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    Chapter 13

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    Chapter 14
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    The following morning, Laurent awoke fresh and fit. He had slept well.
    The cold air entering by the open window, whipped his sluggish blood. He
    had no clear recollection of the scenes of the previous day, and had it
    not been for the burning sensation at his neck, he might have thought
    that he had retired to rest after a calm evening.

    But the bite Camille had given him stung as if his skin had been branded
    with a red-hot iron. When his thoughts settled on the pain this gash
    caused him, he suffered cruelly. It seemed as though a dozen needles
    were penetrating little by little into his flesh.

    He turned down the collar of his shirt, and examined the wound in a
    wretched fifteen sous looking-glass hanging against the wall. It formed
    a red hole, as big as a penny piece. The skin had been torn away,
    displaying the rosy flesh, studded with dark specks. Streaks of blood
    had run as far as the shoulder in thin threads that had dried up. The
    bite looked a deep, dull brown colour against the white skin, and was
    situated under the right ear. Laurent scrutinised it with curved back
    and craned neck, and the greenish mirror gave his face an atrocious

    Satisfied with his examination, he had a thorough good wash, saying to
    himself that the wound would be healed in a few days. Then he dressed,
    and quietly repaired to his office, where he related the accident in an
    affected tone of voice. When his colleagues had read the account in the
    newspapers, he became quite a hero. During a whole week the clerks at
    the Orleans Railway had no other subject of conversation: they were all
    proud that one of their staff should have been drowned. Grivet never
    ceased his remarks on the imprudence of adventuring into the middle
    of the Seine, when it was so easy to watch the running water from the

    Laurent retained a feeling of intense uneasiness. The decease of Camille
    had not been formally proved. The husband of Therese was indeed dead,
    but the murderer would have liked to have found his body, so as to
    obtain a certificate of death. The day following the accident, a
    fruitless search had been made for the corpse of the drowned man. It was
    thought that it had probably gone to the bottom of some hole near the
    banks of the islands, and men were actively dragging the Seine to get
    the reward.

    In the meantime Laurent imposed on himself the task of passing each
    morning by the Morgue, on the way to his office. He had made up his mind
    to attend to the business himself. Notwithstanding that his heart rose
    with repugnance, notwithstanding the shudders that sometimes ran through
    his frame, for over a week he went and examined the countenance of all
    the drowned persons extended on the slabs.

    When he entered the place an unsavoury odour, an odour of freshly washed
    flesh, disgusted him and a chill ran over his skin: the dampness of the
    walls seemed to add weight to his clothing, which hung more heavily on
    his shoulders. He went straight to the glass separating the spectators
    from the corpses, and with his pale face against it, looked. Facing him
    appeared rows of grey slabs, and upon them, here and there, the naked
    bodies formed green and yellow, white and red patches. While some
    retained their natural condition in the rigidity of death, others seemed
    like lumps of bleeding and decaying meat. At the back, against the wall,
    hung some lamentable rags, petticoats and trousers, puckered against the
    bare plaster. Laurent at first only caught sight of the wan ensemble of
    stones and walls, spotted with dabs of russet and black formed by
    the clothes and corpses. A melodious sound of running water broke the

    Little by little he distinguished the bodies, and went from one to the
    other. It was only the drowned that interested him. When several human
    forms were there, swollen and blued by the water, he looked at them
    eagerly, seeking to recognise Camille. Frequently, the flesh on the
    faces had gone away by strips, the bones had burst through the mellow
    skins, the visages were like lumps of boned, boiled beef. Laurent
    hesitated; he looked at the corpses, endeavouring to discover the lean
    body of his victim. But all the drowned were stout. He saw enormous
    stomachs, puffy thighs, and strong round arms. He did not know what to
    do. He stood there shuddering before those greenish-looking rags, which
    seemed like mocking him, with their horrible wrinkles.

    One morning, he was seized with real terror. For some moments, he had
    been looking at a corpse, taken from the water, that was small in build
    and atrociously disfigured. The flesh of this drowned person was so soft
    and broken-up that the running water washing it, carried it away bit by
    bit. The jet falling on the face, bored a hole to the left of the nose.
    And, abruptly, the nose became flat, the lips were detached, showing the
    white teeth. The head of the drowned man burst out laughing.

    Each time Laurent fancied he recognised Camille, he felt a burning
    sensation in the heart. He ardently desired to find the body of his
    victim, and he was seized with cowardice when he imagined it before him.
    His visits to the Morgue filled him with nightmare, with shudders that
    set him panting for breath. But he shook off his fear, taxing himself
    with being childish, when he wished to be strong. Still, in spite of
    himself, his frame revolted, disgust and terror gained possession of his
    being, as soon as ever he found himself in the dampness, and unsavoury
    odour of the hall.

    When there were no drowned persons on the back row of slabs, he breathed
    at ease; his repugnance was not so great. He then became a simple
    spectator, who took strange pleasure in looking death by violence in the
    face, in its lugubriously fantastic and grotesque attitudes. This sight
    amused him, particularly when there were women there displaying their
    bare bosoms. These nudities, brutally exposed, bloodstained, and in
    places bored with holes, attracted and detained him.

    Once he saw a young woman of twenty there, a child of the people, broad
    and strong, who seemed asleep on the stone. Her fresh, plump, white form
    displayed the most delicate softness of tint. She was half smiling, with
    her head slightly inclined on one side. Around her neck she had a black
    band, which gave her a sort of necklet of shadow. She was a girl who had
    hanged herself in a fit of love madness.

    Each morning, while Laurent was there, he heard behind him the coming
    and going of the public who entered and left.

