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    Chapter 24

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    Chapter 25
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    In accordance with the hopes of old Michaud, when doing his best to
    bring about the marriage of Therese and Laurent, the Thursday evenings
    resumed their former gaiety, as soon as the wedding was over.

    These evenings were in great peril at the time of the death of Camille.
    The guests came, in fear, into this house of mourning; each week they
    were trembling with anxiety, lest they should be definitely dismissed.

    The idea that the door of the shop would no doubt at last be closed to
    them, terrified Michaud and Grivet, who clung to their habits with the
    instinct and obstinacy of brutes. They said to themselves that the old
    woman and young widow would one day go and weep over the defunct at
    Vernon or elsewhere, and then, on Thursday nights, they would not know
    what to do. In the mind's eye they saw themselves wandering about the
    arcade in a lamentable fashion, dreaming of colossal games at dominoes.

    Pending the advent of these bad times, they timidly enjoyed their final
    moments of happiness, arriving with an anxious, sugary air at the shop,
    and repeating to themselves, on each occasion, that they would perhaps
    return no more. For over a year they were beset with these fears. In
    face of the tears of Madame Raquin and the silence of Therese, they
    dared not make themselves at ease and laugh. They felt they were no
    longer at home as in the time of Camille; it seemed, so to say, that
    they were stealing every evening they passed seated at the dining-room
    table. It was in these desperate circumstances that the egotism of
    Michaud urged him to strike a masterly stroke by finding a husband for
    the widow of the drowned man.

    On the Thursday following the marriage, Grivet and Michaud made
    a triumphant entry into the dining-room. They had conquered. The
    dining-room belonged to them again. They no longer feared dismissal.
    They came there as happy people, stretching out their legs, and cracking
    their former jokes, one after the other. It could be seen from their
    delighted and confident attitude that, in their idea, a revolution had
    been accomplished. All recollection of Camille had been dispelled. The
    dead husband, the spectre that cast a chill over everyone, had
    been driven away by the living husband. The past and its joys were
    resuscitated. Laurent took the place of Camille, all cause for sadness
    disappeared, the guests could now laugh without grieving anyone; and,
    indeed, it was their duty to laugh to cheer up this worthy family who
    were good enough to receive them.

    Henceforth, Grivet and Michaud, who for nearly eighteen months had
    visited the house under the pretext of consoling Madame Raquin, could
    set their little hypocrisy aside, and frankly come and doze opposite one
    another to the sharp ring of the dominoes.

    And each week brought a Thursday evening, each week those lifeless and
    grotesque heads which formerly had exasperated Therese, assembled round
    the table. The young woman talked of showing these folk the door; their
    bursts of foolish laughter and silly reflections irritated her. But
    Laurent made her understand that such a step would be a mistake; it was
    necessary that the present should resemble the past as much as possible;
    and, above all, they must preserve the friendship of the police, of
    those idiots who protected them from all suspicion. Therese gave way.
    The guests were well received, and they viewed with delight a future
    full of a long string of warm Thursday evenings.

    It was about this time that the lives of the couple became, in a way,
    divided in two.

    In the morning, when day drove away the terror of night, Laurent hastily
    dressed himself. But he only recovered his ease and egotistic calm when
    in the dining-room, seated before an enormous bowl of coffee and milk,
    which Therese prepared for him. Madame Raquin, who had become even more
    feeble and could barely get down to the shop, watched him eating with a
    maternal smile. He swallowed the toast, filled his stomach and little by
    little became tranquillised. After the coffee, he drank a small glass of
    brandy which completely restored him. Then he said "good-bye" to Madame
    Raquin and Therese, without ever kissing them, and strolled to his
    office.

    Spring was at hand; the trees along the quays were becoming covered with
    leaves, with light, pale green lacework. The river ran with caressing
    sounds below; above, the first sunny rays of the year shed gentle
    warmth. Laurent felt himself another man in the fresh air; he freely
    inhaled this breath of young life descending from the skies of April
    and May; he sought the sun, halting to watch the silvery reflection
    streaking the Seine, listening to the sounds on the quays, allowing
    the acrid odours of early day to penetrate him, enjoying the clear,
    delightful morn.

    He certainly thought very little about Camille. Sometimes he listlessly
    contemplated the Morgue on the other side of the water, and his mind
    then reverted to his victim, like a man of courage might think of
    a silly fright that had come over him. With stomach full, and face
    refreshed, he recovered his thick-headed tranquillity. He reached his
    office, and passed the whole day gaping, and awaiting the time to leave.
    He was a mere clerk like the others, stupid and weary, without an
    idea in his head, save that of sending in his resignation and taking
    a studio. He dreamed vaguely of a new existence of idleness, and this
    sufficed to occupy him until evening.

    Thoughts of the shop in the arcade never troubled him. At night, after
    longing for the hour of release since the morning, he left his office
    with regret, and followed the quays again, secretly troubled and
    anxious. However slowly he walked, he had to enter the shop at last, and
    there terror awaited him.

