Transcriber's Note: 1. Source of this book is found in the Web Archive at http://www.archive.org/details/germanclassicsof20franuoft
2. The diphthong oe is transcribed as [oe].
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HUGO VON HOFMANNSTHAL
From the Painting by Franz von Stuck
THE GERMAN CLASSICS
Masterpieces of German Literature
TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH
Patron's Edition IN TWENTY VOLUMES
THE GERMAN PUBLICATION SOCIETY NEW YORK
Copyright 1914 by THE GERMAN PUBLICATION SOCIETY
CONTRIBUTORS AND TRANSLATORS VOLUME XX
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MRS. AMELIA VON ENDE: The Contemporary German Drama.
PAUL H. GRUMMANN, A.M., Professor of Modern German Literature, University of Nebraska: Mother Earth.
BAYARD QUINCY MORGAN, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of German, University of Wisconsin: The Marriage of Sobeide.
JOHN HEARD, JR.: Tristram the Jester.
KATHARINE ROYCE God's Beloved.
ALBERT WILHELM BOESCHE, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of German, Cornell University: The Court Singer.
A. I. DU P. COLEMAN, A.M. Professor of English Literature, College of the City of New York: Literature.
JULIA FRANKLIN: Clarissa Mirabel.
HORACE SAMUEL: The Green Cockatoo.
CONTENTS OF VOLUME XX
Clarissa Mirabel. Translated by Julia Franklin. 1
God's Beloved. Translated by Katharine Royce. 59
The Contemporary German Drama. By Amelia von Ende. 94
Mother Earth. Translated by Paul H. Grummann. 111
HUGO VON HOFMANNSTHAL
The Marriage of Sobeide. Translated by Bayard Quincy Morgan. 234
The Green Cockatoo. Translated by Horace Samuel. 289
Literature. Translated by A. I. du P. Coleman. 332
The Court Singer. Translated by Albert Wilhelm Boesche. 360
Tristram the Jester. Translated by John Heard, Jr. 398
The Warden of Paradise. By Franz von Stuck. Frontispiece
Jakob Wassermann. 20
Bathing Woman. By Rudolf Riemerschmid. 40
Hera. By Hans Unger. 70
In the Shade. By Leo Putz. 100
Max Halbe. 130
Mother Earth. By Robert Weise. 160
Fording the Water. By Heinrich von Zuegel. 190
Sheep. By Heinrich von Zuegel. 220
Lake in the Grunewald. By Walter Leistikow. 240
Lake in the Grunewald. By Walter Leistikow. 260
A Brandenburg Lake. By Walter Leistikow. 280
Arthur Schnitzler. 290
Henrik Ibsen. (From Olaf Gulbransson's "Famous Contemporaries") 310
Georg Brandes. (From Olaf Gulbransson's "Famous Contemporaries") 330
Gerhart Hauptmann. (From Olaf Gulbransson's "Famous Contemporaries") 340
Paul Heyse. (From Olaf Gulbransson's "Famous Contemporaries") 350
Frank Wedekind 360
Siegfried Wagner. (From Olaf Gulbransson's "Famous Contemporaries") 370
Leo Tolstoy. (From Olaf Gulbransson's "Famous Contemporaries") 380
D. Mommsen. (From Olaf Gulbransson's "Famous Contemporaries") 390
Ernst Hardt 420
A Daughter of the People. By Karl Haider. 440
Approaching Thunderstorm. By Karl Haider. 480
This, the last volume of THE GERMAN CLASSICS, was intended to be devoted to the contemporary drama exclusively. But the harvest of the contemporary German Short Story is so rich that an overflow from Volume XIX had to be accommodated in Volume XX. It is hoped that this has not seriously crippled the representative character of the dramatic selections, although the editors are fully aware of the importance of such dramatists as Herbert Eulenberg, Wilhelm Schmidtbonn, or Fritz von Unruh. The principal tendencies, at any rate, of the hopeful and eager activity which distinguishes the German stage of today are brought out in this volume with sufficient clearness, especially in combination with the selections from Schoenherr and Hofmannsthal in Volumes XVI and XVII.
The European war, unfortunately, has prevented us from making the selections from contemporary German painting in Volumes XIX and XX as varied and representative as we had hoped.
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CLARISSA MIRABEL (1906) TRANSLATED BY JULIA FRANKLIN
In the little town of Rodez, situated on the western side of the Cevennes and washed by the waters of the river Aveyron, there lived a lawyer by the name of Fualdes, a commonplace man, neither good nor bad. Notwithstanding his advanced age, he had only recently retired from affairs, and his finances were in such a bad shape that he was obliged, in the beginning of the year 1817, to dispose of his estate of La Morne. With the proceeds he meant to retire to some quiet spot and live on the interest of his money. One evening—it was the nineteenth of March—he received from the purchaser of the estate, President Seguret, the residue of the purchase-money in bills and securities, and, after locking the papers in his desk, he left the house, having told the housekeeper that he had to go to La Morne once more in order to make some necessary arrangements with the tenant.
He neither reached La Morne nor returned to his home. The following morning a tailor's wife from the village of Aveyron saw his body lying in a shallow of the river, ran to Rodez and fetched some people back with her. The rocky slope was precipitously steep at that point, rising to a height of about forty feet. A great piece of the narrow footpath which led from Rodez to the vineyards had crumbled away, and it was doubtless owing to that circumstance that the unfortunate man had been precipitated to the bottom. It had rained very heavily the day before, and the soil on top had, according to the testimony of a number of people who worked in the vineyards, been loose for a long time. It seemed a singular fact that there was a deep gash in the throat of the dead man; but as jagged stones projected all over the rocky surface of the slope, such an injury explained itself. On examination of the steep wall, no traces of blood were found on stone or earth. The rain had washed away everything.
The news of the occurrence spread rapidly, and all through the day two or three hundred people from Rodez—men, women, and children—were standing on both shores staring with a look of fascination and self-induced horror into the depths of the ravine. The question was raised whether it was not a will-o'-the-wisp that had misled the old man. A woman alleged that she had spoken with a shepherd who declared he had heard a cry for help; this, it is true, occurred about midnight, and Fualdes had left his house at eight o'clock. A stout tinker contended that the darkness had not been as dense as all believed; he himself had crossed the fields, on his way from La Valette, at nine o'clock, and the moon was then shining. The inspector of customs took him severely to task, and informed him that a new moon had made its appearance the day before, as one could easily find out by looking in the calendar. The tinker shrugged his shoulders, as if to say that in such conjunctures even the calendar was not to be trusted.
When it grew dusk the people wandered homeward, in pairs and groups, now chatting, no-w silent, now whispering with an air of mystery. Like dogs that have become suspicious and keep circling about the same spot, they strained with hungry eagerness for a new excitement. They looked searchingly in front of them, heard with sharpened ears every word that was uttered. Some cast suspicious side-glances at each other; those who had money closed their doors and counted their money over. At night in the taverns the guests told of the great riches that the miserly Fualdes had accumulated; he had, it was said, sold La Morne only because he shrank from compelling the lessee, Grammont, who was his nephew, by legal means to pay two years' arrears of rent.
The spoken word hung halting on the lips, carrying a half-framed thought in its train. It was an accepted fact among the citizens that Fualdes, the liberal Protestant, a former official of the Empire, had been annoyed by threats against his life. The dark fancies spun busily at the web of fear. Those who still believed it was an accident refrained from expressing their reasons; they had to guard against suspicion falling upon themselves. Already a band of confederates was designated, drawn from the Legitimist party, now become inimical, threatening, arrogant. Dark hatred pointed to the Jesuits and their missions as instigators of the mysterious deed. How often had justice halted when the power of the mighty shielded the criminal!
The spring sun of the ensuing day shone upon tense, agitated, eager faces gradually inflamed to fierceness. The Royalists began to fear for their belongings; in order to protect themselves, infected as they, too, were by the general horror which emanated from the unknown, they admitted that a crime had been perpetrated. But how? and where? and through whom?
A cobbler has a better memory, as a rule, and a more active brain, than other people. The shoemaker, Escarboeuf, used to gather his neighbors and trusty comrades about him now and then at the hour of vespers. He remembered exactly what the doctor had said on the discovery of the corpse; he was standing close by and had heard every syllable. "It almost looks as if the man had been murdered;" those were the astonished words of the doctor when he was examining the wound in the throat. "Murdered? what are you saying, man?" interposed one of the company. "Yes, murdered!" cried the cobbler triumphantly.—"But it is said that there was sand sticking to the wound," remarked a young man shyly.—"O pshaw! sand, sand!" retorted the shoemaker, "What does sand prove anyway?"—"No, sand proves nothing," all of them admitted. And by midday the report in all the houses of the quarter ran: Fualdes had been murdered, he had been butchered. The word gave the inflamed minds a picture, the whispering tongues a hint.
Now, by a strange chance it happened that on that fateful evening the night watchman had deposited in the guardroom a cane with an ivory knob and a gilt ring, which he had found in front of the Bancal dwelling, separated from lawyer Fualdes' house by the Rue de l'Ambrague, a dark cross street. Fualdes' housekeeper, an old deaf woman, asserted positively that the cane was the property of her master; her assertion seemed incontestable. A long time after, it came to light that the cane belonged to a traveling tradesman who had spent the night carousing in the company of some wenches; but at the time, attention was at once turned to the Bancal house, a dilapidated, gloomy building with musty, dirty corners. It had formerly been owned by a butcher, and pigs were still kept in the yard. It was a house of assignation and was visited nightly by soldiers, smugglers, and questionable-looking girls; now and then, too, heavily veiled ladies and aristocratic-looking men slipped in and out. On the ground floor there lived, beside the Bancal couple, a former soldier, Colard, and his sweetheart, the wench Bedos, and the humpbacked Missonier; above them, there dwelt an old Spaniard, by the name of Saavedra, and his wife; he was a political refugee who had sought protection in France.
