The World's Greatest Books, Vol VIII
Arthur Mee and J.A. Hammerton, Eds.
Part 6 out of 6
all, got up from his seat at the introduction, and bowed with a
dandified air. Litvinov would have escaped, but Irina insisted on his
sitting down. For a time he had to listen to the empty, meaningless talk
of the company, hardly able to say a word to Irina. At last his clean
plebeian pride revolted. He rose to his feet, somehow took leave of
Irina and her husband, and walked rapidly away, trying to brace and
soothe his nerves by violent exercise.
"Oh, Tatyana, Tatyana!" he cried passionately to himself. "You are my
guardian angel! you only my good genius! I love you only, and will love
you for ever, and I will not go to see her. Forget her altogether! Let
her amuse herself with her generals."
That very evening Irina sent him a message, asking him to come and see
her, and, in spite of all his determinations, he went. She saw him alone
in a room in one of the best hotels in Baden. "Grigory Mihalovitch," she
cried, as soon as he had closed the door behind him, "here we are alone
at last, and I can tell you how glad I am at our meeting, because it...
gives me a chance... of asking your forgiveness."
Litvinov started involuntarily at this unexpected reference to old
"Forgiveness... for what?" he muttered.
"For what? I wronged you, though of course it was my fate, and I do not
regret it. You must tell me you forgive me, or else I shall imagine you
feel... _de la rancune_."
As he looked into her beautiful eyes, shining with tears, Litvinov's
senses seemed to swim.
"I will remember nothing," he managed to say; "nothing but the happy
moments for which I was once indebted to you."
Irina held out both hands to him; Litvinov clasped them warmly, and did
not at once let them go. Something that long had not been secretly
stirred in his heart at that soft contact.... They fell into
conversation, he learning from her something of her life, she extracting
from him in fragments the details of his career. General Ratmirov's
arrival put an end to their converse, and Litvinov rose to depart. At
the door Irina stopped him.
"You have told me everything," she said, "but the chief thing you have
concealed. You are going to be married, I am told."
Litvinov blushed up to his ears. As a fact, he had intentionally not
referred to Tatyana.
"Yes, I am going to be married," he said at last, and at once withdrew.
He came away, swearing to himself that he would never see her again.
Next day he met her on his way to the mountains, but pretended not to
see her. On his return he found her sitting alone on a bench in the
fashionable walk. She stopped him, insisting, with an unsteady voice, on
speaking to him. He tried to be frank with her, pointing out that their
paths lay far apart, that she belonged to a society which he did not
understand, that she was above him, beyond him. But her passionate
appeal that they should at least be friends melted his determination,
and he left her with a promise to call again that very night.
When he returned once more to his rooms, he made a desperate effort to
recover his senses. Taking out a picture of Tatyana, he placed it in
front of him, and stared at it long and eagerly. Suddenly he pushed it
gently away, and clutched his head in both hands.
"All is at an end," he whispered at last. "Irina! Irina!"
He realised in an instant that he was irrevocably, senselessly, in love
"But Tatyana, Tatyana, my guardian, Tatyana, Tatyana!" he repeated,
while Irina's shape, as he had seen her last, rose before his eyes with
a radiant calm of victory on her marble-white face.
Next day he told her of his love. For answer she threw her arms round
his neck and whispered in his ear, "I love you, too.... I love you...
and you know it."
"You must go," she went on suddenly, moving away from him and turning
impulsively toward the door. "It's dangerous, it's terrible....
Litvinov stood, like a block of wood, at a distance. Once more she said,
"Good-bye, forget me," and, without looking round, rushed away.
As he left the hotel, like a man in a fog, he passed Ratmirov on the
stairs. The general lifted his hat unnecessarily high, and wished him a
very good day in a voice which was obviously ironical.
He hardly responded to Ratmirov's bow, but rushed back to his lodgings.
His head was turning round, and his heart vibrating like a harp-string.
He tried to pull himself together. He would fly from her. "If I die for
it," he muttered to himself. He packed his bag and trunk with furious
energy, determined to go that very night. As he was in the midst of his
preparations, a note was brought him from Irina.
"Sooner or later," she wrote, "it must have been. My life is in your
hands. If necessary, I will throw up everything and follow you to the
ends of the earth. We shall see each other to-morrow, of course. Your
Two hours later he was sitting in his room on the sofa. His box stood in
the corner, open and empty.
_III--A Ruined Life_
Tatyana and her aunt arrived the following day at twelve o'clock.
Litvinov was at the station to meet them--a different Litvinov from the
one who a few days before had been so self-confident, so spiritual, so
calm and content. His whole appearance, his movements, the expression of
his face, had been transformed. Some sensation, unknown before, had
come, strong, sweet--and evil; the mysterious guest had made its way to
the innermost shrine, and taken possession and lain down in it in
silence, but, in all its magnitude, like the owner in a new house.
Litvinov was no longer ashamed, he was afraid; he had been vanquished,
vanquished suddenly... and what had become of his honesty? The first
look at Tatyana, the first look of Tatyana... that was what filled him
with terror, that was what he had to live through directly... and
afterwards?... afterwards?... Come what may come!
The train steamed in. Tatyana, standing near her aunt, smiled brightly
and held out her hand. He helped them to a fly and took a place in it
opposite them. He brought himself at last to look at Tatyana. His heart
throbbed with involuntary emotion; the serene expression of that honest,
candid face gave him a pang of bitter reproach. "So you are here, poor
girl," he thought. "You whom I have so longed for, so urged to come,
with whom I had hoped to spend my life to the end, you have come, you
believe in me... while I... while I..."
But Kapitolina Markoyna gave him no time for musing. She was full of
chatter, full of interest in everything that was going on, afire to see
all the fine aristocrats, though she abused them soundly.
After doing a round of the sights, Litvinov, his mind always on the
rack, led the ladies back to their hotel. As they entered a note was
handed to him. He tore open the envelope and read the words within,
scribbled in pencil: "Come to me this evening at seven, for one minute,
I entreat you. Irina."
After dinner Litvinov escorted the two ladies to their room, and, after
standing a little while at the window, with a scowl on his face, he
suddenly announced that he had to go out for a short time on business.
Tatyana said nothing; she turned pale and dropped her eyes. She was well
aware that Litvinov knew that her aunt took a nap after dinner; she had
expected him to take advantage of it to remain with her. He had not been
alone with her nor spoken frankly to her since her arrival. And now he
was going out! What was she to make of it? And, indeed, his whole
behaviour all along....
In a few minutes he was with Irina, holding her in his arms.
"I can't live without you, Irina," he whispered; "I am yours for ever
and always. I can only breathe at your feet."
He stooped down, all in a tremble, to kiss her hand. Irina gazed at his
"Then let me say that I, too, am ready for anything; that I, too, will
consider no one and nothing. As you decide, so it shall be. I, too, am
for ever yours... yours."
He tore himself away with difficulty. He had turned his back on his
upright, well-organised, orderly future. The thing was done, but how was
he to face his judge? And if only his judge would come to meet him--an
angel with a flaming sword; that would be easier for a sinning heart...
instead of which, he had himself to plunge the knife in... infamous! but
to turn back, to abandon that other, to take advantage of the freedom
offered him, recognised as his... No, no! better to die! No, he would
have none of such loathsome freedom... but would humble himself in the
dust, and might those eyes look down on him with love.
Two hours later he was back again, trying to talk to the girl he
determined to deceive. He felt a continual gnawing of conscience;
whatever he said, it always seemed to him that he was telling lies, and
Tatyana was seeing through it. The girl was paler than usual, and,
replying to her aunt, she said she had a little headache.
"It's the journey," suggested Litvinov, and he positively blushed with
"Yes, the journey," repeated Tatyana, letting her eyes dwell for a
moment on his face.
In the night, at two o'clock, Kapitolina Markovna, who was sleeping in
the same room with her niece, suddenly lifted up her head and listened.
"Tatyana," she said, "you are crying?"
Tatyana did not at once answer.
"No, aunt," sounded her gentle voice; "I have caught cold."
In the course of that dreadful night Litvinov had arrived at a
resolution. He determined to tell Tatyana the truth, and in the morning
he steeled himself for the interview. He found her alone, and with an
effort stumbled out the introductory words of his confession. Tatyana
stopped him abruptly in the middle.
"Grigory Mihalovitch," she said in a measured voice, while a deathly
pallor overspread her whole face, "I will come to your assistance. You
no longer love me, and you don't know how to tell me so."
He flung himself on his knees before her.
"Tatyana," he cried, "could I dream that I should bring such a blow upon
you, my best friend, my guardian angel! I have come to tell you that
your friend is ruined, that he is falling into the pit, and would not
drag you down with him, but save me... no! even you cannot save me. I
should push you away; I am ruined, Tatyana, I am ruined past all help."
Tatyana's brow twitched. Her pale face darkened.
"Since you say yourself this passion is unalterable, it only remains for
me to give you back your word. I will ask you to leave me. I want to
collect myself a little.... Leave me alone... spare my pride."
Uttering these words, Tatyana hurriedly withdrew into an inner room.
He was free now, free to go to Irina! That day Tatyana and her aunt left
Baden. There were no barriers between him and his soul's desire. He
hastened to Irina's side. He found her turning over some lace in a
"Don't be angry with me, dear one," she said, "for attending to this
trash at the present moment. I am obliged to go to a ball at a certain
lady's. These bits of finery have been sent me, and I must choose
to-day. Ah! I am awfully wretched," she cried suddenly, and she laid her
face down on the edge of the box. Tears began falling from her eyes...
she turned away; the tears might spoil the lace.
He was uneasy at her tears and tried to comfort her, and she, putting
her arms around him, cried to him that she would do whatever he wished.
They should be free people. "Let us be free," she said. "The day is
ours. A lifetime is ours."
