Meet us on:
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn't know."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

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

    Chapter 25

    • Rate it:
    • 2 Favorites on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 26
    Previous Chapter
    At the expiration of four months, Laurent thought of taking advantage
    of the profit he had calculated on deriving from his marriage. He would
    have abandoned his wife, and fled from the spectre of Camille, three
    days after the wedding, had not his interest detained him at the shop in
    the arcade. He accepted his nights of terror, he remained in the anguish
    that was choking him, so as not to be deprived of the benefit of his

    If he parted from Therese, he would again be plunged in poverty, and
    be forced to retain his post; by remaining with her, he would, on the
    contrary, be able to satisfy his inclination for idleness, and to live
    liberally, doing nothing, on the revenue Madame Raquin had placed in the
    name of his wife. Very likely he would have fled with the 40,000 francs,
    had he been able to realise them; but the old mercer, on the advice of
    Michaud, had shown the prudence to protect the interests of her niece in
    the marriage contract.

    Laurent, in this manner, found himself attached to Therese by a powerful
    bond. As a set-off against his atrocious nights, he determined at least
    to be kept in blissful laziness, well fed, warmly clothed, and provided
    with the necessary cash in his pocket to satisfy his whims. At this
    price alone, would he consent to sleep with the corpse of the drowned

    One evening, he announced to Madame Raquin and his wife that he had sent
    in his resignation, and would quit his office at the end of a fortnight.
    Therese gave a gesture of anxiety. He hastened to add that he intended
    taking a small studio where he would go on with his painting. He spoke
    at length about the annoyance of his employment, and the broad horizons
    that Art opened to him. Now that he had a few sous and could make a
    bid for success, he wished to see whether he was not capable of great

    The speech he made on this subject simply concealed a ferocious desire
    to resume his former studio life. Therese sat with pinched lips without
    replying; she had no idea of allowing Laurent to squander the small
    fortune that assured her liberty. When her husband pressed her with
    questions in view of obtaining her consent, she answered curtly, giving
    him to understand that if he left his office, he would no longer be
    earning any money, and would be living entirely at her expense.

    But, as she spoke, Laurent observed her so keenly, that he troubled her,
    and arrested on her lips the refusal she was about to utter. She fancied
    she read in the eyes of her accomplice, this menacing threat:

    "If you do not consent, I shall reveal everything."

    She began to stammer, and Madame Raquin exclaimed that the desire of her
    dear son was no more than what was just, and that they must give him the
    means to become a man of talent. The good lady spoilt Laurent as she had
    spoilt Camille. Quite mollified by the caresses the young man lavished
    on her, she belonged to him, and never failed to take his part.

    It was therefore decided that Laurent should have a studio, and receive
    one hundred francs a month pocket-money. The budget of the family was
    arranged in this way: the profits realised in the mercery business would
    pay the rent of the shop and apartment, and the balance would almost
    suffice for the daily expenses of the family; Laurent would receive the
    rent of his studio and his one hundred francs a month, out of the two
    thousand and a few hundred francs income from the funded money, the
    remainder going into the general purse. In that way the capital would
    remain intact. This arrangement somewhat tranquillised Therese, who
    nevertheless made her husband swear that he would never go beyond the
    sum allowed him. But as to that matter, she said to herself that Laurent
    could not get possession of the 40,000 francs without her signature, and
    she was thoroughly determined that she would never place her name to any

    On the morrow, Laurent took a small studio in the lower part of the Rue
    Mazarine, which his eye had been fixed on for a month. He did not mean
    to leave his office without having a refuge where he could quietly pass
    his days far away from Therese. At the end of the fortnight, he bade
    adieu to his colleagues. Grivet was stupefied at his departure. A young
    man, said he, who had such a brilliant future before him, a young man
    who in the space of four years, had reached a salary that he, Grivet,
    had taken twenty years to attain! Laurent stupefied him still more, when
    he told him he was going to give his whole time to painting.

    At last the artist installed himself in his studio, which was a sort
    of square loft about seven or eight yards long by the same breadth. The
    ceiling which inclined abruptly in a rapid slope, was pierced by a large
    window conveying a white raw light to the floor and blackish walls.
    The sounds in the street did not ascend so high. This silent, wan room,
    opening above on the sky, resembled a hole, or a vault dug out of grey
    clay. Laurent furnished the place anywise; he brought a couple of chairs
    with holes in the rush seats, a table that he set against the wall so
    that it might not slip down, an old kitchen dresser, his colour-box and
    easel; all the luxury in the place consisted of a spacious divan which
    he purchased for thirty francs from a second-hand dealer.