On the afternoon of the twenty-first of March, the soldier, Colard, was standing at the corner of the Rue de l'Ambrague, playing a monotonous air on his flute, one that he had learned from the shepherds of the Pyrenees. The shopkeeper, Galtier, came up the road, stood still, made a pretense of listening, but finally interrupted the musician, addressing him severely: "Why do you gad about and pretend to be ignorant, Colard? Don't you know, then, that the murder is said to have been committed in your house?"
Colard, brushing his scrubby moustache from his lips, replied that he and Missonier had been in Rose Feral's tavern, alongside the Bancal house, that night. "Had I heard a noise, sir," he said boastfully, "I should have gone to the rescue, for I have two guns."
"Who else was at Rose Feral's?" pursued the shopkeeper. Colard meditated and mentioned Bach and Bousquier, two notorious smugglers. "The rascals, they had better be on their guard," said the shopkeeper, "and you, Colard, come along with me; poor Fualdes is going to be buried, and it is not fitting to be playing the flute."
Scarcely had they reached the main street, where a great number of people had collected, when they were suddenly joined by Bousquier, who exhibited a strange demeanor, now laughing, now shaking his head, now gazing vacantly before him. Colard cast a shy, sidelong glance at him, and the shopkeeper, who thought of nothing but the murder and saw in all this the manifestations of a bad conscience, observed the man keenly. Those around them, too, became watchful, and it at once struck everybody that if any one had a knowledge of the crime committed in the Bancal house, it was Bousquier. The excited Galtier questioned him bluntly. Bousquier was the worse for liquor, the unusual hubbub intoxicated him still more; he seemed confused, but felt himself, at the same time, a person of importance. At first he assumed an air of unwillingness to speak out, then he related with solemn circumstantiality that he was summoned on the night of the murder by a tobacco-dealer clad in a blue coat; three times had the stranger sent for him, finally he went, was told to carry a heavy bundle, and was paid with a gold piece.
Even while he was speaking, an expression of horror ran across the face of the loquacious fellow; he grew gradually conscious of the significance of his words. The listeners had formed a compact circle around him, and a shrill voice rang out from the crowd: "It was surely the corpse that was wrapped up in that bundle!"
Bousquier looked uneasy. He had to start at the beginning again and again, and the strained glances turned upon him forced him to invent new minor details, such as that the tobacco-dealer suddenly disappeared in an unaccountable manner, and that his face was concealed by a black mask, "Where did you have to carry the body?" asked Galtier, with clenched teeth. Bousquier, horrified, remained silent; then, intimidated by the many threatening glances, he replied in a low tone: "Toward the river."
Two hours later he was arrested and put behind bolts and bars. That same evening he was brought before the police magistrate, Monsieur Jausion, and when the unfortunate man became aware that the matter was growing grave, that his chatter was to be turned into evidence, that every word he spoke was being noted down, and that he would have to answer for them with his freedom, nay, perhaps with his life, he was seized with terror. He denied the story of the tobacco-dealer and the heavy bundle, and when the magistrate grew angry, relapsed into complete silence. On being remanded to his cell he fell into a dull brooding. "Come, wake up, Bousquier," the jailer exhorted him, "you mustn't keep the gentlemen waiting; if you are stubborn, you will have to pass some bad nights."
Bousquier shook his head. The jailer fetched a heavy folio, and as he himself could not read, he called another prisoner, who was made to read aloud a passage of the law, according to which a person who was present by compulsion at the commission of a crime, and voluntarily confessed it, would get off with a year's imprisonment. The jailer held the lantern close to the tanned face of the reader and nodded encouragingly to Bousquier. The latter was mumbling the Lord's Prayer. Greatly agitated, and groping about for a way out of his plight, he said finally that everything was as he had first related, only the tobacco-dealer had paid him not with a gold-piece but a couple of silver coins. He repeated his confession before the magistrate, who had been summoned despite the lateness of the hour.
The next morning all Rodez knew that Bousquier had confessed that Fualdes had been murdered in the Bancal house, and the body carried at night to the river. Lips that had up to that time been sealed with fear were suddenly opened. Some one, whose name could not be ascertained, declared that he had seen some figures stealing past the house of Constans the merchant; he had also noticed that they halted some steps further on and drew together for consultation, whereupon, divining the horrible deed, he fled. The search for this witness, whose voice died away so quickly amid the other voices, and yet who was the first to trace, as with an invisible hand, a sketch of the nocturnal funeral train, proved vain. Each one's fancy silently carried out the picture further; they saw the body itself on the stretcher; the bier was depicted with distinctness as if it were a concrete token of the mysterious deed; a carpenter even drew it in chalk in bold strokes on the wall of the court-house. A woman who suffered from insomnia stated that she was sitting at the window that night and in spite of the darkness, recognized Bancal as well as the soldier, Colard, who were bearing the two front handles of the bier. Furthermore, she had heard the laborer, Missonier, who closed the procession, cursing. Summoned before the magistrate, she fell into a contradictory mood, which was excused on the score of her readily-comprehended excitement. But the words had been said; what weight should be attached to them depended on the force and peculiarity of the circumstances; the lightly spoken word weighed as heavily in the ears of the chance auditor as if it had been his own guilt, so that he sought to free himself of the burden and passed it on as if it would burn his tongue should he delay but a moment. Perhaps it was this sleepless woman, perhaps the lips of nameless Rumor herself, that enriched the picture of this murder-caravan with the figure of a tall, broad-shouldered man, armed with a double-barreled gun, who headed the procession. Now the gray web had a central point, and received a sort of illumination and vividness through the probable and penetrable criminality of a single individual. Twelve hours more, and every child knew the exact order of the nocturnal procession: first, the tall, powerful man with the double-barreled gun, then Bancal, Bach and Bousquier, bearing the bier, then the humpbacked Missonier, as rear-guard. At the last houses of the town the road to the river grew narrow and steep; as there was not room enough for two people to walk abreast, Bousquier and Colard had to carry the body alone, and it was Bousquier, not Missonier, who cursed, on that account, cursed so loud that the licentiate, Coulon, was startled from his sleep and called for his servant. On the steep place in front of the vineyards the body of the dead man was unwrapped and thrown into the water, and when that had been done, the tall, powerful man, pointing his gun at his confederates, imposed eternal silence upon them.
By this action the stranger with the double-barreled gun emerged completely from the mist of legend and the position of a merely picturesque accessory; his threatening attitude shed a flood of light upon the past. What had taken place after the murder, then, had outline and life. But had no eye accompanied poor Fualdes on his last walk? Had no one seen him leave his house, without any foreboding, and, whistling merrily perhaps, pass through the dark Rue de l'Ambrague, where the accomplices of the murder doubtless lay in waiting? Yes. The same licentiate whom Bousquier's cursing had roused from his sleep had seen the old man at eight in the evening turn into the narrow street, and shortly after some one follow hastily behind him; whether a man or a woman, Monsieur Coulon could not remember. Besides, a locksmith's apprentice came forward who had observed, from the mayor's residence, some persons signaling to each other. The mayor's dwelling was situated, it is true, in a different quarter of the town, but that circumstance was considered of little account in so widespun a conspiracy—had they not the testimony of a coachman who had seen two men standing motionless in the Rue des Hebdomadiers? Many of the inhabitants of that street now recalled that they had heard a constant whispering, hemming and hawing, and calling, to which, being in an unsuspicious mood at the time, they naturally paid no special heed. It was an accepted fact that watchers were posted at every corner, nay, even a female sentinel had been observed in the gateway of the Guildhall. The tailor, Brost, asserted that he had heard the whispering or sighing more distinctly than any one else; he had, thereupon, opened his window and seen five or six people enter the Bancal house, among them the tall, powerful man. Some time after, a neighbor had observed a person being dragged over the pavement; believing it was a girl who had drunk too much, he attached no further significance to it. Far more important than such confused rumors did it seem that as late as between nine and ten o'clock, an organ-grinder was still playing in the Rue des Hebdomadiers. The purpose was clear: it was to drown the death-cry of the victim. It soon turned out that there must have been two organ-grinders, one of whom, a cripple, had squatted on the curbstone in front of the Rue de l'Ambrague. To be sure, it had been the annual fair-day in Rodez, and the presence of organ-grinders would, therefore, not have signified anything mysterious, if the lateness of the hour had not exposed them to suspicion. Several persons even mentioned midnight as the time of the playing. A search was instituted for the musicians, and the villages in the vicinity were scoured for them, but they had disappeared as completely as the suspicious tobacco-dealer.
On the same morning when the Bancal house was searched and a policeman found a white cloth with dark spots in the yard, the Bancals, Bach, and the laborer Missonier, were taken into custody and, loaded with chains, were thrown into prison. Staring vacantly before them, the five men sat in the police wagon, which, followed by a crowd of people, chattering, cursing, and clenching their fists, carried them through the streets. The report of the cloth discovered in the yard spread in an instant; that the spots were blood-spots admitted no doubt; that it had been used to gag Fualdes was a matter of course.
Meanwhile Bousquier, all unstrung by his miserable plight, dragged from one hearing to another, alarmed by threats, racked by hunger, enticed by hopes of freedom and illusory promises, had confessed more and more daily. He was driven by the jailer, he was driven by the magistrate; for the latter felt the impatience and fury of the people, and the fables of the press, like the lash of a whip. Bousquier had seemed to be stubborn; but the presentation of his former stories, which now, like creditors, extorted an ever-increasing usurious interest of lies, sufficed to render him tractable. He appeared to be worn out, to be incapable of expressing what he had seen, of describing what he had heard,—Monsieur Jausion assisted him by questions which contained the required answers.