Litvinov spent the next twenty-four hours in making all arrangements for
their flight together. He raised as much money as he could, even
stooping to try his luck at roulette to increase his hoard. The
appointed moment of their departure approached. As he waited impatiently
in the hotel hall, a letter was brought him. It was a letter from Irina
"My dear one," she wrote, "I cannot run away with you. I have not the
strength to do it. I cannot leave this life; I see the poison has gone
too deeply into me. Oh, my dear one, think me a weak, worthless woman,
despise, but don't abandon me, don't abandon your Irina.... To leave
this life I have not the courage, but live it without you I cannot
either. Come soon to me. I shall not have an instant's peace until I see
you. Yours, yours, yours--I."
The blood beat like a sledgehammer in Litvinov's head, then slowly and
painfully sank to his heart, and was chill as a stone. And so again,
again deceit; no, worse than deceit--lying and baseness... and life
shattered, everything torn up by its roots utterly, and the sole thing
which he could cling to, the last prop, in fragments too. In Litvinov's
soul rose, like sudden gusts of wind before a storm, momentary impulses
He determined to leave Baden at once. Getting a carriage, he took his
box to the station. He was just taking his seat in the railway carriage.
"Grigory Mihalovitch... Grigory..." he heard a supplicating whisper
He started to see Irina standing on the platform, her eyes crying to him
to come back--to come back.... He jumped into the carriage, and turning
round, he motioned her to a place beside him. She understood him. There
was still time. One step, one movement, and two lives made one for ever
would have been hurried away into the uncertain distance.... While she
wavered, a loud whistle sounded, and the train moved off.
A year had passed--a year spent by Litvinov on his father's estate, a
year of hard work, a year of devoting the knowledge he had acquired
abroad to the betterment of the property. Another year, and his toil
began to show its fruit. A third year was beginning. An uncle, who
happened to be a cousin of Kapitolina Markovna, and had been recently
staying with her, paid them a visit. He brought Litvinov a great deal of
news about Tatyana. The next day, after his departure, Litvinov sent her
a letter, the first since their separation.
He begged for permission to renew her acquaintance, at least by
correspondence, and also desired to learn whether he must forever give
up all idea of some day seeing her. Not without emotion he awaited the
answer... the answer came at last. Tatyana responded cordially to his
overture. "If you are disposed to pay us a visit," she finished up, "we
hope you will come; you know the saying, 'even the sick are easier
together than apart.'"
With a new lightness of heart, Litvinov set off on his journey. The
horses would not go quick enough for him. At last the house was in
view... and on the steps Kapitolina Markovna was standing, and, beside
herself with joy, was clapping her hands, crying, "I heard him! I knew
him first! It's he! it's he! I knew him."
Litvinov dashed into the house... before him, all shamefaced, stood
Tatyana. She glanced at him with kind, caressing eyes and gave him her
hand. But he did not take her hand. He fell on his knees before her,
kissing the hem of her dress. The tears started into her eyes. She was
frightened, but her whole face beamed with delight.
"Tatyana," Litvinov cried, "Tatyana, you have forgiven me? Tatyana!"
"Aunt, aunt, what is this?" cried Tatyana, turning to Kapitolina
Markovna as she came in.
"Don't hinder him, Tatyana," answered the kind old lady; "you see the
sinner has repented."
* * * * *
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Jules Verne was born in 1828. He studied law at Paris, but
turned to writing almost immediately after completing his
education, and brought out his first comedy in 1850. This was
followed by several comic operas. However, he is chiefly known
by his "scientific romances," of which the first, "Five Weeks
in a Balloon," appeared in 1863. "Twenty Thousand Leagues
Under the Sea" is perhaps the best example of Verne's tales of
the marvels of invention, and we have to remember that when it
was written, in 1873, nobody had yet succeeded in making a
boat to travel under water. For that reason it was, in a way,
a prophetic book, shadowing forth the wonderful possibilities
of human ingenuity in exploring the ocean's unknown depths.
Jules Verne died March 24, 1905.
_I.--I Join a Strange Expedition_
In the year 1866 the whole seafaring world of Europe and America was
greatly disturbed by an ocean mystery which baffled the wits of
scientists and sailors alike. Several vessels, in widely different
regions of the seas, had met a long and rapidly moving object, much
larger than a whale, and capable of almost incredible speed. It had also
been seen at night, and was then phosphorescent, moving under the water
in a glow of light.
There was no doubt whatever as to the reality of this unknown terror of
the deep, for several vessels had been struck by it, and particularly
the Cunard steamer Scotia, homeward bound for Liverpool. It had pierced
a large triangular hole through the steel plates of the Scotia's hull,
and would certainly have sunk the vessel had it not been divided into
seven water-tight compartments, any one of which could stand injury
without danger to the vessel. It was three hundred miles off Cape Clear
that the Scotia encountered this mysterious monster. Arriving after some
days' delay at Liverpool, the vessel was put into dock, when the result
of the blow from the unknown was thoroughly investigated. So many
vessels having recently been lost from unknown causes, the narrow escape
of the Scotia directed fresh attention to this ocean mystery, and both
in Europe and America there was a strong public agitation for an
expedition to be sent out, prepared to do battle with, and if possible
destroy, this narwhal of monstrous growth, as many scientists believed
it to be.
Now I, Pierre Arronax, assistant professor in the Paris Museum of
Natural History, was at this time in America, where I had been engaged
on a scientific expedition into the disagreeable region of Nebraska. I
had arrived at New York in company of my faithful attendant, Conseil,
and was devoting my attention to classifying the numerous specimens I
had gathered for the Paris Museum. As I had already some reputation in
the scientific world from my book on "The Mysteries of the Great
Submarine Grounds," a number of people did me the honour of consulting
me concerning the one subject then exercising the minds of all
interested in ocean travel.
An expedition was also being fitted out by the United States government,
the fastest frigate of the navy, the Abraham Lincoln, under command of
Captain Farragut, being in active preparation, with the object of
hunting out this wandering monster which had last been seen three weeks
before by a San Francisco steamer in the North Pacific Ocean. I was
invited to join this expedition as a representative of France, and
immediately decided to do so. The faithful Conseil said he would go with
me wherever I went, and thus it came about that my sturdy Flemish
companion, who had accompanied me on scientific expeditions for ten
years was with me again on the eventful cruise which began when we
sailed from Brooklyn for the Pacific and the unknown.
The crew of the frigate and the various scientists on board were all
eagerness to meet the great cetacean, or sea-unicorn. My own opinion was
that it would be found to be a narwhal of monstrous growth, for these
creatures are armed with a kind of ivory sword, or tusk, as hard as
steel, and sometimes nearly seven feet long by fifteen inches in
diameter at the base. Supposing one to exist ten times as large as any
that had ever been captured, with its tusk proportionately powerful, it
was conceivable that such a gigantic creature, moving at a great rate,
could do all the damage that had been reported.
There was among our crew one Ned Land, a gigantic Canadian of forty, who
was considered to be the prince of harpooners. Many a whale had received
its deathblow from him, and he was eager to flesh his harpoon in this
redoubtable cetacean which had terrified the marine world.
Week after week passed without any sign that our quest would be
successful. Indeed, after nearly four months had gone, and we had
explored the whole of the Japanese and Chinese coasts, the captain
reached the point of deciding to return, when one night the voice of Ned
Land was heard calling:
"Look out there! The thing we are looking for on our weather-beam!"
At this cry the entire crew rushed towards the harpooner--captain,
officers, masters, sailors, and cabin-boys; even the engineers left
their engines, and the stokers their furnaces. The frigate was now
moving only by her own momentum, for the engines had been stopped.
My heart beat violently. I was sure the harpooner's eyes had not
deceived him. Soon we could all see, about two cables' length away, a
strange and luminous object, lying some fathoms below the surface, just
as described in many of the reports. One of the officers suggested that
it was merely an enormous mass of phosphorous particles, but I replied
with conviction that the light was electric. And even as I spoke the
strange thing began to move towards us!
The captain immediately reversed engines and put on full speed, but the
luminous monster gained on us and played round the frigate with
frightful rapidity. Its light would go out suddenly and reappear again
on the other side of the vessel. It was clearly too great a risk to
attack the thing in the dark, and by midnight it disappeared, dying out
like a huge glow-worm. It appeared again, about five miles to the
windward, at two in the morning, coming up to the surface as if to
breathe, and it seemed as though the air rushed into its huge lungs like
steam in the vast cylinders of a 2,000 horse-power engine.
"Hum!" said I. "A whale with the strength of a cavalry regiment would be
a pretty whale!"
_II.--The Attack and After_
Everything was in readiness to attack with the coming of the dawn, and
Ned Land was calmly sharpening his great harpoon, but by six in the
morning the thing had again disappeared, and a thick sea-fog made it
impossible to observe its further movements. At eight o'clock, however,
the mist had begun to clear, and then, as suddenly as on the night
before, Ned Land's voice was heard calling: "The thing on the
There it was, surely enough, a mile and a half away, now a large black
body showing above the waves, and leaving a track of dazzling white as
its great tail beat the water into foam.
Moving rapidly, it approached within twenty feet of the frigate. Ned
stood ready at the bow to hurl his harpoon, and the monster was now
shining again with that strange light which dazzled our eyes. All at
once he threw the harpoon. It struck on a hard body.
Instantly the light went out and two enormous water-spouts fell on our
deck. A frightful shock followed, and the next moment I found myself
struggling in the sea. Though a good swimmer, I kept afloat with some
difficulty, and great was my joy when I heard the voice of the faithful
Conseil, who had jumped in after me. Much stronger than myself, he
helped me to remove some of my clothes, and thus we kept afloat until I
When I regained consciousness, I found myself on the top of what seemed
to be a floating island, and there was Ned Land as well as Conseil. We
were on the back of the mysterious monster, and it was made of metal!
Presently it began to move, and we were afraid it might go below the
Indeed, it seemed to be on the point of submerging, when Land hammered
loudly on the metal plates, and in a moment an opening was made and the
three of us were drawn inside by eight masked men. A door banged on us,
and for half an hour we lay in utter darkness. Then a brilliant electric
light flooded the cabin, a room of about twenty feet by ten, and two men
entered. One was tall, pale, and dark-eyed, but magnificently
Though we spoke to them in French, German, English, and Latin, they did
not seem to understand, while their own speech was unintelligible to us.