    He remained a fortnight without even thinking of touching his brushes.
    He arrived between eight and nine o'clock in the morning, smoked,
    stretched himself on the divan, and awaited noon, delighted that it was
    morning, and that he had many hours of daylight before him. At twelve
    he went to lunch. As soon as the meal was over, he hastened back, to be
    alone, and get away from the pale face of Therese. He next went through
    the process of digestion, sleeping spread out on the divan until
    evening. His studio was an abode of peace where he did not tremble. One
    day his wife asked him if she might visit this dear refuge. He refused,
    and as, notwithstanding his refusal, she came and knocked at the door,
    he refrained from opening to her, telling her in the evening that he
    had spent the day at the Louvre Museum. He was afraid that Therese might
    bring the spectre of Camille with her.

    Idleness ended by weighing heavily on his shoulders, so he purchased a
    canvas and colours, and set to work. As he had not sufficient money to
    pay models, he resolved to paint according to fancy, without troubling
    about nature, and he began the head of a man.

    But at this time, he did not shut himself up so much as he had done;
    he worked for two or three hours every morning and passed the afternoon
    strolling hither and thither in Paris and its vicinity. It was opposite
    the Institut, on his return from one of these long walks, that he
    knocked up against his old college friend, who had met with a nice
    little success, thanks to the good fellowship of his comrades, at the
    last Salon.

    "What, is it you?" exclaimed the painter. "Ah! my poor Laurent, I hardly
    recognise you. You have lost flesh."

    "I am married," answered Laurent in an embarrassed tone.

    "Married, you!" said the other. "Then I am not surprised to see you look
    so funny: and what are you doing now?"

    "I have taken a small studio," replied Laurent; "and I paint a little,
    in the morning."

    Then, in a feverish voice, he briefly related the story of his marriage,
    and explained his future plans. His friend observed him with an air
    of astonishment that troubled and alarmed him. The truth was that the
    painter no longer found in the husband of Therese, the coarse, common
    fellow he had known formerly. It seemed to him that Laurent was
    acquiring a gentlemanly bearing; his face had grown thinner, and had
    taken the pale tint of good taste, while his whole frame looked more
    upright and supple.

    "But you are becoming a handsome chap," the artist could not refrain
    from exclaiming. "You are dressed like an ambassador, in the latest
    style. Who's your model?"

    Laurent, who felt the weight of the examination he was undergoing, did
    not dare to abruptly take himself off.

    "Will you come up to my studio for a moment?" he at last asked his
    friend, who showed no signs of leaving him.

    "Willingly," answered the latter.

    The painter, who could not understand the change he noticed in his old
    comrade, was anxious to visit his studio. He had no idea of climbing
    five floors to gaze on the new pictures of Laurent, which assuredly
    would disgust him; he merely wished to satisfy his curiosity.

    When he had reached the studio, and had glanced at the canvases hanging
    against the walls, his astonishment redoubled. They comprised five
    studies, two heads of women, and three of men painted with real vigour.
    They looked thick and substantial, each part being dashed off with
    magnificent dabs of colour on a clear grey background. The artist
    quickly approached, and was so astounded that he did not even seek to
    conceal his amazement.

    "Did you do those?" he inquired of Laurent.

    "Yes," replied the latter. "They are studies that I intend to utilise in
    a large picture I am preparing."

    "Come, no humbug, are you really the author of those things?"

    "Eh! Yes. Why should I not be the author of them?"

    The painter did not like to answer what he thought, which was as

    "Because those canvases are the work of an artist, and you have never
    been anything but a vile bungler."

    For a long time, he remained before the studies in silence. Certainly
    they were clumsy, but they were original, and so powerfully executed
    that they indicated a highly developed idea of art. They were life-like.
    Never had this friend of Laurent seen rough painting so full of high
    promise. When he had examined all the canvases, he turned to the author
    of them and said:

    "Well, frankly, I should never have thought you capable of painting like
    that. Where the deuce did you learn to have talent? It is not usually a
    thing that one acquires."

    And he considered Laurent, whose voice appeared to him more gentle,
    while every gesture he made had a sort of elegance. The artist had
    no idea of the frightful shock this man had received, and which had
    transformed him, developing in him the nerves of a woman, along with
    keen, delicate sensations. No doubt a strange phenomenon had been
    accomplished in the organism of the murderer of Camille. It is difficult
    for analysis to penetrate to such depths. Laurent had, perhaps, become
    an artist as he had become afraid, after the great disorder that had
    upset his frame and mind.

    Previously, he had been half choked by the fulness of his blood, blinded
    by the thick vapour of breath surrounding him. At present, grown
    thin, and always shuddering, his manner had become anxious, while he
    experienced the lively and poignant sensations of a man of nervous
    temperament. In the life of terror that he led, his mind had grown
    delirious, ascending to the ecstasy of genius. The sort of moral malady,
    the neurosis wherewith all his being was agitated, had developed an
    artistic feeling of peculiar lucidity. Since he had killed, his frame
    seemed lightened, his distracted mind appeared to him immense; and, in
    this abrupt expansion of his thoughts, he perceived exquisite creations,
    the reveries of a poet passing before his eyes. It was thus that his
    gestures had suddenly become elegant, that his works were beautiful, and
    were all at once rendered true to nature, and life-like.

