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    Chapter 16

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    Chapter 17
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    A fortnight passed. The bitterness of the first hours was softening;
    each day brought additional tranquillity and calm; life resumed its
    course with weary languidness, and with the monotonous intellectual
    insensibility which follows great shocks. At the commencement, Laurent
    and Therese allowed themselves to drift into this new existence which
    was transforming them; within their beings was proceeding a silent
    labour which would require analysing with extreme delicacy if one
    desired to mark all its phases.

    It was not long before Laurent came every night to the shop as formerly.
    But he no longer dined there, he no longer made the place a lounge
    during the entire evening. He arrived at half-past nine, and remained
    until he had put up the shutters. It seemed as if he was accomplishing a
    duty in placing himself at the service of the two women. If he happened
    occasionally to neglect the tiresome job, he apologised with the
    humility of a valet the following day. On Thursdays he assisted Madame
    Raquin to light the fire, to do the honours of the house, and displayed
    all kinds of gentle attentions that charmed the old mercer.

    Therese peacefully watched the activity of his movements round about
    her. The pallidness of her face had departed. She appeared in better
    health, more smiling and gentle. It was only rarely that her lips,
    becoming pinched in a nervous contraction, produced two deep pleats
    which conveyed to her countenance a strange expression of grief and
    fright.

    The two sweethearts no longer sought to see one another in private. Not
    once did they suggest a meeting, nor did they ever furtively exchange
    a kiss. The murder seemed to have momentarily appeased their warmth. In
    killing Camille, they had succeeded in satisfying their passion. Their
    crime appeared to have given them a keen pleasure that sickened and
    disgusted them of their embraces.

    They had a thousand facilities for enjoying the freedom that had been
    their dream, and the attainment of which had urged them on to murder.
    Madame Raquin, impotent and childish, ceased to be an obstacle. The
    house belonged to them. They could go abroad where they pleased. But
    love did not trouble them, its fire had died out. They remained there,
    calmly talking, looking at one another without reddening and without
    a thrill. They even avoided being alone. In their intimacy, they found
    nothing to say, and both were afraid that they appeared too cold.
    When they exchanged a pressure of the hand, they experienced a sort of
    discomfort at the touch of their skins.

    Both imagined they could explain what made them so indifferent and
    alarmed when face to face with one another. They put the coldness of
    their attitude down to prudence. Their calm, according to them, was the
    result of great caution on their part. They pretended they desired this
    tranquillity, and somnolence of their hearts. On the other hand, they
    regarded the repugnance, the uncomfortable feeling experienced as a
    remains of terror, as the secret dread of punishment. Sometimes, forcing
    themselves to hope, they sought to resume the burning dreams of other
    days, and were quite astonished to find they had no imagination.

    Then, they clung to the idea of their forthcoming marriage. They fancied
    that having attained their end, without a single fear to trouble them,
    delivered over to one another, their passion would burn again, and
    they would taste the delights that had been their dream. This prospect
    brought them calm, and prevented them descending to the void hollowed
    out beneath them. They persuaded themselves they loved one another as
    in the past, and they awaited the moment when they were to be perfectly
    happy bound together for ever.

    Never had Therese possessed so placid a mind. She was certainly becoming
    better. All her implacable, natural will was giving way. She felt happy
    at night, alone in her bed; no longer did she find the thin face, and
    piteous form of Camille at her side to exasperate her. She imagined
    herself a little girl, a maid beneath the white curtains, lying
    peacefully amidst the silence and darkness. Her spacious, and slightly
    cold room rather pleased her, with its lofty ceiling, its obscure
    corners, and its smack of the cloister.

    She even ended by liking the great black wall which rose up before her
    window. Every night during one entire summer, she remained for hours
    gazing at the grey stones in this wall, and at the narrow strips of
    starry sky cut out by the chimneys and roofs. She only thought of
    Laurent when awakened with a start by nightmare. Then, sitting up,
    trembling, with dilated eyes, and pressing her nightdress to her, she
    said to herself that she would not experience these sudden fears, if she
    had a man lying beside her. She thought of her sweetheart as of a dog
    who would have guarded and protected her.

