of them a barren plain studded with clumps of trees led
to the wood, to the little wood which had seemed to them to
resemble the one at Kermarivan. Grainfields and hayfields
bordered the narrow path, which lost itself in the young
greenness of the crops, and Jean Kerderen would always say to Luc
"It looks like it does near Plounivon."
Side by side they strolled, their souls filled with vague
memories of their own country, with awakened images as naive as
the pictures on the colored broadsheets which you buy for a
penny. They kept on recognizing, as it were, now a corner of a
field, a hedge, a bit of moorland, now a crossroad, now a granite
cross. Then, too, they would always stop beside a certain
landmark, a great stone, because it looked something like the
cromlech at Locneuven.
Every Sunday on arriving at the first clump of trees Luc le
Ganidec would cut a switch, a hazel switch, and begin gently to
peel off the bark, thinking meanwhile of the folk at home. Jean
Kerderen carried the provisions.
From time to time Luc would mention a name, or recall some deed
of their childhood in a few brief words, which caused long
thoughts. And their own country, their dear, distant country,
recaptured them little by little, seizing on their imaginations,
and sending to them from afar her shapes, her sounds, her
well-known prospects, her odors--odors of the green lands where
the salt sea-air was blowing.
No longer conscious of the exhalations of the Parisian stables,
on which the earth of the banlieue fattens, they scented the
perfume of the flowering broom, which the salt breeze of the open
sea plucks and bears away. And the sails of the boats from the
river banks seemed like the white wings of the coasting vessels
seen beyond the great plain which extended from their homes to
the very margin of the sea.
They walked with short steps, Luc le Ganidec and Jean Kerderen,
content and sad, haunted by a sweet melancholy, by the lingering,
ever-present sorrow of a caged animal who remembers his liberty.
By the time that Luc had stripped the slender wand of its bark
they reached the corner of the wood where every Sunday they took
breakfast. They found the two bricks which they kept hidden in
the thicket, and kindled a little fire of twigs, over which to
roast the blood-pudding at the end of a bayonet.
When they had breakfasted, eaten their bread to the last crumb,
and drunk their wine to the last drop, they remained seated side
by side upon the grass, saying nothing, their eyes on the
distance, their eyelids drooping, their fingers crossed as at
mass, their red legs stretched out beside the poppies of the
field. And the leather of their helmets and the brass of their
buttons glittered in the ardent sun, making the larks, which sang
and hovered above their heads, cease in mid-song.
Toward noon they began to turn their eyes from time to time in
the direction of the village of Bezons, because the girl with the
cow was coming. She passed by them every Sunday on her way to
milk and change the pasture of her cow--the only cow in this
district which ever went out of the stable to grass. It was
pastured in a narrow field along the edge of the wood a little
They soon perceived the girl, the only human being within vision,
and were gladdened by the brilliant reflections thrown off by the
tin milk-pail under the rays of the sun. They never talked about
her. They were simply glad to see her, without understanding why.
She was a big strong wench with red hair, burned by the heat of
sunny days, a sturdy product of the environs of Paris.
Once, finding them seated in the same place, she said:
"Good morning. You two are always here, aren't you?"
Luc le Ganidec, the bolder, stammered:
"Yes, we come to rest."
That was all. But the next Sunday she laughed on seeing them,
laughed with a protecting benevolence and a feminine keenness
which knew well enough that they were bashful. And she asked:
"What are you doing there? Are you trying to see the grass grow?"
Luc was cheered up by this, and smiled likewise: "Maybe we are."
"That's pretty slow work," said she.
He answered, still laughing: "Well, yes, it is."
She went on. But coming back with a milk-pail full of milk, she
stopped again before them, and said:
"Would you like a little? It will taste like home."
With the instinctive feeling that they were of the same peasant
race as she, being herself perhaps also far away from home, she
had divined and touched the spot.
They were both touched. Then with some difficulty, she managed to
make a little milk run into the neck of the glass bottle in which
they carried their wine. And Luc drank first, with little
swallows, stopping every minute to see whether he had drunk more
than his half. Then he handed the bottle to Jean.
She stood upright before them, her hands on her hips, her pail on
the ground at her feet, glad at the pleasure which she had given.
Then she departed, shouting: "Allons, adieu! Till next Sunday!"
And as long as they could see her at all, they followed with
their eyes her tall silhouette, which faded, growing smaller and
smaller, seeming to sink into the verdure of the fields.
When they were leaving the barracks the week after, Jean said to
"Oughtn't we to buy her something good?"
They were in great embarrassment before the problem of the choice
of a delicacy for the girl with the cow. Luc was of the opinion
that a little tripe would be the best, but Jean preferred some
berlingots because he was fond of sweets. His choice fairly made
him enthusiastic, and they bought at a grocer's two sous' worth
of white and red candies.
They ate their breakfast more rapidly than usual, being nervous
Jean saw her first. "There she is!" he cried. Luc added: "Yes,
there she is."