    The morgue is a sight within reach of everybody, and one to which
    passers-by, rich and poor alike, treat themselves. The door stands open,
    and all are free to enter. There are admirers of the scene who go out of
    their way so as not to miss one of these performances of death. If the
    slabs have nothing on them, visitors leave the building disappointed,
    feeling as if they had been cheated, and murmuring between their teeth;
    but when they are fairly well occupied, people crowd in front of them
    and treat themselves to cheap emotions; they express horror, they joke,
    they applaud or whistle, as at the theatre, and withdraw satisfied,
    declaring the Morgue a success on that particular day.

    Laurent soon got to know the public frequenting the place, that mixed
    and dissimilar public who pity and sneer in common. Workmen looked in
    on their way to their work, with a loaf of bread and tools under their
    arms. They considered death droll. Among them were comical companions
    of the workshops who elicited a smile from the onlookers by making witty
    remarks about the faces of each corpse. They styled those who had been
    burnt to death, coalmen; the hanged, the murdered, the drowned, the
    bodies that had been stabbed or crushed, excited their jeering vivacity,
    and their voices, which slightly trembled, stammered out comical
    sentences amid the shuddering silence of the hall.

    There came persons of small independent means, old men who were thin and
    shrivelled-up, idlers who entered because they had nothing to do, and
    who looked at the bodies in a silly manner with the pouts of peaceful,
    delicate-minded men. Women were there in great numbers: young
    work-girls, all rosy, with white linen, and clean petticoats, who
    tripped along briskly from one end of the glazed partition to the other,
    opening great attentive eyes, as if they were before the dressed shop
    window of a linendraper. There were also women of the lower orders
    looking stupefied, and giving themselves lamentable airs; and
    well-dressed ladies, carelessly dragging their silk gowns along the

    On a certain occasion Laurent noticed one of the latter standing at a
    few paces from the glass, and pressing her cambric handkerchief to her
    nostrils. She wore a delicious grey silk skirt with a large black lace
    mantle; her face was covered by a veil, and her gloved hands seemed
    quite small and delicate. Around her hung a gentle perfume of violet.

    She stood scrutinising a corpse. On a slab a few paces away, was
    stretched the body of a great, big fellow, a mason who had recently
    killed himself on the spot by falling from a scaffolding. He had a broad
    chest, large short muscles, and a white, well-nourished body; death had
    made a marble statue of him. The lady examined him, turned him round
    and weighed him, so to say, with her eyes. For a time, she seemed quite
    absorbed in the contemplation of this man. She raised a corner of her
    veil for one last look. Then she withdrew.

    At moments, bands of lads arrived--young people between twelve and
    fifteen, who leant with their hands against the glass, nudging one
    another with their elbows, and making brutal observations.

    At the end of a week, Laurent became disheartened. At night he dreamt
    of the corpses he had seen in the morning. This suffering, this daily
    disgust which he imposed on himself, ended by troubling him to such a
    point, that he resolved to pay only two more visits to the place. The
    next day, on entering the Morgue, he received a violent shock in the
    chest. Opposite him, on a slab, Camille lay looking at him, extended on
    his back, his head raised, his eyes half open.

    The murderer slowly approached the glass, as if attracted there,
    unable to detach his eyes from his victim. He did not suffer; he merely
    experienced a great inner chill, accompanied by slight pricks on his
    skin. He would have thought that he would have trembled more violently.
    For fully five minutes, he stood motionless, lost in unconscious
    contemplation, engraving, in spite of himself, in his memory, all the
    horrible lines, all the dirty colours of the picture he had before his

    Camille was hideous. He had been a fortnight in the water. His face
    still appeared firm and rigid; the features were preserved, but the skin
    had taken a yellowish, muddy tint. The thin, bony, and slightly tumefied
    head, wore a grimace. It was a trifle inclined on one side, with the
    hair sticking to the temples, and the lids raised, displaying the dull
    globes of the eyes. The twisted lips were drawn to a corner of the mouth
    in an atrocious grin; and a piece of blackish tongue appeared
    between the white teeth. This head, which looked tanned and drawn out
    lengthwise, while preserving a human appearance, had remained all the
    more frightful with pain and terror.

    The body seemed a mass of ruptured flesh; it had suffered horribly.
    You could feel that the arms no longer held to their sockets; and the
    clavicles were piercing the skin of the shoulders. The ribs formed black
    bands on the greenish chest; the left side, ripped open, was gaping
    amidst dark red shreds. All the torso was in a state of putrefaction.
    The extended legs, although firmer, were daubed with dirty patches. The
    feet dangled down.

    Laurent gazed at Camille. He had never yet seen the body of a drowned
    person presenting such a dreadful aspect. The corpse, moreover, looked
    pinched. It had a thin, poor appearance. It had shrunk up in its decay,
    and the heap it formed was quite small. Anyone might have guessed
    that it belonged to a clerk at 1,200 francs a year, who was stupid and
    sickly, and who had been brought up by his mother on infusions. This
    miserable frame, which had grown to maturity between warm blankets, was
    now shivering on a cold slab.

    When Laurent could at last tear himself from the poignant curiosity that
    kept him motionless and gaping before his victim, he went out and begun
    walking rapidly along the quay. And as he stepped out, he repeated:

    "That is what I have done. He is hideous."

    A smell seemed to be following him, the smell that the putrefying body
    must be giving off.

    He went to find old Michaud, and told him he had just recognized Camille
    lying on one of the slabs in the Morgue. The formalities were performed,
    the drowned man was buried, and a certificate of death delivered.
    Laurent, henceforth at ease, felt delighted to be able to bury his
    crime in oblivion, along with the vexatious and painful scenes that had
    followed it.
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