    Of a daytime, in the shop, she took an interest in what was going on
    outside; she went out at her own instigation, and no longer lived
    in sullen revolt, occupied with thoughts of hatred and vengeance. It
    worried her to sit musing. She felt the necessity of acting and seeing.
    From morning to night, she watched the people passing through the
    arcade. The noise, and going and coming diverted her. She became
    inquisitive and talkative, in a word a woman, for hitherto she had only
    displayed the actions and ideas of a man.

    From her point of observation, she remarked a young man, a student, who
    lived at an hotel in the neighbourhood, and who passed several times
    daily before the shop. This youth had a handsome, pale face, with the
    long hair of a poet, and the moustache of an officer. Therese thought
    him superior looking. She was in love with him for a week, in love like
    a schoolgirl. She read novels, she compared the young man to Laurent,
    and found the latter very coarse and heavy. Her reading revealed to her
    romantic scenes that, hitherto, she had ignored. She had only loved with
    blood and nerves, as yet, and she now began to love with her head. Then,
    one day, the student disappeared. No doubt he had moved. In a few hours
    Therese had forgotten him.

    She now subscribed to a circulating library, and conceived a passion for
    the heroes of all the stories that passed under her eyes. This sudden
    love for reading had great influence on her temperament. She acquired
    nervous sensibility which caused her to laugh and cry without any
    motive. The equilibrium which had shown a tendency to be established in
    her, was upset. She fell into a sort of vague meditation. At moments,
    she became disturbed by thoughts of Camille, and she dreamt of Laurent
    and fresh love, full of terror and distrust. She again became a prey
    to anguish. At one moment she sought for the means of marrying her
    sweetheart at that very instant, at another she had an idea of running
    away never to see him again.

    The novels, which spoke to her of chastity and honour, placed a sort
    of obstacle between her instincts and her will. She remained the
    ungovernable creature who had wanted to struggle with the Seine and who
    had thrown herself violently into illicit love; but she was conscious
    of goodness and gentleness, she understood the putty face and lifeless
    attitude of the wife of Olivier, and she knew it was possible to be
    happy without killing one's husband. Then, she did not see herself in a
    very good light, and lived in cruel indecision.

    Laurent, on his side, passed through several different phases of love
    and fever. First of all he enjoyed profound tranquility; he seemed as
    if relieved of an enormous weight. At times he questioned himself with
    astonishment, fancying he had had a bad dream. He asked himself whether
    it was really true that he had flung Camille into the water, and had
    seen his corpse on the slab at the Morgue.

    The recollection of his crime caused him strange surprise; never could
    he have imagined himself capable of murder. He so prudent, so cowardly,
    shuddered at the mere thought, ice-like beads of perspiration stood
    out on his forehead when he reflected that the authorities might have
    discovered his crime and guillotined him. Then he felt the cold knife on
    his neck. So long as he had acted, he had gone straight before him, with
    the obstinacy and blindness of a brute. Now, he turned round, and at the
    sight of the gulf he had just cleared, grew faint with terror.

    "Assuredly, I must have been drunk," thought he; "that woman must have
    intoxicated me with caresses. Good heavens! I was a fool and mad! I
    risked the guillotine in a business like that. Fortunately it passed off
    all right. But if it had to be done again, I would not do it."

    Laurent lost all his vigor. He became inactive, and more cowardly and
    prudent than ever. He grew fat and flabby. No one who had studied this
    great body, piled up in a lump, apparently without bones or muscles,
    would ever have had the idea of accusing the man of violence and
    cruelty.

    He resumed his former habits. For several months, he proved himself a
    model clerk, doing his work with exemplary brutishness. At night, he
    took his meal at a cheap restaurant in the Rue Saint-Victor, cutting his
    bread into thin slices, masticating his food slowly, making his repast
    last as long as possible. When it was over, he threw himself back
    against the wall and smoked his pipe. Anyone might have taken him for
    a stout, good-natured father. In the daytime, he thought of nothing; at
    night, he reposed in heavy sleep free from dreams. With his face fat and
    rosy, his belly full, his brain empty, he felt happy.