While yet some distance off she laughed at seeing them. Then she
"Is everything going as you like it?"
And in unison they asked:
"Are you getting on all right?"
Then she conversed, talked to them of simple things in which they
felt an interest--of the weather, of the crops, and of her
They were afraid to offer her the candies, which were slowly
melting away in Jean's pocket.
At last Luc grew bold, and murmured:
"We have brought you something."
She demanded, "What is it? Tell me!"
Then Jean, blushing up to his ears, managed to get at the little
paper cornucopia, and held it out.
She began to eat the little bonbons, rolling them from one cheek
to the other where they made little round lumps. The two
soldiers, seated before her, gazed at her with emotion and
Then she went to milk her cow, and once more gave them some milk
on coming back.
They thought of her all the week; several times they even spoke
of her. The next Sunday she sat down with them for a little
longer talk; and all three, seated side by side, their eyes lost
in the distance, clasping their knees with their hands, told the
small doings, the minute details of life in the villages where
they had been born, while over there the cow, seeing that the
milkmaid had stopped on her way, stretched out toward her its
heavy head with its dripping nostrils, and gave a long low to
Soon the girl consented to eat a bit of bread with them and drink
a mouthful of wine. She often brought them plums in her pocket,
for the season of plums had come. Her presence sharpened the wits
of the two little Breton soldiers, and they chattered like two
But, one Tuesday, Luc le Ganidec asked for leave--a thing which
had never happened before--and he did not return until ten
o'clock at night. Jean racked his brains uneasily for a reason
for his comrade's going out in this way.
The next Thursday Luc, having borrowed ten sous from his
bedfellow, again asked and obtained permission to leave the
barracks for several hours. When he set off with Jean on their
Sunday walk his manner was very queer, quite restless, and quite
changed. Kerderen did not understand, but he vaguely suspected
something without divining what it could be.
They did not say a word to one another until they reached their
usual halting-place, where, from their constant sitting in the
same spot the grass was quite worn away. They ate their breakfast
slowly. Neither of them felt hungry.
Before long the girl appeared. As on every Sunday, they watched
her coming. When she was quite near, Luc rose and made two steps
forward. She put her milk-pail on the ground and kissed him. She
kissed him passionately, throwing her arms about his neck,
without noticing Jean, without remembering that he was there,
without even seeing him.
And he sat there desperate, poor Jean, so desperate that he did
not understand, his soul quite overwhelmed, his heart bursting,
but not yet understanding himself. Then the girl seated herself
beside Luc, and they began to chatter.
Jean did not look at them. He now divined why his comrade had
gone out twice during the week, and he felt within him a burning
grief, a kind of wound, that sense of rending which is caused by
Luc and the girl went off together to change the position of the
cow. Jean followed them with his eyes. He saw them departing side
by side. The red breeches of his comrade made a bright spot on
the road. It was Luc who picked up the mallet and hammered down
the stake to which they tied the beast.
The girl stooped to milk her, while he stroked the cow's sharp
spine with a careless hand. Then they left the milk-pail on the
grass, and went deep into the wood.
Jean saw nothing but the wall of leaves where they had entered;
and he felt himself so troubled that if he had tried to rise he
would certainly have fallen. He sat motionless, stupefied by
astonishment and suffering, with an agony which was simple but
deep. He wanted to cry, to run away, to hide himself, never to
see anybody any more.
Soon he saw them issuing from the thicket. They returned slowly,
holding each other's hands as in the villages do those who are
promised. It was Luc who carried the pail.
They kissed one another again before they separated, and the girl
went off after having thrown Jean a friendly "Good evening" and a
smile which was full of meaning. To-day she no longer thought of
offering him any milk.
The two little soldiers sat side by side, motionless as usual,
silent and calm, their placid faces betraying nothing of all
which troubled their hearts. The sun fell on them. Sometimes the
cow lowed, looking at them from afar.
At their usual hour they rose to go back. Luc cut a switch. Jean
carried the empty bottle to return it to the wine-seller at
Bezons. Then they sallied out upon the bridge, and, as they did
every Sunday, stopped several minutes in the middle to watch the
Jean leaned, leaned more and more, over the iron railing, as
though he saw in the current something which attracted him. Luc
said: "Are you trying to drink?" Just as he uttered the last word
Jean's head overbalanced his body, his legs described a circle in
the air, and the little blue and red soldier fell in a heap,
struck the water, and disappeared.
Luc, his tongue paralyzed with anguish, tried in vain to shout.
Farther down he saw something stir; then the head of his comrade
rose to the surface of the river and sank immediately. Farther
still he again perceived a hand, a single hand, which issued from
the stream and then disappear. That was all.
The bargemen who dragged the river did not find the body that
Luc set out alone for the barracks, going at a run, his soul
filled with despair. He told of the accident, with tears in his
eyes, and a husky voice, blowing his nose again and again: "He
leaned over--he--he leaned over--so far--so far that his head
turned a somersault; and--and--so he fell--he fell--"
Choked with emotion, he could say no more. If he had only known!