But they gave us clothes and food. After eating the food, which was
strange but delicious, we all lay down and slept the sleep of sheer
Next day the tall man, whom I afterwards came to know as Captain Nemo,
master of his marvellous submarine boat, came to me, and, speaking in
"I have been considering your case, and did not choose to speak till I
had weighed it well. You have pursued me to destroy me. I have done with
society for reasons of my own. I have decided. I give you choice of life
or death. If you grant me a passive obedience, and submit to my
consigning you to your cabin for some hours or days, as occasion calls,
you are safe. You, Monsieur Arronax, have least cause to complain, for
you have written on the life of the sea--I have your book in my library
here--and will benefit most when I show you its marvels. I love it. It
does not belong to despots."
Clearly we could do nothing but submit, and afterwards Captain Nemo
showed me his wondrous craft.
_III.--Our Life on the Nautilus_
It was indeed a thing of marvels; for, besides the dining-room, it
contained a large library of twelve thousand volumes, a drawing-room
measuring thirty feet by eighteen, and fifteen high. The walls of this
apartment were adorned with masterpieces of the great painters, and
beautiful marbles and bronzes. A large piano-organ stood in one corner,
and there were glass cases containing the rarest marine curiosities
which a naturalist could wish to see. A collection of enormous pearls in
a cabinet must have been worth millions, and Captain Nemo told me he had
rifled every sea to find them.
The room assigned to me was fitted up with every luxury, yet the
captain's own apartment was as simply furnished as a monastic cell, but
in it were contained all the ingenious instruments that controlled the
movements of the Nautilus, as his submarine was named. The electricity
was manufactured by a process of extracting chloride of sodium from the
sea-water, but the fresh air necessary for the life of the crew could
only be obtained by rising to the surface. The engine-room was
sixty-five feet long, and in it was the machinery for producing
electricity as well as that for applying the power to the propeller.
The Nautilus, Captain Nemo explained, was capable of a speed of fifty
miles an hour, and could be made to sink or rise with precision by
flooding or emptying a reservoir. In a box, raised somewhat above the
hull and fitted with glass ten inches thick, the steersman had his
place, and a powerful electric reflector behind him illumined the sea
for half a mile in front.
The submarine also carried a small torpedo-like boat, fitted in a groove
along the top, so that it could be entered from the Nautilus by opening
a panel, and, after that was closed, the boat could be detached from the
submarine, and would then bob upwards to the surface like a cork. The
importance of this and its bearing on my story will appear in due time.
It was on a desert island that Captain Nemo had carried out the building
of the Nautilus, and from many different places he had secured the
various parts of the hull and machinery, in order to maintain secrecy.
Deeply interested as I was in every detail of this extraordinary vessel,
and excited beyond measure at the wonders which awaited me in exploring
the world beneath the waves, I had still the feeling of a prisoner who
dared scarcely hope that liberty might some day be obtained. But when
the metal plates which covered the windows of the saloon were rolled
back as we sailed under the water, and on each hand I could see a
thronging army of many-coloured aquatic creatures swimming around us,
attracted by our light, I was in an ecstasy of wonder and delight.
Then days would pass without Captain Nemo putting in an appearance, and
none of the crew were ever to be seen. But the Nautilus kept on its
journey, which, I learned, took us to the Torres Strait, the Papuan
coast, through the Red Sea, through a subterranean strait, under the
Isthmus of Suez, to the island of Santorin, the Cretan Archipelago, to
the South Pole, on whose sterile wastes Captain Nemo reared his black
flag with a white "N" upon it, and through the Gulf Stream.
Of the wonders of the deep, those amazing and beautiful specimens of
unknown life that passed before my vision on this strange journey, never
before seen by the eye of any naturalist, I cannot here enter into
particulars. But it must not be supposed, prisoners though we were, that
we never emerged from the interior of the Nautilus.
One of my first surprises, indeed, was to be invited by Captain Nemo to
accompany him on a hunting expedition in the marine forest that grew
about the base of the little island of Crespo, in the North Pacific
Ocean. We were told to make a hearty breakfast, as the jaunt would be a
long one. This we did, for we had soon become accustomed to the strange
food, every item of which was produced by the sea.
For our submarine excursion we were furnished with diving dresses of
seamless india-rubber, fitted on the shoulders with a reservoir of
stored air, its tubes opening into the great copper helmet. We even had
powerful air-guns and electric bullets, which proved weapons of deadly
precision. When inside our diving dresses, we could not move our feet on
account of the enormous leaden soles, so that we had to be pushed into a
compartment at the bottom of the vessel, and the iron doors secured
behind us. Water was then pumped in, and we could feel it rising around
us, until the compartment was full, when an outer door opened and we
stepped on to the floor of the sea.
For some considerable distance we walked along sands of the most perfect
smoothness, and then had to make our way over slimy rocks and
treacherous masses of seaweed, before we reached the fairy-like forest
under the sea, where all the branches of the marvellous growths ascended
It was indeed a rare experience for me, who had written "The Mysteries
of the Great Submarine Grounds," thus to see, at first hand, the life
which I had only been able to speculate on before. We captured many rare
specimens, and shot a fine sea-otter, the only known quadruped that
inhabits the rocky depths of the Pacific. It was five feet long, and its
skin was worth a hundred pounds.
_IV.--Captain Nemo and the Avenger_
So constantly was I enchanted with the wonders of our journey that day
succeeded day without my taking note of them; but Captain Nemo, for all
his kindness, still remained as mysterious as the Sphinx. One day he
became violently agitated after looking through the glass at a point
indicated by his lieutenant, and I and my companions were immediately
imprisoned in darkness, as we had been when first taken into the
Nautilus. When I awoke next morning the captain took me to see a wounded
Englishman whose head had been shattered, and on my stating that the man
could not live for two hours, the dark eyes of the captain seemed to
fill with tears. I thought that night I heard sounds of a funeral hymn,
and next day I was taken to a submarine forest of coral, where they
buried the man. This was really a little cemetery beneath the sea, as I
gathered from the coral cross which had been erected there. Ned Land,
unlike me, was soon satisfied with what he had seen of the submarine
world, and had now but one thought of escape. We were sailing up the
eastern coast of South America, and by May 17 were some five hundred
miles from Heart's Content. There I saw, at a depth of more than fifteen
hundred fathoms, the great electric cable lying at the bottom of the
ocean. The restlessness of poor Ned Land was at its height when he had a
glimpse of the American shore; but Captain Nemo bent his course towards
Ireland, and then southward, passing within sight of Land's End on May
All the next day the vessel seemed to be making a series of circular
movements, in some endeavour to locate a particular spot, and the
captain was gloomier than I had ever seen him, having no word for me.
The following day, which was beautifully clear, we could make out, some
eight miles to the eastward, a large steam vessel flying no flag.
Suddenly, after using his sextant, the captain exclaimed: "It is here!"
Presently the Nautilus sank to the bottom of the sea. When at rest the
lights were put out and the sliding panels opened. We could now see on
our starboard the remains of a sunken vessel, so encrusted with shells
that it must have lain there a great many years. As I stood there
wondering what might be Captain Nemo's reason for his manoeuvres, he
came to my side and, speaking slowly, said:
"That was the Marseillais, launched in 1772. It carried seventy-four
guns, and fought gallantly against the Preston, was in action again at
the siege of Granada, and in Chesapeake Bay. Then in 1794 the French
Republic changed the vessel's name, and it joined a squadron at Brest to
escort a cargo of corn coming from America. The squadron fell in with an
English man-o'-war, and seventy-two years ago to this very day, on this
very spot, after fighting heroically, until its masts were shot away,
its hold full of water, and a third of its crew disabled, this vessel
preferred sinking, with its 356 sailors, to surrendering. Nailing its
colours to the mast, it sank beneath the waves to the cry of 'Long live
"The Avenger!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, the Avenger. A good name!" said the captain, with a strange
seriousness, as he crossed his arms.
I was deeply impressed with his whole bearing while he recalled these
facts. It was clearly no common spite against his fellow-men that had
shut up Captain Nemo and his crew in the Nautilus.
Already we were ascending, fast leaving the grave of the old Avenger.
When we had reached the surface we could see the other vessel steaming
towards us. A low boom greeted the Nautilus as its upper part showed
above the water. Ned Land, aflame once more with hope of escape, made
out the vessel to be a two-decker ram, but she showed no flag at her
mizzen. It seemed for a moment there might just be some chance of escape
for us three prisoners, and Ned declared he would jump into the sea if
the man-o'-war came within a mile of us. Just then another gun boomed
out. She was firing at us.
It flashed across my mind at that moment that as those on board the
Abraham Lincoln, having once seen the effect of Ned Land's harpoon when
it struck the Nautilus, could not but have concluded their enemy was no
monster of the deep--though indeed a monster of man's contriving--the
warships of all nations would now be on the look-out for the Nautilus,
and we on board it could scarcely hope for mercy.
The shot rattled about us as we stood on the opened upper deck of the
submarine, and Ned Land, in a mad moment, waved his handkerchief to the
enemy, only to be instantly felled by the iron hand of Captain Nemo.
Then, frightfully pale, the captain turned towards the approaching
man-o'-war, and, in a voice terrible to hear, cried: "Ah, ship of an
accursed nation, you know who I am! I do not need to see your colours to
know you. Look, and see mine!"
So saying, he unfurled his black flag, and then sternly bade us go
below, just as a shell struck the Nautilus, and rebounded into the sea.
"You have seen the attack," he said calmly. "I shall sink yonder ship,
but not here--no, not here. Her ruins shall not mingle with those of the
_V.--The Doom of the Oppressor_
Having no choice but to obey, we all went below, and the propeller of
the Nautilus was soon lashing the water into creamy foam, taking us
beyond the range of fire. I held my peace for a time, but, after some
deliberation, ventured to go up in the hope of dissuading Captain Nemo
from more destruction. His vessel was now coursing round the other ship
like a wild beast manoeuvring to attack its prey, and I had scarcely
spoken when the captain turned on me fiercely, commanding silence.