Thus he admitted that he had gone into the Bancal house, and found the Bancals, the soldier Colard, the smuggler Bach, two young women, and a veiled lady in the room. The more persons he mentioned, the more conciliatory grew the countenance of the magistrate, and, as though into the jaws of a hungry beast, he continued unconcernedly throwing him bit after bit. He probably recalled other nights spent in the motley company, and it struck him that the person of the veiled lady would be an addition which might enhance his credit. Monsieur Jausion found, however, that an important figure was lacking, and he asked in a stern tone whether Bousquier had not forgotten somebody. Bousquier was startled and pondered. "Try your best to remember," urged the magistrate; "what you conceal may turn into a rope for your neck. Speak out, then: was there not a tall, robust man present also?" Bousquier realized that this new person must be included. One shadowy shape after another, wild, fantastic, started up in his distracted brain, and he had to let the puppets play, to satisfy his tormentor. To the question of how the tall, powerful man looked and how he was dressed, he answered: "Like a gentleman."
And now it was his turn to describe, to vivify the scene of action. On the large table in Bancal's room there lay, not the bundle of tobacco for which he had been called, but a corpse. He tried to flee, but the tall, robust man followed him and threatened him with a pistol.
The magistrate shook his head reproachfully. "With a pistol?" he said. "Think well, Bousquier, was it not a gun, perhaps? was it not a double-barreled gun?" "All right," reflected Bousquier, infuriated; "if they are bent upon a gun, it may just as well have been a gun." He nodded as if ashamed, and went on to say that, his life being thus threatened, he was obliged to remain in Bancal's chamber and aid and abet him. The dead man was wrapped in a linen cloth, bound with ropes, and placed upon the stretcher. The stretcher was constructed, in Bousquier's imagination, aided by the turnkey, with the utmost perfection. When he was about to describe the funeral train, however, the tortured man lost consciousness, and when, late in the evening, he was again conducted to the hearing—rarely did the night and the candle-light in the dreary room fail of their spectral effects—he unexpectedly denied everything, cried, screamed, and acted as if completely bereft of his senses. In order to encourage and calm him. Monsieur Jausion resorted to a measure as bold as it was simple; he said that Bach and Colard had likewise made a confession, and it was gratifying that their declarations coincided with those of Bousquier; if he comported himself sensibly now, he would soon be allowed to leave the prison.
Bousquier was startled. The longer he reflected, the more profoundly was he impressed by what he had heard. His face blanched and he grew cold all over. It was as if a disordered dream were suddenly turned into a waking reality, or as if a person in a state of semi-intoxication, recounting the fictitious story of some misfortune and becoming more and more enmeshed in a web of falsehoods with every new detail, suddenly learned that everything had actually taken place as he had related. A peculiar depression took possession of him, he had a horror of the solitude of his cell, a dread of sleep.
All Rodez had listened to Bousquier's statements with feverish avidity. Finally the form of the stranger with the double-barreled gun obtained distinctness and tangibility. That he had the air of a gentleman spurred the rage of the people, and the Legitimist party, which was composed in great part of the rich and the aristocracy, began to tremble. It was probably among them that a person was first mentioned whose name ran, first cautiously, then boldly, then accusingly, from mouth to mouth, and over whose head a thunder-cloud, born of a wreath of mist, hung arrested, quivering with lightning. It was well known that Bastide Grammont, the tenant of La Morne, in spite of his relationship to the lawyer Fualdes, lived in a state of animosity, or at least of the oppressive dependence of a debtor, with the old man. Every one knew, or thought he knew, that stormy scenes had often taken place between uncle and nephew. Was not that enough? Moreover, Bastide's domineering temperament and harsh nature, the sudden sale of La Morne, and a well connected chain of little suspicious signs—who still dared to doubt?
The unwearied architect who was at work somewhere there, in the earth below or the air above, took care that the circle of ruin should be complete, and enlisted associates with malicious pleasure in every street, among high and low. In the forenoon of the nineteenth of March, Fualdes and Grammont were walking up and down the promenade of Rodez. A woman who dealt in second-hand things had heard the young fellow say to the old man: "This evening, then, at eight o'clock." A mason who was shoveling sand for a new building had heard Monsieur Fualdes exclaim: "You will keep your word, then?" Whereupon Grammont replied: "Set your mind at rest, this evening I shall settle my account with you." The music-teacher Lacombe remembered distinctly how Bastide, with a wrathful countenance, had called to the old man: "You drive me to extremity." The idle talk of a chatterbox gained, in the buzz of hearsay, the same importance as well established observations, and what had been said before and after was blended and combined with audacious arbitrariness. Thus, Professor Vignet, one of the heads of the Royalists, alleged that he had gone into a fruit store about seven in the evening, shortly before the murder, and met one of his colleagues there. He related that he had seen Bastide Grammont, who was walking rather rapidly on passing him. He declared that he exclaimed: "Don't you find that Grammont has an uncanny face?" To which the other answered affirmatively and said that one must be on one's guard against him. Witnesses came forward who confirmed this conversation. Witnesses came forward who claimed to have seen Bastide in front of the Bancal house; he had emitted a shrill whistle a number of times and then dodged into the shadow.
Bastide Grammont had lived at La Morne for five years. He was perhaps the only man in the entire district who never concerned himself about politics, and kept aloof from all party activity, and this proud independence exposed him to the ill will, nay, the hatred, of his fellow-citizens. When upon one occasion a demonstration in favor of the Bourbons was to take place in Rodez, and the streets were filled with an excited crowd, he rode with grave coolness on his dapple-gray horse through the inflamed throng and returned the wild, angry glances directed at him with a supercilious smile.
It was related of him that he had wasted his youth and a considerable fortune in Paris, and had returned home from there sick and tired of mankind. His mode of life pointed to a love of the singular. In former years a learned father from the neighboring Benedictine abbey had often been his guest; it seemed as if the quiet student of human nature took a secret pleasure in the unbridled spirit and the pagan fervor of Nature-worship of the hermit, Bastide; but when he forcibly abducted a seamstress, pretty Charlotte Arlabosse, from Alby, and lived with her in unlawful union, the Benedictine, in obedience to the command of his superiors, was obliged to break off the intercourse. Thenceforth, Bastide renounced all intimate human contact. He had no friend; he wished for none. He secluded himself with disdainful pride; the sight of a new face turned his distant and cold; people in society he treated with insulting indifference. Perhaps it was only from a fear of disappointment that he harshly withstood even the most friendly advances, for there lay at times a vague yearning for love in the depths of his eyes. To grow hard because unfulfilled claims afflict and darken the soul, to retire into solitude because overweening pride shuns to lay bare the glowing heart, to be unjust from a feeling of shame and misunderstood defiance—that was perhaps his lot, and certainly his shortcoming.
For days at a time he would roam about with his dogs in the valleys of the Cevennes. He gathered stones, mushrooms, flowers, caught birds and snakes, hunted, sang, and fished. If something went wrong and his blood was up, he mounted the fieriest horse in his stable and rode over the most dangerous paths across the rocks, to Rieux. In winter, in the early cold hours, he was seen bathing in the river; in sultry summer nights he lay naked and feverish under the open sky. He declared then that he saw the stars dance and the earth tremble. At vintage time he was, without ever drinking, as if intoxicated; he organized festivals with music and torch-light processions, and was the patron of all the love-affairs among the workers in the vineyards. In case of long-continued bad weather he grew pale, languid, and supersensitive, lost sleep and appetite, and was subject to sudden fits of rage which were the dread of his servants; on one such occasion he cut down half a dozen of the grandest trees in the garden, which, as everybody knew, he loved as passionately as if they were his brothers.
That with such an irregular management the income of the estate diminished year by year, astonished no one but himself. He fell into debt, but to speak or think about it caused him the greatest annoyance, and his resource against it was a regular participation in various lotteries, to whose dates of payment he always looked forward with childish impatience.
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When the court, in compliance with the opinion and accusation of the people, which could not be ignored, ordered Bastide's arrest, he already knew the forces at work against him. He was sitting under a huge plane-tree, occupied with some wood-carving, when the constables appeared in the yard. Charlotte Arlabosse rushed up to him and seized his arm, but he shook her off, saying: "Let them have their way, the abscess has been ripe a long time." Stepping forward to meet the gendarmes with satirical pomposity, he cried: "Your servant, gentlemen."
The occupants of La Morne were subjected to a rigorous examination. According to Bastide's own statement, he had ridden to Rodez on the afternoon of the nineteenth of March; at seven in the evening he was already with his sister in the village of Gros; there he remained over night, returned in the morning to La Morne, then upon the news of his uncle's death, he had ridden to Rodez once more and spent about half an hour in Fualdes' house. His sister confirmed his statement that he had passed the night in her house, and added that he had been particularly cheerful and amiable. The maid, too, who had waited on him and prepared his bed, declared that he had retired at ten o'clock. As to the domestics at La Morne, they babbled of one thing and another. In order to say something and not stand there like simpletons or accomplices, they involved themselves in speeches of significant obscurity; thus one of the servants remarked that if the master's gray mare could but speak he could tell of some hard riding that night. The maids spoke incoherently or shed tears; Charlotte Arlabosse even fled, but was captured in the vineyards and incarcerated in the town prison.