Just at the time when the Concordat was in its most flourishing
condition, a young man belonging to a wealthy and highly
respectable middle-class family went to the office of the head of
the police at P----, and begged for his help and advice, which
was immediately promised him.
"My father threatens to disinherit me," the young man began,
"although I have never offended against the laws of the State, of
morality, or against his paternal authority, merely because I do
not share his blind reverence for the Catholic Church and her
clergy. On that account he looks upon me, not merely as
Latitudinarian but as a perfect Atheist, and a faithful old
manservant of ours, who is much attached to me, and who
accidentally saw my father's will, told me in confidence that he
had left all his property to the Jesuits. I think this is highly
suspicious, and I fear that the priests have been maligning me to
my father. Until less than a year ago, we used to live very
quietly and happily together, but ever since he has had so much
to do with the clergy, our domestic peace and happiness are at an
"What you have told me," replied the official, "is as likely as
it is regrettable, but I fail to see how I can interfere in the
matter. Your father is in full possession of all his mental
faculties, and can dispose of all his property exactly as he
pleases. I think that your protest is premature; you must wait
until his will can legally take effect, and then you can invoke
the aid of justice. I am sorry to say that just now I can do
nothing for you."
"I think you will be able to," the young man replied; "for I
believe that a very clever piece of deceit is being carried on."
"How? Please explain yourself more clearly."
"When I remonstrated with him, yesterday evening, he referred to
my dead mother, and at last assured me, in a voice of the deepest
conviction, that she had frequently appeared to him, had
threatened him with all the torments of the damned, if he did not
disinherit his son, who had fallen away from God, and leave all
his property to the Church. Now I do not believe in ghosts."
"Neither do I," the police director replied, "but I cannot well
do anything on such grounds, having nothing but superstitions to
go upon. You know how the Church rules all our affairs since the
Concordat with Rome, and if I investigate this matter and obtain
no results, I am risking my post. It would be very different if
you could adduce any proofs for your suspicions. I do not deny
that I should like to see the clerical party, which will, I fear,
be the ruin of Austria, receive a staggering blow; try,
therefore, to get to the bottom of this business, and then we
will talk it over again."
About a month passed, without the young Latitudinarian being
heard of. Suddenly, he came one evening, in a great state of
excitement, and told the Inspector that he was in a position to
expose the priestly deceit which he had mentioned, if the
authorities would assist him. The police director asked for
"I have obtained a number of important clues," said the young
man. "In the first place, my father confessed to me that my
mother did not appear to him in our house, but in the churchyard
where she is buried. My mother was consumptive for many years,
and a few weeks before her death she went to the village of
S----, where she died and was buried. In addition to this, I
found out from our footman that my father has already left the
house twice, late at night, in company of X----, the Jesuit
priest, and that on both occasions he did not return till
morning. Each time he was remarkably uneasy and low-spirited
after his return, and had three masses said for my dead mother.
He also told me just now that he has to leave home this evening
on business, but, immediately after he told me that, our footman
saw the Jesuit go out of the house. We may, therefore, assume
that he intends this evening to consult the spirit of my dead
mother again, and this would be an excellent opportunity to solve
the matter, if you do not object to opposing the most powerful
force in the Empire for the sake of such an insignificant
individual as myself."
"Every citizen has an equal right to the protection of the
State," the police director replied; "and I think that I have
shown often enough that I am not wanting in courage to perform my
duty, no matter how serious the consequences may be. But only
very young men act without any prospects of success, because they
are carried away by their feelings. When you came to me the first
time, I was obliged to refuse your request for assistance, but
to-day your request is just and reasonable. It is now eight
o'clock; I shall expect you in two hours' time, here in my
office. At present, all you have to do is to hold your tongue;
everything else is my affair."
As soon as it was dark, four men got into a closed carriage in
the yard of the police-office, and were driven in the direction
of the village of S----. Their carriage, however, did not enter
the village, but stopped at the edge of a small wood in the
immediate neighborhood. Here all four alighted: the police
director, accompanied by the young Latitudinarian, a police
sergeant, and an ordinary policeman, the latter however, dressed
in plain clothes.
"The first thing for us to do is to examine the locality
carefully," said the police director. "It is eleven o'clock and
the exorcisers of ghosts will not arrive before midnight, so we
have time to look round us, and to lay our plans."
The four men went to the churchyard, which lay at the end of the
village, near the little wood. Everything was as still as death,
and not a soul was to be seen. The sexton was evidently sitting
in the public house, for they found the door of his cottage
locked, as well as the door of the little chapel that stood in
the middle of the churchyard.
"Where is your mother's grave?" the police director asked. As
there were only a few stars visible, it was not easy to find it,
but at last they managed it, and the police director surveyed the
neighborhood of it.