"Here I am the law and the judge," he said, almost in a shriek. "There
is the oppressor. Through him I have lost all that I have loved,
cherished, and venerated--country, wife, children, father, and mother. I
saw all perish! All that I hate is represented by that ship! Not another
In the face of such fierce hatred it was useless to try persuasion. I
and my companions resolved to attempt escape when the Nautilus made the
attack. At six the next morning, being the second day of June, the two
vessels were less than a mile and a half apart. Suddenly, as the three
of us were preparing to rush on deck and jump overboard, the upper panel
closed sharply. Our chance was gone!
Next moment the noise of the water rushing into the reservoir indicated
that we were sinking, and in a moment more the machinery throbbed at its
greatest speed as the Nautilus shot forward under the sea. Then the
whole submarine trembled; there was a shock, and then a rending jar
above. The terror of the seas had cut its way through the other vessel
like a needle through sailcloth! Horror-stricken, I rushed into the
saloon and found Captain Nemo, mute and gloomy, standing by the port
panel, which had instantly been slid back, watching with a terrible
satisfaction the injured vessel sinking with all its crew beneath the
waves. The Nautilus sank with it, so that its terrible captain might
lose nothing of the fascinating horror presented by the spectacle of his
victims descending to their ocean grave. When we had seen all, he went
to his room, and, following him, I saw on the wall the portraits of a
woman, still young, and two little children. He looked at them, and as
he stretched his arms toward them the fierce expression of hate died
away from his face. He sank down on his knees, and burst into deep sobs.
I felt a strange horror for this man, who, though he might have suffered
terribly, had no right to exact so terrible a vengeance.
The Nautilus was now making its top speed, and the instruments indicated
a northerly direction. Whither was it flying? That night we covered two
hundred leagues of the Atlantic. Onward we kept our course, the speed
never lessening, and for fifteen or twenty days, during which we
prisoners never saw the captain or his lieutenant, this headlong race
_VI.--Our Escape from the Nautilus_
Poor Ned Land was in despair, and Conseil and I had to watch him
carefully lest he might kill himself. One morning he said to me:
"We are going to fly to-night. I have taken the reckoning, and make out
that twenty miles or so to the east is land. I have got a little food
and water, and Conseil and I will be near the opening into the small
boat at ten. Meet us there. If we do not escape, they sha'n't take me
"I will go with you," I said. "At least we can die together."
Wishing to verify the direction of the Nautilus, I went to the saloon.
We were going N.N.E. with frightful speed at a depth of twenty-five
fathoms. I took a last look at all the natural marvels and art treasures
collected in this strange museum, a collection doomed to perish in the
depths of the ocean with the man who had made it. Back in my own room I
donned my sea garments, and placed all my notes carefully about my
clothing. My heart was beating so loudly that I feared my agitation
might betray me if I met Captain Nemo. I decided it was best to lie down
on my bed in the hope of calming my nerves, and thus to pass the time
till the hour determined upon for our attempt. Ten o'clock was on the
point of striking, when I heard Captain Nemo playing a weird and sad
melody, and I was struck with the sudden terror of having to pass
through the saloon while he was there. I must make the attempt, and
softly I crept to the door of the saloon and softly opened it. Captain
Nemo was still playing his subdued melody; but the room was in darkness,
and slowly I made my way across it to the library door. I had almost
opened this when a sigh from him made me pause.
He had risen from the organ, and, as some rays of light were now
admitted from the library, I could see him coming toward me with folded
arms, gliding like a ghost rather than walking. His breast heaved with
sobs, and I heard him murmur these words, the last of his I heard:
"Enough! O God, enough!" Was it remorse escaping thus from the
conscience of this mysterious being?
Had I not seen it begin with the tears in his eyes at the death of the
Englishman whom he had buried in the coral cemetery, and who was
doubtless a victim of one of his acts of destruction?
Now rendered desperate, I rushed into the library, up the central
staircase, and so gained the opening to the boat where my companions
were awaiting me. Quickly the panel through which we went was shut and
bolted by means of a wrench which Ned Land had secured. The opening of
the boat was also quickly fastened after we had got inside, and the
harpooner had begun to undo from the inside the screws that still
fastened the boat to the Nautilus. Suddenly a great noise was heard
within the submarine. We thought we had been discovered, and were
prepared to die defending ourselves. Ned Land stopped his work for the
moment, and the noise grew louder. It was a terrible word, twenty times
repeated, that we heard. "The Maelstrom! The Maelstrom!" was what they
were crying. Was it to this, then, that the Nautilus had been driven, by
accident or design, with such headlong speed? We heard a roaring noise,
and could feel ourselves whirled in spiral circles. The steel muscles of
the submarine were cracking, and at times in the awful churning of the
whirlpool it seemed to stand on end. "We must hold on," cried Land, "and
we may be saved if we can stick to the Nautilus."
His anxiety now was to make fast the screws that bound the boat to the
submarine, but he had scarcely finished speaking when, with a great
crash, the bolts gave way, and the boat shot up, released from the
larger vessel, into the midst of the whirlpool. My head struck on its
iron framework and with the violent shock I lost all consciousness.
How we escaped from that hideous gulf, where even whales of mighty
strength have been tossed and battered to death, none of us will ever
know! But I was in a fisherman's hut on the Lofoden Isles when I
regained consciousness. My two companions were by my side, safe and
sound, and we all shook hands heartily. There we had to wait for the
steamer that runs twice a month to Cape North, and in the interval I
occupied myself revising this record of our incredible expedition in an
element previously considered inaccessible to man, but to which progress
will one day open up a way.
I may be believed or not, but I know that I have made a journey of
twenty thousand leagues under the sea.
Does the Nautilus still exist? Is Captain Nemo still alive? Was that
awful night in the Maelstrom his last, or is he still pursuing a
terrible vengeance? Will the confessions of his life, which he told me
he had written, and which the last survivor of his fellow-exiles was to
cast into the sea in an air-tight case, ever be found?
This I know, that only two men could have a right to answer the question
asked in the Ecclesiastes three thousand years ago: "That which is far
off and exceeding deep, who can find it out?" These two men are Captain
Nemo and I.
* * * * *
Castle of Otranto
Horace Walpole, the third son of Sir Robert Walpole, was born
in 1717. After finishing his education at Eton and Cambridge,
he travelled abroad for some years, principally in Italy,
where he seems to have acquired those tastes for which he
afterwards became so well known. He returned to England in
1741, and took his seat in parliament, but he had no taste for
politics, and six years later he purchased a piece of ground
near Twickenham, and made the principal occupation of his life
the erection and decoration of his famous
mansion--"Strawberry. Hill." "The Castle of Otranto" appeared
in 1764. It was described as a "Gothic Story translated by
William Marshal Gent, from the original Italian of Onuphrio
Muralto, Canon of the Church of St. Nicholas at Otranto." But,
emboldened by the success of the work, Walpole in the second
edition acknowledged that he himself was the author. The theme
of the story was suggested to him by a dream, of which he
said, "All I could recover was that I thought myself in an
ancient castle, and that on the uppermost baluster of a great
staircase I saw a gigantic hand in armour. In the evening I
sat down and began to write without knowing in the least what
I intended to relate." The tale was the precursor of a whole
series of Gothic romances, and for fifty years afterwards
English readers were afforded an unfailing supply of the
supernatural and the horrible. A more important if less direct
achievement of Walpole's was that by "The Castle of Otranto"
he heralded the romantic revival that culminated in the
masterpieces of Scott. Walpole died on March 2, 1797.
Manfred, Prince of Otranto, had contracted a marriage for his son Conrad
with the Marquis of Vicenza's daughter, Isabella. Young Conrad's
birthday was fixed for his espousal, and Manfred's impatience for this
ceremonial was marked by everyone. His tenants and subjects attributed
this haste to the Prince's dread of seeing accomplished an ancient
prophecy that _the Castle and lordship of Otranto should pass from the
present family whenever the real owner should be grown too large to
inhabit it_. It was difficult to make any sense of this prophecy; yet
this mystery did not make the populace adhere the less to their opinion.
On the wedding-day, when the company was assembled in the chapel of the
castle, Conrad himself was missing. Manfred, impatient of the least
delay, sent an attendant to summon the young Prince. In less than a
minute the attendant came back breathless, in a frantic manner, and
foaming at the mouth. At last, after repeated questions, he cried out,
"Oh! the helmet! the helmet!" Manfred and most of the company ran out
into the court, from whence was heard a confused noise of shrieks,
horror, and surprise.
What a sight for a father's eyes! Manfred beheld his child dashed to
pieces, and almost buried under an enormous helmet, an hundred times
more large than any casque ever made for human being, and shaded with a
proportionable quantity of black feathers.
The horror of the spectacle, and the tremendous phenomenon before him,
took away the Prince's speech. Yet his silence lasted longer than even
grief could occasion; and when he spoke, it was observed that his first
words were, "Take care of the Lady Isabella."
Manfred then touched and examined the fatal casque, and inquired whether
any man knew from whence it could have come? Nobody could give him the
least information. At length, however, a young peasant from a
neighbouring village observed that the miraculous helmet was exactly
like that on the figure in black marble of Alfonso the Good, one of
their former Princes, in the Church of St. Nicholas.
"Villain!" cried Manfred in a tempest of rage, "how darest thou utter
At this moment there came news from the church that the helmet was
missing from Alfonso's statue. Manfred rushed frantically on the young
peasant, crying, "Sorcerer! 'tis thou hast done this!" Coming to
himself, he gravely declared that the young man was a necromancer, and
ordered that he should be kept prisoner under the helmet itself till the
church should take cognisance of the affair.