These occurrences were by no means concealed from Bousquier and his associates; nay, insignificant details were emphatically dwelt upon, in order to give them a sense of security and assist their memory. It was the smuggler Bach, in particular—who, with the Bancal couple, could not at first be induced to make a statement—that the police magistrate had in view. He had terrified judges and keepers by his violent paroxysms of rage, and, to punish and subdue him, had been put in chains. Unconscious of it himself, this man suffered from a fierce longing for freedom, for he was the model of a roving vagabond and tramp. One night when he had attempted to strangle himself. Monsieur Jausion acquainted him with the confession of his comrade, Bousquier, and admonished him too to abandon his fruitless stubbornness. Thereupon the demeanor of the man changed at once; he became cheerful and communicative, and, grinning maliciously, said: "All right, if Bousquier knows much, I know still more." And in fact, he did know more. He was a stammerer and took advantage of this defect to gain time for reflection when his imagination halted, and every time he strayed into the regions of the fabulous the keen-witted Monsieur Jausion led him gently back to the path of reality.
This was his story: When he entered the room with Bousquier, lawyer Fualdes was seated at the table, and was made to sign papers. The tall, powerful man, Bastide Grammont, of course—no doubt it was Grammont; Bach in this relied upon the information of the magistrate and upon glib Rumor—stuck the signed papers in his pocket-book. In the meanwhile Madame Bancal cooked a supper, chicken with vegetables, and veal with rice; an important detail, indicating the cold-bloodedness of the murderers. Shortly before eight o'clock two drummers came in, but the face of the host or of the strange gentleman displeased them; they thought they were in the way and left, whereupon the gate was locked. But there was a knocking several times after that; the preconcerted signal was three rapid knocks with the fist, and one after the other there entered the soldier Colard with his sweetheart, the humpbacked Missonier, an aristocratic looking veiled lady with green feathers in her hat, and a tobacco-dealer in a blue coat. The hat with the green feathers was a special proof of Bach's powers of invention, and stood out with picturesque verisimilitude against the blue-coated tobacconist.
At half past eight Madame Bancal went up to the attic to put her daughter Madeleine to bed, and now Bastide Grammont explained to the old man that he must die. The imploring supplications of the victim resulted only in the powerful Bastide seizing him, and, in spite of his violent resistance, laying him on the table, from which Bancal hastily removed two loaves of bread which some one had brought along. Fualdes begged pitifully that he might be given time to reconcile himself with God, but Bastide Grammont replied gruffly: "Reconcile yourself with the devil."
Here M. Jausion interrupted the relation, and inquired whether a hand-organ had not perchance at that moment commenced to play in front of the house. Bach eagerly confirmed the supposition, and continued his report, which now wrought up the narrator himself to a pitch of excitement and horror: Colard and Bancal held the old man's legs, while the tobacconist and his sweetheart seized his head and arms. A gentleman with a wooden leg and a three-cornered hat held a candle high in the air. There was something weird about the emergence of this new figure; if it stood for nothing more than a finishing touch to the horror of that night of murder, it fulfilled its aim to perfection. The wooden-legged man uplifting the candle was like an impious spirit from the nether world, and it was not necessary to dwell upon the narrow chin, the sneering mouth, the spectral eye.
With a broad knife Bastide Grammont gave the old man a stab; Fualdes, by a superhuman effort, succeeded in breaking loose; he sprang up and ran, already mortally wounded, through the room; Bastide Grammont, pursuing, seized hold of him, threw him again on the table, the table rocked, one leg broke; now the dying man was placed upon two benches rapidly moved close to each other, and Bastide Grammont thrust the knife into his throat. With the last groan of the old man, Bancal came and his wife caught up the flowing blood in an earthen pot; the part that ran on the floor was scrubbed up by the women. In the pockets of the murdered man a five franc piece and several sous were found. Bastide Grammont threw the money into the apron of the Bancal woman, saying: "Take it! We are not killing him for his money." A key, too, was found; that Bastide kept. Madame Bancal had a hankering for the fine shirt of the dead man, and remarked covetously that it looked like a chorister's shirt; she was diverted from her desire, however, on being presented with an amethyst ring on Fualdes' finger. This ring was taken away the following day by a stranger for a consideration of ten francs.
When Bach's recital with all its circumstantiality and its simulated completeness of strange and illuminating details became known, there lacked but little to hailing the imaginative scamp as a deliverer. Indignation fed belief, and criticism seemed treason. The public, the witnesses, the judges, the authorities, all believed in the deed and all began to join in invention. Bach and Bousquier, who were confronted with each other, quarreled and called each other liars; one claimed that lie had gone into the Bancal house before, the other after, the murder; one declared that he had assisted in the deed, the other that he had only lifted the body, which was wrapped in a sheet and bound with ropes. The half-witted Missonnier designated still another batch of persons whom he had seen in the Bancal house, two notaries from Alby and a cook. In Rose Feral's tavern, where all sorts of shady characters congregated, and old warlike exploits and thieveries were the subjects of discussion, on the night of the murder the talk fell upon the pillaging of a house, the property of a Liberal. This report was designed to heighten the apprehension of the quiet citizens, and that afterward all the conspirators, even well-to-do people, met in Bancal's house gave no cause for astonishment. Everything harmonized in the intricate, devilish plot; in the clothes of the dead Fualdes no money, on his fingers no ring, had been found; Grammont had the bailiff in his house as late as the seventeenth of March, and this circumstance, singled out at an opportune moment from the quagmire of lies, inspired security. Bastide was hopelessly entangled. The prisoners were thrown into a panic by the palpable agitation of the people; each one appeared guilty in the other's eyes, each one was ready to admit anything that was desired concerning the other, in order to exonerate himself; they were ignorant of their fate, they lost all sense of the meaning of words, they were no longer conscious of themselves, their bodies, their souls; they felt themselves encompassed by invisible clasps, and each sought to free himself on his own account, without knowing what he had actually done or failed to do. Every day new arrests were made, no traveler passing through was sure of his freedom, and after a few weeks half of France was seized with the intoxication of rage, a craving for revenge, and fear. Of the figures of the ludicrously-gruesome murder imbroglio, now this, now that one emerged with greater distinctness and reality, and the one that stood out finally as the most important, because her name was constantly brought forward, was the veiled lady with the green feather in her hat; nay, she gradually became the centre and impelling power of the bloody deed, perhaps only because her origin and existence remained a mystery. Many raised their voices in suspicion against Charlotte Arlabosse, but she was able to establish her innocence by well-nigh unassailable testimony; besides, she appeared too harmless and too much like a victim of Bastide's tyrannical cruelty, to answer to the demoniacal picture of the mysterious unknown.
While Bach and Bousquier, in a rivalry which hastened their own ruin, tempted the authorities to clemency by ever new inventions, and, encouraged by the gossip which filtered through to them by subterranean channels, disturbed further the already troubled waters; while the soldier Colard and the Bancal couple, owing to the rigorous confinement, the harsh treatment of the keepers, and the excruciating hearings, were thrown into paroxysms of insanity, so that they reported things which even Jausion, used as he was to extravagance, had to characterize as the mere phantoms of a dream; while the other prisoners, steering unsteadily between their actual experiences and morbid visions, constantly suspected each other, and retracted today what they had sworn to yesterday, now whined for mercy, now maintained a defiant silence; while the inhabitants of the city, the villages, the whole province, demanded the termination of the long-winded procedure and the punishment of the evil-doers, with a fanaticism whose fire was tended and fed by mysterious agents; while, finally, the court, in the uncontrollably increasing flood of accusations and calumnies, lost its sense of direction, and was gradually becoming a tool in the hands of the populace;—in the meanwhile the boundless forces at work succeeded in poisoning the mind of a child, who appeared as a witness against father and mother, and led the deluded people to believe that God himself had by a miracle loosened the tongue of an infant.
At the outset the eleven-year-old Madeleine Bancal had been questioned by the police magistrate; she knew nothing. Subsequently the child came to the tavern, and at once people came forward who had heard from others, who again had heard from third or fourth parties, that the girl had seen the old man laid upon the table and her mother receiving money. Of course it was ascertained by Counselor Pinaud, the only man who retained clarity and judgment in the wild confusion, that Madeleine had taken presents from the managers of the tavern, as well as from other people; but it was too late by that time to discover and extirpate the root of the lie. She was persuaded ever more firmly into a belief of her first statement, and the recital kept expanding the greater the attention paid her, the more her vanity was flattered, until she believed she had really witnessed all that she related, and she experienced a feeling of satisfaction in the sympathy and pity of the grown people. Her mother had taken her to the attic, so she reported, but fearing the cold, she had stealthily crept downstairs and hidden herself in the bed in the alcove. Through a hole in the curtain she could see and hear everything. When the old man was about to be stabbed, the lady with the green feather ran terrified into the room and attempted to escape through the window. Bastide Grammont dragged her forth and wanted to kill her. Bancal and Colard begged him to spare her, and she had to swear an awful oath which pledged her to silence. A little later, Grammont, whose suspicions were not silenced, examined the bed also. Madeleine pretended to be asleep. He felt her twice, and then said to the mother that she must attend to getting rid of the child, which Madame Bancal promised to do for a sum of four hundred francs. The next morning the mother sent the child to the field, where the father had just dug a deep hole. She thought her father meant to throw her in, but he embraced her, weeping, and admonished her to be good.
Even if people had been ready to doubt every other testimony, the report of the child passed as irrefutable, and no one concerned himself as to how it had been concocted, how the ignorant young thing had been courted, bribed, how she had been intoxicated by fondling, applause, or, it may be, even by fear. She was dragged from her sleep at night, in order to take advantage of her bewilderment; every new fancy was welcomed, the girl thought she was doing something remarkable, and played her part with increasing readiness. In such wise she molded out of nothing things which were calculated to throw a singularly realistic light upon the fevered image of the fateful night; for instance, how the mother had cut bread with the same knife with which the old gentleman had been stabbed, and how Madeleine had refused the bread, because it made her shudder; or how the blood, caught up in the pan, had been given to one of the pigs to drink, and how the animal had become wild in consequence, and had rushed, screaming madly, through the yard.