    Therese experienced the same sensations. So long as Laurent was not
    beside her, she felt at ease. She had dismissed her charwoman, saying
    that everything was in disorder, and the shop and apartment filthy
    dirty. She all at once had ideas of tidiness. The truth was that she
    felt the necessity of moving about, of doing something, of exercising
    her stiff limbs. She went hither and thither all the morning, sweeping,
    dusting, cleaning the rooms, washing up the plates and dishes, doing
    work that would have disgusted her formerly. These household duties kept
    her on her feet, active and silent, until noon, without allowing her
    time to think of aught else than the cobwebs hanging from the ceiling
    and the greasy plates.

    On the stroke of twelve, she went to the kitchen to prepare lunch. At
    table, Madame Raquin was pained to see her always rising to fetch the
    dishes; she was touched and annoyed at the activity displayed by her
    niece; she scolded her, and Therese replied that it was necessary to
    economise. When the meal was over, the young woman dressed, and at last
    decided to join her aunt behind the counter. There, sleep overtook
    her; worn out by her restless nights, she dozed off, yielding to the
    voluptuous feeling of drowsiness that gained her, as soon as she sat
    down.

    These were only light spells of heaviness, replete with vague charm that
    calmed her nerves. The thoughts of Camille left her; she enjoyed that
    tranquil repose of invalids who are all at once freed from pain.
    She felt relieved in body, her mind free, she sank into a gentle and
    repairing state of nothingness. Deprived of these few calm moments, she
    would have broken down under the tension of her nervous system. These
    spells of somnolence gave her strength to suffer again, and become
    terrified the ensuing night. As a matter of fact she did not sleep,
    she barely closed her lids, and was lost in a dream of peace. When a
    customer entered, she opened her eyes, served the few sous worth of
    articles asked for, and fell back into the floating reverie.

    In this manner she passed three or four hours of perfect happiness,
    answering her aunt in monosyllables, and yielding with real enjoyment to
    these moments of unconsciousness which relieved her of her thoughts, and
    completely overcame her. She barely, at long intervals, cast a glance
    into the arcade, and was particularly at her ease in cloudy weather,
    when it was dark and she could conceal her lassitude in the gloom.

    The damp and disgusting arcade, crossed by a lot of wretched drenched
    pedestrians, whose umbrellas dripped upon the tiles, seemed to her like
    an alley in a low quarter, a sort of dirty, sinister corridor, where
    no one would come to seek and trouble her. At moments, when she saw the
    dull gleams of light that hung around her, when she smelt the bitter
    odour of the dampness, she imagined she had just been buried alive, that
    she was underground, at the bottom of a common grave swarming with dead.
    And this thought consoled and appeased her, for she said to herself that
    she was now in security, that she was about to die and would suffer no
    more.

    But sometimes she had to keep her eyes open; Suzanne paid her a visit,
    and remained embroidering near the counter all the afternoon. The wife
    of Olivier, with her putty face and slow movements, now pleased Therese,
    who experienced strange relief in observing this poor, broken-up
    creature, and had made a friend of her. She loved to see her at her
    side, smiling with her faint smile, more dead than alive, and bringing
    into the shop the stuffy odour of the cemetery. When the blue eyes of
    Suzanne, transparent as glass, rested fixedly on those of Therese, the
    latter experienced a beneficent chill in the marrow of her bones.

    Therese remained thus until four o'clock, when she returned to the
    kitchen, and there again sought fatigue, preparing dinner for Laurent
    with febrile haste. But when her husband appeared on the threshold she
    felt a tightening in the throat, and all her being once more became a
    prey to anguish.

    Each day, the sensations of the couple were practically the same. During
    the daytime, when they were not face to face, they enjoyed delightful
    hours of repose; at night, as soon as they came together, both
    experienced poignant discomfort.

    The evenings, nevertheless, were calm. Therese and Laurent, who
    shuddered at the thought of going to their room, sat up as long as
    possible. Madame Raquin, reclining in a great armchair, was placed
    between them, and chatted in her placid voice. She spoke of Vernon,
    still thinking of her son, but avoiding to mention him from a sort of
    feeling of diffidence for the others; she smiled at her dear children,
    and formed plans for their future. The lamp shed its faint gleams on her
    white face, and her words sounded particularly sweet in the silence and
    stillness of the room.

    The murderers, one seated on each side of her, silent and motionless,
    seemed to be attentively listening to what she said. In truth they did
    not attempt to follow the sense of the gossip of the good old lady. They
    were simply pleased to hear this sound of soft words which prevented
    them attending the crash of their own thoughts. They dared not
    cast their eyes on one another, but looked at Madame Raquin to give
    themselves countenances. They never breathed a word about going to
    bed; they would have remained there until morning, listening to the
    affectionate nonsense of the former mercer, amid the appeasement she
    spread around her, had she not herself expressed the desire to retire.
    It was only then that they quitted the dining-room and entered their
    own apartment in despair, as if casting themselves to the bottom of an
    abyss.