"The position is not a very favorable one for us," he said at
last; "there is nothing here, not even a shrub, behind which we
But just then, the policeman reported that he had tried to get
into the sexton's hut through the door or a window, and that at
last he had succeeded in doing so by breaking open a square in a
window which had been mended with paper, that he had opened it
and obtained possession of the key, which he brought to the
The plans were very quickly settled. The police director had the
chapel opened and went in with the young Latitudinarian; then he
told the police sergeant to lock the door behind him and to put
the key back where he had found it, and to shut the window of the
sexton's cottage carefully. Lastly, he made arrangements as to
what they were to do, in case anything unforeseen should occur,
whereupon the sergeant and the constable left the churchyard, and
lay down in a ditch at some distance from the gate, but opposite
Almost as soon as the clock struck half past eleven, they heard
steps near the chapel, whereupon the police director and the
young Latitudinarian went to the window in order to watch the
beginning of the exorcism, and as the chapel was in total
darkness, they thought that they should be able to see without
being seen; but matters turned out differently from what they
Suddenly, the key turned in the lock. They barely had time to
conceal themselves behind the altar, before two men came in, one
of whom was carrying a dark lantern. One was the young man's
father, an elderly man of the middle class, who seemed very
unhappy and depressed, the other the Jesuit father X----, a tall,
lean, big-boned man, with a thin, bilious face, in which two
large gray eyes shone restlessly under bushy, black eyebrows. He
lit the tapers, which were standing on the altar, and began to
say a "Requiem Mass"; while the old man kneeled on the altar
steps and served him.
When it was over, the Jesuit took the book of the Gospels and the
holy-water sprinkler, and went slowly out of the chapel, the old
man following him with the holy-water basin in one hand, and a
taper in the other. Then the police director left his hiding
place, and stooping down, so as not to be seen, crept to the
chapel window, where he cowered down carefully; the young man
followed his example. They were now looking straight at his
The Jesuit, followed by the superstitious old man, walked three
times round the grave; then he remained standing before it, and
by the light of the taper read a few passages from the Gospel.
Then he dipped the holy-water sprinkler three times into the
holy-water basin, and sprinkled the grave three times. Then both
returned to the chapel, kneeled down outside it with their faces
toward the grave, and began to pray aloud, until at last the
Jesuit sprang up, in a species of wild ecstasy, and cried out
three times in a shrill voice:
"Exsurge! Exsurge! Exsurge!"
Scarcely had the last words of the exorcism died away, when
thick, blue smoke rose out of the grave, rapidly grew into a
cloud, and began to assume the outlines of a human body, until at
last a tall, white figure stood behind the grave, and beckoned
with its hand.
"Who art thou?" the Jesuit asked solemnly, while the old man
began to cry.
"When I was alive, I was called Anna Maria B----," replied the
ghost in a hollow voice.
"Will you answer all my questions?" the priest continued.
"As far as I can."
"Have you not yet been delivered from purgatory by our prayers,
and by all the Masses for your soul, which we have said for you?"
"Not yet, but soon, soon I shall be."
"As soon as that blasphemer, my son, has been punished."
"Has that not already happened? Has not your husband disinherited
his lost son, and in his place made the Church his heir?"
"That is not enough."
"What must he do besides?"
"He must deposit his will with the Judicial Authorities, as his
last will and testament, and drive the reprobate out of his
"Consider well what you are saying; must this really be?"
"It must, or otherwise I shall have to languish in purgatory much
longer," the sepulchral voice replied with a deep sigh; but the
next moment the ghost yelled out in terror: "Oh! Good Lord!" and
began to run away as fast as it could. A shrill whistle was
heard, and then another, and the police director laid his hand on
the shoulder of the exorciser with the remark:
"You are in custody."
Meanwhile, the police sergeant and the policeman, who had come
into the churchyard, had caught the ghost, and dragged it
forward. It was the sexton, who had put on a flowing, white
dress, and wore a wax mask, which bore a striking resemblance to
his mother, so the son declared.
When the case was heard, it was proved that the mask had been
very skillfully made from a portrait of the deceased woman. The
government gave orders that the matter should be investigated as
secretly as possible, and left the punishment of Father X----to
the spiritual authorities, which was a matter of necessity, at a
time when priests were outside of the jurisdiction of the civil
authorities. It is needless to say that Father X----was very
comfortable during his imprisonment in a monastery, in a part of
the country which abounded with game and trout.
The only valuable result of the amusing ghost story was that it
brought about a reconciliation between father and son; the
former, as a matter of fact, felt such deep respect for priests
and their ghosts in consequence of the apparition, that a short
time after his wife had left purgatory for the last time in order
to talk with him, he turned Protestant.
WAS IT A DREAM?
"I had loved her madly!
"Why does one love? Why does one love? How queer it is to see
only one being in the world, to have only one thought in one's
mind, only one desire in the heart, and only one name on the
lips--a name which comes up continually, rising, like the water
in a spring, from the depths of the soul to the lips, a name
which one repeats over and over again, which one whispers
ceaselessly, everywhere, like a prayer.
