Meet us on:
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 17

    • Rate it:
    • 2 Favorites on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 18
    Previous Chapter
    Laurent left the arcade with a strained mind. Therese had filled him
    with the old longing lusts again. He walked along with his hat in his
    hand, so as to get the fresh air full in his face.

    On reaching the door of his hotel in the Rue Saint-Victor, he was afraid
    to go upstairs, and remain alone. A childish, inexplicable, unforeseen
    terror made him fear he would find a man hidden in his garret. Never had
    he experienced such poltroonery. He did not even seek to account for
    the strange shudder that ran through him. He entered a wine-shop and
    remained an hour there, until midnight, motionless and silent at
    a table, mechanically absorbing great glasses of wine. Thinking of
    Therese, his anger raged at her refusal to have him in her room that
    very night. He felt that with her he would not have been afraid.

    When the time came for closing the shop, he was obliged to leave. But he
    went back again to ask for matches. The office of the hotel was on
    the first floor. Laurent had a long alley to follow and a few steps
    to ascend, before he could take his candle. This alley, this bit of
    staircase which was frightfully dark, terrified him. Habitually, he
    passed boldly through the darkness. But on this particular night he
    had not even the courage to ring. He said to himself that in a certain
    recess, formed by the entrance to the cellar, assassins were perhaps
    concealed, who would suddenly spring at his throat as he passed along.

    At last he pulled the bell, and lighting a match, made up his mind to
    enter the alley. The match went out. He stood motionless, breathless,
    without the courage to run away, rubbing lucifers against the damp wall
    in such anxiety that his hand trembled. He fancied he heard voices,
    and the sound of footsteps before him. The matches broke between his
    fingers; but he succeeded in striking one. The sulphur began to boil, to
    set fire to the wood, with a tardiness that increased his distress. In
    the pale bluish light of the sulphur, in the vacillating glimmer, he
    fancied he could distinguish monstrous forms. Then the match crackled,
    and the light became white and clear.

    Laurent, relieved, advanced with caution, careful not to be without a
    match. When he had passed the entrance to the cellar, he clung to the
    opposite wall where a mass of darkness terrified him. He next briskly
    scaled the few steps separating him from the office of the hotel, and
    thought himself safe when he held his candlestick. He ascended to the
    other floors more gently, holding aloft his candle, lighting all the
    corners before which he had to pass. The great fantastic shadows that
    come and go, in ascending a staircase with a light, caused him vague
    discomfort, as they suddenly rose and disappeared before him.

    As soon as he was upstairs, and had rapidly opened his door and shut
    himself in, his first care was to look under his bed, and make a minute
    inspection of the room to see that nobody was concealed there. He closed
    the window in the roof thinking someone might perhaps get in that
    way, and feeling more calm after taking these measures, he undressed,
    astonished at his cowardice. He ended by laughing and calling himself a
    child. Never had he been afraid, and he could not understand this sudden
    fit of terror.

    He went to bed. When he was in the warmth beneath the bedclothes, he
    again thought of Therese, whom fright had driven from his mind. Do what
    he would, obstinately close his eyes, endeavour to sleep, he felt his
    thoughts at work commanding his attention, connecting one with the
    other, to ever point out to him the advantage he would reap by marrying
    as soon as possible. Ever and anon he would turn round, saying to
    himself:

    "I must not think any more; I shall have to get up at eight o'clock
    to-morrow morning to go to my office."

    And he made an effort to slip off to sleep. But the ideas returned one
    by one. The dull labour of his reasoning began again; and he soon found
    himself in a sort of acute reverie that displayed to him in the depths
    of his brain, the necessity for his marriage, along with the arguments
    his desire and prudence advanced in turn, for and against the possession
    of Therese.

    Then, seeing he was unable to sleep, that insomnia kept his body in a
    state of irritation, he turned on his back, and with his eyes wide open,
    gave up his mind to the young woman. His equilibrium was upset, he again
    trembled with violent fever, as formerly. He had an idea of getting up,
    and returning to the Arcade of the Pont Neuf. He would have the iron
    gate opened, and Therese would receive him. The thought sent his blood
    racing.

    The lucidity of his reverie was astonishing. He saw himself in the
    streets walking rapidly beside the houses, and he said to himself:

    "I will take this Boulevard, I will cross this Square, so as to arrive
    there quicker."

    Then the iron gate of the arcade grated, he followed the narrow, dark,
    deserted corridor, congratulating himself at being able to go up to
    Therese without being seen by the dealer in imitation jewelry. Next
    he imagined he was in the alley, in the little staircase he had so
    frequently ascended. He inhaled the sickly odour of the passage, he
    touched the sticky walls, he saw the dirty shadow that hung about there.
    And he ascended each step, breathless, and with his ear on the alert. At
    last he scratched against the door, the door opened, and Therese stood
    there awaiting him.