Bastide Grammont bore hearing after hearing with a cold placidity. His frigidly haughty dignity, his mocking smile, the mute shrug of his shoulders, caused Monsieur Jausion frequent annoyance. But there were times when, carried away by impatience, he interrupted the judge outright, and attacked, boldly and eloquently, the frail yet indestructible structure of the evidence.
"If it was my intention and interest to do away with my uncle, did it require a conspiracy of so many people?" he asked, his face blazing with scorn. "Am I supposed to have such a combination of craft and stupidity as to ally myself with brothel-keepers, harlots, smugglers, old women, and convicted criminals, people who would, as long as I live, remain my masters and blackmailers, even supposing silence to be among their virtues? Can anything more senseless be imagined than to seize a man on an open road and drag him into a house known to be suspicious? Why all this elaborate plot? Did no better occasion offer itself to me? Could I not have enticed the old man to the estate, shot him and buried him in the woods? It is claimed that I forced him to sign bills,—where are they, these bills? They would be bound to turn up and expose me. You say yourself that the Bancal house is dilapidated, that one can look into Bancal's room from the Spaniards' dwelling through the rotten boards; why, then, did Monsieur Saavedra hear nothing! Aha, he slept! A sound sleep, that. Or is he likewise, in the conspiracy, like my mother, my sister, my sweetheart, my faithful servants? And admitting all, were not the Bancal couple sufficient to help kill a feeble old man and dispose of his body; did I have to fetch half a dozen suspicious fellows, besides, from the taverns? Why did not my uncle cry out? He was gagged; well and good; but the gag was found in the yard. Then he did scream, after all, when the gag was removed, and I had the organ-grinders play. But such organs are noisy and draw people to the windows and into the street. And why butcher the victim, since so many strong men could easily have strangled him? Show me the medical report. Monsieur, does it not speak of a gash rather than a stab? And what twaddle, that about the funeral train, what betraying arrangements in a country where every sign-post has eyes! I am accused of having rushed into my uncle's house the following day and stolen some papers. Where are those papers? My uncle died almost poor. His claim against me was transferred to President Seguret. Why, then, the deed? What do they want with me? Who that has eyes sees my hands stained?"
This language was defiant. It aroused the displeasure of the court and increased the hatred of the multitude, whom it reached in garbled shape. Through fear of the people, no lawyer dared undertake Bastide Grammont's defense. Monsieur Pinaud, who alone had the courage to point out the improbabilities and the fantastic origin of most of the testimony, came near paying with his life for his zeal for truth. One night a mob, including some peasants, marched to his house, smashed his windows, demolished the gate, and set fire to the steps. The terrified man made his escape with difficulty, and fled to Toulouse.
Bastide Grammont clearly recognized that, for the present, it was useless to offer any resistance; he determined, therefore, to transform all his valor into patience and keep his lips closed as if they were doors through which his hopes might take flight. He, the freest of men, had to pass the radiant spring days, the fragrant summer nights, in a damp hole which rendered one's own breath offensive; he, to whom animals spoke, for whom flowers had eyes, the earth at times a semblance of the glow of love, who walked, strode, roamed, rode, as artists produce enchanting creations—he was condemned by the perverse play of incomprehensible circumstances to a foretaste of the grave and deprived of what he held dearest and most precious. Frequent grew the nights of sullenness when his eyes, brimming over with tears, were dulled at the thought of disgrace; more frequent the days of irrepressible longing, when every grain of sand that crumbled from the moist walls was a reminder of the wondrous being and working of the earth, the meadow, the wood. From the events which had overshadowed his life he turned away his thoughts in disgust, and he scarcely heard the keeper when he appeared one morning and exultingly informed him that the mysterious unknown, who was destined to become the chief witness, the lady with the green feathers, had finally been found; she had come forward of her own accord, and she was the daughter of President Seguret, Clarissa Mirabel.
Bastide Grammont gazed gloomily before him. But from that hour that name hovered about his ears like the fluttering of the wings of inevitable Fate.
* * * * * *
This is what took place: Madame Mirabel confessed that on the night of the murder she had been in the Bancal house. This confession, however, was made under a peculiar stress, and in less time than it took swift Rumor to make it public, she retracted everything. But the word had fallen and bred deed upon deed.
Clarissa Mirabel was the only child of President Seguret. She was brought up in the country, in the old Chateau Perrie, which her father had bought at the outbreak of the Revolution. Owing to the political upheavals, and the uncertain condition of things, she did not enjoy the benefit of any regular instruction in her childhood. The profound isolation in which she grew up favored her inclination to romanticism. She idolized her parents; in the agitated period of anarchy, the girl, scarcely fourteen years old, exhibited at her father's side such a spirit of self-sacrifice and such devotion that she aroused the attention of Colonel Mirabel, who, five years later, came and sued for her hand. She did not love him,—she had shortly before entered into a singularly romantic relationship with a shepherd,—yet she married him, because her father bade her. The union was not happy; after three months she separated from her husband; the Colonel went with the army to Spain. At the conclusion of the war he returned, and Clarissa received an intimation of his desire that she should live with him; she refused, however, and declared her refusal, moreover, in writing, incensed that he should have sent strangers to negotiate with her. But she learned that he was wounded, and this caused a revulsion of feeling. In the night, by secret passages, with ceremonious formalities, the Colonel was carried into the chateau, and Clarissa tended him, in a remote chamber, with faithful care. As long as it remained secret, the new sort of relationship to the man as a lover fascinated her, but her mother discovered everything and believed that nothing stood in the way of a complete reconciliation between the pair. Clarissa succeeded in removing him; in a thicket near the village she had nightly rendezvous with him. Colonel Mirabel, however, grew weary of these singular doings; he obtained a position in Lyons, but died soon after from the consequences of his excesses.
Years passed; her mother, too, died, and Clarissa's grief was so overwhelming that she would spend entire days at the grave, and the influence of her more readily consoled father alone succeeded in inducing her to reconcile herself to her lonely, empty existence. Left completely to herself, she indulged in the pleasure of indiscriminate reading, and her wishes turned, with hidden passion, toward great experiences. Her peculiar tastes and habits made her a subject of gossip in the little town; she had children and half-grown boys and girls come to the chateau, and recited poems to them and trained them for acting. Her frank nature created enemies; she said what she thought, offended with no ill intention, caused confusion and gossip in all innocence, exaggerated petty things and overlooked great ones, took pleasure at times in masking, appearing in disguise, and impersonating imaginary characters, and captivated the susceptible by the charm of her speech, the bright versatility of her spirit, the winning heartiness of her manner.
She was now thirty-five years old; but not only because she was so exceedingly slender, small, and dainty, did she seem like a girl of eighteen—her nature, too, was permeated by a rare spirit of youth; and when her eye rested, absorbed and contemplative, upon an object, it had the clearness and dreamy sweetness of the gaze of a child. She was a product of the border: southern vivacity and northern gravity had resulted in a restless mixture; she was fond of musing, and, playful as a young animal, was capable of arousing in men of all sorts desire mingled with shyness.
The flood of reports concerning the death of the lawyer Fualdes left her, at first, unmoved, although her father, by his purchase of the domain of La Morne, seemed directly interested in the happenings, and new accounts were brought to the chateau daily. The occurrence was too complicated for her, and everything connected with it smelt too much of the unclean. Only when the name of Bastide Grammont was first mentioned did she prick up her ears, follow the affair, and have her father or the servants report to her the supposed course of events, displaying more interest than astonishment.
She knew nothing about Bastide Grammont. Nevertheless, his name, as soon as she heard it, fell like a weight upon her watchful soul. She began to make inquiries about him, ventured upon secret rides to La Morne, and led one or another of his servants to talk about him; nay, once she even succeeded in speaking with Charlotte Arlabosse, who was free again at that time. What she learned aroused a strange, pained astonishment; she had a feeling of having missed an important meeting.
In addition, she suddenly remembered having seen him. It must have been he, if she but half comprehended the confused descriptions of his person. It was a year ago, one early morning in the first days of spring. Seized by the general unrest with which the vernal season stirs the blood and rouses the sleeper sooner than his wont, she had wandered from the chateau, over the vine-clad hills, into the woody vale of Rolx. And as she strode through the dewy underbrush glistening with sunshine, above her the warbling of birds and the glowing blue of the celestial dome, beneath her the earth breathing like a sentient being, she caught sight of a man of powerful build who was standing erect, bareheaded, with nose in the air, and was enjoying with a preternatural eagerness, with distended gaze, all that lay open for enjoyment—the scents, the sun, the intoxicating dewiness, the splendor of the heavens. He seemed to scent it all, sniffing like a dog or a deer, and while his upturned face bore an expression of unfettered, smiling satisfaction, his arms, hanging by his side, trembled as in a spasm.
She was frightened then; she fled without his perceiving her, without his hearing the sound of her footsteps. Now the picture assumed a different significance. Often when she was alone she would abandon herself to a fancied image of that hour: how she had gone forward to meet the singular being, and by skilfully planned questions beguiled answer upon answer from his stubborn lips, and how, unable to disguise his feelings any longer, he had spontaneously opened his heart to her. And one night he came riding on a wild steed, forced his way into the castle, took her and rode away with her so swiftly that it seemed as if the storm was his servant, and lent wings to his steed. When the talk at table or in company turned upon Bastide Grammont and his murderous crime, of which no one stood in doubt, Clarissa never occupied herself with the enormity of the deed, which must forever separate such a man from the fellowship of the good. Enveloped in a voluptuous mist, she was sensible of the influence of his compelling force, of the heroic soul that spoke in his gestures, of the reality of his existence and the possibility of a close approach to the figure which persisted in haunting her troubled dreams. She was frightened at herself; she gazed into the dreaded depths of her soul, and she often felt as if she herself were lying in prison and Bastide were walking back and forth outside, planning means for forcing the door, while his swift steed was neighing in triumph.