"I am going to tell you our story, for love only has one, which
is always the same. I met her and loved her; that is all. And for
a whole year I have lived on her tenderness, on her caresses, in
her arms, in her dresses, on her words, so completely wrapped up,
bound, and absorbed in everything which came from her, that I no
longer cared whether it was day or night, or whether I was dead
or alive, on this old earth of ours.
"And then she died. How? I do not know; I no longer know
anything. But one evening she came home wet, for it was raining
heavily, and the next day she coughed, and she coughed for about
a week, and took to her bed. What happened I do not remember now,
but doctors came, wrote, and went away. Medicines were brought,
and some women made her drink them. Her hands were hot, her
forehead was burning, and her eyes bright and sad. When I spoke
to her, she answered me, but I do not remember what we said. I
have forgotten everything, everything, everything! She died, and
I very well remember her slight, feeble sigh. The nurse said:
'Ah!' and I understood, I understood!
"I knew nothing more, nothing. I saw a priest, who said: 'Your
mistress?' and it seemed to me as if he were insulting her. As
she was dead, nobody had the right to say that any longer, and I
turned him out. Another came who was very kind and tender, and I
shed tears when he spoke to me about her.
"They consulted me about the funeral, but I do not remember
anything that they said, though I recollected the coffin, and the
sound of the hammer when they nailed her down in it. Oh! God,
"She was buried! Buried! She! In that hole! Some people
came--female friends. I made my escape and ran away. I ran, and
then walked through the streets, went home, and the next day
started on a journey.
* * * * * * *
"Yesterday I returned to Paris, and when I saw my room again--our
room, our bed, our furniture, everything that remains of the life
of a human being after death--I was seized by such a violent
attack of fresh grief, that I felt like opening the window and
throwing myself out into the street. I could not remain any
longer among these things, between these walls which had inclosed
and sheltered her, which retained a thousand atoms of her, of her
skin and of her breath, in their imperceptible crevices. I took
up my hat to make my escape, and just as I reached the door, I
passed the large glass in the hall, which she had put there so
that she might look at herself every day from head to foot as she
went out, to see if her toilette looked well, and was correct and
pretty, from her little boots to her bonnet.
"I stopped short in front of that looking-glass in which she had
so often been reflected--so often, so often, that it must have
retained her reflection. I was standing there. trembling, with my
eyes fixed on the glass--on that flat, profound, empty
glass--which had contained her entirely, and had possessed her as
much as I, as my passionate looks had. I felt as if I loved that
glass. I touched it; it was cold. Oh! the recollection! sorrowful
mirror, burning mirror, horrible mirror, to make men suffer such
torments! Happy is the man whose heart forgets everything that it
has contained, everything that has passed before it, everything
that has looked at itself in it, or has been reflected in its
affection, in its love! How I suffer!
"I went out without knowing it, without wishing it, and toward
the cemetery. I found her simple grave, a white marble cross,
with these few words:
" 'She loved, was loved, and died.'
"She is there, below, decayed! How horrible! I sobbed with my
forehead on the ground, and I stopped there for a long time, a
long time. Then I saw that it was getting dark, and a strange,
mad wish, the wish of a despairing lover, seized me. I wished to
pass the night, the last night, in weeping on her grave. But I
should be seen and driven out. How was I to manage? I was
cunning, and got up and began to roam about in that city of the
dead. I walked and walked. How small this city is, in comparison
with the other, the city in which we live. And yet, how much more
numerous the dead are than the living. We want high houses, wide
streets, and much room for the four generations who see the
daylight at the same time, drink water from the spring, and wine
from the vines, and eat bread from the plains.
"And for all the generations of the dead, for all that ladder of
humanity that has descended down to us, there is scarcely
anything, scarcely anything! The earth takes them back, and
oblivion effaces them. Adieu!
"At the end of the cemetery, I suddenly perceived that I was in
its oldest part, where those who had been dead a long time are
mingling with the soil, where the crosses themselves are decayed,
where possibly newcomers will be put to-morrow. It is full of
untended roses, of strong and dark cypress-trees, a sad and
beautiful garden, nourished on human flesh.
"I was alone, perfectly alone. So I crouched in a green tree and
hid myself there completely amid the thick and somber branches. I
waited, clinging to the stem, like a shipwrecked man does to a
"When it was quite dark, I left my refuge and began to walk
softly, slowly, inaudibly, through that ground full of dead
people. I wandered about for a long time, but could not find her
tomb again. I went on with extended arms, knocking against the
tombs with my hands, my feet, my knees, my chest, even with my
head, without being able to find her. I groped about like a blind
man finding his way, I felt the stones, the crosses, the iron
railings, the metal wreaths, and the wreaths of faded flowers! I
read the names with my fingers, by passing them over the letters.
What a night! What a night! I could not find her again!
"There was no moon. What a night! I was frightened, horribly
frightened in these narrow paths, between two rows of graves.