    The friend did not seek further to fathom the mystery attending this
    birth of the artist. He went off carrying his astonishment along with
    him. But before he left, he again gazed at the canvases and said to

    "I have only one thing to reproach you with: all these studies have
    a family likeness. The five heads resemble each other. The women,
    themselves, have a peculiarly violent bearing that gives them the
    appearance of men in disguise. You will understand that if you desire
    to make a picture out of these studies, you must change some of the
    physiognomies; your personages cannot all be brothers, or brothers and
    sisters, it would excite hilarity."

    He left the studio, and on the landing merrily added:

    "Really, my dear boy, I am very pleased to have seen you. Henceforth, I
    shall believe in miracles. Good heavens! How highly respectable you do

    As he went downstairs, Laurent returned to the studio, feeling very much
    upset. When his friend had remarked that all his studies of heads bore
    a family likeness, he had abruptly turned round to conceal his paleness.
    The fact was that he had already been struck by this fatal resemblance.
    Slowly entering the room, he placed himself before the pictures, and
    as he contemplated them, as he passed from one to the other, ice-like
    perspiration moistened his back.

    "He is quite right," he murmured, "they all resemble one another. They
    resemble Camille."

    He retired a step or two, and seated himself on the divan, unable to
    remove his eyes from the studies of heads. The first was an old man with
    a long white beard; and under this white beard, the artist traced the
    lean chin of Camille. The second represented a fair young girl, who
    gazed at him with the blue eyes of his victim. Each of the other three
    faces presented a feature of the drowned man. It looked like Camille
    with the theatrical make-up of an old man, of a young girl, assuming
    whatever disguise it pleased the painter to give him, but still
    maintaining the general expression of his own countenance.

    There existed another terrible resemblance among these heads: they all
    appeared suffering and terrified, and seemed as though overburdened with
    the same feeling of horror. Each of them had a slight wrinkle to the
    left of the mouth, which drawing down the lips, produced a grimace. This
    wrinkle, which Laurent remembered having noticed on the convulsed face
    of the drowned man, marked them all with a sign of vile relationship.

    Laurent understood that he had taken too long a look at Camille at the
    Morgue. The image of the drowned man had become deeply impressed on his
    mind; and now, his hand, without his being conscious of it, never failed
    to draw the lines of this atrocious face which followed him everywhere.

    Little by little, the painter, who was allowing himself to fall back
    on the divan, fancied he saw the faces become animated. He had five
    Camilles before him, five Camilles whom his own fingers had powerfully
    created, and who, by terrifying peculiarity were of various ages and of
    both sexes. He rose, he lacerated the pictures and threw them outside.
    He said to himself that he would die of terror in his studio, were he to
    people it with portraits of his victim.

    A fear had just come over him: he dreaded that he would no more be able
    to draw a head without reproducing that of the drowned man. He wished to
    ascertain, at once, whether he were master of his own hand. He placed a
    white canvas on his easel; and, then, with a bit of charcoal, sketched
    out a face in a few lines. The face resembled Camille. Laurent swiftly
    effaced this drawing and tried another.

    For an hour he struggled against futility, which drove along his
    fingers. At each fresh attempt, he went back to the head of the drowned
    man. He might indeed assert his will, and avoid the lines he knew so
    well. In spite of himself, he drew those lines, he obeyed his muscles
    and his rebellious nerves. He had first of all proceeded rapidly with
    his sketches; he now took pains to pass the stick of charcoal slowly
    over the canvas. The result was the same: Camille, grimacing and in
    pain, appeared ceaselessly.

    The artist sketched the most different heads successively: the heads of
    angels, of virgins with aureoles, of Roman warriors with their helmets,
    of fair, rosy children, of old bandits seamed with scars; and the
    drowned man always, always reappeared; he became, in turn, angel,
    virgin, warrior, child and bandit.

    Then, Laurent plunged into caricature: he exaggerated the features,
    he produced monstrous profiles, he invented grotesque heads, but
    only succeeded in rendering the striking portrait of his victim more
    horrible. He finished by drawing animals, dogs and cats; but even the
    dogs and cats vaguely resembled Camille.

    Laurent then became seized with sullen rage. He smashed the canvas with
    his fist, thinking in despair of his great picture. Now, he must put
    that idea aside; he was convinced that, in future, he would draw nothing
    but the head of Camille, and as his friend had told him, faces all alike
    would cause hilarity. He pictured to himself what his work would have
    been, and perceived upon the shoulders of his personages, men and women,
    the livid and terrified face of the drowned man. The strange picture he
    thus conjured up, appeared to him atrociously ridiculous and exasperated

    He no longer dared to paint, always dreading that he would resuscitate
    his victim at the least stroke of his brush. If he desired to live
    peacefully in his studio he must never paint there. This thought that
    his fingers possessed the fatal and unconscious faculty of reproducing
    without end the portrait of Camille, made him observe his hand in
    terror. It seemed to him that his hand no longer belonged to him.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 26
    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
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?