Now she was entangled in all the talk, whisperings, and tales, and the whole mass of abominations, too, in which design and arbitrariness were hopelessly mingled, passed, steadily growing, before her. The thing had an increasingly strange effect upon her, and she felt as if she were breathing poisoned air; she would walk through one of the streets of Rodez and fancy that all eyes were fastened upon her in accusation, so that she hastened her steps, hurried home, pale and confused, and gazed at herself in the mirror with faltering pulse.
She had recently been entertained at the estate of a family on terms of friendship with her father. One day the master of the house, a scholar, was thrown into great agitation over the loss of a valuable manuscript. The servants were ordered to ransack every room, but no one was suspected of theft. Clarissa fell by and by into a painful state; she imagined that she was suspected; in every word she felt a sting, in every look a question; she took part in the search with anxious zeal, fevered visions of prison and disgrace already floated before her, she longed to hasten to her father, to assert her innocence—when suddenly the manuscript was found under some old books; Clarissa breathed again as if saved from peril of death, and never before had she been as witty, talkative, and captivatingly lovable as in the hours that followed.
When in the imagination of the multitude the lady with the green feathers grew steadily more distinct, along with the other figures implicated in the brutal slaughter of poor Fualdes, Clarissa was thrown into a consternation with which she only trifled at first, as if to test herself in a probability or balance herself upon a possibility, like a lad who with a pleasing shudder ventures upon the frozen surface of a stream to test its firmness. She devoured the reports in the newspapers. The timorous dallying grew into a haunting idea, chiefly owing to the fact that she really was the possessor of a hat with green feathers. That circumstance could not be regarded as remarkable. Fashion permitted the use of green, yellow, or red feathers; nevertheless, the possession of the hat became a torment to Clarissa. She dared no longer touch it; it seemed to her as if the feathers were enveloped in a bloody lustre, and she finally hid it in a lumber-room under the roof. She busied herself with plans of travel, and meant to visit Paris; but her resolution grew more shaky every day. Meanwhile June set in. A traveling theatrical company gave a number of performances in Rodez, and an officer by the name of Clemendot, who had long been pursuing Clarissa with declarations of love, but who had always, on account of his commonplaceness and evident crudity, been coolly, nay, at times ignominiously repulsed, brought her a ticket and invited her to accompany him to the theatre. She declined, but at the last moment she felt a desire to go, and had to suffer Captain Clemendot's taking the vacant seat to her right, after the rise of the curtain.
The troupe presented a melodrama, whose action dragged out at great length and with great gusto the misfortune and gruesome murder of an innocent youth. At the close of the last act a woman disguised as a man appeared upon the scene; she wore a pointed round hat, and a mask covered her face. A hurried love-scene, carried on in whispers, by the light of the dismal lamp of a criminal quarter, with the chief of the band of murderers, sealed the fate of the unhappy victim, who was kneeling in prayer. In the house an eager silence reigned, all eyes were burning. Clarissa seemed to hear the hundred hearts beat like so many hammers; she grew hot and cold, every feeling of the real present vanished, and when, in the ensuing interval. Captain Clemendot in his half humble, half impudent way became importunate, a shudder ran through her body, and at the fumes of wine which he exhaled she came near fainting. Suddenly she threw back her head, fixed her gaze upon his muddled, besotted countenance and asked in a low, sharp, hurried tone: "What would you say, Captain, if it were I—I—who was present at the Bancal house?"
Captain Clemendot turned pale. His mouth opened slowly, his cheeks quivered, his eyes glistened with fear, and when Clarissa broke into a soft, mocking, but not quite natural, laugh, he rose and, with an embarrassed farewell, left her. He was a simple man, as illiterate as a drummer, and, like everybody else in Rodez, completely under the sway of the blood-curdling reports. When the performance was at an end, he approached Clarissa, who, with an impassive air, was making her way to the exit, and asked whether she had been trying to jest with him, and she, her lips dry, and something like a prying hatred in her eyes, answered, laughing again: "No, no, Captain." After that her face resumed its earnest, almost sad, expression and her head dropped on her breast.
Clemendot went home with a disturbed mind, thoroughly convinced that he had received an important confession. He felt in duty bound to speak out, and unbosomed himself next morning to a comrade. The latter drew a second friend into the secret, they deliberated together, and by noon the magistrate had been informed. Monsieur Jausion had the Captain and Madame Mirabel summoned. After long and singular reflection Clarissa declared that the whole thing was a joke, and the magistrate was obliged to dismiss her for the present.
It was not joking, however, that the gentlemen wanted, but earnest. The Prefect, advised of what had happened, called in the evening on President Seguret and had a brief interview with the worthy man, who, shaken to his inmost soul, had to learn what a disgrace, to himself and her, his daughter had conjured up, menacing thus the peace of his old age. Clarissa was called in; she stood as if deprived of life before the two aged men, and the grief which spoke in her father's every motion and feature struck her heart with sorrow. She pleaded the thoughtlessness of the moment, the mad humor and confusion of her mind; in vain, the Prefect openly showed his incredulity. Monsieur Seguret, who in spite of his fondness for a jovial life, was of an exceedingly suspicious disposition, lacking, too, a firm and clear judgment of men, could not help regarding the depressed spirits of his daughter as a proof of guilt, and he explained to her, with cutting severity, that the truth alone would keep him from thrusting her from his heart. Clarissa ceased speaking; words rushed in upon her like destroying demons. The President grew sleepless and agitated, and wandered, distracted, about the castle all night long. His reflections consisted in fathoming Clarissa's nature on the side of its awful possibilities, and he very soon saw her impenetrable character covered with the blots and stigmas of the vice of romanticism. He, too, was completely under the spell of the general fanatical opinion, his experience could not hold out against the poisoned breath of calumny; the fear of being connected with the monstrous deed was stronger than the voice of his heart; suspicion became certainty, denial a lie. When he reflected upon Clarissa's past, her ungovernable desire to desert the beaten paths—a quality which appeared to him now as the gate to crime—no assumption was too daring, and her image interwove itself in the dismal web.
Sleep was banished from Clarissa, too. She surprised her father in the gray morning hours in his disturbed wanderings through the rooms, and threw herself sobbing at his feet. He made no attempt to console her or raise her; to her despairing question as to what she could be seeking in the Bancal house, since as a widow she was perfectly free to come and go as she pleased and could dispense with secrecy, the President's reply was a significant shrug; and so firmly was his sinister conjecture imbedded, that upon her dignified demand for a just consideration, he only flung back the retort: "Tell the truth."
The news was not slow to travel. Relatives and friends of the President made their appearance: amazed, excited, eager, malicious. To see the impenetrably peculiar, elusively unapproachable Clarissa cast into the mire was a sight they were all anxious to enjoy. A few of the older ladies attempted a hypocritically gentle persuasion, and Clarissa's contemptuous silence and the pained look of her eyes seemed to imply avowals. The Prefect came once more, accompanied by two officials. For the Government and the local functionaries everything was at stake; the cry for revenge of the citizens, anxious for their safety, the defiance and rancor of the Bonapartists, grew more violent every day, the papers demanded the conviction of the guilty persons, the rural population was on the point of a revolt. A witness who had no share in the deed itself, like Madame Mirabel, could quickly change and terminate everything; persuasion was brought to bear, she was promised, as far as the oath to which she subscribed in the Bancal house was concerned, a written dispensation from Rome, and a Jesuit priest whom the Mayor brought to the chateau expressly confirmed this. When everything proved vain and Clarissa began to oppose the cruel pressure by a stony calm, she was threatened with imprisonment, with having her disgrace and depravity made public through all France. And at these words of the Prefect her father fell upon his knees before her, as she had done that morning before him, and conjured her to speak. This was too much; with a shriek, she fell fainting to the floor.
Clarissa believed she remembered having spent the evening of the nineteenth of March with the Pal family, in Rodez; she believed she remembered that Madame Pal herself remarked to her the following day: "We were so merry yesterday, and perhaps at that very time poor Fualdes was being murdered." Upon referring to this, the Pals made a positive denial of everything; they denied that Clarissa had paid them a visit; nay, in their vague, cowardly fright, they even declared that they had been on bad terms with Madame Mirabel for years.
To human pity spirits blinded by fear and delusion were no longer accessible. Even had the sound sense of a single individual attempted resistance, it would have been useless; the giant avalanche could not be stayed. A diabolical plot was concocted, and it was the Prefect, Count d'Estournel, who perfected it in such wise that it promised the best success. Toward one o'clock at night a carriage drove into the castle grounds; Clarissa was compelled to enter it; the President, the Magistrate, the Prefect, were her companions. The carriage stopped in front of the Bancal house. Monsieur Seguret led his daughter into the ground floor room on the left, a cave-like chamber, gloomy as a bad conscience. On the shelf over the stove there stood a miserable little lamp whose light fell on two sheriff's officers and a lawyer's clerk, with stern countenances, leaning against the wall. The windows were hung with rags, the alcoves were pitchy dark, a mute silence reigned throughout the house.
"Do you know this place?" asked the Prefect with solemn deliberation. All turned their gaze upon Clarissa. In order to soften the frightful tension of her breast, she listened to the rain, which was beating against the wall outside; all her senses seemed to have gathered in her ear to that end. Her body grew limp, her tongue refused to utter more than "no" or "yes," and since the first promised new torment and agony, but the latter perchance peace, she breathed a "yes:" a little word, born of fear and exhaustion, and, scarce alive, winged with a mysterious power. Her mind, confused and consumed with longing, turned a phantom image, the creation of a thousand effervescent brains, into an actual experience. The half consciously heard, half distractedly read, became a burning reality. Her existence seemed strangely entangled in that of the man of the wood and dale, who had fervently lifted his head to heaven, and sniffed in the air with the expression of a thirsting animal. Now she stood upon the bridge which led to his domain; she beheld herself sitting at his feet, drops of blood from his outstretched hand fell upon her bowed head. Consternation on the one hand, and the most radiant hope on the other, seized her heart, while between there flamed like a torch, there rang out exultant like a battle-cry, the name Bastide Grammont, a plaything for her dreams.