Graves! graves! graves! nothing but graves! On my right, on my
left, in front of me, around me, everywhere there were graves! I
sat down on one of them, for I could not walk any longer, my
knees were so weak. I could hear my heart beat! And I heard
something else as well. What? A confused, nameless noise. Was the
noise in my head, in the impenetrable night, or beneath the
mysterious earth, the earth sown with human corpses? I looked all
around me, but I cannot say how long I remained there; I was
paralyzed with terror, cold with fright, ready to shout out,
ready to die.
"Suddenly, it seemed to me that the slab of marble on which I was
sitting, was moving. Certainly it was moving, as if it were being
raised. With a bound, I sprang on to the neighboring tomb, and I
saw, yes, I distinctly saw the stone which I had just quitted
rise upright. Then the dead person appeared, a naked skeleton,
pushing the stone back with its bent back. I saw it quite
clearly, although the night was so dark. On the cross I could
" 'Here lies Jacques Olivant, who died at the age of fifty-one.
He loved his family, was kind and honorable, and died in the
grace of the Lord.'
"The dead man also read what was inscribed on his tombstone; then
he picked up a stone off the path, a little, pointed stone and
began to scrape the letters carefully. He slowly effaced them,
and with the hollows of his eyes he looked at the places where
they had been engraved. Then with the tip of the bone that had
been his forefinger, he wrote in luminous letters, like those
lines which boys trace on walls with the tip of a lucifer match:
" 'Here reposes Jacques Olivant, who died at the age of
fifty-one. He hastened his father's death by his unkindness, as
he wished to inherit his fortune, he tortured his wife, tormented
his children, deceived his neighbors, robbed everyone he could,
and died wretched.'
"When he had finished writing, the dead man stood motionless,
looking at his work. On turning round I saw that all the graves
were open, that all the dead bodies had emerged from them, and
that all had effaced the lies inscribed on the gravestones by
their relations, substituting the truth instead. And I saw that
all had been the tormentors of their neighbors--malicious,
dishonest, hypocrites, liars, rogues, calumniators, envious; that
they had stolen, deceived, performed every disgraceful, every
abominable action, these good fathers, these faithful wives,
these devoted sons, these chaste daughters, these honest
tradesmen, these men and women who were called irreproachable.
They were all writing at the same time, on the threshold of their
eternal abode, the truth, the terrible and the holy truth of
which everybody was ignorant, or pretended to be ignorant, while
they were alive.
"I thought that SHE also must have written something on her
tombstone, and now running without any fear among the half-open
coffins, among the corpses and skeletons, I went toward her, sure
that I should find her immediately. I recognized her at once,
without seeing her face, which was covered by the winding-sheet,
and on the marble cross, where shortly before I had read:
" 'She loved, was loved, and died.'
I now saw:
" 'Having gone out in the rain one day, in order to deceive her
lover, she caught cold and died.'
* * * * * * *
"It appears that they found me at daybreak, lying on the grave
THE DIARY OF A MADMAN
He was dead--the head of a high tribunal, the upright magistrate,
whose irreproachable life was a proverb in all the courts of
France. Advocates, young counselors, judges had saluted, bowing
low in token of profound respect, remembering that grand face,
pale and thin, illumined by two bright, deep-set eyes.
He had passed his life in pursuing crime and in protecting the
weak. Swindlers and murderers had no more redoubtable enemy, for
he seemed to read in the recesses of their souls their most
He was dead, now, at the age of eighty-two, honored by the homage
and followed by the regrets of a whole people. Soldiers in red
breeches had escorted him to the tomb, and men in white cravats
had shed on his grave tears that seemed to be real.
But listen to the strange paper found by the dismayed notary in
the desk where the judge had kept filed the records of great
criminals! It was entitled:
June 20, 1851. I have just left court. I have condemned Blondel
to death! Now, why did this man kill his five children?
Frequently one meets with people to whom killing is a pleasure.
Yes, yes, it should be a pleasure--the greatest of all, perhaps,
for is not killing most like creating? To make and to destroy!
These two words contain the history of the universe, the history
of all worlds, all that is, all! Why is it not intoxicating to
June 25. To think that there is a being who lives, who walks, who
runs. A being? What is a being? An animated thing which bears in
it the principle of motion, and a will ruling that principle. It
clings to nothing, this thing. Its feet are independent of the
ground. It is a grain of life that moves on the earth, and this
grain of life, coming I know not whence, one can destroy at one's
will. Then nothing nothing more. It perishes; it is finished.
June 26. Why, then, is it a crime to kill? Yes, why? On the
contrary, it is the law of nature. Every being has the mission to
kill; he kills to live, and he lives to kill. The beast kills
without ceasing, all day, every instant of its existence. Man
kills without ceasing, to nourish himself; but since in addition
he needs to kill for pleasure, he has invented the chase! The
child kills the insects he finds, the little birds, all the
little animals that come in his way. But this does not suffice
for the irresistible need of massacre that is in us. It is not
enough to kill beasts; we must kill man too. Long ago this need
was satisfied by human sacrifice. Now, the necessity of living in
society has made murder a crime. We condemn and punish the
assassin! But as we cannot live without yielding to this natural
and imperious instinct of death, we relieve ourselves from time
to time, by wars. Then a whole nation slaughters another nation.