Conrad's mother, the Princess Hippolita, had been carried fainting to
her apartments, accompanied by her daughter Matilda, who smothered her
own grief in order to assist her afflicted parent, and by Isabella. To
his wife and daughter Manfred that day paid no attention; but as the
ladies sat together sorrowing at night, a servant of Manfred's arrived
and told Isabella that his lord demanded to speak with her.
"I sent for you on a matter of great moment," said he. "Isabella, the
line of Manfred calls for numerous supports; and since I cannot give you
my son, I offer you myself."
"Heavens!" cried Isabella. "You, my lord! the husband of the virtuous
and tender Hippolita!"
"Name not that woman to me!" said Manfred imperiously. "I shall divorce
her. My fate depends on having sons."
He seized the hand of Isabella, who shrieked and started from him. At
that instant the portrait of his grandfather, which hung in the
apartment, uttered a deep sigh and descended from its panel. Manfred in
his distraction released Isabella, who had not seen the portrait's
movement, and who made towards the door. The spectre marched sedately,
but dejectedly, into a chamber on the right hand. Manfred would have
followed; but the door was clapped to with violence, nor could he with
all his force re-open it.
As Isabella took flight, she recollected a subterraneous passage, which
led from the vaults of the castle to the church of St. Nicholas. She
determined, if no other means of deliverance offered, to shut herself up
forever among the holy virgins, whose convent was contiguous to the
cathedral. In this resolution, she seized a lamp that burned at the foot
of the staircase, and hurried towards the secret passage.
The lower part of the castle was hollowed into several intricate
cloisters, and it was not easy for one under so much anxiety to find the
door that opened into the cavern. When in that long labyrinth of
darkness a gust of wind extinguished her lamp, words cannot paint the
horror of her situation. It gave her a momentary relief to perceive a
ray of moonshine gleam from the roof of the vault, which seemed to be
fallen in; but as she advanced, she discerned a human form standing
close against the wall.
She shrieked, believing it to be the ghost of Conrad. But the figure
asked her, in a submissive voice, not to be alarmed. "Sir, whoever you
are," she replied, "assist me to escape from this fatal castle."
"Alas!" said the stranger, "what can I do to assist you?"
"Oh!" said Isabella, "help me but to find the trap-door that is
hereabout; it is the greatest service you can do me."
With a little searching they found the trap-door; the stranger lifted
it, and Isabella descended to some stone steps below. The stranger was
about to follow, when the voice of Manfred was heard in the distance.
"Make haste or we are ruined!" cried Isabella. But the door slipped out
of his hands and fell with a crash. Instantly Manfred, who had heard the
noise, hastened up, accompanied by servants with torches.
"It must be Isabella escaping by the subterraneous passage," he cried.
What was his astonishment when the light discovered to him the young
peasant whom he had thought confined under the helmet.
"Traitor, how camest thou here?" said Manfred.
"I am no traitor," replied the young man, "and that is how I came here."
He pointed upwards, and Manfred perceived that one of the cheeks of the
casque had broken through the pavement of the court, as his servants had
let it fall over the peasant, and had made a gap through which the young
man had escaped.
"And what noise was that which I heard?" asked Manfred.
"Providence led me to the trap-door," answered the peasant, "but I let
Manfred removed him to confinement in the castle, and continued his vain
search for Isabella.
On the following morning Manfred went to Hippolita's apartment, to
inquire if she knew aught of Isabella. While he was questioning her,
word was brought that Father Jerome demanded to speak with him. Manfred
ordered him to be admitted.
"Is your business with me or the Princess?" asked Manfred.
"With both," replied the holy man. "The lady Isabella--"
"What of her?" interrupted Manfred eagerly.
--"Is at St. Nicholas altar," replied Jerome.
"That is no business of Hippolita," said Manfred with confusion; "let us
retire to my chamber."
"No, my lord," said Jerome firmly; "my commission is to both, and in the
presence of both I shall deliver it. But first I must interrogate the
Princess, whether she is acquainted with the cause of the lady
"No, on my soul," said Hippolita.
"Father," interrupted Manfred, "I am the sovereign here, and will allow
no meddling priest to interfere in my domestic affairs."
"My lord," said the friar, "I know my duty, and am the minister of a
mightier Prince than Manfred."
Manfred trembled with rage and shame, but Hippolita intervened. "Holy
father," said she, "it is my duty to hear nothing that it pleases not my
lord I should hear. Attend the Prince to his chamber; I will retire to
"Excellent woman!" said the friar. "My lord, I attend your pleasure."
As soon as they had entered the Prince's apartments, Manfred began. "I
perceive that Isabella has acquainted you with my purpose. Now hear my
resolve. Urgent reasons of state demand that I should have a son. It is
in vain to expect an heir from Hippolita. I have made choice of
Isabella, and you must bring her back."
"Prince," replied Jerome, "the injuries of the virtuous Hippolita have
mounted to the throne of pity. By me thou art reprimanded for thy
intention of repudiating her; by me thou art warned not to pursue thy
wicked design on Isabella."
"Father, you mistake me," said the Prince. "You know not the bitterest
of my pangs. I have had scruples on the legality of our union; Hippolita
is related to me in the fourth degree. It is true, we had a
dispensation. But I have been informed that she had been contracted to
another. Ease my conscience of this burden by dissolving our marriage."
For some time the holy man remained absorbed in thought. At length,
conceiving some hopes from delay, he professed to be struck with the
Prince's scruples. Manfred was overjoyed at this apparent change.
"Since we now understand one another," resumed the Prince, "I expect
that you will satisfy me on one point. Who is the youth that I found in
the vault? He must have been privy to Isabella's flight. Is he her
The friar conceived it might not be amiss to sow the seeds of jealousy
in Manfred's mind, so that he might be prejudiced against Isabella, or
have his attention diverted to a wrong scent. With this unhappy policy,
he answered in a manner to confirm Manfred's fears.
"I will fathom to the bottom of this intrigue," cried Manfred in a rage;
and, quitting Jerome abruptly, he hastened to the great hall, and
ordered the peasant to be brought before him.
The young man, finding that his share in Isabella's flight had been
discovered, boldly told the truth of his adventure in the vault.
"And on a silly girl's report," said Manfred, "thou didst hazard my
"I fear no man's displeasure," said the peasant, "when a woman in
distress puts herself under my protection."
Matilda was passing through a latticed gallery at the upper end of the
hall, when her attention was drawn to the prisoner. The gallantry of his
last reply interested her in his favour. His person was noble, handsome,
and commanding; but his countenance soon engrossed her whole care.
"Heavens!" she said to herself softly, "is he not the exact resemblance
of Alfonso's picture?"
"Take him to the court-yard, and sever his head from his body!" was the
sentence of Manfred.
Matilda fainted. Father Jerome, horrified at the catastrophe his
imprudence had occasioned, begged for the prisoner's life. But the
undaunted youth received the sentence with courage and resignation. In
the court-yard he unbuttoned his collar, and knelt down to his prayers.
As he stooped, his shirt slipped down below his shoulder and disclosed
the mark of a bloody arrow.
"Gracious heavens!" cried Jerome, "it is my child! my Theodore!"
"What may this mean? how can it be thy son?" said Manfred.
"Spare him, good Prince! He is my lawful son, born to me when I was
Count of Falconara; Sicily can boast of few houses more ancient--is it
possible my lord can refuse a father the life of his long-lost child?"
"Return to thy convent," answered Manfred after a pause; "conduct the
Princess hither; obey me in what else thou knowest; and I promise thee
the life of thy son."
"Rather let me die a thousand deaths!" cried Theodore.
Ere Manfred could reply, a brazen trumpet, which hung without the gate
of the castle, was suddenly sounded.
_III.--The Knight of the Sword_
It was announced that a herald sought to speak with Manfred, who ordered
him to be admitted.
"I came," said the herald, "from the renowned and invincible Knight of
the Gigantic Sabre. In the name of his lord, Frederic, Marquis of
Vicenza, he demands the Lady Isabella, daughter of that Prince whom thou
hast barely got into thy power; and he requires thee to resign the
principality of Otranto, which thou hast usurped from the said Lord
Frederic, the nearest of blood to the last rightful lord, Alfonso the
Good. If thou dost not instantly comply with these just demands, he
defies thee to single combat to the last extremity."
Injurious as this challenge was, Manfred reflected that it was not his
interest to provoke the Marquis. He knew how well founded the claim of
Frederic was. Frederic's ancestors had assumed the style of Princes of
Otranto; but Manfred's family had been too powerful for the house of
Vicenza to dispossess them. Frederic had taken the cross and gone to the
Holy Land, where he was wounded, made prisoner, and reported to be dead.
Manfred had bribed Isabella's guardians to deliver her up to him as a
bride for Conrad, hoping to unite the claims of the two houses.
"Herald," said Manfred, "tell thy master that ere we liquidate our
differences with the sword, I would hold converse with him. Bid him
welcome to the castle."
In a few minutes the cavalcade arrived. Pages and trumpeters were
followed by foot-guards; then came knights with their squires; then an
hundred gentlemen bearing an enormous sword, and seeming to faint under
its weight; then the knight himself, in complete armour, his face
entirely concealed by his visor.
As the knight entered, the plumes on the enchanted helmet in the
court-yard were tempestuously agitated, and nodded thrice. The knight
gazed on the casque, dismounted, and kneeling down, seemed to pray
inwardly for some minutes.
Manfred, during the feast that followed, discoursed to his guests of his
claim to Otranto through the will of Alfonso bequeathing his estates to
Don Ricardo, Manfred's grandfather, in consideration of faithful
services; and he subtly suggested his plan of uniting the houses by
divorcing Hippolita and marrying Isabella. But the knight and his
companions would not reveal their countenances, and, although they
occasionally made gestures of dissent, they hardly ever spoke.