An expression of relief flitted over the faces of the men upon this first syllable of a significant confession. President Seguret covered his eyes with his hand. He resolved in his heart to renounce his love for his misguided child. Clarissa felt it; all the ties which had hitherto bound her were broken.
She had, then, been in the room on the evening of the nineteenth of March? she was asked. She nodded. How had she come there? questioned Monsieur Jausion further, and his tone and mien were marked by a certain cautiousness and nicety, as if he feared to disturb the still timorous spirits of memory. Clarissa remained silent. Had she come by way of the Rue des Hebdomadiers? asked the Prefect. Clarissa nodded. "Speak! Speak!" thundered Monsieur Seguret suddenly, and even the two sheriff's officers were startled.
"I met several persons," Clarissa whispered in a tone so low that all involuntarily bent their heads forward. "I was afraid of them, and I ran, from fear, into the first open house."
Monsieur Jausion winked to the clerk. "Into this house, then?" he asked in a caressing voice, while the clerk seated himself on the bench near the stove and wrote in a crouching position.
Clarissa continued in the same plaintive whisper: "I opened the door of this room. Somebody seized me by the arm and led me into the alcove. He enjoined me to be silent. It was Bastide Grammont."
At last the name! But how different it was to pronounce it than merely to think it! Clarissa paused, while she closed her eyes and elapsed her hands convulsively. "After leaving me alone a while," she resumed as if speaking in her sleep, "he returned, bade me follow him and led me into the street. There he stood still and asked whether I knew him. I first said yes, then no. Thereupon he asked me if I had seen anything, and I said no. 'Go away!' he ordered, and I went. But I had not reached the centre of the town when he was again at my side and took my hand in his. 'I am not one of the murderers,' he protested, 'I met you and my only object was to save you. Swear that you will remain silent, swear on your father's life.' I swore, whereupon he left me. And that is all."
Monsieur Jausion smiled skeptically. "You claim, Madame, to have fled in here from the street," he remarked, "but it has been established by unexceptionable testimony that the gate was locked from eight o'clock on. How do you explain that?"
Clarissa remained mute, even her breath seemed to stop. The Prefect motioned to Monsieur Jausion to desist; for the present enough had been attained, it was enough that Bastide Grammont had been recognized by Clarissa. The resolve to force the criminal, who denied all share in the guilt, to a confession by having him unexpectedly confront the witness, came as a matter of course.
The gentlemen led Clarissa to the carriage, as she was scarcely able to walk. At home she lapsed into a peculiar state. First she lay back lethargically in a chair; suddenly she sprang up and cried: "Take away the murderers!" The door opened and the terrified face of a servant appeared in the crack. All the domestics stood waiting in the hall, most of them resolved to leave the President's service. Clarissa saw herself deprived of all the protection of love, and cast out from the circle where birth is respected and binding forms are recognized as the least of duties. She was exposed to every eye, the boldest gaze could pry into her inmost soul, she had become a public object, nothing about her was any longer her own, she herself could no longer find herself, find anything in herself upon which she could lean, she was branded, without and within, food for the general prurience, tossed defenselessly upon the filthy floods of gossip, the centre of a fearful occurrence from which she could no more dissever her thoughts. Sadness, grief, anxiety, scorn, these were no longer feelings for her, her blood coursed too wildly for that; uncertainty of herself dominated her, doubts as to her perception, doubts as to visible things in general; and now and then she would prick her finger with a needle just to feel the pain, which would serve as evidence of her being awake and might preserve her heart from decay. Added to this, the torment she suffered from the intrusive: appeals to tell the truth, the jeers from below, the command from above, the thirst for revenge and the ineffaceableness of a word once spoken; lastly, she saw the whole world filled with red tongues, ceaselessly chattering; bloody tongues with snakelike movements, directed toward her; every object she touched turned into a slippery tongue. Human countenances grew dim, save one, which, despite guilt and condemnation, was enthroned, in heroic suffering, high above the others, nay, appeared preeminent through his guilt as well as his defiance. And the day she was told that she was to confront Bastide Grammont in order to accuse him, her pulses beat in joyous measure again for the first time, and she arrayed herself as if for a festival.
The meeting was to take place in the magistrate's office. Besides Monsieur Jausion and his clerks, Counselor Pinaud, who had returned, was present. Monsieur Jausion cast a malicious glance at him over his spectacles as Clarissa Mirabel, decked in lace, rustled in, bowed smiling to the gentlemen, and then swept her gaze with cheerful calmness over the inhospitable room. From a frame in the centre of the wall the fat and ill-humored face of the King looked down upon her, as ill-humored as if each one of his subjects were especially repugnant to him. She forgot that it was only a picture that hung before her and looked up with a coquettish pout.
The magistrate made a sign, a side-door was thrown open, and Bastide Grammont, with hands chained together and with an officer of justice on either side of him, walked in. Clarissa gave a low cry and her face turned livid.
Prison atmosphere enveloped Bastide. The shaggy hair, the long, neglected beard, the staring, somewhat dazed look, the slight stoop, as of a carrier of burdens, of the gigantic form, the secretly quivering wrath upon his newly furrowed brow—all proclaimed their cause and origin. Yes, he seemed to carry about him the invisible walls which filled him with agony and gloom, and which, month after month, pictured to him with more and more hopeless brilliance the images of freedom, until finally they refused to delude him with blooming tree or flourishing field; then they resembled the desolate gray of an autumn evening, when the air already smacks of winter, the hearse rattles oftener than usual past the garden-gate toward the little churchyard, and the rising half-moon floats in glowing radiance in the misty azure like a bleeding, divided heart.
And yet that haughty eye, in which shone the resolve to be true to himself? And yet that strangely bitter scorn in his mien which might be compared to the cautious and at the same time majestic crouching of a tiger cat? The infinite contempt with which he looked at the hands of the clerks, prepared to write, his inner freedom and grand detachment in spite of the handcuffs and the two soldiers?
It was this that wrung the cry from Clarissa's lips, and drove the mad merriment from her face. Not, indeed, because she was forced to behold the former genius of the woods and wilds bound and shattered, but because she recognized as in a flash of lightning that that hand could not have wielded a murderous knife, that such a deed did not touch the circle of his being, even if he may have been capable of the act, and that all was in vain, an incomprehensible intoxication and madness, an impenetrable horror, an exhibition of hypocrisy and disease, A dizziness seized her as if she were falling from a high tower. She was ashamed of her showy dress, its conspicuous finery, and in passionate excitement she tore the costly lace from her arms and, with an expression of the utmost loathing, threw it on the ground.
Monsieur Jausion must have interpreted it differently. Again he smiled at Monsieur Pinaud, but this time in triumph, as if he would say: the sample tallies. "Do you know this lady, Bastide Grammont?" he asked the prisoner. Bastide turned his head aside, and his look of careless, bitter disdain cut Clarissa to the quick. "I don't know her," he replied gloomily, "I have never seen her."
And once more Monsieur Jausion smiled, as if to correct a parsing error, and murmured: "That is not possible; Madame Mirabel, dressed at that time as a man, and with a hat with green feathers, was in the Bancal house, and was led by you yourself to the street, where you received her oath. I beg you to call it to mind."
Bastide's face contracted as if at the annoying persistence of a fly, and he repeated in a loud, energetic tone: "I don't know the lady. I have never seen her." And his tightly compressed lips betrayed his firm resolve to remain silent.
Monsieur Jausion adjusted his wig and looked troubled. "What answer have you to that, Madame?" he asked, addressing Clarissa.
"He may not know that I saw him," she said in a whisper, but her voice had the penetrating quality of the chirping of a cricket.
Bastide turned toward her once more, and in the somewhat oblique glance of his wearily brilliant eyes there was a mixture of curiosity and scorn, no more, however, than would be bestowed upon a mushroom or a spider. Inwardly he weighed, as it were, the slender, childlike form, wondered casually at the agitation of her gestures, her flashing eyes, the helpless twitching of her lips, wondered at the lace lying on the floor, and thought he was dreaming when he became aware that an imploring gesture of her hands was meant for him.
The magistrate sprang up and, with distorted face, cried: "Do not jest with us, Madame, it may cost you dear. Speak out, then! A forced oath is not valid! The peace of your fellow-citizens, the peace of the country is at stake. Free yourself from the spell of the wretched being! Your infamous smile, Grammont, will be laid to your account on the day of the sentence."
Counselor Pinaud stepped forward and murmured a few words into the ear of Bastide, who lifted his arms, and with an expression of consuming rage pressed his clenched, chained hands to his eyes. Clarissa staggered to the magistrate's table, and while a deadly pallor overspread her cheeks, she shrieked: "It is all a lie! Lie! Lie!"
Monsieur Jausion measured her from head to foot. "Then I place you in the position of an accused person, Madame, and declare you under arrest."
A gleam of mournful satisfaction flitted over Clarissa's features. Swiftly, with the lightning-like wheeling of a dancer, she turned toward Bastide Grammont, looked at him as one looks up at a stormy sky after a sultry day, and with a pained, long-drawn breath, she called his name in a low voice. He, however, stepped back as if at an impure touch, and never before had Clarissa encountered such a glance and expression of disdain. Her knees shook, a feeling of distress overcame her, her eyes filled with tears. It was only when the door of the prison closed behind her that the helpless sensation of being flogged left her. Shame and remorse overpowered her; even the mysteriousness of her position afforded her but slight consolation. Controlled by no law, she seemed to have been shoved off the track upon which, in the ordinary course of nature, cause and effect, cumbrously linked together, crawl along in the slow process of experience.