It is a feast of blood, a feast that maddens armies and
intoxicates the civilians, women and children, who read, by
lamplight at night, the feverish story of massacre.
And do we despise those picked out to accomplish these butcheries
of men? No, they are loaded with honors. They are clad in gold
and in resplendent stuffs; they wear plumes on their heads and
ornaments on their breasts; and they are given crosses, rewards,
titles of every kind. They are proud, respected, loved by women,
cheered by the crowd, solely because their mission is to shed
human blood! They drag through the streets their instruments of
death, and the passer-by, clad in black, looks on with envy. For
to kill is the great law put by nature in the heart of existence!
There is nothing more beautiful and honorable than killing!
June 30. To kill is the law, because Nature loves eternal youth.
She seems to cry in all her unconscious acts: "Quick! quick!
quick!" The more she destroys, the more she renews herself.
July 2. It must be a pleasure, unique and full of zest, to kill
to place before you a living, thinking being; to make therein a
little hole, nothing but a little hole, and to see that red
liquid flow which is the blood, which is the life; and then to
have before you only a heap of limp flesh, cold, inert, void of
August 5. I, who have passed my life in judging, condemning,
killing by words pronounced, killing by the guillotine those who
had killed by the knife, if I should do as all the assassins whom
I have smitten have done, I, I--who would know it?
August 10. Who would ever know? Who would ever suspect me,
especially if I should choose a being I had no interest in doing
August 22. I could resist no longer. I have killed a little
creature as an experiment, as a beginning. Jean, my servant, had
a goldfinch in a cage hung in the office window. I sent him on an
errand, and I took the little bird in my hand, in my hand where I
felt its heart beat. It was warm. I went up to my room. From time
to time I squeezed it tighter; its heart beat faster; it was
atrocious and delicious. I was nearly choking it. But I could not
see the blood.
Then I took scissors, short nail scissors, and I cut its throat
in three strokes, quite gently. It opened its bill, it struggled
to escape me, but I held it, oh! I held it--I could have held a
mad dog--and I saw the blood trickle.
And then I did as assassins do--real ones. I washed the scissors
and washed my hands. I sprinkled water, and took the body, the
corpse, to the garden to hide it. I buried it under a
strawberry-plant. It will never be found. Every day I can eat a
strawberry from that plant. How one can enjoy life, when one
My servant cried; he thought his bird flown. How could he suspect
August 25. I must kill a man! I must!
August 30. It is done. But what a little thing! I had gone for a
walk in the forest of Vernes. I was thinking of nothing,
literally nothing. See! a child on the road, a little child
eating a slice of bread and butter. He stops to see me pass and
says, "Good day, Mr. President."
And the thought enters my head: "Shall I kill him?"
I answer: "You are alone, my boy?"
"All alone in the wood?"
The wish to kill him intoxicated me like wine. I approached him
quite softly, persuaded that he was going to run away. And
suddenly I seized him by the throat. He held my wrists in his
little hands, and his body writhed like a feather on the fire.
Then he moved no more. I threw the body in the ditch, then some
weeds on top of it. I returned home and dined well. What a little
thing it was! In the evening I was very gay, light, rejuvenated,
and passed the evening at the Prefect's. They found me witty. But
I have not seen blood! I am not tranquil.
August 31. The body has been discovered. They are hunting for the
September 1. Two tramps have been arrested. Proofs are lacking.
September 2. The parents have been to see me. They wept! Ah!
October 6. Nothing has been discovered. Some strolling vagabond
must have done the deed. Ah! If I had seen the blood flow it
seems to me I should be tranquil now!
October 10. Yet another. I was walking by the river, after
breakfast. And I saw, under a willow, a fisherman asleep. It was
noon. A spade, as if expressly put there for me, was standing in
a potato-field near by.
I took it. I returned; I raised it like a club, and with one blow
of the edge I cleft the fisherman's head. Oh! he bled, this
one!--rose-colored blood. It flowed into the water quite gently.
And I went away with a grave step. If I had been seen! Ah! I
should have made an excellent assassin.
October 25. The affair of the fisherman makes a great noise. His
nephew, who fished with him, is charged with the murder.
October 26. The examining magistrate affirms that the nephew is
guilty. Everybody in town believes it. Ah! ah!
October 27. The nephew defends himself badly. He had gone to the
village to buy bread and cheese, he declares. He swears that his
uncle had been killed in his absence! Who would believe him?
October 28. The nephew has all but confessed, so much have they
made him lose his head! Ah! Justice!
November 15. There are overwheming proofs against the nephew, who
was his uncle's heir. I shall preside at the sessions.
January 25, 1852. To death! to death! to death! I have had him
condemned to death! The advocate-general spoke like an angel! Ah!
Yet another! I shall go to see him executed!