    His thoughts unfolded before him like real scenes. With his eyes fixed
    on darkness, he saw. When at the end of his journey through the streets,
    after entering the arcade, and climbing the little staircase, he thought
    he perceived Therese, ardent and pale, he briskly sprang from his bed,
    murmuring:

    "I must go there. She's waiting for me."

    This abrupt movement drove away the hallucination. He felt the chill of
    the tile flooring, and was afraid. For a moment he stood motionless on
    his bare feet, listening. He fancied he heard a sound on the landing.
    And he reflected that if he went to Therese, he would again have to pass
    before the door of the cellar below. This thought sent a cold shiver
    down his back. Again he was seized with fright, a sort of stupid
    crushing terror. He looked distrustfully round the room, where he
    distinguished shreds of whitish light. Then gently, with anxious, hasty
    precautions, he went to bed again, and there huddling himself together,
    hid himself, as if to escape a weapon, a knife that threatened him.

    The blood had flown violently to his neck, which was burning him. He put
    his hand there, and beneath his fingers felt the scar of the bite he
    had received from Camille. He had almost forgotten this wound and was
    terrified when he found it on his skin, where it seemed to be gnawing
    into his flesh. He rapidly withdrew his hand so as not to feel the scar,
    but he was still conscious of its being there boring into and devouring
    his neck. Then, when he delicately scratched it with his nail, the
    terrible burning sensation increased twofold. So as not to tear the
    skin, he pressed his two hands between his doubled-up knees, and he
    remained thus, rigid and irritated, with the gnawing pain in his neck,
    and his teeth chattering with fright.

    His mind now settled on Camille with frightful tenacity. Hitherto the
    drowned man had not troubled him at night. And behold the thought of
    Therese brought up the spectre of her husband. The murderer dared not
    open his eyes, afraid of perceiving his victim in a corner of the room.
    At one moment, he fancied his bedstead was being shaken in a peculiar
    manner. He imagined Camille was beneath it, and that it was he who was
    tossing him about in this way so as to make him fall and bite him. With
    haggard look and hair on end, he clung to his mattress, imagining the
    jerks were becoming more and more violent.

    Then, he perceived the bed was not moving, and he felt a reaction. He
    sat up, lit his candle, and taxed himself with being an idiot. He next
    swallowed a large glassful of water to appease his fever.

    "I was wrong to drink at that wine-shop," thought he. "I don't know
    what is the matter with me to-night. It's silly. I shall be worn out
    to-morrow at my office. I ought to have gone to sleep at once, when I
    got into bed, instead of thinking of a lot of things. That is what gave
    me insomnia. I must get to sleep at once."

    Again he blew out the light. He buried his head in the pillow, feeling
    slightly refreshed, and thoroughly determined not to think any more, and
    to be no more afraid. Fatigue began to relax his nerves.

    He did not fall into his usual heavy, crushing sleep, but glided lightly
    into unsettled slumber. He simply felt as if benumbed, as if plunged
    into gentle and delightful stupor. As he dozed, he could feel his limbs.
    His intelligence remained awake in his deadened frame. He had driven
    away his thoughts, he had resisted the vigil. Then, when he became
    appeased, when his strength failed and his will escaped him, his
    thoughts returned quietly, one by one, regaining possession of his
    faltering being.

    His reverie began once more. Again he went over the distance separating
    him from Therese: he went downstairs, he passed before the cellar at a
    run, and found himself outside the house; he took all the streets he had
    followed before, when he was dreaming with his eyes open; he entered the
    Arcade of the Pont Neuf, ascended the little staircase and scratched at
    the door. But instead of Therese, it was Camille who opened the door,
    Camille, just as he had seen him at the Morgue, looking greenish, and
    atrociously disfigured. The corpse extended his arms to him, with a vile
    laugh, displaying the tip of a blackish tongue between its white teeth.

    Laurent shrieked, and awoke with a start. He was bathed in perspiration.
    He pulled the bedclothes over his eyes, swearing and getting into a rage
    with himself. He wanted to go to sleep again. And he did so as before,
    slowly.

    The same feeling of heaviness overcame him, and as soon as his will had
    again escaped in the languidness of semi-slumber, he set out again. He
    returned where his fixed idea conducted him; he ran to see Therese, and
    once more it was the drowned man who opened the door.

    The wretch sat up terrified. He would have given anything in the world
    to be able to drive away this implacable dream. He longed for heavy
    sleep to crush his thoughts. So long as he remained awake, he had
    sufficient energy to expel the phantom of his victim; but as soon as he
    lost command of his mind it led him to the acme of terror.