Manfred's discourse was interrupted by the news that Isabella had fled
from the convent. The knight was not less disturbed at this than Manfred
himself, and, rushing to the door, summoned his attendants to search for
her. Manfred also gave orders that she should be found, hoping to secure
her for himself and prevent her from falling into the hands of the
When the company had quitted the castle, Matilda bethought herself of
Theodore, who had been placed hastily in confinement. His guards had
been by accident included in the general order that had been given by
Manfred for the pursuit of Isabella. Matilda stole to his prison, and
unbolted the door.
"Fly!" she said; "the doors of thy prison are open; and may the angels
of heaven direct thy course!"
"Thou art surely one of these angels!" said the enraptured Theodore.
"But dost thou not neglect thine own safety in setting me free?"
"Nay," she answered, "I am Manfred's daughter, but no dangers await me."
"Is it possible? can Manfred's blood feel holy pity?"
"Hasten; I tremble to see thee abide here." Matilda took him to the
armoury, and equipped him with a complete suit.
"Yonder behind that forest," she said, "is a chain of rocks, hollowed
into caverns that reach the sea-coast. Lie concealed there until thou
canst make signs to some vessel to take thee off."
Theodore flung himself at her feet, kissed her hand, vowed to get
himself knighted, and entreated her permission to swear himself her
knight. But Matilda bade him hasten away, and thus made end of an
interview in which both had tasted for the first time the passion of
When Theodore had reached the caves and was roving amongst them, he
heard steps retreating before him and an imperfect rustling sound. He
gave pursuit, and caught a breathless woman who besought him not to
deliver her up to Manfred.
"No, Lady Isabella," cried he, "I have once already delivered thee from
"Art thou the generous unknown whom I met in the vault?" she
interrupted. "Surely thou art my guardian angel."
A cry was heard, "Isabella! what ho! Isabella!" The Knight of the Sword
approached, and Theodore bade him advance at his peril. Each took the
other for an emissary of Manfred; they rushed upon each other, and after
a furious combat the knight was wounded and disarmed.
Some of Manfred's domestics, running up, informed Theodore that the
knight was an enemy of Manfred; and Theodore, touched with compunction,
helped to staunch his wounds. When the knight recovered his speech, he
asked faintly for Isabella.
Theodore flew to her, told her of his mistake, and brought her to the
knight, who seemed to be dying.
"Isabella," said the knight, struggling for utterance, "thou--seest--thy
"Oh, amazement! horror!" cried Isabella. "My father!"
"Yes, I am Frederic, thy father--I came to deliver thee--it may not
He could say no more, and he was carried back to the castle, whither
Isabella accompanied him, Theodore vowing to protect her from Manfred.
_IV.--The Prophecy Fulfilled_
It was found by the surgeons that none of Frederic's wounds were mortal,
and when he was recovering he informed Hippolita of his story. While a
prisoner with the infidels he had dreamed that his daughter was in
danger of dreadful misfortunes, and that if he repaired to a wood near
Joppa he would learn more. On being ransomed he instantly set out for
the wood, where he found in a cave a hermit on the point of death, who
with his last words bade him dig under the seventh tree on the left of
the cave. When Frederic and his attendants dug according to the
direction, they found an enormous sabre--the very weapon that was now in
the court of the castle--with these lines written on the blade.
Where'er a casque that suits this sword is found,
With perils is thy daughter compass'd round;
Alfonso's blood alone can save the maid,
And quiet a long restless Prince's shade.
Hearing on his return that Isabella was at Otranto in the hands of
Manfred, Frederic had travelled thither, and on arriving had beheld the
miraculous casque that fulfilled the lines on the sword-blade.
Manfred, on entering the castle after the search, beheld Theodore in his
armour. He started in an agony of terror and amazement.
"Ha!" he cried, "thou dreadful spectre, what art thou?"
"My dearest lord," said Hippolita, clasping him in her arms, "what is it
"What, is not that Alfonso? Dost thou not see him?"
"This, my lord," said Hippolita, "is Theodore."
"Theodore!" said Manfred, striking his forehead. "But how comes he
"I believe," answered Hippolita, "he went in search of Isabella."
"Isabella!" cried Manfred, relapsing into jealous rage. "Has this youth
been brought into my castle to insult me?"
"My lord," said Theodore, "is it insolence to surrender myself thus to
your highness's pleasure? Behold my bosom," he continued, laying his
sword at Manfred's feet. "Strike, my lord, if you suspect that a
disloyal thought is lodged there."
Even Manfred was touched by these words. "Rise," said he, "thy life is
not my present purpose."
Manfred now devised a scheme for uniting the two houses by proposing the
marriage of Matilda to Frederic, while he himself should divorce
Hippolita and marry Isabella. When he broke his purpose to Frederic,
that weak Prince, who had been struck with the charms of Matilda,
listened but too eagerly to the offer. But he wished to find the
disposition of Hippolita in the affair, and sought her apartments. He
found them empty; and concluding that she was in her oratory, he passed
on. On entering, he saw a person kneeling before the altar; not a woman,
but one in a long woollen weed, whose back was towards him.
"Reverend father," said Frederic, meaning to excuse his interruption, "I
sought the lady Hippolita."
"Hippolita!" replied a hollow voice; and then the figure, turning slowly
round, discovered to Frederic the fleshless jaws and empty sockets of a
skeleton, wrapped in a hermit's cowl.
"Angels of grace, protect me!" cried Frederic, recoiling.
"Deserve their protection!" said the spectre. "Remember the wood of
"Art thou that holy hermit?" asked Frederic, trembling. "What is thy
errand to me?"
"Forget Matilda!" said the apparition--and vanished.
For some minutes Frederic remained motionless, his blood frozen in his
veins. Then, falling before the altar, he besought the intercession of
every saint for pardon.
On that night Matilda, whose passion for Theodore had increased, and who
abhorred her father's purpose of marrying her to Frederic, had by chance
met her lover as he was kneeling at the tomb of Alfonso in the great
church. Manfred was told by the domestic that Theodore and some lady
from the castle were in private conference at the tomb. Concluding in
his jealousy that the lady was Isabella, he hastened secretly to the
The first sounds he could distinguish in the darkness were, "Does it,
alas! depend on me? Manfred will never permit our union--"
"No, this shall prevent it!" cried the tyrant, plunging his dagger into
the bosom of the woman that spoke.
"Inhuman monster!" cried Theodore, rushing on him.
"Stop! stop!" cried Matilda, "it is my father!"
Manfred, waking as from a trance, beat his breast and twisted his hands
in his locks. Theodore's cries quickly drew some monks to his aid, among
them Father Jerome.
"Now, tyrant," said Jerome, "behold the completion of woe fulfilled on
thy impious head!"
"Cruel man!" cried Matilda, "to aggravate the woes of a parent!"
"Oh, Matilda," said Manfred, "I took thee for Isabella. Oh, canst thou
forgive the blindness of my rage?"
"I can, and do," answered Matilda, "and may heaven confirm it!"
Matilda was carried back to the castle; and Hippolita, when she saw the
afflicted procession, ran weeping to her daughter, whose hands the
agonized Theodore covered with a thousand kisses.
"I would say something more," said Matilda, struggling, "but it may not
be. Isabella--Theodore--for my sake--oh!" She expired.
A clap of thunder at that instant shook the castle to its foundations;
the earth rocked, and the clank of more than mortal armour was heard
behind. The walls of the castle were thrown down with a mighty force,
and the form of Alfonso, dilated to an immense magnitude, appeared in
the centre of the ruins. "Behold in Theodore the true heir of Alfonso!"
said the vision; and having pronounced these words, accompanied by a
clap of thunder, it ascended solemnly towards heaven, where, the clouds
parting asunder, the form of St. Nicholas was seen, and receiving
Alfonso's shade, they were soon wrapt from mortal eyes in a blaze of
The beholders fell prostrate on their faces, acknowledging the divine
will. Manfred at last spoke.
"My story has drawn down these judgements," he said; "let my confession
atone. Alfonso died by poison. A fictitious will declared my grandfather
Ricardo his heir. Ricardo's crimes have been visited upon my head. St.
Nicholas promised him in a dream that his posterity should reign in
Otranto until the rightful owner should be grown too large to inhabit
the castle, and as long as male descendants of Ricardo should live to
enjoy it. Alas! nor male nor female, except myself, remains of all his
wretched race! How this young man can be Alfonso's heir, I know not--yet
I do not doubt it."
"What remains, it is my part to declare," said Jerome. "When Alfonso was
journeying to the Holy Land, he loved and wedded a fair Sicilian maiden.
Deeming this incongruous with his holy vow of arms, he concealed their
nuptials. During his absence, his wife was delivered of a daughter; and
straightway afterwards she heard of her lord's death in the Holy Land
and Ricardo's succession. The daughter was married to me. My son
Theodore has told me that he was captured and enslaved by corsairs, and,
on his release, found that my castle was burnt to the ground, and that I
was retired into religion, but where no man could inform him. Destitute
and friendless, he wandered into this province, where he has supported
himself by the labour of his hands."
On the next morning Manfred signed his abdication of the principality,
with the approbation of Hippolita, and each took on them the habit of
religion. Frederic offered his daughter to the new Prince. But
Theodore's grief was too fresh to admit the thought of another love, and
it was not until after frequent discourses with Isabella of his dear
Matilda that he was persuaded he could know no happiness but in the
society of one with whom he could for ever indulge the melancholy that
had taken possession of his soul.