March 10. It is done. They guillotined him this morning. He died
very well! very well! That gave me pleasure! How fine it is to
see a man's head cut off!
Now, I shall wait, I can wait. It would take such a little thing
to let myself be caught.
* * * * * * *
The manuscript contained more pages, but told of no new crime.
Alienist physicians to whom the awful story has been submitted
declare that there are in the world many unknown madmen; as
adroit and as terrible as this monstrous lunatic.
AN UNFORTUNATE LIKENESS
It was during one of those sudden changes of the electric light,
which at one time throws rays of exquisite pale pink, of a liquid
gold filtered through the light hair of a woman, and at another,
rays of bluish hue with strange tints, such as the sky assumes at
twilight, in which the women with their bare shoulders looked
like living flowers--it was, I say, on the night of the first of
January at Montonirail's, the dainty painter of tall, undulating
figures, of bright dresses, of Parisian prettiness--that tall
Pescarelle, whom some called "Pussy," though I do not know why,
suddenly said in a low voice:
"Well, people were not altogether mistaken, in fact, were only
half wrong when they coupled my name with that of pretty Lucy
Plonelle. She had caught me, just as a birdcatcher on a frosty
morning catches an imprudent wren on a limed twig--in fact, she
might have done whatever she liked with me.
"I was under the charm of her enigmatical and mocking smile, that
smile in which her teeth gleamed cruelly between her red lips,
and glistened as if they were ready to bite and to heighten the
pleasure of the most delightful, the most voluptuous, kiss by
"I loved everything in her--her feline suppleness, her languid
looks which emerged from her half-closed lids, full of promises
and temptation, her somewhat extreme elegance, and her hands,
those long, delicate white hands, with blue veins, like the
bloodless hands of a female saint in a stained glass window, and
her slender fingers, on which only the large blood-drop of a ruby
"I would have given her all my remaining youth and vigor to have
laid my burning hands upon the back of her cool, round neck, and
to feel that bright, silk, golden mane enveloping me and
caressing my skin. I was never tired of hearing her disdainful,
petulant voice, those vibrations which sounded as if they
proceeded from clear glass, whose music, at times, became hoarse,
harsh, and fierce, like the loud, sonorous calls of the
"Good heavens! to be her lover, to be her chattel, to belong to
her, to devote one's whole existence to her, to spend one's last
half-penny and to sink in misery, only to have the glory and the
happiness of possessing her splendid beauty, the sweetness of her
kisses, the pink and the white of her demonlike soul all to
myself, if only for a few months!
"It makes you laugh, I know, to think that I should have been
caught like that--I who give such good, prudent advice to my
friends--I who fear love as I do those quicksands and shoals
which appear at low tide and in which one may be swallowed up and
"But who can answer for himself, who can defend himself against
such a danger, as the magnetic attraction that inheres in such a
woman? Nevertheless, I got cured and perfectly cured, and that
quite accidentally. This is how the enchantment, which was
apparently so infrangible, was broken.
"On the first night of a play, I was sitting in the stalls close
to Lucy, whose mother had accompanied her, as usual. They
occupied the front of a box, side by side. From some
unsurmountable attraction, I never ceased looking at the woman
whom I loved with all the force of my being. I feasted my eyes on
her beauty, I saw nobody except her in the theater, and did not
listen to the piece that was being performed on the stage.
"Suddenly, however, I felt as if I had received a blow from a
dagger in my heart, and I had an insane hallucination. Lucy had
moved, and her pretty head was in profile, in the same attitude
and with the same lines as her mother. I do not know what shadow
or what play of light had hardened and altered the color of her
delicate features, effacing their ideal prettiness, but the more
I looked at them both, at the one who was young and the one who
was old, the greater the distressing resemblance became.
"I saw Lucy growing older and older, striving against those
accumulating years which bring wrinkles in the face, produce a
double chin and crow's-feet, and spoil the mouth. THEY ALMOST
LOOKED LIKE TWINS.
"I suffered so, that I thought I should go mad. Yet in spite of
myself, instead of shaking off this feeling and making my escape
out of the theater, far away into the noise and life of the
boulevards, I persisted in looking at the other, at the old one,
in examining her, in judging her, in dissecting her with my eyes.
I got excited over her flabby cheeks, over those ridiculous
dimples, that were half filled up, over that treble chin, that
dyed hair, those lusterless eyes, and that nose, which was a
caricature of Lucy's beautiful, attractive little nose.
"I had a prescience of the future. I loved her, and I should love
her more and more every day, that little sorceress who had so
despotically and so quickly conquered me. I should not allow any
participation or any intrigue from the day she gave herself to
me, and once intimately connected, who could tell whether, just
as I was defending myself against it most, the legitimate
termination--marriage--might not come?
"Why not give one's name to a woman whom one loves, and whom one
trusts? The reason was that I should be tied to a disfigured,
ugly creature, with whom I should not venture to be seen in
public. My friends would leer at her with laughter in their eyes,
and with pity in their hearts for the man who was accompanying