    He again attempted to sleep. Then came a succession of delicious
    spells of drowsiness, and abrupt, harrowing awakenings. In his furious
    obstinacy, he still went to Therese, but only to always run against the
    body of Camille. He performed the same journey more than ten times over.
    He started all afire, followed the same itinerary, experienced the same
    sensations, accomplished the same acts, with minute exactitude; and
    more than ten times over, he saw the drowned man present himself to be
    embraced, when he extended his arms to seize and clasp his love.

    This same sinister catastrophe which awoke him on each occasion, gasping
    and distracted, did not discourage him. After an interval of a few
    minutes, as soon as he had fallen asleep again, forgetful of the hideous
    corpse awaiting him, he once more hurried away to seek the young woman.

    Laurent passed an hour a prey to these successive nightmares, to these
    bad dreams that followed one another ceaselessly, without any warning,
    and he was struck with more acute terror at each start they gave him.

    The last of these shocks proved so violent, so painful that he
    determined to get up, and struggle no longer. Day was breaking. A gleam
    of dull, grey light was entering at the window in the roof which cut out
    a pale grey square in the sky.

    Laurent slowly dressed himself, with a feeling of sullen irritation,
    exasperated at having been unable to sleep, exasperated at allowing
    himself to be caught by a fright which he now regarded as childish. As
    he drew on this trousers he stretched himself, he rubbed his limbs,
    he passed his hands over his face, harassed and clouded by a feverish
    night. And he repeated:

    "I ought not to have thought of all that, I should have gone to sleep.
    Had I done so, I should be fresh and well-disposed now."

    Then it occurred to him that if he had been with Therese, she would have
    prevented him being afraid, and this idea brought him a little calm. At
    the bottom of his heart he dreaded passing other nights similar to the
    one he had just gone through.

    After splashing some water in his face, he ran the comb through his
    hair, and this bit of toilet while refreshing his head, drove away the
    final vestiges of terror. He now reasoned freely, and experienced no
    other inconvenience from his restless night, than great fatigue in all
    his limbs.

    "I am not a poltroon though," he said to himself as he finished
    dressing. "I don't care a fig about Camille. It's absurd to think that
    this poor devil is under my bed. I shall, perhaps, have the same idea,
    now, every night. I must certainly marry as soon as possible. When
    Therese has me in her arms, I shall not think much about Camille. She
    will kiss me on the neck, and I shall cease to feel the atrocious burn
    that troubles me at present. Let me examine this bite."

    He approached his glass, extended his neck and looked. The scar
    presented a rosy appearance. Then, Laurent, perceiving the marks of the
    teeth of his victim, experienced a certain emotion. The blood flew
    to his head, and he now observed a strange phenomenon. The ruby flood
    rushing to the scar had turned it purple, it became raw and sanguineous,
    standing out quite red against the fat, white neck. Laurent at the same
    time felt a sharp pricking sensation, as if needles were being thrust
    into the wound, and he hurriedly raised the collar of his shirt again.

    "Bah!" he exclaimed, "Therese will cure that. A few kisses will suffice.
    What a fool I am to think of these matters!"

    He put on his hat, and went downstairs. He wanted to be in the open
    air and walk. Passing before the door of the cellar, he smiled.
    Nevertheless, he made sure of the strength of the hook fastening the
    door. Outside, on the deserted pavement, he moved along with short steps
    in the fresh matutinal air. It was then about five o'clock.

    Laurent passed an atrocious day. He had to struggle against the
    overpowering drowsiness that settled on him in the afternoon at his
    office. His heavy, aching head nodded in spite of himself, but he
    abruptly brought it up, as soon as he heard the step of one of his
    chiefs. This struggle, these shocks completed wearing out his limbs,
    while causing him intolerable anxiety.

    In the evening, notwithstanding his lassitude, he went to see Therese,
    only to find her feverish, extremely low-spirited, and as weary as
    himself.

    "Our poor Therese has had a bad night," Madame Raquin said to him,
    as soon as he had seated himself. "It seems she was suffering from
    nightmare, and terrible insomnia. I heard her crying out on several
    occasions. This morning she was quite ill."

    Therese, while her aunt was speaking, looked fixedly at Laurent. No
    doubt, they guessed their common terror, for a nervous shudder ran over
    their countenances. Until ten o'clock they remained face to face with
    one another, talking of commonplace matters, but still understanding
    each other, and mutually imploring themselves with their eyes, to hasten
    the moment when they could unite against the drowned man.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 18
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Emile Zola essay and need some advice, post your Emile Zola essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?