    His frame seemed dead, and Therese barely entered his mind. Occasionally
    he thought of her as one thinks of a woman one has to marry later on, in
    the indefinite future. He patiently awaited the time for his marriage,
    forgetful of the bride, and dreaming of the new position he would then
    enjoy. He would leave his office, he would paint for amusement, and
    saunter about hither and thither. These hopes brought him night after
    night, to the shop in the arcade, in spite of the vague discomfort he
    experienced on entering the place.

    One Sunday, with nothing to do and being bored, he went to see his
    old school friend, the young painter he had lived with for a time. The
    artist was working on a picture of a nude Bacchante sprawled on some
    drapery. The model, lying with her head thrown back and her torso
    twisted sometimes laughed and threw her bosom forward, stretching her
    arms. As Laurent smoked his pipe and chatted with his friend, he kept
    his eyes on the model. He took the woman home with him that evening and
    kept her as his mistress for many months. The poor girl fell in love
    with him. Every morning she went off and posed as a model all day. Then
    she came back each evening. She didn't cost Laurent a penny, keeping
    herself out of her own earnings. Laurent never bothered to find out
    about her, where she went, what she did. She was a steadying influence
    in his life, a useful and necessary thing. He never wondered if he loved
    her and he never considered that he was being unfaithful to Therese. He
    simply felt better and happier.

    In the meanwhile the period of mourning that Therese had imposed on
    herself, had come to an end, and the young woman put on light-coloured
    gowns. One evening, Laurent found her looking younger and handsomer.
    But he still felt uncomfortable in her presence. For some time past, she
    seemed to him feverish, and full of strange capriciousness, laughing and
    turning sad without reason. This unsettled demeanour alarmed him, for he
    guessed, in part, what her struggles and troubles must be like.

    He began to hesitate, having an atrocious dread of risking his
    tranquillity. He was now living peacefully, in wise contentment, and he
    feared to endanger the equilibrium of his life, by binding himself to
    a nervous woman, whose passion had already driven him crazy. But he did
    not reason these matters out, he felt by instinct all the anguish he
    would be subjected to, if he made Therese his wife.

    The first shock he received, and one that roused him in his
    sluggishness, was the thought that he must at length begin to think of
    his marriage. It was almost fifteen months since the death of Camille.
    For an instant, Laurent had the idea of not marrying at all, of jilting
    Therese. Then he said to himself that it was no good killing a man for
    nothing. In recalling the crime, and the terrible efforts he had made to
    be the sole possessor of this woman who was now troubling him, he felt
    that the murder would become useless and atrocious should he not marry
    her. Besides, was he not bound to Therese by a bond of blood and horror?
    Moreover, he feared his accomplice; perhaps, if he failed to marry her,
    she would go and relate everything to the judicial authorities out of
    vengeance and jealousy. With these ideas beating in his head the fever
    settled on him again.

    Now, one Sunday the model did not return; no doubt she had found a
    warmer and more comfortable place to lodge. Laurent was only moderately
    upset, but he felt a sudden gap in his life without a woman lying beside
    him at night. In a week his passions rebelled and he began spending
    entire evenings at the shop again. He watched Therese who was still
    palpitating from the novels which she read.

    After a year of indifferent waiting they both were again tormented by
    desire. One evening while shutting up the shop, Laurent spoke to Therese
    in the passage.

    "Do you want me to come to your room to-night," he asked passionately.

    She started with fear. "No, let's wait. Let's be prudent."

    "It seems to me that I've already waited a long time," he went on. "I'm
    sick of waiting."

    Therese, her hands and face burning hot, looked at him wildly. She
    seemed to hesitate, and then said quickly:

    "Let's get married."
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    Chapter 17
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