* * * * *
The early days of Emile Edouard Charles Antoine Zola were
sordid and unromantic. He was born at Paris, on April 2, 1840,
his father dying while the son was quite young, and leaving
his family no legacy except a lawsuit against the municipality
of the town of Aix. And it was at Aix, which figures in many
of his novels under the name of "Plassans," that Zola received
the first part of his education. Later he went to Paris and
Marseilles, but failed to get his degree. A period of terrible
poverty followed, Zola existing as best he might in a garret
at Paris, and employing his hours in writing. Towards the
beginning of 1862 he obtained a position as clerk in a
publishing house at a salary of a pound a week. Two years
after his first novel, "Contes a Ninon," appeared. The book
was only moderately successful, but attracted sufficient
attention to justify Zola in abandoning clerking, and taking
seriously to literature. There followed a long series of
powerful and realistic studies of social life, each of
unquestioned ability, but failing to win the popularity which
was later accorded to Zola's works. The turning-point came in
1877 with the publication of "Drink" ("L'Assommoir"). Its
success was extraordinary, and its author found himself the
most widely-read writer in France. The story belongs to the
"realistic" school, and, although objections may be raised
against its nauseating details, there is no mistaking its
graphic power and truth to a certain phase of life. Zola was
accidentally suffocated by charcoal fumes on September 29,
_I.--The Lodgers of the Hotel Boncoeur_
Gervaise had waited up for Lantier until two in the morning, exposed in
a thin loose jacket to the night air at the window. Then, chilled and
drowsy, she had thrown herself across the bed, bathed in tears. For a
week he had not appeared till late, alleging that he had been in search
of work. This evening she thought she had seen him enter a dancing-hall
opposite, and, five or six paces behind, little Adele, a burnisher.
Towards five o'clock Gervaise awoke, stiff and sore. Seated on the edge
of the bed, her eyes veiled in tears, she glanced round the wretched
room, furnished with a chest of drawers, three chairs and a little
greasy table on which stood a broken water-jug. On the mantelpiece was a
bundle of pawn tickets. It was the best room of the lodging house, the
Hotel Boncoeur, in the Boulevard de la Chapelle.
The two children were sleeping side by side. Claude was eight years of
age, while Etienne was only four. The bedewed gaze of their mother
rested upon them and she burst into a fresh fit of sobbing. Then she
returned to the window and searched the distant pavements with her eyes.
About eight Lantier returned. He was a young fellow of twenty-six, a
short, dark, and handsome Provencal. He pushed her aside, and when she
upbraided him, shook her violently, and then sent her out to pawn a few
ragged, soiled garments. When she returned with a five-franc-piece he
slipped it into his pocket and lay down on the bed and appeared to fall
asleep. Reassured by his regular breathing, she gathered together a
bundle of dirty clothes and went out to a wash-house near by.
Madame Boche, the doorkeeper of the Hotel Boncoeur, had kept a place for
her, and immediately started talking, without leaving off her work.
"No, we're not married" said Gervaise presently. "Lantier isn't so nice
that one should care to be his wife. We have lived together eight years.
In the country he was very good to me, but his mother died last year and
left him seventeen hundred francs. He would come to Paris, and since
then I don't know what to make of him. He's ambitious and a spendthrift,
and at the end of two months we came to the Hotel Boncoeur."
The gossip continued and Gervaise had nearly finished when she
recognised, a few tubs away, the tall Virginie, her supposed rival in
the affections of Lantier, and the sister of Adele. Suddenly some
laughter arose at the door of the wash-house and Claude and Etienne ran
to Gervaise through the puddles. Claude had the key of the room on his
finger, and he exclaimed in his clear voice, "Papa's gone. He jumped off
the bed, put all the things in the box and carried it down to a cab.
Gervaise rose to her feet, ghastly pale, unable to cry.
"Come, my dear," murmured Madame Boche.
"If you but knew," she said at length. "He sent me this morning to pawn
the last of my things so that he could pay the cab." And she burst out
crying. Then, seeing the tall Virginie, with other women, staring at
her, a mad rage seized her, and noticing a bucket of water, she threw
its contents with all her might. A fierce quarrel ensued, ending in a
hand-to-hand conflict with flowing blood and torn garments. When her
rival was driven to flight Gervaise returned to her deserted lodgings.
Her tears again took possession of her. Lantier had forgotten nothing.
Even a little hand-glass and the packet of pawn tickets were gone.
_II.--Gervaise and Coupeau_
About three weeks later, at half-past eleven one beautiful day of
sunshine, Gervaise and Coupeau, the zinc-worker, were partaking together
of plums preserved in brandy at the "Assommoir" kept by old Colombe.
Coupeau, who had been smoking a cigarette on the pavement, had prevailed
on her to go inside as she crossed the road returning from taking home a
customer's washing; and her large square laundress's basket was on the
floor beside her, behind the little zinc-covered table.
Coupeau was making a fresh cigarette. He was very clean in a cap and a
short blue linen blouse, laughing and showing his white teeth. With a
projecting under jaw, and slightly snub nose, he had yet handsome
chestnut eyes, and the face of a jolly dog, and a good fellow. His
coarse, curly hair stood erect. His skin still preserved the softness of
his twenty-six years. Opposite to him, Gervaise, in a frock of black
Orleans stuff, and bareheaded, was finishing her plum, which she held by
the stalk between the tips of her fingers.
The zinc-worker, having lit his cigarette, placed his elbows on the
table, and said, "Then it's to be 'No,' is it?"
"Oh, most decidedly 'No,' Monsieur Coupeau," she replied. "You'll find
someone else prettier than I am who won't have two monkeys to drag about
But she did not repulse him entirely, and as, in his urgency, Coupeau
made a point of offering marriage, little by little Gervaise gave way.
At last, after a month, she yielded.
"How you do tease me," she murmured. "Well, then, yes. Ah, we're perhaps
doing a very foolish thing."
During the following days Coupeau sought to get Gervaise to call on his
sister in the Rue de la Goutte d'Or, but the young woman showed a great
dread of this visit to the Lorilleux. Coupeau was in no wise dependent
on his sister, only the Lorilleux had the reputation of earning as much
as ten francs a day as gold chain makers, and on that ground they
exercised special authority. They lived on the sixth floor in a tenement
house crammed with tenants of every degree of squalor. They were so busy
that they could not cease their work, and welcomed their new relative
with but a few cold words. Her reception was very trying to Gervaise,
but the disappointment of herself and Coupeau was dispelled when the
Lorilleux agreed to attend the wedding and pay their share of the
Gervaise did not want to have guests at her wedding. What was the use of
spending money? Besides, it seemed quite unnecessary to show off her
marriage before the whole neighbourhood. But Coupeau exclaimed at this.
One could not be married without having a spread, and at length he got
her to consent.
They formed a party of twelve, including the Lorilleux and some of
Coupeau's comrades who frequented the "Assommoir." The day was
excessively hot. At the mayor's they had to wait their turn and thus
were late at the church. On the way the men had some beer and after the
religious ceremony they adjourned to a wine-shop. Then a heavy storm
preventing a proposed excursion into the country before dinner, they
went to the Louvre. The general opinion was that the pictures were quite
wonderful. Shut out of the galleries with still two hours to spare, the
party decided to take a short walk and filled up the interval in
climbing to the top of the Vendome monument.
Then the wedding party, feeling very lively, sat down to the
long-desired feast. The repast was pronounced fairly good. It was
accompanied by quantities of cheap wine and enlivened with much coarse
joking, becoming violent as the discussion turned on politics. Quiet
being obtained, there followed the settling-up squabble with the
landlord. Each paid his share and Coupeau found himself starting married
life on seven sous, the day's entertainment having cost him over forty
There were four years of hard work after this. Gervaise worked twelve
hours a day at Madame Fauconnier's, the laundress, and still found means
to keep their lodging clean and bright as a son. Coupeau never got drunk
and brought his wages home regularly from the zinc-works. During the
earlier days especially, they had to work slavishly to make ends meet.
The marriage had burdened them with a two-hundred-franc debt. Then, too,
they hated the Hotel Boncoeur. It was a disgusting place and they
dreamed of a home of their own. Then there came a piece of good luck.
Claude was taken off their hands by an old gentleman who had been struck
by some of his sketches. Eight months later they were able to furnish a
room and a kitchen in a house nearly facing Madame Fauconnier's. There,
soon after, Nana was born. They had two good friends in Jean Goujet, a
blacksmith, and his mother. They went out nearly every Sunday with the
_III.--Starting on the Down Road_
No great change took place in their affairs until one day Coupeau fell
from the roof of a house and was laid up for three months. Lying idle so
long he lost the habit of work, and as he grew stronger again, he wasted
his time and Gervaise's earnings in drinking shops. But he slapped his
chest as he boasted that he never drank anything but wine, always wine,
never brandy. Money grew scarcer and Gervaise's one ambition--a laundry
of her own--seemed to fade away. But the Goujets came to her aid, and
lent her five hundred francs to begin business with. Engaging three
assistants, Gervaise was able, with her industry and beautiful work and
her cheerful face and manner, to obtain plenty of custom and to lay up
Never before had Gervaise shown so much complaisance. She was as quiet
as a lamb and as good as bread. In her slight gluttonous forgetfulness,
when she had lunched well and taken her coffee, she yielded to the
necessity for a general indulgence all round. Her common saying was "One
must forgive one another if one does not wish to live like savages."
When people talked of her kindness she laughed. It would never have
suited her to have been cruel. She protested, she said, no merit was due
to her for being kind. Had not all her dreams been realised? Had she any
other ambition in life?
It was to Coupeau especially that Gervaise behaved so well. Never an
angry word, never a complaint behind her husband's back. The zinc-worker
had at last resumed work, and as his employment was at the other side of
Paris, she gave him every morning forty sous for his luncheon, his drink
and his tobacco. Only two days out of every six Coupeau would stop on
the way, drink the forty sous with a friend, and return home to lunch
with some grand story or other. Once even he did not take the trouble to
go far, he treated himself and four others to a regular feast at the
"Capuchin," on the Barriere de la Chapelle. Then, as his forty sous were
not sufficient, he had sent the waiter to his wife with the bill, and to
say that he was under lock for the balance. She laughed and shrugged her
shoulders. Where was the harm if her good man amused himself a little
while? You must give men a long rein if you want to live peaceably at
home. Gracious powers! It was easy to understand. Coupeau still suffered
from his leg; besides, he was drawn in sometimes. He was obliged to do
as the others did, or else he would pass for a muff. It was really a
matter of no consequence. If he came home a little bit elevated, he went
to bed, and two hours afterwards he was all right again.