    But they soon had much more preference for the Thursday gatherings,
    than for these family evenings. When alone with Madame Raquin, they were
    unable to divert their thoughts; the feeble voice of their aunt, and her
    tender gaiety, did not stifle the cries that lacerated them. They could
    feel bedtime coming on, and they shuddered when their eyes caught sight
    of the door of their room. Awaiting the moment when they would be alone,
    became more and more cruel as the evening advanced. On Thursday night,
    on the contrary, they were giddy with folly, one forgot the presence of
    the other, and they suffered less. Therese ended by heartily longing for
    the reception days. Had Michaud and Grivet not arrived, she would have
    gone and fetched them. When strangers were in the dining-room, between
    herself and Laurent, she felt more calm. She would have liked to always
    have guests there, to hear a noise, something to divert her, and detach
    her from her thoughts. In the presence of other people, she displayed a
    sort of nervous gaiety. Laurent also recovered his previous merriment,
    returning to his coarse peasant jests, his hoarse laughter, his
    practical jokes of a former canvas dauber. Never had these gatherings
    been so gay and noisy.

    It was thus that Laurent and Therese could remain face to face, once a
    week, without shuddering.

    But they were soon beset with further anxiety. Paralysis was little by
    little gaining on Madame Raquin, and they foresaw the day when she
    would be riveted to her armchair, feeble and doltish. The poor old lady
    already began to stammer fragments of disjointed phrases; her voice was
    growing weaker, and her limbs were one by one losing their vitality.
    She was becoming a thing. It was with terror that Therese and Laurent
    observed the breaking up of this being who still separated them, and
    whose voice drew them from their bad dreams. When the old mercer lost
    her intelligence, and remained stiff and silent in her armchair, they
    would find themselves alone, and in the evening would no longer be able
    to escape the dreadful face to face conversation. Then their terror
    would commence at six o'clock instead of midnight. It would drive them
    mad.

    They made every effort to give Madame Raquin that health which had
    become so necessary to them. They called in doctors, and bestowed on the
    patient all sorts of little attentions. Even this occupation of nurses
    caused them to forget, and afforded them an appeasement that encouraged
    them to double in zeal. They did not wish to lose a third party
    who rendered their evenings supportable; and they did not wish the
    dining-room and the whole house to become a cruel and sinister spot like
    their room.

    Madame Raquin was singularly touched at the assiduous care they took of
    her. She applauded herself, amid tears, at having united them, and at
    having abandoned to them her forty thousand francs. Never, since the
    death of her son, had she counted on so much affection in her final
    moments. Her old age was quite softened by the tenderness of her dear
    children. She did not feel the implacable paralysis which, in spite of
    all, made her more and more rigid day by day.

    Nevertheless, Therese and Laurent continued to lead their double
    existence. In each of them there were like two distinct beings: a
    nervous, terrified being who shuddered as soon as dusk set in, and a
    torpid forgetful being, who breathed at ease when the sun rose. They
    lived two lives, crying out in anguish when alone, and peacefully
    smiling in company. Never did their faces, in public, show the slightest
    trace of the sufferings that had reached them in private. They appeared
    calm and happy, and instinctively concealed their troubles.

    To see them so tranquil in the daytime, no one would have suspected
    the hallucinations that tortured them every night. They would have been
    taken for a couple blessed by heaven, and living in the enjoyment of
    full felicity. Grivet gallantly called them the "turtle-doves." When
    he jested about their fatigued looks, Laurent and Therese barely turned
    pale, and even succeeded in forcing on a smile. They became accustomed
    to the naughty jokes of the old clerk.

    So long as they remained in the dining-room, they were able to keep
    their terror under control. The mind could not imagine the frightful
    change that came over them, as soon as they were shut up in their
    bedroom. On the Thursday night, particularly, this transformation was
    so violently brutal, that it seemed as if accomplished in a supernatural
    world. The drama in the bedroom, by its strangeness, by its savage
    passion, surpassed all belief, and remained deeply concealed within
    their aching beings. Had they spoken of it, they would have been taken
    for mad.

    "How happy those sweethearts are!" frequently remarked old Michaud.
    "They hardly say a word, but that does not prevent them thinking. I bet
    they devour one another with kisses when we have gone."

    Such was the opinion of the company. Therese and Laurent came to be
    spoken of as a model couple. All the tenants in the Arcade of the Pont
    Neuf extolled the affection, the tranquil happiness, the everlasting
    honeymoon of the married pair. They alone knew that the corpse of
    Camille slept between them; they alone felt, beneath the calm exterior
    of their faces, the nervous contractions that, at night, horribly
    distorted their features, and changed the placid expression of their
    physiognomies into hideous masks of pain.
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    Chapter 25
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