In accordance with her station, she had been assigned the best room in the prison. The first hours she lay on the straw-bed and writhed in agony. When the keeper on her urgent request brought a light, as she feared she would go insane in the darkness, the candle-light fell upon the image of Christ upon the cross with the crown of thorns, which hung upon the gray-tinted wall. She gave a shriek, her overstrained senses found in the features of the Saviour a resemblance to those of Bastide Grammont. His lips had had the same agonized curve when he pressed his clenched hands to his eyes.
Once more she rebelled against the boundless injustice. To live with the world was her real element; her entire nature was attuned to a kindly understanding with people. She asked for paper and pen, and wrote a letter to the Prefect.
"Justice, Count!" she wrote. "It is still time to prevent the worst. Remember the difficulty you had in extorting from me what was supposed to be the truth, remember the threats which made me compliant. I am a victim of circumstances. Whatever I confessed is false. No man of sense can discover the stamp of probability in my statements. In a freak of desperation I bore false witness. Tell my father that his cruelty is more sure to rob him of his daughter than her seeming transgression. Already I know not what I should believe, the past escapes my memory, my confidence begins to totter. If it is too much to ask for justice, then I beg for mercy. My destiny seeks to try me, but my heart is clear as the day."
It was in vain. It was too late for words, even if the mouth of a prophet had proclaimed them in tones of thunder. The next morning many of the witnesses and prisoners were brought before Clarissa. Thus there were Bach, the Bancals, the soldier Colard, Rose Feral, Missonier, and little Madeleine Bancal. Bousquier was ill. The sight of the crushed, slouching, phantom-like creatures, intimidated by a hundred torments, revengefully ready for any deed, disturbed her to the core, and gave her at the same time a feeling of indelible contamination. "Is she the one?" each of the unfortunates was asked—and with insolent indifference they answered: "It is she." Missonier alone stood there laughing like an idiot.
Clarissa was amazed. She had not expected that the answers would be characterized by such assurance, such a matter-of-fact air. With inward sobs she held from her what was undeniable in the present situation, and shudderingly sought a path in her memory to that past situation on which the present was founded and which she was asked to verify. Her agitated spirit crept back to her earlier years, back to her youth, to her childhood, in order to discover her inimical second-self; that which had seemed weird and strange gradually became the essence and centre of her being, and the fateful night in Bancal's house turned, like the rest of the world, into a vision of blood and wounds.
But athwart the gloomy fancies the way led to Bastide Grammont; a flowery path among burning houses. It seemed fine to her to be assured of his guilt. Perchance he had pressed his lips to hers before he had clutched the murderous knife. She coupled her own obscurely felt guilt with his greater one. That which cut him off from humanity bound him to her. His reasons for the deed? She did not concern herself about them. No doubt it had struck root when she had first beheld him, when he had swallowed in a breath all the wood, all the springtime. No matter whether he dipped his hands in the sunlight or in blood, both pertained to his image, to her mysterious passion, and Fualdes was the evil genius and the destructive principle. "Ah," she reflected in her singular musing, "had I known of it, I should have committed the deed myself and might have been a heroine like Charlotte Corday!" Why, however, did he deny it, why was he silent? Why that look of overwhelming contempt, which she could not forget and which still scorched her skin like a brand of infamy? Was he too proud to bow to a sentence which put his crime on a level with that of any highwayman? No doubt he did not recognize his judges. She could, then, draw him down to herself, make him dependent upon the breath of her lips; and she forgot the iron alternatives that confront one's destiny here, and let herself go like a child that knows nothing of death.
The trial before the court of assizes was set for the sixteenth of October. At noon of the tenth, Clarissa requested an interview with Monsieur Jausion. Conducted before the magistrate, she declared she knew about the whole matter, and wished to confess everything. In a voice trembling with excitement. Monsieur Jausion summoned his clerks.
"I came into the room and saw the knife glisten," Clarissa confessed. "I took refuge in the alcove, Bastide Grammont hurried after me, embraced and kissed me. He confided to me that Fualdes must die, for the old devil had destroyed his happiness and made life worthless to him. Bastide was intoxicated, as it were, with enthusiasm, and when I raised objections, he stopped my mouth with kisses once more, yes, he kissed me so hard that I could not offer any resistance. Then he had me take an oath, whereupon he left me and I heard a groaning, I heard a terrible cry; little Madeleine Bancal, who was lying in bed, raised herself suddenly and wept. Then I lost consciousness, and when I regained it I found myself in the street."
She recounted this story in a mechanically measured tone; her voice had a metallic ring, her eyes were veiled and half closed, her little hands hung heavy at her side, and when she ceased she gazed before her with a pleased smile.
"You had consorted with Bastide Grammont before that, then?" questioned the Magistrate.
"Yes, we met in the forest. In the neighborhood of La Morne there is an old well in the field; there, also, we used to meet frequently; particularly at night and by moonlight. Once Bastide took me on his horse and we rode at a furious pace to the gorge at Guignol. I asked, 'What are you fleeing from, Bastide?' for I was cold with fright; and he whispered: 'From myself and from the world.' Otherwise, however, he was always gentle. I have never known a better man."
More and more silvery rang her voice, and finally she spoke like one transported or asleep. Her statement was read aloud to her; she affixed her signature calmly and without hesitation, whereupon Monsieur Jausion stated to her that she was free.
In the chateau she was met by a hostile silence. The few domestics who remained whispered insolently behind her back. Nobody looked to her comfort, she had to fetch the pitcher of water herself from the kitchen. In the meantime when President Seguret returned home, he already knew, as did the whole town, about Clarissa's confession. The circumstance of her amorous relation to Bastide shed a sudden light upon preceding events and wove a halo about her former silence. But Monsieur Seguret only hardened his heart all the more, and when he passed her as she stood on the threshold of her room, he turned away his head with a gesture of disgust.
In the evening the President entertained a number of his friends. In the course of the meal the door opened and Clarissa made her appearance. Monsieur Seguret sprang from his chair, rage robbing him of speech. "Do not dare," he stammered hoarsely, "do not dare!"
Regardless of that, Clarissa advanced to the edge of the table. A radiant, bewitching expression lit up her countenance. She turned her full gaze upon her father, so that he dropped his glance as if dazzled. "Do not revile me, father," she said gently in a tone of captivating entreaty.
She turned to one of the guests with a commonplace question. The gentleman addressed hesitated, seemed confounded, astonished, but was unable to resist. Her features, pallid from the prison atmosphere, had acquired something dreamily spiritual; the most ordinary word from her lips had a charm of its own.
The conversation became general; the guests conquered, nay, forgot, their secret amazement. Clarissa's wit and playful humor exercised a great fascination. Along with them, there was a sensuously pungent air about her which does not escape men, her gestures had something flattering, her eyes glowed with a romantic fire. Disturbed, lending but a reluctant ear. Monsieur Seguret could, nevertheless, not wholly evade the witchery which took his guests captive. A power stronger than his resolve forced him to leniency; he took a timid share in the conversation, in spite of the heavy load upon his heart. The talk turned upon politics, books, art, hunting, the war, nothing and everything—a sparkling interchange of polished phrases and sparkling reflections, of smiles and plaudits, jest and earnest. At times it seemed like a scene in a play enacted with masterly skill, or as if a light intoxication induced by champagne had exhilarated their spirits; each one was at his best and strove to outdo himself, and Clarissa held and led them all, like a fairy who upon a chariot of clouds guides a flock of pigeons.
Shortly after midnight she rose, a fleeting, complacent, capricious smile flashing across her face, and, with a rather affected bow, she left the room, the men relapsing into a sudden, strange silence. Monsieur Seguret was agitated when he conducted his guests to the door, and they left the chateau as silently as thieves.
The President strode up and down the entrance-hall awhile, his thoughts chasing each other like a fleeing troop of wild animals. As the echo of his footsteps struck him unpleasantly, he stepped out into the garden, and, strolling in the winding paths, he inhaled the fresh night air with a feeling of relief. As lie was leaving the avenue of yews, a streak of light fell across the path; Monsieur Seguret stepped upon the low wall encircling a small fountain and could thus look into Clarissa's room, the windows of which stood open. With difficulty he refrained from crying out in astonishment on beholding Clarissa in a loose nightdress, dancing with an expression of ecstasy and with passionate movements. Her eyes were tightly closed, as if they were sealed, her eyebrows lifted in coquettish anxiety, her shoulders rocked in a stream of inaudible tones whose tempo seemed now hurried, now excessively slow. Suddenly she seized something and held it before her,—it was a mirror; glancing into it, she recoiled with a shudder and let it fall, so that the listener could hear the clinking of the broken glass; then she went up to the window, tore her dress from her bosom, laid her hand upon her bare breast and looked straight in the direction where Monsieur Seguret was standing. He crouched down as if a gun had been aimed at him; Clarissa, however, did not see him; she fixed her gaze awhile upon the sweeping clouds and then closed the window. The President remained standing at his post some time longer and was unable to divert the current of his thoughts. Whom is she deceiving? he pondered, distressed—herself, or people in general, or God?
For the first time in many days Clarissa enjoyed a peaceful sleep once more. Yet when she laid herself in her white bed the pillows seemed to assume a purple hue and she fell into slumber as into an abyss. She dreamed of landscapes, of weird old houses, and of a sky that looked like clotted blood. She herself wandered in the silvery light, and without feeling any touch or seeing any human form, she nevertheless had a sensation of passionate kisses being pressed upon her lips, and there was a stirring in her body as of life taking shape.