But Coupeau was becoming a continual drag on his wife. Most of his time
and few earnings were wasted in Colombe's "Assommoir." And Nana, between
her mother's toil and her father's shiftlessness, ran wild about the
Then one day Coupeau came in drunk. He almost smashed a pane of glass
with his shoulder as he missed the door. He was in a state of absolute
drunkenness, with his teeth clinched and his nose inflamed. And Gervaise
at once recognised the "vitriol" of the "Assommoir" in the poisoned
blood which made his skin quite pale. She tried to make fun and get him
to bed, as she had done on the days when the wine had made him merry,
but he pushed her aside, without opening his lips, and raised his fist
to her in passing as he went to bed of his own accord. Then she grew
cold. She thought of the men she knew--of her husband, of Goujet, of
Lantier--her heart breaking, despairing of ever being happy.
At this stage of Coupeau's affairs Virginie reappeared. She expressed
great joy in meeting her former foe, declaring that she retained no bad
feeling. She mentioned that Gervaise might be interested to know that
she had recently seen Lantier in the neighbourhood. Gervaise received
the news with apparent indifference. Then, on the evening of her _fete_
Lantier appeared and, strangely enough, it was the zinc-worker who,
heated with the festival drinking, welcomed him most warmly.
Gervaise, feeling meek and stupid, gazed at them one after the other. At
first when her husband pushed her old lover into the shop, she could not
believe it possible; the walls would fall in and crush the whole of
them. Then, seeing the two men seated together, and without so much as
the muslin curtains moving, she suddenly thought it the most natural
thing in the world.
On the following Saturday Coupeau brought Lantier home with him in the
evening. He remained standing and avoided looking at Gervaise.
Coupeau looked at them, and then spoke his mind very plainly. They were
not going to behave like a couple of geese, he hoped. The past was the
past, was it not? If people nursed grudges after nine and ten years, one
would end by no longer seeing anybody. No, no, he carried his heart in
his hand, he did. He knew who he had to deal with, a worthy woman and a
worthy man--in short, two friends.
"Oh! that's certain, quite certain," repeated Gervaise.
"She's a sister now--nothing but a sister," murmured Lantier.
From that evening Lantier frequently called at the Rue de la Goutte
d'Or. He came when the zinc-worker was there, inquiring after his health
the moment he passed the door, and affecting to have solely called for
him. Then, shaved, his hair nicely divided, and always wearing his
overcoat, he would take a seat by the window, and converse politely with
the manners of a man who had received a good education. Thus the
Coupeaus learnt little by little some particulars of his life.
During the last eight years he had for a while managed a hat factory;
and when they asked him why he had retired from it, he merely alluded to
the rascality of a partner. He was forever saying that he was on the
point of making a first-class arrangement; some wholesale manufacturers
were about to establish him in business and trust him with an enormous
stock. Meanwhile, he did nothing whatever but walk about like a
gentleman. In his effusiveness Coupeau suggested that Lantier become a
lodger, and overruled all objections. Nevertheless, Lantier showed no
intention for a long while of trespassing on the bibulous good nature of
_V.--The Beginning of the End_
Coupeau was now becoming a confirmed drunkard and presently Lantier
ceased paying for his lodging, talking of clearing up everything as soon
as he had completed an agreement. Thus Gervaise had two men to support,
while her increasing indolence and gluttony continuously reduced her
earnings. Custom began to fall away faster and faster and soon they were
living almost entirely on credit. Then Madame Coupeau, who had come to
live with her son and Gervaise soon after the shop was opened, died. The
funeral was celebrated with pomp and feast greatly in excess of the
resources of the Coupeaus and helped considerably towards the final
As they were sitting down to the funeral meal the landlord presented
himself, looking very grave, and wearing a broad decoration on his frock
coat. He bowed in silence, and went straight to the little room, where
he knelt down. He was very pious; he prayed in the accustomed manner of
a priest, then made the sign of the cross in the air, whilst he
sprinkled the body with the sprig of box. All the family leaving the
table, stood up, greatly moved. Mr. Marescot, having ended his
devotions, passed into the shop and said to the Coupeaus, "I have called
for the two quarters' rent which remain unpaid. Can you give it me?"
"No, sir, not quite," stammered Gervaise. "You will understand, with the
misfortune which has--"
"No doubt, but everyone has his troubles," resumed the landlord,
spreading out his immense fingers. "I am very sorry, but I cannot wait
any longer. If I am not paid by the morning after to-morrow, I shall be
forced to have recourse to expulsion."
Gervaise, struck dumb, imploringly clasped her hands, her eyes full of
tears. With an energetic shake of his big bony head, he gave her to
understand that all supplications were useless. Besides, the respect due
to the dead forbade all discussion. He discreetly retired, walking
Gervaise was persuaded by the jealous Lorilleux to resign the lease of
her shop to Virginie and her husband. That evening when Gervaise found
herself at home again after the funeral she continued in a stupefied
state on a chair. It seemed to her that the rooms were very large and
deserted. Really, it would be a good riddance. But it was certainly not
only mother Coupeau that she missed. She missed, too, many other things,
very likely a part of her life, and her shop, and her pride of being an
employer, and other sentiments besides, which she had buried on that
day. Yes, the walls were bare, and her heart also; it was an absolute
deplenishment, a tumble into the pit.
It was the beginning of the end. She got employment with her old
employer, Madame Fauconnier, but presently she began to be looked upon
with disfavour. She was not nearly so expert; she did her work so
clumsily that the mistress had reduced her wages to forty sous a day,
the price paid to the stupidest. With all that she was very proud and
very susceptible, throwing at everybody's head her former position of a
person in business. Some days she never appeared at all, whilst on
others she would leave in the midst of her work through nothing but a
fit of temper. After these outbursts, she would be taken back out of
charity, which embittered her still more.
As for Coupeau, he did perhaps work, but in that case he certainly made
a present of his labour to the government; for Gervaise never saw his
money. She no longer looked in his hands when he returned home on
paydays. He arrived swinging his arms, his pockets empty, and often
without his handkerchief. Good gracious! Yes, he had lost his fogle, or
else some rascally comrade had sneaked it. At first he made excuses; he
invented all sorts of lies--ten francs for a subscription, twenty francs
fallen through a hole which he showed in his pocket, fifty francs
disbursed in paying off imaginary debts. After a little, he no longer
troubled himself to give any explanations. The money evaporated, that
Yes, it was their fault if they descended lower and lower every season.
But that is the sort of thing one never tells one self, especially when
one is down in the gutter. They accused their bad fortune; they
pretended that fate was against them. Their home had become a little
hell by this time. They bickered away the whole day. However, they had
not yet come to blows, with the exception of a few smacks which somehow
were given at the height of their disputes. The saddest thing was that
they had opened the cage of affection; the better feelings had all taken
flight like so many canaries. The loving warmth of father, mother, and
child, when united and wrapped up in each other, deserted them, and left
them shivering, each in his or her own corner. The whole three--Coupeau,
Gervaise, and Nana--were ever ready to seize one another by the hair,
biting each other for nothing at all, their eyes full of hatred. What
use was he, that drunkard? thought Gervaise. To make her weep, to eat up
all she possessed, to drive her to sin. Well, men so useless as he
should be thrown as quickly as possible into the hole, and the polka of
deliverance be danced over them.
_VI.--The Final Ruin_
Presently, Gervaise took to fuddling with her husband at the
"Assommoir." She sank lower than ever; she missed going to her work
oftener, gossipped for whole days, and became as soft as a rag whenever
she had any work to do. If a thing fell from her hands, it might remain
on the floor; it was certainly not she who would have bent down to pick
it up. She intended to save her bacon. She took her ease, and never
handled a broom except when the accumulation of filth almost upset her.
She could keep no work, and at last came to scrub out the shop and rooms
for Virginie. She came on Saturday morning with a pail and a scrubbing
brush, without appearing to suffer in the least at having to perform a
dirty, humble duty, a charwoman's work, in the home where she had
reigned as the beautiful, fair-haired mistress--for thirty sous. It was
a last humiliation, the end of her pride. Virginie must have enjoyed
herself, for a yellowish flame darted from her cat's eyes. At last she
was revenged for that thrashing she had received at the wash-house, and
which she had never forgotten.
Coupeau went from worse to worse. He was not sober once in six months.
Then he fell ill and had to go to the asylum, but when he came out
repaired he would begin to pull himself to bits again and need another
mending. In three years he went seven times to the asylum in this
fashion, until he died in the extremities of delirium.
Gervaise was next compelled to descend to begging of Lorilleux and his
wife. But they refused her a son or a crumb and laughed at her. It was
terrible. She remembered her ideal of former days; to work quietly,
always having bread to eat and a tidy home to sleep in, to bring up her
children not to be thrashed, and to die in her bed. No, really, it was
droll how all that was be? coming realised! She no longer worked, she no
longer ate, she slept on filth; all that was left for her to do was to
die on the pavement, and it would not take long if, on getting into her
room, she could only screw up enough courage to fling herself out of the
window. What increased her ugly laugh was the remembrance of her grand
hope of retiring into the country after twenty years spent in ironing.
Well! she was on her way to the country. She was about to have her green
corner in the Pere-Lachaise cemetery.
Gervaise lasted in this state several months. She fell lower and lower
still, dying of starvation a little every day. As soon as she had four
sous, she drank and fought the walls. Her landlord had decided to turn
her out of her room on the sixth floor, but allowed her to turn into a
hole under the staircase. It was inside there, on some old straw, that
her teeth chattered, whilst her stomach was empty and her bones were
frozen. The earth would not have her evidently. She was becoming
idiotic; she did not even think of making an end of herself by jumping
out of the sixth floor window on to the pavement of the court-yard
beneath. Death was to take her little by little, bit by bit, dragging
her thus to the end through the accursed existence she had made for
herself. It was never even exactly known what she did die of. There was
some talk of a cold, but the truth was she died of privation, and of the
filth and hardship of her spoilt life. Over-gorging and dissoluteness
killed her, said the Lorilleux.
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